Discovering the oddities and bugs in Win2K's RAS and DUN features

In the first part of this two-part series, I shared my experiences on the road, using Windows 2000 Professional as the primary OS on my laptop. In this issue, I share some problems that I ran into during my journey. One of these problems signals a serious Win2K Pro bug.

Although my overall experience with Win2K Pro's Offline Files feature has been positive, I ran into several glitches during my first few days on the road. The first problem occurred when I realized that I'd forgotten to mark a few files for offline use while I was at the office. I figured I would just reconnect to the LAN and mark the files as offline. However, after I successfully connected to the LAN and attempted to explore the server's hard disk (i.e., the same shared volume containing the files that I'd previously marked as offline), the system displayed only the folders that contained the files that I'd previously marked as offline. Through trial and error and after jumping through a few hoops, I discovered several methods to view the entire contents of the server's folders.

The first method is to right-click the Offline Files icon in the system tray, click Status, select the Work online without synchronizing changes check box in the Offline Files Status dialog box (which Figure 1 shows), and click OK. This selection tells the system that you want to go online without synchronizing your changes. Win2K Pro then displays the online version of all the server's folders, including the volume or share's complete contents.

In Win2K Pro's default configuration, when you connect to a LAN, the OS detects that the network has become available and presents a dialog box that lets you synchronize a folder's contents. After a short delay, the entire contents of the online version of the server-based folder should become visible. However, when I connected to my LAN, this action didn't take place. After the synchronization completed, the abbreviated display of the server's folder remained. I discovered a second method that I was able to use to force Win2K Pro to display the folder's full contents: Open the Offline Files folder and issue two synchronization requests. After a brief pause, the folder's entire contents appear.

Despite this strange behavior, I was feeling fairly content with Win2K Pro's performance as a remote-computing platform. But then I ran into the most serious Win2K Pro RAS problem that I've seen.

Just before I left for dinner one evening, for each of the two dial-up connections in use, I right-clicked the system tray icon and clicked Disconnect to hang up the connection. When I returned several hours later, I discovered that the remote sessions were still connected. When I again selected the option to disconnect, the system ignored me. The system continued to ignore my request even when I selected the option to disconnect from within each connection's status dialog box. To disconnect the connections, I had to unplug the phone line from the modem. Only when I rebooted did the disconnect function work properly.

My Win2K Pro installation was new, so usual system configuration wear and tear seems an unlikely cause of this mysterious problem. The problem cropped up after I'd used the laptop for several days, which included many hibernation periods. Therefore, the problem might be related to the hibernation feature, or it might be the result of a Win2K Pro memory or resource leak. If this gotcha is a Win2K Pro bug, it's a potentially costly one—I need Bill Gates' address so that I can send him my phone bill.