Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



New and improved Windows for the rest of us

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, January 14, 1994.

Have you heard? There's a new version of Windows available. No, not
Windows NT, with its advanced operating system with advanced
hardware requirements. And no, it's not the rumored Windows 4.0 aka
Chicago.

Instead, Microsoft quietly released Windows for Workgroups 3.11. And
despite its Workgroup name, it may be the best version of Windows
currently available for home, school, small business... in fact, for
most of us.

Windows for Workgroups originally came out in Fall, 1992. It was
aimed at small, peer-based networking, and also to provide more
easy networking for people tied into larger networks. It got
pretty good reviews and more or less died in the marketplace. It
may not have provided enough clearly recognizable benefits over
standard Windows, while at the same time, its lack of security
scared managers of many larger networks.

Microsoft hasn't let go, however. They believe that networking is
an important market now, and one that will become more and more
important as time goes on.

And its a market where Microsoft isn't a major player; small peer-
to-peer networks most often run LANtastic, while larger client-
server most often use Novell. And the Macintosh ships with built
in, easy to use, though slow, networking.

The resulting new version has more appeal to three market groups...
potential users of both small and large networks, and even to
users of stand-alone machines running Windows. Even if you aren't
attached to a network, this may be the version of Windows for you.
 

NETWORKS FIRST

If you have a network adapter installed, you can use this product
to share hard drives, printers, and CD-ROMs with other users. You
also get e-mail, a nice group calendar and scheduler, and a fax
program. Security is beefed up, responding to the complaints that
Microsoft received over version 3.1.

As the name suggests, Microsoft would like you to think of this product for 'workgroups'... these are small groups of people with something in common. Maybe members of the same department, maybe workers in different departments working on the same project. Workgroups can be long term or short term... they're easy to set up or change. The group calendar is a real winner for these users... you can get it to find time for a meeting when everybody's free.

The Clipbook Viewer (an improvement over the old Clipboard Viewer) lets you save mulitple Clipboard items, and share bits of text or graphics between users.

You can integrate powerful Windows NT-based servers into your WFWG
network at a later time, as they share the Microsoft System
Message Block protocol. You can even connect to an NT server via a
modem. At the same time, it is easy to connect to
current networks such as LANtastic, Banyan VINES, and TCP/IP.

Because of the rivalry between Microsoft and Novell, however, this
package doesn't include NetWare client software... you must first
install the software that comes with your NetWare server, before
installing WFWG if you want to attach to a NetWare system.
 

STANDING ALONE

A wide range of computer manufacturers have announced that WFWG
will be preinstalled on all their machines... this product is not
just aimed at networked computers.

All users will benefit from a number of features. The most
dramatic is 32-bit caching. If you've played with Windows 3.1 in
enhanced mode, you may have noticed a feature called 32-bit Disk
Access. If it's available (most IDE and MFM drives can support it;
most SCSI drives can not), it resulted in faster performance. WFWG
adds a new feature, 32-bit File Access. This works with nearly all
hard disks, but not with floppy drives or CD-ROM players, and is
an advanced caching system, also known as Vcache.

Since Windows is reading and writing to your hard disk almost
constantly, any improvement in caching can produce a noticeable
speed increase in the whole system. One review thought he'd seen
increases of 300%... performance increases arounf 50% are more
common.

There are new and improved video drivers, including super-vga
support for many of the more common configurations.

File Manager and Print Manager have been slicked up; each sports a
toolbar. Many of these icons are related to network functions, and
will be greyed out on stand-alone machines, but the toolbars
remain useful to all users. Printing doesn't seem any faster,
however, except to the extent that its affected by Vcache.

Users have reported feeling like this version is more stable that
previous versions of Windows or Windows for Workgroups.

Oh, and it comes with a new game... Windows Hearts , complete
with animation, sound effects, and a quote using the word "
heart".
 

WHAT'S IT TAKE?

WFWG 3.11 comes in two versions: a complete package, and a less-
expensive upgrade for your existing Windows setup, which can't be
used on a new machine.

It will only run on a 386 or better, and no longer supports
standard mode. Still, the hardware requirements aren't excessive.
It will from 4.5 to 10 megs of files to your existing setup (depending on the networking features installed). The package recommends
4 megs of ram, but will run on a machine with only 2 meg, if no
networking is required. Of course, expect better performance with
more ram... 8 to 16 being much preferred.

There is an expectation that rather soon, this version will
totally replace the standard Windows 3.1; Microsoft will be giving
every user networking capabilities, just as they do with the
higher-end Windows NT. Non-Windows users will be able to purchase
Microsoft Add-on for MS-DOS to attach those machines into the
network with full mail, scheduling, and fax capabilities.

While this version offers improved speed and stability (not to
mention Hearts), many users may choose to let this one pass them
by, while waiting for the rumored version 4.0/Chicago big upgrade
expected late in '94. Still, anyone purchasing a new machine, or
upgrading to Windows, should make sure that this is the version
that they get-- whether they expect to be hooking onto a network
or not.
 
 


(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade or so later, I've gotten a series of emails from  fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan