Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Video Splashtop's Cliff Miller Talks About Their New Linux App (Video) 96

Yes, you can now have full remote access to your home computer or a server at work that's running Ubuntu Linux. Really any Linux distro, although only Ubuntu is formally supported by Splashtop. What? You say you already control your home and work Linux computers from your Android tablet with VNC? That there's a whole bunch of Android VNC apps out there already? And plenty for iOS, too? You're right. But Cliff says Splashtop is better than the others. It can play video at a full 30 frames per second, and has low enough latency (depending on your connection) that you can play video games remotely in between taking care of that list of server issues your boss emailed to you. Or perhaps, in between work tasks, you take a dip in the ocean, because you're working from the beach, not from a stuffy office. It seems that work and living locations get a little more remote from each other every year, and Splashtop is helping to make that happen. This video interview is, itself, an example of how our world has gotten flatter; Cliff was in China and I was in Florida. The connection wasn't perfect, but the fact that we could have this conversation at all is a wonder. Please note, too, that while Cliff Miller is now Chief Marketing Officer for Splashtop, he was also the founder and first CEO of TurboLinux, so he is not new to Linux. And Splashtop is the company that supplied the "instant on" Linux OS a lot of computer manufacturers bundled with their Windows computers for a few years. Now, of course, they're focusing on the remote desktop, and seem to be making a go of it despite heavy competition in that market niche.

Note: Robin Miller and Cliff Miller are not related to each other.

Robin: Cliff, I understand Splashtop made a big time announcement recently. What was it?

Cliff: Well, we announced our Streamer software for Ubuntu.

Robin: Okay.

Cliff: So that means if you’ve got a computer running Ubuntu, then you can connect to it from an Android device or any number of other types of devices.

Robin: Okay. Is it Ubuntu only or can a clever person who can use the Ubuntu repository put it on any flavor of Linux?

Cliff: Well, we don’t want to say any flavor of Linux, we’re only supporting Ubuntu. However, if you are a clever person, you might well find a way to run it on some other Linux distribution.

Robin: How do you feel about that? Do you like it or not like it?

Cliff: We love experimentation. I mean, our engineers do it all the time and that’s how we all can come up with new products, in fact.

Robin: Don’t you publish a lot of APIs and make your stuff open? Are you open source or closed?

Cliff: Well, we have a certain number of open source offerings that we’ve... you know, files and so on that we put on our website. But we, in fact, are proprietary. We have Windows and Macintosh clients as well.

Robin: Well, probably all because Linux is new for you guys... started with it just now, right?

Cliff: Well, in fact, we do go back a ways with Linux. Our first product’s offering was an Instant On Linux. Splashtop has been bundled with over a hundred million PCs from Dell, Acer, HP and so on. So, this is – Linux is not new to us.

Robin: Ha-ha. So, you are sort of like getting back to your roots and going back with the old school and the young school and merging them and going forward?

Cliff: Well, that’s true, we’re doing different things in this current product line that we’ve got... remote desktop offering and it allows any stream to any stream computing. But, we certainly realize the underlying OS is important and so we are experts at OS, so Windows, Macintosh, iOS and Linux as well.

Robin: Okay. Now, the big thing that I’m picking up from the press releases and such, is that I can be sitting there with my Android or my official 2.0 Jobs approved thingy, the i-thingy.

Cliff: Yeah.

Robin: I can be sitting in a coffee shop and I can be monitoring my company’s computers as a sysadmin, I can work with them, I can work into them and I could always do it for a long time with PCs and Macs. Now I can use Linux as well with the same program, right?

Cliff: Exactly. And so we see a number of key beneficiaries or key user categories and one would definitely be a sysadmin where you’ve got a bunch of Linux machines, Ubuntu machines that are powering your office or your server rooms and now you can be at Starbucks or on your couch at home and monitoring and in fact, you could be working on them if you wanted to be.

Robin: And somebody told me that -- not that any of our readers would ever do this while on the clock -- that you could also play games like PC games or whatever on your little hand-held thing actually where the games are resident on the big computer. Is this so?

Cliff: Well, that’s true too. And, well, our take on this is that, in fact, Linux folks are so efficient that they can do this and their boss isn’t even going to realize it.

Robin: Boy, I love that, excuse me Slashdot readers, the man is pandering to you. Are you enjoying it?

Cliff: Well, I’ve used Linux for a long time. I use all kinds of different OS’s. But, I’m no stranger, so, yeah.

Robin: What I see with this going on is, it’s like a huge change in the way we work and where we are. For instance, this interview with you in China and me in – the Golden Land or whatever the heck they call it there – Florida, where you’re dealing with minus centigrade degrees and I’m dealing with plus 24 maybe centigrade right now.

Cliff: Yeah.

Robin: We’re talking literally half way around the world, across generations and boundaries. We couldn’t have done this ten years ago and now you’re saying I can take my little device and with Splashtop I could be doing this from a forest monastery under a tree, a Buddhist monastery, wherever. So, how does this go, what happens to the way we work and play, how does it change our lives?

Cliff: Well, I think you’ve hit on a great point there that we’ve been kind of freed from our geographical location to work or play just about anywhere. There is a caveat there, you do have to have Internet, access to Internet and that could be either through a fixed line or through Wi-Fi or 3G/4G, what have you. But as long as you’ve got that connection, you can be connected, you can be connected to your computers, your company’s computers, anywhere in the world.

Robin: Really. So, we don’t have to show – I have friends who do this now, but you are taking it one step further, are you not?

Cliff: Well, yeah, we think we definitely are. I mean, one thing that has been there for a long time has been the ability to login using any number of terminal programs, but it primarily started out being text based, right. So you have screen, textual characters and it was slow when you were using a modem. That meant that you could do a certain number of things, but you couldn’t do things that were fun like watch movies or play video games -- that kind of thing.

Robin: Now, we know that we can do VNC and we can do remote access computing. I can access my home computer from anywhere because it does frankly run Ubuntu and it’s built right in for nothing. So how much for all this, I guess, how much better is your connectivity and how much does it cost?

Cliff: Okay. So, how much better? From our standpoint, we can go 30 frames per second and the other guys tend to do anywhere from 2 to 6. In the right environment with the right chipset, we can even get up to 60 frames per second. So what does that mean? That means, if you want to watch video with the other guys, you’re going to see Charlie Chaplin-like video. It’s going to be choppy and you may or may not have audio with it. With Splashtop you get not only audio, you get smooth video, so you can watch the latest movies that have very nice graphic effects and so on. Now to the cost question. The Streamer which is what we’re – first of all let me back up a minute. There are two parts to the software, two main parts, that means the Streamer Software, which is what you put on your PC and you login to or you access from your device that you are holding, which might be an Android tablet, for example, so you have the Streamer software on the computer and the mobile application on your tablet.

Robin: All right.

Cliff: The Streamer software is free, absolutely free. You can download it from our website Splashtop.com or with the Ubuntu release, we’re also putting it on the Ubuntu Software Center, so you can go there and download it for free as well. So, on your Android tablet, you’ll need to get our remote app and that is absolutely free. If you have another device, an IOS device or something else, it may cost you a few bucks, but in any case it’s not going to set you back much. Now, if you want to do this in a LAN environment from an Android to an Ubuntu computer, it’s absolutely free. If you want to access it away from home or away from your work, then it will run $0.99 per month or $9.99 per year, and for that you’ll get what we call our Anywhere Access pack, which allows you to connect anywhere in the world from your mobile device to your computer at work or at home.

Robin: Okay. Cliff it sounds like people in Beijing are waking up because it’s afternoon here for me, but for you it’s morning, and I’ve heard that in Beijing, as people get online, the connectivity goes down the tubes. Is that what’s happening, why the voice thing is.?

Cliff: It’s a little bit early for it to be breaking up. I mean, typically there are four peaks in a day. People go to work and there are a lot of gamers here, so they play games before they go to work and then right after they go to work, at 9 or 10 there is a big peak, because they play games then too, and then around lunch time and then in the evening there is a couple of peaks as well. So, I’m surprised. It’s only 5.30 right now.


Cliff later told us that sometimes enough gamers were active in Beijing at 5:30 a.m. to slow down the Internet for everyone, which is apparently what happened to us. So we stopped the recording because from here on we could not understand what Cliff was saying.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Splashtop's Cliff Miller Talks About Their New Linux App (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:05PM (#42172943) Homepage
    Right, for some reason the "Disable ads" checkbox is not hiding all ads.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    NX compression on the X protocol made for snappy desktops and responsive thin-client apps. What ever happened to the guys at nomachine?

  • I'm just now getting around to exploring remote admin options. I just recently discovered the joy of X over SSH and decided to be done with VNC. Now I see this...why would I use Splashtop instead of X over SSH?

    Not a challenge, a request for info.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Desler ( 1608317 )

      Because the Chief Marketing Officer says so. Surely that is an unbiased source.

    • X over SSH is a real pain to use over internet. Not that I'm recommending Splashtop.

      Have you checked freenx?

      • No Android client for NX... at least, not the last time I checked.

        If you have a Linux, Windows, or Mac-based laptop to connect to hosted apps, though, it works remarkably well. I've used it to do stuff over a 2G cellular connection, and it's as zippy as VLC over a 100mbit LAN.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:23PM (#42173121)

      Straight X over SSH is very slow over the wide internet. Compressed X streams can be very pleasant, e.g., dxpc or NX. NX is now closed source (and the older OSS versions are very difficult to build and use). X2Go looks like they might take the source and run with it.

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        FreeNX still works for me, with the opennx client. I can yum install both the server and client.

    • by batkiwi ( 137781 )

      What happens to your X over SSH session when you lose internet for 30 seconds (say your 3g coverage drops, or your wifi goes wonky)?

      • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:57PM (#42173391) Homepage

        The session drops & you loose all apps that were running on the X Desktop... Which is a the reason I used Xvnc when I had a need to do this. Xvnc is headless (a virtual X desktop) that you use VNC to connect to. Xvnc's biggest weakness was VNC -- slooowwww but it worked way back when there was no other means of doing this.

        • Seriously, using Xvnc to forward your ssh session just to deal with disconnections? That is so backwards.
          xpra [xpra.org] is way better than this, and even NX, despite being old and closed/abandoned is still better than this, and both are seamless.

          I haven't tried splashtop, and it being closed source I doubt I will in a hurry, but I reckon xpra is probably on par with it when it comes to performance - we also use x264 encoding where appropriate - and this is the keyword: where appropriate (like video, fast moving
          • by phayes ( 202222 )

            That's pretty much the time-frame...

            When I set that up it was to gain access to HP/OV maps on a Sun SS20 & it was the best solution to the problem available. Now, I'd use a VPN/SSL or an IPSEC client & connect to the server using the appropriate client (Ajax more likely than not but there are still a few X-only apps that I connect to using a VNC client).

    • Why would you remote admin anything at all through a GUI? Can't you just use the shell you already have through SSH?
      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        Sometimes you need the X windows application & not just a console access. Web Apps have done away with most of these but some X apps are still indispendable...

    • I'm just now getting around to exploring remote admin options. I just recently discovered the joy of X over SSH and decided to be done with VNC. Now I see this...why would I use Splashtop instead of X over SSH?

      Speed, mostly. Splashtop is a whole buttload faster than X over SSH, plus as it was mentioned, it can carry audio and all with it. Also, with X over SSH you lose all the stuff you had running if you get disconnected, whereas with Splashtop you don't. If you're familiar with Nomachine NX then Splashtop is a lot like that, only seemingly still slightly faster and supports more clients -- NX doesn't have an Android-client, for example.

    • by jdharm ( 1667825 )
      Thanks for the replies. Saved me a couple 'learn the hard way' episodes.

      1) Disconnect issue - I kind of had it in my head the X over SSH was for doing things I wasn't afraid to loose & was going right to the console for permanent system-wide changes. Good to know I had a reason for doing that.

      2) Speed - My servers and I reside in the sticks of Arkansas. There is no such thing as "slow" here. It's all "normal" and "wow!" to us, so this one is kind of a non-issue for me. (To give you an example of the s
  • the instant on os pos doesn't.

    so it's only proper to focus on it.

  • Version 2 meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bhsx ( 458600 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:15PM (#42173055)
    So far I'm not a fan of Version 2. They've detached themselves from Google servers and I know why they did it. Google just released Chrome Remote Desktop, which is a VERY fine replacement for TeamViewer-type implementations. Surely Google will add this to Android's Chrome stack and then it's truly game on for all of these me-too NAT-traversing, competing remote desktop applications. Interesting times ahead in this space.
    • Re:Version 2 meh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @06:26PM (#42173669) Homepage

      It looks like Chrome Remote Desktop requires leaving a desktop running chrome all the time (which is pretty RAM-intensive), and it doesn't support linux either. There are a bazillion solutions for accessing windows remotely, in part because RDP isn't that bad, and Citrix pretty much has the high end locked up.

      If Google really wants to sell chromebooks to business what they need is a chrome-based app for viewing applications hosted on windows/linux/OSX PCs, which is lightweight on the server side so that you can run those applications on a server and not just have a PC dedicated for each chromebook. I don't get their strategy - it is obviously an ideal business laptop from a security/maintainability standpoint, so if they just provided a way to run applications that aren't web-based that would probably drive more adoption.

      • by bhsx ( 458600 )
        You don't need to be running Chrome. It installs a service if you want to set it up for remote access on demand. Same for Mac installs. The first time I used this I installed it to do some remote Mac admining from a Windows box without proper means to do so otherwise, and it worked a charm.
      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        Chrome Remote Desktop can be enabled as a service. That's what the second box is for on the main screen when you first fire it up in chrome. you can have a whole bunch of computers that show up there and connect to them any time anywhere. And the Remote Desktop Server part runs as a service (I think it interfaces with Microsoft's RDP server for this). This part doesn't work on Linux though.

        The rest of Chrome Remote Desktop works fine on Linux. In either direction.

        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Can you have 35 users run 35 instances of a single application consuming roughly only 35x the data memory requirements of that application in this manner?

          That was what I was getting at. This seems to be limited to sharing desktops, and I suspect it is limited to one login session per PC at a time, though I'm not certain of that.

          Suppose I'm a small business with 15 employees. Most of what we do is on Google Apps. I have 3 quickbooks users who use the app a fair bit of the day, and an inventory app that is

          • by caseih ( 160668 )

            The one remote user per computer bit is a limitation Microsoft has placed on their non-server OS's. So no matter what software solution you use, you have to buy a Windows Server license and a bunch of CALs.

          • Suppose I'm a small business with 15 employees. Most of what we do is on Google Apps

            You will fail.

            • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

              Well, presumably Google wouldn't be making the device unless they felt otherwise, but my point was that their failure to handle the one-offs stands in the way of adoption.

              Google has to overcome opinions like yours to make a sale no matter what. However, because they have no solution for running the odd win32 application on ChromeOS they have set the bar considerably higher - a potential customer can't have ANY win32 apps to be a good candidate for ChromeOS.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I went to interview for Turbolinux back in 1999 or so. They were in SF then. It was then an obvious scam, a play for investor money, using Linux moniker for self-promotion. They had no plan, no purpose and no technology. They did have a cool logo and a few high profile guys. Then it all folded like a house of cards that it was, TurboLinux was sold to some chinese firm, who used the name and then dumped it. This wasn't very unusual in those days, of course - so I can't entirely blame them. But - given that h

  • by jspraul ( 146079 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:34PM (#42173201)

    Splashtop shipped an unencrypted remote access solution for nearly 1.5 years without giant disclaimers.
    http://slickdeals.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-4033850.html [slickdeals.net]

    I'm supposed to trust them now that it's finally encrypted?

    • I wish I had mod points left for you. That is exactly what I was thinking, in fact that is exactly what I think every time I see Splashtop brand anywhere.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Interesting. Most of the competing solutions just stream the whole thing over ssh. Makes sense - that takes care of both encryption and authentication and is a solved problem. Then they do their magic on top. Unless you want to use a UDP-based solution you'd be hard-pressed to do better.

        • Also takes care of many firewall and DLP restrictions, if you do it over one of the web ports, I bet.

          • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

            Very true. You can have all the sockets you want in your ssh connection, and they can go whatever direction you want them to go in, but the outside connection is just one TCP connection that starts at the side you generally have the least control over.

            Again, the only reason I could see for maybe doing something outside of ssh is if you wanted a realtime transport for screen updates. That is one problem I've seen with NX - if I hit page-down twice on a client-rendered browser like chromium I get to watch t

  • Why would I use this instead of XRDP (http://www.xrdp.org/) which uses a client that is natively installed on every Windows box out there already?

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      Because that didn't get a front page Slashvertisement?

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      How does xrdp run over high latency connections? Oh, and is it any good with chrome which is brain-dead and uses client-side-rendering as an unchangeable default?

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @06:20PM (#42173605)

    I love using stuff like VNC and having a 15 second lag between my mouse or keyboard click and the screen refresh even on a Gigabit network connection running on an 8 core "thin" client. I mean its been a very long time since I could type faster then the screen can refresh. Its awesome the amount of CPU performance and network speed you need to make your workstation feel like its 1989 all over again.

  • I agree with the other several comments pointing at the not-so-well hidden slashvertising.
    The person in the interview is the Chief Marketing Office of a company.
    He's been a programmer, sure, but now his job has only marginally to do with programming.
  • Not that everything needs to support Windows, but their hyped specs would be interesting to try on the Windows side of both the data center and home. Right now I tend to use RDP (mainly), LogMeIn, or occasionally something like TeamViewer. Cross platform especially to Android is a great selling point for me and many other Windows admins. Looks like their Linux only tho. - HEX
    • Correction: Yeah I was reading wikipedia and the linked page on their home site before posting, just went back and saw the big "Get Streamer for PC, etc" button. I'll have to play with it see if I can do Win7 to Android better than LogMeIn. - HEX
      • Easy install on both Win7 and Android from the official Play/Market, had some connection issues but it worked fairly well. Not sure if the resolution switch on my Win7 machine can be turned off, but I couldn't see the controls of YouTube videos even though they would play both audio (smooth) and video (smooth to jittery). Dealt with multi monitors somewhat OK but the aforementioned resolution switch screwed up the positioning of the windows I keep open on my second monitor. All in all a decent showing and w
        • How does it compare to just using Remote Desktop client apps?

          • How does it compare to just using Remote Desktop client apps?

            Speed mostly. You can do things like watching video from a remote player or play graphics intensive games without much lag. The response latency is something like 100ms over 4g, so it's not perfect for games that require twitch reflexes, but I've played Civ 5 and XCOM over Splashtop on my Samsung Galaxy S3 rather smoothly.

          • I'll echo the speed improvement in video, although the latency of not being quite sure if your click has been registered sometimes leads to issues where you suddenly have several clicks, say on a scroll bar, suddenly register and do much more than you intended. Speaking of scrolling, I couldn't get two finger scroll bar movement to work from my Android (HTC Supersonic aka EVO 4G) and didn't even try the popup keyboard due to disconnections. To be fair, my wifi signal wasn't the best due to a huge storm whil
  • I first was exposed to Splashtop when it came with my Asus Transformer 101 as a free app. Like a lot of people posting here I was skeptical, not seeing why I need this over XRDP or VNC or any number of other already-existing remote desktop apps.

    Then, I shut up and tried the damn thing. And my jaw hit the floor.

    Full screen streaming video (aka Netflix), WITH sound, WITHOUT stutter, over a 10mbps connection. Try doing that over VNC.

    Splashtop is slick. You need to see it to believe it. They have some neat tech

  • by tota ( 139982 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:21AM (#42176099) Homepage
    xpra [xpra.org] does this on Linux, Windows, OSX and Android (beta).
    It's free and it's open-source.
    It also does x264 encoding when needed and is available for all your machines now without any strings attached.
  • I remember Turbolinux and thanks for notifying. PASS.

  • I installed Splashtop on Ubuntu
    installed splashtop clients on my Windows 7 and my 2 Android tablets and on my Samsung Skyrocket android phone.

    I could not get the connection to work. I'm technical but there is little to no documentation available online other than
    a few FAQs. If you need help you have to submit a ticket online and I suppose you wait until someone gets back to you via

    I guess I'll wait 6 months and let it bake and then try it again.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford