- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2000

Despite some earnest warnings, I forsook Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98 and installed the final, shipping

version of the firm's "Windows 2000 Professional" on my home computer. And now I'm having some doubts, if only a few.

Yes, I was told up front: the $319 Windows 2000 Professional (that's the retail price of the "full" version) is not an operating system for the "home" user, even if, like me, one's "home" is also one's "office." No, says Microsoft, this system is designed for deployment on business desktops, where the users are likely to have CD-ROM drives and not DVD-ROMs that can play movies and the like. In the office, you're not supposed to find many gamers. And at work, there's supposed to be an information technology department that manages the whole process.

But it's not total lunacy to succumb to the Windows 2000 siren song. This is, after all, a client operating system built on the foundation of Windows NT, the "industrial strength" Windows operating system favored by some business types and many who want something more stable than some of Microsoft's consumer operating systems.

And, there are some neat features any user would appreciate: besides the greater stability, applications can be "self-healing," fixing themselves before problems develop; there's more security to protect systems and data. If you use a notebook PC as your primary system, then you will appreciate this system's better management of power consumption.

On the plus side and there are many pluses to Windows 2000 installation was a breeze, once I'd performed some updates to my Compaq Presario 5900Z, which in this case meant installing some software patches and updating the BIOS, or basic input/output system, chip. Those tweaks took about half an hour.

Installing the system took another 45 minutes or so, and was the smoothest installation of an operating system I'd ever experienced. In a move that will pleasantly surprise many, Microsoft seems to have gotten this part right, something not insignificant if you are, say, that info tech manager who has to upgrade 20 or 30 or 300 systems.

Most of what you'll see when running Windows 2000 Professional on a desktop computer is, frankly, what you would see with Windows 98. The interface is almost identical, and, when I upgraded, my desktop icons and background remained the same. One big difference is that Windows 2000 creates a couple of "log on" identities for you to use when starting the system; these can be enhanced with a password or left open to the press of the enter key, or you can set up the computer to automatically sign you in as a given user should you desire. You can also go the other way, requiring several sign-in steps to authenticate users.

Having these security measures offers at least two advantages. One is that you can let more than one person share a single PC, without giving everyone access to the same files. The other, of course, is that it discourages random snooping around the office or on a network. Come to think of it, with home PCs being shared by Mom, Dad and the kids, having a similar segregation of users might not be a bad thing, either: junior can do his homework without being able to access the Quicken financial management data.

And, starting and stopping a computer running Windows 2000 is fast, clean and uncomplicated. Which is what operating a computer should be. There's no hesitation in either process, something that could not be universally said about Windows 98.

The downside so far is that several devices, which did work under Windows 98, are balking. My DVD drive shows up as a lowly CD-ROM drive; an external scanner does not show up at all. Some software so far, only minor programs doesn't want to play in this sandbox. My initial thought is that most, if not all, of these problems will be resolved with software updates in the coming weeks and months. Windows 2000 is too big an opportunity for most software makers to ignore.

Should you go out and spend $319 for this product, or $219 to upgrade from Windows 95 or 98? If you're doing this for your business and want greater stability and management, I'd say absolutely. If you're a home-office user, you might want to either verify that your system can handle an upgrade or shop for a new one that will be compliant while offering the features you want.

For the rest, Microsoft is touting Windows Millennium Edition, a product due later this year. Or, you can wait another 12 to 18 months until a flavor of Windows 2000 is ready for the home user. More information on the operating system is available at www.microsoft.com/windows2000.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page (www.markkellner.com).

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