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Microsoft XP

I've just upgraded from Microsoft Windows Me (Microsoft Yuk!) to Microsoft XP Home, and I am totally impressed. In fact I haven't felt this pleased about an upgrade since Windows 95 transformed itself from the non pre-emptive, non multi-tasking, Windows 3.1. For the first time you can get the power of the Windows NT kernel, in the home, and with all the enhancements of a proper automatically configuring operating system. With Me my computer crashed virtually every time I used it. It also didn't go into a hibernate state, properly, and had lots of problem, especially related to USB printers, and their associated drivers. With XP I can now close the lid of my notebook, and know that it is going to hibernate, without having to sneak a quick look to see if it had really gone in hibernate mode. Wow! I don't even need to shut my system off any more, I can just get it to hibernate, and it will awake in a matter of seconds.

With XP the operating system seems to have much more control of its environment, and will try to configure everything itself. An excellent enhancement, and one borrowed from NT, is the way that processes and applications can be viewed and deleted. This is an excellent enhancement, as processes can be deleted, without affecting any others. Here's an example of the task manager:

and an example window:

Another great enhancement is the way that it seems to handle memory. In Me there were many programs which seemed to cause problems with gaining and releasing memory. The major offenders of this included the graphics programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks. These now run like a dream, and if they want to crash, then XP releases them gently, without affecting the other, more reliable, programs. A slightly annoying feature is that XP tries to send debug information to a server, somewhere, whenever it crashes. I understand that this is useful for the developers, but I rather that it wouldn't send information from my computer (but there's probably an option somewhere that I can turn this facility off).

Along with this the support for NTFS is a welcome upgrade, as FAT has never really provided enough security. With NTFS every file object can have an owner, and a group setting. The owner can then refine the file permissions for their requirements. DOS has lived on in the PC for many years, and the FAT file system was one of its worst legacy's. Hopefully it will fade away gracefully over the next few years.

Oh, and joy of joys, XP has a proper event log system (which it has inherited from NT). Thus users can now keep a track of their computer's security (successful and unsuccessful logins, which can often identify is someone has been tampering with a system). It also shows system and applications events, and even gives links off to a server which tries to give more information on the cause of the event.

I've also tested the networking, and it integrates seamlessly with other systems. My AOL connection works faster, and is more reliable. I've even tried a wireless connection, and after setting a few IP addresses, it worked with both TCP/IP and also with a workgroup. Congratulations Microsoft, XP is truly a gem! The last time I felt so positive about an upgrade was with Windows 95, which took the PC from being a useful, and often annoying, system into a slick, and easy-to-use tool. XP has finally brought the different strands of Windows together, and has created the platform which will take the PC into the 21st century. The PC has now managed to release itself from the straight jacket that the original PC gave it. The amazing thing is that XP still supports all the old friends, such as the printer port, the IDE bus, the serial port, and so on, but it support for the new busses, especially USB, is exceptional, and makes setting up a computer a dream.

Oh, and I've also had a good look at XP Professional, and it's even better. So get shares in Microsoft now, before they take over the world. This time they deserve the praise that they'll receive for XP (although there's still a few suspicions about the source of some of their ideas). With MSN Messenger and Hotmail they now have the de-facto messaging system, that is unlikely to be beaten. My only gripe about the Office/Microsoft system, apart from its lack of multimedia development support, and the weak graphics in PowerPoint, is the usage of a WWW client for Hotmail. If it was properly integrated with Outlook, it would become my default email client, as it is it is just too difficult to use to properly maintain an email database.