August 6, 1995 in Nation/World

Windows 95 Lives Up To Some Of The Hype Microsoft Program Is Indeed Improved, But Needs A Beefy Machine

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The much-hyped Windows 95 may be the perfect computer program for people who drown in the alphabet soup of Microsoft’s earlier operating systems.

But casual computer users should beware: It may not run well on the slower, less-beefy machines sold only a few years ago.

The system is billed as the salvation from the technical headaches of Microsoft DOS/Windows operating systems, which translate computer language into plain English and pictures on IBM-compatible computers.

On Aug. 24, after testing by 400,000 users worldwide, Windows 95 will be available to the public for between $90 and $100.

Early versions of the program indicate it’s a big improvement.

It’s quick. It’s point and click. It has friendly icons, like “My Computer” and “Recycling Bin.” It can juggle tasks and run dozens of programs at the same time. It even runs most older software.

“I give it a big thumbs up,” said Jim Rowlan, service manager of Micro-Age, a computer retailer. “It’s a big improvement.”

So should people rush out and buy Windows 95? That depends on whether they have a powerful enough computer, can afford to upgrade their hardware, or can simply live without the latest software.

Windows 95 won’t run on smaller, older computers, so some people will have to spend hundreds of dollars to beef up their machines or thousands on a new one.

And computer programs - games, word-processing, spreadsheets - developed in the near future will work only with Windows 95. That means fewer and fewer software choices for people with older systems.

Some people might want to buy Windows 95 because it’s so simple. For those who aren’t used to computers or who run at the sight of a MS-DOS prompt, this is easy stuff. File manager? Kaput. Program manager? Hidden, unless a user digs to find it.

“I really feel spoiled,” said Susan Miller, whose husband, J. Scott Miller, has tested early versions of Windows 95 since October. “I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’ve used other computers without this since using it. It’s sort of like drinking skim milk instead of two percent.”

Despite company claims, Windows 95 needs a beefy machine. Microsoft says it requires only a 386DX machine with 4 megabytes of RAM and 80 megabytes on the hard drive.

That may be true, if someone doesn’t mind getting a good night’s sleep while the computer chugs through three different tasks.

A 386DX will work, but a 486DX would be better. A Pentium-powered PC is the best of all.

The system takes up between 45 and 60 megabytes on the hard drive, but that estimate is misleading. To run more than one program at a time and to store new applications, the computer needs at least 100 megabytes and preferably 200.

The program also needs at least 8 megabytes of RAM, most users agree.

“They say it runs on 4 megs of RAM,” J. Scott Miller said. “But you would be out of your mind to run it on 4 megs of RAM.”

Windows 95 has some glitches. Video on CD-ROM sometimes runs slowly, skips around and looks like a badly dubbed foreign movie. Some older applications have problems running in Windows 95.

Yet it has a lot of perks.

Users can customize their icons and decide which programs, such as games, they want displayed on their desktops. Windows 95 makes it easier to install new hardware, such as printers.

It’s also easier to network with other computers. Communications software, such as e-mail and software for Microsoft’s new on-line service, is built into the system.

Users finally can give documents names that make sense. Windows 3.11 only allowed names of eight characters, a dot, then three characters, such as “Window95.txt.” Now, users can name files with up to 255 characters, such as “How to clean 95 windows.”

After years of people accidentally deleting the wrong programs and files in older versions of Windows, the new program provides a recycling bin similar to the trash can of Apple’s MacIntosh. Users can recover files accidentally dragged to the bin.

From the screen’s taskbar, users can click into programs and switch from task to task. They can receive faxes, e-mail and write novels at the same time, as long as their brains can handle it.

The Windows 95 Plus package features funky screen backgrounds and screen savers, which pop up on the screen if it’s left alone too long.

Choose “The 60s,” and the screen saver is a swirling tie-dye. Pick “Dangerous Animals,” and the screen swims with manta rays; instead of an hourglass, the mouse pointer is a wasp when the computer’s working.

Despite all these improvements, some people might be better off waiting to let Microsoft take care of any bugs that crop up before buying.

“I don’t think there’s a big rush,” Rowlan said. “It’s going to be around. If you really want the cutting edge, it’s worth going out and getting. If you’re OK without that, you can wait a while.”

There’s always Windows 96.

, DataTimes MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: Reviewers weigh in on Windows 95 Here’s what other writers have to say about Windows 95: Ed Foster, The Arizona Republic: Friends, it works. People buying a new IBM-compatible computer should insist on having it preinstalled. But I question whether people who are satisfied with their current operating systems will find the cost and aggravation of an upgrade worthwhile. Dan Keating, Knight-Ridder Newspapers: Microsoft succeeded in making a system that feels good the very first time you sit down to it - even if you’re not an experienced computer user. It’s so good that it feels almost exactly like Macintosh computers have felt for a decade. The new look should be an easy switch for experienced Windows 3.1 users. They’ll be able to pick up with routine tasks almost right away. Taking advantage of the new advanced features, however, is going to require training. Stephen Manes, N.Y. Times News Service: To anyone who has dealt with the arcane settings involved in configuring a personal computer other than an Apple Macintosh, the ability of Windows 95 to sniff out a system’s resources is quietly dazzling. On my machine, built before the advent of socalled Plug and Play technology, Windows 95 managed to find and set up the video card, the sound card, the CD-ROM drive and everything else. It even recognized my outboard modem. Robin Stacy, Knight-Ridder Newspapers: I’d say that, if you’re having some problem now running DOS and Windows, or if there’s some specific element of Windows 95 that you have a particular need for, then by all means go ahead and buy it as soon as it’s released on Aug. 24. On the other hand, if you don’t have some reason that requires you to adopt the new software immediately, I’d advise waiting six months or so until at least the first revision - Windows 95.1? - is released.

On-line information For more information about Windows 95, check out Microsoft on-line newsletters and files. Internet: FTP or the World Wide Web. Select Web ftp.microsoft.com in the peropsys/ win-news directory. CompuServe: Type GO WINNEWS. Prodigy: Choose JUMP WINNEWS America Online: Choose keyword WINNEWS. Genie: Access WinNews in file area 24 of the Windows Roundtable. E-mail: To subscribe to the Windows 95 Electronic Newsletter, send e-mail to enews@microsoft.nwnet.com and write “Subscribe Winnews.”

These sidebars appeared with the story: Reviewers weigh in on Windows 95 Here’s what other writers have to say about Windows 95: Ed Foster, The Arizona Republic: Friends, it works. People buying a new IBM-compatible computer should insist on having it preinstalled. But I question whether people who are satisfied with their current operating systems will find the cost and aggravation of an upgrade worthwhile. Dan Keating, Knight-Ridder Newspapers: Microsoft succeeded in making a system that feels good the very first time you sit down to it - even if you’re not an experienced computer user. It’s so good that it feels almost exactly like Macintosh computers have felt for a decade. The new look should be an easy switch for experienced Windows 3.1 users. They’ll be able to pick up with routine tasks almost right away. Taking advantage of the new advanced features, however, is going to require training. Stephen Manes, N.Y. Times News Service: To anyone who has dealt with the arcane settings involved in configuring a personal computer other than an Apple Macintosh, the ability of Windows 95 to sniff out a system’s resources is quietly dazzling. On my machine, built before the advent of socalled Plug and Play technology, Windows 95 managed to find and set up the video card, the sound card, the CD-ROM drive and everything else. It even recognized my outboard modem. Robin Stacy, Knight-Ridder Newspapers: I’d say that, if you’re having some problem now running DOS and Windows, or if there’s some specific element of Windows 95 that you have a particular need for, then by all means go ahead and buy it as soon as it’s released on Aug. 24. On the other hand, if you don’t have some reason that requires you to adopt the new software immediately, I’d advise waiting six months or so until at least the first revision - Windows 95.1? - is released.

On-line information For more information about Windows 95, check out Microsoft on-line newsletters and files. Internet: FTP or the World Wide Web. Select Web ftp.microsoft.com in the peropsys/ win-news directory. CompuServe: Type GO WINNEWS. Prodigy: Choose JUMP WINNEWS America Online: Choose keyword WINNEWS. Genie: Access WinNews in file area 24 of the Windows Roundtable. E-mail: To subscribe to the Windows 95 Electronic Newsletter, send e-mail to enews@microsoft.nwnet.com and write “Subscribe Winnews.”

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