multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

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ShadesOfGrey
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multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by ShadesOfGrey » Sat May 08, 2010 10:19 am

Hi everyone!
Let me start by saying that I've jumped to linux about a year and a halve ago after being on ms stuff for years.. all the way back to the days of dos6 :?
I started with Ubuntu and changed to mint about 3 months ago, and it's been a very enjoyable ride so far!

Anyhow, I had a question. It's kinda complicated, so sorry if this is common knowledge.. please dont hit me on the head with a searchbar! :lol:

I was thinking lately.. sometimes my gf comes over for a weekend or so and we have to share the same pc. We both sometimes need to have acces to the pc at the same time for a lenghty time, but the most 'obvious' solution of buying an extra pc is not really a financial (or practical) solution.

I wondered.. linux/ubuntu/mint is a very good enviroment for user management and can use have an active session in the background while another is in the foreground (like say, downloading or converting something).
The compiz enviroment that comes with ubuntu/mint by default is also able to have multiple 'desktops' you can switch between.
And having multiple-monitor support is pretty standard these days..

So, my question.. can you have two 'active' users at the same time, each with with their own desktop / monitor, have multiple input devices like mice / keyboard hooked up and assigned uniquely to an user and maybe even soundcard support (I have both a pci-e soundcard and onboard).

And if this is possible, how can I do this? Configuration? Packages I might need? Also, how easily or intrusive would this be, as I would be on a 'single user' session through most of the week and only need a 'multiple user session' every second weekend or so?

I kinda hope I explained enough what I wanted to know.. Being a non-native English speaker and having ADD is kinda making it difficult to express efficiently sometimes :lol:

EDIT: I forgot, I need to elaborate on the soundcard bit. I have a M-Audio Audophile 192 as my main card. Ever since I installed the card, X (or whatever handles it) doesnt see the onboard Realtek card. The card also works exclusivly with OSS as it doesnt support (or is supported by) pulse & alsa. So basicly, can I get the system to recognize more than one soundcard at a time (or is that maybe a motherbord issue where it deactivates the onboard if it sees a card) and would it even work right as the system is configured to use only the oss service but the realtek one would probably want alsa?
Last edited by ShadesOfGrey on Sat May 08, 2010 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Biker » Sat May 08, 2010 10:29 am

In a nutshell? No. Not in the manner you're wishing to do it.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by ShadesOfGrey » Sat May 08, 2010 10:37 am

Biker wrote:In a nutshell? No. Not in the manner you're wishing to do it.
I didnt expect it to be easy, though any idea why it cant work besides that it just isnt supported / thought of (yet)?

Servers and mainframe systems provide sessions for multiples of users, and I know desktop distro's can be transformed into something else with the right configuring / packages.
Shouldnt be impossible to use server type daemons for parallel graphic desktops but local instead of distributed?
Or is this the limits of what X or Gnome can do?

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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Biker » Sat May 08, 2010 10:45 am

It's not a limit of what the OS can do, it's a hardware limit of how you're attempting to do it.

Can Linux be accessed by multiple users at the same time? Yes. However, they're doing it from remote terminals (PCs).

What you're wanting to do isn't possible on a PC. You can't hook two keyboards up to one system and expect it treat them as two separate entities. It's a hardware limitation where the PC is going to look at the two keyboards as the same input device. When you attempt to use them simultaneously, it's going to take the inputs and execute them in the order received.

I'm not even sure you could set up a virtual machine and expect the PC to treat it as a separate entity without having separate controllers inside the box.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Aging Technogeek » Sat May 08, 2010 10:47 am

It is possible in Linux since Linux is based on Unix and retains the multi-user capability, but it would take more than just a single PC to implement.

You would need a fairly large computer to act as a master unit, possibly a smaller PC to act as a server (the master may be able to handle this) and separate terminals or thin clients for each user. Each user would have their own user folder, name and password and could log in from any terminal tied to the master and have access to the master computer's full capabilities.

You can see that the master computer would need a large amount of ram and a large hard drive as well as the ability to handle several tasks at once. Most of the newer top line desktop units with multi-core processors, 6-8 GB of ram, and 1 Tb hard drives probably could handle the job, but you would still need the dumb terminals or thin clients to set up the individual work stations. And the software to allow the master to run the network.

If your gf has her own computer, just set up a local wireless network so you can share internet access. A router and modem are much less expensive than setting up the multi-user system you describe.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by ShadesOfGrey » Sat May 08, 2010 10:57 am

Biker wrote:It's not a limit of what the OS can do, it's a hardware limit of how you're attempting to do it.

Can Linux be accessed by multiple users at the same time? Yes. However, they're doing it from remote terminals (PCs).

What you're wanting to do isn't possible on a PC. You can't hook two keyboards up to one system and expect it treat them as two separate entities. It's a hardware limitation where the PC is going to look at the two keyboards as the same input device. When you attempt to use them simultaneously, it's going to take the inputs and execute them in the order received.

I'm not even sure you could set up a virtual machine and expect the PC to treat it as a separate entity without having separate controllers inside the box.
I see. But about multiple input devices.. I guess there would be no doubt about it if it was all hooked up using serial / ps2 ports, but how about usb?
I'm no expert on the hardware levels, but it's my understanding that usb devices are handled more with the software / os then the motherboard / bios.
At the very least, usb devices are uniquely identified by port and device. So I would expect the system to see it more as a 'device x on usb port y' than 'this is a mouse'.
Good chance I'm still wrong though, with usb mice / keyboards being more nativly supported by motherboards / bios.
But still, it shouldnt be impossible to let X/Gnome to listen to input from a certain device id or usb port rather then what the bios tells what the input is?

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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by ShadesOfGrey » Sat May 08, 2010 11:05 am

Aging Technogeek wrote:It is possible in Linux since Linux is based on Unix and retains the multi-user capability, but it would take more than just a single PC to implement.

You would need a fairly large computer to act as a master unit, possibly a smaller PC to act as a server (the master may be able to handle this) and separate terminals or thin clients for each user. Each user would have their own user folder, name and password and could log in from any terminal tied to the master and have access to the master computer's full capabilities.

You can see that the master computer would need a large amount of ram and a large hard drive as well as the ability to handle several tasks at once. Most of the newer top line desktop units with multi-core processors, 6-8 GB of ram, and 1 Tb hard drives probably could handle the job, but you would still need the dumb terminals or thin clients to set up the individual work stations. And the software to allow the master to run the network.
Sounds heavy duty! But it's mostly internet / youtube and some gimp-ing she needs to do. Does one realy need a server-type master box for what my desktop is already kinda doing?

If your gf has her own computer, just set up a local wireless network so you can share internet access. A router and modem are much less expensive than setting up the multi-user system you describe.
If that was the possibility, I wouldnt think of this wild plan :wink:
just a lan / shared internet acces would be the easiest option indeed.
But she lives at her own place.
She has her own Vista box at her own place, but it's not a laptop, so I dont expect her to take it with her in her backpack. And I dont expect her to let it stay here permenantly for the odd weekend she is actualy staying over. If this idea is possible, it makes much more sense to make do with one pc then get an extra one.

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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Biker » Sat May 08, 2010 11:08 am

ShadesOfGrey wrote: But still, it shouldnt be impossible to let X/Gnome to listen to input from a certain device id or usb port rather then what the bios tells what the input is?
No. X/Gnome isn't controlling it. The Kernel is, in conjunction with the hardware controllers on your PC.

What you want to do isn't possible.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Aging Technogeek » Sat May 08, 2010 1:08 pm

You can both use the one PC in your apartment, just not at the same time. You don't have the specialized hardware and software to do that. What you are trying to get is the equivalent of a corporate local area network. Those take specialized equipment installed by trained techs and IT professionals to keep them running. This is not something you can do on a Saturday afternoon.

You and your friend will just have to take turns or go on Ebay and buy a refurbished off-lease laptop for a couple of hundred dollars so she has her own computer.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by distro hopper » Sat May 08, 2010 11:00 pm

I would buy an older computer, setup a light-weight desktop environment like LXDE and ssh to the main computer and use the apps off it. There's also other ways to do this like LTSP (google it), which can basically turn another computer into a dumb terminal, running all apps off the main computer (server).
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by rec9140 » Sun May 09, 2010 7:46 am

distro hopper wrote: There's also other ways to do this like LTSP (google it),.


:arrow: Linux Terminal Server Project...
http://www.ltsp.org/

With ONE PC and only adding a keyboard, monitor, mouse... not likely... I've seen these for that w virus but theres a device that handles the mouse/keyboard/video/sound and a software layer to glue it together.. not going to work on a real OS like Linux.


ONE main PC, and some old underpowered laptops, PC's: The best way for people to share a SINGLE PC is XDMCP... BUT sound remains an issue UNLESS YOU were to have MULTIPLE SOUND CARDS and ENABLE Networked Sound. I've never tried this, should be doable, as sound was not that big a deal for the remotes.

XDMCP is a way to use X from any PC with an X server even on that w virus OS.

http://tldp.org/HOWTO/XDMCP-HOWTO/

You will WANT to be behind a ROUTER! ! ! XDMCP is not secure, it can be made secure to be used via SSH across the internet, but for internal LAN it's fine..

I use it daily at work and home to act as sort of a software KVM. I also can go from PC to PC, pop in a USB drive, boot to Linux, and start a remote X session of my main PC where ever I go... You can also use a X server on the local OS if one is available like for w virus: XMing http://www.straightrunning.com/XmingNotes/

Now if you want to get more advanced... LTSP is the way to go... this last version the "Mother Ubuntu" included LTSP on it... theres also a live disc version floating around at their site.. Personally I think LTSP over complicates things to do what XDMCP does almost as well.. the big difference being things like sound.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Biker » Sun May 09, 2010 8:29 am

People, if he had the second system, he wouldn't need to be sharing his first PC.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by rec9140 » Sun May 09, 2010 10:44 am

Biker wrote:People, if he had the second system, he wouldn't need to be sharing his first PC.
We are here presenting the alternatives... I certainly would have appreciated the other responses of... "well no... your exact plan is not possible.. but .... you may want to try LTSP, XDMCP...." versus. NOPE! Done! Next!

ONE PC, and some extra sundry items like keyboard,mouse, monitor. As per Biker it will not happen.

Now... if you would like to explore some other options.... here is how you can do it...

I find it very difficult to believe that a PC or laptop that may no longer be current is not available... I've got 3 older PC's that have all at one time been current used in various forms of headless servers, desktops all running Linux all accessed via SSH or XDMCP for various things. Even my parents have 2 old PC's pushed into a closet.

Unless its dead ie: not functional.... older hardware is just re-tasked. :D
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Aging Technogeek » Sun May 09, 2010 11:06 am

rec9140

Keep presenting alternatives if you know of any. That is what this forum is about. I think biker was only trying to point out that the OP has indicated that he does not have a second computer available to use as you suggest.

The original post asked if a single computer with the addition of only a keyboard, could be used by multiple users at the same time. That has been the OP's idea throughout this topic, and what biker and I have been saying is not possible.

Your suggestion will undoubtedly work, but the OP would need to purchase a second computer and do considerable work setting it up and configuring it. If he so desires, I am sure that you, or biker, or any other knowledgeable forum member would be glad to help, but ShadesOfGrey has to decide what he wants and can afford then ask for help (if required) to make it happen.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by Biker » Sun May 09, 2010 11:19 am

The reason why the OP wanted to share his PC with his significant other was due to lack of an additional computer system. He's not looking for a server setup, but a way to have 2 people use the same computer at the same time, which isn't possible. If the OP had another computer system, he wouldn't have the issue he's currently experiencing. His girlfriend would have a system to work on, and so would he.
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Re: multiple (active) user sesions: can I do this?

Post by ShadesOfGrey » Sun May 09, 2010 12:01 pm

Thanks for your replies everyone. I posted this idea as much out of curiousity as out of practicality, so I like different suggestions / input even if it's not what I want to hear :)

I'm a bit of a stuborn bastard though, and I found what I wanted is know as a 'multi head' or 'multi system' desktop. I found a lot of stuff googling on the topic, it apparently has been done before and can be done with just consumer desktop, no expensive server or mainframe master box needed.

A lot of different methods, some more hackish than others. But it usualy involves two different X conf's for the different devices and also usualy two different video cards.
I have an onboard and Nvidia GT220 pci-e, so that is taken care of.

Some of the sources mention the kernel needing to be rewritten for the keyboard handling stuff, as that is done quite low level.
Other sources dont seems to involve that? I think it depends on the age of the sources.

Anyhow, dont want to come across as the guy with the fingers in his ears going 'lalala cant hear you, I only believe the stuff I actualy wanted to hear' but at least it seems hopefull / interesting that what I want to do has been done on average home & garden pc's?

I cant actualy try out any of the setups without having a second monitor, so until then..
But if I try it out, I guess I'll partition a test distro to try it out first or maybe a older hdd I have laying around.. hmm options, options..

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