Last night I stood on the edge of a great precipice, and instead of merely looking down, I jumped in, never to be the same again. Yes, I installed Windows XP RC1. I had heard about it’s already legendary stability. I had heard about its loathsome Product Activation process. I had heard about how it’s going to shove things like .NET and Passport down our throats. But mostly I had heard that Microsoft was allowing people to purchase the release candidate for $10. This minor barrier to entry motivated me to not place it on my hard drive when I was looking to reinstall Windows 98 SE. However, both my wife and myself recieved preview copies in nice little DVD keeper cases yesterday in the mail, a pleasant consequence of my father-in-law signing us up on Microsoft’s “free shit” list. I figured what the hell – Win98SE isn’t really anything to sing about.

So I fire this puppy up. It takes an hour and a half to install it – I expected that. When it starts up finally it takes a long time. I sit there hoping this is a “one time” dealie, despite the lack of inidcations that this is what it is. When I finally get to the desktop, I realize I can no longer see my Trillian icon in the system tray, but I can still hear it logging on. After trying several things I discover that un/reinstalling it fixes this. MemTurbo starts up twice for some reason. The desktop disappears for a second for some reason. And a simple volume adjustment in the system tray results in 80 processes I have to end. I start to wonder if this was such a good idea after all.

Then I noticed that I’m in a 800×600 resolution mode. I figured out in Win98 SE that the largest resolution I can push with my Voodoo3 3500 card is 1152×864, so I go to Display Properties. I can’t pick that – it goes from 800×600 to 1280×1064 – and that latter resolution just doesn’t jive with my monitor. Then I noticed that it has something like “Generic SVGA” as the adapter. Well that simply won’t do, so I figure just reinstall the driver. Small problem – what do I reinstall? 3dfx only ever came out with Win9x and Win2K drivers – and now 3dfx doesn’t exist anymore. I installed the Win2K driver – but it didn’t take. Crap. So I did a Google search for WinXP and Voodoo3 3500 and it sent me to NTCompatible (I wonder if they’ll ever change their name) who tells me that I might as well hit the Windows Update site, so I do.

Well holy crap, “product updates” pulls up some hotfix and a “Voodoo 3/4/5 series compatible adapter”. Cool – Microsoft of all people is going to keep the drivers up to date. I fire it up and it works like a dream. Except that now my system can only push 1024×768 – perhaps some more fiddling is due.

I hate skinning. Some programs, like Winamp, use it to good measure, but others, like Ulead’s VideoStudio, use it to hide their inadequacies. So WindowsXP is like one BIG skin. However, surprisingly, I like it. It “feels” good – not like some idiot-proof Mac or something. I’m not sure what to make of the start menu – perhaps it can be modified. It puts your name in big letters on the top of it, along with a customizable icon – I wonder why it chose the Rock Gutiar for me (unless it does this for everyone). In addition, you can uninstall it and go back to whatever you ran before – how effective this is I don’t know, but it’s neat.

As for the Windows Product Activation? Please – like presenting your driver’s license when writing a check or being polite to the police officer, so long as you’re legit it shouldn’t be a big deal.

So no longer am I relegated to using Windows 98, nor do I have to worry with Windows 2000’s compatibility issues – though the sheer newness and beta quality of Windows XP does tend to make compatibility a whole different animal. I haven’t made my final verdict on Windows XP but I can say this much so far: not bad.

Oh, and yesterday I forgot the Nintendo 64 port of Doom, which looked and played more or less nothing like any previous version of Doom ever – the levels had changed and the engine heavily modified and enhanced to the point where it just wasn’t Doom anymore. I figured they had made a whole new game and just “pasted” some Doom enemies into it, but I learned recently that indeed it was based on the original Doom source code, so they just made a hard left with it. So, despite having the best graphics and sound and also being the last Doom port to a console (save DoomDC), it also wond up being the worst port ever.