Cybernaut 

The year of the OS

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It’s been five years since Microsoft released Windows XP, itself following up on the much reviled Windows Millennium Edition.

By all accounts, XP is/was a pretty good operating system, although you wouldn’t know it from all the bad press it has received over the years as a result of all the security gaps, patches and upgrades that have become too routine in the Microsoft world.

Still, XP was much more intuitive and easy to use compared to previous Windows operating systems, and did a pretty good job anticipating the emergence of the computer as a multimedia platform for storing and editing pictures, music and video. It was also a harder system to crash than previous Windows editions, even though it required more memory, to run more applications and handle the various plug and play demands of users. Unlike Apple — which has a limited number of peripherals to choose from — XP simply had to work with virtually every electronic device on the market.

Two service packs and hundreds of patches and upgrades later, XP is finally being kicked to the curb. A lot of people won’t miss it.

In its place we’re about to witness the launch of a new operating system this January called Vista. It’s more than two years late, but only because Microsoft was not content merely to update their existing platform — instead they elected to design a whole new operating system from the bottom up that is tailored to the next era of computing — dual core processors, 64-bit processors, faster bus speeds, the Direct X 10 developer platform, and all forms and functions of next generation capability and software.

Vista is also designed to be more secure, although some minor flaws have already been uncovered by security firms like Symantec. Considering the amount of scrutiny this software has received, turning up just a few minor bugs at this stage is actually good news for Microsoft. Every hacker in the world is going to try to find security flaws in Vista to exploit, and to be the first one to break Microsoft’s new security protocols, but so far they’ve been shut out.

While security is always the big question mark, you’re still going to want to upgrade to Vista providing you can at least meet the minimum technical specifications — 800 MHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 512 MB system memory, SVGA graphics processor, 15 GB free hard drive space. Most computers sold in the last three years or so won’t have much trouble meeting the minimum.

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