Windows XP

Windows XP, did this really come from Microsoft?

Many years ago, when PC operating systems where still in their text only domain, there came along an operating system which made us all sit up, take notice and say WOW!.

That Operating system was Windows 95.

Now, since Windows 95 came along there have been lots of newer versions of Windows 95 but they have never been radically different in look, feel or buggy-ness.

That is until Microsoft´s latest incarnation of Windows fell on to the market.

So, called Windows XP (XP box is raised to the heavens and angels cry “Windows XP”)

Alright so, what is this XP, what does it do? where does it do it and most importantly does it work.

After playing with XP now for a suitable period of time and having messed with all the new toys that come with it and tried to break them, I have to say that Microsoft have produced a Peach this time, and not the usual moldy, smelly, lemon.

Why do I say this? Well my previous complaint about earlier versions of Windows was that you had to install them to see if they would work. With XP, it actually performs a compatibility check of your system before you install it. Reporting any devices or programs (if you re upgrading a previous version) which might not work, might require new drivers or might have a problem with.

For me this reported 2 devices which wouldn´t work and 5 programs which would not work (I upgraded from Win 2000 Pro). The devices which wouldn´t work, where my Kodak DC210 and my Astra Umax Scanner. These where device driver problems and just required a simple uninstall and then reinstalling. The software problems where again very minor, and only required uninstalling and reinstalling. However if you have PC Anywhere 9 installed you don t get the fancy login screen anymore. 🙁 Uninstall it as Remote Desktop is much better.

So after you´ve installed it what´s it like?

Well, the interface is much the same as previous versions of Windows only the design has changed, for the better in my opinion, now everything is bright and blue with nice round edges and shaded boxes.

You can however return the look back to the same as previous versions of Windows, but everybody I know has kept the new interface as it´s much more pleasing to the eye.

It will take you time to get used to where certain icons are, as they have been moved around, but after a while it does make the use of the machine easier than before. However if you upgrade from a previous version of Windows it will keep your start menu and desktop settings. (Very useful indeed).

If you´re going to do a vanilla install then I might suggest that you spend a little extra money or time on a good book or on viewing the tutorials that come with XP.

I am not going to go into specifics about what´s been put where and how to do this and that, (although I´m sure somebody will whinge about not doing!), But I will say that I have never been so excited (I know it´s sad!) about an operating system than I am about XP.

Installing is a doddle, although on slower machines it does take time. From a usability point it takes some time to get used to (took me about 4 days, so Mr Average about a week to 10 days), your programs will behave better and if XP does crash it won´t require a full reboot.

I have had my work machine switched on and running XP for over 3 months and the number of reboots must be under 10. If something does crash then the application will usually terminate itself or pressing Control, Alt and Delete together will bring up the Task Manager so you can kill the application.

I know you´re all asking “What´s the benefit for me?” Well, I can only see a few advantages for the home user, as this is the Professional version, but it is however very similar to the home version. (I bought the Professional version over the home version as in my experience Pro software is usually more polished and bug free than home versions, albeit more expensive). The security is much better on than on Win 95 or 98, there is support for multi users logins, Plug and Play support is much better.

For the professional the network support is brilliant and to set an XP machine up on a network takes seconds and doesn´t require a reboot.

The advantages for the home user are mainly cosmetic. Its easier to learn as everything is big and bold, it has vastly greater security than previous versions of Windows, plus it has multiple user functionality (ideal if you have kids and want to keep your data and there data separate). It also looks and works miles better than Win 95/98.

There have been a number of security problems already relating to XP but these have been fixed very fast by Microsoft and as with previous versions you can go to Windows update to get the latest fixes and patches for nothing.

So for me XP gets the big thumbs up, its nice to look at, doesn´t crash as much as previous versions of Windows, is easier to use and I love it. 🙂

If you want to get a copy it requires a 300 MHz + processor, 128Mbytes Ram, 1.5 Gig Hard drive space, SVGA 800 x 600 or higher Video Card and everything else is additional.

Cost is £240 give or take a few pence for the Pro vesion and the Home version is priced at £160, near as damn it. The upgrades are £160 for the Pro and £80 for the Home.

I do have two major gripes about XP however and that´s if one of your programs does crash it always, always asks if you wish to report this fault to Microsoft. I wish there was a way to switch it off. The other gripe is you have to activate it. I can understand the reason Microsoft have done it but it makes you wonder what information is being sent to Microsoft.

If you re fed up of having those blue screens on Windows 95/98/ME then have a look at XP. In my humble opinion it makes the older versions of Windows look and feel old and tired and completely out of date.

If you´re buying a new machine make sure it has XP on it as you won´t regret it. If you´re thinking of upgrading then look no further than XP, it will give your PC that new lease of life it´s been begging for.

Update: March 2006

I have to say that I have removed XP off my laptop as it was causing major problems for some unknown reason, it wouldnt even let me restore or re-install XP and shutdown after a few minutes, However Windows 2000 works fine and has done for about two months now! I think with all the constant updates and service packs something has died. Also my main work machine is unwell also, with random blue screens now and then. All these problems have started since installing SP2.

Update: December 2006
Since Microsoft released Windows Genuine Advantage I have reveresed judgement on Windows XP as this has caused me and my customers great heartache since its release. Imagine your one of my customers who´d been supplied with 35 brand new PC s within the last 12 months and one morning you get to the office to find all 35 PC have a warning on them that they do not have genuine copies of Windows on them. All the machines had genuine windows supplied by the manufacturer but Microsoft had deemed a whole block of this manufacturers serial numbers as stolen and they stopped working. Thank you Automatic Updates.

This left me looking like a right tw@t as my customer assumed i´d stiffed them on the copies of Windows, I then spent the next 4 hours on the phone to Microsoft sorting out the serial numbers and 2 hours sorting the serial numbers out on the machines. Customer appeased but this has happened on a number of occasions. One of my customers has regressed back to Windows 2000 after similair problems and one has swapped over to Mini Mac´s.

I know that Microsoft are trying to protect their software, but if this is the future then i´ll be moving over to the Mac as well.

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