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Thursday, May 8, 2014

nomachine (!M) NX client on ubuntu LTSP thick/fat clients

The NX client/server software released from the company NoMachine, is fantastic.  I did discover that their Linux x86 installer does not properly handle missing dependencies on a CentOS 6.5 Minimal installation.  But it was my fault for mistakenly choosing the wrong binary from their download site.  Nevertheless, A few yum installs later, and even their 32 bit client is fantastic! Of course, I'm running their x64 client in our development environment now.

There is a lot to take in when you first run the client tool.  Its classy simple icon, installer, and website pitch, leads you to believe this magic tool will just work without a lot of features.  And for me, it did.  Every time. On different platforms.  The streaming of multimedia through the nx client over seperate UDP port is genius. And there are tons of small features that make this worth the effort.

There isn't a custom view you can't get with their client.  All of your devices are integrated as well.  I haven't even started to use collaboration tools.  But they are there if you need them, and even include recording video sessions.

I am running their software on the newest Ubuntu 14.04 LTSP "fat" client desktop.  I initially ran into an issue with the thick client LDM sessions not properly locking the screen.  Filed a bug report with launchpad here:  I was able to work around by installing the classic xscreensaver package with the gl extras.  Not only is this batch of screen savers really cool, but it enables you to create a desktop and unity bar shortcut that will activate the xscreensaver-command lock.  Just make sure you enable the authentication dependencies on on the client image as well.  Otherwise your screen cannot be unlocked if your client session is logged in with a terminal server account that isn't also on the image.

The hardware I chose was the Intel NUC.  There are several variations to this model, but the model #D34010WYKA worked great for me.  With a modern monitor and using the display port as the primary output.  Running this PC without hard disk or wireless networking is very snappy.  With the NoMachine client on top of that, I can stream Youtube video with audio, flawlessly from a headless KVM running CentOS 6 and a "nohup" GDM session.  It was quite impressive.

My next investigation will be deeper into virus scanning solutions for the LTSP environment.  Although the client image is read-only.  A user can still execute downloaded code from their home folder, or temporary write space on the RAMfs (/tmp).  They could exploit vulnerabilities on your network systems and create back door entry points, causing information leakage, and more.  Often users who aren't intentionally malicious will pick up these Trojans and viruses from various websites.  Having a modern virus scanning engine will stop a lot of this junk.  It may not stop someone creating custom code and targeting your network specifically.  But it will help ensure avoidable accidents don't happen.

ClamAV is looking like a good bet.  It is an open source (GPL) antivirus engine.  But McAfee has a lot of years under their belt and is already on the approved list for a lot of organizations.  Corporate solutions tend to have a bit smaller footprint than the Best Buy 1st year free edition you often get with buying a PC from a partnered vendor.  And paid products usually include personal support.

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