The problems with Windows XP
In our update page last month we touched on this topic a little. Since then I've made attempts to upgrade one of the many systems I work on to Windows XP Pro (the corporate version) and ran into some compatibility problems, leading me to believe that XP is definitely not for everyone at this point in time!
The computer on which I attempted to make the installation is the newest machine we had! One month old, an AMD Duron 750, but it has an integrated board. Now, a lot of low priced machines use integrated boards, which include the sound card, video card, modem and other peripherals as chips on the board instead of PCI cards you can replace or upgrade. With an integrated board you are stuck with your hardware forever and as to why we went with this board, it was to keep our existing thin wire network which was installed 8 years ago. We could find no PCI network card with the T connector so we needed an ISA buss for our old cards, hence this particular mother board with an HSP 56 k Flex modem chip set which is not supported by XP!
Also, our UPS World Ship was not supported and XP searched through the entire computer finding back up copies of the W95 materials used by World Ship! XP was intending to erase all of these files, include the buried back-up copies! Smart program! XP is designed like a virus, it seeks out and destroys things it doesn't like.
XP will completely remove Win 98 from your system (although it will leave a back-up in place so you can uninstall XP and restore Win 98) including source files if they are contained on the hard drive (which is the case with our system -- Windows 98 SE 2 came installed from the store with source files on the hard drive).
The reason I was considering installing XP was that I had already installed Office Pro which added upgrade Windows components to my system which were now causing problems (lock up and crashes). So, if you don't go with Windows XP you won't be able to use any of the forthcoming XP edition software (and all software will be XP software by next summer) nor some of the new hardware that will be in-place by the end of 2002, so you are going to have to eventually upgrade to XP or live with your existing software and hardware, once everyone starts putting out XP compatible this and that...
Anyway, the new components are playing havoc with my new computer and Windows SE! My system tray has become transparent. IE 5.5 crashes all the time and I lose my active desktop -- three times a day! That never happened before I installed Office XP! So there is a strong incompatibility between the new software and the old operating system. In short, XP is nothing like SE or ME!
XP does away with DOS, so like with Windows 2000 and NT very old DOS based programs will not run, including many games such as Doom and if you still have it and use it, Quick BASIC.
There are some interesting features on XP, including the ability to migrate your dedicated look and feel from one computer to the next when you upgrade systems. All you need do is cable them together, activate the transfer wizard and your new computer system will have all the components and screen items of the old machine. That's a nice idea! Also there's a built-in rudimentary firewall for protecting both individual and corporate network systems (but for real protection you still need a dedicated, third party firewall). XP is also supposed to boot faster and organize your programs better than previous Windows OS.
Microsoft has returned to their 1980s color scheme with white, blue and black. The logo and install screens look like the user manual for old Word for DOS. I like blue, so I find it pleasant.
There are new internet link style menu items on the right side when you run Word, Excel, Access or Front Page XP. There is also a new start menu design on Windows XP, so you will have to get used to new ways of doing things in the brave new world of XP...
They claim the system is more stable and that if a program locks up you can close it safely without losing your work or hurting the rest of the programs still running on your system (they also made that same claim for Windows 3.11 as I recall, and the only one who has ever delivered on this promise was IBM with their OS/2 which they killed a few years back because Win 98 became so popular).
Also, remember that for single user consumer editions of XP you must register the program on-line, get a second key code or the system will shut down. If that happens, you must call Microsoft and get special instructions for re-starting your system. This occurs 30+ days after installing XP standard edition. You can only register a single computer and the second keycode may not work on second copies, so with the removal of Win 98 from your drive and this second key code, be prepared to spend $150 per machine if you can't hack the system for your second and third computer at home (you know, the machines used by spouse, roommate and kids or your lap top).
Ultimately, XP is geared towards the new Microsoft NET system, which is still a concept in development, although preliminary tools have been around in Visual BASIC, Internet Explorer and older Windows since about 1996. Net is all about web based programs (which we did a piece on a while back) which allow you to obtain services and productivity via the internet using threads between your system and a host server on the internet. In theory these are something like channels in the web browser, Napster style file sharing and instant messenger type communications. Few, if any, true Net Services sites or applications are currently out there, but Microsoft is gearing up for the big push with XP so we can expect to see this new breed of service and productivity by late next year, around the same time when all the software and hardware will be XP based.
Right now all the new Windows software is being pitched as Net software -- which is probably true, as I have said Microsoft put the tools into our hands several years back, it is just that few developers really understood the underlying implications and Microsoft didn't actually put out a formal game plan or instruction book telling everyone how to do the process. The tools are there, but the inside know-how was probably kept within Microsoft walls (however anyone with documentation and foresight could have figured the whole thing out on their own).
For the here and now, upgrade to XP with great care. First, you can't put it on every system, both literally and figuratively. If you have a home network with your family, you either need to buy the corporate edition or a fresh disk for each user -- that gets expensive. Next, your system has to be very new with hardware certified and tested with XP.
From my point of view, I'd sit back and wait a few months for the bugs to get found in XP and the technology to catch up with the software. So, if your system ain't broke, don't fix it. If SE or ME is working just fine for you, hold on ‘til later next year on both your OS upgrade and even your hardware purchases, to make sure that everything 'XP' is in place. For those not intending to upgrade for more than two years, you can expect to see both software and hardware liquidated at the start of 2002, as vendors purge older Windows 98 based offerings to make way for the newer XP versions! So, after the holidays expect to see most things dirt cheap -- an it won't stay that way very long as everyone will want to get their XP research and development money back, so the new stuff you'll be seeing in spring and summer will probably be much higher in cost!