Linux in Government: Linux Desktops in the Enterprise with Microsoft Terminal Services

If your office thinks legacy but still necessary Win32 applications are holding it back from moving to Linux, your office should think again.

Enterprises considering Linux as an alternative desktop to Microsoft Windows often believe they have some essential Win32 applications or tools that prevent them from making the switch. I have seen CIOs eliminate the Linux option because someone advising them failed to mention how Linux can run Win32 applications. In fact, Linux has the ability to run Windows applications in a number of different ways.

The Walt Disney Company, for example, has deployed Linux desktops successfully by using WINE to run some Windows applications such as Adobe Photoshop. Disney Animation first deployed Linux in 2002. As recently as late March 2005, Disney advertised for a Linux Technical Support Engineer.

To give you an idea of the kind of Linux personnel the company was looking for, here's a link to the Web site advertisement. An excerpt from the ad reads:

The (Technical Support Engineer) TSE will provide hardware and software support to our Artists and Developers in a Linux production environment. The TSE will support our all-CG production of Chicken Little in addition to other films and projects.

We're looking for intelligent, committed people with strong understanding of a Unix/Linux production environment, great interpersonal skills and a love of the creative process.

This is a Linux-centric position. Candidates without strong Linux or Unix experience will not be considered.

Duties

  • Analyze and fix s/w and h/w for production and development.

  • Production support via phones and email and live at desk-side.

  • Liaison between technology and production departments.

  • Develop and document tools for team processes.

  • Quickly analyze find creative solutions for technical problems involving FA artists and computer h/w, s/w and systems.

Other companies, such as Sun Microsystems, have found that terminal servers allow them to run some Win32 applications. Linux distributions provide facilities for Windows Terminal Services and the Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server.

Although Linux has its own terminal services, using Win32 servers can allow enterprises to reap the large benefits of Linux deployments. Let's take a look at an example of a communication from a member of an organization using Win32 applications who wants to change to Linux as his full-time desktop:

We have several packages which I have to use at work. They include stats packages SPSS v9+, HLM4, Streams, LISREL and Nud*ist but I want to change to Linux.

In this situation, the user has a specific set of tasks in his corporate environment, and the software he uses is Win32 packages. Here's are their expanded descriptions.

  • SPSS generates decision-making information using statistics to help users understand and present results within tabular and graphical output. This data analysis tool enables users to make decisions by uncovering key facts, patterns and trends. It generally is used for data mining, data management and database analysis, market and survey research and general research.

  • HML is a product of SSI Scientific Software, and it stands for Hierarchical Linear Model. It has a range of hierarchical models and presents graphical displays of data, including group-specific scatter plots, line plots and cubic splines that can be color coded by values of predictor variables. It also produces box-plots displayed for overall data and data grouped within higher-level units.

  • STREAMS, or Structural Equation Modeling Made Simple, has two main functions: to be a tool for teaching and learning structural equation modeling (SEM) and to be a productivity tool for modelers.

  • LISREL also comes from SSI. It functions as a structural equation modeling package that can deal with multilevel models, factor analysis and two-stage least-squares estimation.

  • Nud*ist stands for a Nonnumerical Unstructured Data by Indexing, Searching and Theorizing. It provides a qualitative research package that uses a variety of search tools to scan and code texts. The product now is called N6 and comes from QSR International.

Because this user has Windows XP Professional, he can enable terminal services and run any of the programs mentioned above on Linux using rdesktop. You would need two machines or could share a system running XP. With the price of hardware so low today, that could be an option. Also, by using rdesktop, the programs often run faster on Linux than they do on the host machine. Another option would be to run Win4Lin.

Some people like VMware, and reviewers say version 5 is much improved. I used previous versions going back to 2.0, but I do not need it for my current work. One might consider using it, though, as memory is cheap and one can put 3GBs of fast DDR RAM on the newer and budget-minded PCs available today.

The software listed in the example above, from SPSS through Nud*ist, does not run in Codeweavers CrossOver Office or in any of the WINE derivatives. A couple of considerations do exist, however, within the Linux application base. STATA, for example, appears to be an alternative statistical package in the same family of applications but it also runs on Linux. LISREL 8, in fact, is available for Linux on Intel-compatible computers.

To keep things simple, however, perhaps the best solution for this user would be to use rdesktop. He might choose to use TSClient, a front end for Linux rdesktop, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. TSClient, a Front End for rdesktop

In organizations that use Linux analysts to evaluate their open-source strategies, we use a rule of thumb that says 10% of the user population might need Windows. The user with the statistical packages would fall into the 10% category. Typically, we're able to utilize NT 4.0 Terminal services, Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft 2003 Server terminal or Citrix to fill those needs.

Organizations need to have some commitment to Linux, too, as the licensing for Win32 terminal services run high. If a company can save money using Linux, then the savings still are significant for licensing that 10% of the user population to have terminal services.

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You're a moron.

James Whittamore's picture

You're a moron.

Another Alternative of Sorts to Term Servs.

Kevin L.'s picture

You may also wish to look at the software Go-Global by Graphon (www.graphon.com). They have a product that will allow a Windows Server to push applications from Windows to Linux/Mac/Solaris/OS2 (via client or java-based browser app). There is also a version which does the reverse (published Linux apps to other environments).

Although I am not quite clear on ALL the licensing issues that would be required for such a setup, it may still be worth considering.

One nice feature we liked was that it publishes the application to the client, not the whole desktop. IE - if I am using Office via the client, then I get only the Office window, not an entire Windows desktop....

Windows to Linux PDF: http://graphon.com/bin/pdf/GGFW-datasheet.pdf
Unix to Windows PDF: http://graphon.com/bin/pdf/GGFU-datasheet.pdf

Kevin L.

tsclient link is incorrect

Mason Deaver's picture

Tom's tsclient link points to the wrong project - it links to a Sourceforge project that's a customer registration and invoicing application. The correct link is: http://www.gnomepro.com/tsclient

Wine Hosted Windows - CrossOver to Linux

David Mohring's picture

If your desktop thin/linux clients need Microsoft Office 97 or Office 2000 then a nother, and in some way better, alternative is to run those applications under WINE on a linux server. CrossOver's Office Server Edition provides an easy way to do this, but it is possible to do the same with effort from the WINE sources without added cost.

As for Microsoft licensing, you only need to be sure you have enough Microsoft Office licenses to cover the server and clients. You don't need to purchase a special server edition of Office. If you are converting existing PCs that already have licenses for the edition of Microsoft Office you are using, you can use those licenses, there is no additional cost. Just be sure not to mix OEM and Full/enterprise licensed versions. For example, use OEM licensed Microsoft Office, purchased with the hardware, on the server and the clients. The latter case is often the cheapest for small deployments.

Instead of Microsoft's remote desktop protocol, WINE/CrossOver uses the networked ">X wire protocol which can be piped through a encrypted ssh or a third party encrypt/compression system like the NX Terminal Server system. In combination with some of the newer dual/multi processor servers, a Office->WINE->NX pipe line can provide a better service to more people than the same hardware hosting Microsoft Terminal Server.

posting problems

Keith Daniels's picture

David you had too many links in your post and the spam filter restricted it which is why it wouldn't post.

I raised the number of possible links slightly.

Sorry for the problem

Webmaster

All the new OSs and windowing systems are oriented towards content consumption instead of content production.

--Steve Daniels 2013

Wine Hosted Windows - CrossOver to Linux

David Mohring's picture

If your desktop thin/linux clients need Microsoft Office 97 or Office 2000 then a nother, and in some way better, alternative is to run those applications under WINE on a linux server. CrossOver's Office Server Edition provides an easy way to do this, but it is possible to do the same with effort from the WINE sources without added cost.

As for Microsoft licensing, you only need to be sure you have enough Microsoft Office licenses to cover the server and clients. You don't need to purchase a special server edition of Office. If you are converting existing PCs that already have licenses for the edition of Microsoft Office you are using, you can use those licenses, there is no additional cost. Just be sure not to mix OEM and Full/enterprise licensed versions. For example, use OEM licensed Microsoft Office, purchased with the hardware, on the server and the clients. The latter case is often the cheapest for small deployments.

Instead of Microsoft's remote desktop protocol, WINE/CrossOver uses the networked ">X wire protocol which can be piped through a encypted ssh or a third party encypt/compression system like the NX Terminal Server system. In combination with some of the newer dual/multi processor servers, a Office->WINE->NX pipe line can provide a better service to more people than the same hardware hosting Microsoft Terminal Server.

Oh my Lord!

Anonymous's picture

Use two machines, they're cheap now-a-days. You're kidding right?

Apps running "on Linux" via rdesktop are faster than on the host machine. You're kidding right?

What about cost? Let's add it all up.

Windows Only            Windows Via Linux

Windows License        Windows License
Application License      Application License
N/A                          Terminal Services CALs
N/A                          Additional Hardware
N/A                          Additional Support
N/A                          Supported Linux License Red Hat/Novell

Cost   Much Less Than   Higher Cost

This article is so inaccurate, it should be removed.

Oh my Lord!

Anonymous's picture

First, the title of your comment is so inappropriate, one has to rank your credibility in the dirt. Secondly, you obviously didn't read the article and went in to a hysterical frenzy.

Linux Journal is probably the most prestigeous publication in the open source spectrum. The author has a proven track record. The information he shares in this article also jives with my information.

If anything should be deleted - then your obnoxious comment would be the first. Unfortunately, the editors of this prestigeous journal have a commitment to free speech, which goes beyond common sense.

If I had anything to say about it, I would edit out comments.

Benjamin Martin, CSA

Oh my Lord!

tadelste's picture

This article is so inaccurate, it should be removed.

Well, the assumption certainly doesn't take into account purchasing a new Windows computer. You also don't need CALS or Application licenses for XP Professional. The articles assumes that the logon system - an XP PRO exists.

Now, purchasing a 2003 Server assumes that Linux acquistion off-sets the costs significantly.

By using rdesktop, programs run faster on Linux

Marty Lumish's picture

This statement is not accurate. Rdesktop allows you to login to the Microsoft server on which the programs are executed. The programs are not run on the Linux system.

Also, although rdesktop is free, it does require a terminal services client access license on the server in order to connect.

By using rdesktop, programs run faster on Linux

tadelste's picture

Numerous studies and tests show that the applications "appear" to perform better on the thin client that the application's host.

win4lin

Anonymous's picture

Tom Adelstein should be embarrassed. This is from the win4lin website company profile. I would also assume that they are paying to use this technology or maybe they are also being sued.

The NeTraverse products are derived from a proven technology developed over the last 15 years for UNIX® based operating systems, notably SCO®'s, MergeTM technology, accounting for over 800,000 users worldwide.

win4lin

tadelste's picture

Tom Adelstein should be embarrassed.

Win4Lin has been in business for several years and has never kept their technology origins a secret. The SCO to which they refer is not the SCO Group but the former name of Tarantella http://www.tarantella.com/.

Caldera purchased the server assets of SCO in 2001. Caldera changed its name to the SCO Group in 2003. The technology which Win4Lin uses has origins that have nothing to do with the SCO Group and Darl McBride.

Perhaps the shame should return to the Anonymous Coward who doesn't know his or her stuff.

Have the creators of rdesktop

Anonymous's picture

Have the creators of rdesktop properly licensed the RDP protocol from Microsoft? If not, enterprise end users of rdesktop may find themselves in legal trouble with Microsoft.

Have the creators of rdesktop

Anonymous's picture

The only company about whom I know that licensed RDP from Microsoft is Tarentella - the former SCO. So, the only reason I believe someone who say that RDP needed to be licensed from Microsoft would be a Tarentella (former SCO) person.

Call that deductive reasoning, I guess. Anyway, why else would you mention that?

rdesktop is free software and it was not reversed engineered in the legal sense of the term which means decompiled into machine language and them turned into source code.

Also, you can write software to interoperate with other platforms without having to license it.

Reverse engineering

Anonymous's picture

The original creator of rdesktop is Matt Chapman who, as you may recall, is a member of the Samba team. These guys have a lot of experience in reverse engineering Microsoft protocols by watching packets flying over the wire. This is perfectly legal. It is as if you are learning French by listening in to conversations in a Paris cafe (http://samba.org/ftp/tridge/misc/french_cafe.txt).

There is one thing to watch out for, though: you still need Terminal Server CALs (Client Access Licenses) for those Linux clients.

Have the creators of rdesktop

Anonymous's picture

It's an open protcol based on # RFC905 - ISO DP 8073 Transport Protocol
# RFC2126 - ISO Transport on TCP.

No, enterprise customers have used it since before version 1.0.

Anyone using it will need client access licenses and licenses for the applications. But the client is free even to older versions of windows.

About using rdesktop conections

Gerardo Mora's picture

In our company we´re using rdesktop to access a Windows Server system. We're running business aplications on the Windows Server, launching rdesktop conections from Linux Desktops and Linux Terminal Server desktops.

To access the Windows Server via RDP (Windows Terminal Services) everybody needs to buy CAL's (M$ Language) to allow client connection. The rdesktop software is GPL, is usefull and stable. Suports RDP 5 and is Open Source.

Fear Uncertainty and Doubt?

Anonymous's picture

No one has to license rdekstop. Absurd.

Nope

Raul's picture

Of course, you can use rdesktop freely without the use of a license.

But if you want to connect to a windows server running in application mode you do need to buy the CAL from micro$oft. If you use it just for remote administration you can use up to two connections for free.

So what does your invoice say?

Anonymous's picture

If they take your money for a CAL to access their software via rdesktop, are they giving up their right to sue you for using RDP?

So what does your invoice say?

Anonymous's picture

RDP is a protocol like ftp, telnet, ssh, etc.

Anyone can sue anyone, but the right to connect diverse operating systems (interoperability) was established decades ago when IBM attempted to stop people from using third party terminals to access their mainframes. You can't interfere with people's ability to do that.

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