Windows 2000 is Here—Yeah! Ouch!

Windows 2000 is finally here and I ‘m so excited I can hardly stand it. One more new piece of software that we have to get all our clients on that they can’t live without. We then have to get it talking to the AS/400 and be ready to support it if and when something goes awry. Even if Windows 2000 has nothing to do with a problem, it will initially get the blame.

We tried the W2K beta version on a test machine and ran into trouble with the first application that we loaded on it. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so maddening and frustrating. The install program said that it required at least NT Service Pack 4 to load. It was nice enough to ask if we wanted to load the service pack. Of course, there is no Service Pack 4 yet. That comes out next week I hear! After calling the vendor, the response was, “Windows 2000 is only released this week and we haven’t formally tested it. It won’t be until the third quarter that we’ll commit to supporting it.”

So here we are, all excited about taking advantage of this new software from Microsoft which is going to make our lives easier (well, palatable anyway) and we can’t even run our core software!

We’re so spoiled with the AS/400. Rarely have I installed a new release of the operating system and had the application software that was running on it fail because of it. Even though we always make system backups before a release, we never really think we’re going to reinstall it. And except for the RISC conversion, which was a little bit of a pain, there’s almost never a reason to call the vendor of the application software.

I have to admit though, Windows 2000 is much prettier. It’s kind of neat the way the menus roll out when you scroll through them. I believe in my little old heart that if IBM had given us a native GUI four years ago and tools like VB, many of the discussions of the 400’s demise would not be had. Even today we’re still wrestling with this issue. Java may be it, but for many it’s a big jump. Even shops that can hardly do RPGIV can do VB. Why? I don’t know, but I see it all the time.

Anyway, back to our Windows 2000 application installs. After putting the first application in and finding what wouldn’t work, we looked at the task of updating all our machines. Yikes—no wonder Bill makes so much money! We still have clients running Windows 3.11 (which I can hardly run anymore), and now we have to look at the hardware issues, the software issues and what it might not do with the 400.

Maybe someday all this will be easier when we get to zero administration. The only zero administration I know of now is when the machine is off. Then I don’t have to do much to it. It’s kind of nice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t accomplish too much then either!

I know it sounds like I’m MS bashing, and in a way I am. But more so, I’m bashing us all as technologists. We’re all guilty of bringing out the newest technology as fast as we can, usually without regard to the real impact to overall systems (hardware, software and users). The problem is that we love technology; our clients love it (even if they won’t admit it) because they keep buying it and asking for more complex things from it.

We get frustrated, but we keep at it, finding new ways to do old things. Figuring out how to store more data than anyone could possible use, and even coming up with different flavors of the same old reports because we can now do them in color!

So what do we do? Install Windows 2000, check things out, fix them, update all the application software we need, and hope you don’t shut down your company in the process. Sometimes I wonder why our customer/clients/business/owners keep us around at all. Oh well, I have to go install that new Data Mart that Sales has been screaming for.

John Bussert is president of Swift Technologies (Marengo, Ill.), a company specializing in both AS/400 and Windows NT software.

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