Building a terminal server

2007-11-30

in Daily updates, Geek stuff, Internet matters

The following is probably only of interest to technically inclined readers:

I am considering establishing my own terminal server, with a few eventual uses in mind. First and foremost, it should be accessible as a virtual desktop using the Remote Desktop Connection tool on Windows machines and comparable third party software on a Mac. I want to be able to use it as an internet proxy server (i.e. running a browser within the remote desktop environment) as well as an internet-enabled device connected to my external media drives. Connecting it to my backup drive is also a possibility, though probably less prudent for obvious reasons. It may eventually be connected to a stereo as an audio source. Once set up, it probably won’t have a monitor. It would be nice if it could be tucked away unobtrusively somewhere.

The question is what would be required to do this. Would it be easiest to implement using Mac OS, a version of Linux, or a version of Windows? Buying Windows server is probably out of the question. Also, what kind of hardware is required to do this decently? Mostly, the machine would just be acting as an always-on conduit to the internet and certain filesystems (FAT32 formatted). It should be good enough to provide a video file to another machine on the local network without lag. I am pretty confident that finding a machine at this level of capability would not be overly expensive.

Has anyone done this? Can anyone recommend some reading material on the problem?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

tris November 30, 2007 at 7:26 pm

I know my father would know how to do this. I believe you can buy servers quite cheaply with linux server software preloaded.

I really don’t know anything about servers.

R.K. December 1, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I don’t know if there is any cheap and easy way in which to do this. Linux will probably be hard to use with the default Windows client.

Milan March 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm
Milan March 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm
. October 20, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Apple Blurs the Server Line With Mac Mini Server

“Today Apple announced several new hardware offerings, including a new Mac mini, their (almost-literally) pint-sized desktop computer. In a bizarre twist, they are now also offering a Mac mini with Mac OS X Server bundled in, along with a two hard drives somehow stuffed into the tiny package. Undoubtedly, many in the IT community will scoff at the thought of calling such a device a ‘server.’ However, with the robust capabilities of Snow Leopard Server (a true, if highly GUI-fied, UNIX server), it seems likely to find a niche in small businesses and even enthusiasts’ homes. The almost completely guided setup process means that people can set up relatively sophisticated services without the assistance of someone who actually knows what they are doing. What the results will be in terms of security, etc. will be… interesting to watch as they develop.”

Milan October 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

I wonder how the performance of a Mac Mini server would compare with my GoDaddy shared hosting account…

Milan October 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm
Matt October 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I don’t have much experience with OS X from this standpoint, but XP’s Remote Desktop Connection (XP Pro only) is actually really good. I personally use it on 3 computers at home, and for a little added security (and to allow each computer to be selectable) , I change the default TCP/UDP listening port which is a simple matter of changing its value in registry editor. Then, I forward that port to the local IP of the computer doing the serving.

I’ve found that a computer can stream a typical ~700MB divx/xvid type movie without lag over a network if at least one of the computers is using a wired connection. 2 computers over wireless G will usually be too laggy to do this.

Matt October 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

As an addendum to the above, there is also Windows remote desktop client for OS X, so you can control said windows machine from a Mac.

. October 20, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Apple Blurs the Server Line With Mac Mini Server

“Today Apple announced several new hardware offerings, including a new Mac mini, their (almost-literally) pint-sized desktop computer. In a bizarre twist, they are now also offering a Mac mini with Mac OS X Server bundled in, along with a two hard drives somehow stuffed into the tiny package. Undoubtedly, many in the IT community will scoff at the thought of calling such a device a ‘server.’ However, with the robust capabilities of Snow Leopard Server (a true, if highly GUI-fied, UNIX server), it seems likely to find a niche in small businesses and even enthusiasts’ homes. The almost completely guided setup process means that people can set up relatively sophisticated services without the assistance of someone who actually knows what they are doing. What the results will be in terms of security, etc. will be… interesting to watch as they develop.”

Milan October 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I tried setting up my Mac as a terminal server to be accessed from work but, even with a low resolution and all the fancy options turned off, it was still far too laggy to use.

That’s a bit perplexing, as I was able to use my Oxford terminal server perfectly well from Ottawa, despite the inevitable lag associated with the trans-Atlantic hop.

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