Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi System Overload

By David O. Dabney

AUGUST 4, 1997:  Windows 98: Microsoft announced this week that the new version of Windows (code name Memphis) will be called Windows 98, thus giving you, the reader, a general idea when they plan to release it. This comes as a slight surprise, considering Microsoft has been, up to this point, adamant that their new version of Windows would be released this year.

This new version will be able to receive and display TV signals from cable, antenna and satellite transmissions, and Microsoft will also purportedly include a new version of Internet Explorer (IE), which will be directly integrated into the OS itself. Keeping that in mind, think about this: Microsoft just paid $425 million to buy WebTV (the makers of a box that lets you surf the Web from your living room through your television) and also just paid $1 billion (yes, that's billion) for an interest in cable giant ComCast. Microsoft has always been aggressive about controlling, and hence making lots of money off of, their operating systems. It's been a generally acknowledged fact that Microsoft doesn't let all of the performance secrets in Windows be known to everyone. This is especially true if you're a direct competitor like Corel, which develops a word processor (Word Perfect) that directly competes with Microsoft Word.

Naturally, all this buying on the part of MS makes the antitrust watchdogs in Congress and the Justice Department very nervous. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., is one of several congressmen calling for an investigation into Microsoft's business practices, with an emphasis on possible antitrust violations. "Technologies are converging, and one way they're going to converge is through the PC," said a member of Burns' staff. "If a company has a monopolist position over what appears on the screen and can pick winners and losers in content, that is a real concern."

Macintosh OS 8: It's been an interesting couple of weeks for Apple, with both the resignation of CEO Gilbert Amelio and the release of a major new operating system, OS 8. Luckily for Apple, they did a good job in the OS department. Not only did they release OS 8 on time, a major coup for any large computer company, but OS 8 has also been gathering very good reviews.

Right now, Macintosh has the fastest line of Power PC (PPC) processors. By the end of the year you should see processor speeds approaching or breaking 300 MHz. But, until this update, the most current version of the Finder was only barely optimized for PPC processors. This meant a substantial performance lag. Therefore, one of the biggest improvements in OS 8 is a PPC native Finder. This allows the overall performance of your PPC to increase by up to 30 percent. It also means that those of you with older machines are out of luck for the upgrade. While it does support 040 machines, the last supported update for 030 and older Macs is Mac OS 7.6.

Other important new features are a multithreaded Finder, which allows the computer to process jobs in the background much more efficiently, and a more integrated approach to the Internet. An example of this Internet integration is the inclusion of a personal Web server into OS 8. It's not really of much use unless you have a stable I.P. address (i.e., a direct and constant connection to the Internet), but it does allow users to share information over local area networks by building HTML pages. Apple also says that OS 8 is more stable overall, eliminating things like Type 11 errors as well as reducing the amount of times an application will crash or unexpectedly quit.

Nevertheless, the upgrade still lacks some important features: These include memory protection, which keeps the system from crashing when one application goes down, and "preemptive multitasking," which increases performance by dividing processor time between applications more equally. These features will be contained in Rhapsody, Apple's next-generation OS, due next year.


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