Win2K pains Pete Sherriff

He can't find anything wrong with it

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Review The world+dog is hardly short of stories about Windows 2000 and how such wonderments as the Active Directory will make the IT department's life so simple that even a complete idiot could get a job in tech support. But The Register thought it might be interesting to see how a regular Joe, or even Pete, got on with installing it. The Denizens of Castell Sherriff have had some exposure to Win2K, starting early last year with a beta version so old it was still called NT5. Evolving betas have become progressively better – although it cannot be said they are more stable, for the simple reason that the machine subjected to all this pre-release software has never fallen over once (unlike the reviewer, Ed) in all that time. That's right, as a real glutton for punishment when it comes to Microsoft operating systems – being on the beta programmes for Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups (both variants), Chicago (aka Win 95), Memphis (aka Win98) and NT4 – I'm pretty much used to seeing the Blue Screen of Death, but not once has Win2K collapsed in a heap. That alone is reason enough to rush out and buy the thing on February 17th. Folks used to running NT are often to be heard waxing lyrical about a certain undefinable bullet-proof quality to the OS – it's a mystical kind of feeling rather than a quantifiable feature. Well, Win2K exudes that same industrial-strengthness, in spades. While the other machines on the network running shrink-wrapped operating systems (Win 98 and more recently Win 98SE) lock up, fall over and generally behave in an antisocial manner, the Win2K proved so stable that it was rapidly promoted to take over as the workgroup server and ISDN router by dint of its reliability (and modem sharing capability). Now running the gold code (effectively identical to what you'll be able to buy in a few weeks' time) our trusty Win2K machine is now running the full-featured version of Win2K Professional which took less than 40 minutes to upgrade from RC2, the only manual intervention required being to type in the registration number. It did originally fail to detect a SideWinder Pro joystick, but that went in fine following an automatic search for PnP devices. Setup takes a tough approach to the kind of machine it thinks is suitable for Win2K and flatly refuses to install on anything it deems too feeble – if you have less than 32Mb of RAM you're stuffed; If you have anything less than a Pentium 166, forget it. While this is sensible up to a point, it can be irritating if you have a machine that you want to try Win2K on. For example, I use two Toshiba notebooks – a rather tired old Satellite Pro Pentium 120 with 24Mb of RAM and a slightly better Pentium 150 with 86Mb. While it would be pretty daft to try Win2K with just 24Mb, I reckon it would run OK on the 86Mb machine, but I will just have to die wondering. The original Win2K machine is a Coppermine Pentium III 700Mhz (see – you can buy them) with 128Mb RAM. A second box dual boots Win 98SE and Win2K and has a 500MHz PIII with 64Mb. The less powerful machine loads and runs applications appreciably faster. I haven't measured the difference, taking the rather old fashioned view that if you can see the difference, it's damned fast. I'd say 64Mb was a sensible minimum memory requirement with maybe a 300A Celeron providing the power. Anything less than this and you'd be better off spending your dosh on a new machine rather than upgrading the OS. A number of moaning minnies have pointed out that there aren't many applications on the official tested and approved list for Win2K. What they fail to point out is that there's a world of difference between not being on the approved list and not working. This should be taken as an illustration of the stringent testing deemed necessary for a serious business OS rather than a cheap and cheerful consumer product. Office 2000 isn't on the list (yet) but it's never misbehaved. Where there are known incompatibilities, there's a detailed readme on the CD that spells them out. While some of these are predictable, like Office 95 needing the latest patches and the Y2K update, others could be more problematic: Office 97 SR2 users may be annoyed to find that they can't use the Visual Basic editor unless they're given administrative rights; Eudora Pro fans may find it tiresome that Outlook Express unilaterally registers itself as the default email client when upgrading to Win2K; Outlook 2000 has to be completely reinstalled after upgrading from Win95/98; Symantec PCAnywhere should be avoided due to its propensity for overwriting all the Win2K video drivers and disabling most graphics cards – there's no workaround for this, but Netmeeting (free with Win2K and Win 98) offers similar remote desktop control which works just fine. On the hardware front there are also known issues – Nvidia graphics cards may experience incompatibilities with VIA chipsets (a feature introduced at Intel's request, perhaps?) and a Riva 128 card's streaming video may, rather amusingly, run upside down. ATI Rage Pro cards can corrupt the display running Flight Simulator unless hardware acceleration is turned off. And it's in the area of graphics that I hit my only real problem. The original Win2K system uses an Intel Sun River mobo with Riva TNT graphics onboard. Under Win98SE, this ran like the proverbial off a shovel, but with Win2K it failed to recognise the AGP graphics at all, using software emulation rather than hardware acceleration to provide sluglike 3D performance. Thinking this might be an issue with the succession of beta upgrades the machine had been subjected to, I did a clean (dual boot) install on another box with an identical Sun River. This too failed to talk to the graphics correctly, both the Direct 3D and hardware acceleration options on the DirectX 7 diagnostics remaining greyed out. On the same machine under Win98SE, everything works fine. So far, both Microsoft and Intel boffins have failed to nail this one down. That one glitch aside, it pains me somewhat to confess that I really like Win2K. It is genuinely bullet-proof, the menus fade in and out in a most elegant and charming way rather than simply blinking on and off and it's coped with everything I've thrown at it, whilst happily running SETI at Home continually in the background. Linux geeks might even like it for the amount of tweakability it offers (so they can continually play with the OS rather than doing any real work), and end users will like it because it'll run the applications they need without fuss and without falling over. Mrs Sherriff will be going Win2K as soon as the shrinkwrap ships next month (she has an irrational fear of anything with beta in its name), and as soon as those video glitches are nailed, Sherriff junior's dual boot machine will have Win98 uninstalled and we'll be 100 per cent Windows 2000. Apart from my poor old Tosh SatPro, of course. ®

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