SANDY BERGER: Microsoft's New Operating System Is Well Worth Wait
Windows Vista is finally here. The completed version of this new operating system will be available for purchase both as a stand-alone program and on new computers next week.
It took Microsoft five years to develop this new operating system. It was postponed and delayed for the past year.
So a few of you -- those who have put off purchasing a new computer waiting for Vista -- will be happy to be finally making your new purchase. My guess, however, is that most of you are saying, "A new version of Windows -- who cares?"
Whether you care about it or not, if you are an average computer user, Vista will be a part of your future. So let me give you a glimpse into your future with Microsoft's new operating system.
First, Vista is visually much more appealing than any previous versions of Windows. The interface is more fluid. Things seem to glide onto the screen. Fonts, dialogue boxes, and icons have been redesigned with a fresher look. Drop shadows and special effects make Vista more fun to look at and to work with.
Vista is also the most secure version of Windows ever produced. Although still not perfect, it has been redesigned to thwart the bad guys. Microsoft has added Windows Defender which protects your PC from nasty spyware, parental controls, more encryption tools, a better firewall, and an anti-phishing filter.
Vista will come in five different versions here in the United States. As a home user, you will have to worry about only two versions: home basic and home premium.
Home basic is for bare-bones computing and does not even include the new visually-appealing interface that I just talked about.
If at all possible, when you make the move to Vista, you will want to get home premium. This version incorporates what was previously called Windows Media Center edition. Home premium will have special software to handle photos, video, and other digital media. With the addition of a television card, if you have home premium Vista installed, you will also be able to record and replay television programs.
Other new features abound. Vista will have a new backup program that will make it easier to back up your data.
Those of you who use Outlook Express will be glad to know that this e-mail program has been updated and now includes a spam filter.
Vista also includes an updated speech recognition system. While still not as good as some stand-alone software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, Vista's voice-recognition system may be all you need to dictate text and have your computer type it. Also, the Windows Explorer that you can use to view the content of your files and folders has been greatly improved, making it easier to work with files and folders.
There is also a Windows sidebar that provides instant access to a wide range of customizable gadgets that provide information like weather, stocks, and other programs and information at a glance.
All these new features are great, but they do use system resources and hard disk space. So for any computer system to use Vista, it will need plenty of RAM. Although Microsoft says it will run on 512 MB, I advise having 1 GB minimum, preferably 2 GB of memory.
Also be sure you have a really big hard disk. Vista alone will take 15GB of hard disk space to install. Vista also requires a very capable video card and a lot of memory on that card to produce its complex graphics.
For most computer users, these hardware requirements mean that they will have to be happy using Windows XP until there is a new computer on the horizon. In fact, a new computer is the most economical way to get Vista. The upgrade to Windows home premium costs $159. The full version is going for $239. For not a few hundred dollars more you can get a whole computer with Vista on it.
I have been using Vista for a few months, and I must admit that I really like it. Although it is very stable, many of you will want to wait a few months until it is in mass use.
If, however, you are an early adopter or a high tech guru and you can't wait that long, Vista goes on sale on Jan. 30. All CompUSA stores will be open to sell you Vista at the stroke of midnight.
Although some Best Buy and Circuit City stores will also stay open, you will have to travel to find one since our local Best Buy will have normal business hours on that day.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/ckmessageboard.
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