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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

(?) X Windows Over a Serial Line (Null Modem)

From farquhar on Sun, 27 Dec 1998

(?) I'm a new Linux user and I've found your column (and The Linux Gazette) immensely helpful. Thanks.

Here's a question I haven't found an answer to, however. Thanks to The Linux Gazette, I know it's possible to connect 386/486 PCs to a LAN containing newer PCs and run them as X Terminals. I also know it's possible to set up text-mode terminals via null-modem using getty. But is there any way to run an X Terminal off another PC via a null-modem link? (This would be great for two-node LANs like you might find in many homes -- a null-modem cable is much less expensive than two NICs and a cable to connect them.)

Thanks. Dave Farquhar

(!) Is is certainly possible to do this. You have to run a PPP or SLIP (some sort of TCP/IP networking connection) over the serial line to do it.
However I'll warn that X Windows on a typical 386 or 486 --- especially over a serial line --- would be essentially unusable.
Actually the quality of your video card matters a little more than the CPU. My 386/33 running X on a 2Mb STB Powergraph is more usable than an old 486DX2/66 that my father used to use with a cheap 1Mb or 512K VESA VLB video card. However, neither of them was acceptable --- even when running the apps remotely (the server still has to work locally).
So I wouldn't do it except at the lower resolutions (640x480 and 800x600). X is simply not tolerable at those resolutions. Of course MS Windows was pretty useless on those old boxes too.
Anyway --- look at the PPP HOWTO and see if you can get your TCP/IP running over the null modem. Then running X over that should be just like running it over any other network connection.

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 37 February 1999

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