Author Topic: FreeRDP - we have options!!!  (Read 2086 times)

Dariusz Piatkowski

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FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« on: September 30, 2020, 03:34:00 pm »
So I thought I would summarize my experience with this particular approach to working around our platform issues, one of them being a badly out-of-date web browser.

Some of you may be aware of the excellent FreeRDP (http://os2.snc.ru/product-freerdp.html) port that Andrey Vasilkin has made available. I have been using his previous version of the RDesktop (http://os2.snc.ru/product-rdesktop.html) for a while now. When he made the FreeRDP available I jumped at it because it offered something significant: the ability to run a remote APPLICATION as if it was a local app.

Now let me detail some of the pre-requisites because this isn't one of these solutions that everyone can use. But, if you have a Winx box running on your LAN (or even WAN) you certainly could deploy this approach.

In short, if you have such a Windows installation accessible to you, you can serve a particular APPLICATION on that HOST machine. FreeRDP is the client side of the RDP solution that will allow you to effectively just RDP to that single application the host is sharing. This is the key difference between something like RDesktop, which does a whole session sharing where the whole Win Desktop is available. As much as sometimes that's the preferred way to access, at other times this introduces a significant amount of overhead.

Subsequently, with FreeRDP you can certainly be a single-click away from having access to a Firefox 'whatever version' you need that you have running on that remote HOST, and it being served up locally on your OS/2 WPS literally as if it was just another PM window.

BUT

...there is of course a caveat that comes with this.

In order to be able to serve that application on the HOST side you need to run a Win Server OS, such as 2008, etc., basically something that has the Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Services) component up and running. So what is one to do if this is not an option?

Well, there is an alternative. Take a look at Thinkstuff (https://www.thinstuff.com/products), and in particular their XP/VS Terminal Server. There are several options available as far as the licensing configuration. The lightest option is the 'Lite' configuration, and at $39.99 USD that's a pretty low-entry to a viable way of "running" (double-quotes there b/c you're NOT really running it locally, this is not ODIN, rather only serving the display) most Winx applications locally on your OS/2 box.

So how did this pan out for me?

My Windows server is a Win7 Pro 64-bit box. I installed the Lite version of the ThinStuff's 'XP/VS Terminal Server' and was able to configure a WPS object that invokes the Firefox browser on that Win7 machine and serves it out locally on my OS/2 box.

This is on a LAN (so pretty quick) and even watching YouTube videos that actually works. There are some audio issues I'm encountering, intermittend drop-outs, etc., but video and audio is already a heavy application, so the mere fact that I can get to numerous web-sites while still directly in front of my OS/2 screen is great!!!

Anyways, for what it's worth, there is an alternative some of us may be able to use.

Andi B.

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2020, 03:54:45 pm »
Does this setup allow the "remote application" to store data on the local (read JFS) drive? Without lan shares (without samba)?

Thinking about that I fear the answer is no. Firefox - download to local JFS drive will not work, correct?

For clarification, I've some programs running on Win in VBOX. But the data output of these Win programs I store on via shared folders on my OS/2 JFS data partition. Which is regularly backup up in difference to the partitions inside VBOX. Would be cool if I could get ride of some VBOX installations but let them run on some other Win PC remotely. But I want my important data on my local JFS partition. Not spread around over different PCs.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2020, 04:00:08 pm by Andi B. »

Doug Bissett

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2020, 06:35:01 pm »
Another option, that I haven't tried for a few years, is VNC. There are multiple platform versions at: https://www.realvnc.com/en/connect/download/vnc/. I know that it did work, when I tried it, but I don't know if the latest will still work with our old VNC viewer. There is an updated VNC viewer at https://hobbes.nmsu.edu/download/pub/os2/apps/internet/misc/vnc-wpi-20200917.zip which might be more usable.

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2020, 07:52:28 pm »
Hi Andi,

Does this setup allow the "remote application" to store data on the local (read JFS) drive? Without lan shares (without samba)? ...

Well, the good (hopefully?) news is that the FreeRDP client does provide for mapping of remote devices, and something like HDD certainly applies. I haven't personally tried this having been sort-of eyeballs deep ;D into making the application-level RDP confgured and tested, but I'll give this a shot within the next couple of days.

I am going to venture a guess that if the mapping does work well enough, it'll probably be more of that seamless storage type of a "warm-hole" (ha ha, sorry couldn't resist the Space Geek temptation here) connection. I'm not sure that an application like FF would be able to use that, after all, it has to start up on the HOST side first I think.

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2020, 07:59:18 pm »
Hey Doug,

Another option, that I haven't tried for a few years, is VNC. There are multiple platform versions at: https://www.realvnc.com/en/connect/download/vnc/. I know that it did work, when I tried it, but I don't know if the latest will still work with our old VNC viewer. There is an updated VNC viewer at https://hobbes.nmsu.edu/download/pub/os2/apps/internet/misc/vnc-wpi-20200917.zip which might be more usable.

Hmm...I've had VNC installed on my OS/2 box for a number of years now. Previously, before the RDesktop and FreeRDP was ported I was using VNC to do a full session VNC connection, but that was a FULL Desktop thing, not an application specific window mapping.

Andrey does have an updated version of VNC on his site as well (http://os2.snc.ru/product-VNC.html), I haven't tried it out yet, so I can't talk to what (if anything) has changed.

Mathias

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2020, 04:32:33 pm »
I'm using FreeRDP also on my OS/2 box at work. It's kind of the control center from where I connect to everywhere via VNC or FreeRDP.

In general I DO like the FreeRDP client for OS/2 as it is quite stable, captures key combos (even when NOT in full screen) and most importantly it DOES simply work as expected... while linux clients like Remmina tend to "loose" their ability to map-through key combos to the remote system. Like for instance pressing ALT+F4 to close a window on the remote side.. works.. next time I do this.. it closes the remmina client, EVEN THOUGH I am in full screen .... >_< WOAAH!
So with the current Remmina release you'd always have to check, if the remote machine or the local machine is being targeted, by pressing WINDOWS + R to see if the remote machine either displays the "Run box", which is the proof that it currently works, OR nothing happens (as the local system cannot do anything with WINDOWS + R).. then you know.. it's broken currently, and you need to go out of full screen, and reenter full screen... and theeeere it works again... until it decides to stop working the next time you try it... or the 2nd to next time.. you never know.

This NEVER happened to me with FreeRDP on OS/2. Appears to be very stable and does the job just right.
Excellent stuff that!

The benefit (for me) also is, that connections to remote hosts (or applications) come as a WPS icon, which visually shows if connected or not.

Imagine a situation like that:
10, 15 or even 20 hosts, all connected at the same time via FreeRDP, showing they are connected via the WPS icon.
Now somebody connects to one of these hosts, disconnecting your session.
On a windows machine... you'd now start to find out which RDP session got disconnected.
On a OS/2 machine you see that right away, since the WPS icon shows, it's not in use anymore!

AWESOME. This way you can save time and can connect right back.

But, where there is light, there are shadows also, and so I DO have one complaint:
FreeRDP on OS/2 somehow cannot manage the third level key assignments on DE keyboards.
As for example when I want to type a \ backslash, I'd usually do ALT_GR + ß
ß alone does work...
But ALT_GR does not work over FreeRDP.
So, as a workaround I always need to use CTRL + ALT + ß to send the \ backslash to the remote machine.. which is a bit odd.

This is not critical, but becomes annoying, when you constantly are reminded that ALT_GR is not properly supported by the FreeRDP port to OS/2.

Besides that effect, FreeRDP is AWESOME and needs to be supported. : )

Andreas Schnellbacher

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2020, 08:22:34 pm »
Have you tried Ctrl+Alt instaed of AltGraf? That applies to Virtual PC an maybe also to the OS/2 version of VirtualBox. BTW: I had only tried Andrey's Rdesktop and it worked well. It supports only RDP.

(With Rdesktop, I had the problem that my German keyboard worked as if it was an en_US one. But it turned out that the server was set to en, while all MS RDP clients change the language to the remote language, without having to switch the language on the server. Andrey and Lewis found that out and my keyboard worked well after changing the server's language.)

Mathias

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2020, 11:22:05 pm »
hehe yep, as said CTRL + ALT + key I did try, and it works. This is my workaround for the moment.

Target machine are: DE Windows Server 2012 R2, DE Windows Server 2016 and simple DE Windows 10.

Maybe I should write to Andrey Vasilkin and bring this to his attention. Maybe he just don't know.. : )
Well.. besides that effect, it ll works flawlessly. : )

Andreas Schnellbacher

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2020, 01:25:11 am »
Glad that it works. IIRC, I had found it in the Virtual PC doc.

Lutz Wagner

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2021, 12:33:53 pm »
With FreeRDP you can certainly be a single-click away from having access to a Firefox 'whatever version' you need ... locally on your OS/2 WPS literally as if it was just another PM window.
That's exactly what I'm dreaming of. So I installed the FreeRDP-package, and it works fine on my patched Windows-7-home-PC.

BUT not in application-program-mode.

What I did: I generated a second WPS-object, exactly like the first (working) one, with the only modification being the "Remote App"-tab. I specified path and filename of the firefox-exe on that Win7-PC.

To check this path and filename I opened a Windows-commandline session (cmd.exe) and typed that path and filename into it. And yes, Firefox/Win started up.

But doing the same by means of my WPS-icon nothing happenes at all. No Firefox starting up, no error in the log file. For a fraction of a second the icon gets shaded, then nothing.

Do I have to meet some special prerequisites on that Win7-machine?

Thanks for any idea.

Lutz Wagner

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2021, 02:06:37 pm »
Hi Lutz!

...But doing the same by means of my WPS-icon nothing happenes at all. No Firefox starting up, no error in the log file. For a fraction of a second the icon gets shaded, then nothing.

Do I have to meet some special prerequisites on that Win7-machine?...

That is correct, you need an Application Server component to run on the Win side of things so that FreeRDP can connect to just that particular application you specify.

Here is what I specifically noted in my original post above:

Quote
...In order to be able to serve that application on the HOST side you need to run a Win Server OS, such as 2008, etc., basically something that has the Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Services) component up and running. So what is one to do if this is not an option?

Well, there is an alternative. Take a look at Thinkstuff (https://www.thinstuff.com/products), and in particular their XP/VS Terminal Server. There are several options available as far as the licensing configuration. The lightest option is the 'Lite' configuration, and at $39.99 USD that's a pretty low-entry to a viable way of "running" (double-quotes there b/c you're NOT really running it locally, this is not ODIN, rather only serving the display) most Winx applications locally on your OS/2 box....

I purchased the thinstuff application server and deployed it on my win7-pro setup. Works perfectly!!! To be honest I'm surprised there isn't a much bigger group of OS/2 folks who are jumping at this becuase in a typical multi-os LAN install this is such an easy solution. I do realize that not everyone will have multiple OS installs however.

For my part I am routinely running the Win version of Firefox whenever I happen to hit a site which our version of Firefox can't handle...and there are many many more of such sites these days.

Beyond that I have a couple other apps that I'm working with in order to better take advantage of the functionality Andrey ported to our platform.

If there is one complaint I have about FreeRDP it is that it consumes a LOT of shared memory. In fact, once a session is started it'll easily eat up over 100MB, eventually after a day or so that'll grow to about 200M at which point in time things start shutting down here as shared memory is completely used up. I run my box 24x7 so there isn't a regular once-a-day shut-down that cleans things up for me.

In comparison to this the RDesktop app (also ported by Andrey) doesn't have this memory issue, however it also does NOT implement the Application server client functionality. As such it is best suited for a full session use, which is how I use it most often.

Mike Kölling

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2021, 02:59:58 pm »
With FreeRDP you can certainly be a single-click away from having access to a Firefox 'whatever version' you need ... locally on your OS/2 WPS literally as if it was just another PM window.
That's exactly what I'm dreaming of. So I installed the FreeRDP-package, and it works fine on my patched Windows-7-home-PC.

BUT not in application-program-mode.
...
Thanks for any idea.

Lutz Wagner

Hi Lutz,

I am using FreeRDP for some time by now to check the functions remotely of some Win machines in my network. I really love this tool.

I propose to check the example MSOFFICE.CMD you shall find in the installation folder of FreeRDP.
I just adjusted the path and login information to my configuration and it worked.
In this case I could start MS Office in my AOS. I assume same will be working also for the browser.

Regards,
Mike

Martin Iturbide

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2021, 03:11:39 pm »
Thanks Dariusz for posting this good content. If you ever want to write a further article or tutorial, we can post it on the OS2World wiki.

Let's also remember to send the appreciation to Andrey Vasilkin (digi) for his OS/2 software and ports.

Regards
Martin Iturbide
OS2World NewsMaster
... just share the dream.

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2021, 03:42:08 pm »
Hi Mike,

...I propose to check the example MSOFFICE.CMD you shall find in the installation folder of FreeRDP.
I just adjusted the path and login information to my configuration and it worked.
In this case I could start MS Office in my AOS. I assume same will be working also for the browser...

This is a great starting point.

I am curious though, in your setup, is the Office connection coming up in a full 'remote session' or are you using this as a stand-alone application through the 'Application Server' functionality?

I ask because when I started to look at FreeRDP I had originally not realized that the 'Application Server' component is needed to establish just application sessions. Some Win OS versions have that 'Application Server' function built-in, most do not. If your Win OS install does not you must use another solution, such as the Thinstuff software.

More than happy to try alternative solutions though, which is why I'm curious regarding how that is working on your end.

Thanks!

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Re: FreeRDP - we have options!!!
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2021, 03:46:44 pm »
Thanks Dariusz for posting this good content. If you ever want to write a further article or tutorial, we can post it on the OS2World wiki.

Let's also remember to send the appreciation to Andrey Vasilkin (digi) for his OS/2 software and ports...

Would be very happy to do so. In fact I have been conversing (and testing) with Andrey for some time now the Application specific functionality. I had promised him to write up a document that details the setups since there are a couple of different ways to just starting such a session, i.e. start a NEW session, or connect to an existing session?

Anyways, this is still in WIP, fell behind a bit and I need to get back to it. Once I have a draft and Andrey is happy with it I would happily share.

Regarding sponsoring...absolutely I would encourage this. I have already done so myself, and as with all such situations continue to support the developers who continue to bring solutions to our platform!