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The Wonders of Windows

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My mother has often told me to be grateful for small mercies, and in many ways I am. There was a time when installing Windows was a real pain in the neck but these days it’s far easier, and I am suitably grateful. In the dark days of Windows 95 and 98 you had to boot from a floppy, then once your CD-ROM was up and running you could insert the Windows CD and after about ten restarts Windows was installed.

Windows 2000 was far better as it runs from a bootable CD but Windows XP is an absolute doddle if we gloss over the small matter of product activation which isn’t really much of a chore if you only install Windows once in a while.

There are still plenty of issues to get vexed about though, starting with Regional Settings. It bugs me mightily that I can select English (United Kingdom) for both my Regional Options and for my Input Language yet Windows will assume that I’m in a US time zone unless I force it to use Greenwich Mean Time. I fully accept that there may be Frenchmen who use Greek Windows in Zimbabwe, but surely the odds are that an Englishman is in the UK rather than somewhere else on the planet. Similarly I find it infuriating when I’m using Word or Outlook and it decides to default to a US dictionary.

I spend a fair part of my time adding IT products and words to my dictionary, often in a number of different forms to suit the style of whichever magazine or website I’m writing for. I’m not surprised that Word struggles when it is faced with nVidia, NVidia and Nvidia in the one paragraph, but there is an irony that once I’ve forced a document to English (UK) rather than English (US) it often sprouts a rash of red spelling mistake marks thanks to the plethora of American words that Microsoft uses globally. Is it really asking too much for Microsoft to call Windows Media Center Edition a Media Centre in the UK?

New features in Windows can bring benefits to the user, but it’s inevitable that there will be a few teething problems. Windows XP SP2 (Service Pack 2) introduced the Windows Firewall as well as support for the No Execute feature that is supported by Athlon 64 and the latest versions of Pentium 4. This is surely a good thing, but when we were testing the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ on an Asus nForce4 SLI motherboard with Windows XP SP2, something, somewhere prevented half of SYSmark 2004 from running with an error message that told us that the NX (No eXecute) feature had kicked in. This persisted until we installed an Intel network card which gave the Firewall such a nasty shock that we were able to change its settings and to persuade it to see the error of its ways. This should have had no bearing whatsoever on the NX bit but the benchmark ran perfectly after that so there clearly is a link of some sort.

This problem is unfortunate but understandable when you consider the complexity of Windows, but there are some annoyances that are so crass that the only reasonable explanation is that a team of dedicated marketing people sit up ‘till the wee small hours wired on fizzy drinks and exotic sushi, searching for ways to make our lives difficult.

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