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Top Ten Reasons to Be Pragmatic About Windows XP Professional

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It's clear that Microsoft is, via its leasing of large white helicopters to shuttle hardware execs around the skies of Redmond, trying to create an industry buzz and sense of urgency around the launch of Windows XP. Don't get swept up in the torrent just yet. Check out 10 reasons, described in this article, for being pragmatic.
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After having witnessed the Windows XP launch for hardware OEMs at Microsoft on August 24, it's unmistakable that this software company means business with their latest operating system. To give you an idea of the drawing power of the event, there were more media trucks, reporters, and large TV transmission vans at Microsoft than there was at Fenway Park in Boston when the Red Sox were battling the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East last month. Yet among all the media attention, the whirling of helicopters and impressive party thrown for the XP development teams, one had to reflect on whether XP was done or not. In this article, you can look over the top ten reasons I think you need to be pragmatic about adopting the operating system, even if the code was delivered from on high via leased helicopters!

  1. Windows XP loves laptops as long as it is the one and only partition. This was a painful lesson, even if the install script says that multiple partitions will be honored. On an IBM ThinkPad T21, Windows XP RC1 and RC2 went through the install routines executing perfectly. The install process even lets you think the partitions are OK. Not so. Try rebooting, and you will see nothing but XP in the flexboot. Be careful with XP installs on laptops. Better yet, have a laptop that you will only run XP on, and be satisfied with that. It will be Service Pack 1 time until XP will truly honor multiple partitions on a laptop.

  2. No driver rollback for non-Microsoft drivers, unless they are XP-certified. This also is a tricky one. The device driver rollback works today only with Microsoft-based drivers for previous revisions of the operating systems. Device drivers from third-party companies are out of luck. So if you plan to get into XP immediately, be sure that all device drivers you are rolling back to have XP-compatible versions done, tested, and listed by the Windows Quality Labs teams. If not, you are taking your chances.

  3. Trusting the Network Connections Wizard. In repeated testing of the Network Connections Wizard with Advanced Connections, it's clear that in-bound connections are easily configured, but outbound ones are not. It's a major flaw that bidirectional communication cannot be enabled. But the level of security when the Advanced Connections options are chosen is DOS-like in its level of trust. Scary.

  4. Drivers, drivers, drivers. If you want to be one of the first on your cube row to be running Windows XP Professional, be sure to get all the device drivers you are using written down by device. Then, go to the Microsoft Web site, and see if the vendors are done and certified with the drivers. You will find that many vendors still do not have certified device drivers, and if you are using a workstation that happens to have a 3Dlabs product installed, you will need the patience of a saint. 3Dlabs seems to be very mum on the XP issue, even after months of trying to find out even if Permedia2 will be support, much less the GMX2000 card in a workstation trying to get out of 640[ts]480 hell. So much for high-resolution graphics on the flagship platform for this operating system. This is one of the most serious limitations of XP today. Lack of drivers is going to slow down adoption unless Microsoft prods these vendors into action.

  5. So what does the Home Networking Wizard do? The most mysterious of wizards, the Home Networking Wizard. No white papers explain the transferring of icons between one PC and a network connector as the wizard runs. Is it setting up a DHCP server, or is this peer-to-peer? So what does this wizard do? I think the mystery around this will not fly in the Global 2,500 accounts, which will force pragmatism even higher as Service Pack 1 is looked at increasingly as the bug-free release.

  6. Security needs to be proven. Many users have remarked that the firewall is easily traversed in Windows XP Professional RC1 and RC2. In fact, system administrators who have tested the firewall have found that not all unwanted inbound traffic can be stopped. Clearly, any company adopting Windows XP needs to have a stronger firewall than the one included in the operating system.

  7. Windows Product Activation will be a distraction for thousands of corporate PC and laptop users. Angered by the astounding high levels of software piracy worldwide, Microsoft created its Windows Product Activation feature for Windows XP. After 30 days, for example with Windows XP, you are required to register the product or be toggled down to reduced functionality. The hitch is that much of the registration data is private—hence, many privacy groups are up in arms over this activation feature. But be prepared to ante up that information if you want to continue using XP after it's installed.

  8. Microsoft is being driven by consumer-oriented product life cycles. One industry pundit saw this as a positive, saying that Microsoft will now hit their delivery dates more efficiently. How can this be a positive? Microsoft is striving to be an enterprise-level software company with its .NET initiative. If this is true—and if Microsoft moves towards a retail direction—someone needs to tell the product planners that in the dotcom bust, the B2C players sunk first. The truth is that Microsoft is rushing XP to market so it can see its revenue impact in 4Q/01.

  9. Hardware compatibility is an issue. Despite the Windows XP airlift on August 24, the hardware OEMs participated in, and the apparent show of support from these companies, the reality of it is there is still much testing to be completed, more certifications to be earned by hardware manufacturers that have not even started the process yet, and more focus on compatibility to the motherboard level. In short, the industry needs to catch up with Microsoft's claims of pervasive compatibility for Windows XP to be a success.

  10. Performance. Although Microsoft is touting that XP will outperform Windows2000 with both Win16-based and Win32-based applications, the benchmarks completed using standard testing suites show that Windows NT 4.0 still outperforms both Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional RC2 on imaging tests. Chalk it up to the excellent graphics drivers in Windows NT 4.0. Yet the message is clear: It's safe to assume that it will take at least one Service Pack to get Windows XP Professional to the level of performance it needs to be at to match what Windows2000 can do with a multithreaded application. Performance today is an issue to go into a migration with your eyes fixed on.

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