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WINDOWS ME - A Quick Glance at Glitches and Features

by Molly Ruggles

So you've made the plunge and purchased a brand new computer, brought it home, set it up, and found that the touted "Win ME" O/S that it came with was not all you bargained for. Although Microsoft marketed it as the next logical extension in the Win 95 to 98 chain, Win ME is actually a bit different, and requires adapting to some new constrictions and 'protections'. While meant to enhance system reliability, these constrictions and 'protections' can be quite frustrating especially to those users who are accustomed to digging a little "under the hood."

Well, before you sink completely into a slough of despond, take a look at some of the tricks that come with this New Kid on the Block. Not all is lost. When necessary, the constrictions of Win ME can be "worked around" so that the system will yield itself to any necessary modifications for most users' needs.

Lets take a 'for instance'. You will find that many folders in Windows ME are set to default to hidden view. This is true, for example, in the Windows/System folder. Win ME is trying to be helpful by warning you to "be careful if you modify the contents of this folder". For the most part, it is a good reminder before proceeding further. And it is easy to click by this warning and move ahead to whatever folder or file one wishes to access. However, at a certain point you will actually reach some bonafide barriers in Win ME and these walls can present some real hurdles. Here's one: some of the file permissions are set in such a way that you can no longer have the flexibility you had in the Win 9.x world.

I ran into this unfortunate discovery after re-installating MS Access 97 on Windows ME. I had run into a nasty bug that prevented me from launching Access. Access persisted in claiming that I did not have a registered copy of MS Access97 on the machine, even though I was perfectly 'legal', and had entered a S/N and Product Code when beginning installation. A quick visit to the Microsoft Knowledge Base informed me that this was a 'bug' in Access97 re-installs and that the fix for it was to rename a certain font in the Windows/System Directory, re-install Access97, and then re-store the font back to its original name. Well.... I soon found out that Win ME simply would not allow me to rename fonts. ACH! What to do? Well, there was a workaround, and not a bad one at that: I discovered that although I could not rename it, I COULD delete or move that font, and this is what I did. I temporarily moved it to a remote folder on my system, did the re-install and then put it back. It worked fine: the bug was fixed.

At the time, I fumed at Microsoft for such a strict system of file permissions, but in retrospect the logic does make sense, and here's why: You really don't want to re-name a font. It is one of those elements that actually needs its name for identification purposes. So I do agree with Microsoft's constriction in this case. And as discovered, there was an adequate work-around when necessary.

Perhaps one of the worst aspects of using the "latest and greatest" is that one finds oneself taking on the role of guinea pig in regards to bugs, fixes and glitches. Even worse, one feels like an involuntary Technology Pioneer -- forging into an as-of-yet-uncharted territory. It can really be a help to find groups of users grappling with and solving similar problems and bugs. As of yet, there appear to be no lists of boards dedicated to Win ME users, but a post to the following news groups - (and their subgroups) will yield postings from savvy Win ME users:

On the benefit side: those "persnickety" Win ME default settings are truly safer and therefore allow for some healthy doublechecking before attempting certain things. And for tech support people, Win ME allows the for some of the rock solid file protection of NT and 200o without the complicated infrastructure of NTFS.

Win ME has many more helps and hints for the novice users -- helps and hints that the experts can easily pass over. In comparision to the Win NT-2000 alternative, I do recommend Win ME for almost everyone. It is enough like Win 98 to make the transition pretty easy.


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