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Accessing Terminal Services from Linux

by Herman Verkade

In this series of articles about Linux desktop and infrastructure, I was going to write a long article about accessing application on a Microsoft Windows server with Terminal Services. However, at took me only five minutes to get this to work, so there is not an awful lot to write about.

Microsoft's Terminal Services technologies (including Windows 2000 Terminal Services and the XP Remote Desktop) use the RDP protocol (Remote Desktop Protocol). The Linux client implementation for this is rdesktop, which is included in most distributions. However, there is not always a shortcut on the start menu for it, so you may have to type the command from a terminal window, through the "Run Program..." option, or by creating a shortcut for it yourself.

For an initial test, type the following command:

# rdesktop 

This should give you a 640x480 window with a login box from your terminal server. The username filled in by default will be the same as your Linux username, which may or may not be the same as your Windows username.

The following switches are useful for day-to-day use of rdesktop:

-u The username that will be filled in in the login box for you.
-d The domain name that rdesktop will put in the login box for you.
-g <geometry> Specifies the size of the remote desktop, for example 1024x864. You don't need to stick to standard screen sizes: 1183x1013 will work just as any other values
-T <title> The title to use for the window. The default is 'rdesktop' followed by the servername.

Microsoft's Terminal Services are 'remote desktops' only. There is no mechanism to run a single application on a remote server and display only the output back to a workstation, as we can do with X11 between Linux systems. It is possible to request rdesktop to run a specific application remotely instead of the normal Explorer 'shell' but you will then simply run that application as a window within the remote desktop. Resizing the rdesktop window will not resize the client application, nor vice versa. For that functionality you will need to look at Citrix Metaframe.

Despite its limitations, rdesktop can be very useful for those awkward Windows applications that simply will not run on Linux.


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