that all the
smoke has cleared, Windows 95 actually looks pretty good
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #307 September 12, 1995 High Tech Office
any of you have
been asleep for the past couple of weeks, August 24th, the date decreed
by the Gnomes of Redmond for the release of Windows 95, has come and
release activities, with Bill Gates and Jay Leno
a crowd of 2,500, broadcast by satellite around the world (including
a showing at Vancouver's OmniMax and several local computer stores
such as Doppler). We've had TV ads notable for their use of
the first Rolling Stones' song to grace a commercial product. It's
the only time that a software release (and an operating system,
at that) has made the monthly entertainment calendar of Vancouver's
major daily newspaper. An advertising budget of $100-300 million can
do that for you.
launch made the
TV news, along with shots of people lining up outside Future Shop,
and other outlets opening at midnight or staying open until 2 a.m.
In the first four days of sales, a reported one million people had
purchased the product--a figure that Windows 3.1 took 50 days to reach.
react to all
the hype with a world-weary cynicism, but Windows 95, while not
does have a lot to recommend it. For starters, the new interface is
pretty slick, and it's not just a pretty face--it does a much better
job for both new users and self-styled power-users. While the
START button lets users get that word processor up quickly and easily,
there's a new depth of customization possible for the people who love
to fiddle with the thing.
3.1) had a couple of serious shortcomings: if you were
multiple programs, which was one of its selling points--it was easy
to run low on system resources. That soon led to deteriorating
and, ultimately, system shutdowns--even if there was lots of free
makes this a
thing of the past. And while the new version multitasks the past
of Windows applications in much the same way as version 3.1, it
considerably more stability if you upgrade to the next generation
of Windows 95 applications.
nearly all your current inventory of DOS and Windows Classic
without any problems. Printing is much faster, for example, as is
video and CD-ROM use.
glitches with a number of popular applications, but on the whole,
Win 95 does a good job of preserving your investment in current
It will really shine, however, with the next generation of software,
which is just starting to appear. These applications, designed from
the ground up for the new operating system, promise increased
and stability along with increased ease of use.
need new applications,
for example, to take advantage of Windows 95's ability to use long
filenames: with the older versions, you'll still have to remember
that BDG95-3.XLS is your third-quarter 1995 budget spreadsheet. (Win
95 still creates classic DOS filenames for the times you need to share
your files with older software.)
easier to install
new hardware and software. Again, hardware and software designed for
Windows 95 work best, but Win 95 works better with your current
than past versions of DOS or Windows have.
95, Microsoft was faced with the competing demands of compatibility
with the past and the need to meet future requirements. It's easy
to think of ways it could have been done differently, but given the
inherent compromises, I think they did a pretty good job. People
running Macintosh or Warp are entitled to snipe at Windows 95
from the sidelines: many of its improvements have been features of
those systems for years. And each offers features that Win 95 still
doesn't completely match.
of computer users, neither is a real alternative. And for many of
those millions, Windows 95 is an attractive upgrade that is available
now. However, I can't send you off to order a copy without making
you aware of a couple of things.
package says that
you can install and run Windows 95 on a computer system with four
megabytes of RAM, and there are many millions of such systems,
the bulk of the notebook computers. The statement on the package is
true--but you won't be happy with the result. Don't even bother trying
with less than eight megs of RAM (and don't be surprised if increased
demand for RAM pushes up prices for computer memory, and for complete
sure you have
at least 50 megs of free hard-drive space. If you can, get the CD
version. You can get it on 14 floppy disks, but swapping between them
can cause sprained elbows. And the technical documentation, several
useful utilities, and a bunch of sounds and videos are included on
your current DOS or Windows disk utilities after you install Win 95.
Over the past week or two, there has been a small plague of computer
users who've installed the new Windows, then run their old standbys
like the Norton Utilities Speedisk or Disk Doctor, and found that
they've damaged the new long-filename system, and made their computer
unusable. Enough people have done this to clog Microsoft's telephone
help lines. Windows 95 includes basic versions of these sorts of
that will work, and replacements for the more sophisticated third-party
products (like Symantec's Norton Utilities) have already