Microsoft successfully emphasized stability in Windows 2000. I have no doubt there are many Windows 2000 systems that have been up for 365 days. Certainly Windows 2000 is the first Microsoft product you can say that about.
Microsoft is in a league of its own when it comes to strong plug-and-play device support in Windows 2000. With few exceptions, installing a device on a Windows 2000 machine is an easy process, often working seamlessly and only occasionally requiring a simple driver download. We take it for granted now, but such smooth operation is in stark contrast to Windows NT 4, where a working knowledge of the operating system, file editing, and directory structure are required to make devices work. Non-Windows operating systems are even more difficult to work with.
Windows 2000 servers and clients integrate easily into Windows NT 4 networks, meaning you don't have to commit to using Windows 2000 Server in order to use Windows 2000 Professional, and vice versa. The company could have been jerks about this, but it stuck to custom and didn't force users into a dual migration.
All versions of Windows 2000 Server now come with Terminal Services built-in another great idea, and an aggressive one. Previously, Microsoft charged extra for what it called Terminal Server under NT 4, but now that it's built in, you can easily administer Windows 2000 server from a remote location using any Windows client.
Windows 2000 uses the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) for almost all administrative programs. The MMC takes some getting used to, but it has significant advantages, especially in letting administrators customize the program's snap-in applications.
That's a long list of positives, but despite them, Microsoft still hasn't gotten everything right.
Microsoft made some poor choices for default user settings in Windows 2000. The most striking examples are the personalized menus, which are menus that show only the items that Windows thinks you need most, or the most recently used items. This "advance" first plagued users in Office and Internet Explorer, but now it shows up in the Start Menu. One of the first things I do when I set up a new system is shut this blasted feature off.
Regedit, a key program for Windows experts, still exhibits some completely moronic behavior, including the way it opens to the same key at which you last left it. Fortunately, there's a way to fix this. And, on the plus side, Regedit has an interesting new feature in Windows 2000: Favorites. You can set certain keys in a Favorites menu so you don't have to fish around looking for the commonly used locations.
Finally, Active Directory management is powerful, but its user interface can be restrictive and confusing. It looks like a version 1 implementation. Luckily for us, Microsoft seems to be working on the interface problems in Whistler. I'll examine the changes in Whistler's Active Directory in a later column.
In summary, Microsoft got much more right with Windows 2000 than it got wrong. The amazing thing is that the company did this on its first shot! When's the last time Microsoft did that?
Larry Seltzer is a freelance writer and software developer and the author of ADMIN911:Windows 2000 Terminal Services. He can be reached at email@example.com.