Windows Enterprise Desktop

Nov 3 2014   9:57AM GMT

Adding Surface to the Mix Exposes “Interesting” Shared Account Settings Issues

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Tags:
User account management
Windows 8.1

Earlier this month, I sold the Fujitsu Q704 Stylistic tablet PC that I purchased last January, having learned as much from it as I could, and having also decided it didn’t present enough performance and stability for the costs involved in acquiring and maintaining that platform. Early last week, I ordered a Surface Pro 3 (i7-4650U CPU, 8 GB RAM, HD Graphics 5000, 256 GB SSD) to replace that unit, so as to give me a Windows tablet to play and work with. It arrived on Friday afternoon, about the same time my son came home from school. I was in the middle of upgrading my production PC, so the last thing I wanted to do was to unbox and set up another new PC. “That’s OK, Dad,” said Gregory, “I’ll do it.” And do it he did, all by himself (with a little help logging into my Microsoft Account) to the point where he used the system to do his homework this weekend.

sp3-image

The latest addition to our computing stable is already a huge hit with the younger generation.

I stayed busy through the weekend working on my production PC (which I’m writing this blog post on right now), applying updates, catching up drivers, installing MS Office and a bunch of other applications. I also decided to consolidate 4 of my older and smaller 3.5″ hard disks (ranging in size from 750 GB to 1.5 TB) onto my remaining spare Toshiba 3 TB SATA3 3.5″ HD, which supported data throughput over 100 MB/sec in its USB3 drive caddy for really big files (and probably averaged about half that overall during the entire drive copy marathon session involved).

An interesting and terrifying dilemma emerged on Sunday morning, as I was continuing my setup marathon. Suddenly, for no reason I could discern, I found myself unable to use my keyboard on any of the machines I was logged into with the shared Microsoft account I typically use. When my son “accidentally” reset the desktop theme on the Surface to High Contrast, and the same theme immediately popped up on my production PC’s screen and that of my traveling Lenovo laptop, I realized that something about the account settings made on the Surface was preventing my other machines from using their keyboards. A little poking around on the notification area showed me that my son had enabled Sticky Keys and Filter Keys on the Surface to improve use of the Type cover on that machine. Unfortunately, those settings also turned off the keyboard on the other Windows systems that shared those settings. Though it took me over half and hour to get to the bottom of the situation and find a fix (turn off both of them completely), once properly diagnosed it was relatively easy to work around. Of course, because I didn’t immediately understand what was going on, I first tried multiple keyboards on my production desktop without success. It was only when I turned to the Lenovo and found its keyboard out of commission as well, even though the keyboard drivers reported those peripherals as present and working, then saw the sudden change of desktop them across all systems, that I figured out the shared account settings must be involved.

This is a level of synchronization that I hadn’t encountered as a problem before. I’ll use this experience to warn admins to tell their users that they should be careful with account settings, particularly when they run the same Microsoft account across multiple machines. That also raises the interesting query of how all this will play out when people start running the same account on their smartphones as well as on conventional PCs.

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