Using Windows CE to manage your Windows 2000 network

Does the idea of having total control of your Windows 2000 network from a device that's small enough to fit into your pocket sound crazy? Brien Posey explains how you can remotely control your Windows 2000 servers by using your Windows CE device.

Imagine that you’re in the car driving down a long and desolate interstate, out in the middle of nowhere. Just as you think you’re about to scream from boredom, the phone rings. Someone at your office decided to interrupt your travel to tell you about some terrifying message that’s being displayed on the server. Now, you have two choices: You can either run up your cell phone bill and try to explain to the clueless person on the phone how to fix the problem, or you can pull over, get out the palmtop, fix the problem, and be on your merry way. Although the idea of having total control of your network from a device that’s small enough to fit into your pocket—all from the comfort of your own car—may sound like a fantasy, it really works. In this article, I’ll explain how to use your Windows CE machine to remotely control your Windows 2000 servers.

The requirements
There are some pretty stiff hardware and software requirements for controlling Windows 2000 through Windows CE. First, not just any Windows CE device will work. The PDA-style Windows CE machines with no keyboard were never designed for this type of work and are therefore unsupported. You must have a palmtop computer or one of the new pocket PCs. For the purposes of this article, I used a Hewlett-Packard Jornada 680.

Your Windows CE device must also have some method of connecting to Windows 2000 via TCP/IP. I used a network card in my palmtop, but if you have Windows 2000 configured to function as a remote access server (a RAS server), you can dial in and control Windows 2000. The actual connection method is irrelevant as long as you authenticate into the domain that your server is a member of, then connect using TCP/IP.

As I mentioned before, you’ll also need some special software. The server must be configured to run the terminal services (I used Windows 2000 Advanced Server release candidate 2). I also attempted to connect Windows to a computer running Windows 2000 Server beta 3, but I had a lot of trouble. That fact is trivial, though, since there’s a good chance that the final release will be available by the time you read this.

The Windows CE machine also requires special software. Windows CE must be running the Terminal Server client software to be able to control the Windows 2000 server remotely. I’ll tell you how to get this software later.

Things to consider on the server
Before you set up the server for remote access, you need to consider a few issues. The terminal services can take a tremendous toll on the server. The terminal services use memory, the processor, hard disk, and the network card very heavily. The purpose of this article is to explain how to remotely control the server in emergency situations. Therefore, extremely high-end hardware isn’t necessarily a requirement. I ran the terminal services on a Windows 2000 Advanced Server with 128 MB of RAM with no problems. However, if anyone else plans on using the terminal server, remember that the amount of power required is directly proportional to:
  • ·        the number of remote users
  • ·        the number of programs that each user runs
  • ·        the types of programs that these users run

A generic word processor, for example, doesn’t require anywhere near the horsepower of a large database or a video game. To run a terminal server for more than emergency administrative purposes, Microsoft recommends 128 MB of RAM with an extra 10 MB to 21 MB of RAM for each user, depending on what types of programs they run. Microsoft also recommends multiple processors, RAID arrays, and fast network connections for multiple terminal server users. There are also many more security issues involved in allowing multiple user access, and I’ll discuss those issues in a future article.

Installing the terminal server service
To install the terminal services on the Windows 2000 server, first open Control Panel and double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon. When you see the Add/Remove Programs window, click the Windows Setup button. At this point, the computer may appear to ignore your request. However, if this happens, the Windows Components Wizard has merely opened in the background. Close the Add/Remove Programs window to access the Windows Components Wizard.

When you see the wizard, select the Terminal Services and Terminal Services Licensing check boxes. Click Next, and Windows will begin installing the required components. The first question you’re asked is whether you want to install the terminal services in Remote Administration Mode or in Application Server Mode. Select Remote Administration Mode and click the Next button. The next portion of the wizard will ask you about the role and location of the license server. Unless you have a compelling reason to change these options, use the defaults and click Next to continue. At this point, Windows 2000 will ask for the Windows 2000 CD and will begin copying all the necessary files. When the wizard completes, click Finish. You’ll now be prompted to reboot your server.

Setting up Windows CE
As I mentioned earlier, accessing the Windows 2000 server by remote control requires that you attach to the server through TCP/IP and that you authenticate the Windows CE machine into the Windows 2000 domain. Make sure that you’ve established this ability before continuing.

Once you have the ability to connect to the server, use a desktop PC and download the Terminal Server Client for Windows CE. You can download it from Microsoft’s Windows CE home page . Once you’ve downloaded the client, attach the desktop to your palmtop via serial cable or infrared port and run the program that you just downloaded on the desktop machine. The program will install the necessary files on the Windows CE machine.

Once you’ve installed the necessary files, select the Client Connection Wizard command from your Windows CE machine’s Start | Programs | Terminal Server Client menu. The first window of the wizard asks for a description of the session and the name of the server that you want to control. Enter anything that you want for the description, but I’ve had better luck entering the server’s IP address than its name in the Server Name field. Click Next to continue.

The next screen that you’ll see allows you to log on automatically. This one is up to you. If you want to log on automatically, select the Log On Automatically check box and then fill in the Username, Password, and Domain fields. The only downside to logging in automatically is that if you were to lose your palmtop, whoever finds it could access your server. When you’ve filled in the necessary information, click Next to continue.

The final screen of the wizard asks whether you want to display the server’s desktop or automatically launch an application. Since the purpose of this configuration is remote administration, select the Display Desktop radio button and click Finish. Windows CE will now place an icon on your desktop that you can use to remotely control your server.

Connecting to the server
At this point, you’re ready to connect Windows CE to your Windows 2000 server. To do so, begin by establishing the communications link, whether by dial-up networking or via a network card. Once you’ve logged into your network, double-tap the icon that you created earlier. Doing so will connect to Windows 2000 through your TCP/IP link. The login process should be automatic since you’re already authenticated into the domain.

When you connect, the first thing that you may notice is that the Windows 2000 desktop looks different on your Windows CE device. That’s because of the difference in resolution from Windows 2000 to Windows CE. Since Windows CE can’t display the entire screen, some of the icons are temporarily rearranged to make them fit onto the visible desktop.

The next thing that you may notice is that the icons aren’t as responsive as you would expect. The first time that I configured Windows CE to remotely control Windows 2000, I thought that I neglected to set some security option, because half of the icons wouldn’t work. Instead, the problem was that the terminal server seems to require much more accurate tapping than a standard Windows CE session does. It’s been my experience that when double-tapping, if the second tap isn’t in exactly the same spot as the first tap, it doesn’t work. I found this to be extremely difficult. It’s much easier to simply select the icon that you want to use and then press [Enter].

I also noticed that some of the Start menu’s submenus behaved strangely. For example, when I went to Start | Programs | Accessories, the menu would freak out and take me into My Documents. The solution to this was simple. All I had to do was make sure that the point of the stylus never came off the screen when I accessed the menus. For example, I would tap on Start and then press the stylus on Programs. I would then keep the stylus on the screen while selecting Accessories and whatever choice came next.

The last problem that I encountered was that many times the utility that I wanted to use didn’t completely fit on the Windows CE screen. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that there was no scroll bar to access the bottom portion of the screen. Although it’s not perfect, the display works much better if you disable Active Desktop for terminal server clients. To do so, open Control Panel on the Windows 2000 computer and double-click the Administrative Tools icon. When you do, you’ll see the Administrative Tools window. Now, double-click the Terminal Services Configuration icon to launch the Terminal Services Configuration utility. Then, click the Server Settings folder in the column on the left to view the configurable settings on the right. One of the options is for Active Desktop. At this point, right-click the Active Desktop icon and choose the Disable command from the context menu. The changes won’t take effect until the next time that you connect Windows CE with a new session.

Ending your session
When you’ve finished using the terminal server session on your Windows CE machine, select the Shut Down command from the Start menu. There are two commands on this menu that need a little explaining. The Log Off command disconnects you from the terminal server and restores the normal Windows CE desktop. This is the command that you should normally use to disconnect.

The Disconnect command also returns you to the Windows CE desktop but leaves your session active on the terminal server. This means that even though you’re not using the terminal server, server resources are still being wasted on the session. Your programs and files are still opened, exactly in the state that they were in when you disconnected. The next time you attach to the terminal server, you’ll be exactly where you were when you disconnected the last time.

In this article, I’ve discussed a way that you can use your palmtop computer to manage your network on the go. I also explained the hardware and software requirements for doing so. In addition, I examined the unique aspects you’ll have to deal with because of Windows CE’s limitations.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE and works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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