2000 beats 98 for the road warrior

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I'll admit it: I'm an operating system bigot. So when my new IBM ThinkPad arrived, complete with 700-MHz Pentium III CPU, 196 MB of RAM, and 12.5 GB of disk space, I was disheartened to find that it was also packing Windows 98.

I prefer a real operating system, not a glossed-over 16-bit OS with a GUI add-on. Look under the cover of Windows 95 or Windows 98 and you see MS-DOS 7.x and Windows 4.x. That's fine for my kids, but no business client should run anything less than Windows NT, Windows 2000, or a Unix variant. For a laptop, Windows 2000 makes the most sense.

I see some of you Linux fans reaching for your keyboards to bash me. Well, I like Linux. I use Linux. It's a great operating system -- for a stationary server without many hardware changes. For a laptop that may use a dialup connection in the morning, use a DHCP network connection in the afternoon, go back to the dialup from a hotel, and connect to a non-DHCP network the next day, Windows 2000 Professional is more suitable.

So, with my laptop attached to the network and a Windows 2000 Professional CD-ROM in my hand, I merrily installed Windows 2000. The CD-ROM was not an upgrade version, so I could legally install it to a different directory without touching the Windows 98 configuration. I formatted both partitions with FAT-32, because both Windows 98 and Win2K understand it.

Like many laptops, the machine came with lots of utilities that addressed its specific peculiarities. Fortunately, IBM included instructions on how to install the utilities under Windows 2000; clearly, IBM expects that many users will install Windows 2000 on the ThinkPad.

Windows 2000 installed without a hitch, I added the utilities, and my ThinkPad was a joy to behold.

If you follow my example, be sure to give yourself administrator rights when you use 2000 on your laptop. If you're not the administrator, you can't add a new driver to the system when you install a new device. Some big companies don't give users administrator rights on their own computers; this might work for a desktop, but not a laptop. Keep a copy of Windows 2000 Professional handy on the hard disk, or keep the CD-ROM in your briefcase. You're going to need it more than you might expect.

Windows 2000 offers good plug-and-play capabilities. You have to tell it to rescan the hardware if you insert something after boot time, but you usually don't have to reboot, as you do with NT. Windows 98 is a little better at this, but I can live with Win2K's method: go to Control Panel, select the System applet, choose the Hardware tab, and click on the Device Manager button. The Device Manager screen appears. Right-click on the computer name and select Scan for Hardware Changes. I'm sure there's a faster way to get there, but it's better than a reboot and it works. I even managed to successfully insert an external device in a SCSI chain without a shutdown -- something I wouldn't recommend, but I was in an experimental mood.

My next step was to take the ThinkPad on the road for two weeks -- East and West coasts, three hotels, six flights, lots of remote networking. The laptop passed this test admirably.

For now, Windows 98 is still on the machine, and both partitions are still FAT-32. Eventually, I'll either upgrade Windows 98 to Millennium Edition or just delete it entirely. Maybe I'll even install Red Hat Linux instead. As long as Windows 2000 is in the primary partition, I don't care what other operating systems are cluttering up the rest of the hard drive.

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