Ready for the next generation?

Windows 2000 has been officially launched. Last week, Ed Bott asked readers for the best way to launch 2000's Internet Explorer on a corporate network. Read TechRepublic member dan.wendlick's answer, and find out what the Bott challenge is for this week.

The Windows 2000 launch event, held on February 17 in San Francisco, may go down in history as the second most expensive and elaborate party in Microsoft’s history. (The first, of course, was the hype-fest that launched Windows 95.) I had a ringside seat for the event, which was long on showbiz glitz but a bit short on actual news.

Microsoft promised surprise guests, and they didn’t disappoint. Actor Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) traded banter with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates throughout the 90-minute event. The themes of Windows 2000, of course, played right into a nonstop string of Star Trek references—software for the enterprise (“Bill, I don't mean to steal your thunder, but you did mention Enterprise several times...”) and “The Next Generation of e-commerce software.”

Stewart wasn’t the only star in attendance. Actor John O'Hurley starred in several skits with Microsoft product managers, showing off various features of Windows 2000. Don’t recognize the name? Seinfeld fans may be more familiar with O’Hurley as Elaine Benes’ boss J. Peterman. And Carlos Santana and his band closed the party with a rocking rendition of their FM hit, “Smooth.”

Of course, the real star of the show was the software, especially for the Microsoft customers who were fortunate enough to get tickets. Microsoft rolled out a nonstop stream of talking-head videos and facts and figures to plug its new OS. The most revealing was a statistic from ZD Labs, which compared average uptimes for Windows 95, NT 4.0, and Windows 2000 Professional. On average, Windows 95 requires a reboot every 2.1 days, while NT4 needs rebooting every 5.2 days (or once each workweek); by contrast, Windows 2000’s uptime in the ZD tests currently stands at 90+ days. Now, that’s worth cheering about.

One thing Microsoft didn’t mention at the launch: On the very same day that Windows 2000 became available for retail customers, Microsoft also released the first Critical Update for its new OS. To get the new patch, which fixes three separate problems, go to the Windows 2000 Downloads site.

And now, on to the results of the latest challenge:

Two weeks ago, I asked TechRepublic members to suggest the best way to set up Internet Explorer on a new computer. Like so many parts of Windows 2000, the new IE superficially resembles the version that’s been available from the Web for nearly a year. But under the covers, this version has a few important new features. What’s the best way to set up Windows 2000’s IE version for use on a corporate network?

TechRepublic member dan.wendlick was first under the wire with the correct answer. He earns 500 TechPoints for this succinct explanation:

“By using the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK), I have been able to set up multiple base profiles for groups within my organization. It allows a basically one-touch install based on whether the user will be intranet only, have external Web access only, or be able to access full Internet services, including telnet, FTP, and Usenet. It also allows an administrator to lock down different settings depending on how much the user can be trusted to not muck up his own computer.”

I’ll second that recommendation. The IEAK has been around for several years now, but early versions were difficult to use and required a complex registration process. The most recent incarnation, by contrast, is a simple, straightforward, Wizard-driven utility that hardly needs any documentation—and the registration process is nearly painless. Download the entire kit from the IEAK home page , which also includes links to FAQs and other useful information.

Here's Ed's new Challenge
For the most part, Windows 2000 Setup is remarkably easy to use on a single machine. Boot from the CD and follow the prompts. But the process gets a little tricky if you have BIOS problems that need to be worked around. That’s especially true on systems with incompatible implementations of ACPI. Three function keys (only one of which is documented) let you control setup options, including the machine type. Do you know what these three options are and how to use them? If you think you’ve got the answers, click this week's Microsoft Challenge .

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