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Reader to Reader - November 1996

What NT users want Microsoft to know
This month's Reader to Reader departs from the usual because we've received so much correspondence about the controversy surrounding Windows NT Workstation (NTW) and NT Server (NTS) 4.0 licensing issues and the similarity of NTW and NTS. (Trip Stiles first raised this issue in the August item, "NT Workstation/Server.") We're dedicating most of this month's Reader to Reader section to email we've received about that topic. In addition, Mark Smith's editorial, "Licensing Woes and Confusion," on page 7, gives you a perspective on this complex controversy, and Mark Russinovich's article, "Inside the Difference Between Windows NT Workstation and Windows NT Server," on page 101, explains the implications of the distinction.

Dear Mr. Gates:

This is an open letter about the following clauses within the Windows NT 4.0 license agreement: may permit a maximum of ten (10) computers to connect to the Workstation Computer to access and use services of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT, such as file and print services and peer Web services. The ten connection maximum includes any connections made through software or hardware which pools or aggregates connections.

You seem to include this wording to prevent us from using NTW 4.0 as the operating system on an Internet server platform. I have called both your Canadian and US product support lines to verify this assumption. Both told me that these clauses indeed prohibit me from using NTW 4.0 as a Web server platform, but they were unable to explain how. Repeated attempts by both support services to connect me with your legal department for an explanation failed. Because a third-party Web server would provide file and peer Web services and NTW doesn't offer print services, I remain confused as to just how this restriction applies.

In any case, I feel that I must bring to your attention the fact that this restriction has an impact on a much larger segment of the computing community than just those of us running Internet servers: Under the current licensing agreement, we cannot surf the Net with NTW 4.0 as our operating system! These clauses apparently also apply to browsers running on an NTW 4.0 platform. A browser uses the same system services as servers. Both a browser and server use the same system resources for communications through the Internet.

If this analysis seem a little extreme, I'll inform you that your licensing scheme strikes me as just that. I urge you to let users decide whether this product is suited for their purpose and what upgrades they require.

Mr. Gates, many of us out here are struggling to produce Windows-based Web sites at our own expense. When we succeed, we may require NTS 4.0. Until then, I for one could really use NTW 4.0 for its stability and security. I have eagerly awaited the release of this product because of the reputed performance of its predecessor, NTW 3.51, and the ease of use of my current OS, Windows 95. I was very disappointed to learn that you had crippled NTW 4.0 with your licensing agreement.

Worth the Price?
Microsoft simply should sell client licenses for NTW and for NTS. NTW's 10-client limitation has been a bad decision from the day it was made, and no amount of Microsoft posturing will ever erase it as an issue. Microsoft needs to rescind the limitation and open up NTW to its full potential, which will ultimately make for even more Server sales.

Vitriol is spewing from people who have seemingly just discovered the similarity between NTW and NTS. However, with the addition of Internet Information Server (IIS), Domain Name Service (DNS), etc., to NT Server is worth the price difference between NTS and NTW, and these additions will account for many sales of NTS as people who started with NTW as their server find they want those tools.

Workstation into Server
A well-known Web site details the identical nature of NTW and NTS and shows how to make NTW into NTS. My new, freshly hacked NT Server is very stable, seems to be fully functional, and runs O'Reilly's WebSite software seamlessly.

A clear problem faces Windows NT Magazine and all Microsoft-dependent publications (if Windows NT did not exist, Windows NT Magazine would not exist): Publish information about this issue, and Microsoft will be angry with you; fail to publish it, and readers will know for sure that you're in Microsoft's back pocket. Many well-informed users will be watching. Heck, I'm making a list of magazines that take on this issue.

Editor's note: Although we understand your concern and your need to see the press deal with it, we do not encourage readers to turn NT Workstation into NT Server. Such hacking is a clear violation of the license agreement.

Remove TCP/IP Limitation, or We'll Remove NTW
Microsoft: We noticed you removed the physical limitation on TCP/IP connections to NTW 4.0. We also noticed you still include limitations in your licensing verbiage. We will not upgrade and will probably switch operating systems if you do not remove these outrageous, artificial, anticompetitive, and probably illegal limitations.

You did not create or develop TCP/IP. It is an open protocol that has helped make software companies in the US, including your company, as successful as they are today.

We use many programs, not just the Internet, that access TCP/IP sockets on many different computers. We cannot let a marketing ploy limit our use of this protocol on either end of the connection. To think that you might try to use a software governor or software licensing document to physically restrict us is ludicrous and makes me just mad enough to go through the effort necessary to switch all our OSs to products from your competitors.

No Difference
"There's no difference in the NT Server and Workstation code," Dave Cutler, quoted in Networking Windows NT 3.51, Second Edition, by John Ruley, page 29, published by Wiley.

It's All Perception
What I don't like is that Microsoft continually claims that NTS and NTW are fundamentally different. I suspect that Microsoft realizes that if it sells NTS as a version of NTW that includes a bunch of tools (IIS, DNS, etc.), the price difference still isn't justified. So instead, Microsoft talks about mysterious differences in the "core" products. These differences don't really exist.

Of course, the whole issue is all perception anyway. Just one Registry change can indeed have a huge ripple effect and totally alter the behavior of core components. Microsoft could have implemented these changes at compile time but chose to do it at runtime. I suspect that people who are infuriated by the runtime behavior change would be quite happy if the change occurred at compile time. Odd.

Editor's Note: For more on these issues, see Windows NT Magazine technical support forums at, Microsoft TechNet, CompuServe's WINNT, NTWORK, and NTSERV forum, The Microsoft Network, and Microsoft's Internet servers and The Microsoft Knowledge Base is at

Major File-Management Bug in NT 4.0!
I have uncovered a significant bug in the way NT 4.0 handles file management when you use the Windows for Workgroups (WFW) or Windows 95 File Manager. The bug manifests itself when you use the WFW or Win 95 File Manager to copy files from an NT 4.0 server share that the operating system has compressed. Whether you select copy from the file menu or attempt a drag and drop, the copy operation always executes as a move! This anomalous behavior does not happen from the command line, Explorer, or NT File Manager, or when you copy from two UNC share windows. We have documented this problem with Microsoft Product support.

As soon as you decompress the folder, the problem disappears! I have verified this behavior on six different NT 4.0 build 1381 boxes (ProLiant 4500s, Deskpro 5100s, etc). The problem exists with new installs and when you upgrade from NT 3.51. The problem did not exist in NT 4.0 beta 2, which we used extensively before upgrading all servers to NT 4.0 production code. I thought Windows NT Magazine readers would like to know.

Editor's Note: Share your NT discoveries, comments, problems, and solutions and reach out to other Windows NT Magazine readers (including Microsoft). Email your contributions (under 400 words) to Karen Forster at [email protected] Please include your phone number and a photo (.bmp) of yourself. We will edit submissions for style, grammar, and length. If we print your letter, you'll get $100.

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