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I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "active desktop", but the command "system_profiler" can generate a vast amount of information about your computer. Between it's various settings and text filtering, you should be able to pluck out almost anything need to know.
It part of OS X itself to optimize the resources and to keep wise balance between foreground process and background tasks. Operating system devotes more resources to the active workspace, and to put less CPU processing capacity to the background tasks. Benefits are obvious: the higher responsiveness for user of the system in the overall for the foreground ...
Apple's Screen Sharing has very limited ability to intercept the shortcuts and direct them to the remote OS. About the best you can do is place the screen sharing window in full screen and then shortcuts like quit and spotlight will at least go to the remote as opposed to the local OS. You might want to look at other software if you run remote sessions: ...
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