Terminal Services – Remote Desktop Web Connection

Introduction to Remote Desktop Web Connection

If you are familiar with Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access (OWA), then Remote Desktop Web Connection is a logical extension of those thin client principles.  From the Remote Desktop client’s point of view, you simply open a browser window and receive the XP Desktop.  From the Windows 2003 Server point of view, it’s Terminal Service business as usual thanks to IIS and the TSWEB virtual directory.

Topics for Remote Desktop Web Connection


Web Connection Scenario

Let us assume that your users’ machines do not have XP or Vista.  If they had XP or Vista then they won’t need Remote Desktop very often.  However, you would like to provide these old machines with the XP desktop experience, so you deploy the Web Connection version of Remote Desktop.  As luck would have it, you have already installed Terminal Services on your Windows 2003 Server.

These days every computer operation is web based, OWA, RPC over http, OMA, and http printing.  So a Web Connection for terminal services is just a logical continuation of this trend to do everything in a browser.  Your mind may be racing ahead thinking of benefits such as easy rollout, support for roaming users and no need to buy new workstations.

One company that I know supplies logon accounts for its partners and allows them to view its products via a Remote Desktop Web Connection.  The partners are impressed with the technology (and the merchandise).

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Install Remote Desktop ActiveX Control

Do you trust Microsoft!  Providing you trust the Microsoft Windows Publisher, installing the Web connection is easy.

In the browser address type http:// yourserver/tsweb/.  Remote Desktop TipsSubstitute yourserver with the name of your real Windows 2003 Terminal Services machine.  Tsweb is the name of the virtual directory created automatically at the default website.

Click on Install and the Remote Desktop ActiveX Control will automatically decompress the file and install the necessary controls to enable your Web Connection.

Web Connection Logon Screen

Once you allow Microsoft’s ActiveX Control to install its .cab files, then all you need to do is type the name of the Windows 2003 Terminal Server in the dialog box.

I prefer to tick the box which says ‘Send logon information for this connection’.  My reasoning is that I like to type my name and password before clicking connect.  However this is not compulsory for getting your Remote Desktop Web Connection.

About the only obstruction to a smooth connection would be firewall problems.  So make sure that your firewall opens both port 80 for the web and 3389 for Remote Desktop.

Install Remote Desktop ActiveX Control Terminal Services XP Experience

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Windows Server 2003 IIS and TSWeb

If you check the Terminal Services machine, you should find that Windows Server 2003 automatically added a Virtual directory called TSWeb.TSWEB Web Connection for Remote Desktop Apart from making sure that the World Wide Web Publishing Services has not been disabled, and has started there is no extra configuration at the server end.

While you are checking the Windows 2003 WWW service, take the opportunity to find and examine the Terminal Services group of services.  What you should find is that the Terminal Services, and the Terminal Service Licensing are started, but the Terminal Services Session Directory is disabled.  Do not be alarmed that the later service is disabled as it is only needed if you have clustering.

Introduction to Invoke-WebRequest

Invoke-WebRequest is a PowerShell cmdlet, which enables us to extract useful information from web pages.

This script will interogate a website for information.  In this example PowerShell needs the .AllElements property and the .InnerHtml value

# Invoke-WebRequest Example
$Site = "http://www.asknumbers.com/MilesToFeetConversion.aspx"
$Request = Invoke-WebRequest -URI $Site
$Request.AllElements | Where-Object {$_.InnerHtml -like "*=*"} | `
Sort-Object { $_.InnerHtml.Length } | Select-Object InnerText -First 1

1 Mile = 5280 Feet

See more on PowerShell's Invoke-WebRequest »

Summary of Remote Desktop Web Connection

What appeals most about Remote Desktop Web Connection is its simplicity.  The only trick to setup is accepting Microsoft’s ActiveX Control.  Only the most hardened user will fail to be impressed when they receive the full XP desktop in a browser window.  For you, maybe the Web Connection is an extension of a system like OWA that you know already.

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