IT intelligence: windows operating systems

Robin Fisk on the new Windows operating system and how to keep it stable.

Before Windows, DOS was what ran your PC and its applications. As Microsoft published new versions, it called them DOS version 2, version 3, 3.1 and so on. My theory was that, for some reason, the odd-numbered releases were the ones you could trust. Even-numbered releases seemed to be plagued by bugs and annoying new features, while the odd ones just worked. Version 5 was a personal favourite. Windows arrived, and the version numbering idea continued until 1995, when someone had the brilliant idea of calling it Windows 95. Windows 98 launched, then the Millennium edition (even number - not a great year). Then the mysteriously named XP arrived. Despite having the apparent disadvantage of not being an odd number, XP has earned a reputation as the most stable Windows release. Consequently, Microsoft's efforts to withdraw it from sale were met with uncharacteristically strong opposition from the market.That these appeals were successful - Microsoft moved XP's withdrawal date back until 30 June this year - either speaks volumes about the loyalty of XP users or the reputation of its replacement, Windows Vista.

I have recently taken delivery of my first Vista PC to see for myself. So far, so good, but I did have trouble connecting to the internet - I had to specify internet provider addresses, which XP figured out for itself. I have also been seduced by its beautiful user interface. I downloaded the 434MB service pack and, as usual, it installed without a hitch. I have experienced none of the widely reported compatibility issues, and so far it's been a model of stability. But then, I haven't loaded up unsuitable applications to destabilise the poor machine. Abuse your computer in this way and you'll make it slow and unreliable, whichever Windows version you use - odd or even.

Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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