Multiseat configuration

multiseat , multi-station or multiterminal configuration is a single computer which supports multiple independent local users at the same time.

A “seat” consists of all hardware devices that are assigned to a specific workplace at which one user has access to the computer. It Consists of au moins un graphics device (graphics card or just an output (eg HDMI / VGA / DisplayPort port) and the attached monitor / projector ) for the output and a keyboard and a mouse for the input. It can also include video cameras, sound cards and more.


Since the 1960s computers have been shared between users. Especially in the early days of computing when computers were extremely expensive the usual paradigm was a central mainframe computer connected to numerous terminals. With the advent of personal computing this paradigm has been replaced by personal computers (or one computer per user).

Multiseat setups is a return to this multiuser paradigm but based around a PC which supports a number of zero-clients usually of a terminal per user (screen, keyboard, mouse).

Multiseat setups are great for schools, libraries, and family computers. quote needed ]

In some situations such multiseat are also cost-effective because they are not necessary to buy separate motherboards , microprocessors, RAM, hard disks and other components for each user. For example, buying one high speed CPU usually costs less than buying Several Slower CPUs.


In the 1970s, it was very commonplace to connect multiple computer terminals to a single mainframe computer , even graphical terminals. Early terminals were connected with serial – type RS-232 connections , either directly, or through modems . With the advent of Internet Protocol based networking , it est devenu as possible for multiple users to log into a host using telnet or – for a graphic environment – an X Window System “server”. These systems would have a secure root console for the host machine.

Support for multiple consoles in a PC running the X interface was implemented in 2001 by Miguel Freitas, using the Linux operating system and the X11 graphical system (at the time maintained by XFree86 ). [1] This was done using a patch in the display server to run multiple instances of the same time that each one captures the specific mouse and keyboard events and the graphical content. This method is multiseat or multiterminal.

In 2002 a Canadian company, Userful Corporation, released Userful Multiplier, a multiseat Linux software solution that enables up to 10 users to share a computer. [2] Earlier they worked on a multi-station platform computer, but abandoned the idea of ​​a problem with multiple video card support.

Other solutions appeared in 2003, such as Svetoslav Slavtchev, Aivils Stoss, and James Simmons, with the evdev and Faketty [3] [4] approaching the kernel and using the same machine. In that time, the Linux Console Project [5] also proposes an idea to use multiple independent consoles and then multiple independent keyboards and mice in a project called “Backstreet Ruby”. [6]Backstreet Ruby is a kernel patch for the Linux kernel. It is a back to Linux-2.4 of the Ruby kernel tree. The aim of the Linux Console is to enhance and reorganize the input, the console and the framework of the Linux kernel subsystems, so they can work with each other and allow multi-desktop operation. The Backstreet Ruby idea was never finished.

In 2005, the C3SL team (Center for Scientific Computing and Free Software), [7] from the Federal University of Parana in Brazil, created a solution based on nested display servers, such as Xnest and Xephyr . [8] With this solution, each nested display server runs in each screen of a host display server (eg Xorg ) and a modification to the nested servers. In 2008, the C3SL group released the Multiseat Display Manager (MDM) [9] to ease the process of installation and configuration of a multiseat box. This group, also in 2008, conceived a live-CD [10] for test purposes.

Automatic multiseat with USB docking stations is a feature of Fedora 17 . [11] [12]

Time line, commercial multiseat software evolution

  • 1990, Solbourne cg30 running SunOS
  • 1996-2005, Silicon Graphics InfiniteReality running Irix
  • 1996, ThinSoft / BeTwin
  • 1999, Ibik / Aster
  • 2002, Userful Corporation
  • 2004, Open-Sense Solutions (Groovix) [13]
  • 2006, NComputing
  • 2010, Windows MultiPoint Server
  • 2011, Black Box VirtuaCore
  • 2013, LISTEQ BoXedVDI [14]


Hardware requirements

Each monitor will need to be connected to a graphics output from a video card . For example, to make a four-head (oven users) Would require four monitors, four keyboards , four mice and two dual or quad output one video card. USB keyboards and mice are typically recommended instead of PS / 2 connections, as they can be connected to a USB hub . Additional devices and devices such as cameras, flash storage drives, card readers and touch screens could also be assigned to each seat. An alternative to multiple physical video cards and connections is DisplayLink over USB.

Software requirements

GNU / Linux

The VT system in the Linux kernel dates back to 1993 and does not understand the concept of multiple “seats”. kmscon and systemd-consoled do.

There are different solutions to a multiseat and others are constantly being developed. The X.Org Foundation maintains a wiki with the latest news about the solutions. [15] Currently the most pointed solutions by X.Org’s wiki are the solutions using multiple Xephyr servers with deprecated evdev support [16] over a Xorg host, or run multiple instances of Xorg. Ubuntu MultiseatX wiki page. [17] [18] [19]

The xinput utility is a recent universal command-line alternative [20] that duplicates mouse pointers (one keyboard for each mouse pointer) in an existing Xorg session.

The Multi-seat Display Manager [21] automseat tool [22] helps to automatize the process of installation and configuration. That Users want to try multiseat are Encouraged to try Such a tool and Avoid the old and hard way to set it up through thesis howtos ( evdev , Xephyr ), as Stated by Foundation’s wiki page. [15] On the other hand, MDM suffers from lack of updates and releases beyond the initial announcement. [23] [24]

Userful offers a commercially supported multiseat Linux solution called Userful Multiplier. [25] It enables up to 10 users to share a computer. It works with most graphics cards supported by X.Org / XFree86 as well as USB multiseat devices. It is available in 64-bit and 32-bit RPM and DEB formats, including Debian , Fedora , Mandriva Linux , SLED , SuSE and Ubuntu . [26] A free two-user version of User’s Multiplier software for personal or trial applications. [27]

Microsoft Windows

For Windows 2000 , XP and Vista operating systems, there are several commercial products to implement multiseat configurations for two or more seats.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 was announced on February 24, 2010. It uses Remote Desktop (Terminal Services) technologies in Windows Server 2008 R2.

Virtualization-based setup

Instead of relying on operating system support for multiseat configuration, it can be configured to run multiple virtual machines, each configured to one or more virtual I / O virtualization methods. Input devices can be attached to virtual machines through USB Redirection, and entire GPUs can be attached to Intel VT-d.

The YouTube channel LinusTechTips have demonstrated virtualization-based 2-seat, 7-seat and 10-seat systems, with each virtual machine running on the system, complete with one high-end graphics card connected to each virtual machine, making the system capable of hosting demanding video game sessions at full quality

Case studies

World’s largest multiseat computer deployment

In February, 2009, The Brazil Ministry of Education committed to deploy 350,000 Linux-based multiseat computing stations in more than 45,000 rural and urban schools across the country. The company is the Canadian multiseat company, Userful Corporation, and its Brazilian IT partner ThinNetworks. [28]

Paraná Digital project

One of multiterminal is successful at Paraná Digital project. It is creating multiterminal laboratories on 2000 public schools of the state of Paraná ( Brazil ). More than 1.5 million users will benefit from the 40,000 terminals when the project is finished. The laboratories have four-head multiterminal running Debian . The cost of all the hardware is 50% less than the normal price, and there is absolutely no cost with software . This project developer is C3SL ( Center for Scientific Computing and Free Software ).

Michigan State University Research in Tanzania

Since 2008, Michigan State University has had multiterminal systems in Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania . The purpose of the project is to study the impact of having access to information technology. The computer systems run Ubuntu 8.04 32-bit and uses the open source Multiseat Display Manager created by C3SL . The research will eventually be used to present third party governments in the effort to have positive impact of having cost-effective computing systems in schools. George and Vickie Rock and the ProjectDow Chemical Company . [29] [30] [31]

Notable installations

  • Userful advertised a deployment of 356,800 Linux -based virtual desktops in Brazil (February 2009) [32]
  • NComputing provided 180,000 one to one computing seats for K-12 students in the country of Macedonia [33]

See also

  • Computer multitasking
  • evdev
  • Dumb terminal
  • Linux Terminal Server Project
  • mainframe
  • Multi-monitor
  • Multiseat desktop virtualization
  • Multi-user
  • NComputing
  • Ndiyo
  • Time-sharing
  • Userful
  • VirtuaCore Black Box
  • Windows MultiPoint
  • X Window System
  • X.Org Server
  • Xephyr
  • xnest


  1. Jump up^ Multiuser PUC-RIO – Pontifical Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro
  2. Jump up^ eChannel Line – Userful Upgrades Multi-Seat Linux Desktop Virtualization Solution
  3. Jump up^ Faketty LTN – SigmaNet klientu mājas lapis (in Latvian)
  4. Jump up^ XFree Local Multi-User HOWTO
  5. Jump up^ Linux Console
  6. Jump up^ LTN – LATNET klientu male lapas (in Latvian)
  7. Jump up^ Federal University of Paraná
  8. Jump up^ Multiterminal com Xephyr
  9. Jump up^ MDM Federal University of Paraná (in Portuguese)
  10. Jump up^ Multiterminal live CD from C3SL / UFPR for tests
  11. Jump up^ ConsoleKit Removal / Automatic Multi-Seat Support
  12. Jump up^ “The Most Awesome, Least-Advertised Fedora 17 Feature” .
  13. Jump up^ “Open-sense Solutions” . Retrieved Nov 6, 2010 .
  14. Jump up^ “BoXedVDI” . LISTEQ . Retrieved 2014-03-25 .
  15. ^ Jump up to:b “Multiseat” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  16. Jump up^ “[PATCH 2/2] Xephyr: Delete Linux evdev support” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  17. Jump up^ “Ubuntu help: MultiseatX” . 2013-07-25 . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  18. Jump up^ “Ubuntu wiki: multiseat” .
  19. Jump up^ “Ubuntu multiseat with one graphics card” .
  20. Jump up^ sossego »2010-01-10 21:21 (2010-01-10). “Debian User Forums • View topic – MPX quick howto with Xephyr” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  21. Jump up^ [1] ArchivedDecember 2, 2008, at theWayback Machine.
  22. Jump up^ “AUTOMOSE -Automatic Linux multi seat configuration” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  23. Jump up^ [2] ArchivedApril 29, 2009, at theWayback Machine.
  24. Jump up^ [3] ArchivedJuly 6, 2011, at theWayback Machine.
  25. Jump up^ “Userful Multiplatform ™: Bundled Zero Desktop Virtualization Client” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  26. Jump up^ James Bannan (2007-12-29). “Turn one PC into two for free” . . Retrieved 2008-05-01 .
  27. Jump up^ Compute Scotland – Desktop virtualization boosted with Linux
  28. Jump up^ “Backbone Magazine – Green Teach: Canadian Virtualization Technology for Students in Brazil” . . Retrieved 2014-02-17 .
  29. Jump up^ “ECE 480 Team 3 – Project Overview” . . Retrieved Jun 16,2010 .
  30. Jump up^ “ECE 480 Team 4 – Project Overview” . . Retrieved Jun 16,2010 .
  31. Jump up^ “Michigan State University College of Engineering Abroad ICT Development Study in Tanzania” . . Retrieved Jul 19, 2010 .
  32. Jump up^ “Userful and ThinNetworks today announce that they have been selected to supply 356,800 virtualized desktops to schools in all of Brazil’s 5,560 municipalities” . . Retrieved Feb 17, 2008 .
  33. Jump up^ All Macedonian students to use Linux desktops

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