On June 25th (the Lord and Janet Reno willing), Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows98 will hit the retail shelves. In it Microsoft brings the Internet home to your
Desktop by combining the "two Explorers" (Windows and Internet) into one single
application used to browse both the WWW and your hard drive.
Those using Internet Explorer version 4.x and the included "Active Desktop" update are already familiar with the deep-seated Internet integration in the new Win98 OS. My Computer and the Desktop itself look and operate more like a web browser than the former Windows Explorer used in Win95, and the "Active" Desktop supports easily accessible user customizable web content right on the Desktop.
While IE4.x already allows one to "subscribe" to websites which will notify you of any changes or updates to your favorite sites, Win98 goes one step further with a free online service called Windows Update. Those familiar with "Oil Change" will recognize the concept --- instead of mucking through the maze of Microsoft's website hunting for patches and bugfixes registered users of Win98 can subscribe to this feature which will automatically check via the WWW to what new drivers and other updates can be applied to your system, downloading and installing those you choose.
Besides being "Win95 meets IE4", Win98 has some other nifty features:
Mouse clicking in Win98 will take some getting used to but I expect over time that it will speed things up. Many items that require a double-click in Win95 require one click in Win95, and some steps now require no click at all. Rather than clicking on a file to select it, in Win98 one simply places the pointer over the file's icon. Opening the file now requires one click and not two.
The time it takes to both startup and shutdown is cut down considerably in Win98 (no two second delay at startup, no closing of all files upon shutdown as in Win95).
FAT32 and USB Support
For the many of us that purchased Aptivas advertised as "USB Ready" which were ready hardware-wize but far from ready as far as operating system support can finally use components that connect to a Universal Serial Bus port.
For those of us with Win95 version 4.00.950(a) Win98 provides first-time support for the FAT32 file system which allows one to have a single drive C partition up to 8GB without the partitioning issues due to cluster size found in Win95 "a" and FAT16.
Converting to FAT32 can free up over 25% of space now wasted on a system using FAT16 (Windows 98 ships with a FAT32 conversion utility that simplifies matters for those of us without OSR2 to switch to FAT32).
With the appropriate additional hardware Windows98 can support:
The verdict is not yet in on the new MWAVE drivers that Microsoft is shipping with Windows98, but much of the advance word has been so good that users have been investigating the possibility of hacking the Win98 MWAVE drivers to work in Win95.
More details on MWAVE in Win98 and other Aptiva-specific issues as they become available :-)