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Ubuntu Desktop In the Cloud 83

Posted by timothy
from the free-floating dept.
jimjimovich writes "One new feature in Ubuntu 10.04 that caught my attention is the Desktop in the Cloud project. Ubuntu already has great EC2 support, and it's getting even better. Now you can launch Ubuntu Desktop instances on EC2 and connect to them with an NX client."
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Ubuntu Desktop In the Cloud

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then we can run our own cloud and connect to it from wherever we want. There's a snowball's chance in hell I'm going to run my desktop on hardware that is out of my control, but for local applications, that might be interesting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekboybt (866398)
      Done and done. http://www.eucalyptus.com/ [eucalyptus.com] - it even replicates the Amazon AWS API, and is available on Ubuntu.
    • by jopsen (885607)
      This is more likely to be usable for server admins, who don't like SSH...e.g. people who come from Windows Server and (thus) shouldn't be administrating servers :)
  • Which EC2? (Score:2, Funny)

    by HalAtWork (926717)

    Which EC2 [wikipedia.org] do you mean?

  • NOOOOOOOOOO! (Score:2, Informative)

    i seriously had to check if it was april 1st.
  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:59PM (#31349524) Homepage

    whenever attempting to get FreeNX working, i've found it to be a total bitch, client-side as well as server-side. by contrast, rdesktop or any other RDP client, client-side and xrdp server-side (which is purely a matter of apt-get install xrdp on debian-based distributions) is so simple to install that a monkey could do it. demo of a monkey (myself) doing exactly that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbsydsar5Pk [youtube.com]

    • by Knightman (142928)

      Couldn't agree more. I've tried to setup NX a couple of times and every time I ended up using RDP, VNC or a Xnest solution instead.

      But perhaps the problems with FreeNX is due to the fact that NoMachine also has a commercial version that they want to push.

    • by bflong (107195)

      I've had the opposite experience. I installed FreeNX on a VM at the office to provide remote desktops to my users. I didn't have any trouble at all setting it up (Kubuntu 9.10), and had it up and running in 15 minutes.

      I had not heard of xrdp before. I'll have to look into it. One of the 'problems' with NX is requiring the user to install the NX client on their machine at home. Maybe if I switch I can eliminate that issue. Although I kind of doubt it's as bandwidth efficient and responsive as NX. Even remote

    • I have found it easy to set up FreeNX. But then I discovered that you cannot use private key authentication.

      Fail.

    • by Terrasque (796014)

      FreeNX is a bitch to set up, I agree. I've never got it to work properly.

      However, NoMachine's free NX server (which allows up to two logged in users...) have mostly been extemely easy to set up (download packages, dpkg -i *.deb), and performance is in a completely different world than RDP, even win7's. Even on a 30-40 kbps connection I can sometimes forget I'm sitting remotely, because of the speed and response. Try that with RDP, every time you scroll or move something, things just stop. And god forbid you

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        What about sound?

        Once of the nice features of RDP is transmission of sound from your computer so I can, for example, listen to my voicemail when remoted into my office computer. Does FreeNX support that?

        • by Terrasque (796014)

          FreeNX? Not sure, don't think so. NX Free? Yes :)

          (yes, I know it's a bit confusing. NX Free is NoMachine closed source client with max limit of two connections, FreeNX is the open source server)

          • by Blakey Rat (99501)

            Cool. I can't believe people still make remote control software without that feature, frankly.

            Although your second sentence really makes me wonder why they don't just change the name...

    • by felipecn (1496599)
      I have never had a problem installing NX on Debian or Ubuntu. And actually, it have a much better performance than VNC or X11 forwarding over SSH. [No, I've never used xrdp. May check later, though]
    • by jeffstar (134407)

      freenx was simple as for me ... download packages and double click. 8.04.

    • by Junta (36770)

      I've been taking to SimpleNX, though no actual packages have been released. I checked out the git repository. Basically, it simplifies starting a rootless NX session without all the mess of an NX user and such.

  • Cost prohibitive? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:00PM (#31349544)
    EC2 charges based on CPU time and bandwidth usage, so this sounds like it'd end up eating up a monthly fee of ~$netbook per month. Why would anybody want to spend their money on this?
    • by e2d2 (115622) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:14PM (#31349726)

      Checking the EC2 pricing scheme:

      Small Linux install: $.085 per hour
      Up to the First 10TB of data transfer: 0.15 per GB

      And it goes down as you add more instances in. So the cost may be relatively small.

      But I wonder, if you are remoting to this machine, won't you be charged for twice the bandwidth if you are using it as your desktop to surf the web? Incoming data has to go to that instance first and then route to you. AFAIK you'll be charged for total bandwidth usage.

       

      • Your web surfing scenario would incur bandwidth costs on top of those of maintaining the remote session; but not double(exactly).

        NX(or any of the other remote desktop setups, RDP, ICA, X, etc) send the view of the screen from the server to the client, and keystrokes and mouse input from the client to the server, with varying degrees of compression and algorithmic cleverness, as well as what resolution and color depth you are running, and how much the screen is changing determining the actual bandwidth co
      • by evilviper (135110)

        won't you be charged for twice the bandwidth if you are using it as your desktop to surf the web?

        Twice?! Haha. No.

        Try 10X or so.

        HTML and optimized compressed images are far, far smaller than an un-optimized, on-the-fly compressed X11 display. NX does a good job, but no way are you anywhere near just double the bandwidth. And YouTube? Forget it!

        And let's remember, not only are you paying Amazon twice, you're also paying that much more for your own broadband connection.

      • But I wonder, if you are remoting to this machine, won't you be charged for twice the bandwidth if you are using it as your desktop to surf the web?

        Why would you use the remote system for surfing the web? I can see using it to test a web page under Ubuntu if your normal desktop environment isn't Ubuntu, but since you need a local computer to connect to the remote one in the first place, and most computers will be more than capable of surfing the web, why would you do normal surfing on the remote?

        (I can see

        • by e2d2 (115622)

          Yes I would agree with that. I was just trying to point out the costs associated with I/O bandwidth and wondering if anyone has worked out the cost of hosting a working desktop instance in the cloud, regardless of intended use. Requiring an OS to host the remote desktop application kind of moots the advantages of the cloud for personal use. For multi-user use though, this implementation may work quite well.

    • by AndrewNeo (979708)

      Butbutcloud!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      I'm not sure what the use case for this would be anyway. Sure you can access your desktop from everywhere, but where are you going to go that has terminals set up for NX? If you're hauling around a netbook anyway, why not just run a local desktop?

      • by dave562 (969951)

        The obvious application that comes to mind for me is situations where data retention / security are an issue. You don't want your IRS agent taking a laptop with information home or on the road. On the other hand, there's no reason not to give the same agent a laptop that they can remotely connect into a secure system with. The same thing goes for HIPAA or any other regulations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The more interesting use case is probably to be found when you combine the existence of this project with the existence of Eucalyptus [eucalyptus.com] which somebody mentioned above. The fact that it works with EC2 is interesting; but paying Amazon is likely not cost effective(since demand for desktop seats tends not to fluctuate nearly as fast as some server loads do and is, in any case, constrained by the number of NX capable thin clients available) a service where you pay extra for the elasticity isn't obviously sensible
      • What we have been talking about here is either using it for DR plans, or for letting remote users with cheap thinclients (say nettop+linux+rdp/x/nx/vnc) access managed (by us) virtual desktops which have all their data plus our software, backups, reliability, and security.

        Bonus: if the nettop/netbook is stolen, NO data is lost, as it never leaves our servers (in persistent form, at least).

    • EC2 charges based on CPU time and bandwidth usage, so this sounds like it'd end up eating up a monthly fee of ~$netbook per month. Why would anybody want to spend their money on this?

      Ubuntu Server has, since I think 9.04, but definitely in 9.10, included open source, EC2-compatible cloud hosting software. So, presumably, you could also use this on your own cloud using Ubuntu Server, rather than on Amazon's cloud.

      The uses motivating this are enumerated in TFA:

      A few of the reasons why desktop in the cloud is

  • It'll be in the Cloud! It'll be grand! "What does that mean?" Oh, it doesn't matter. It's in the Cloud! Duuuuude! The CLOUD, man!

    It seems to me that the Cloud is the end result of network engineers being too successful in dumbing down "all that network" stuff into an amorphous cloud in their Visio diagrams, in order to allay the concerns of micromanaging PHBs.

    My suggestion is that we start calling it the Clod. Then at least we could get some entertainment value of out if. "Ubuntu Desktop in the Clod" and "Moving all your mission-critical resources to the Clod!", or "How can the Clod help YOUR business to succeed?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thank you for spending your afternoon coming up with that.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      dude, my clod-hoppers totally stomped your windows network routers, duuude.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TeknoHog (164938)
      I'm a clod, you insensitive clod!
    • Cloud computing is simply the name given to the virtualization and SaaS trends. It is a real phenomenon, so why not let it have a one-syllable name? I mean, we could call it "Utility-IT" or "virtual outsourced hosting services" or any of several terms which are slightly more descriptive, but such names certainly aren't any better.

      In my opinion, "cloud computing" is a pretty decent name for scalable, on-demand, utility-billed IT services. At least it's not another acronym!

      • It does have valid meaning, but it also is getting used well beyond that meaning. That's the point it which it became irritating....
        • by dkf (304284)

          It does have valid meaning, but it also is getting used well beyond that meaning. That's the point it which it became irritating....

          It's just the hype cycle [wikipedia.org]. Nothing to get too excited about. See what's actually going on for what it is and use it where it makes real sense. (Virtualized hosting of hardware and services is useful for a lot of problems, though naturally not all.)

      • Cloud computing is simply the name given to the virtualization and SaaS trends. It is a real phenomenon, so why not let it have a one-syllable name? I mean, we could call it "Utility-IT" or "virtual outsourced hosting services" or any of several terms which are slightly more descriptive, but such names certainly aren't any better.

        In my opinion, "cloud computing" is a pretty decent name for scalable, on-demand, utility-billed IT services. At least it's not another acronym!

        Well, the big problem is that "Cloud

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:55PM (#31350268)

    hardware is dirt cheap and getting cheaper. you can buy a powerful server for cheap as well. but after you buy the Citrix or whatever licenses, a few more servers for redundancy, a ton of storage at enterprise prices, the enterprise hardware support, increase network bandwidth etc the savings vanish and it's cheaper to just buy regular desktop machines.

    same thing with EC2. by the time you put in the network hardware and new circuits and pay Amazon for 24x7 instances it's cheaper to just buy desktops. i'm typing this on a 5 year old HP that runs windows 7 just fine.

    i bet all this cloud nonsense is enterprise hardware companies trying to push higher margin products and no real trend that anyone is doing. the numbers just don't work out

    • by lkcl (517947)

      i bet all this cloud nonsense is enterprise hardware companies trying to push higher margin products and no real trend that anyone is doing. the numbers just don't work out

      they will, once ARM cortex N goes multi-core (and, importantly from merely a psychological perspective, goes 64-bit).

      providing "real" ARM 1ghz dual-core CPUs in a "cloud" where you can fit 2 to an SO-DIMM back-to-back with the actual memory, 1gb each, 20 of which will fit into a 1U rack-mount and still only consume 40 watts of power each, where you can fit 16 1U into a rack, and thus get 1280ghz of CPU power in a single rack - and that's a _low_ estimate.

      the performance per watt and the performance per cubi

      • by TeknoHog (164938)

        providing "real" ARM 1ghz dual-core CPUs in a "cloud" where you can fit 2 to an SO-DIMM back-to-back with the actual memory, 1gb each, 20 of which will fit into a 1U rack-mount and still only consume 40 watts of power each, where you can fit 16 1U into a rack, and thus get 1280ghz of CPU power in a single rack - and that's a _low_ estimate.

        the performance per watt and the performance per cubic metre figures are just through the _roof_ compared to x86 processors, and the only thing that's really stopping this from happening right now is because people don't believe that an ARM processor could ever be "good enough".

        Sounds a little like this SiCortex box I found on Ebay the other day, too bad they only ship within the US:

        http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150418027555 [ebay.com]

        The silly thing is that people don't generally run Windows on a supercomputing cluster, but they still use lots of closed applications, which is why x86-64 rules. So if the scientific computing crowd can't let go of the x86 legacy, how do you think the masses are going to do it?

    • by ppanon (16583) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:20PM (#31350558) Homepage Journal
      Nope. What it is is the natural end-point after 10 years of outsourcing. When you get rid of the growth path for technical resources, eventually you get a profound lack of availability of senior technical resources. At that point you have no choice but to push everything IT-related out to external vendors because you can't hire internal resources to do it (or even just to manage the process) and must rely on external vendors who can maximize use of those types of resources across multiple clients. However you also no longer have the skills available to know if the vendor is taking you to the cleaners, or cutting corners on management/security to raise profits and significantly putting your data at risk. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Madoff-level disaster with a "cloud" provider sometime in the next 10 years.
      • by lennier (44736)

        When you get rid of the growth path for technical resources, eventually you get a profound lack of availability of senior technical resources. At that point you have no choice but to push everything IT-related out to external vendors because you can't hire internal resources t

        "Resources"?

        You keep using that word as if it were something like canned meat.

        Wouldn't you rather call them "people"?

        • No, not canned meat.

          When you get rid of the growth path for technical sacks of slightly dirty salty water, eventually you get a profound lack of availability of senior technical sacks of slightly dirty salty water. At that point you have no choice but to push everything IT-related out to external vendors because you can't hire internal sacks of slightly dirty salty water

        • by ppanon (16583)

          You keep using that word as if it were something like canned meat.

          Cubicles? Hello? I don't think people are just resources or canned meat, but far too many people out there in management land do. Sometimes they're even right, but usually because "canned meat" was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      But there is more to it than that. PCs are a Pain. Really one or two are not bad but when you get to 100 or more then trying to keep them all working and configured is just not fun.
      First you don't have to use EC2 Ubuntu offers a cloud solution that you can install on your own machines. http://www.ubuntu.com/cloud/private [ubuntu.com].
      One use for using a cloud based system would be security. Suppose you want to allow your people access to the internet but you don't want to worry about all the latest exploits.
      Block the in

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Better client support follows from having better servers support. Ubuntu has introduced the ability to provide a private EC2 compatible cloud.
    I probably wouldn't pay to put the desktops in the cloud, but if I could reduce the complexity of the desktops in my organization by building a local cloud, it certainly doesn't hurt. This competes with the Citrix and VMware desktop integration business. More solutions improve our choices.

  • The same people wondering why they need this might be the same that complain about a 10 gig nic being useless.

    • by emt377 (610337)
      Which in turn is the same people who in 5-10 years will complain that they can't get a job because they're "too old".

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