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By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager
My office (with a coveted window!) is directly across from the dismantling of Master's Hall (for those of you who are 'window-challenged' see what I can see here). I've been watching this process for months now as the able demolition company carefully extracts furniture, then trimming, then brick etc. However - I do keep wondering when in the world are they going to collapse this thing or is it just going to happen on its own?
Well, for those of you have ever wondered whether Microsoft Windows was ever going to collapse, the folks at Gartner Research breathlessly declared a few weeks ago that this would occur in the near future. After this announcement, skepticism seems to reign about this (for a typical dissent see InformationWeek's Microsoft Weblog). In Gartner's defense, though their study headline is sensational, the actual text of the article is much less so - Gartner predicts that a massive overhaul of operating system code is the most likely outcome. Whether you cheer and laugh, shrug indifferently, or weep uncontrollably at the prospect - there ARE some good lessons to take away from this article and some others that I have been reading.
It's the time of year when those of us in ACS start working with Student Development to update information on what computer systems UNT students need to complete their course work. This got me reading several articles like this one - Windows XP: Going, going ... gone? - detailing the support schedule for the Windows XP operating system and the feasibility/desirability of a Windows Vista OS upgrade. It is also why the Gartner announcement caught my attention.
In a nutshell, Windows XP has proven to be a quite popular and stable operating system and both corporate and private users have not been exactly rushing out to buy Windows Vista. In fact many folks have gotten new machines with Vista on them and then 'downgraded' to XP! As a result, Windows has greatly extended its lifecycle of support for Windows XP giving consumers a greater choice in operating system flavors. A few important timelines should be heeded, however.
Dates to remember
First of all, currently if you buy a new Windows machine from a company like Dell or HP or Gateway (etc.), in most cases you can still choose to have it come from the factory with either Windows XP or Windows Vista installed. According to Microsoft, PC manufacturers can sell new machines with the Windows XP operating system installed through June 30, 2008. After that date, if you buy a new PC and want the OS pre-installed, you will have to get it with Vista. If you currently have a good machine with XP - the good news from Microsoft is that they are going to be supporting the XP OS through April 14, 2009. This is a fairly lengthy time concession on Microsoft's part.
Microsoft's next operating system, Microsoft 7, is scheduled for release in 2009 so actually many XP users will probably be able to skip going to Vista altogether and just move straight to Microsoft 7.
Another little nugget of info I picked up for you XP loyalists is: if you buy an Intel-based Macintosh, the XP operating system should run just fine on it. No need to 'downgrade' from a new machine with Vista to your old copy of XP - just put a clean install on your Macintosh for the XP machine of your dreams.
Attention UNT students
The most important thing that UNT users (especially students) need to know, however, is - what is recommended for a student using a PC on our campuses and doing class work and online learning. Students can use either XP Professional or Vista Business to have all the capabilities they need to complete their course work and turn it in to their professors. The UNT Bookstore actually sells XP Pro and Vista Business (upgrades) for a reduced cost to UNT community members. The General Access Computer Labs are all running the XP operating system on their PC's and most of the colleges, departments, and schools on campus are also. The recommended version of Office is now Office 2007 which has been running in the labs and in other campus areas for at least half a year with no issues. PC users are advised that these operating systems and Office versions are large applications that use a lot of RAM - a minimum of 2 GB of RAM is recommended for PCs and if you have room for 4 GB of RAM all the better.
Macintosh users are encouraged to pick up Office 2008 which is fully compatible with the PC Office 2007. I've been using Office 2008 on my Mac for a few weeks now and it works just great. Once again - beef up your RAM to a minimum of 2 GB.
The best news out of all of this is - at a time when the economy is doing badly and we are all needing to pinch pennies - skimping on your Windows operating system upgrades is not going to be a problem this year. RAM is relatively inexpensive so if you want to give your old machine that you are hanging onto a facelift, then double its RAM. But there is no need to slap down hundreds for a new OS at this time. And - as always - make sure you install those security patches!