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I want to maximize the graphics performance of a local QEMU virtual machine. I don't have VT-d, so passing the graphics card is not an option.

My current setup uses QEMU's SDL backend to display the VM in a fullscreen window on the host. The downside of this approach is that the host and the guest run an X server and client each. One improvement would be to instead use X forwarding through Unix domain sockets. Then the host would run an X client only, and the guest would run an X server only.

I read somewhere that X can use shared memory instead of Unix domain sockets for local communication. Can I use it to display my VM?

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No. The VM is a separate machine from the host. Both methods you described, Unix sockets and SHM, are machine-local – they cannot be used to connect across different machines.

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