I put in the order yesterday for a volume license of Windows XP for the office. After five years, the time has come to move past Windows 98 and start keeping up with the Joneses. Or, in this case, the Gateses and the Ballmeresseses. 98 was, and still is, a great OS, and I’ve thought so ever since the day it came out. There are quite a few things I’m going to miss about it, things they seem to have done away with in XP. The little details are what I notice. Gone is the nice compact winipcfg utility for checking and renewing IP adresses. In XP it’s a clunky command line. Here to stay in XP is the concept of user profiles, which sometimes can be overkill for the basic multi-user situations we have here. Gone is boot-to-DOS, for when you’re in a pinch, seemingly replaced by the “Recovery Console” which takes roughly five minutes and a CD to get into. And the Windows 98 Find Files dialog was an exercise in simplicity, which they seem to have done away with in favor of an overwrought Search application. Windows 98 has served me well, and I’m sure that for a couple of years there will still be 98 boxes lurking in the dark shadows of the office. (Update: They’re all gone by Feb 2004) But technology is all about change, and it’s time to start the process of moving on. And XP does bring a lot of improvements to the table. Better stability, for one. Plus all the NT features like finer control over services and background processes. And just like the little things that endear me to 98, there’s also a host of other little things drawing me to XP. They don’t seem like much individually, but taken together they bring a pleasant sense of usefulness to the whole experience. ClearType, tray icon hiding, the new Start menu, snap-to-grid desktop icons. You know, dumb little things that you never even think about, but that really give XP a polished feel.
The jump to XP won’t be painless, I’m sure. Most of the people in my office aren’t what you’d call technically proficient. Most of them are still struggling to grasp some of the finer points of Windows 98. It seems like every week I have to reintroduce someone to the concept of right-click, or more advanced, right-drag. I’m still able to wow the receptionist by using shift-click to select multiple files. So really, the process might go smoother because most people haven’t gotten entrenched in the deeper parts of 98, the parts that have really changed. I’ve already moved a few people over to Windows 2000, for stability reasons, and they seemed to handle the shift fine. And a couple of people have XP on their home computer, including one of the technophobic bosses. For everyone else, I can just hope that overall the migration goes smoothly. There will be a few growing pains involved, and I imagine that I’ll be doing a bit of hand-holding at first, as people try to do a familiar task and find that it’s just slightly different in XP. But I’m confident that, in the long run, they’ll find XP easier to use and better for doing their work.
And getting fewer Blue Screen of Death calls will be a monumental relief.