Gates the CSA

A great deal has been written about Bill Gates the CEO, Gates the WRP (World’s Richest Person), and Gates the RMM (Ruthless Monopolistic Magnate). For a change of pace, I thought I’d address Bill Gates the CSA (Chief Software Architect).

I was recently poking around my copy of the Windows 2000 Resource Kit, and I found many of my old friends there: Robocopy, Browmon, Addusers -- dozens of essential utilities for managing Windows NT in a networked environment. No doubt about it: The resource kit is a must-have for any NT manager.

But I’m not writing about all the great things in the resource kit. I’m writing about my frustration that the tools in the kit still aren’t available in the NT operating system!

One user who needed to make a copy of an NT server directory tree drove this point home for me recently. She followed the usual copy/paste rules, and was amazed that the copy was missing all of her carefully crafted access control lists and security settings. Surely, she figured, there must be some way in NT to duplicate directories and files without trashing access control lists.

There isn’t. Sure, Robocopy from the resource kit can do it -- and it didn’t take long to craft an automated procedure to accomplish this for her -- but users shouldn’t have to be that clever to get what they need from NT.

From here, I’m afraid, the list of administrative features missing from NT goes on and on. I still can’t determine a user’s IP subnet from a batch procedure, for example. I still can’t easily query the user database to find all accounts without a logon script. And, NT’s NET commands still lack lots of control options they should have by now, especially considering we’re up to the fifth version of our favorite operating system.

And I believe these options would be there if the CSA had been doing his job. A colleague of mine summed it up nicely: "I don’t think the folks who develop NT every really use NT," he said. I have to agree.

I’ve asked folks at Microsoft about some of these glaring gaps. One guy told me that if Microsoft provided for copying directory access lists in the NT operating system, it would risk NT’s security certification. Another guy reminded me that, with everybody complaining about Microsoft being a monopoly, the company has a duty to leave some things undone to create opportunities for third-party software developers.

Can you spell "disingenuous"? I can think of a simpler and more plausible explanation. The folks at Microsoft are so busy paving the way for new features that they don’t think much about filling the potholes they leave behind. In addition, their CSA is spending too much time in courtrooms and TV studios to instill a conscience about these things in his developers.

I’m sure, someday, our friends in Redmond will get around to building the network and administrative tools we need into the NT operating system. Until then, I guess we’ll have to rely on our wits and our trusty copy of the NT resource kit. --Al Cini is a senior consultant with Computer Methods Corp. (Marlton, N.J.) specializing in systems and network integration. Contact him at