I must confess that even as I don't like Windows, I use it more
than any other system. On my desk at work, I have a FreeBSD (unix)
system and a Windows-98 machine. In our server room, we have 3 Linux
machines - and a Windows 95 "server". At home, we have 2 (old) Macs
and a Windows-98, and my daughter wants to trade her Mac for another
Windows has attained the dominant status, where it is assumed
that a "personal computer" runs Windows, unless one specifically
states otherwise. This is not the because it is a good system
(although recently, it is "not as bad as it used to be"), but
because the programs one wants to run on a personal computer
tend to be available only for Windows. Because it is the most
A Little Historical Background
Windows 3.1 was a pile of not very good software, weighed down by tradition
and compatibility. As students of computing history will remember, Windows
was conceived as a stopgap, something to use until the real thing, OS/2,
jointly developed by IBM and Microsoft could be ready.
As it turned out, the requirement to make it run on the original PC
(Intel 8086 CPUs) which did not have any memory management hardware, was
an impossible goal. Chasing it, caused the project to take forever, until
Microsoft gave up and pulled out to pursue a more complete system based
on the Windows code. Eventually, it turned out that the goal of a windowed
user interface on the real-mode CPUs was impossible. The first truly usable
version of Windows would be version 3.1.
Meanwhile, IBM continued the OS/2 project, producing several realeases
of a very good system, about as powerful as Unix, but optimized for the
PC platform, and able to run Windows applications in "compatibility mode".
Microsoft's "Windows release 4" project dragged out, eventually to be released
as "Windows 95". A billion dollars of advertizing went into persuading
people not to buy OS/2 release 3 (Warp), but wait for Windows-95.
Like many others, I was so disgusted by Microsoft's business practices,
that I insisted on running OS/2 on my home computer. But after two years,
I've mostly succumbed. I now run Windows 95/98 most of the time.
That does not mean I love it.
Some things are just beyond
What Needs Improving ?
If you want to run Windows on a home system, get
Windows 98 Second Edition. But beware: Windows system CDs come
in three different flavors:
Windows tends to periodically (at least every other year) need a
major cleaning, which is most easily performed by booting from the
"Windows boot floppy", renaming C:\WINDOWS to C:\OLD-WIN and
installing Windows and all your programs from scratch. This is painful,
but when all else fails, it often fixes a machine that has become slow and
/ or started crashing every half hour for no reason that makes sense.
- Full Installation CD - the retail pack costs about $200. This can be
used to installl Windows on a new machine. It cannot be used to
upgrade Windows on a machine that contains an older system version.
This version used to be delivered with all new PCs. The PC manufacturers
would get this from Microsoft for about $25-$50 per machine; the kicker
was that they had to pay the fee for all the machines they sold, even
is the customer wanted another operating system. (This was one of
the issues in the monopoly lawsuit.)
- Upgrade CD - the normal retail pack which you see for $90 at the
office supply store. This can only be used to upgrade a running machine
from an old version of Windows to the current version.
If you get a new hard drive, you need to have a full installation kit,
(possibly for an older version) and install that before you can
upgrade back to the current system version.
- Recovery CD - If you buy a new machine today, it is likely that you
will not get a Windows system CD with the machine; recently Microsoft
has changed the licensing procedure to get the manufacturers to
start shipping shipping a "recovery CD" that will wipe out the hard
drive and restore it to the state it was in when the machine left
the factory. This is probably a good idea for large business
sites, where the computer department needs to clean up machines
when they are transferred from one user to another, but it
is very impractical for home users.
Software Installed on MY Windows System
Even in the Windows world, there are pleanty of people making software
available, either for free use, or on the "try it and pay us if you like it"
principle of shareware.
- Netscape Communicator - Web browser, email client, newsgroup
reader, and web page editor all in one.
I will NEVER use a Microsoft email program again.
- RealPlayer and RealJukebox - These two complementary programs
allow me to listen to online radio stations (great for catching up
if you missed NPR news' Morning Edition) and play MP3 music files.
The website is designed to make it hard to find the free versions
of these programs, but they are there.
When you install RealJukebox, make sure to select MP3 as your
preferred music format, and to uncheck the box called
"secure my music files when encoding". If you don't, your
music files will be encrypted in a way that makes it impossible
to play them on any other machine. In my experience, the 56kbps
compression format (the most compact) is good enough for anything
that you play back on the computer's speakers.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Ghostscript Tools
- Manage duplicate DLLs:
Windows-95, like Windows 3.1, extends the system by adding new shared
library files to the system. Sometimes 5 different programs will install
5 different versions of what is supposed to be the same system extension.
This program helps you find those so that you can reconcile the differences;
with any luck, that means keeping only the most recent versions.
$Log: windows.htm,v $
Revision 1.9 2003/01/03 16:27:56 lars
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Revision 1.8 2000/07/07 15:27:18 lars
Added overviews of PDP-11 and VAX families.
Added overview of x86 architecture.
Added links about Algol
Added flavors of windows CDs to windows overview
Added list of programs that WIndows needs
Revision 1.7 1999/11/10 07:48:31 lars
Added new links.
Revision 1.6 1999/11/08 16:46:34 lars
More computer history links.
Revision 1.5 1999/09/23 06:56:03 lars
Move links from bookmark file intop relevant pages.
Revision 1.4 1999/07/31 01:18:52 lars
dded more web resource links
Revision 1.3 1999/07/21 17:19:11 lars
Add page for Linux, BeOS. Update Windows page.
Revision 1.2 1999/06/26 22:17:44 lars