In the Linux world, graphical programs can run on one machine and display on another one. From the other side, we can say that the user executes programs on remote computer but they appear as they run locally, using the keyboard, the mouse and displaying on the screen.
The program managing the screen, the keyboard and the mouse is called the X server. It is called this way because it allows several programs to share a single resource set which is the display, the mouse and the keyboard. On a lighter note, one can say that the X server allows several programs to share the most expensive part of the network, the user :-)
This client server relation is very flexible. One can execute programs on many remote computers at once and they will all show on his screen, generally in rectangles called windows. Further, he will be able to cut & paste seemlessly between them. NEW
A Linux workstation is running an X server as well as all the applications (word processor, web browser). It operates the same way a normal desktop computer does.
A Linux computer running only the X server and relying completly on other Linux computers to run the applications, is called an X terminal. Because its task is simplified a lot, a much less capable machine handles that easily.
A Linux computer runing applications for X terminals is called an application server.
Note that these are only conventions. Nothing prevent an application server from being another type of server (file server, web server, ...) or from running an X server to display on its own screen.
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Last update: Tue Jun 14 11:24:05 2005