Windows 2000 Pro Makes Going Mobile Easy

Hands On

Windows 2000 Professional brings numerous improvements to mobile computing for business professionals who need the power and reliability of high-end workstations. The goal for Windows 2000 Professional is seemingly simple: create an environment that is the same whether a user is online or offline. The details involved with allowing users to have offline copies of critical files and settings that reside on network resources are anything but simple. Microsoft has done an excellent job at answering the needs of the mobile user.

With Windows 2000 Professional, users can denote which files they want to take with them on the road. It’s as simple as right clicking on the file, folder or mapped network drive and selecting Make Available Offline. Gone is the My Briefcase icon that few users ever figured out. Do not confuse this feature with the old My Briefcase feature: It is a new feature of the Windows 2000 file system that makes mobile synchronization possible.

By making files available offline, Windows 2000 makes copies of the identified files on the local disk so the file is available even when the workstation is disconnected from the network. Better still, these files appear to be in the same place as they where when the workstation was connected to the network. This feature should work with any server message block (SMB) file systems, including Windows for Workgroups and any version of Windows NT server.

Web sites or pages can be denoted for availability offline using upgrades that were included in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0. Users also can schedule when updates to the Web page content should be made.

The Windows 2000 Professional Synchronization Manager synchronizes all network resources, including files, folders, e-mail and databases, in a single location. The Synchronization Manager can be set to automatically coordinate some or all resources. The Synchronization Manager scans the system for changes, updating resources automatically if changes are found.

We tested the offline capabilities by creating a directory on our Windows 2000 server which we populated with a collection of files that we use regularly on the network, but would also like the have with us when we’re disconnected. These files are housed on a file server that runs a backup on a regular basis. We then set the folders to be available offline. The feature worked as advertised, and better still, worked identically when we repeated the test using a Windows NT 4.0 server. Initial loading of the folder to the local data store took time; probably equivalent in duration to what a file copy across the network might take.

From that point forward, synchronization of changes was nearly invisible on our 300 MHz Pentium laptop. It was not, however, so invisible on slower systems. As always, new features need more horsepower, and this one is no exception.

Web site synchronization was not as easy as file synchronization. Web sites can be sizable, with many secondary and tertiary links, that can quickly consume available network bandwidth. Care must be taken to select only sites that are truly necessary for offline use. This is a feature that needs careful and judicious use.

The new docking/undocking support intrigued us. Docking and undocking on Windows 95/98 can be quirky. It works using some laptops and doesn’t work on others. Many of the laptops on the market today have few problems performing this function, yet a few will lock up during the process from time to time.

We found the docking/undocking with our Dell Inspiron 7000 laptop to be flawless -- after we upgraded to Dell’s latest BIOS. The BIOS that we replaced was many levels behind, even though the laptop was less than a year old.

We had mixed results on older laptops, including Compaq and IBM machines with slower 100- to 150-MHz Pentium processors. They worked most of the time, but every so often we had to reboot the laptop. Our recommendation is to use this feature on newer systems using newer hardware.

Power consumption has long been one of the biggest challenges for laptop users. Windows 2000’s power support is far better than Windows NT 4.0, but we wanted to know how well the new Hibernate mode worked. It is easy to get distracted when working offline, and the ability to send a machine into a deep sleep -- without a reboot required to reactivate -- is highly attractive.

Windows 2000 Professional’s mobile features

  • Plug and Play support so devices can be added and removed without difficulty
    • Universal Serial Bus support
    • The ability to access files and folders offline
    • The ability to access Web content when offline
    • A synchronization manager to coordinate mobile resources
    • Advanced Mobile Power Management
    • Support for docking and undocking without shutting down
    • Hardware profiles
    • Internet printing support
    • A Remote Connection Creation Wizard
    • Support for wireless Infrared Data Association (IrDA) protocol
    • Hibernate mode for quick startup and shutdown

    Windows 2000 Professional
    Microsoft Corp.
    Redmond, Wash.
    www.microsoft.com