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keith_nt4's Journal: Why NT 4, ya say?

Journal by keith_nt4
First off I have no reason if there's supposed to be something I'm "supposed" to use this journal for. So I'm going to write about what I feel like writing about. This being my first entry that'll be an explanation of my screen name, keith_nt4.

So why NT 4 ya ask? Isn't Microsoft the root of all evil (or whatever) ya say? First off stop saying that, commie. Second of all NT 4 is actually a pretty good OS (believe it or not).

Here's the story behind my praise of NT 4. About 1999 the family 133Mhz Aptiva was starting to be a little aged so I decided to start building my own computer. It was going to be a long-term project but my family pitched in at Christmas and I built it that winter 2000. Well I didn't have an operating system at that moment. I wasn't going to use Linux because my hardware wasn't really compatible and since there really wasn't really a way to run IE at the time Netscape really killed Linux as an option at the time (Netscape's quality or lack there of is another journal entry entirely). So a hard-core Linux friend of mine who was forced to buy Visual Basic for a college class gave me his copy of NT 4 that came with it.

Perhaps I should explain my computer experience up to that moment. I had ONLY used Windows 95 and maybe a little 98 at the local college but that's about it. Ok so I had taken intermediate DOS and UNIX classes, but for the most part I was Windows only. I had actually managed to dual-boot Linux and Windows 95 on the Aptiva. Which was not easy at all. At the time I had a real OS re-install phobia going on. To summarize the way I was computer-wise in word or two you might say I was 95% GUI-Centric.

So I finally finish my new computer (450Mhz AMD K6-2) and set out to install NT 4. This was not easy. It takes quite a while too. This apparently one of the first releases (it came with SP 1, that'd date it around 1996 or so). And if the install fails for some reason there's no choice but to wipe it and start again. Finally I get it installed. But then I can't get it connected to the Internet. I finally did some sort of trick with the terminal-popping-up-at-connect setting. Once I some how did that I downloaded IE and used the connect wizard. Which worked fantastically. Then I downloaded the latest service pack 6.

Now this is where the OS is actually good. With IE 4+ and SP 6. Don't talk about NT 4 unless it's with those two items. NT 4 should be synonymous with "NT 4/IE 4+/SP 6".

NT 4 ran all my software, did Internet browsing, even had POSIX compatibility in case I needed it for some reason. And this little-known utility called the RAS dialer for connecting and disconnecting from the command line (dial up that is). It has a lot of ports of UNIX utilities, which is quite nice. It comes with Cron and a text file compare program too. And push and pop. Althought I've never really figured what to use those for. Must have to do with scripting.

NT 4 is amazingly stable. Once you get it to work learn some of its idiosyncrasies. For example some times I would finally get it installed and some service would fail to load so I would have a large number dialog boxes popping up all over the place. Another one is in changing a setting like change "static IP address" to "DHCP/automatically assigned IP address". Nothing comes up telling you to restart the computer but it hasn't yet taken effect. Simply logging out and back will effectively apply that change. If this is documented I've never seen it, I just learned from experience. Another one is when networking. Another computer can only connect to the NT 4 machine via a username created on the NT 4 machine if you first login to that user LOCALLY on the NT machine. Then others on the network can use your shared folders etc. I also had to figure this out on my own. I'm only talking about a two or three computer network through a cheap hub, not a big commercial deal.

As for as stability this thing called "Dr. Watson" pops up whenever a program fails and gracefully only closes that one program. And he always manages to detect a crashed program right away and tell you at which point the program would close. This is quite a step up for a Windows 95 user who would have to restart the whole computer when a program crashes. And blue screens for silly reasons or no reason? Non-existant. It's actually an ACCOMPLISHMENT to get blue screen of death on NT 4. That's how hard/rare it is.

So yes, I do still consider myself a fan of NT 4. Of course, I have since started using Windows XP. But that's only because of how cheap I found it. I'm not going to tell how cheap or where I bought it though. XP is pretty stable, but no NT 4.

I should probably mention the incredible amount of patience I've had to exhibit in using NT 4. I just considered it not much choice because like I said I wasn't about to go buy a new copy of Windows (or pirate) and Linux wasn't an option. But I doubt 99% of the population would have put up what I was willing to put up with. In my 2+ years of NT 4 usage I was re-installing constantly. Which I would imagine can only be a positive thing. Right? This also helped me to develop my back up system. Exporting all my browser favorites for example for later importing after the re-install.

The only things I don't like about it was the lack of games I could play. For the most part it was ok. Back when UO was still special I could play that, and other minor games like Civ 2 and a few others. This is because SP 6 only officially ads support for DirectX 5. Which brings me to the perhaps dumb question of whether or not something like Wine could be made NT 4 since Wine apparently works with DirectX 8, while NT 4 does not.

Now if only I could re-install XP that way. Stupid activation.

Well I must be one of the few people left still singing the praises of NT 4. I think Windows 2000 (i.e. NT 5) effectively followed up on NT 4. I've used Windows 2000 very very little and I've heard much positive things about it. And really XP is simply NT 5.1, a relatively slight revision of 2000.

"If John Madden steps outside on February 2, looks down, and doesn't see his feet, we'll have 6 more weeks of Pro football." -- Chuck Newcombe

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