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When is it time to throw the towel in on Microsoft?

Lets look at what we have to expect from Microsoft over the next two years. So far we have heard of three major new releases, Windows 2000, Millennium and Neptune.

Microsoft Windows 2000

Firstly, the soon to be released Windows 2000, the NT companion of Win98. Once meant to be the bastard child of the 9x and NT kernels, but now not due to porting problems. Windows 2000 comes in four flavors including:

Professional – To replace WinNT 4 Workstation
Server – To replace WinNT 4 Server
Advanced Server – To replace WinNT 4 Enterprise Server
Data Center – To handle that which Advanced Server is unable.

OOBE (Out Of Box Experience)

I have had the opportunity to beta test Windows 2000 (Beta 3 Server). This was the first build that didn't suffer "memory leakage". Installing took over two hours from CD onto NTFS and once installed I found that it had sucked up 750MB of space. With the only optional extras being the complete IIS 5.0 package and a few networking tools. The first reboot took me two minutes to logon, but after a few changes I was able to cut this to just over a minute. The difference in access time of programs and directories is quite noticeably slower from those of Win98, and I'm sure that famously sluggish NT kernel wasn't helping. No need for drivers, all my hardware was recognized and with a few minor changes I was ready to crash this bitch. Installed all my favorite applications and got down to business, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't provoke the "blue screen of death" and have not been able since. Unfortunately, I didn't have the resources to do anymore than slow it down to a non-usable state, which of course didn't take to long with yet another work-around legacy code Microsoft OS.

There where two new features I am glad to see included. The first being DirectSound, it's nice to be able to listen to mp3s and know the instant you have a new ICQ message. The second being the "Open with" option on all data files even when the extension is known. This option remembers all programs you have used to open a file and always offers them to all files of that extension with a simple right click. You may also change the default program for one particular data file. Unfortunately, this feature doesn't have the intelligence of BeOS's File Types. Do you get the feeling Microsoft has been checking out BeOS recently?

As a workstation, Win2K proves itself a strong competitor, as long as you have a Pentium II genre processor and 128MB RAM. Microsoft has shown Win2K's capabilities as a Server OS with their recent challenge to crackers. It took all of three hours before the Win2K Web Server was taken down. Over the following two days, the Server went down many more times until Microsoft finally gave up.

Windows 2000 is far from a great step forward for Microsoft. The usual cocktail consisting of stability improvements, a refreshed GUI, many new and mostly useless features, plenty of new bugs and one hell of a lot of PR.

Windows Millenium:

Hopefully, Microsoft will be setting a precedent with Millennium, as this is the first time Microsoft has chosen not to remain backward compatible to existing software and hardware. Millennium will be the first true 32bit OS for Microsoft. There will be no support for 16bit software or hardware! Another interesting thing about Millennium is that it will be Microsoft's last OS to use the Win9x kernel. Millennium uses a lot of the Win2K code and though the features don't vary greatly from Win98SE, the interface is much more like that of Win2K. The only other major difference between Millennium and Win98SE is that the setup cab files are saved to a hidden directory on your C drive, which takes up 126MB. This will be used for the so-called Self Healing feature. Millennium Beta 1 is now being distributed and the release is scheduled for the first quarter of next year, though I get the feeling it will be delayed.

Windows neptune:

Neptune will be the first release using the NT kernel in a "Consumer Windows" OS as opposed to Windows 2000 being branded "Business Windows". Much like Millennium, Neptune will be a true 32bit OS, though using the NT kernel it will be better equipped to handle multitasking. Another quiet similar feature between Millennium and Neptune is the idea of a self-healing OS, except with Neptune it will be known as Wintone, which includes a self-updating feature. Active Desktop will be playing a very large roll in the GUI. It seems Bill believes we all wish to surf our computers like they where a webpage. Neptune is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2001.

Check out some alleged Shots of the Upcoming Windows Neptune .

Microsoft are really trying to keep there strangle hold on the home market. Offering stability improvements, a much-revised first time user experience and a totally new GUI with Neptune. Also taking bounds in the multimedia world with all new releases. Microsoft now finds themselves in a war on their home turf. No longer the difference of hardware platforms will decide the Operating System the user chooses. Lets now look at some of these competitors.


At this present time, BeOS would have to be Microsoft's strongest competitor for the ever-growing home market. Originally, BeOS ran on a home baked dual processor machine. named the BeBox. Since the death of the BeBox, BeOS now runs on both the Mac and PC platforms. The BeOS was designed to bring out the performance of present and future hardware in multimedia. This presents the end user with a faster OS that hasn't been over coded in a struggle to keep up with the latest technology.

Be have done an outstanding job achieving this, and I was quiet shocked to see what my old system was capable of. The BeOS has truly earned the title of, Real time Broadband Digital Media OS. With an install time of ten minutes, boot time of 15 seconds, a 64-bit File System, Dynamic Journaling System, Symmetric Multi-Processing, Preemptive Multitasking and Pervasive Multithreading, BeOS proves to be a much-advanced step toward computing.

Coming from a Windows background is not a problem as there is almost no immediate learning curve. But lets not forget the CLI, it is POSIX compliant, allowing the easy portability of many Linux programs. The once big hurdle of the BeOS, being hardware support has really been crushed with BeOS R4.5 and recent updates. However, the lack of applications, especially stable Internet applications keeps the BeOS from kicking some Microsoft butt. I see this as only a temporary setback, and as most applications for the BeOS come open source, it should not be to long before Microsoft is eradicated from my PC.


Linux has gained an unexpectedly large amount of interest in the home market over the past two years. This could be due to any number of reasons including, it's both free and open source, almost all applications are free and open source, the stability is unsurpassed, the code is constantly revised, updated and added to by a numerous amount of programmers across the world. Linux is undisputable a giant in the Server OS world, with just the name Linux being a symbol of stability and security, but just how good is Linux for home use? With the interest in Linux growing, many new distributions have surfaced offering easy installation and configuration.Well-established distributions such as Redhat are also striving to meet the same goals, but first time users should be aware of the difference between the many distributions. Non-standardization is a large stumbling block for Linux, though some would argue this is simply "freedom of choice".

Looking at Linux now, we find it is a CLI OS. Linux wouldn't have been mentioned here if not for the X Window System. The look and feel of X can be changed in any number of ways with different Desktop Environments and Window Managers. X also comes with a good suite of applications and utilities, to help the first time user. Unfortunately, X is quiet slow at present, but this shouldn't discourage anyone looking into Linux seriously, as even the most minor of tasks takes time in Linux. Linux is not for everyone, but for those wishing to acquire a much better understanding of computing, Linux will go as far as you can.

Sun Solaris

Many of you may still be unaware that Sun will ship you a copy of Solaris for only the price of shipping. Solaris is much like Linux, in fact most Linux applications can be compiled in Solaris without the need for any change. Installing is harder than many Linux distributions, and this also proves to be the case with finding relevant help The GUI, CDE is quiet nice, but leaves much to be desired in the terms of applications. Solaris however, does conform to all Unix standards unlike the more popular clone, Linux. My advice here would be to try Linux before attempting Solaris.


Still in development, Trumpet Software's, PetrOS could be a good contender to Microsoft in the home market. Note, there are also development plans to compete as a Server. PetrOS is a true preemptive multi-tasking 32bit OS that offers no support to 16bit hardware. Much like Linux, PetrOS can be installed as a CLI OS, which is Unix based, so allowing the later development of third-party Window Systems. However, a GUI is included in the package. PetrOS is bound to hit Microsoft where it really hurts, as it will run all win32 applications. Having the advantage of being a new OS, users can expect clean fast operating code. Unfortunately, PetrOS can only read FAT16 and FAT32 File Systems at the moment. The KISS (Keep It Small and Simple) approach from Trumpet developers is very appealing, though without any hands on time, I will not try to pass judgment. Alpha testing will commence soon and although there isn't a scheduled release date, consumers can expect to pay anywhere from 20 to 100 dollars.

Other Projects

Over the past 6 months, two new projects have caught my eye.The first was Generic Windows, this was an attempt to use a BSD base and emulate the Windows environment for the use of win32 applications. However, upon writing this article I found the official website is down.

The second is Freedows, this is an imaginative project that I really hope gets off the ground. Freedows will emulate most common Operating Systems environments allowing the user to work with Linux, Windows, MS-DOS, BeOS and MacOS applications side by side. They have chosen to use, what is known as a Cache-Kernel, which will speed up the process of emulation. As the development stage has not begun, I will write no more about this but do urge you to have a look, this is very interesting reading :-)

A few months ago geeknews.com had an interesting poll with much more interesting results. The question posed to readers was, and I quote "If you were limited to one Operating System for your entire life... Which would you choose?". The results showed close to 40% in favor of BeOS, next was I'd rather shoot myself at near 19%, then Windows with a 17% vote, Linux came in very close at 16%, followed by MacOS and then BSD. The others are not worth mentioning. I chose "I'd rather shoot myself" and though this isn't true, at the present time no OS can fully satisfy me.

In closing, with new leaner, cleaner more powerful Operating Systems already existing and also being developed, just how long are you willing to keep buying the newest hardware in an effort to smoothly run the latest Microsoft OS?

Ps. If I see one more "Wizard" to set preferences, I'm going to blow chunks!

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