WS2008: Terminal Services RemoteApps

WS2008: Terminal Services RemoteApps

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Welcome to the twenty-second day of our series.  Only a few more days until Launch Day.  We'll be sticking with Terminal Services through the end of our series.  Today's topic is Terminal Services RemoteApps, a new feature in Windows Server 2008.  RemoteApps are programs accessed remotely through Terminal Services, and appear as though they are running locally on the user's machine.  RemoteApps are seamlessly integrated with the client desktop, running in their own (resizable) window with their own taskbar entry.  Users can run RemoteApp programs alongside their local programs.  If a user is running multiple RemoteApp programs on the same Terminal Server, the RemoteApp programs share the same Terminal Services session.

OK - so what programs can be run as RemoteApps?  Basically, any program that can run in a Terminal Services session or in a Remote Desktop session should be able to run as a Remote Application.  The Remote Application feature is available to all platforms that support the new RDC 6.x client.  There are different ways that a user can access a RemoteApp program - depending on how the program was deployed:

  • via a link to the program on a web site by using the improved Terminal Services Web Access features in Windows Server 2008
  • via a custom .RDP file that is created and deployed to users.  The RemoteApp is started when the user double-clicks the file
  • via a Windows Installer (.MSI) package that can be deployed to users and will create a program icon on the Desktop or Start Menu
  • via a Windows Installer (.MSI) package that can be deployed to users and will associate a specific file extension with a RemoteApp program

The .RDP file and .MSI package contain the settings needed to connect to a Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server and run the RemoteApp program.  After opening a RemoteApp program on their local system, the user can interact with the program as if it were installed and running locally.  Icons that are associated with the Remote Application that would normally appear in the notification area of a user's Terminal Server session will appear in the notification area on the local system when a remote application session is active.  For example - if you were using Microsoft Outlook as a Remote Application, new mail notifications and other pop-ups and application notifications would appear in the notification area as you would expect them to if the application were installed and running locally.

Now let's quickly go over the architecture of RemoteApp programs.  There are two executables in particular to be aware of:

  • RDPINIT.EXE
  • RDPSHELL.EXE

An instance of RDPINIT.EXE runs on the Terminal Server for each users RemoteApp session.  RDPINIT.EXE is loaded by USERINIT.EXE as a RemoteApp specific implementation of USERINIT.EXE.  RDPINIT.EXE acts as a watchdog to launch RDPSHELL.EXE and monitor process startup and shutdown.  RDPSHELL.EXE is the shell that is used instead of EXPLORER.EXE to provide RemoteApp functionality.  RDPINIT.EXE monitors the process lifecycle of RDPSHELL.EXE and restarts it in the event that it abnormally terminates.  RDPSHELL.EXE loads a set of Windows event hooks onto each user desktop in the session.  These event hooks allow RDPSHELL.EXE to monitor the state of all windows on the desktop.  The interaction between these components is shown below:

When a Remote Application is terminated, the process on the Terminal Server that is associated with that application is terminated.  However, the Terminal Server session itself remains in a disconnected state until it is reset by an administrator or the Group Policy setting that defines the time limit for disconnected sessions to remain in that state.

So much for the theory - now let's configure a RemoteApp on a Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server.  On the Terminal Server I have been using for demos, the Terminal Server Role Service is already installed.  However, I did not install the Terminal Server Web Access Role Service.  That is going to be the first step so that I can access the Terminal Server through my web browser.  When I select the TS Web Access Role Service for installation, the following dialog is displayed.  As we can see, there are some dependencies (fairly obvious ones) that TS Web Access has - such as IIS and some .NET features.

In this instance, my Terminal Server hosting the RemoteApp and TS Web Access server are the same machine.  However, if these roles exist on separate machines, you will need to add the Computer Account of the TS Web Access Server to the TS Web Access Computers security group on the Terminal Server.  Once TS Web Access has been installed, I need to configure it to populate the list of RemoteApp programs that appear in the Web Part from a specific Terminal Server or Terminal Server farm.  By default, TS Web Access populates this list from a single Terminal Server and points to the local host.  The Web Part is populated by all RemoteApp programs that are enabled for TS Web Access on that terminal server's RemoteApp Programs list.  In order to administer TS Web Access, I have to use either the local Administrator account or an account that is a member of the TS Web Access Administrators group on the TS Web Access Server.

You will know whether or not you have rights to administer TS Web Access from the main TS Web Access interface.  The first image shows  user without TS Web Access Administrator privileges, the second is for a user with TS Web Access Administrator privileges.  Note the additional Configuration option.

  

 

In the Editor Zone area under the Configuration option, I can set the Terminal Server that will provide the list of RemoteApp programs.  Since the Terminal Server and TS Web Access server are the same machine, I can leave the option set to localhost.

image

In order to make a RemoteApp program available to users, I have to add the program to the RemoteApps list.  By default, programs added to this list are also configured to be available through TS Web Access.  To add a program to the RemoteApps list, I need to use the TS RemoteApp Manager MMC snap-in.  Click the Add RemoteApp Programs item in the Actions pane to launch the RemoteApp wizard.  On this machine, I actually have two versions of the Windows Debugging Tools (x86 and x64) installed that I want to make available as RemoteApps - as you can see below, there are two versions installed, but ... which one is which?

image

This is easy enough to resolve - by selecting one of the executables, and then clicking on Properties, I can figure out which one is which just by looking at the install path:

image

Now that I know which one is which, I can modify the properties to my needs - the display name, or any command-line arguments I need to specify.  For my purposes, I just need to fix the display names:

Select the programs by checking the boxes, and click Next.  This brings up a Review Settings dialog so you can verify your selections.  Click Finish and now in your RemoteApp Manager window, you have two RemoteApp programs that are enabled for TS Web Access:

image

When I refresh my TS Web Access page, I can see both applications.  I also added a Remote Desktop connection back to the Terminal Server itself. 

If I launch the x86 Windows Debugger, once I pass my credentials, I am presented with the RemoteApp Startup box

image

Once the application is launched, I get the taskbar item for the Debugger - as you can see, there is no indication that this is a RemoteApp from an initial inspection - the integration with my local desktop is seamless. 

However, if I hover over the taskbar item, then I can see that this is a RemoteApp

  

If I wanted to deploy these RemoteApps via a .RDP or .MSI file, I would select the application in the TS Remote App Manager snap-in and then select either of the options under the Other Distribution Options section on the main snap-in page:

And with that, it is time to bring this post to a close.  We've mentioned TS Web Access in this post - in tomorrow's post, we will look at the TS Web Access Architecture.  Until next time ...

- CC Hameed

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  • I have created a .msi for Visio, which is installed on the 2008 TS. I have assigned the .msi through Group Policy Management to a user who logs in to the domain through RDP to a 2nd TS running Server 2003. The 2003 TS is locked down. When the user logs on he never receives the shortcut on his desktop.

  • Thanks for the information above, great...

    I have a situation where branch offices use a particular drive letter (H:) that is also hard coded into an application we wish to share via RemoteApps with a different path.

    Is there a way of associating a .rdp application with a local drive mapping? Hope this makes sense...

    Thanks in advance

    Brendan

  • Hello,

    The TSPortal Web Part can display RemoteApps from multiple Terminal Servers?

    Thank you,

    Yair

  • I have an issue with Remoteapps. I have approximately 10 users that receive a blank RDP session when they try to run Remoteapps. I've narrowed it down to their computers. Any ideas?

  • Hi,

    Can I give any argument to a Remote App?

    If possible, I want to run a RemoteApp with argument like this:

    MyRemoteApp.rdp /param1 /param2

    Thank you.

  • It's cool how you can launch the remote application multiple times, thus confusing your users and screwing up your databases.  TS RemoteApp does not know how to resume the RemoteApp session. Great work! :(

  • Hi,

    Does anyone have a fix for outlook 2010 as a remote app?  Mail notifications go to the background and no sounds come through...even with audiomode set to 0.  Works fine from a full rdp session.

    2008 R2 farm, XP and 7 clients running 6.1 client.

    Best regards,

    S'

  • Hi,

    I have an issue with Windows 7 clients using TS RemoteApp.

    The application always shows under the RDC icon in the taskbar, when the mouse hovers over the RDC icon the application's icon is in use but it still stays under the RDC stack on the taskbar, this is confusing for some users who use 2 remoteapps at the same time and they are all under the same taskbar icon.

    Server 2008 (not R2) with windows 7 64 and 32 bit clients

    Thanks for the help

  • i have one crazy issue i done all this above but its showing bad user name and password after i go to the authentication

  • Hi, From one moment to the other my file association is not working anymore with remoteapp Word and Excel 2010. "Remote App error, the program was not found. Please contact your system administrator" What is happening?

    Thanks in advance