Any computer publication that you take a look at these days seems to have only two major topics - the Internet and Windows '95. I must have written enough and more about the Internet and so, I decided to give you an update on Windows '95 - how it has been received so far, whether it is likely to arrive on the August deadline and whether it fulfills all its claims.
Let us dispense with the most burning question in everybody's mind first - namely, will or won't Windows '95 ship by August? According to sources, Bill Gates is supposed to have said that "Windows '95 is on target to be finalised by August" at the Spring Comdex in Atlanta, USA. (Comdex is a major computer show which attracts over 1000 companies) There are rumours to the effect that this actually means that the new Windows won't ship till November and that there will almost certainly be a "new and improved" 1.1 version somewhere in January. There is also the joke making the round that Billy will later say (when Win '95 passes the August deadline) that what he really meant was "that it will be an august occasion when Windows '95 finally ships"! The current speculation is that the new Windows will launch on the 24th of August. Let's wait and see, shall we?
Now for all those claims by Microsoft about their new OS! The claim was that Windows '95 was a multithreaded, preemptively multitasking 32-bit OS. Well, the boys who checked out the pre-release betas have a different story to tell. According to one magazine, "It is multithreaded all right, but the problem is: how many threads will it support at a time?" Which seems to mean that after all that hype and all that waiting, Microsoft are at their old practice of promising stuff beforehand but delivering them well after the deadline and usually after several bug-fixes. The same is true of the multitasking - the OS is multitaskable but as it still runs the old 16-bit applications, they run under cooperative multitasking and thus, if one of those applications get stuck, you can wait all you want, but you will get no response from your machine till you reboot it - an OS/2 basher it certainly is not!
In fact, I had completely written off Windows '95 as a stable 32-bit operating system and was telling anyone who would listen that it was nothing but a pretty shell (the new user interface looks good!) when I heard about its networking facilities and other features for mobile computers. Now networking is not something the general user is interested in but still these features were pretty good: remote networking, file synchronization and a portable computer aware virtual memory system. Of these, the remote networking facilities are the most impressive because if you try to access a network server while not connected to it, Windows '95 automatically runs you through the connection process. The file synchronization feature allows you to easily keep the files in your server and your portable machine up-to-date. Though these are pretty good features, they are useful only to a handful of users and I would say the rest should be safer with OS/2 if they want a robust 32-bit OS.
As to how people view Windows '95 from what they have seen of it so far, opinion seems to be divided: some love it while others absolutely hate it! I guess that is always the case but in this case the differences in opinion seem to be so very extreme and emphasized. I have heard people swear off Windows forever and embrace OS/2 while I've heard others claim that this incarnation of Windows is really good. One example of this extreme reaction is that the German computer vendor Escom (which has about 17 shops in UK and plans to open 100 more) has said that they are preinstalling OS/2 Warp on all their machines as it is "here, now".
Whether you will love it or hate it will have to be discovered on your own but be warned, it needs at least a 386DX (486 is much better), at least 8MB of RAM and about 70MB of disk space. In typical Microsoft fashion, the company is reported to be planning a package named Microsoft Plus! which is supposed to enhance the look and performance of Win95 (hmm.... does this mean that Windows '95 doesn't look so good or does it mean it is slow?). This package will add a further 40MB to the hard disk overhead but is supposed to provide enhanced Drivespace (that's the replacement to the ill-fated Doublespace, folks!) performance at a ratio of up to 3:1 (wow!), a utility to change the cosmetics of Win95 and another utility which allows you to run specified programs at certain times. This package is supposed to ship within 2 months of the release of Windows '95. Microsoft is also releasing another such so called "improvement" to their new OS: the Windows '95 Game Software Developers Kit. This kit is supposed to provide a way for game developers to come up with good, fast games under Windows.
Love it or hate it, but Win95 will surely be here soon or it won't be here at all because it will then have to be called Windows '96! (Heh, heh....)
I have come across this really great game hacking tool called Game Wizard. It is a really neat program which can be loaded as a TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program and takes up just 10K of memory. You can use the program to find the memory location for things like money or life in a game and lock that so that your money is never reduced or you never die.
The game comes in two versions: the shareware one and the registered one and the registered version (obviously) has a lot more facilities than the shareware version. According to the documentation, you can do a lot more complicated searches than simple numerical values in the full-version. You are supposed to be able to search for things like bar-graphs indicating strength level etc. You can also save any game at any point in the registered version and restore it when necessary. This feature can be pretty useful as some games don't allow you to save at all or allow you to save only at certain points.
The registered version also has a facility which allows you to create a memory resident program for a certain game so that you can cheat in that one. Such a program is called a trainer and this in effect allows you to create your own trainer and distribute it among your friends without having to give a copy of Game Wizard to them.
I tried out the program on a couple of games and in most instances it worked beautifully. I ran in to some trouble when I tried to run the program with EMM386 on but expanded memory disabled and it wouldn't work with any games that used the DOS4GW extender but other than that, it is a pretty nifty utility and can be of immense help in getting through those really hard levels in your favourite game!
What I am going to talk about this week is not a game but a game tool. It is called the Universal Help System (UHS) and is this really neat system for getting hints on how to get through those tricky (and maybe not so tricky) parts of a game. The problem with most games hints is that they are in a text file and some times, even though you don't mean to, you see more than you need and so don't get to try those puzzles on your own, but with UHS that problem never arises.
UHS has this beautiful system of breaking down a game in to different parts and giving you hints on how to get through each part. For each part, the hints will be broken down in to several parts and the first few parts give just general hints but don't reveal the complete solution. So, you can still try to solve the puzzle on your own but if you don't succeed, you can go down to the lowest level and see the full help on how to get through the problem that you are confronted with.
There are several hundred different hint files available from different sources and you can get any file for a game that has been puzzling you. Some of these files contain graphical files which give you maps for a certain part of a game. The good thing about these hint files is that they are encrypted and you cannot read them without the UHS hint reader.
There is also a separate hint compiler that you can use to write your own hints file and distribute among your own friends but your friends too will have to have the hint reader.
These were the top 10 rumours on the Internet about the party that Microsoft was going to host after their World Wide Developer's Conference in San Jose, California.
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