BOOT CAMP 198 (26/10/01)




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: 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 at:



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 ( 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…?

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