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My current setup has two 24" screens (and I'd love to have a third) plus keyboard/mouse etc. all hooked up to a Linux box. Assuming I have an appropriate computer in a server rack and a good network connection (Gb Eathernet with ping times around 1ms), what options are there to replace the box under my desk with the computer in the server rack? What kind of price tag would I be looking at? How close will it get to having the computer be local?

(Note: I'm not asking for shopping recommendations but rather the information need to decide if this is worth looking into.)

I'm thinking along the lines of a thin client device that speaks X, NX, RDP or the like or a very minimal computer running some kind of remote access client as it's sole function.

Also, I'n not looking at a Citrix type solution: I would be talking to a real computer on the other end, not a VM, and I would have root access to it and exclusive control of it

My use case is that at work I'd like to be able to have my primary work machine just as accessible via some kind of remote GUI system as it is when I'm sitting at it. Once I have that, the question becomes: why put it at my desk? The server room is built for that and it can have better access to other services from there. Also, it would allow the IT department to maintain fewer types of hardware.

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I have a good deal of experience using VNC from a lightweight system to heavyweight linux servers in datacenters. Professionally, I've worked with RealVNC Enterprise and can say that there's no noticeable delay for most purposes with a fast, low-latency connection so long as you're not doing heavily graphical things. However, once your round-trip times get up above about 20ms, you connect over a low-bandwidth line, or you try to do something that's pumping lots of data (I cringe to think about full-screen video)... it will stop feeling like a desktop. If you're okay with this, I'd look into using TigerVNC ( http://tigervnc.org ) for a personal setup.

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Worth noting: I don't know any solution for full-screen spanning of two monitors. I'm generally okay with just using a window that spans both monitors. Also, xrandr is your friend with the UNIX family. –  entropo Mar 30 '11 at 22:39
    
Proper multi-monitor support is a must-have for me :(. –  BCS Mar 30 '11 at 23:14
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The hardware necessary depends a lot on how far away your server rack is from your desk.

Is it close enough that a VGA/DVI cable can run alongside extended keyboard/mice cables? This would be cheapest.

If you need a setup more like a corporate environment where you've got a bit of space between the blade workstation and the thin client then you'll need a dumb terminal.

Truly thin clients tend to use virtualization and application frameworks such as Citrix to produce the applications on the end desktop. This requires a least a dumb terminal and an application server.

Many dumb terminals can handle multi-head graphics. The "server" box really only produces applications, it's the end user framework client that handles the window placement, and they usually don't care whether or not there are multiple monitors.

The real question is, though, what real benefit will you get by running a box in the server room and a thin client system at your desk if this is a home environment?

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Good to know. OTOH I seem to have been unclear. For starters; I used the term "thin client" for what you seem to be calling a "dumb terminal". I'll try and edit the question to clear up the rest. –  BCS Mar 30 '11 at 23:15
    
It really then simple depends on the tools you'll be using for the streaming. Ironically, it may be the "dumber" option that's best for multimonitor. If it's a real dumb terminal/thin client with only a basic OS, you'll be using a client application which usually doesn't give you a "whole OS window" and therefore will span across multiple screens OK. If you're using a cheap computer an a VNC client, this'll be different as it's somewhat slaved to the resolution being output from the server. –  music2myear Mar 31 '11 at 13:32
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