August 2002 Bulletin

Is Windows XP Professional right for you?

Should you upgrade?

By Reid Stanton

It has been nearly a year since Microsoft introduced its Windows XP operating system (OS). The first bundled package of bug fixes and updates, Service Pack 1, is scheduled for release in the second half of 2002. So, if you have been thinking about upgrading, you should know that Windows XP comes in two versions: Home and Professional. This article focuses on the Professional version.

New look and stability

Windows XP has been referred to as the "Fisher-Price" OS because of its bright colors and rounded edges. It is the OS’s first sweeping new look since Windows 95. For hardware you need at least a 300-MHz Pentium II processor, 128 MB of memory, and 2 GB hard drive to run Windows XP.

Windows XP Professional is built on the core known as the NT kernel, suggesting Windows XP will be more stable than previous versions of Windows. According to Microsoft, even if a program crashes, in most cases your computer will keep running.

Windows XP also introduces a new product activation requirement that is calculated to make sure the OS is only installed on a single computer. The Windows Product Activation process lets Microsoft create and store a profile of the configuration of every PC on which you install Windows XP in order to "lock" each copy of the OS to just one specific PC.

User switching

One of Windows XP’s improvements is the addition of the Fast User Switching feature, which should make it easy for several staff to share one computer. By creating separate user accounts, each user can run applications, step away, and let someone else use the machine without having to shut down to safeguard the work completed.

Networking and remote desktop

Windows XP includes networking and other features that make it a great communication tool. It has a remote desktop, a feature found only in Windows XP Professional, that lets you set up your computer for connection from any other Windows-based computer. Remote Desktop gives you access to your computer from virtually anywhere. Windows XP Professional also provides more robust options for backing up and restoring data than Home Edition.

XP still has driver compatibility problems, however. Drivers are needed to communicate with peripherals like printers, scanners, cameras, and modems. So if you have an old printer you may not be able to use it with the new OS. You might want to investigate beforehand if driver support is available for your peripheral before considering an upgrade to XP.

Bundled messaging and more

Microsoft is bundling new products into XP such as instant messaging and video and audio playback. If you want to use other vendors’ products, you will have to jump through Microsoft-designed hoops to set them up. Microsoft is counting on the fact many people are too afraid of their PCs to go through the hassle. Windows XP includes an instant messaging system that competes with AOL’s and an expanded music and video player that competes with RealNetworks’ RealPlayer.

Windows Media Player and DVD

As we go to press, we have found that our new Windows XP Professional would not play some DVD videos, including the new AAOS Surgical Techniques in Orthopaedics: Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Until XP, most PC manufacturers bundled Win DVD, an award winning DVD player software with their computers. With Windows XP, Microsoft wants Windows Media Player to play your DVDs. Windows Media Player support for DVD playback is dependent upon the presence of a supported decoder which you may need to purchase for about $15. The software decoders are available from several vendors and information is available from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/windowsxp/dvdplay.asp

Java removed

The Java environment was removed from XP, thereby breaking the features of many Web sites that use Java to add features such as stock tickers and other little "applets." Windows XP users who visit those sites will have to download a large Java software file to restore the functionality they’ve come to expect. Sun has filed a lawsuit claiming that Microsoft made Windows XP incompatible with Sun’s Java language.

If you purchase a new computer, it will come with the Windows XP OS and you should definitely get the Professional version. However, if you have Windows 98 SE, ME or Windows 2000 and it’s meeting your needs, stick with it.

If you really want to upgrade, you should wait at least until Service Pack 1 ships with Windows XP Professional before considering an upgrade.

Reid Stanton is the manager, electronic media at the AAOS. He can be reached at (847) 384-4102 or at rstanton@aaos.org.

Computer Link welcomes suggestions about future topics for the column and questions about the use of computers in orthopaedic practice. Send your suggestions to the Bulletin at AAOS, 6300 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. 60018.


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