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Texttop – A desktop rendered in TTY with ASCII

Texttop

A fully interactive X Linux desktop rendered to ASCII and streamed over SSH

or Firefox in your terminal :astonished:

Texttop – A desktop rendered in TTY with ASCII

Why?

I’m travelling around the world and sometimes I don’t have very good Internet. If all I have is a 3kbps connection tethered from my phone then it’s good to SSH into my server and browse the web through elinks . That way my server downloads the web pages and uses the limited bandwidth of my SSH connection to display the result. But it lacks JS support and all that other modern HTML5 goodness. Texttop is simply a way to have the power of a remote server running a desktop, but interfaced through the simplicity of a terminal and very low bandwidth.

Why not VNC? Well VNC is certainly one solution but it doesn’t quite have the same ability to deal with extremely bad Internet. Texttop uses MoSH to further reduce the bandwidth and stability of the connection. Mosh offers features like automatic reconnection of dropped connections and diff-only screen updates. Also, other than SSH or MoSH, Texttop doesn’t require a client like VNC. But of course another big reason for Texttop is that it’s just very cool geekery.

Quickstart

If you just want to have a play on your local machine: docker run --rm -it tombh/texttop ./run.sh

Installation

You can either pull from the Docker Registry: docker pull tombh/texttop or, build yourself:

git clone git@github.com:tombh/texttop.git cd texttop docker build -t texttop . 

Usage

On your remote server (this will pull the docker image the first time you issue it):

docker run --rm -it /   -p 7777:7777 -p 60010-60020:60010-60020/udp /   -v ~/.ssh/authorized_keys:/root/.ssh/authorized_keys /   tombh/texttop sh 

Note that this assumes you already have SSH setup on your server and that you have your public key there. Password logins work fine too.

Then on your local machine:

mosh user@yourserver:7777 ./run.sh 

MoSH is available through most system pacakge managers. SSH can be used exactly the same, just replace mosh with ssh . user@yourserver is the normal URI you would use to connect via SSH.

ExitingAt the moment the only way to exit is with MoSH’s CTRL+^ . or SSH’s ENTER ~ .

Interaction

Most mouse and keyboard input is exactly the same as a normal desktop. If your terminal is active then you can click, type, scroll, use arrow keys and drag things around. However there are still some things not available, like copy and paste. The main difference from a normal desktop is that you can zoom and pan the desktop by using CTRL+mousewheel and CTRL+drag . This is very handy as it’s hard to see what’s what when you’re zoomed right out.

Currently, only Firefox is installed on this extremely minimal Alpine Linux distro. However you can add new packages with apk . Just remember that you will lose any system changes once you restart the docker container. I’m thinking about ways to save state. You may experiment with mounting certain system directories.

Contributions

Yes please.

License

GNU General Public License v3.0

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