tl;dr Is there a terminal emulator that uses rectangular copies for scrolling?

I'm doing a lot over work over the internet just now (hacking a program on my employer's cluster that can't be installed on my laptop), and that has caused some changes in my workflow.

Getting a ssh tunnel with X support through the firewall to the cluster is no problem, then I have a choice.

  1. Open a couple of remote xterms and emacs and go to work directly

    This is simple, but I lose all my working state anytime I disconnect from the network. Having a hairtrigger C-x C-s reflex means that I don't lose any edits, but I have to manage the lifetime of long jobs with nohup or disown, and there is fair amount of setup to do every time I log back in (even after writing a couple of scripts to cover the invariant parts of the setup).

  2. Run vncserver to give myself a persistent desktop

    Seems like the perfect solution to the troubles of the direct connection, but over moderate speed connections my plain-ole' xterms seem to take inordinately log to update. Watching them it doesn't seem like they are doing rectangular copies which VNC is good at (indeed it is faster to drag filled in windows around the desktop than frames). So I find myself wondering if things wouldn't be faster on a terminal emulator that uses rectangular copies for scrolling?

Aside: X is necessary as the product I'm working on uses it for display.

  • You could just use GNU Screen to maintain the ongoing processes in xterm, so that if your connection drops, you just resume the screen when you reconnect. Little more elegant than nohup, but not overly complicated.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 15:30
  • That, Tim. I know about screen and have tried it in the past, but it never really stuck. If it comes to that I can give it another go. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


Use mosh, the mobile shell instead of SSH, and disconnections won't be an issue.

  • As I recall mosh requires UPD ports, right? Our IT guys won't open those for me. But "outside the box" solutions are always worth hearing. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 17:23
  • @dmckee mosh over SSH tunneling then? It's even in their FAQ
    – Steve-o
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 18:00

I know it has already been suggested in the comments, still I also think screen is the best way to go to handle all your cli activity. It just takes a bit of time to get used to its windowing commands. Here is a small tutorial you might find handy.

For the X11 part (the product you're using on the cluster), you might want to give a look at XPra which claims to be a screen for X. I wouldn't use it for your cli activity as I think screen is much more suited to that (requires less bandwidth than transmitting the xterm through X11), but for all the other X11 windows you need to display.

You might be interested in a similar question, but where the XPra link is outdated.

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