Software Review: Windows XP:
Worth the wait?
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As seen in the December 2001 issue of IT magazine

By J.A. Hitchcock

As a reviewer, I received evaluation copies of Windows XP Home and Professional Editions. One problem, though, my notebook at the time was realistically too slow for either (even though it met the minium requirements) and my desktop had too many conflicts (software and hardware). So, I bit the bullet and bought a new notebook - Iíd been meaning to, anyway. I went from my IBM Thinkpadi 1451 to an IBM Thinkpad A22M. Thatíll be another review!

The A22M is a Pentium III, 1 Gigahertz, 512MB RAM, so itís got plenty of power for Windows XP, which is probably XPís biggest problem - you really need an up-to-date system, notebook or desktop, to really use it. Plus, you need to have a fairly ďcleanĒ system, meaning no older programs and hardware that will conflict with this new operating system (which is the problem I encountered with my desktop, which Iíll get to in a bit).

The A22M came with Windows 98 pre-installed. Since I use this on the road for my presentations and primarily for business, I felt that XP Professional would be the best choice for the notebook. I popped the CD in, followed the instructions and a few minutes later, XP Professional was loaded and ready to go. Except for one small thing - I kept getting a BSOD (blue screen of death for you newbies), which wasnít supposed to happen with Windows XP. I found that some programs either worked really slowly or not at all, even though they were up-to-date and compatible with XP (namely, the latest version of Norton Systemworks and Internet Security and Corel WordPerfect). I finally got exasperated enough to uninstall XP Professional, go back to Windows 98, clean up the hard drive and then install Windows XP Home edition.

No problems - What a difference! No BSOD, my programs ran the way they should, everything was perfect. I still donít know why XP Professional didnít work, but when I get the retail version (the latest one for consumers), Iíll do a review of it and see if the bugs got worked out.

So, is Windows XP worth the wait? A definitive YES! It takes a bit of getting used to, especially the layout and the updated and integrated programs (mainly Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger, Windows Movie Maker and other goodies). But all in all, Windows XP is the way Windows should have been a long time ago. I especially liked how I could register for the Passport using my Hotmail account (which Iíve had for several years). This allows me to see when I have messages in my Hotmail Inbox via Windows Messenger, which is in the system tray at all times (you can turn this option off if you want). If you donít want to register for Passport, itís supposed to work fine, but Iíve heard others gripe that they keep getting reminders about signing up for it.

Thereís been a lot of concern about privacy issues - I didnít find any step of installing and registering Windows XP objectionable - the information sent was information I was comfortable giving out. I use a P.O. Box and free voicemail/fax number for all my online correspondence due to privacy concerns, so I used those for registration (and I highly recommend others do the same - my voicemail/fax number is through eFax at www.efax.com and itís really and truly free). Heck, I gave more information to my massage therapist to pay her than I did for Windows XP, so you tell me who I should be more worried about (she has done wonders for my shoulder, though).

I do have a few beefs about Windows XP, though:

  1. The taskbar menu - when I wanted to change anything on this in Windows 98 or Me, all I had to do was go to Start, Settings, Taskbar and Start Menu and a window would pop up. Then Iíd select the Advanced tab, select the Advanced button and I could go through each folder and rearrange my shortcuts, add new folders, delete ones I didnít want, etc. However, in Windows XP, when I go to Start, Settings, Taskbar and Start Menu, I have to select either Start Menu/Customize or Classic Start Menu/Customize, then click on Advanced. No matter which one of the previous I select, Windows Explorer opens up and automatically goes to C:/Documents and Settings/JAHitchcock/Start Menu and the only items listed there are the ones that came with Windows XP. My preset folders/shortcuts donít show up so that I can rearrange them. Whatís up with that? I have no clue.
  2. My DVD-ROM wouldnít play movies anymore. Even though my A22M was brand-spanking new, the software was incompatible with Windows XP and the DVD player that came with XP wouldnít work with my DVD-ROM. However, XP does provide a wonderful troubleshooter that gave me direct links (URLs) to the company who makes the DVD software and the update that I could download - which I did. (I only had to update a couple of programs and all my notebook hardware works fine with XP).
  3. Although my A22M is LAN capable, I have no need for it right now, nor do I see using it in the foreseeable future. However, XP insists on putting these little icons in my System Tray for two LAN and one Wireless Network connections. And I canít get rid of them.
But there is much more to like about XP than dislike - if you donít like the new desktop/folder styles (called skins), you can revert to the ďClassicĒ style youíre used to in Windows 95/98/Me. You can use Movie Maker to create and edit movies using your camcorder, digital camera, etc; you can make a CD (if you have a CD-RW drive) in minutes; if youíre a gamer, youíll experience a whole new world of gaming (although when my husband tried to install XP at the time, his games - including Quake and DOOM, had too many conflicts; there are supposedly fixes for those now); and much, much more. I could write a book about Windows XP and how wonderful it really is. . .at least for my notebook.

My desktop PC, now thatís another matter. I have a Pentium 4 with 256MB RAM - plenty fast enough for Windows XP. However, when I selected the option on installation to see if there were any hardware/software conflicts, boy, were there ever:

Hardware:
My HP Photosmart Scanner, Lexmark X83, HP PhotoSmart Printer and Canon S800 printer need updated software/drivers. My Logitech QuickCam Traveler and Logitech WebCam ďmight notĒ work (whatever the heck that means).
My SoundBlaster card and iTouch Configuration (on the Start menu, meaning my keyboard) are incompatible.

Software:
Software that came with my Lexmark printer and my HP CD-RW are incompatible; Iomega Zip Software and Logitech Mouseware needs to be uninstalled, then reinstalled after installing Windows XP (although Logitech iTouch is supposedly fine); Jammer and Net2Fax need upgrades or they will not work with XP.

Hmm. I decided to wait until I get the final version of XP before installing it on my desktop. Iím hoping by then, more of my hardware and software will be compatible (or have the needed upgrades available). When I do, Iíll definitely write a new review and let you know how it goes.

So again - is Windows XP worth the wait? If you have a brand-new computer system, definitely yes. If you have an older one with a lot of programs/games on it, you may want to wait until the various software and hardware companies catch up with XP with drivers/upgrades/etc. But when your system does become compatible (or you bite the bullet like I did and buy a new one), go for it - youíll be very pleasantly surprised. I guarantee it.

But I do have one question - what does XP stand for? I go for ďexperienceĒ as in the Windows XPerience. Or Xtra Power. Or Xquisite Performance. You take a guess.

Minimum system requirements:

J.A. Hitchcock, awriter@jahitchcock.com, is the author of seven books and a freelance writer, as well as president of W.H.O.A. (Working to Halt Online Abuse)

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