Like clockwork, Microsoft's huge beta program for Windows 2000 (Win2K) went from Beta 3 to Release Candidate 1 (RC1) on July 1. Windows 2000 might be the largest beta program for any OS in history. Microsoft shipped approximately 500,000 copies of Win2K beta code to corporate customers in the Corporate Preview Program, to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) developers, and to OEMs who preloaded the software on their systems. Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) RC1 provides several enhancements, including improvements to the user interface, DNS, and Terminal Services. Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Win2K AS) includes improvements to the Cluster Service setup and cluster logging, and the addition of the NetBIOS Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. RC1 of Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), the workstation version of the OS, adds Direct X7, NetMeeting 3.01, digital camera support, new drivers for wireless LAN support, and support for 25 more printers. The arrival of RC1 signals the beginning of the final phases of a beta program. If history is any indication, the release of the final product is approximately 60 to 90 days out (i.e., around October 1). Although Microsoft promises additional release candidates based on customer input, only the appearance of a significant bug would push out this release date. The following table from Microsoft details the additions to Win2K RC1:

Item

Description

Windows 2000 professional

Broader Hardware & Software Support

Software

  • Full Direct X7 compatibility
  • Updated version of NetMeeting (3.01)

Hardware

  • New Drivers including, SBLive, Voodoo3, ATI Rage 128
  • Over 40 new drivers in the IEEE802.11 Wireless LAN area,
  • Support for IEEE 1394 digital cameras
  • More than 25 new printer drivers

User interface simplification

Dialog box, message text, error text rewording for clarity and other minor cleanup issues, for example:

  • The message stating ‘unable to contact domain controller - cached credentials will be used’ when booting a machine offline, is now turned off by default (system administrators can turn on via policy if so desired).
  • Print server "pop-ups" that notify when a job has printed is now turned off by default.

Easier addition of computers to domains

Authenticated users can now join their computers to an Active Directory domain by default. This removes the need, by default, to have a different name and password to create a machine account.

Windows 2000 Server

Setup & Configuration

More components are now included in the ‘optional’ list during setup and in the add/remove windows components program for example, accessories & utilities (accessibility tools, communications, games, multimedia etc).

Server Administration

The Configure Your Server tool and Server Administrative snap-ins have been edited and cleaned up for better clarity, and changes have been made to improve usability of the MMC snap-ins, including additional prompts and help.

DNS Management

DNS Aging/Scavenging - enables the administrator of a DNS server to track whether a record is periodically refreshed (which indicates its validity) and periodically scavenge/delete stale records. DNS Aging avoids the potential problem (in a dynamic DNS environment) where if a client registering resource records fails to deregister these records, the records may stay in the DNS database for an unlimited period of time increasing the database size and decreasing DNS server performance. A DNS server may also be configured to perform scavenging automatically (with a specified frequency) or an administrator may trigger immediate scavenging. Administrators can configure aging/scavenging parameters through the DNS Manager snap-in as well as through the command line tool, dnscmd.

Terminal Services

  • New ‘remote admin’ mode - setup now offers two modes of installation, Remote Administration (RA) or Application Server (AS). In RA mode two connections only are made available for administrative purposes. Setting the server for AS mode enables application installation and sharing for thin client users.
  • Terminal Services License Management – licensing is now enforced after a 90 day grace period i.e. a Terminal Services infrastructure must have at least one licensed server in place or access will be denied to clients after the 90 day license grace period expires.
  • Better MSI integration - due to the inclusion of MSI 1.1 into Windows 2000 with RC1 applications can now be installed using a remote session.
  • Application installation – a new dialogue box has been added to the application installation process to ensure that applications are only added to the server while it is in "install" mode, which allows the applications to then be utilized in a Terminal Services environment.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server

Cluster Service Enhancements

  • Cluster Service Setup has been simplified and no longer requires a restart.
  • NetBiosSMB protocol is now supported, which means that applications utilizing named pipes (e.g. Microsoft SQL Server) will failover correctly.
  • Cluster logging, used for diagnostic purposes, is now enabled by default on a cluster.