Lately I've been having some fun experimenting with different ways of integrating Unix servers with Windows NT desktops.
I've been using Red Hat Linux 4.2 for the server, with TriTeal's WinTED Unix integration software under Windows NT. WinTED adds X-server capabilities and the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) front panel to Windows NT. The CDE front panel is a standard Unix application launch pad with as many as four virtual desktops.
X-servers for Windows are nothing new, but I have a preference for TriTeal's implementation. I use TriTeal's CDE for Linux, and I like having a consistent approach to virtual desktops. TriTeal's approach is subtly different to other vendors' CDEs.
Citrix's Intelligent Console Architecture (ICA) is a similar technique. But there are some significant differences. X tends to be network intensive. But given enough network bandwidth, X lets you run demanding high-resolution graphics. ICA does not. ICA can only display 256 colours, and its mouse-handling techniques prevent you from doing any freehand drawing.
Bending over backwards
Among other things, WinTED is supposed to automatically gather Unix applications at start-up and put them on the launch bar. This feature doesn't work on my system. Normally, you would enable this and other features by installing the WinTED file system, or TEDfs, on the Unix server.
The bad news is that TEDfs runs on only a handful of non-Intel Unix platforms. The good news is that it is based on the native Windows Session Message Block protocol. The reason this is good news is that I happen to be running a free Linux utility, called Samba. Samba lets many OSs, including Linux, provide native file and print services to Windows. As a result, I can get WinTED to work with my Linux server in every respect except the automatic gathering of applications. Because it is easy to create a set of icons for the applications I use, I didn't miss this feature. But my network is tiny. Yours probably isn't. I'd make sure WinTED supports your Unix server if you're planning on deploying a solution like this in a corporate environment.
To their credit, my technical contacts at Microsoft have been bending over backward trying to pin down this instability problem. It remains unresolved, but I'm not giving up. I've become spoiled by the front panel and the ability to so easily run Unix applications alongside 32-bit Windows applications. Unix as the server and NT as a client is a powerful combination. WinTED makes it that much easier to consider.