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THE CUTTING EDGE / PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | Computer Basics

Windows 98 True to Microsoft's Internet Integration Mantra

April 27, 1998|KIM KOMANDO | Kim Komando is a TV host, syndicated talk radio host and author

If you've kept current with Microsoft's Windows 95 updates, you'll find Windows 98, due to hit store shelves June 25, very familiar. Despite some new features, Windows 98 looks nearly the same as Windows 95 combined with the freebies available at Microsoft's home page--namely the Windows 95 service packages and Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0.

So why buy something you can get for free? If you don't know download from payload or don't have countless hours to gather and install those freebies, Windows 98 might be for you.

Windows 98 is all about Microsoft's mantra: Internet integration. The desktop itself operates like a Web browser. Navigate through your system using My Computer and the folder windows look like Web browser windows.

A feature called Active Desktop allows you to create dynamic links to your favorite Web content. For example, you can have the latest stock quotes with a click of the mouse. But modem users with a 28.8-Kbps connection or slower, or a system with less than a 100-MHz Pentium and 16 MB of RAM should steer clear of the Active Desktop option--it's a resource hog.

Similarly (as with Windows 95 plus IE 4.0), Windows 98 allows you to subscribe to various Web pages. The system then will automatically check the page for updates and download the changed pages, graphics and all, so you can read them at your leisure even when you're not online.

One new feature might throw you: A double click has been knocked down to a single click, and what once required a single click needs not a click at all. To select a file in Windows 98, you simply move the mouse pointer over an icon. To open the file, click once. I guarantee that you'll unintentionally open files before you get used to this feature.

Windows 98 also helps you keep current with improvements to the operating system. Registered users of Windows 98 can subscribe to a free online service called Windows Update. This automatically checks with Microsoft via the Internet to see whether your system needs any new or updated components, such as program fixes and driver updates. Windows Update will then download and install them for you.

A few other conveniences: The System File Checker monitors your computer to make sure all the necessary operating system components are there. The Disk Cleanup Tool helps you remove files you no longer need, including the ones clogging up your browser cache. The Registry Checker scans the Windows registry for problems, automatically repairs corrupted registries and keeps backup copies.

Windows 98 also features some performance enhancements. It places the most frequently accessed files on the outer portions of the hard disk platters. This way those files load about 30% faster.

It also starts up and shuts down faster, by eliminating the two-second "Starting Windows 95" delay. Also, instead of taking time to close any open files and drivers running in memory, Windows 98 simply pulls the plug on them at shutdown.

And if you're running short of disk space, Windows 98's efficiency in managing hard-disk real estate can help. A new file structure uses disk space more efficiently, which can help you forestall the purchase of a bigger hard drive.

If you bought your PC after early 1997, you're probably using a version of Windows 95 that already has the modern file system. If not, Windows 98 will ship with an easy utility to switch your hard drives to the new format.

Windows 98 also provides built-in support for new technologies, such as Universal Serial Bus (USB), which allows you to daisy-chain multiple external devices through a single high-speed port.

For entertainment, Windows 98 provides support for digital videodisc and digital audio, meaning you can blast high-quality movies and audio to your monitor or TV.

Speaking of TV, with the right hardware you can watch TV programs on your computer monitor and search for your favorite shows with the built-in Program Guide that delivers programming information via the Internet. Likewise, Windows 98 supports Enhanced Television, which combines TV and Web content.

It seems only one thing might deter Microsoft's total integration of the online and desktop experience for Windows users: the government's antitrust investigation.

The company appears undaunted by rumors that the Justice Department might try to force the separation of Internet Explorer from Windows 98. But the final look of Windows 98 might hinge, in part, on a race between two ponderous armies not known for fast action: Microsoft's programming corps and the Justice Department's antitrust team. Legal experts predict that if the department waits until after Windows 98 is released, it will be too late to do anything about it.

Kim Komando is a TV host, syndicated talk radio host and author. You can visit her on the Internet at http://www.komando.com or e-mail her at komando@komando.com. Her national talk radio program can be heard from 7 to 9 a.m. Saturdays on 97.1 KLSX-FM.

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