NoMachine NX - the missing non-manual

I've been meaning to try NoMachine NX for a while. Its promise of fast remote X11 sessions sounded exactly like what I wanted to log into my work desktop remotely (I really like having a remote desktop with saved state you can just pick up from when using remote access). That was pretty much all I knew about the software, so I was a completely blank slate.

The getting started guide is the perfect example of how not to write a getting started guide.

Firstly, Section 1 - "Getting started" - gives me a full history of the product, goes into significant depth about the challenges of forwarding X11 requests, talks about the caching and compression implementation, round-trip latency measurement, the details of two-way proxying system and discusses every other feature of the software.

My eyes glazed over after about the first paragraph. That's all great -- I just want to know what to do!

At this point, I assume that I'm required to run some sort of daemon at the remote end. I download and install the server package (it is explained that the server package requires the client and agent packages as well, fine).

I'm paging down, looking for something to get me started. I'm happy to see Section 7 - "Set up your NX Server environment" (remember, at this point I though I needed some daemon running in the background constantly). It even has some commands commands to type, so I tap away, running nxserver --useradd nxtest --system. My server binary doesn't even seem to recognise these options. I give up, assuming that the server isn't running and nothing will work. The getting started guide has abruptly ended and I have no idea what to do.

As it turns out, it's all completely trivial. Here's the missing "getting started guide".

  • Download and install the client, agent and server packages on the remote end. You need to have ssh access to this box.
  • Install the client on your end.
  • Run /usr/NX/bin/nxclient. It will start a wizard where you input the remote host name.
  • The client will, under the hood, ssh to the remote end, open the tunnel it needs, start the server and do all the magic required to make things "just work". A remote desktop will appear.
  • That's it!

Additional tips:

  • It's easy to tunnel this connection (for example, if you have to bounce through a ssh gateway to your internal network). Do something like /usr/NX/bin/nxssh -o 'Compression=no' -L -f -N and then connect the client to localhost:2022. You don't want to compress this link, as NX is already doing it.
  • The only way I can find to make a new session is to start nxclient with the --wizard command.
  • Don't click "Disable encryption of all traffic" if you're tunneling. AFAICT this tries to redirect the client to a non-encrypted port, which obviously won't get through.

Other than the documentation, it really works as promised, making remote X11 usable. One really nice feature is that it is smart about the resolution of the remote desktop, filling up your local screen. Add to that you don't need anything setup but your normal ssh connection, and it's a great remote desktop solution.