The Roadmap for the Desktop Environment: Windows 2000

by Peter Mok
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Introduction

Following the public release of Windows 2000, the Computing Services Centre (CSC) had set up a Windows 2000 Task Force to study the possibility of deploying the Windows 2000 Professionals (W2K Prof) or the Windows ME (Win ME, to be released soon according to Microsoft (MS)) as the next desktop environment, and Windows 2000 Server as the departmental server environment. The integration between the desktop and server side will also be examined. As to the Windows 2000 Server, the task force will study the new Active Directory design as compared with our existing NT Domain architecture, and perform testing on Windows 2000 Server. However, in this article we shall only concentrate on the description of our plan for implementing W2K Prof/Win ME as our next desktop environment.

As W2K Prof is not a direct upgrade from our current desktop environment namely Windows 95/Windows 98 [ref 1], there are a lot of differences in terms of user support, application support, system administration and usage between the two. In this regard, the Task Force will emphasise the carrying out of an in-depth evaluation and design for the upgrade to ensure full compatibility [ref 2] with the existing environment as well as a smooth migration for each user who normally has various hardware configuration and software requirements. Since this is a very complicated and time-consuming task, we will expect the first pilot test to be launched six months after the study has been initiated, and the whole process to be completed within a year’s time [ref 3]. Meanwhile, users are urged to upgrade their PC hardware configuration before the migration actually takes place.

Benefits of the Upgrade

W2K Prof is an upgrade from Windows NT workstation. On the one hand, we see that this new release has great benefits to both the end users and the supporting people like us. On the other hand, the transition involves major changes from our current Windows 95/98 environment. Although Windows ME is still not yet released, similar benefits and complications are expected. Among the many new features and benefits of W2K Prof, a few significant ones are described below.

W2K Prof has better task management with multiprocessor support and can provide a more stable and manageable environment than Windows 95/98. It is believed that its features will be further enhanced when the first service pack [ref 4] or the enhancement version becomes available. The W2K Prof version also has significant performance gain over the Windows 95/98 version.

The W2K Prof desktop has the language support based upon Unicode. This language support has already been incorporated in the MS IE and Office 2000 and is well received by users. Besides the basic language support feature, MS has added more Chinese input methods. By providing the latter on the operating system (OS) level, any software vendor or developer can thus use the feature to provide multilingual support in their applications.

New devices and standards emerge in a rapid pace. Although drivers may also be available for older Windows OS, these devices are best supported by the newer versions of Windows products. Users will benefit most from the new versions whose architecture has adopted the latest standards and technology such as IEEE 1394, USB and AGP support. The new Windows versions also contain enhanced features to support notebooks [ref 5], including power management ACPI support, the Synchronization manager, the Encrypting File System (EFS) and hot-swapping of PC cards.

Our Evaluation

The Windows 2000 task force is charged with the following objectives:

  • To study the compatibility of W2K Prof and Win ME (when released) with hardware and software currently in use.
     
  • To study and recommend the strategy of desktop OS support to the management for consideration. E.g. selected OS platform(s) for focused support with the possibility of outsourcing the support and implementation (in terms of budget, manpower, difficulties, etc.), freezing the support for certain OS platform(s) and the schedule.
     
  • To study, recommend and implement the W2K Prof/Win ME support architecture(s) for Student LAN and Staff LAN with an ultimate objective to integrate with the Intranet environment of the University. This should include studying the suitability of W2K Prof/Win ME as a desktop OS for staff and students and the amount of effort involved migrating from Win98/Win95.
     
  • To study, recommend and implement the security support for W2K Prof/Win ME as a desktop environment.
     
  • To study and recommend the approach(es) for either fresh installation of W2K Prof/Win ME or upgrading from Win95/98.
     
  • To review and recommend the standards and tools for working under the W2K Prof/Win ME and Intranet environments. This includes the browsers, plug-in and user interface standards.
     
  • To study, recommend and implement Chinese support under the W2K Prof./Win ME desktop environment.

In the end, the Task Force will be required to recommend either the W2K Prof or Win ME as the default platform to support. This is indeed an extremely difficult task because it involves in-depth testing on the compatibility with the network settings, the Intranet environment, the administrative systems, software installation and utilities for managing the environment we are currently using in Windows 95/98. It may be necessary to tailor them to support the W2K Prof/Win ME environment. User training, support training and user documentation have to be prepared. Since the expected PC configuration should at least possess 128MB memory [ref. 6] and a Pentium II processor, many staff PCs and student PCs may not be powerful enough for the migration.

Similar to the previous implementation of Windows 98, the new environment will be launched to the students initially by making it available in the CSC Student Terminal Area. Thereafter, we will launch a pilot implementation to selected departments before proceeding to a campus-wide implementation. Hopefully by then, we shall also be able to migrate our staff LAN environment from Windows NT to the Windows 2000 Server/Windows 2000 Datacenter with better support for security, directory, file, web, print and other services.

References

  1. How to Upgrade from Windows 95 or Windows 98 from Microsoft
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/path/win9x.asp
  2. Check hardware and software compatibility, BIOS Compatibility and Windows 2000 from Microsoft
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/compat/default.asp
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/compat/biosissue.asp
  3. Reviews from the Win2Kworld
    http://www.win2kworld.com/reviews.html
  4. Bug testers get hands on Windows 2000 service pack
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-202-1877309.html
  5. Finally a notebook OS from ZDNet Windows 2000 Special Report
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdhubs/stories/special2000/0,9968,2426122,00.html
  6. How Much RAM Is Enough from Windows 2000 Magazine
    http://www.winntmag.com/Articles/Content/8616_01.html
  7. Is Windows 2000 worth the upgrade from ZDNet Windows 2000 Special Report
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdhubs/stories/special2000/0,9968,2426063,00.html
  8. Windows 2000 Report from ComputerWorld
    http://www.computerworld.com/win2k/survey.html