Getting comfortable with Windows XP

It’s been about a year, I figure, since the Daily News junked its 400 MHz Celerons running Windows 98 for new Dell Optiplex GX520s with Windows XP, and I must say that I’ve gotten quite used to the operating system.

It’s pretty solid — crashes are rare. And it’s so easy to grab photos and files of all kinds and put them where I want them. Easer than Mac OS X, which always seems to want me to save to the desktop, which I don’t ever want to do because the reason I have folders created is to keep unorganized crap off of that very desktop. Now my real desk, and its top, for that matter, is another story entirely, but I like to keep some order on the virtual one.

I really appreciate the way the My Documents, My Pictures and My Music folders work in XP. I’m no expert, but I suspect that they’re account-specific, and that if my PC was set up for different users with separate logins, each would have their own versions of these folders. I only suspect this — I don’t know enough.

From reading the great OS X book in the “Missing Manual” series by David Pogue, I leaned that much of the OS X world is acocunt specific. For instance, Safari bookmarks and settings, Mail configurations, even many folders, the desktop itself and other settings change with the different accounts. Now since probably 99 percent of all laptops, and almost as many desktops, are used by one person only, the whole idea of separate login accounts (in the Unix sense) is probably moot, but it’s nice to know the power is there, especially for a multi-person household or workplace.

Me, I’ve written before that I’m loath to use a mail program of any sort, be it Mail on OS X, Outlook on PC, Eudora or any other, because I don’t want my mail to be stuck on a single hard drive on a single PC when I’m doing computing in so many different places. Now for the sake of archiving it, that might be attractive, but for now I’m trusting Yahoo! Mail, and in the case of the Daily News, not really caring what happens to my e-mail.

But back to XP. I really love all you can do with right-clicking, and the aforementioned ease with using the My Pictures and other specialty folders. I do it so seldomly that I forget exactly how to put applications either in the Start menu or on the desktop, but it only takes me 5 minutes to figure it out (gotta get “Windows XP — The Missing Manual” — there are probably hundreds of tricks that I don’t know).

I actually appreciate the ease of using the Windows Media Player. I’ve since downlaoded Quicktime for work purposes, and it somehow took over my playing of MP3s — I’ll have to deal with that at some point. But the My Music folder, though it’s no iTunes, for me is refreshingly easy to deal with, just as the My Pictures folder is more straightforward than iPhoto (albeit without all the capabilities).

The bottom line for me is that I’m in the PC environment way more than I’m on the Mac, so it’s perfectly logical that I’d be more comfortable on the former. And even though This Old PC just doesn’t have the goods to run XP (Windows 2000 is pretty much the end of the line OS-wise for it), I’m giving very good marks to XP for its plain old workhorse ability.

A case in point, today I clicked on a Telnet link on a Web page, and a terminal window opened right up out of Explorer, and I began my Telnet session. The same session didn’t go as smoothly on the Mac, but that might’ve had more to do with my ISP and setup at home on the iBook than it did anything else. Still, XP handled it well. And I’ve been using GIMP on a regular basis for my image-manipulating needs — runs pretty fast on the Dell.