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Windows2000? Time to upgrade?

by Bob Wright
2000/05/24

Windows2000
Time to upgrade?

by Bob Wright
The NOSPIN Group

.

Unless you moved into a cave to survive Y2K, you have heard all the bluster about Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows2000. Most of what I hear is in double speak of industry terms and acronyms. Many of the "reasons" proclaimed by Microsoft to move up to Windows2000 sound good, but leave me dismayed. One claim that just floored me, and should most people: "it crashes less often and requires the computer to be rebooted less often."  That claim alone is an excellent laugh riot.  Why does an operating system from the largest software company in the world even have the consideration that it crashes?  Linux successfully implements an excellent operating system and no one worries about it crashing...  and it's free!!!

Now, before I get going too far on any Microsoft trashing vendetta, let me state that I use Windows98SE and MS Office 2000 with great satisfaction on my client machine. I have walked away from loading beta software on a PC I depend upon for my daily work environment, but that does not preclude me from loading all the beta stuff, including Microsoft operating systems for testing purposes, on other PCs I have on our LAN, (local area network… I will try to explain any acronyms as we go, as I for one hate the abuse of industry jargon). 

I also want to state that Windows2000 is not really an upgrade for current Windows95/98 users.  This really is an upgrade for WindowsNT users.  If  you are looking for an upgrade for Windows95/98, I would suggest waiting for the upcoming Windows Millennium, which is the next step up for Windows98 users.

Windows2000 was originally slated to be WindowsNT v5. For many of you who tried the early betas of WinNTv5, you will remember the stability issues. Microsoft moved their more stable WindowsNT product forward by melding many of the features of Windows98 and NT. That basically means it provides the ability to operate DOS and 16 bit applications in the NT environment. That is not of course the beginning and end of Windows2000.

One term you will hear dropped often in regards to Windows2000 is scalability. Now this is a term that has many meanings in the computer industry, effecting both hardware and software, PCs and Mainframes. In this case, the term clearly is used to taut the better performance offered to multiply CPUs, (processors), in a PC. Testing done by PC Magazine tends to support this point, with results of 30% in improved performance. That is fine for a power user with dual CPUs or a small server. Since the average home or small business rarely incorporates a PC with dual processors, this advantage is clearly moot. Test data I have read, and yes… it would have been better to perform these tests myself, but I currently do not have any dual processor systems on hand, so I am relying on second hand results… verifies that on a single processor PC, Windows2000 offers no advantage over Windows98/98SE in performance.

System Requirements
Do not be surprised that Windows2000 has once again raised the bar for minimum system requirements, 64mgs of Ram and a 2gig hard drive. For those of you who remember MS Dos, you will remember that the minimum was 1mg of Ram and about 8mgs of hard drive space. Then Windows3.1 bumped the bar to 4mgs of Ram and another 12mgs of hard drive space. It was Windows95 that required around 100mgs of hard drive space but would still run fair within 8mgs of Ram. Why the system demand for additional system resources? Simply stated, Windows2000 has a vast number of system components loaded when it starts and continues to add more as you use varying applications.

Windows2000 Versions
Starting this week, three of the four version of Windows2000 will be on the market with the largest and most expensive version due out in 4 to 6 months. The four versions are:

  • Windows2000 Professional
    This is the basic client version available in three price ranges:
    Standard Edition   $319.00
    Upgrade from Windows95/98   $219.00
    Upgrade from WindowsNT   $149.00

  • Windows2000 Server
    This is the lowest end server edition that includes 10 client access licenses and double the support for CPUs. In other words, were Windows2000 has native support for dual processors, the server edition supports up to 4 CPUs, (like quad CPU motherboards are available all over the place). Pricing on this edition begins at $599 for the upgrade version from WindowsNT and $1,199 for the full version.

  • Windows2000 Advanced & Datacenter Server(s)
    I have not used either of these products and I can only report to you from press releases and Microsoft articles about these products. Basically, if you are considering these products, you will be operating high-end servers. These versions offer support for even more CPUs, more Ram memory, network load balancing and system clustering. What you say? Basically, it allows servers or PCs used to provide data access to multiple PCs and share resources like printing and Internet access that ability to control how much system resources are used for any particular function and the ability to not only chain together multiple CPUs on one motherboards, but to chain together multiple PCs for increased computing power. This chaining together, as in a daisy chain has been long touted as PCs future in replacing large mainframe computers and even RISC architecture Alpha computers. We experimented with PC clustering last summer in our Network Operations Center and found it to be very practical for low cost highspeed processing.

Pros and Cons of upgrading to Win2000
Basically, Windows2000 is that next step forward to changing your PC from a stand alone computer to an Internet appliance, with greater support for networking and Internet access. The operating system is more reliable and stable, a major issue ever since Microsoft introduced Windows95. 

Pros

  • Better reliability and stability

  • Better performance

  • Better hardware drivers and better plug-n-play support

  • Better data security

  • Added support for DVD, USB, DirectX7, IEEE1394

  • Better Virtual Private Networking client for more reliable Internet Connection sharing

I should add here that the interface is cleaner, easier to use and there is an obvious difference between Windows2000 and Windows98. One of the criticisms of upgrading from Windows95 to Windows98 I often heard from clients was the lack of obvious difference between the two. The total interactive approach to networking and Internet access for the operating system is just terrific, no better word. Though I am concerned about this approach based on Microsoft's recent round of litigation with the US Federal Government based on this exact approach which freezes out secondary software authors and applications.

Cons

  • Upgrading can be quite difficult

  • Requires at least 64mgs of Ram

  • Operating system is far more complex and learning curve much steeper

  • Some 16bit applications will not run

  • Some hardware configurations will not work, most notably IRQ sharing situations

  • Price (three times that of Windows95/98 at time of introduction)

Additional thoughts
Microsoft claims they are betting the next two years of the companies success on the Windows2000 operating system and they are so sure that everyone will migrate… you know, run out and buy a copy, that they are willing to triple the suggested retail price of this operating system. It has lots of bells and whistles, those people who love to just say, "I've got Windows2000!" will of course dig deep into their pockets just to own a copy. The price tag will also encourage more software piracy, with the advent of CD writers and sharing software on the Internet, (usually termed Warez), a growing concern for software authors. Microsoft creates the problem of software piracy by disregarding the need for low cost operating systems for the masses, hence the subculture of software piracy. No matter what scheme they derive to protect an operating system or software application, it is only so much software code and as such someone will devise a means to defeat it. The more practical approach is not to increase the size of the software serial number and add in direct Internet access checking of the product… the answer is far more simple, keep the price in the range that is conducive to high volume of sales. I suppose you can tell I am surprised that Microsoft would take this bold step increasing the retail price by 300%.

Final Analysis
Is this product, this new operating system, a functionally effective upgrade approach for today's PCs? But, of course. I highly recommend it. Does it have drawbacks? Most definitely. Price being a big one. It is vastly overpriced, but it is what Windows95 should have been from the beginning, more or less… the less being small system requirements. 

Is this a must have for the home PC user? No.  If you already have a home PC, small home network or even several PCs in an office environment the price alone does not justify the upgrade. Windows95 and Windows98, as long as it runs well on your PC, are still viable options and just as effective for most people. Windows2000 will be the next step for many people, but it should not be looked upon as a required necessity. Remember that even as Windows2000 hits the market this week, the next generation of Microsoft operating systems are in beta test release. 

 

 

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