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Whistler public beta slips again – but say hello to Build 2281

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Build number 2276 of Whistler - the next consumer Windows - leaked into the usual nefarious channels on Monday. But sources close to Microsoft have been filling us in on the 2281 build, which has only just been issued to Redmond's extra special birthday friends. With Paul Thurrotts'WinInfo site reporting that the public beta has again being delayed - missing the revised October 25 target - we felt it worthwhile to fill you in on what it looks like.

And testers report back a mixed bag. The good news is that the Windows 2000's team long term goal to reduce boot times is paying dividends. Not only is boot time down to a spry 10 seconds or less, but appears to work more dependably than Windows Me's fast boot, which takes exception to a lot of hardware, old and new.

Like Monday's 2276 build, it's mostly bug-fixes. But the builds now use the new Start menu - a ballooning panel which kludges together Microsoft's abandoned task-centres idea with the traditional hierarchical Start menu. Testers aren't impressed: "It's slow, and it's a waste of space," reports one. However a new feature of the elephantine menu is that it finally incorporates a list of the most recently used applications... just like MacOS er,"Recent Applications".

And the bad news? The most critical, say testers, is that driver support leaves the system unreliable and lacking functionality. On vanilla equipment, and with the "Visual Styles" skinning turned off, Whistler is at least as fast as Windows 2000 Professional.

It doesn't appear to be the hardware hog some had feared (but give them time - ed.).

But the scarcity of compatible driver support means video editing and other functions WinME take for granted are still some way off, and Whistler is prone to driver-related crashes. There doesn't appear to have been any attempt to optimise Visual Styles just yet, and to a man, users left the disabled to minimise the performance hit.

Overall, the reported release-to-manufacturing date of 18 April looks optimistic. "I can't see how they can make that date," said one Whistler user. Getting the volume consumer base - with its cranky equipment - comfortable with Whistler could take longer than Microsoft has budgeted for. ®

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