All sorts of interesting technology passes through the Windows NT Magazine Lab every day. The Lab Guys want to give you a glimpse of product trends and technical revelations they see every month.
John's Musings: NT Server and Workstation, PC Cards
Ever try to configure Windows NT Server on a laptop? I have. I tried repeatedly to install 3.51 and 4.0 beta 1 Server on my Toshiba Satellite Pro, but I couldn't get it to recognize my PC Card network adapter, a garden-variety 3Com Etherlink III adapter. Of course, NT Workstation 3.51 and 4.0 beta 1 work just fine on this machine and recognize the PC Card. Bug or feature? You be the judge of whether Microsoft is discouraging the use of Server on laptops. Either way, I'm pleased that 4.0 beta 2 Server eliminates this concern and works just fine with the same machine configuration.
Naturally, this situation raises the question: Why run Server on a laptop, anyway? And this question brings up the larger issue of when to run Server and when to run Workstation. Licensing issues aside, I prefer Server, because I keep coming across products and services that run only on Server. Server is a superset of Workstation capabilities--everything Workstation can do, Server can do and moreso why limit my future capabilities if I don't have to?
Oh sure, I've read how Workstation is fine tuned for foreground application performance and Server is tuned for background services. But frankly, I've never seen any real-life difference in any of my favorite applications.
Is putting Server, which costs twice as much as Workstation, on your system worth the extra money? Probably not for your average desktop environment, but Server is certainly a bonus for power users. Food for thought.
What once was a steady trickle of new NT applications has become a pretty powerful stream. Part of this trend is because of Windows 95's success and the emergence of 32-bit products that claim to be for both Win95 and NT.
In theory, any Win95-compliant application runs under NT. In practice, many of these products exhibit bizarre behavior on NT during installation and configuration. Have you ever installed a dual Win95-NT application on an NT system and seen the application ask for the location of the autoexec.bat file? We've seen that--and more--here in the lab.
Vendors take note: NT is not Win95. And for those vendors who recognize the difference, many thanks.
The large number of products coming to the NT market mean a wider variety of applications are now available. In addition to mainstream applications for database access, program development, network management, and so forth, we're starting to see more hard-core business and niche-oriented products. Two examples are Teleform by Cardiff Software and CANE by ImageNet.
Teleform is an electronic forms package that lets you design forms and read OCR forms--if you can find an NT-compatible scanner or you receive your forms by fax. Again, this is an example of a business application that has made its way to the NT market because of the Win95 explosion.
CANE is a network design and analysis tool that lets you build a virtual network and then analyze its capabilities, including performance, through simulation testing. CANE is an NT-only product, and as any network manager will tell you, a product with these capabilities was long overdue.
My column, "Hard Disk Boot-Time Blues," in the June issue of Windows NT Magazine discusses the hard-disk boot procedure that Intel systems use. Several readers have pointed out that the NT boot loader, ntldr, supports undocumented options that let it directly boot among NT, Win95, and DOS. For an explanation of how to use these options, look at the newsgroup comp.os.ms.windows-nt.misc or the Web page www.bcpl.lib.md.us/~dbryan/directboot.html.
Lab Mission Statement
The Windows NT Magazine Lab is a 2200 square foot facility at Windows NT Magazine headquarters in the Colorado front range. As a service to our readers, we test NT-oriented hardware and software products to ensure that vendor representations of their products are accurate.