Readers Are Not Anxious to Grab Windows 2000

The results of our first reader poll are in, and it shows that ComputerWorld Canada subscribers are not straining at the Windows 2000 starting gates.

Asked when their companies plan to upgrade to the new OS, more than 50 per cent selected “Not until we have to.” The next most popular response, at 20 per cent, was “After the release of the first service pack.” (Check out the full results on page 36.)

This may be wisdom itself if it’s indicative of a healthy aversion to a major migration, but if it’s automatic Microsoft bashing then it’s probably not fair. Windows 2000 has faults but there’s enough good stuff to make it worth considering.

One good reason to upgrade is Microsoft has eliminated more than 50 reboot scenarios so, for example, when adding an additional protocol to a network card, the new configuration will bind to the card without a reboot. Fewer reboots means less time sitting and waiting.

Also, Microsoft has implemented a new file protection system which stops users from deleting critical system files. Not letting users screw up their PCs means fewer tech-support calls.

Another very useful feature is Intellimirror, which will allow users to sit down at any corporate computer and have their applications, data and desktop settings automatically downloaded to them. This requires both Windows 2000 Professional and Server so it may not always be used, but it’s useful functionality.

But there are downsides to the OS. The most obvious is system requirements: each Win 2000 Professional desktop needs a Pentium 166 processor, 500MB of free hard drive space and Microsoft recommends 64MB of RAM. Hardware is getting cheaper, but this is a stretch for some companies.

And then there’s the revamped interface, which has both good and bad to offer. A lot of experienced users will hate the new feature that pares away seldom-used items on the Start and sub-menus. The feature, which can be turned off, hides less-popular icons under a small symbol on the menus. Annoying for some, but it will make life simpler for less-experienced users.

Other changes, however, make less sense. Microsoft renamed Network Neighbourhood to My Network Places, and moved Windows Explorer from the Programs to the Accessories folder, both of which cause confusion while adding no functionality.

The other major gotcha from Redmond is some shrink-wrapped applications may not run under Windows 2000. Any application that uses Windows 9.x-specific code will require a migration DLL package to run properly on the new OS. Microsoft plans to offer some of these on the Windows CD or the Microsoft Update site, but for some apps you may have to go begging to the original vendor.

In tests using Win 2000 Beta 3, Word and Excel for Windows 95 (Version 7) work okay, but try to run Schedule+ and it simply refuses to do anything. Also, PowerPoint will work but it stubbornly refuses to show up on the Start menus. So before you consider upgrading, check on your applications’ compatibility status.

And that may be tough. Microsoft posts a list of Win 2000-compliant apps on its Web site, but with the recent release of Beta 3 and subsequent retesting, very few applications are listed. At press time, Microsoft itself only claimed 13 applications as Win2000-ready, and among IBM’s gajillion products all that’s compatible is DB2. Microsoft Canada ensures us more apps will be listed soon.

And one final cautionary note: Windows 2000 won’t even look at Microsoft’s own Age of Empires, so unless that changes, fans of this excellent game should stay well away from the new OS.