I've had the first publicly available version of Microsoft's Whistler (the next version of Windows 2000) for several days now, and I'm still at a bit of a loss for what to say about it. Other news and information outlets have been complimenting the new interface; I've been trying to figure out how to shut it off. Once again, I find myself dealing with an interface that has been dumbed down to make it appealing to the lowest common denominator. Fortunately, you can turn off most of the interface "enhancements"—hopefully, through system polices, too, though I haven't tried that yet.

Whistler comes in two different client versions: Professional and Personal, although those names are subject to change. The most significant difference, from a business-user perspective, is that only the Professional version can fully participate in an Active Directory (AD) environment. The Personal version can log on to the network, but can't participate as an AD member, much the same as Win9x operates today. Professional also comes with a full, single-client version of Win2K Server Terminal Services; Personal gets a limited version that allows some minimal connectivity on a scheduled basis (a user can issue an invitation that specifies a time when the invited can access the user's system, which should be a boon to tech support personnel everywhere).

From the current Win9x user perspective, Whistler is the first version that weans users off of the MS-DOS code base that underlies much of the Win9x environment. This departure should produce a much more stable platform and a better user experience. Win2K's appcompat.exe tool, which lets an otherwise incompatible application run under the Win2K environment, is built into Whistler; it works invisibly and also lets Microsoft update the backward compatibility of the new OS. But Microsoft will take the OS only so far back; if your application runs natively on Win98, you probably won't have any problems. If it's a Win95 or MS-DOS application, chances are good that the application won't run under Whistler.

I'll have more information about the Whistler client in the near future, including how it integrates with Whistler server systems. The beta version we have is not feature complete, nor has it been optimized for performance, so I can't comment on how well it runs in any specific system configuration.

This week's tip:
One of the most useful tools for a system administrator is the ability to make changes to the system or users via the command line, rather than through the GUI, especially if you put the commands in a batch file. NET USER is the most useful command-line (and batchable) utility for user management.

Typing net user /? returns:

NET USER \[username \[password | *\] \[options\]\] \[/DOMAIN\]
         username \{password | *\} /ADD \[options\] \[/DOMAIN\]
         username \[/DELETE\] \[/DOMAIN\]

So, for example, if you want to add a user to the local system (or domain) using this command line, simply type "net user NEWUSERNAME /add" and the system creates the NEWUSERNAME account.

You can add lots of other bells and whistles to the command line to control the results. Use the command "net user /help" for a detailed description of available options.