Fastest VNC setup? Concurrent RDP sessions in Windows 8 Pro?
April 10, 2013 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I just purchased an underpowered computer to experiment further with remote desktops. Ideally I'd like to be able to use a remote desktop technology to stream HD video from the remote server, play a game on the client that's rendered on the more powerful server, and to have a local user work on the remote serving computer while another account on the server is being accessed remotely by the thin client.

It's OK if the ideal just can't happen, but I want to try out each thing and see how close I can get.

Does VNC allow concurrent sessions?

Any hacks that won't rootkit my computer to allow concurrent sessions over RDP in Windows 8?

Any specific software or approaches to try out that would allow the client to play high-end video games rendered on the server?

Any tips on getting HD YouTube videos or files to play at high quality on the remote client?

These are all Windows 8 machines, with Linux as a possibility on the client end if it provides some advantage, connected with each other on a fast home LAN.
posted by jsturgill to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
I know Splashtop has good enough lag and compression that you can play Diablo 3 on a remote client.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2013

In my experience RDP is much much faster than VNC for remoting. Not sure about full screen video or gaming.

For video it would probably be better to have the server transcode to a format that your client will be able to play like MPEG2 instead of try to stream via remote.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:50 AM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: wongcorgi, the video wouldn't always be from files... I'm thinking also videos from sites (YouTube or Netflix or similar) that the thin client wouldn't be able to play at full HD resolution.
posted by jsturgill at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2013

Seconding splashtop. There may be other third party solutions that work similarly -- that seems to be the most well supported.

In contrast to VNC (which sends periodic snapshots of portions the screen) and RDP (which is more like rendering across the network combined with bits of the VNC snapshotting technique), solutions like splashtop essentially stream a video of your desktop. AirPlay, on the Mac, works like this too.

What that means practically is that you can choose a lower frame rate for a detailed work desktop, or you can increase the frame rate, have a slightly fuzzy picture, but play a high end game or full screen video remotely. All of this is modulo the speed of your connection between the two boxes, of course. It's quite cool.

Intel has now built the realtime video encoding support into their latest chips (QuickSync). I'm sort of surprised RDP v8, or whatever, doesn't use this -- but I expect it will in the near future.
posted by smidgen at 11:26 AM on April 10, 2013

As an aside, the streaming technique is what OnLive uses -- albeit, taken to a whole other level.
posted by smidgen at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: Does splashtop allow for concurrent connections?

Does VNC allow you to have multiple users logged in at the same time? Is it a baked-in thing, even on windows?

What about mixing and matching--using splashtop on one account, while another account is accessed using VNC?
posted by jsturgill at 11:49 AM on April 10, 2013

Neither VNC or splashtop will do separate accounts on the same (windows) machine as far as I'm aware, since that requires both a windows server OS and some trickery only RDP and a few highly priced commericial products do.
posted by smidgen at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2013

This might be an option.

VNC can have multiple viewers of the same desktop, but not separate users in separate desktops. That isn't allowed in the desktop versions of Windows.

What you are trying to do probably can't work. If a machine can't handle rendering video data, it doesn't matter whether the source of the video data is a website or a desktop sharing application. If it can't do 30 frames per second, it can't do 30 frames per second.
posted by gjc at 4:00 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: What you are trying to do probably can't work. If a machine can't handle rendering video data, it doesn't matter whether the source of the video data is a website or a desktop sharing application. If it can't do 30 frames per second, it can't do 30 frames per second.

The client machine can handle 1080p video if it's hardware accelerated. Netflix never is on Windows, as its codec and Silverlight don't cooperate. So a 1080p stream of another computer playing a fullscreen 1080p video is... both ridiculous and within the scope of the client hardware.

There are hacks to the DLL that provides RDP for Windows 7/8 Pro that turn on the concurrent users feature. It's technically fine, just intentionally crippled by MS if you don't have the server OS. I'm reluctant to use them, though, because at least the Windows 8 one was created by a decidedly grey hat guy and I have no desire to run code from him that I don't understand and can't review.
posted by jsturgill at 4:22 PM on April 10, 2013

Have you checked whether Netflix works over native RDP? Because a quick search suggests the answer is "No". Although some people have had success with Netflix over Splashtop.
posted by sbutler at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2013

I came to suggest XPUnlimited which allows multiple concurrent connections on non-server Windows products, but it seems they've become AADS. The product line up and pricing looks the same as before though and it's been great both virtualized and on bare-metal. Not tried full screen video though, but there's a 60 day 3 user limited trial to see if it works for you.
posted by dirm at 5:10 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: Yes, Netflix blocks RDP. Splashtop works.

RDP appears to be too slow for fullscreen video, though the client is pretty weak and that might be the issue.
posted by jsturgill at 5:21 PM on April 10, 2013

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