ISSUE 538: The high tech office- Feb
is close to being a great system
we looked at Van-
couver's Stormix and Ottawa's Corel. Both software
developers are hoping that their version of the Linux operating system
is powerful and easy enough for wide adoption.
Microsoft, which produces the
Windows operating systems used on the vast majority of the world's
desktops, is not sitting still, however. This week sees the official
release of Windows 2000. I've been running prerelease versions for
about six months, and there's a lot to like. Among the highlights:
On a modern computer with enough RAM,
it outpaces both Windows 98 and NT at many tasks. Microsoft claims that
it's up to 40 per cent faster than Windows 98. It's more stable than
earlier Windows versions as well.
For example, Windows 2000 reduces the
number of situations where the operating system needs to be rebooted.
The operating system protects important system files from being
overwritten by software installations, often the cause of problems
under Windows 95 and 98.
Windows 2000 adds the support for
hardware that its predecessor, NT, lacked. Like Windows 98, it supports
up-to-date standards such as Universal Serial Bus, DVD and Firewire.
With improved plug and play and power management, it is a much better
choice for notebook users than NT.
Setup is simplified, even for
convoluted network and Internet settings. Unlike NT, it can be
installed over top of Windows 95 or 98, while keeping installed
software and settings. Like last fall's Windows 98SE, it includes easy
to set up Internet Connection Sharing. This is a benefit for small
networks with a single Internet connection.
The software looks pretty much like
Windows 95/98, which reduces the need for retraining. At the same time,
there are lots of subtle interface improvements, from Start Menus that
only show the most-used options to improved help files and how-to
If used together with its companion
Server version, business users can benefit from new features such as
IntelliMirror which allows their software and customized settings
to follow them anywhere on the
Not all users will find moving to
Windows 2000 completely pain-free, however.
It's going to be expensive. Linux
versions typically retail for $79 or so (and are available as free
downloads), include a full-powered word processor or office suite, and
can be installed on multiple computers. Windows 2000 Professional, the
version aimed at desktop computers, will cost several hundred dollars
per computer and does not include office productivity software.
Features such as IntelliMirror or Active desktop require installing
Windows 2000 Server -- and paying additional fees to connect each
workstation. To be fair, Windows 2000 Server will be less expensive in
many situations then competitive systems from Novell or Sun.
And if your hardware isn't up to snuff,
the additional expense of upgrading that as well. Microsoft suggests a
minimum of a Pentium 133 with 64 MB of RAM and
a gigabyte of free drive space.
While Win 2000 will run most modern,
32-bit programs, it lacks guaranteed backward compatibility to DOS and
16-bit Windows 3.1 applications.
This is not necessarily Microsoft's
fault. Support for these sorts of applications compromises the
stability and security that were design goals for Win 2000. You
probably shouldn't install it on the home machine shared with your
game-playing teen. If your company relies on older applications, test
them under Windows 2000 before committing to an upgrade.
Microsoft has set up new, stringent
requirements before software can be advertised as Windows 2000
Certified. Few applications, including Microsoft's own, have met the
new standards. Despite this, most will install and run fine under the
new operating system.
Expect to upgrade a lot of your
hardware. Notebooks have only re-
cently begun to ship with 64 MB, for example. And while otherwise fine,
Windows 2000 did not support the power management on my 1998-era
While Win 2000's plug and play and
hardware support is much im-
proved compared to its predecessor NT, if you're using more obscure
hardware add-ons, there still may not be drivers. This should improve
as companies rush to support the new operating system, but in some
cases, manufacturers may not bother producing drivers for
out-of-production models. As with older software, check to see if the
hardware you rely on will work along with the new operating system. (On
the Web, start at www.microsoft.
In many ways, Windows 2000 lives up to
the claim of being the best version of Windows yet. I was able to be up
and running with it and get my work done, with much less of a learning
curve than the affordable new Linuxes. I recommend it to the business
users, but with the caution of first checking to make sure it will work
with your hardware and software. *