The Win2K Server Resource Kit

Some bad news accompanies the useful tools we've come to expect

As with all versions of Windows NT, Microsoft makes a resource kit available for Windows 2000—both Win2K Server and Win2K Professional. I've deliberately avoided writing about the Win2K resource kit tools for the 6 months after the OS's release so that I can be sure I've first covered all the most useful NT 4.0 tools. But now is the time to begin looking at the Win2K tools. I've been using the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit for about a year and I think it's great ... except for one thing.

The good news, as in the past, is about the quality and quantity of the resource kit tools. Through the years, the NT resource kits have consistently contained some real gems. The bad news is the pricing and licensing of the Win2K Server resource kit. (I haven't yet used the Win2K Pro resource kit, so I can't comment on it.)

The Win2K Server resource kit includes an impressively large collection of books (the paper kind) about migration, network design, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0 configuration, and other topics: The shelf-filling box probably contains more than 5000 pages of documentation. Sheer quantity might justify the price tag of more than $250, and that price is probably reasonable for those who want or need all that text. But many of us buy the resource kit mainly for its utility programs, and to my knowledge, Microsoft doesn't sell only the CD-ROM that contains those utilities. So, like it or not, you get a small forest's worth of pulp along with the tools. (According to Microsoft, TechNet subscribers received a copy of the resource kit CD-ROM in their January 2000 shipment, so if you've got a TechNet subscription, you can avoid the books. The CD-ROM also comes with Professional- and Universal-level subscriptions to the Microsoft Developer Network—MSDN.)

You might initially think the resource kit's physical size and cost would be nothing more than a nuisance, but the new use license for the Win2K utilities might change your mind about that. According to the use license for the NT 4.0 utilities, "You may install and use an unlimited number of copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT on computers physically residing at a single geographic location." In other words, you can get one copy of the NT resource kit and spread the utilities around as you like (but please remember that I'm not a lawyer, and take this interpretation with a grain of salt). In fact, when I talked to a Microsoft program manager about the resource kit a few years ago, he explicitly stated that he thought the liberal license was one of the resource kit's great strengths.

But the Win2K resource kit's use license contains significantly different wording than NT 4.0's does: "You ... may install and use copies of the SOFTWARE on an unlimited number of computers ... provided that you are the only individual using the SOFTWARE ...." The license goes on to say that some software has both client and server pieces and that "if the component of the SOFTWARE consists of both Server Software and Client Software which are used together," then you can have as many people as you like run the software.

For example, the resource kit contains Rcmd, a useful remote-command tool. In this case, the license apparently means that after you put the server piece on some server, you can let anyone else use the Rcmd client. But the resource kit's license explicitly says that spreading client software around is permissible only when both the client and the server are part of the resource kit. That wording seems to eliminate some of the resource kit's greatest benefits. A client-side tool such as KiXtart, for example, doesn't have a server component that is part of the resource kit, so presumably only the kit's owner can include KiXtart commands in a logon batch file. Winexit.scr, a useful screen saver that logs users off after a long period of inactivity, is another client-side tool that you apparently can't distribute to all corporate desktops because the resource kit software doesn't include a server component for winexit.scr.

Reading the new license makes me wonder whether its wording isn't a clerical or editing error. Does Microsoft really expect a company to buy a copy of the resource kit for every user, or even for every administrator?

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