30 April 2006, 13:47 by mark hoekstra

rdesktop: remote windows desktop from linux

I’ve been using VNC for years now, and it’s okay. Only it’s 2006 now and it’s hard to cope with very slow screen-updates while the windowsmachine you’re accessing is in your local network. That’s not necessarily VNCs fault, of course not, it’s Microsofts! (like always! ;-)). It’s a behaviour only found when the VNC-server is running on a windows-machine… When you run a VNC-server on a *nix-box, screen-updates and such are all smooth and you can hardly notice the difference between accessing it through VNC or sitting right behind the box…

Anyways, the problem existed of using a windows-box (I still got one left, my Media Center) and there had to be a solution. On several occassions I’ve seen the smoothness of Remote Desktop-connections to windows-machines so I looked into that. Somehow I looked into Remote Desktops before, several years ago and when I found that you can’t have one session on the local machine and that very same one accessible through Remote Desktop(I’m not a wizard in this (and I don’t want to become one either ;-) ), that isn’t possible, or is it?), I hardly could believe it… That was one reason to stick to VNC…

Well, now the problem arose that I wanted to use Google Earth and there are only installers available for windows and Mac. Now, I do have an ibook and I installed Google Earth on there, but I’m pushing the envelope running it on a G3/600 with 384MB of RAM (although it exceeds the minimum system requirements). So, then all of a sudden I thought, let’s look into RDP-clients for linux once again, that way I should be able to have proper screen-updates and such.

With one little search I stumbled upon rdesktop and a quick peek into Gentoo and yes, I can install it simply on my workstation by typing emerge rdesktop (for people not familiar with gentoo, that’s it, that’s all I typed (as root), no downloading up front or anything, pretty brilliant eh?)

I had to see how to enable Remote Desktop on my Media Center, but that wasn’t to hard and then I had to fiddle with the commandline a little to connect to it, in the end, my command looks like this:

rdesktop -u markie -p mypassword -g 1024x768 -a 16 -0 -r sound:remote -b -x lan

...and that’s it!

I added that sound-option later, it seemed it tries to bring audio over this connection as well, but that’s not what I want :-) With this option, the sound stays where it is, on the machine itself… I also added ’-b’ for forcing the server to send bitmaps as screen-updated, that way even some directdraw-stuff works flawlessly and with ’-x lan’ I set the experience to LAN (...) which uses the most bandwidth…

My desktop:

click to enlarge (huge! 2560×1024)

Windows in a window, like it should be *^_^*

click to enlarge

...and I tried to run Media Center on it as well and that goes rather well. It seems the guys over at Redmond optimized it for running over a Remote Desktop connection, which is rather nice. Now I can schedule the machine from a distance…

click to enlarge (huge! 2560×1024)

...and when you hit ‘live TV’ it doesn’t even blue screen or anything! (no, duh! it’s already blue….) It knows it’s running over a Remote Desktop-connection and gives you this proper message…

click to enlarge

So now I have a choice! During a day at home, I will run this machine through a Remote Desktop-connection using rdesktop, I can run all kinds of software on it, that can be Google Earth, but also other applications. One other advantage is being able to scroll fast through the explorer, for selecting MP3s for instance. (During a normal day, my Media Center is playing MP3s all day long, since it’s connected to my stereo and my workstation is not…) Normally I changed MP3s through VNC, but that could be a frustrating journey because of the slow screen-updates when using VNC…

In the evening, I will still switch to VNC because my Media Center is then powering my Video Projection System and I hate to look at a login-screen all night… *^_^*

Extra: Oh, of course! I almost forgot, now I can also watch Flash8-stuff the same way :-) There’s still only a flash 7 player for Firefox on Linux, so for those sites who thought it was really necessary to put flash8-only content on their site(don’t get me started on that one)... I can watch it through Remote Desktop… I just tried it and fullscreen flash8 runs quite smooth…

permalink - add to del.icio.us

  1. Franco Filiberti @ 2 May 2006, 14:55 :

    Mark, u can connect to the console of the Media Center Machine directly using the /console command when you invoke the RDP sesion from command line. Well this works for the RDP client of windows.

As mentioned in the Message from Mark's family this site has been made static. This means that it will be no longer possible to comment on his ideas and projects, but that we all can continue to cherish his creativity.

previous: OpenBSD 3.9 almost here...

next: a little planned downtime