POWER USER

What's an eXPert to think of the new Microsoft OS?

John McCormick

By next month, Microsoft Windows XP will be the only operating system shipped on most new PCs. It works better with legacy software than Windows 2000 did, and it is every bit as stable.

If your office has stuck by Win 98 clients because some application won't run under Win 2000, I advise buying one copy of XP to see if it's compatible with the app. If so, and if your hardware can handle it'128M of RAM on 300-MHz or faster Pentium PCs'you can leapfrog Win 2000 and go directly to XP.

Your users will have to learn a new interface, however, but those who manage multimedia will be pleased. The XP Professional edition also supports multiprocessors and has new administrative tools. The Home edition, though unsuited for workgroups, has useful features such as faster switching among user configurations.

But do make certain that the older software will run under XP before you change your OS specification.

XP has built-in instant messaging and a few other features that could harbor security flaws. I've heard no reports that they do, but Win 2000 and recent Internet Explorer releases had such holes, and Microsoft Corp. doesn't seem interested in making its software bulletproof.

By the way, although XP supposedly can work in 64M of RAM, expect some users to complain about its performance unless they have 256M.

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I like to make follow-up reports when I've had a problem with software and later see different results in different circumstances.

I wrote about problems I had with the GoBack reversion utility from Roxio Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., just when I needed it most. There was a conflict between GoBack and Norton SystemWorks' Disk Doctor from Symantec Corp., which I was using to defragment a 20G hard drive.

I recently got a new version of Norton SystemWorks and was surprised to see GoBack bundled with Norton Utilities and Norton CleanSweep, so I presume they are now well-integrated and won't bring down my system.

I like Norton Utilities and also need the reassurance of having GoBack installed. Even though it's limited to disk reversion and has no way to recover or protect individual files, it's better than nothing. Reversion alone can be a big time-saver.

When a colleague ran Windows' Disk Cleanup utility it locked her computer. She had GoBack installed, so reverting her disk to the previous day cleared things up. She only had to copy back two newer files she had wisely backed up to diskette.

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New 64-bit chips such as the Intel Itanium will be important in a few years, but for now they are niche players for servers and high-end workstations.

Unlike the Pentium processor family that quickly spread from servers to desktop systems, Itanium doesn't run older software well unless the code is recompiled. Its big advantages, such as real multitasking and addressing 16T of memory, matter little to everyday users.

Itanium isn't a later and greater Pentium 4, it's a competitor to RISC processors such as Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc and Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit ClawHammer/SledgeHammer. And don't look for blazing performance on anything you personally use except perhaps on a game machine'after all, the old Nintendo 64 was 64-bit.

Server performance is a different story but outside the scope of this column as, at the moment, is Itanium.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at powerusr@yahoo.com.

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