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Operating Systems Software Linux

Small, Fast RDP Client? 40

Posted by Cliff
from the linux-for-a-specific-task dept.
Tazor asks: "I'm working for a small municipality in Denmark where most of our users are using our Windows terminal servers. Now we want to run a RDP client on our older PCs (133 mhz, 32 mb RAM, 2 gb disks). We figure that the best way to do this, is to use open source, and this is where I need your help. I'm trying to find a small Linux distro, running from either a floppy disk or from hard disk, that boots straight into a RDP client logon screen. It needs to be easy to customize (not much Open Source knowledge in our department) so that we can configure hostnames and set the distro to use Danish keyboard settings. We would also like it to be free. I found PilotLinux, but it runs from a Live-CD and is difficult to customize (for a PFY like me anyways). Hope that hardcore OSS geeks in here can help me."
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Small, Fast RDP Client?

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  • rdesktop is small and fast. needs X though.
    • I use rdesktop on a daily basis and it's awesome. My only bitch is that cut and paste between rdesktop and my gnome desktop flakes out sometimes...

      However, since it sounds like this person is setting up kiosk type machines, they won't need to run a window manager, etc.
      You could just setup the .xinitrc to just do something like:

      rdesktop -f theserver.ip.address

      The -f is for fullscreen...

      If this was setup right, you could even train the users to just do a ctrl-alt-backspace if they're session gets hung up
    • Actually there is an svgalib version.
      Theres several versions right here [jacco2.dds.nl]
  • You could check out Damn Small Linux [damnsmalllinux.org], which is a very small Linux distro.
    You can install it to your hard-disk, too.
    I, for instance, installed it onto a 200 MB hard-disk in my PentiumMMX. Runs really well.
  • Here's what you do: (Score:4, Informative)

    by bersl2 (689221) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @07:42AM (#10709009) Journal
    Take any distro you want that has an X server. Install enough to get the X server running. Install rdesktop. Find which runlevel boots straight into X in /etc/inittab and change it so that it runs the following command: xinit rdesktop [options].

    I just thought that up on the spot. You can do all of this with Slackware easily. DamnSmallLinux looks like it works too if you modify the OS image.
  • Netstation Linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @07:45AM (#10709024)
    NetStation [sourceforge.net] is a Linux distribution for diskless thin clients terminals using standard x86 hardware. It can boot from network, floppy, or flash-disk and connect to an application server using VNC, RDP, XDM, SSH, telnet, Citrix ICA, or Tarantella.

    set karma_whore 0
    • Re:Netstation Linux (Score:2, Informative)

      by Shulai (34423)
      Yes. Netstation and others like Thinstation and PXES (all in sourceforge.net).
      All of them are related projects (I do not remember which one is the original and which are the derivatives).
      They usuallay boot via Etherboot floppy, as are too large to fit into a floppy themselves. One of those (I do not remember which) can be installed on a Windows server, having any Linux station installed.
      OTOH, when I investigated about this, I modified a LEAF-Dachstein Linux floppy router.
      The result was a Linux self containe
  • rdesktop.org (Score:3, Informative)

    by servicepack158 (678320) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @07:47AM (#10709030) Homepage
    is really easy to install and works perfectly as far as I can tell.
  • Ribosomial [google.com] computers... hmmm I think I should file a patent against this. Thank you, nice idea!
  • What we did ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bin (31121) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @08:08AM (#10709083)
    I work in a school and rolled out a thin client system 4 years ago with a scripted RedHat 6.2 install with a customisation rpm thrown in on 2nd hand P100 - P166 machines with 16Mb ram and a 250Mb HDD.

    We used citrix metaframe 1.8, so had the offical citrix ICA client for linux. The client was a little quirky - wouldn't go full screen properly so we had a +20 pixel green border around the edges of the 800x600 screen ... A later release of the client eventually fixed that.

    The customisation rpm setup runlevel 4 to be a full screen session logging on to the metaframe servers.

    We now have a nfs root system with very little on the harddisks; the kernel (isa network cards and netbooting was just too much work when we could just install grub and copy an updated kernel from the nfsroot when it changed), a few local settings (symlinked from the nfsroot into /localdisk/...) and a local ICA bitmap cache.

    Needless to say the thin clients are now being phased out, the thin clients run office type applications very well, but they don't do all the fancy multimedia interactive elearning stuff that all the teaching staff tell me they can no longer teach without.

    Bin
    --
  • Everything you need (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @09:16AM (#10709449) Homepage Journal

    sell the hard drives and buy decent network cards then use :

    http://pxes.sourceforge.net/

    boot the thin clients from the network, and hey presto : Rdesktop kiosks

  • Bad news for you. (Score:2, Informative)

    by afd8856 (700296)
    First of all, you can use LTSP and rom-o-matic to create a network where you boot from floppy disks and have networked X computing. On a 100 Mbit switched LAN it works fast and with almost no problem. The bad news is that your stations will be too slow. In my experience, there is a big difference between P200 MMX and P2 233.

    In the end, if you don't want to replace your hardware, you would have to run win95 with and RDP client on them.
    • Modded down because I've mentioned win95... Hey, crackhead, I know what I'm talking about. What you've just did is try to hide the truth: win95 runs well enough on a p133 to run an RDP client, but you'll get really bad performance with that hardware running rdesktop on X.
  • by wolf31o2 (778801) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @10:42AM (#10710001)
    PXES is a small Linux distribution based on Red Hat binaries that is designed to be used as a thin-client. It is capable of booting from a CDROM, a hard disk, a netboot image, or PXE. It is capable of running several protocols, including ICA, RDP(v5, too), XDMCP, and others. I jave used it quite extensively. All you do is create the image using the pretty GTK+ interface an dyou're done. There are also default pre-built images. There are packages for Red Hat, Debian, and even a Gentoo ebuild. All in all, I find it to be a wonderful solution and quite easy to customize. The developer, Diego, is also very helpful and friendly.
    • PXEs is sex-on-toast. I work at a school in New Zealand, where the government pays for licences for MS software. Even with free windows on the client, PXEs is cheaper. Rock on Diego!
  • Freedos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @11:04AM (#10710162)
    Freedos plus the free Citrix DOS client works well for all of my clients where I have implemented it. It takes a bit of work to get the DHCP and TCP/IP working but it's about as lightweight as you are going to get. It's a nice solution because it can turn any machine into a thin terminal, of course due to moving parts it also ends up costing something to maintain vs nothing for real thinterms.
  • CAL Licensing (Score:5, Informative)

    by gadwale (46632) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @11:24AM (#10710352) Homepage
    Each user connecting to a Windows terminal server needs a valid Client Access License (CAL). Windows 2000 and XP apparently come with their own CALs. If you are going to use a different OS or client, you may need to separately purchase a CAL for each client and the CAL costs about as much as a seat license for Win2K or XP; so you might as well buy and install the OS.

    More info:
    http://www.winnetmag.com/Windows/Article/Ar ticleID /5863/5863.html

    -Adi Gadwale.
    • While he may still want to buy the clients rather than the CAL (don't know if the license counts if you don't install the OS), that won't solve his hardware requirements/restrictions. I can't imagine that WinXP will run on a P133 with 32MB RAM, or that I would survive the experience (heh, punny).
      • As long as you have 64MB RAM for setup (the installer checks RAM), and 18MB for running (nobody's tried 17MB, though), XP will run on something as low-end as a Pentium underclocked to 20MHz (that includes Overdrives, which is how the 18MB thing was done).
    • And, depending on the SP level of the terminal server, you may still have problems with non-MS clients getting a temporary license that can't be used after a (somewhat random... like 50-89 days... don't recall the specifics) period of time. Lots of thin client vendors have worked around this, and it may not be an issue for you. Test, test, test (on a non-production system) and pay attention to the Terminal Services Licensing util on your terminal server. Also, don't forget that the TS CALs require a Server
    • P133 + 32MB RAM + Windows XP = fun?
    • Re:CAL Licensing (Score:3, Informative)

      by nachoboy (107025)
      Wow that article's old - from 1999, when the latest server offering from Microsoft was NT4. The story remains mostly the same for Windows 2000, but in Windows Server 2003 things get complicated quickly.

      For Terminal Services running on Windows servers, clients require a separate TS CAL. For NT4 and Windows 2000, this TS CAL requirement is waived if the client OS is of an equal or greater version. For Windows Server 2003, Microsoft discontinued this free TS CAL. A transition plan [microsoft.com] was made available for a
  • Pilot Linux... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DMadCat (643046) <`moc.snadnoom' `ta' `tacdamd'> on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @11:45AM (#10710585)
    Actually, though it may seem difficult, Pilot Linux is actually quite easy to customize.

    I was looking for a quick and easy solution to getting more use out of aging PCs at my former job last Spring. We had a Microsoft RDP environment (switched from Cisco) and a bunch of old PIIs still running Windows 95.

    I found Pilot Linux, which boots straight to RDesktop in effect turning your PC into a thin client.

    Customizing it is really only a matter of changing a couple of scripts. The challenging part is mounting the .iso (mount -o loop -t iso9660 tiger.iso /mnt/iso).

    After that you simply copy all of the files to another directory, dip into one of the config files (can't remember which off-hand) to change the settings (I even added a .png of my company's logo at boot) and then use mkisofs to create a new .iso with your customized files. Burn to a disk and you're done.

    I want to stress that it took me about 3 hours to learn all of this prior to which I had zero experience with any form of CD distro. I didn't even know you could mount an .iso before I did it but Google is a wonderful thing.

    Unfortunately, though it worked wonderfully well, my IT Director didn't know anything about Linux and therefore didn't like it. Instead he stuck with Microsoft products and so he ordered 50 new PCs with Windows XP pre-installed just for the Remote Desktop feature (everything else was locked down), in the process using up much of the department's leftover budget for the whole year within the first six months (the majority was spent on new XP servers).
    • Unfortunately, no mod points today. But I printed it for future reference. Your post has saved me lots of time, I was planning to figure out how to do this next time I had some free time. I've been considering using one of the MAME CDs as a base to make a flash based rDesktop image. I'll grab a copy of Pilot and try that first.
    • Unfortunately, though it worked wonderfully well, my IT Director didn't know anything about Linux and therefore didn't like it. Instead he stuck with Microsoft products and so he ordered 50 new PCs with Windows XP pre-installed just for the Remote Desktop feature (everything else was locked down), in the process using up much of the department's leftover budget for the whole year within the first six months (the majority was spent on new XP servers).

      I can identify with that. The company where I worked w
  • Do these machines already have Windows 95 or 98 on them ? Just download Microsoft's RDP client and use that.

    Alternatively, just pick some LiveCD distro with X11 and rdesktop included.

    • I second this idea. It's easy. Probably quicker than a Linux solution. Possibly more featureful and reliable - I don't know how feature compatible rdesktop is with MS's client, but I would guess that it can't map local printers or do stream sound.

      More importantly, it sidesteps the problems of drivers! Granted, this won't be a big deal if they are all identical, all plug and play hardware. It depends on the gear, P133's are right around the time when plug and play finally started working properly for
  • Try THINSTATION http://thinstation.sf.net/ [sf.net].

    It is a complete Linux distro that can be used as a RDP "thin terminal" (does also support ICA, Tarantella, XDM, VNC etc.).

    Thinstation can boot on diskless terminals (Etherbot/PXE), but also from floppy, CD, HD or Compact Flash IDE devices.

    133Mhz CPU and 16/32Mb RAM should be good enough.
  • Netbootable and diskless. RedHat is not good for this -- I tried.

    FreeBSD is pretty good for it -- I tried too. If you insist on Linux, find one, which support diskless setup "out of the box".

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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