BOOT CAMP 029
WINDOWS 98 PART 1
Should you stick with the devil you know, or upgrade to
Windows 98? That's the question a lot of Windows 95 users have been asking
themselves over the past few months. Now that it is here you have the chance to
actually do something about it though if you're about to buy a PC it may not be
an option. From now on virtually all new PCs will come with the Windows 98 as
standard, but what about the rest of us?
There is no simple answer, for many PC users Windows 98 has
genuine advantages, for others it could be the start of a long, horrible
nightmare… This week we'll take a brief look at the highlights and pitfalls, in
part two we'll run through the installation and set-up procedures.
First the basics. Windows 98, like Windows 95, is a PC
operating system, a sophisticated piece of software that controls the way a PC
works, provides a platform for other programs and a user-friendly mouse-clicking
interface for you. According to the blurb the minimum configuration for Windows
98 is a PC with a 486 or faster processor, 16Mb of RAM and 195Mb of free hard
disc space. Roughly translated that means don't bother unless you've got a
moderately fast Pentium at least (133MHz plus). 16Mb RAM is an absolute minimum
-- you'll need 32Mb for comfort -- and if you want to be on the safe side make
sure you have at least 400 to 500 megabytes of free space on your hard drive.
The Windows 98 upgrade disc is currently selling for around
£60 - £70. In the scheme of things that's not an unreasonable price for such a large
and sophisticated lump of software, so we're off to a fairly good start. Unlike
the change from Windows 3.x to Windows 95 you won't have to learn any new
tricks. Windows 95 and 98 are very similar in appearance and all of your
existing icons, shortcuts, desktop settings and sounds are preserved in the
changeover. There's plenty of extra bits and bobs, and it has borrowed a lot of
features from the Internet, but most of them can be ignored, or hidden so that
everything looks and feels reassuringly familiar.
If you install Windows 98, hate it, or something goes wrong
during or after the installation, then you should be able to return to your original
Windows 95 set-up, provided you allow the installation program to make the
necessary backup files. That's the theory anyway...
There is a point of no return however. When the installation
has finished Windows 98 will ask you if you want to reorganise your hard disc
drive. Don't panic, it's not compulsory, you can say no or do it later. This option
changes the way files are stored on the disc drive. The system used on Windows
3.x and the original release of Windows 95 is called FAT 16 (see jargon filter).
This is quite wasteful of space and there are problems with hard drives 2Gb or
larger. Later versions of Windows 95 and Windows 98 use the more efficient FAT
32 system. If you decide to convert it will almost certainly claw back several
tens, possibly hundreds of megabytes of wasted space on your drive. It should
also mean that some programs open and run faster. However, once you have converted
to FAT 32 you can't go back…
The most obvious difference between Windows 95 and 98 is the
extensive use of Internet-style browser windows. Internet access is a core
feature and Internet Explorer 4 is installed on your machine whether you like
it or not. It shouldn't affect your existing Internet software, unless you want
to replace it. Windows utilities have a more uniform appearance and most of
them contain extra, helpful information but the familiar elements -- icons and
menus -- remain the same. There are hypertext links all over the place, (highlighted
and underlined key words), and if you click on them Explorer will try to dial
up an Internet connection. This can be annoying, especially if your PC isn't
connected to the Internet, so be careful where you point your mouse! The good
news is that existing software on the PC is unaffected by the change.
Future proofing could be a big selling point for Windows 98.
It supports a wide range of hardware and software developments, including USB
and FireWire interfaces, for the next generation of peripherals and digital devices.
It is ready and waiting for Web TV services, there are many multimedia
enhancements, to make games run faster, and there's the facility to use two or
Microsoft is claiming that Windows 98 is more stable than its
predecessor and on the evidence so far that seems to be the case. A lot of bugs
have been fixed (there were more than 3,000 apparently), moreover the new software
comes with advanced diagnostic and problem-solving utilities. It also has a very
useful disk cleanup program, to get rid of unused or unwanted files, and you
can schedule overnight disk defragging, to keep files in good order. However, no
one is guaranteeing a smooth ride and there are plenty of early adopters with
tales of woe to tell. The trouble is there's no easy way to predict how a
particular machine will behave. If your PC has long-standing conflicts or
glitches that conventional trouble-shooting techniques and cleanup software
have failed to sort out, and you're reaching the end of your tether, Windows 98
could be worth trying.
On balance Windows 98 appears to be a genuine improvement
over Windows 95. If you're about to buy a new PC it is definitely worth having.
As for existing users, the jury is still out. If your machine is getting a bit wheezy,
the hard disc is filling up and you're experiencing more frequent crashes it
might solve some problems. It does a lot of things better than Windows 95 and there
are lots of new toys to play with; dabblers and fiddlers are going to love it.
However, if your present machine is behaving itself and meeting all of your present
needs then the devil you know is still your safest bet, for a while longer.
File allocation table, the part of a PCs disc system that decides
how and where disc storage space is allocated
FIREWIRE -- (aka IEEE1394)
A high speed communications link for connecting PCs to digital
video and audio devices
Universal serial bus, new industry standard connection
system for peripherals (modems, joysticks printers etc) that does away with confusing
technicalities and allows 'hot swaps', allowing connection and disconnection
with the PC switched on
The right button on your mouse can do some interesting
tricks when you're looking at Internet web pages. Click anywhere on the page
and you'll see a number of options. The most useful one is to add the address
of current page to your favourite list. If you come across a background design,
that you'd like to use as wallpaper on your desktop, right click on the pattern
and choose the Set as Wallpaper option. Selecting Copy Background puts the
image into the clipboard memory, so you can import it into a graphics program,
or it can be filed away, as a .gif or ,jpg image, in the file or folder of your
choice, using the Save Background As… option.