A Tale of Two Operating Systems
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Vancouver Computes,
Last month, this column
offered ?A Tale
of Two Product Launches?, contrasting the introduction of Apple?s iBook
and Creative?s PC Blaster. This month?s installment offers another take
on the Dicken?s classic, this time, ?A Tale of Two Operating
as we?ll see, it might be better compared to ?The Three Faces of Eve?.
As you probably know, your computer?s system software
makes up a layer
between the hardware and your applications programs?controlling how the
computer looks and feels, and offering services to the applications to
open, save, and print files, display text and graphics on screen, and
forth. An operating system came with our hardware, letting us take it
granted, but changing the operating system can change its personality
When I got a new-to-me notebook recently, I decided to
add a pair of
new operating systems to the out-of-the box Windows 98, giving me a
of three personalities. The additions were Microsoft?s Windows 2000 and
Caldera?s Open Linux 2.2.
Windows 2000 is not yet released, but Microsoft has
made copies readily
available to anyone willing to trust their computer to a pre-release
system. I first installed Beta 3 and later the so-called Release
1 of Windows 2000 Professional.
Despite the similarity of names to the earlier Windows
95 and 98 releases,
Windows 2000 (which I?ll be henceforth calling ?W2K?) is actually the
to Microsoft?s Windows NT?aimed more at corporate computers than home
small business users. W2K Professional replaces NT 4.0 Desktop?there
also three server versions of W2K.
W2K installed relatively easily on the computer, a
relatively new NEC
Ready notebook, with a Pentium 300 processor. It correctly recognized
the built-in hardware, along with the PC Card modem and Ethernet card.
I installed it into a different folder from the existing Windows 98
which meant it automatically set itself to offer a choice of the two
at bootup. That choice, however, meant that I had to reinstall most
so they would work with W2K. The installation took about 500 megs of
space?about the same as the Win98 installation on the same machine.
Once it was up and running, it looked and felt a lot
like Windows 98.
There are new icons for the standard desktop items?My Computer, the
Bin, and so forth. Some new subtle touches like a shadow under the
cursor. The big improvement over NT 4.0 is in the area of Plug and
a large extent it works. Power management, however, didn?t work as
at least not on my laptop. (Maybe the release version will have this
Most of the applications I tried worked just fine. I
didn?t test many
games, but unlike NT, W2K includes Direct X 6.1, and should work with
Windows-based games. Older DOS games, I suspect, could be problematic.
Ironically, Microsoft?s own Encarta 98 complained that ?This program
not run correctly on this version of Windows?, but did appear to run
problem if I ignored the startup error message.
Users used to customizing their Win 9x setup may find W2K a little
confusing?some items are hidden in different places than in the earlier
systems. And because it is designed as a networked system with
for multiple users, the Start Menu includes common items, and items for
an individual user?to edit the Start Menu, you may need to check in two
or three different places to find an icon. Unlike NT 4.0, it can be
set up without a log-on if you?re sure that there will only be a single
user. And overall, there should be a relatively short learning curve
anyone comfortable with Windows 9x.
The good news is that if you have a reasonably modern
lowest recommended processor is a Pentium 166) with plenty of RAM (the
lowest recommended amount is 32 megs, but I?d suggest at least 64), and
standard hardware peripherals, W2K should work just fine?as long as
not expecting to play any DOS games. (Oh yeah?be prepared to throw out
any utility programs designed for Windows 9x). It seems more stable
Windows 9x, and requires far fewer reboots when installing software and
hardware. It even does a reasonable job of catching software
that try to overwrite system DLL files.
But should you care?
For most home and small business users, there simply
isn?t enough here
to justify the cost and time of upgrading. Users in large corporate
may find W2K Pro a more vital upgrade?particularly if their
expects to use W2K as their networking software?in that case, they can
take advantage of the Active Desktop and Roaming Profiles features on
Last year, Windows NT Desktop accounted for 11% of
desktop OS sales.
Windows 98 got 17.2%, and despite its obsolete-sounding name, Windows
earned 57% of sales. With its improved Plug and Play and ease of use
W2K should boost NT?s share?but for most users, it?s not a Windows
Next month, we?ll take a look at the notebook?s Open