Products, applications and tips for government users

By Richard W. Walker

IRS lays the groundwork for Windows 2000 migration

The Internal Revenue Service is undergoing a massive hardware and software upgrade at the desktop level, laying the groundwork for a migration to a Windows 2000 environment in about two years.

'The whole purpose of what we're going through right now is establishing a common operating environment on the desktop to prepare us to migrate to Win 2000 sometime in the future,' said Tom Hoffman, director of end-user computing support. 'We're standardizing and reducing the number of domains we have out there.'

Hoffman hopes to move to Win 2000 by January 2002, depending in part on IRS funding priorities.

Meanwhile, his division is focusing on an interim software upgrade.

It just began standardizing approximately 130,000 workstations at 700 IRS locations around the country on Windows NT 4.0, the agency's primary desktop OS.

'We have some Unix systems that access only certain applications, and we're migrating them to NT,' he said.

Hoffman's team also is upgrading desktops from Office 97 to Office 2000 to take advantage of new security features in Outlook 2000.

'The No. 1 reason for the move [to Office 2000] is our desire to have secure e-mail,' he said.

The migration plans include new PCs.

'We're attempting to upgrade all our hardware to a level that can run the most recent versions of all of our software,' he said.

To ease migration headaches, the IRS will use Personality Tranxport Professional from Tranxition Corp. of Beaverton, Ore. PT Pro captures 'computer personalities''data files, configurations, settings and other personal elements'from individual PCs and automatically transfers them to new systems.

Hoffman expects the migration to be wrapped up by July 2001.

Microsoft delivers next Office to beta testers

What Microsoft Corp. officials describe as the most ambitious and significant release ever of their Office suite is in the hands of beta testers.

The new Office applications will feature several innovations to enhance user friendliness, the company said.

They include Smart Tags, which pop up on the screen as a user works to help complete tasks or access data; Task Panes, which expose a variety of new features; and speech-recognition technology, which will let users create and edit documents by dictation or voice commands.

A new toolbar continuously counts words, characters, lines and pages without requiring users to go to the Tools menu.

In addition, the new version will expand safety net features, with Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook joining Word in offering AutoRecover, which automatically saves documents at timed intervals.

First service pack eases Win 2000 deployment

Microsoft's recent release of the first collection of bug fixes for Windows 2000 reduces the deployment hurdles by one, industry analysts say.

Many analysts had recommended that enterprises wait until the release of Service Pack 1 before migrating to Win 2000, especially on the server side.

But because most organizations still have to upgrade their hardware before migrating, the SP1 release may not speed up adoption significantly.

The Education Department is a case in point. Education's information technology staff has set a 266-MHz Pentium or compatible processor and 128M of RAM as the minimum hardware requirements for a planned client-side move to Win 2000.

That means about two-thirds of Education's desktop machines will have to undergo manual upgrades from Windows 95 or 98. Migration to Win 2000 isn't likely to be completed until late 2001, Education officials said.

The 63M SP1 file, available at, fixes bugs in four areas: installation, reliability, security, and applications and hardware compatibility.

The next Win 2000 service pack release is scheduled for February.

Windows dynasty will continue, IDC predicts

Windows operating systems will continue to dominate the desktop for the foreseeable future. That's the lastest forecast for the client operating system market from International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass.

Linux is making some inroads, and Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS is enjoying something of a comeback but not enough to appreciably alter market segmentation.

'Undoubtedly, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Linux, but so far this technology has failed to ignite a broad revolution against the Microsoft-dominated desktop world,' said Al Gillen, research manager for IDC's system software research.

IDC's research found that Windows products generated about 87 percent of revenues in the client OS market last year, with Windows NT Workstation showing the largest growth.

By 2004, NT Workstation and Win 2000 Professional will account for about 85 percent of market revenues, and residual Windows 9x sales will account for much of the remainder.

Shipments of Mac OS jumped 27 percent in 1999 as Apple regained the confidence of users in the graphic arts and design industries, Gillen said.

System Restore is a utility that lets Windows Me users roll back their system configuration to a previous state.

New Microsoft support policies take effect

Microsoft has revamped its assisted support policies for Windows products.

The changes, implemented Sept. 14, apply to operating systems, Office suites and applications, and downloadable products and technologies such as Internet Explorer browser software. They affect only Windows products bought individually at retail.

Under the new policies, Microsoft provides support at no charge for two incident reports without a time restriction, replacing the 90-day, free-support policy.

Windows 95 and Office 95 have moved to paid-only support at $35 per incident.

Microsoft officials said they expect customers to see increased benefits in the new support policies because they can use their two no-charge incidents over a longer period of time rather than being limited to 90 days.

They said the new polices are a response to support trends'more customers are using the Web for self-help support, and fewer are calling for assisted support.

The new policies could affect support needs for Windows products purchased on a retail basis
by small government shops.

But Gerson Grosfeld, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's Operations Research Computer Laboratory in Washington, said that, as a subscriber to the Microsoft Developers Network at, he is used to a limited-incident support system and finds it works well.

'MSDN annually brings with it three free incident reports,' he said. 'I've been a subscriber for several years, and I don't think I've ever run out of incidents.'

Microsoft ships 'Me generation' OS

Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft's latest consumer operating system, hit the streets last month.

Microsoft officials said the new OS, dubbed Windows Me, offers a more intuitive and stable computing experience.

New features include System Restore, which in the event of malfunction lets a user roll back the PC software configuration to a time when it was working properly, and System File Protection, which prevents accidental or unauthorized overwriting of critical files.

WinMe is the first Microsoft product to integrate Help and Support, accessible directly from the Start button. It gives users a centralized self-help resource as well as the ability to submit a support incident directly to Microsoft support services.

Microsoft is selling a Me upgrade version to users of Win98 and Win98 Second Edition at a promotional price of $59.95 through Jan. 15.

Win95 upgraders pay $109'which is $100 less than the price for the full product.

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