FreeNX, presented as a preview during LinuxTag2004 by Fabian Franz (Knoppix Developer) and Kurt Pfeifle (KDE Project), is a Free Software NX Server based on the GPL'd libraries from NoMachine. After the aKademy week (where for nine days more than 400 KDE contributors and visitors plan to work on the next generation KDE) Fabian and Kurt plan to release a first snapshot of the FreeNX server under the GPL license for the first time. During aKademy, a few KDE hackers are working on the integration of an NX Client into the KDE framework. Knoppix-3.6 also will contain a first preview on FreeNX. Golem.de, a German IT news site talked to Fabian and Kurt just before aKademy. Daniel Molkentin provided us with a translation.
(Photo courtesy Pro-Linux.de)
At LinuxTag the two of you showed off your free NX implementation which will also be included into the next Knoppix version...
Fabian Franz: It wasn't only Kurt and myself - at least four people were involved ;-)
KDE's Joseph Wenniger developed the first kNX/FreeNX client, assisted by Torsten Rahn.
Out part was to get the FreeNX Server running.
Kurt Pfeifle: The actual code of the FreeNX server was written by Fabian alone....
We basically showed two components at LinuxTag:
- the FreeNX Server and
- the FreeNX/kNX Client.
Only the interaction of both pieces allows remote GUI connections even over "slow" physical links. Even with low-bandwith techniques like an analogue modem or ISDN, both, NX and FreeNX achieve a good performance -- even across operating system borders. A very verbose description on the NX interna can be found at: Pro-Linux (german).
Another one will appear in the next few days on OSNews.
Fabian Franz: In fact, our FreeNX implementation is only the last piece of the mosaic. 99,9% comes from NoMachines's GPL/NX components, that we simply use unchanged in FreeNX.
Gian Filippo Pinzari developed the core in several years of meticulous work. These are the NX components which his company NoMachine.com offeres as Free and Open Source software under the terms of the GPL (link?). The exactly same components used in the commercial products of NoMachine. NoMachine currently offers several commerical NX server variants (Personal, Small, Business and Enterprise) which base on the Free NX libraries.
If NX was already put under the GPL in March 2003, why did it take more than a year until a Free version of NX was published?
Kurt Pfeifle: In the last 15 months, there have been servere misunderstandings concerning the whole NX software, which was considered to be "non-Free" by several Open Source developers, just because NoMachine also based its commercial products on top of it.
Without having a deeper look, rejecting NX as "practically unusable, if only the libraries are released under the GPL whereas the NoMachine NX Server remains proprietary". These biases simply overlooked, that a commandline tool was shipped by NoMachine almost from the beginning, including the source code which allowed everyone who was interested to build an completely working NX tunnel.
Fabian Franz: I first saw the commerical NX version with my own eyes at CeBIT 2004, when Kurt showed it to me. I was immediately impressed. But even when I saw Kurt's very simple "nxtunnel" shell script (which didn't include a "server" functionality, but only merely provided a peer-to-peer NX proxy tunnel) I didn't instantly start to write the FreeNX code. First my laptop display had to break and die, before NX became a personal necessity. to me. With a broken display but without money for a quick repair, the only help was to access the machine via NX. That was the final kick for starting to code on FreeNX...