If you can't afford an operating system ...
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on January 12, 2001
The sad fact remains that I am, at heart, an Atari guy the whole Mac vs. Windows debate seems as silly to me as the Ford vs. Chevy fight must seem to the owner of a '69 Barracuda. (And, if pressed, I'd have to say that after Atari's TOS/GEM desktop, my operating environments of choice would be Amiga, NeXT, Linux with the KDE desktop, Linux with the GNOME desktop, and Solaris.)
So neither side in the Windows vs. Mac debate is likely to find an ally in this space. Still, there are two realities that need acknowledgment here: The first is that Windows is here to stay as the dominant operating system in the desktop market. Linux, Mac and even a next-generation PowerPC Amiga are not ever going to dislodge Windows from its perch as industry standard.
The second and ugly reality is that if Microsoft had spent as much time and creative energy in trying to improve Windows as it has in intimidating both its competition and PC manufacturers, we wouldn't have nearly as much fun poking fun at Windows' lack of reliability.
But if Microsoft hasn't offered much stability in the past in its Windows line, give it credit for belatedly trying to make up for lost ground. Windows ME and the upcoming (fall 2001) integrated OS (codenamed Whistler) tying together the Windows home line (95/98/ME) and business line (NT/2000) both show a renewed emphasis on stability. (And, okay, the Atari OS wasn't particularly stable either, but reboots only took about 20 seconds and didn't screw up your hard drive ...)
To learn more about where Windows is headed, here are a few good resources:
In terms of getting the official word on Windows, there is no better resource than Microsoft's own site. You won't find a single critical word about Windows here (unless you consider all the bug patches to be a sideways form of self-criticism, or at least acknowledgement of error), but there are all kinds of upgrades, downloads and add-ons. And there are even a few tantalizing clues about the future to be found by typing "Whistler" into the search engine.
Yahoo's Windows page has links to hundreds of different Windows sites, newsgroups, e-zines and more. Some are critical, some supportive, some neutrally informative. There are links here for just about every flavor of Windows, at least from 3.1 up to the present ME and 2000.
This is a nice site for finding support for Windows ME patches, fixes and tweaks are freely mixed in with tips and how-to guides, documents as FAQs. There isn't much actual info actually stored on this site, but it's a great set of links related to ME.
For getting a handle on the future of Windows, this is as good a spot as you're going to find. Not sure who this Paul Thurrott is, but he's got a ton of info on Whistler the above-mentioned next-generation melding of the Win 95/98/ME family with the more powerful NT/2000 server line.
And he's also on top of the Windows .NET programmable, rentable desktop environment in which you'll download and rent software rather than buying and installing it. (In a truly weird move, Microsoft recently licensed the .NET rights to Corel's WordPerfect, Word's primary competitor.) There are FAQs here explaining the entire .NET concept in clearly understandable detail. Not sure if consumers will buy into it or not, but it's a pretty fascinating concept.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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