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First Impressions of Windows XP
By Art Skopec, Contributing Editor

Being in the computer industry for almost 20 years, I always have mixed feelings about the release of a new operation system version.  I always anticipate the improvements including, hopefully more stability, better support for hardware and improved performance to name a couple key issues for me.  There is however a downside of the cost per seat to upgrade, lack of compatibility with older application (so I’ll have to but new versions of everything), time it takes to upgrade (if the upgrade version really installs correctly), and what older hardware, computers and peripherals and computers just won’t run it.

Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP  I always try and work with a new version of Windows well in advance of its release but I don’t have the time for early Beta testing.  I usually wait for the second release candidate (RC2) (this is the version that comes out with all the features and almost none of the bugs just prior to the final frozen code).  This time I got involved in the evaluation program exactly at the time that RC2 was released.

 I figured I wouldn’t sacrifice a machine that I depended on for my livelihood but I thought my laptop would be a challenge for it.  My laptop is an older Toshiba Satellite 1555 CDS that I primarily use at client sites to work on networks with.  The Windows 98se install on it had been giving me some trouble for a couple weeks……so what could it hurt?  The week prior to getting RC2 I had attempted an install of Windows 2000 Professional on the laptop but it had trouble with the laptops video and recognizing several other hardware components.

So, I did what I never do, I opted to UPGRADE the existing installation of Windows that was on the laptop.  The installation went very smoothly, with fewer questions to answer, and fewer reboots in the process.  At the end of the installation process, all of the programs on the system that were compatible with Windows XP were just absorbed (along with all of my settings) and worked right off the bat.  Those that were incompatible were summarized in a report that also told me what drivers would have to be updated.  After playing with the configuration for about an hour, everything was working BETTER than it ever had.  The boot up process was faster, and the system ran about a third faster.  All PC Cards (that’s really PCMCIA for the techies among you) I plugged into the system had their drivers installed automatically on their first insertion, even those that had been problematic in earlier versions of Windows.

What I really like is the compatibility settings.  I tried to install an older but important program I use daily, and it wouldn’t install.  I right clicked on the SETUP file and went to Properties where under the compatibility tab I told the program to run in Windows 98 Compatibility mode.  It installed perfectly, and is running flawlessly.  Several other older programs installed properly but required me to change the OS Compatibility on the shortcut to run properly.  Finally, a major upgrade that seems not to have retired very old programs.  Compatibility mode supports Windows 95, 98, Me, Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack5) and Windows 2000. WHAT A COUNTRY!  I also like the fact that you can get rid of the annoying new Start Menu with all those real cute new BIG and BOLD icons and revert to the previous Windows convention.

I am writing this the day after the Windows XP launch (October 26th) and I am planning to upgrade RC2 quickly to the real deal.  In the time I’ve been using Windows XP Professional, I haven’t experienced any problems or crashes that I didn’t expect because I was pushing my luck.  Even when I did that, I was able to revert to a time before I messed up the system, and I was up and running again in no time.

There has been much discussion in recent month, coming to a head in the week prior to release as to whether or not Windows XP was worth the cost and trouble any major upgrade has to produce.  My take on this is a RESOUNDING YES !  The only versions of Windows prior to this that really excited me were 3.1 and Windows 95.  This version of Windows just keeps on working no matter what I do to it, intentionally of otherwise.  The cost for acquisition and migration to Windows XP will easily be offset by its stability and the increased, and uninterrupted productive time it will give you between problems.  If it can repair and improve an almost dead laptop install the way it did for me, imagine what it will do when it’s installed on a clean system.

Last Update:February 09, 2008


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