2X ApplicationServer

In July of 2006 Microsoft released a stripped down copy of Windows XP that can be run on old hardware. It’s called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WindowsFLP). The main difference is that some of the applications would not be run locally. The processor intense applications would be run off of a server. The server would be another, more powerful computer running Windows XP. I think that was a great thing for Microsoft to release. The problem is that they didn’t release it to the general public. It is only available to Microsoft Software Assurance customers.

The good news is that 2X Software has a server and client application that you can use to achieve this called 2X Application Server. With the free version you can tunnel up to 5 applications per server onto remote desktops. You can serve applications out to Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows or Linux clients. This is something that WindowsFLP cannot do. To be fair, this does require a machine running Windows Server with the Terminal Services component installed. WindowsFLP only requires another machine with Windows XP.

After installation it was very easy to push out an application to my old Windows XP laptop that has 32 MB RAM and a 200 Mhz processor. I chose Aptana (a web development IDE) as my test application. I installed the client software on the laptop after I had set up the server. In the client application I saw Aptana and double clicked on it to launch it. You can also choose to put a shortcut on your desktop. Aptana started up and looked as though it was starting up on the local machine. I was able to then use the application as if it were installed on the local machine. Though, when you’re accessing files it will bring up a dialog for the drives on the server. On Windows, if you have mapped network drives it will show those in the “My Computer” area.

The Linux side of things was a little more difficult. The 2X Server Client software for Linux is command line only. It took me a few minutes to correctly enter the syntax but I was finally able to pull up the Aptana application on my installation of Fedora. It seemed a lot slower on Linux than it did on Windows.

For you Mac fans out there you should be happy to know that they also have client software for the Mac as well. It works really well. I was able to launch Aptana without any issues. It does look a bit odd on the Mac, though. If you want it to look seamless you might install a program that changes the look of Windows to that of Mac OS X.

2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services

Article update: Tuesday, September 30, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots of the latest version.

A lot of updates to the application have been made. It looks different and there are many more options. Instead of just a single application at a time, you can now also publish a group of applications. This allows you to group items in a folder. This is sort of like grouping items on the start menu. You can publish a desktop which gives the user access to their remote desktop without having to use another remote desktop client. You can also publish predefined applications (Windows Explorer and other built in components of Windows) and documents.

The latest Mac and Windows clients work really well. Unfortunately, the Linux client is still command line only. I think if there was a GUI version for Linux it would make it easier on the IT staff and the employees who aren’t technical.

Is a CMS right for you?

Definition of a web designer

Once upon a time the web designer of your website was responsible for everything. They designed the layout, they coded the site, they updated content for you whenever you needed them to, they also made sure everything was in proper working order. Today however, the role of the web designer is changing, in my opinion. The main change that I see is that the web designer is no longer and should no longer be responsible for the content on the client’s website. I do however think that the web designer is responsible for making sure that the site looks good, is maintained, is in working condition and is backed up regularly and can provide assistance to the customer. How is this possible? How can a client with no knowledge of web design principles or coding languages know how to update the website? Its called a content management system (CMS).

So what exactly is a CMS?

I always tell people that a CMS is an online application that you can install onto your website that allows YOU to manage YOUR content and the designer can manage the look of the site and maintain the site. You login to the administration area and create your content and publish it. There is no knowledge of coding languages required. The only thing you need to know, is how to navigate the CMS.

Reasons to implement a CMS

  • Once the website is set up, you can assign a single user, multiple users or groups of users to manage the content on the website. A lot of business will have a secretary update the content on the website using the CMS. The best part about this is is that you don't have to email your designer, wait on them to update the content, wait on them to reply saying its updated. You can go ahead and make the changes yourself.
  • You can apply different permissions to each user. If you wanted to assign an author permission to a user but not allow them to publish the content, you could assign someone else the ability to publish articles.
  • Since it is simple to create and publish content, you can publish content more quickly and more often. You could update your site whenever any new news about your company is available: press releases, news items, new employees, new products, product updates, etc. This will help keep your website from feeling stagnated. You can also create a blog which will allow your customers to leave you comments. This allows you to have interaction with your customers.
  • Backing up the website is also much easier. You can quickly make a backup of the database and your website theme. In the event that something was to happen to your website or you needed to move it, it could quickly be fixed or moved.
  • Since the underlying framework of a CMS is already there for you, it is much easier and quicker to create the look and feel of the website. You could create your own CMS, but, why re-invent the wheel?
  • There are MANY CMS' out there and MANY of them are free. You can pick and choose which one you'd like to use based on the features it has, the database and scripting software that it runs on, user interface, etc. Most CMS websites will have a demonstration area for their CMS.
  • I think most CMS' do a really good job of search engine optimization (SEO). I think they do a better job at SEO than just having HTML/XHTML & CSS pages.
  • Problems with a CMS (there aren't many, fortunately)

  • Although a CMS is reasonably secure (usually), your IT department or your web design department will need to make sure that your website is secure. They will need to make sure certain files remain hidden from the public (for database security). They will need to make sure the database is backed up, regularly.
  • If you're going to create a blog on your website and allow comments, you will need to make sure comments are moderated so that you don't have SPAM or rude comments on your blogs. This can sometimes get out of hand and almost become a full-time job. You'll either need to make sure there is a way to take care of SPAM or simply not allow comments.
  • You are taking money away from your designer! Since I am a web designer myself, I thought I'd throw that one in there. 😉

Which CMS to use?

The two that I am going to recommend to you are free AND open source. They are my two favorite CMS', they have plugins/modules that you can extend your CMS with. They're very user friendly. They're not too difficult to install either. Best of all, if you can't hire a web designer, you can download ready made themes for your site. The bad part about that is that it won't be custom to your company. Both CMS' have plugins/modules for e-commerce. The two I recommend are:

Drupal
WordPress

WordPress is more centered around blogging, however, you can tweak the code to allow it to be much more like a standard website.

If you'd like to try out the CMS' above or other ones, you can check out OpenSourceCMS.com