ARE YOU READY FOR ME?

ARE YOU READY FOR ME?

No, I'm not becoming egotistical. ME actually stands for Millennium Edition, which is the new Windows operating system that debuts this month.

I've been playing with the 'final release' of ME for about a month and have discovered something very interesting: It tastes just like Windows 98! In fact, unless you're into multimedia (audio, video and a whole lot more), you may just want to let this one walk on by.Most of the enhancements that make this new version great involve a bigger and better multimedia player, a new movie-maker, a new version of Internet Explorer and a few tweaks to its file manager. But here's a secret, if you go to the Microsoft Windows upgrade site, you can download some of these programs without spending a cent.

Now, before you decide that Win 98 is good enough, there is one enhancement that may make you want to stand in line at your local computer store to get a copy: This baby continually monitors your installation of Windows and can automatically seek and replace corrupted files and update old ones. Unfortunately I found that this tends to noticeably slow down the operating system. And, if you're not using a DSL or cable modem, it may prove to be almost useless.

But, if you do have a high-speed Internet connection, it works like a charm. It can sense when there's no activity between you and the Internet and uses that time to do its job.

Another enhancement is the program's ability to let you 'go back in time' if you should suddenly be experiencing problems with Windows. Of course, programs to do this have been available for two years -- most notably Go Back from Adaptec -- but it's nice to see that Microsoft knows a good thing when it sees it.

By the way, if you're running Go Back, you have to disable or uninstall it before you can upgrade to ME because of a conflict between the two programs.

But the best feature, to me, was the ability to uninstall ME and restore Win 98. It worked like a charm.

My advice, at this point, as it is for all versions of Windows, is to wait until Microsoft releases its first service pack (ie: bug killer) for ME before making the switch, if at all. Or, if you insist on being the first on your block to run it, keep your computer on and connected to the Internet, even when you're not using it, so ME can be updated to fix problems.

Or you can wait a year or two for Whistler, which will be the first Windows product for consumers and business. In fact, Microsoft has indicated that it will produce workstation, server and home versions of the program.