BOOT CAMP 198 (26/10/01)
WINDOWS XP – PART 1
So far so good seems the most appropriate first response to
Windows XP. I hesitate to suggest that you should dash out and buy a copy,
especially if your current setup is behaving itself but having lived with it for
some time I am reasonably impressed and welcome the fact that it will be
pre-loaded on most new PCs from now on and will become the de-facto operating
system on home and business PCs within a year or two.
We'll look at the main features in more detail next week but
first the key installation issues and the highlights, which are greatly improved
reliability and easier recovery from crashes. We can also look forward to faster
boot up, automatic updates and some useful digital photography and video editing
utilities. It makes sharing your PC with others simpler and more secure, there's
a built-in Firewall, sophisticated voice and video messaging, easy to use
network setup, advanced laptop and wireless support plus a new-look desktop and
user interface. (By the way, you can configure XP to look and work like Windows
9x in a couple of mouse clicks).
Windows XP is based on Windows 2000 – launched last year --
and it has established a good reputation amongst professional and business users
for its stability. Windows 2000 was the first major change to Windows since Win
95 however all versions of Windows, (with the exception of Windows 2000)
contains elements of the Microsoft Disc Operating System (MS-DOS), which dates
back to 1981, and all releases from Windows 95 to Windows ME contain the same
'kernel' of computer code.
The move to the new Windows engine has been a long-held
ambition for Microsoft and it opens the way for new generations of hardware and
software that doesn't have to fit in with the legacy of DOS and Windows 9x.
Incidentally DOS hasn't disappeared, it's possible to open a DOS type window in
XP and most programs and games can still be used since any PC can be booted into
DOS using a Window 98 start up disc.
Microsoft reckon XP (it means 'Experience' by the way) will
run on any PC with a 233MHz, processor as little as 64Mb of RAM and 1.5Gb of
free hard disc space, and it probably will, but you can be sure it won't be a
very satisfying experience. I strongly recommend a starting point of a 500MHz
processor, a minimum of 128Mb of memory and several gigabytes of free disc
space. You can upgrade to XP from Windows 98 onwards but I suggest you tread
carefully, especially if you use or depend on a lot of software and peripherals
that are more than two or three years old.
Microsoft has worked hard to make XP compatible with as many
programs and hardware products as possible – it supports more that 12,000
devices and 1200 applications from day-one
-- but it's fair to say that it's at its best when installed on a new PC
or a clean hard drive.
If you have any doubts about the hardware and software on
your PC you should pay a visit to the relevant manufacturer's web site. The
Microsoft Compatibility Checker is definitely worth a look at: http://www.microsoft.com/hcl/default.asp.
Microsoft has also developed a diagnostic tool that will tell you if your PC can
cope with XP. Copies of the program should be available free from retailers and
it can be downloaded from the web but be warned, it's rather large (50Mb). It's
on the Microsoft web site, along with a lot of other useful information about XP
There are three versions XP Home, XP Professional and XP
64-Bit Edition, (the latter is a specialist product for high-end workstations).
There are more than 200 differences between XP Home and Professional however
fundamentally they are the same and the extras in Professional are mostly aimed
at business users and network applications. The Home version is so well
specified that we suspect a lot of small business users will be happy to use it
and that brings us to one of XP's most contentious features, Product Activation,
which has caused a good deal of speculation and some concern since it was first
introduced in Microsoft Office 2001.
Basically it's designed to prevent software piracy and in
particular put a stop to businesses that buy one copy of a program and install
it on several machines; Microsoft estimates that more than 50% of software is
unlicensed. The idea is that once XP is loaded onto a PC the user has 30 days to
get it 'activated', otherwise it stops working. This involves keying in a
25-digit code, issued by Microsoft on-line or by phone. Re-activation may also
be required following four or more major changes to the hardware configuration
in the first six months after the initial activation. According to Microsoft no
personal details are exchanged during on-line activation and I can confirm that
if you do it by phone you will only be asked for your PCs unique ID number and
your location (i.e. UK), they also ask for your name, but you can decline to
give it. I'm not about to enter into the product activation debate, which can
get quite heated, but I can't see it being a problem for the vast majority of
home users who will receive their copy of XP with a new PC and tend to make
relatively few changes to their systems.
Next week – Installing and using Windows XP
Program that prevents data flowing into and out of your PC
without your permission
The core computer code in an application or operating system
that controls how it looks and works
Automatic configuration for wireless networking systems
Search engines are not noted for having a sense of humour but
you can brighten up your Internet exploration if you use Google (www.google.com) by changing the language. The
next time you visit Google – and make it soon, it's still the best search engine
around – click on the Preferences, next to the Search Field, then click the down
arrow next to Interface Language. Try Hacker, it's surprisingly easy to read
after a while, and Bork bork bork! might amuse anyone of a Swedish disposition
but our favourite has to be Elmer Fudd. Whilst you are there you might also want
to increase the number of displayed results from the default setting of 10 to
20, to speed things up a bit. Now where are wose wascally web pwages…?