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Windows XP and Q&A

Well, here we go again. Microsoft has released another Operating System (OS), Windows XP with the warnings that it does not support DOS based program and that there is no DOS prompt. Windows XP comes in two flavors – Home and Professional, with the major difference being extended administrative support and more networking controls in the professional version. What does this mean to Q&A users and how good is the OS?

Lets take the second question first. Windows XP is a refinement of Windows 2000 and is based on the Windows NT engine. Its interface is really neat and much more user-friendly (if you want your computer deciding everything for you). From the limited testing I have done to date, it is extremely stable and at least as fast as Windows 2000. I have not been able to crash it, nor have I had to reboot due to system errors. It does require more memory and I would not install it on a system with less than 256 Mb RAM. While I am not necessarily thrilled by the new menus and windows look, it is really pretty good and you do have the option to reset them in the ‘classic’ mode. Setting up a network is a piece of cake.

Bottom line – thumbs up for this one. If you are still running on Windows ME, dump it and do the upgrade (a bit pricey at $99, but worth it).

Now, how about Q&A? Does it run in Windows XP? You betcha it does! Let’s look at all of the different areas.

Starting with Q&A for DOS (versions 4.0 and 5.0), XP does all that you would want it to do. It supports and runs which allows the use of Q&A on the large hard drives. On every machine I have installed it on (as of right now 4), it has provided expanded memory for Q&A 5.0 even though the 'mem' command does not display that the machine has expanded memory. Q&A’s system information screen shows that it is fat and happy with both expanded and extended memory. It easily handles the DOS screen requirements for the program and displays Q&A in either a window or full screen. Setting the window size correctly is still somewhat of an art, but if you handle the properties correctly in the shortcut, you can get just what you want. Because it runs each instance of a program in a separate virtual memory space, you can run multiple copies of Q&A and never slow down the machine. I saw no affect on memory or speed up through 4 copies. When you load the 5th copy, XP stacks then in a single button on the task bar and then you may see some impact on processor time, but no real slowdown. Network printing is tricky if you don’t know how to capture a network printer in an NT environment (net use command), but it is the same as with Windows 2000. Also, as with 2000, when you set up a shortcut for the first time, you cannot set it up using a batch file. You must create the shortcut using the file, make all the proper settings for memory, etc. and then change the command line from to your batch file. Remember, Q&A 4.0 will not install from the floppy disks due to the large hard drive size, but all you have to do is copy all of the files into a directory from a previous installation or use the installation CD’s available from PCTA or Keyword Training. I even set my systems up using the NTFS file system rather than FAT32 and Q&A didn’t even hiccup. So, the energizer bunny keeps on going.

What about Q&A for Windows (versions 4.01 and 4.06). Well, slightly different story. You cannot install from the original disks. Again, you will need the CD versions from PCTA or Keyword Training. In addition, you will need to get the NTFIX program from John Dow before running Q&A for Windows. Without this patch, Q&A for Windows will bring XP to its knees. It will perform an illegal operation and the entire system will be at a crawl until a reboot. But, with these conditions met, even Q&A for Windows runs fine in XP!

For more information, see the previous write-ups on Q&A and Windows 2000 for details on setting up the shortcuts and batch files.

Of course, Sesame runs perfectly in this version of Windows with no issues whatsoever.