news that works for you


ISSUE 538: The high tech office- Feb 15 2000


Windows 2000 is close to being a great system

Last week, 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 wizards.

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, there's
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 notebook.

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

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. *


Search WWW Search

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