My mother-in-law has been fighting the battle of thin pipes for as long as she has been paying for Internet access and every year SNET-SBC-AT&T sends her a letter that gets her hopes up that the DSL fairy set up a repeater to light up her neighborhood. Each and every year she learns that there is no DSL fairy. So I’ve been trying to think of every concievable method to get her broadband for a reasonable price. Comcast wants some $70 a month and the municipal wi-fi in Hartford went dark as soon as it went live all of which leaves her living online at the brutal speed of 50.0 kpbs. Yesterday, though, I might have come up with a slightly workable solution that at least gives her the feeling of faster speeds: a terminal server running on my 6MB pipe.
After looking at various implementations, including LTSP, I settled on the stupid simple setup of FreeNX mainly because it was easy and made use of my OpenSSH server. The Ubuntu wiki had fairly solid instructions and the only challenge I had was adding Seveas’ Packages–most of the mirrors were handing out 404′s. For myself, the benefits are that I do not need to run Putty + TightVNC anymore as the FreeNX runs on top of SSH but the downside is that the FreeNX client needs to be installed on the machine in a Windows environment so I’ll need to look at alternatives including QEMU + Puppy Linux.
In testing I found the performance to be astounding if I am on a broadband connection responding with barely any lag and the same is true for my mother-in-law’s connection except when surfing. Surfing, obviously with all the screen refreshes, is only a minimally faster experience, but possibly with some tweaking we can squeeze a little more performance out of it. The goal is to make little things like online banking and shopping a little less painful with pages timing out because her connection is taking to long to pull data down and with our quick test FreeNX does seem to alleviate this problem a smidgen.
If anything, FreeNX gives me a better tool to hit my server and do work GUI style, like tacking my miserably tagged music collection, with a fast connection it is a blissful way to connect and do a little work.