Windows 2000 Professional's Minuses Outweigh Plusses in Five-Day Ordeal

As Mark Kellner wrote recently in the opening of his widely cited Los Angeles Times column ("Linux's Minuses Outweigh Plusses in 14-Day Trial", published on 12/28/2000), here's the story so far.
Day 4

Another morning. Arguably, another crappy decision.

I had to replace the motherboard, that much was clear. Just about every other component of my system isn't officially compatible with Windows 2000, but it seemed clear that the major problem was the motherboard. The trouble was, I had to find a new motherboard locally. I had to get this system up and myself back to work, and that ruled out mail order.

A visit to the local computer store revealed that none of the available motherboards were on the list of Windows 2000-compatible hardware, so I decided to give up on Windows 2000 entirely. I purchased a copy of Windows ME, described by Microsoft as far more compatible with the full range of hardware out there. I bought a new motherboard, a new SCSI adapter and a new video card. Because I couldn't believe how sluggish my system ran Windows with the old PII-400 chip, I decided to buy a PIII-800. Out more than $500, I drove home with the thought--illusion--that my problems would soon be over. (You know what's coming next, don't you?)

With a new brain and several new organs, Lothlorien came alive, and I installed Windows ME. Then I reinstalled Microsoft Office. Taking into account time spent looking for verification codes, which I had misplaced as usual, this phase of my ordeal consumed another five hours.

But at last I had a working system.

Or so I thought.

Day 5

Running Windows ME, I'm left to wonder what's new about this product; it's virtually indistinguishable, apparently, from Windows 98 Second Edition, save for the inclusion of some new multimedia software (most of which is downloadable from the Web). But this is supposed to be the best choice in terms of hardware compatibility, right?

Wrong. No sooner than I fired up Word, the system froze. No Blue Screen of Death this time, just a comatose mouse pointer. I won't go into the sordid details, but another three hours of system configuration and rebooting finally unveiled a resource conflict involving my new more up-to-date hardware, a conflict that Windows ME didn't initially register, for some reason. Parenthetically, I think I made a mistake opting for ME; Windows 2000 may offer less compatibility, but it gives you more tools for figuring out what's wrong. I also think it's more stable, once you've worked out the resource conflicts. But I can't bear to go through another install.

By late afternoon on the fifth day, I finally had a working Windows ME system, and I'm using it right now to compose this column. I still have the odd, unaccountable crash every now and then, but such crashes are of the type you associate with a flawed memory architecture and buggy software rather than a deep, underlying and undetected hardware problem. The intermittent crashes sure do keep you on your toes, though. Don't forget to enable Autosave!

I haven't experienced an essentially unstable OS in quite a while, and it's bringing back a recollection of...of...of what? Oh, I remember.

Of why I installed Linux in the first place.

Bryan Pfaffenberger ( is Associate Professor of Technology, Culture and Communication at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and a UNIX (subsequently Linux) user since the mid-1980s. He assures us that he is recovering from his ordeal.