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Windows 98 roll-out due Thursday


Barring a last-minute court order, Microsoft Corp. will be officially rolling out Windows 98 -- its new operating system -- on Thursday.

The official ceremony will take place at San Francisco's historic Fort Mason and will feature a Route 98 "highway" theme -- an effort to show that the new operating system is prepared to transport users to the next century. It'll presumably take us "where you want to go today."

What you won't see from Microsoft is the massive media campaign -- and circus-like atmosphere -- that launched Microsoft's debut of the Windows 95 operating system.

The reason is tied to the fact that Windows 98 is a refinement of Windows 95. If you're familiar with Windows 95, Windows 98 will look and operate mostly like Win95. In fact, the June issue of Family PC sums it up well: "Win98 is like Win95 with IE 4.0 and a little Windows dressing."

Windows 95 moved the Windows platform to 32-bit computing; Windows 98 improves its ability to setup hardware, and adds some new devices -- like those ultra-neat DVD drives, the new USB hardware buss, support for larger hard drives and easy setup of multiple monitors.

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates will broadcast a satellite address from San Francisco for the introduction of Windows 98 (and here's hoping there are no embarrassing crashes this time around).

After using a beta version of Windows 98, I can agree with the findings of Family PC's five-month test (and reported in the June issue): Windows 98 is an improvement over Windows 95; the new interface options are helpful; the more they used it, the more they liked it.

The much-ballyhooed Internet Explorer integration performs great, and to be fair, Netscape Navigator 4.0 works equally well with Windows 98.

But is it worth upgrading?

It depends.

The street price of the Windows 98 upgrade (which works for both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95) is about $100 -- and that's pricey for an upgrade that you may not really need right now.

My advice? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Windows 3.1 users might want to think it over, since an increasing amount of software companies no longer support Windows 3.1.

If your current Windows computer is doing everything you want, I wouldn't run out and buy the upgrade. If you're thinking of buying a new computer, Windows 98 will most likely come with it.

A reminder for Windows 98 beta users: Microsoft is ending the services it offered to its registered beta testers. Telephone technical support will be available only through Thursday.

For more information on Windows 98, visit www.windows98.org, or www.microsoft.com.

AOL NOT FOR SALE. The nation's largest online service is independent and plans to stay that way.

That was the message that AOL reportedly sent to AT&T after talks of a merger surfaced in London's Financial Times newspaper.

AOL President Steve Case and other company officials sent e-mail messages to company staffers telling them there was no merger or buyout in the works with AT&T.

According to reports, AT&T wanted to buy AOL and use it to sell long-distance service -- even offering to give AOL its WorldNet Internet access business.

The AT&T rumors sent AOL's stock soared $5.05 the day the rumors were publisheding.

According to the Financial Times, AOL turned down AT&T's $19-billion-plus offer, but left room for a future partnership or other possible business venture.

56K HEADACHES. If you own a 56k modem and are getting connection speeds near 56k, then count yourself as lucky -- very, very lucky.

Most folks who own one of the "fast" 56k modems aren't getting speeds anywhere that fast; according to reports on the BugNet Web site, some 56k modems actually are operating slower than the 33.6 modems they replaced!

The problem, according to BugNet, is line noise.

Line noise -- the noise on your telephone line -- can be tracked to a nearly endless array of causes.

Do you bundle up your cables -- tie them nice and neatly all together? That telephone line might be picking up "noise" from the other power cables in that bundle -- making your 56k modem creep along at molasses-like speed.

Or on the other hand, it might not pick up any noise and your modem may operate perfectly.

But line noise is the latest buzz word connected with the new v.90 56k modems, and according to modem maker 3Com, nearly 80 percent of all line noise problems are caused inside the home or office.

But the real bad news is that the remaining 20 percent -- one out of every five homes -- will suffer line noise problems created outside the home or office.

These problems, according to BugNet, are largely invisible -- and worse -- incurable.

If you're an owner of a 56k modem, I'd like to hear from you. Does your 56k modem's performance meet your expectations? How fast are the connections you get? I'd like to hear what you have to say about it.

Drop me a line at the address below, and include the type of modem you have and any other comments you have about how well 56k technology is working for you.

To read more about line noise -- including hints for clearing up your own line -- visit BugNet on the Web at www.bugnet.com.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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