ISSUE 566: New Economy- Aug 29 2000
The high-tech office
Windows Me is better
than 2000, but not essential
In the world according to Microsoft,
there are two kinds of PCs: business computers and home/consumer
machines. So it makes sense to have two operating systems: Windows
2000, aimed at the business market; and, as of September 14, Windows
Millennium Edition, aka Windows Me, which Microsoft believes
every home user wants and needs.
Despite this neat division of the world, many business
users will end up trying to get their work done using this so-called
consumer system, both at home and on computers running it at work.
At first glance, Me looks like its sibling OS, Windows
2000. It shares that system's 3D icons and its so-called personalized
Start Menu, where lesser-used items are tucked away. (Personally, I
hate this feature. Luckily, it's easy to disable.)
Inside, though, it's still built with the standard
Windows 95/98 technology, rather than the newer NT core used in Windows
2000. This heritage is both bad news and good news. The bad news is
that if Windows crashes too much for you, Me won't be much better. The
good news is that, unlike Windows 2000, it remains compatible with most
(but not all) of the hardware and programs that may be cluttering up
your office and hard drive.
Some of its features, such as the latest versions of
Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, can be freely downloaded
and added into older operating system versions. A number of features,
however, are only available as part of the Me package.
Following in the footsteps of Apple's iMovie,
for example, Microsoft includes Windows Movie Maker, an easy-to-use,
basic application for editing movie clips (digital camcorder not
included). Windows Image Acquisition offers built-in support for a wide
range of digital cameras and scanners. Perhaps more important to many
small businesses and home offices, a wizard makes it much easier to set
up a simple network, along with increased support for USB and
phone-line networking. Improvements in TCP/IP software (shared with
Windows 2000) promise better Internet performance. Like Microsoft's
previous Windows 98 Second Edition, it is easy to set up Internet
Connection Sharing, to use a single connection on multiple, networked
Microsoft is promising major enhancements in what the
company refers to as "PC health." Like Windows 2000, Me offers System
File Protection. This protects core operating system files, keeping
them from being overwritten by older, poorly written software
installations. (This has been, up to now, an ongoing cause of problems
with Windows systems.) In fact, even dragging the protected files to
the Recycle Bin fails to delete them.
Another feature, System Restore, lurks in the
background, saving copies of the system configuration every 10 hours of
computer use. In case of system problems, it is relatively simple to
roll back the clock to an earlier, problem-free configuration. If you
continue to have problems, the Help system is better organized and
includes links to online information. Purchasers are entitled to two
free support calls to Microsoft.
The Windows Update feature, introduced in Windows 98,
has been made more automated. Again, it runs in the background whenever
you're online, checking for bug fixes and the like, and downloads them
in the pauses in your Internet activity.
Microsoft is slowly cutting Windows' ties to its DOS
roots. Unlike previous versions, it's no longer possible to boot Me to
a DOS prompt or in MS-DOS Mode. As a result, programs that relied on
this ability will no longer work unless you first boot using a DOS
floppy diskette. Similarly, older hardware that relied on DOS drivers
will not be usable.
Inevitably, Me is bigger than its predecessors. It
refuses to install on anything slower than a Pentium 150 and requires
at least 32 Mb of memory and 350 Mb of drive space. Realistically, give
it a faster processor and at least 64 Mb of RAM.
Despite several useful features, Me is not a