Where have all the simple tasks gone?

One of the Lab Guys recently experienced an Internet connection crash from his home office. After he reset the router and checked the software, he noticed a trouble light on the Digital Service Unit/Channel Service Unit (DSU/CSU). The light indicated a loss of signal, and his ISP's Network Operations Center (NOC) confirmed that it couldn't see the router's serial side. The results of testing with a loopback plug into the frame relay connection confirmed that the connection was physically down somewhere between the network cloud's last optical circuit and the Lab Guy's office. The ISP was concerned that the telephone company might take a week or two to repair the circuit, so the ISP immediately sent instructions to set up a dial-up connection over ISDN and to configure Windows NT to route network traffic.

"Aha!" thought the Lab Guy. "I have the perfect opportunity to use the much-touted Windows 2000 Internet Connection Sharing." Three hours later, the connection was up and running—on NT Workstation 4.0.

All the Lab Guy needed to do was change some IP addresses and enable IP forwarding. To make this change in NT 4.0, you simply go to the Routing tab on the TCP/IP Properties dialog box and select Enable IP Forwarding. Unfortunately, this procedure isn't as simple or as intuitive in Windows 2000 (Win2K) as it is in NT. First, our Lab Guy tried to use one of several DUN wizards. After all, he wanted to create a dial-up networking connection and route IP traffic across it. But you can't complete these tasks with Win2K DUN. You can enable Internet Connection Sharing, but this option assumes that the only available IP address is the one that DHCP assigns when you dial in to your ISP. The option doesn't support dial-up connections in which the machines in question have valid, routable IP addresses.

Our Lab Guy presumed that he had missed something simple. The task was only a 10-minute job in NT 4.0. So he went through all the dial-up-connection- and IP-forwarding-related Help files and searched the seven-volume Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. All to no avail—he couldn't find a way to easily complete the task under Win2K. So he gave up and installed an ISDN terminal adapter on the NT 4.0 desktop, set up a DUN connection, and enabled IP forwarding. The most difficult part of the process was installing the software for the ISDN modem.

Returning to Win2K, our Lab Guy was determined to figure out how to enable IP forwarding. He finally realized that the Win2K Router wizard lets you set up IP forwarding, but he still couldn't figure out how to configure this option without running the wizard. This experience makes us wonder what else has changed from a simple check box in NT 4.0 to a complex series of wizards (or a deeply buried option) in Win2K. From the Win2K Start menu, Windows Explorer is several menu levels deeper than it is in NT. For example, to access Network Properties and change the properties of your current network connection in Win2K, you must right-click the My Network Places icon, select Properties, select the desired connection in the Network and Dial-up Connections dialog box, right-click the connection, and select Properties. (To complete the same task in NT, you simply right-click the Network Neighborhood icon and select Properties.) Judging from these types of changes, Win2K is becoming an administrative headache for very simple tasks, despite the OS's overall improvements in systems administration.