Tutorial: Stream your apps to Continuum with RemoteApp

by danielkornev6 months ago

Microsoft’s Continuum feature, found on the modern Windows 10 mobile devices, is a big company’s dream to define a new category of devices that are capable of being both phones on the go and PCs on the desk.

Where is Continuum now, and what we should expect in the future Updates

As always, there’s a huge difference between vision and execution of it.

In the beginning, Continuum only allowed you to project a second display through HDMI or DisplayPort via a special Dock. But just a few months later, a new Remote Desktop Preview application made it possible for users to connect to their remote desktops and access classic Win32 applications when needed. Later, an ability to project second screen wirelessly via Miracast emerged, as well as the option to turn off each of the screens independently of each other, or projecting second screen to a PC, or, finally, using copy/paste between RDP session and the host.

We also expect a few more great features coming to us in the next Updates, like multiple windows, window snapping, and more. The future is bright, indeed.

But as Continuum is doing its first baby steps, the chances are, you still need those old Win32 apps.

To RDP or not to RDP, this is the question

Although Continuum isn’t a new idea (well, thin client was proposed in 1990s, and we had terminals long, long time ago), its greatness lies in its combination with the UWP platform, enabling mobile apps to transform into desktop ones when projected to an external display. There are several great apps, with Edge, Office apps, Outlook, and even a Reddit client being great examples of desktop-like apps running in Continuum mode for you.

So, using RDP isn’t the always the best solution. To me it means you might want to run Win32 apps alongside with the UWP Continuum-enabled ones, instead of living in the RDP session from the beginning to the end.

Thankfully, there is a cool solution from Microsoft – RemoteApp.

What is RemoteApp (for Continuum)?

On a paper, RemoteApp is a cool idea. In case of Continuum you can get a tile for each of the RemoteApps you need, and each RemoteApp would essentially open a usual Win32 application (running remotely) as a standalone app on your Windows 10 mobile phone in Continuum mode. This means that you can use Alt+Tab to switch between different apps on a Continuum desktop, and your RemoteApps would participate in this process like all others.

Cool, huh?

You bet. But there is a catch.

All your RemoteApps will share the same RDP window. Which isn’t as great as you might want that to be.

Also, this solution is designed for enterprise customers, requiring you to either have a Windows Server equipped with RDS (Remote Desktop Services), or use an Azure Subscription with its Azure RemoteApps.

Sad news, Azure RemoteApps is a deprecated feature, as Microsoft plans to use Citrix’s Xen App “express” to deliver similar user experience for its Azure customers.

So, it looks like RemoteApp is now limited to RemoteApps for enterprises. And thus, to get one, you should have (or build) an infrastructure for that, with Windows Server and RDS feature on it, and the last time I checked, you needed two (2) servers to make this solution work.

Does it sound right? If you are in the corporate environment, sure. But if you have a powerful PC at home and wanna run one or two apps from it without creating a full RDP connection to it, you’re out of luck.

Well, not really.

There’s a way.

What do you need to stream RemoteApps from your Desktop PC to your Continuum?

How should it work?

We will use the ability of selected Windows SKUs to stream locally installed apps as RemoteApps, and we will use IIS to emulate Remote Desktop Services (RDS) website.

Now, here are the details.

Pre-Requisites: PC

Operating System versions: Windows 7/8.x/10
Operating System SKU: Enterprise or Education
User rights (during setup): Administrator
Special features: IIS (install it via Windows Features)
Network connectivity: LAN 100 Mbps (recommended)

Pre-Requisites: Mobile

Operating System: Windows 10 Mobile
Special features: Continuum (if your phone is unsupported, head here to enable it)
Network connectivity: Wi-Fi (n) (recommended)

Steps: PC

  1. Download and install a 3rd party RemoteApp tool from here.
  2. Follow the instructions from here to create RDP files for your RemoteApps.
  3. In IIS, create a self-signed certificate, enable HTTPS binding using this certificate as shown here.
    1. If necessary, create a new Web Site for our RDS website emulation.
  4. Export your self-signed ceritificate to a .cer file (w/o private key) and send it to your Windows 10 Mobile device (e.g., by email).
  5. In your Web Site in IIS, create a new folder called RDWeb, with a subfolder called “Pages”, and in it, another subfolder called “rdp”.
  6. In the MIME types settings of your “rdp” folder, add .rdp file as “application/rdp”.
  7. Create new “webfeed.xml” file by using a template from here, and add required nodes for all RemoteApps you’ve created in the second step of this part of the tutorial.
  8. Save it to the folder RDWeb.
  9. For each of the RemoteApps, copy their .rdp files to the RDWeb/Pages/rdp subfolder.

At this stage, you should get a working feed looking like this:

https://%DesktopMachineName%/RDWeb/webfeed.xml

Steps: Mobile

  1. Open the .cer self-signed certificate file you’ve created in the PC Step 3 that you sent to your phone in the PC Step 4, and import it.
  2. Use Interop Tools to make sure that your new certificate has been installed into the Trusted Root store on your phone.
  3. Go to your working feed (the one you’ve got by finishing all of the PC steps) in Edge browser on your mobile and make sure it can be opened, and its SSL certificate is trusted.
  4. Install Microsoft Remote Desktop Preview application from the Windows Store.
    1. Launch it.
    2. Click on “Add”.
    3. Select “Remote Resources”.
    4. Enter your HTTPS feed (created by following to the the PC steps) into Feed URL textbox
    5. Use your local account on the PC used to create RemoteApps (in the PC Step 2).
    6. Click on “Find feeds”.
    7. Make sure that the feed was found, and your RemoteApps were discovered.
    8. (Optional) make a long tap on the RemoteApp to pin its tile to your Start screen.

You’re done. To check out your RemoteApps, connect your Windows 10 Mobile to the external display, and launch your RemoteApps from the Start Screen.

Enjoy!

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