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ActiveWin: Windows XP One Year On
It is hard to believe that Windows XP is only just coming up to its one year anniversary; it feels like it has been with us for a lot longer than that. Perhaps it is due to the long running beta that took place before its release or maybe I have just managed to settle down with Windows XP far quicker than I have done with any of the previous Windows operating systems.
When Windows XP launched on October 25th 2001 in New York City, it aimed to make using an operating system far easier for both new users and those of us who have used Windows previously, adding new features, improving reliability, improving the look and feels of the system and finally, combining the existing Windows 9x and Windows NT kernels into one for easier driver and program updates.
As of late last month Windows XP has sold millions of copies world wide and it is still going strong. It has obviously sold very well and will continue to do so thanks to newer versions such as Windows XP Media Center being released in the near future. It launched with much fanfare in two slightly different editions. One – Windows XP Home Edition was aimed directly to the consumer, those of us who didn’t really want to worry about some more advanced features. The other version was aimed directly at the business users who needed a few more advanced features such as more robust backing up features, multiple language support, IIS, Multiple processor support and an Encrypting File system not used in the home edition.
So what has Windows XP done for computing since its launch last year?
First and easily the most important improvement that Windows XP has given us over previous releases of the Windows Operating system is reliability and stability, sure there are still times when a few of us get problems with crashes, but on the whole, Windows XP has massively improved stability. Since I installed Windows XP last year I can (touch wood) safely state that I have had only one or two lock-up crashes (blue screens are still there in Windows XP), one of which turned out to be a problem with a bank of memory, whilst the other was a driver problem. It is a shame that we have had to wait this long for a stable operating system for the home but I am pleased that it has finally arrived.
Now all we need in the next release is to finally have no more blue screens of death that are still evident in Windows XP, even though they rarely crop up like they used to in older Windows releases.
The graphical user interface (GUI) has undergone a number of major improvements; finally we have a Windows operating system that isn’t quite so boring to look at even if it still doesn’t match the style and coolness of the Mac OS. Navigating in Windows XP has also been streamlined with less mouse clicks needed to get to various areas you want to be in.
The ability to get multiple users using just one PC has been made very easy thanks to the user system in Windows XP. Adding new users is simple, they can keep whatever styles they want, have their own “My Documents”, their own internet favourites, and keep everything the way they want without worrying about someone in the family changing something that never needed changing in the first place.
The next improvement is one that a lot of people may well laugh at, security. The integrated firewall offers some very basic, loose, but helpful security for online users who don’t want to pay out for a full blown firewall program such as Norton, while it is a basic firewall – it does protect quite well against simple attacks. Next there is the little noticed fact that if you go out and purchase a new PC, the hard drive will be using the NTFS file system. This might not be anything new to some of us, but to a lot of users who don’t know too much about file systems or to basic home users used to FAT32 the NTFS file system gives some additional security to your files over the previous FAT32 file system used for past operating systems.
Of course there have been some well noted security bugs in Windows XP, but they have all been patched very quickly when they have been discovered or reported to Microsoft and what operating system from Windows to Linux doesn’t suffer from them now and again?
Both System Restore and Driver Rollback have turned out to be very useful additions to Windows XP, especially Driver Rollback. Allowing you to go back to previous drivers or system files if a problem occurs when you install a new driver or install a new program, patch that replaces system files.
Simple little things have made Windows XP a better overall experience, event logs help you figure out basic and more advanced problems with your system or program crashes. There are easier to understand help files which improve many users ability to get the most out of the operating system as best they can. There are automatic updates that keep you informed when new security updates and patches are released on the Windows Update website, even if most of us advanced users end up switching this feature off as soon as we have Windows XP up and running.
There are some bad points though, even if not all of them are Microsoft’s fault. Lots of stuff that some users won’t want are still installed by default, there are programs like Windows Messenger and Windows Media Player installed when a large number of people believe that they would like to have the right to choose what chat or media player programs they would like to use from scratch instead of having Microsoft programs forced on them. No matter how good either program is in our opinion, lots of users prefer to choose what they want.
Driver updates took a while to come, with some hardware still not fully supported in Windows XP. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault though, it is just a sad fact that some companies have yet again been slow in producing driver updates (Creative, are you listening?).
Overall Windows XP has had a good first year on computers around the world, it looks like it will be around for a while yet with the next update for Windows due around 2004 in a minor release as the next major Windows release - “Longhorn” is still a long way off. Service pack 1 for Windows XP was released earlier this month and has offered a lot of bug fixes and some speed improvements for a number of users, while work has already begun on Windows XP Service Pack 2.
There is a lot to shout about here, Windows XP has made using Windows a more colourful and enjoyable experience, and hey, even activation hasn’t turned out to be as bad as expected has it?