HP Thinpros and Windows 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

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I’ve been sitting on this blog for a while; so I thought it was about time I published it! Just recently we’ve been working with a client that was going through a desktop transformation process from Windows XP to HP thin client’s using a shared desktop on Windows 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (RDS). I’m not going to expand on why they chose Microsoft RDS over Citrix XenApp 6.x or why they chose Linux-based thin clients over Windows Embedded clients. Let’s just say that money did come into the equation.

What I’m going to cover in this post are the issues I’ve encountered whilst using the HP t5565 Linux-based thin clients with Microsoft’s RDS.

Remote Desktop Services Connection Broker

Lets start with the BIG one; they do not support the Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RDCB) or should I really say the open source rdesktop doesn’t! Now when I mean they it’s not supported, it can imply that it will work fine (but please don’t ask the vendor to help if any issues arise). In this case it simply doesn’t work. When the RDCB tries to either load balance or reconnect a disconnected session you will face a situation where you enter your login credentials then the session seems to just drop. If you are lucky your load balancer or round-robin DNS will direct you to the correct server, but this is just the laws of probability in action.

I should point out that this point will probably be an issue for any thin clients that are Linux-based and and utilising the rdesktop client. I have heard rumours that FreeRDP does work with the RDCB but I’ve not tried that myself so can’t confirm this; though this forum post does suggest it will work.

Bitmap Caching

Using “Bitmap Caching” in the rdesktop settings causes the screen to freeze randomly; so you have to way up the pros and cons of leaving it turned on. The benefits of enabling the bitmap cache is to minimise the amount of data transferred between the RDP client and server. However, this introduces the screen freezes. As a result, I went with disabling the bitmap caching to improve the user experience – the client had a well connected network so latency etc. was not an issue.

Other Issues

  1. Drawing shapes in Office 2003 will cause the screen to freeze and the system will become unresponsive – Resolved with this forum post.
  2. Using a second monitor to extend the primary display doesn’t work i.e. only show the taskbar on the primary display. What happens is screen spanning occurs therefore the taskbar is split across both monitors and the “Ctrl+Alt+Del” dialogue appears slap bang in the middle of where the monitors join – Resolved with this forum post (though I haven’t had time to test this myself).

I think the moral of this story is to try before you buy and then try some more! If you want to use the RDS Connection Broker then go for a Windows Embedded thin client, if indeed you want to use a thin client. Taking this approach may save you a lot of headaches going forward.




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