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REVIEW: TSMobiles: Terminal Service Client for Mobiles

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Menneisyys
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Default REVIEW: TSMobiles: Terminal Service Client for Mobiles

Iíve long been promising a review of a multiplatform (Java-based) RDP client, TSMobiles (as of version 2.3.14) for quite a long time. Now that Iíve tested its brother, Remote Desktop for Mobiles (RDM+), Iíve decided to give a try to this app as well.

Note that this is a terse, technical, comparative quick review requiring you to understand the contents of my Windows Mobile Remote Desktop Controller Bible. Therefore, I wonít elaborate on, say, the RDP protocol itself, its advantages and disadvantages when compared to other protocols etc.

Iíve tested it on both QVGA and VGA Pocket PCís and MS Smartphones. It should, essentially, work on Symbian S60 devices exactly like on the MS Smartphone platform; therefore, I didnít separately test it on my Nokia N95. I havenít run tests on my Blackberry either Ė essentially, the BB client must be far less different from its generic (non-BB-specific) Java brother than in the case with RDM+.

As itís strictly Java-based, youíll need a MIDlet manager to run it. See my MIDlet Bible for more info. Iíve tested it under the latest, most recommended Jbed version, JRebeiro_EsmertecJbed_20071119.3.1, reviewed HERE.

First, some benchmarks.

Benchmarks

As opposed to the official TSC (pre-WM6) RDM (WM6) client developed by Microsoft, itís quite sensitive to smooth scrolling and other types of animations. Benchmark results:

Smooth scrolling (1sec): 2.8k/5.6M (!!!)
No smooth scroll (0.5 sec): 2.8k/1.1M

Itís still way better than NetOp Remote Control 9.0 by Danware and the RDP4-only Mocha Remote Client 1.2 by MochaSoft in this respect, though.

As opposed to RDM+:
  1. Here, the mouse pointer does hover
  2. It uses the entire screen estate (no visible menu / operating system bars)
  3. Thereís no context menu by click-and-holding the screen. However, you can bring it up any time by clicking the (relocatable) menu icon; itís in the center right area in THIS screenshot (the shot also displays the menu)
  4. As can also be seen in the above shot of the menu, only the usual keyboard shortcuts are available in the menu. Their list is HERE
  5. you can send over function keys and the like by enabling Direct input. Then, thumbboard character (but NOT special character, including Enter and delete! Cursor keys and Space do work) input will be handled as textual, direct input. Clicking the screen brings up a quick selector band at the bottom, which lets for sending special keys
  6. No configuration capabilities Ė for example, you canít configure it not to use 8-bit color depth. In this respect, itís different from the RDM client too.
  7. There are (numeric) dialpad shortcuts, making work (for example, left/ double left / right clicks, zooming in/out, bringing up menu etc.) much easier. It works just great!
  8. No file transfer capabilities
  9. Also see the advantages (no need to install another server on the desktop) and disadvantages (resized desktop, locking the user out, pretty much limited usability in a corporate environment because of the lack of HTTPS encapsulation compatible with mobile clients etc.) of the RDP protocol itself

Compared to the built-in RDP client (Remote Desktop Mobile (RDM) Ė not to be mistaken with SHAPEís own, commercial RDM+ controller!) of (most) WM6 touchscreen-enabled phones,

Cons
  1. impossible to use higher color depths than 8 bit (unlike with RDM)
  2. much worse keyboard support (should you need to enter a lot of text, this can be an issue Ė then, stick with RDM). With RDM, all thumbboard keys work as expected (Enter, Del etc.); in TSMobiles, they donít. Tested on both the HTC Universal and the HTC Wizard (Pocket PCís) and the HTC Vox / s710 (MS Smartphone). Incidentally, on the latter, you canít use the multifunction keys (for both alphabetic and numeric input) - a very common problem with Smartphone apps running on the Vox.
  3. no sound support (RDM screenshot)
  4. very sensitive to smooth scrolling and animations (huge bandwidth usage & major slowdown)Ė make sure you disable them all
  5. no copy/paste (automatic clipboard synchronization) between the remote desktop and the mobile client
Pros
  1. it has a built-in traffic meter
  2. has a dedicated console mode. In this respect, in theory, itís WAY better than RDM (let alone TSC). In order to make it work, make sure you tick in ďconsole sectionĒ in the account setup dialog as can be seen in HERE

    Note that you need at least Windows Server 2003 (Version 5.2 of the underlying RDP protocol) or Vista (6.0) for this to work; regular Windows XP doesnít support this. If you need console mode on XP, go for, for example, RDM+, which does offer it. Also note that, with Vista, console mode didnít work for me for some reason.
  3. Able to send over any special keys (including function keys), unlike RDM

QVGA compliance

(The above screenshots are all VGA; therefore, letís see how TSMobiles behaves on QVGA devices):

On QVGA devices (as opposed to VGA ones, where, due to the remote desktopís also being VGA, thereís no need at all for zooming in), the menu also contains a ďZoom inĒ item:



In the zoomed-in state, you can both use the on-screen arrows (as with the PPC / touchscreen Symbian / Palm / iPhone(?) version of RDM+) and the D-pad for quick scrolling.

Also, as with the non-Pocket PC clients of RDM+, you can redefine the D-pad-based scrolling by switching to the ďScroll modeĒ:



As you can see, the touchscreen is utilized by default by the program.

(QVGA) MS Smartphone compliance

Works OK on MS Smartphones. Youíll need to use the ď5Ē key to bring up the menu:



The other keypad shortcuts are as follows (note that theyíre usable even on a Pocket PC Ė if it has a dialpad or a full QWERTY keyboard; tested this on the HTC Universal and worked OK):

[1] - Left mouse click
[2] - Left double click
[3] - Right click
[6] - Left click and hold
[4] - Selecting and sending keyboard shortcut from list
[8] - Zoom In
[9] - Zoom Out[*] - Turning on scroll mode
[0] - Selecting and sending keys sequence (entering text string)
[#] - Opening/Closing Control keys menu

All in all, it works OK and pretty fast on the MS Smartphone platform as well.

Note that, on the MS Smartphone platform, it isnít affected by the screen bug of all Jbed versions Ė unlike, say, the Gmail MIDlet. That is, you wonít need to try to use the full screen Jbed 3D hack explained HERE.
Microsoft MVP - Mobile Devices, 2006, 2007, 2008. Make sure you follow my PPC & SP Mag Expert blog HERE.
 
Menneisyys
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Important Vista note: you MUST log off before logging in with TSMobiles!

At first, I had severe problems with connecting to Vista and the FAQ of TSMobiles didnít help either (other than starting it has become Vista-compliant as of version 2.3.11). After trying to connect, it just announced it canít: it displayed a ďReceived disconnectĒ error message. (Incidentally, Iíve also tested the heavily outdated and in no way recommended Mocha RDP client (version 1.2); it didnít work either Ė but, of course, I didnít even expect it to work, it being based on RDP4 only (dunno if RDP4 is phased out in Vista Ė I think it already is).

Of course, RDM worked (just like XPís / Vistaís built-in RD client) just great with exactly the same remote Vista desktops. So did TSC in WM5. Iíve tested this on two different remote Vista desktops, one of them running Vista Business, the other running Vista Ultimate, with both firewalls and virus protection apps enabled and disabled Ė no success, while, again, the RDM client worked just great.

Fortunately, finally, I found out what the problem was: you MUST log off your Vista account so that TSMobiles can log in. Then, it works just great:



This is, in my opinion, a major problem with TSMobiles, which should be addressed promptly.

Note that the console mode didnít seem to work with Vista.

Verdict

While itís certainly way better than the pre-WM6 TSCís (unless you use the well-known vijay555 full screen hack to fix one of its major problems: the lack of a full screen mode), it has little advantage over the built-in WM6 client, RDM, in the new version. If you already have RDM, you might want to stick to it unless you really need the special features of it (console mode Ė if it does work, that is -, special characters, ability to send more sophisticated mouse actions etc.). In generic use, Iíd stick with the default RDM, particularly if you count in the VERY high price ($35) of TSMobiles.

On touchscreen-less phones (including MS Smartphones, Symbian and BlackBerry phones), the situation is pretty much different: on them, itís already a decent alternative if and only if you MUST use RDP to access a remote desktop. If sticking to RDP isnít a must, Iíd go for RDM+ instead because of the vastly superior feature set (file transfer, less data usage, usable through firewalls, not that restrictive a protocol etc.)
Microsoft MVP - Mobile Devices, 2006, 2007, 2008. Make sure you follow my PPC & SP Mag Expert blog HERE.
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