We needed an XP box at work for testing. Duty to do the dirty deed fell to me. So after ghosting the Windows 2000 station several of us share, I pulled out an XP CD. It installed surprisingly quickly–less than half an hour. The system is a P3-667 with 128 MB RAM and an IBM hard drive (I don’t know the model).
It found the network and had drivers for all the hardware in the box. That doesn’t happen very often with Microsoft OSs, so it was nice.

I booted into XP, to be greeted by a hillside that was just begging to be overrun by tanks, but instead of tanks, there was this humongo start menu. I right-clicked on the Start button, hit Properties, and picked Classic view. There. I had a Win95-like Start menu. While I was at it, I went back and picked small icons. I don’t like humongous Start menus.

I also don’t like training wheels and big, bubbly title bars. The system was dog slow, so I right-clicked on the desktop to see what I could find to turn off. I replaced the Windows XP theme with the Classic theme. Then I turned off that annoying fade effect.

Still, the system dragged. I went into Control Panel, System, Performance. Bingo. I could pick settings for best appearance (whose choices are certainly debatable–I guess they look good if you like bright colors and have a huge monitor) or best performance. Guess which I picked? Much better.

Next, I went into Networking. I saw some QoS thing. I did a search. It’s intended to improve the quality of your network, at the price of 20% of your bandwidth. Forget that. I killed it.

After I did all that stuff, XP was reasonably peppy. It logs on and off quickly. I installed Office 2000 and it worked fine. The apps loaded quickly–just a couple of seconds. That’s how it should be. If I went in and edited the shortcuts in the Start menu to turn off the splash screens, they’d load instantly.

WinXP brings up a bunch of popups that I don’t like. If I wanted unexpected popup windows, I’d run a Web browser. I couldn’t quickly figure out how to disable those.

I couldn’t run Windows Update. It froze every time I tried.

I found a Windows XP tuning guide at ExtremeTech. I suspect turning off the eye candy will help more than most of the suggestions in that article. I suspect if I dug around I’d find other things. We’ll see if I get some time.

XP isn’t as bad as I expected, I guess. But I’m still not going to buy it.

This, on the other hand, is worth a second look. And a third. You can now run MS Office on Linux. No need to wait for Lindows, no need to abandon your current fave distro (at least if your fave distro is Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Debian, or Caldera).

It’s 55 bucks. It’s available today. It brings Office 97/2000 and Lotus Notes r5 to your Linux desktop. Other Windows apps work, but their functionality isn’t guaranteed.

You can get some screenshots at CodeWeavers. It even makes the apps look like native Linux apps.