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If I have a single computer with two monitors, two keyboards and two mice, is it possible to have two separate users logged into the same machine simultaneously?

And if so, how?

My preference is to use linux, especially something from the *buntu family, but a solution using another OS will be considered.

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There are two approaches to multiseat on Linux:

(1) Using multiple video cards (preferred).

Unfortunately, multi-seat capability in Linux using this approach is at an all-time low (bad state) right now, after working really well a few years back. This is due to refactoring in the X.org server and gdm. Until multi-card initialization in X.org gets fixed, multiseat is pretty much dead in the water. There's still a lot of interest in this approach, and once multi-card init is fixed, I think we'll see the remaining pieces -- gdm, audio, consolekit -- get sorted out in pretty short order.

(Note that multiseat is possible using the nvidia proprietary driver and a display manager other than gdm, if you have the right card combination. My 4-seat system, which worked beautifully in the F8 or F9 timeframe, currently works with 3 seats under F12 and the nvidia drivers + xdm; I can get two PCI video cards + one out of two PCI-e cards working).

(2) Using one video card with multiple outputs (lower performance). This works by starting a master X server that handles both screens as one display, and then layering a Xephyr server on each screen to handle that seat. This is a low-performance approach that should still work, but I haven't tried it for a long time.

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Yes. It's called multi-seating.

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Brilliant, my Google foo hadn't turned up that phrase :) –  fmark Oct 13 '10 at 12:03
    
I had a read of that article. I was interested until I got to "While the system worked very well, it was extremely unstable". Have things improved since then!? –  Linker3000 Oct 13 '10 at 12:10
    
@Linker3000: I know Chris Tyler has been doing some work in getting it into Fedora, so he's probably the best person to ask. He doesn't seem to be around at the moment though (it's still early where he is). fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/Multiseat –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Oct 13 '10 at 12:17
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