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Product: Windows XP Professional Release Candidate 1 (RC1) 
Company: Microsoft
Website: http://www.microsoft.com/
Estimated Street Price: N/A
Review By: Stewart Saathoff

Networking Features (.Net is Born)

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Getting Started
3: Application Support
4:
Networking Features (.Net is Born)
5: Personal Stuff
6: Conclusion

Windows XP’s strength comes from the Internet.  For those of you who don’t know what .Net really is, welcome.  Here’s your introduction.  This is the way that Microsoft is going to revolutionize the internet.  Seriously!  Some people may complain because you must have a .Net passport to take advantage of most of the functionality.  Now there is a common misconception that you must have an MSN.com, hotmail.com, or passport.com account to use Microsoft’s passport technology.  This is not true.  You can enable your work, or personal email account to work with Microsoft’s passport technology.  All you have to do is sign up for a passport using your existing email address.  If you want to do this, go to http://register.passport.com and simply fill in the blanks.  Microsoft’s passport service will then send you an email message and give you directions on how to activate the account. 

This does not give Microsoft access to your corporate email.  You set up a passport password during the initial setup that is different than you corporate email username and password.  If you do set up your passport in this way, some of the functionality is reduced.  From here we can use the Remote Assistance wizard and Windows messenger service without having to set up a hotmail account.

Windows Messenger

I am speechless.  That’s all that I can say about this.  The Windows Messenger is truly amazing.  With this utility, you can initiate a Remote Assistance session, chat with someone, call them through the internet, Start a Whiteboard session with them, send email, and even share applications that are running on your machine.  But there is a catch; both users must be running Windows XP to take advantage of all the functionality.  Application Sharing allows you to have an application open on your machine, like a Word document, and have someone else remotely edit the document while you are watching.  The remote user does not even have to have Microsoft Word installed on their machine!  Remote Assistance wizard gives you the ability to have someone “help you” solve a problem with your machine from a remote location.  I’ve devoted a section of this article just to Remote Assistance.
 

 

Remote Assistance

This is my favorite enhancement for Windows XP.  Remote Assistance is one of the most helpful utilities that Windows XP offers.  It is so easy to use.  So far, I have found three ways to start it.  The first way, as mentioned above, is through the Windows Messenger client.  The second is through the Help System, and the third is through the All Programs menu.


 

Regardless of the way that you access the Remote Assistance wizard, the steps are still the same.  It involves a three-step process that begins with selecting to view the status of file-based invitations, or creating a new invitation.  The second step has you select how to contact your assistant.  There are three different options for this as well.
 

  • Send an invitation through Windows Messenger – This option displays a list of all your Messenger contacts that are currently online and allows you to send an invitation directly to them.
     
  • Send an invitation through your default email application – This option gives you the ability to email someone from the address book of your Default email application (Set through Internet Explorer properties) an invitation to remote control your machine.
     
  • Save an invitation as a file – If you select this option, you will be prompted to save the Remote Assistance request to an “Incident” file.  When you select this option, you are given the option to set a time limit and password on the incident file, so that this file can only be used to access your computer for a certain time period, like 3 hours.


The final step happens once the remote “assistant” initiates the session.  You are then prompted to give them access to your system.  If you accept, the session starts.



 

As you can see from the screenshot, not only can you see the person’s desktop, a chat session is automatically started with the remote user.  You are designated as the “expert” and the client’s PC that you are administering has just their name identified.  The left side of the screen shows the chat window.  The funny thing about it is, while you are remotely monitoring the other persons machine, you can see what they type while they are typing it, so you can respond before they even ask the question.  At the top of the screen, you are given the option to Take Control of the remote machine, which allows you to actually use their computer. (By default you can only watch what they are doing.)  You can also send files to the remote user, Start Talking to them, if their sound card is not broken. Note: Remote Assistance can not be used if the client is experiencing network connectivity problems. (Obviously)  You could also configure settings that allow you to tweak the connection for Low-Bandwidth situations.

Remote Desktop

Didn’t we just talk about that?  Nope.  Remote Desktop is different that Remote Assistance.  Essentially, Remote Desktop is Terminal Services for Client operating systems.  You see, remote assistance allows the remote user and yourself to be logged on simultaneously.  Remote desktop, on the other hand, disables the computer while the other user is currently logged on.  There are two areas that you need to configure to use remote desktop.  The first is on the system that will be controlled.  The second configuration that will be done is done on the client accessing the machine remotely. 

  • Step 1 – Go to your system properties in Control Panel and click the Remote tab.  Check the box: Remote Desktop. (Remote Assistance is enabled by default.)  The accounts that you use must have passwords enabled on them to remotely access the machine.
     

  • Step 2 - The second step is to go to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Communications -> Remote Desktop Connection and configure your settings.  You can lessen display colors, disable backgrounds, disable themes, enable or disable remote audio, etc… to control bandwidth usage.  After going through this section, you can save the connection to an RDP file and access it anytime by simply double-clicking the icon.

There is a second solution for using remote desktop, but that involves installing IIS on the Windows XP Pro machine and adding the remote desktop add-in.  If you do this, then you can access the remote machine through a web browser by typing http://remotemachineaddress/tsweb.

Group Policy modifications

Group Policy has seen some changes since the Beta 2 release.  In case you have no experience with group policy, Group Policies provide you with the ability to control what users can or can not do on your system and you can implement these on your computers at home.  For example, you could implement a policy that takes away your child’s ability to edit the registry of their local machine.

There is now an “extended view” that you can use to see your policy description and what operating system that the policy will apply on.  If you decide to move to Windows.Net server, as I assume it is now officially called, for Active Directory and you use Group Policy heavily, then this can be a very helpful tool to diagnose why your Group Policy settings are not applying.  Look at the two examples below:


         
Windows 2000                             Windows XP
 

There is also another tool called Resultant Set of Policy that we will look at again in the Server review that should be coming up soon.  This concludes the Group Policy section of the review, because I don’t want to reveal too much as the server review will cover Group Policy in depth.

 

 « Application Support Personal Stuff »

 

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