A Proliferation of Start Menus

I’ve received a number of emails about my Controlling Windows 8 Support Costs post some time ago. That post highlighted a concern that many managers have about the training cost for Windows 8 and brought up the point that the new menu system would slow adoption in the enterprise. I also talked about an article I wrote on ways to reduce training costs entitled, “8 Ways to Reduce User Training Costs for Windows 8“. The email has been interesting because there don’t seem to be many people who are viewing Windows 8 from a middle ground—they either like it quite a bit or really hate everything about it.

I have noted a few things about Windows 8 since its release. All of the advertising I see on television is directed toward the consumer market and you never see the old desktop. The commercials are glitzy and focus on interesting things you can do with Windows 8, but most of these things have nothing to do with business. One commercial shows a cute little girl creating art and then sharing it with her dad later. It’s interesting, but hardly a business use. I have to wonder whether the Microsoft marketing machine has forgotten about business and has decided instead to focus on the consumer market.

So far, the number of people who tell me they can survive without the Start menu is extremely small compared to those who wonder what Microsoft was thinking. The thing is, most of my readers are business users. Obviously, a lot of other people have noticed that business users aren’t happy about the lack of a Start menu because I’m also seeing articles such as the one in InfoWorld entitled, “9 Windows Start menus for Windows 8.” What I’m wondering is how Microsoft researched the whole issue of removing the Start menu.

One of the issues for me is that I need to know how to support my latest book, Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference. When I wrote the book, I saw a definite consumer-oriented slant in Windows 8, so I’ve included some material for that need in the book. However, I had originally felt that there would be a lot of business users as well. How are you seeing Windows 8? Has it become much more of a consumer product? Will businesses wait for Windows 9 before upgrading? Will these addons make Windows 8 an option for businesses? Let me know your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Controlling Windows 8 Support Costs

Windows 8 presents a new interface and new methods of working with the computer. Microsoft obviously wants to try to create a new image as a mobile device vendor by putting a tablet interface on a traditional desktop operating system. Whether the strategy will work or not is a significant topic of discussion. Some pundits, such as Wood Leonard, consider the new Metro interface as the worst mistake that Microsoft has ever made. Other authors, like Ben Woods, are a bit more positive. You can find opinions between these two extremes over the entire Internet.

Change is always incredibly uncomfortable. I still remember the ruckus caused by the, now positively viewed, changes in Windows 95. Of course, Microsoft has had a few turkeys to its credit too, such as Vista. My experience has been that time shows whether a significant change will work or not. In this case, Microsoft really does have its work cut out for it, with many falling back on an IT support company London or based elsewhere to do the legwork for them when it comes to the aftermarket support. A less aggressive stance might have worked better, but the die is cast and we’ll soon see the results in terms of sales.

Windows 8 isn’t all bad news and you certainly shouldn’t approach the product from that perspective. While writing Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference, I was also able to come up with some interesting product features and ways to make Windows 8 a little less of a shock to users. Some of these techniques, such as using a Start menu substitute, appear in my book. In fact, I discuss one of those alternatives in detail, ViStart. My conclusion is that it’s possible to reduce your support costs through careful management of the Windows 8 setup. You may also find that new security features actually reduce support costs by making it less likely that users will corrupt their systems.

Whether you like Windows 8 or not, you’re eventually going to have to support it unless you cut off all user access to other devices. Everything I’ve been reading as of late tells me that enterprises would just love to keep users from bringing in their own devices, but it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. With that in mind, I wrote an article entitled, “8 Ways to Reduce User Training Costs for Windows 8” that will help reduce the pain for administrators. I’d like to get your feedback on the article at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. More importantly, tell me your ideas for making the Windows 8 transition a little easier. If I receive enough good ideas, I’ll revisit this topic later.


Bad Assumptions About Computer Use

There is a tendency to think that everyone uses computers of some sort today and that all of these computers are connected in some way to the Internet. When I use the term computer here, I mean some sort of device that contains a processor and runs applications. What you may have is actually a smartphone and not a computer in the conventional sense, but even so, a smartphone contains a processor and runs applications. So, when you define the term that broadly, there is an expectation that everyone is connected. The fact is that not everyone is connected. According a recent eWeek article entitled, “One in Five U.S. Adults Does Not Use the Internet: Pew” 62,318,383 people in the US don’t have an Internet connection (based on a US Census Bureau estimated population of 311,591,917 in 2011). That’s a lot of people.

So, why is this statistic even important? If you write computer books and articles as I do, the statistic doesn’t affect you at all. However, if you’re currently selling a product online and don’t offer a catalog for that product, you could be missing out on 20 percent of your possible sales. When you want to communicate with family members, there is a 20 percent chance you won’t reach the party you want to reach if you only rely on computer technology to do it. As I move more and more into self-sufficiency topics, I’ll need to consider the effect of print media on my books sales because 20 percent of my potential audience may lack the capability of using an e-book (see my post The e-Book in Your Future for my thoughts on e-book usage).

Every once in a while, I need my perceptions of the world around me stirred up and challenged. I get stuck in a pattern of thought that could be invalid or downright harmful for those around me. Finding information that challenges your view of the world is helpful and useful because it forces you to think through the assumptions that you’re making. If you’re a vendor, you may have thought about getting rid of your paper catalogs because you assume that everyone shops online, but that may not be the case.

Of course, you also need to read the report further to really understand the ramifications of the data it presents. For example, 95 percent of teenagers are currently connected to the Internet, which means that if you’re targeting a younger audience, chances are good that you’ll reach them using the Internet. Of course, that 5 percent is still a huge number. Whether you exclude them as a component of your sales, information, or other campaign has to be based on the focus of that campaign. The point is, assumptions are simply a bad idea if they’re never challenged, revised, and reevaluated.

What sorts of assumptions have you made lately that affect your world view of computers or any other technology for that matter? When was the last time you challenged your assumptions? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Working with Net User

The Net User command on page 142 of Windows Command-Line Administration Instant Reference seems to have generated a bit of confusion. The /Add command line switch is straightforward; /LogonPasswordChg isn’t. For one thing, the /LogonPasswordChg command line switch doesn’t appear to be documented, even in Windows 7. Here’s the help provided with Net User now:


As you can see, not even a mention for /LogonPasswordChg. Microsoft doesn’t help matters. For example, if you look at the “How to Use the Net User Command” Knowledge Base article, you won’t find any mention of this command line switch. While writing the book, I had found a tantalizing clue at Manage XP and Vista Users Using DOS Commands and decided to try it on Windows 7 as well. The command works fine when used correctly in Windows 7.

However, here is where the plot thickens. It seems that the command line switch doesn’t work in Windows XP. When you execute the command shown on page 142 you get an error message reading something like, “The option /LOGONPASSWORDCHG:YES is unknown.” Somewhere between Windows XP and Vista, Microsoft added the /LogPasswordChg command line switch to Net User and then didn’t tell anyone about it. Consequently, the command shown on page 142 won’t work under Windows XP.

There is another problem that occurs when using the /LogonPasswordChg command line switch. If the account currently has the Password Never Expires option checked as shown here:


the command appears to succeed, but doesn’t change anything. In order to make the command work properly, you must first set the password to expire using the WMIC Path Win32_UserAccount Where Name=’UserName’ Set PasswordExpires=True command. So, the sequence to set an existing account to force a password change during the next logon is like this:


When you execute these two commands, you’ll see the user account settings to change to appear like this:


which means the user must change the password during the next logon.

So, why does the command on page 142 work without this extra step? In this case you’re adding a new user and the Password Never Expires option is disabled by default. Creating the combined command works fine because there is nothing to hinder it with a new account. Please let me know if you encounter any problems with this particular command at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.