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Nashville Scene Open a new Windows

Be careful when upgrading to '98

By James Hanback Jr.

JULY 6, 1998:  Yeah, if ya start me up! If ya start me up Ah'll nevah stop! No, wait, that was Windows '95. There's no Rolling Stones song to launch the latest upgrade of Microsoft Windows. No catchy promotions for a trademark "Start" button.

The much-criticized, much-debated, and much-anticipated Windows '98 arrived on store shelves June 25 with quite a bit less fanfare than its predecessor. That's because '98 isn't quite as much of an upgrade as Windows '95 was from 3.1.

In fact, aside from additional hardware support (including support for DVD-ROM and universal serial bus) and tight integration with Microsoft Internet Explorer, there's not much reason for happy Windows '95 users to upgrade.

Sure, Microsoft claims the operating system will crash less often. (There will be fewer "blue screens of death," they say). And '98 apparently comes with a few extra diagnostic tools that can run in the background when the system's more or less idle. But unless their versions of '95 are having some major headaches, users can already approximate a Windows '98 environment on their '95 machines by downloading and installing Internet Explorer 4.0 from Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/ie). IE is free. Microsoft's Windows '98 upgrade will cost users nearly $100.

So the questions are: Who should upgrade and why?

  • Anyone still using Windows 3.11 or an earlier version of Windows will not only need an operating system upgrade; it's likely some new hardware will also be necessary. Because Windows '98 is more 'Net friendly, and because it provides support for the latest hardware, now would be a good time to get a brand new system. (An even better time might be a months from now, when the prices drop some more.) You'll have to face some challenges if you've never touched Windows '95, but '98's easy Internet connections and ease of use are worth it.

  • If you're going to be adding new hardware to your old Windows '95 system, Windows '98 may be worth the upgrade. The operating system comes loaded with support for all kinds of new technology. More people are buying DVD-ROM drives now, and the Windows '98 native support may be the best way to achieve optimum performance with the operating system.

  • Tired of searching for patches and updates for Windows '95 on the Web? Microsoft's Windows '98 Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows98) offers "Windows '98 Update," a new service designed specifically to keep track of any patches, driver updates, or other new information Microsoft releases for the operating system. In fact, the first site you should visit, once Windows '98 is up and running on your machine, is Microsoft's site so you can make sure there aren't any last-minute updates or patches available for download. Then you'll want to check back every month or so to see if new information has been added.

Ultimately, if your current system is doing what you need it to do, there's no reason to upgrade. No Windows '98 software has yet been designed that will not run on Windows '95. Until Microsoft develops a 64-bit operating system, or until there's a need for a '98 driver for new hardware, users are probably safe sticking with Windows '95.


Bill wins (again)

A U.S. Court of Appeals has overturned a U.S. District Court judge's 1997 injunction against Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer 4.0 in Windows. For too long now, the justice department has been fighting Microsoft's integration of its Internet product with its operating system, claiming that the move gives the company too much control over the Web browser market.

Shhhh. Don't tell them Netscape's Navigator is still the browser that hits more than half of the Web sites on the 'Net.

The court ruled in the nick of time last week, just a couple of days before Windows '98 reached store shelves.

According to Internet reports, judges in the appellate court argued that the justice department might do well not to pursue any further action against Microsoft, adding that any such course of action looks "unpromising."

I want my cable tele... uh, modem

Windows Magazine has reportedly awarded cable-based Internet access technology, like InterMedia's InterMedia@Home, its first annual Win100 Technology of the Year Award.

Although the cable modem has been around for a little while (it debuted in Nashville last year), cable modem customers are now catching on to the idea more quickly.

InterMedia@Home, the cable modem service, "allows customers to access the Internet...100 times faster than traditional phone line systems," the company said in a statement about the award.

"InterMedia is proud to be at the forefront of cable modem technology," added Bruce J. Stewart, executive director of communications and general counsel. "Our customers in Nashville and the surrounding area are among the very first customers in the United States to take advantage of this technology."

InterMedia claims to be the 10th largest cable company in the country, serving 1.2 million customers, primarily in the Southeastern United States. In the serviced Middle Tennessee area, there are about 3,000 cable modem users.

Currently Davidson County, Williamson County, Mt. Juliet, and half of Rutherford County are wired for cable modem service. InterMedia has plans to finish Rutherford County in July.

James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Scene. E-mail him at james@nashscene.com.

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