I’m going to step out from the shadows and make a very unpopular claim. Ready? Desktop computing in cloud will become the new normal. Now, before everyone grabs their pitch forks, consider the fact this has been the case for years.
Cloud computing (aka using someone else’s computer) is hardly a new concept. But what if we could use it to our advantage while continuing to “compute our way?” It’s not only possible, people such as myself are actually doing it successfully.
Live Streaming Studio SaaS
My choice of operating systems has been to use Linux distros for as long as I remember. In recent years, I’ve settled on a distro that makes me happy and stays out of my way. However, one of the software titles I’ve relied on is going through some changes – sometimes introducing bugs or requiring tweaks I don’t have time for.
The application in question is OBS. It continues to work well enough, but each update has me holding my breath that something doesn’t break. To further complicate things, I’m downsizing my lifestyle. I no longer wish to run a large tower PC just for the benefit of a dedicated video card.
My second computer is an older Dell laptop with integrated graphics, 8 GB of RAM and a fair sized SSD. Running OBS on it isn’t going to happen. And even if using OBS on this laptop was possible, the performance would be horrid.
This means if I choose to do a live stream in the near future, I’m faced with the following options:
1) Buy a computer capable of running OBS. 2) Find a setup that isn’t on my computer, like in the cloud.
Since I have no desire buy a laptop with dedicated graphics, I opted for a “cloud” solution. The biggest benefit is avoiding the hassle of unneeded technical debt (which is absolutely a thing with each update of OBS – specifically plugins).
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Matt decided to abandon the open source friendly benefits of OBS and went with some closed source, freedom disrespecting SaaS solution with a monthly bill. And my reply to that would be “yep.” See, me using Linux/FoSS in general is a practical solution. But as much as I love FoSS, I love less “stuff” even more. Using a SaaS option for live streaming means I can live stream and record from nearly anything. A phone, laptop, even a Chromebook. For my money, you can’t beat that.
So that takes care of running software to do live streaming, what about running new software releases or trying out new distros? Is this something that is practical or even possible with limited laptop resources? The answer is yes.
XFCE on a VPS using X2Go
When you’re working on a project and you’d rather not dedicate your local machine to the task, having access to a remote desktop can be useful. As mentioned previously, I’m downsizing and “going laptop only.” This means less access to “test machines” to try out software or other activities, short of going the localized VM route.
Running a distro using an XFCE desktop on a VPS means I can simply run x2go on my laptop gives me reliable options to run a testing lab. I’ve done this in the past, using various VPS solutions like Digital Ocean and Linode. The experience has been dynomite! As long as I have a reliable internet connection, my ability to test out new software in a lab environment remains a constant in my life.
Does this make my laptop a thin client and my VPS “desktop” a cloud computer? I’d argue on a high level, it does. Let’s circle back and examine the benefits of such a setup once again:
- A remote desktop for testing software/projects.
- My laptop is free from running a guest OS; this provides more localized resources.
- Since I’ve dumped OBS, I no longer need to worry about GPU resources to stream video.
Does this translate into me choosing convenience over FoSS ethics? Yup, it absolutely does. Even though my OS of choice both locally and in the cloud remain Linux in nature, I’ll absolutely choose a SaaS option if it means not needing to invest in a beefy GPU.
In my defense
Before everyone hits the comments and points out the dangers of relying on SaaS and cloud computing consider this — I still control my data. Look, at the end of the day any data that I’d prefer to keep local stays local. My cloud computing is used exclusively for testing on a VPS. As for my video streaming needs, being able to use a SaaS option is a no brainer for my needs.
I have been a Linux user, supporter and advocate for just over 15 years. Additionally, I’m still a Linux user. It’s the only OS I use on a daily basis. The only thing that changed is my willingness to try different solutions to get the job done. Remember, I’m downsizing and that means my desktop rig is likely going to remain in mothballs. The approach described above allows me to keep doing what I need to do, but without the need for a more powerful desktop.