Randomly Found Software: Xpra

One thing I really liked about Windows 7 was its excellent terminal-server-facilities. I could detach a running local session and reattach it again remotely. I could even tunnel it through ssh with ordinary ssh-x-forwarding by installing rdesktop on cygwin. It supported changing the size of the desktop and logging in without being visible on the physical screen.

X11 under Linux never worked that good, let alone Mac OS X, which is sort of the worst of all, with the worst VNC-Implementation I know so far.

Something none of the solutions knew were suspendable rootless GUIs. I dont know for how long I wished there was something like screen for X11-Applications. Well, there it is: Xpra.

It is a surprisingly small set of software, written in python, and though well done. The installation procedure is unusual but well documented, and for Arch Linux, there is an AUR-Package, which is why I love Arch Linux so much more than Debian – there are a lot more buildscripts available.

Having it installed, it can simply be started using

xpra start :1927

This will start a Server listening on Display 1927. To start an application running on this X-Server, we have to set its $DISPLAY to this, or supply it as an argument. I mostly start an XTerm, from which I then can start the rest.

nohup xterm -display :1927 &

If anything works,  the XTerm can be attached to the current server by running

xpra attach :1337

inside another X-Server. It also works remotely, through SSH X-Forwarding. Killing this process via C-c (or – if it is remote – by just pulling the network cable) the XTerm will disappear. But it can be attached again by simply doing the same command as soon as the connection is there again. Like one would do with screen.

When trying to attach a server inside itself, then the connection gets lost, but – surprisingly – I can attach the server afterwards. It doesnt crash. Now if that isnt solid!

There is no Tray-Bar-Integration (yet – I am sure this is possible), so when using tray applications, I use trayer for that.

Of course, it doesnt always work perfectly. I sometimes have to run

setxkbmap de

multiple times. And I heard of some issues with CapsLock. Sometimes I have to give a window the focus twice (i.e. clicking on its titlebar twice) before it actually gets focus. But well, it hasnt even reached version 1.0, and already made my life a little easier. I think its already worth using, and definitely worth being developed (and hopefully integrated into the default package trees of the major distributions).


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