I have a laptop connected wirelessly to my home network. I'm planning on installing a CentOS server on my network, used for a web server, a file server, and experimentation. I want to access it from my laptop in the form of a dual-boot - one main operating system, and one that's just a very simple system that automatically starts a remote connection to the server and opens up a GNOME session on the server that is then displayed on my computer. I'm thinking about using Arch Linux as the OS which will connect to the server, since I've been meaning to try it for a while and it seems rather configurable.

My questions are the following :

  1. How can I start a GNOME session on my laptop which controls the other computer (no ssh -X tunneling or VNC remote control; I want my computer to be a "dumb terminal" to the server)?
  2. Will speed be an issue over wireless? Would SSH compression help?
  3. Is Arch Linux indeed the best option for the terminal OS?

2 Answers 2


As stated by sarnold, XDMCP should be what you are looking for. However, if "I want my computer to be a 'dumb terminal' " is not a hard requirement, I would encourage you to use NX (implemented, e.g., by FreeNX) instead. It is an improved version of X forwarding over SSH, but it will require a desktop environment on your laptop to run its GUI. However, it has several advantages, mainly bandwidth usage.

That brings us to your second questioN: X forwarding should work fine on a 100 MBit network. Compression will most likely be unnecessary. However, X does take some bandwidth, especially when you have animated content on your screen. So in order to free up your network for other transfers, the low bandwidth needed by NX would help.

Wrt your third question: Well, Arch has a rolling release principle, meaning that there is a continuous stream of updates. It's nice for older machines because it can be tailored so it works perfectly with your machine, and there's good documentation for that. You can definitely make it very slim and efficient, and that will be easier than "trimming down" a SuSE / Fedora / CentOS/... installation. However, if you really only need a dumb terminal, a rolling release system is perhaps less practical than just using a simple Debian installation or something similar, which you can keep on "stable" with minimal updates for a long time.

  • If I'm going the FreeNX route, would a Chrunchbang installation with OpenBox be best? Seems pretty mininal and stable. Also, could I automatically start the FreeNX client and make it full-screen?
    – Lyrositor
    Dec 6, 2011 at 12:32
  • Sorry, didn't see your followup question... If the comparatively small CrunchBang community (which might lead to support problems in the future) is no problem for you, why not? -- The bit about starting the client fullscreen... most probably, but I don't have FreeNX handy right now.
    – jstarek
    Dec 23, 2011 at 21:01

It sounds like you're after XDMCP -- is that correct? An old HOWTO is available (though it reads like it was written by an over-enthusiastic Linux "convert") -- I'm sure the GDM and KDM configuration details have changed since then. XDM might be pretty similar these days; XDM is very well documented, though it feels like it could use a one-page "common use" guide.

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