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URL: http://www.loonygames.com/content/2.13/mouth/


Vol. 2, Issue 13
February 22, 2000
From the Mouth of Madness:

loonyboi 2000

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

This past weekend, I, like I’m sure lots of people (or perhaps not), made the decision that I was going to upgrade from Windows 9x to Windows 2000. This was, of course, not an easy decision. There have been numerous reports about the number of bugs and flaws in the program (upwards of 60,000 according to some reports) and incompatible hardware problems.

So, before I actually bought the program, I downloaded a handy little program Microsoft released that checks your system’s hardware and lets you know how ready for Windows 2000 you are. I was quite lucky – almost all of my hardware was perfectly compatible with Win 2k. You’ll note I said almost. Don’t be surprised if that happens to you as well...so much hardware isn’t Windows 2000 compatible, that chances are that if your computer has components that are over a year old, you've got some incompatible hardware. In my case, my printer and scanner were singled out as non-compatible.

I wasn’t so bothered by that, because a printer I could just hook up to a Windows 9x computer on my network and use it as a shared printer. The scanner, well, again, I could just use on another computer. At least my video card (a TNT 2 Ultra) and sound card (Diamond Monster Sound MX300) were ready. What did bother me a bit, was the news that my version of Norton SystemWorks wasn’t going to run under Win 2k.

Now, I’ve become quite reliant on Norton Utilities lately. It’s great – it tells me when my drives are too fragmented, it protects me from viruses, all around, it’s just a really useful product. But sadly, it ain’t ready for Win 2k. And even worse, Symantec doesn’t offer a version of most of the utilities that will work. They have an NT version of Norton AntiVirus (possibly the most important of the various utilities in SystemWorks) but you can’t just download an upgrade to the Windows 9x version – you have to buy an entirely new product. So begrudgingly, I bought Norton AntiVirus – again.

Now that I had decided to purchase Windows 2000, I had to actually buy the damn thing. There are a few different versions you can buy: Windows 2000 Professional (for workstations), Windows 2000 Server (for well...network servers) and Windows 2000 Advanced Server (for large network servers). And of course, all of these are offered in both standalone and upgrade packages. Despite the fact that the upgrade is about $100 cheaper, I decided to purchase the full Windows 2000 Professional package. While you get a nice break on the upgrade version, that means you have to have an OS pre-installed before you can add Windows 2000. For the most stability, you’re better off reformatting your hard drive and doing a clean install. And while I’m using it as a server for some things on my network, paying $900 for a five-user license just didn’t make any sense for me.

So, I got my full version of Windows 2000 Professional. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box, is how lazy Microsoft has gotten lately. Instead of a comprehensive instruction manual/reference guide, you get a dinky little “quick start guide” and a slightly larger “getting started” book. Now, maybe I’ve gotten spoiled by the huge tomes included with Macromedia and Adobe programs, but I can’t tell you how useful those phonebooks can be. The help system in Windows 2000 is basically the next evolution of the HTML help in Windows 98, and it works quite well, but it’s still not the same as a comprehensive book. Instead of including one, Microsoft makes you buy an additional book – or twelve.

If you’ve never actually seen the Windows 2000 CD-ROM, it’s quite silly, but no doubt about it, it’s as pirate-proof as it’s gonna get. Previous Microsoft releases have had holograms, and CD-Keys, and Windows 2000 is no different. Except this time around, the entire CD is a friggin’ hologram. Yowza. A little overboard.

Okay, so anyway, I decided to do a full reboot. Oddly enough, the OS doesn’t come with a boot disk (although the CD-ROM is bootable) so I used the startup disk from Windows 98, which basically drops you at a DOS prompt with CD-ROM access (and contains the Fdisk and Format programs). I reformatted my hard drive using the FAT 32 file system instead of NTFS, because I wanted to allow the Windows 9x machines on my network to access the Win 2k computer’s hard drive. The other reason, is I figured that should I decide to go with NTFS in the future, I can always just reformat. The nice thing about doing regular backups of my important files is that I have this luxury.

So, I installed Windows 2000. The installation went off without a hitch, and was problem free. If you’ve ever installed Windows 98 or Windows 98 Second Edition, you’ll recognize this setup – it’s pretty much the same thing. I was asked if I wanted to convert my drive to NTFS, which is a nice feature for those upgrading I suppose, but I decided to pass. If NTFS is really more stable, I’d rather do a clean reformat than risk conversion errors. One nice thing is the “network setup wizard” that runs during installation. It’s sort of silly if you know all about your network, but for end users who run a workstation and aren’t that familiar with the inner-workings of their network, I’m sure it’s quite useful.

So, I restarted, and began my full Windows 2000 experience. I installed all my programs, and took a look at how well they ran. For the most part, I had no problems. I use a few programs religiously – Macromedia Dreamweaver, Eudora Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Word. Dreamweaver ran like a dream. I use the recently released version 3, so no doubt it was checked for Win 2k compatibility early in its development cycle. I use Photoshop 5.1, not 5.5 (what can I say - I can’t justify that upgrade price) and while it ran comparably well, if not a little faster than Windows 98, it did crash a couple of times on startup. I chalk this up to using a slightly out of date version – I’m sure 5.5 works flawlessly. Eudora proved yet again that it is one of the greatest programs around. Not only was I able to copy my Eudora Pro directory from my backup files and start running it immediately (read: no setup) but it had zero problems, and in fact ran much better since it wasn’t tying up my system resources (woo hoo!). Microsoft Word, as expected, ran noticeably faster. This was not exactly a surprise, as Excel was always one of the test programs for NT 5, and no doubt a simultaneous release of Office 2000 with Win 2k was at one time in the cards at Microsoft. Other miscellaneous programs that I use, like Winamp, LeapFTP and ICQ all ran just peachy.

My first problem came when I decided to connect to the Internet for the first time. Windows 2000 had automatically detected my ISDN modem on install, so I figured I was good to go. I set up my dial-up networking just like I did in Windows 98, and proceeded to connect to my ISP. No problem, easy connect. Life is good. I tested out the Internet Connection Sharing feature of the OS, and was amazed when it worked with literally just a single click. Unlike Windows 98 SE, which was a bit of a pain in the ass to install and configure, Windows 2000 allows you to click a checkbox and share your internet connection. It works really well, and for those with small networks, I highly recommend it (although I also suggest looking into a decent firewall program if you’re going to go this route).

I was quite happy with the OS up to this point, and was mildly going about my business, when I noticed that my ISDN modem was only using one channel. Uh oh. So, I punched in some init strings (Viva Hayes compatible modems!) and reconnected to my ISP. Again, only one channel (64k instead of 128k). I called 3Com’s tech support, and spent a good hour or so with one of their representatives trying every known init string to force the modem to use both channels...to no avail. It was most definitely Windows 2000 that was the problem – not the modem itself. I checked out the help system (since the manual obviously was useless to me) and went through several different troubleshooters with no luck.

It turns out that while Windows 2000 recognizes my modem as the “Courier I-Modem ISDN Ext. PnP” it wasn’t letting me configure it for ISDN use. See, my modem is a great one. It’s a full-featured ISDN modem, but it’s also everything else – 56k, 28.8, etc. And Windows 2000 seems to think that it’s just a regular modem. Yeesh. So, I tried using other drivers that were recognized as ISDN modems, but it just wasn’t happening. Oh well.

Ultimately, I decided to use that computer on my network that I was using as a printer/file server as my Internet proxy. That computer (which is running Windows 9x) is the one with the modem installed, and thanks to Sygate, I can use it to auto-dial to the Internet whenever a computer on the network makes a request. Plus, I’m running some kickass firewall software for added security.

So that’s my beef with the OS, but besides that, I’m quite pleased with it. A few things have crashed, most notably Photoshop, but the system hasn’t given me any problems, and I’m at long last freed from the shackles of Windows 9x’ system resources, which could be crippling at times. Plus, thanks to the fact that it’s got DirectX 7, almost all of my games run on it (be sure to grab the software compatibility update from Windows Update – it adds support for a ton of games).

Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament both run great, as both clients, and dedicated servers (and that improved multitasking means I can realistically run a dedicated server in the background while working and not notice any major system slowdowns). Windows 2000 is a bit more complicated for a lot of things, but it’s not nearly as complex as any Linux distribution (which is either a good or bad thing depending on your point of view) and is a good, solid OS. Would I recommend it for the mass market? Hell, no. But if you play a lot of games and work on the same computer, it’s the only way to go.

The continual install/uninstall cycle that I put most computers through eventually takes its toll on the system. Programs, and particularly games, tend to leave excess crap in your system registry, and this can really screw up your system. Windows 2000 handles this far better than Windows 9x, and for that alone it gets the thumbs up from me.

Now of course, I’ve only been using it for a few days. Get back to me in six months and see if I’m still pleased with it, but so far, it’s been a good (but not perfect) upgrade experience.

- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames.


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