Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Windows XP, Is It Worth It?

Windows XP was officially released in October 25th, 2001 and was the most anticipated release of Windows yet. Some of the reasons Microsoft hyped this OS so much was it's "stability", "ease of use", and "improvement over previous versions of Windows". It has a flashy new interface, new functions and features, and out of the box is supposed to be an all-purpose operating system.

With that out of the way, let me start explaining why I think this new OS is crap in a fancy box. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice OS, but are the improvements really so big that it requires 1.5 Gigs of hard drive space, 128 megs of Ram for the OS alone, and a 400 Mhz processor to take full advantage of all its features? That's crazy… Microsoft makes it a point to create bloatware at every turn of the road.
Okay, now that my true feelings for this OS are on the table, let me mention some of the things I did like about it…

  • For one, I like the ability to right-click on any file or folder and send it to the CDRW. This is a cool feature, but let me warn you, there is no audio support… only data. Another feature I like along these lines is ripping CD's, but you'd better get an WMA to MP3 converter because XP only writes in WMA format.
  • I also like the Remote Administration feature. If you run into problems and need a friend to lend a hand, turn this on and shoot them an email. It works similar to PC Anywhere or sharing the desktop in Netmeeting (which I've done in the past to help friends).
  • There are lots of added shortcut keys… like locking the desktop with Windows-L and Control-click Turn Off to shut the system down. These are time savers.
  • Also, it's more secure then Windows 98 since it can use NTFS. You can secure folders on the system from snooping eyes. I must say that it's much easier to secure stuff on Windows 2000 then on XP from what I've seen.
  • There's also some other stuff they added that's no good… like a 'personal firewall'. Get Zone Alarm or a Linksys router if you want a real one. There's also the Movie Maker program. This simply cuts and pastes video clips together. Get MGI's Videowave for a real video editor. It at least does wicked effects.
Now that I've touched on what I liked, here's some of the stuff I really don't care for.

  • For one, what's up with the Fisher-Price interface? All the fancy bubbles and bright colors make me feel like I'm on a Mac. Luckily you can turn this off.
  • Another thing I don't care for is all the "help" it tries to offer. When I try to change my network settings, I get a wizard. When I try to look for a network drive, I get a wizard. When I try to change my fax settings, I get a wizard. Heck, when I hit my caps lock key to log in, I get a bubble message telling me my caps lock is down. This is crazy. Do they think monkeys are running these things? They need something that on login asks if you're a dumb ass or not. If so, turn this stuff on and if not, leave it off.
On the technical side, I don't like the way XP eats up every available kilobyte of memory. I have a Pentium III-500 with 128 Megs of Ram runnin XP. This system came with Windows NT 4.0 and ran super fast out of the box. I upgraded to Windows 2000 Pro when it came out and lost a little performance, but it still ran great. Now that I have XP loaded, I'm hitting the page file just opening up Outlook after startup. What's with that? I'm having to upgrade my system to 512 Megs of Ram to just keep the darned thing running at a decent speed.

Your probably asking yourself "Why doesn't this dork just go back to Windows 2ooo Pro?". Well, good question. For one, I am one who likes to play with the latest because somewhere down the line I have to support it. Microsoft's game plan is to get everyone on the newest version of everything as soon as it comes out (which is usually every 6-12 months). Since Windows XP is now out, I'm soon expecting to see 2000 Pro no longer being offered on new desktops. Once that happens, we need to support XP, and what better way to learn it then to use it.

Bottom line is that on a buffed up system - P4 1 Ghz or higher with at least 512 Megs of Ram, XP will run well. And if you can turn off all the wizards, shortcuts, and download all the patches required to make your software to work, then it's worth playing with. But for me, I took it off my home PC and went back to 98 SE. At least my scanner, printer, compact flash card reader, and camera work with that "old operating system".
My suggestion for those of you who are considering an upgrade to XP? If you've got a very powerful system and lots of memory and drive space, go for it. Just make sure your peripherals have drivers for Windows XP and all your software works. If you have Windows 98 SE or Windows 2000 Pro and it works fine… stick with it. Other then some added perks (which you can get with add-on software), it's not worth the cost.

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