Succumbing to the many requests and emails I've received, I took the plunge and installed the MSN Explorer release version. I've been using MSN since its inception—not for its content, but as a dial-up networking provider when I travel. In that role, it's been pretty useful to me. I even hit the MSN homepage every now and then to use the reverse lookup phone directory link or to check stock prices (my default homepage is blank). But I hadn't accessed my MSN email account in about a year, and Microsoft never got around to actually releasing an MSN client for Windows NT (I used the Technical Preview for a while but wasn't compelled enough to keep using it). Early betas of Windows 2000 included an MSN client on the CD-ROM, but that disappeared before the final OS release, along with any real interest I might have had in using MSN for anything other than dial-up net access.

What really piqued my interest was a mention Paul Thurott (WinInfo Daily UPDATE news editor) made of the fact that the MSN Explorer interface was the shape of things to come with the next generation of Win2K (aka Whistler). With that in mind, I did the online installation of the MSN Explorer (Microsoft doesn't really provide a download; it wants you to select the "Run from this location" option for Web-based installs).

I already had an MSN account so it was a simple matter to configure the MSN Explorer client. It also gave me access, for the first time in about a year, to my MSN email account (containing about 200 spam emails) via the Hotmail Web interface.

On the plus side, installing MSN Explorer doesn't seem to have had any effect on my current Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0 installation. Everything still works as before, and I don't have to use the "user-friendly" MSN Explorer interface unless I want to. On the minus side is the simplification of the interface. I've been railing against the dumbing down of the Windows UI since before Win2K shipped. Although the release version isn't as bad as the beta I looked at, it still smacks too much of a design that won't let users get into trouble—one that's been designed to the lowest common denominator: the user with no computer or Internet experience.

I could list everything I don't like about MSN Explorer, but the size of this UPDATE would double, so I'll just let it speak for itself. You can download it here if you have a masochistic streak.

And to add to the heartburn you might already be experiencing about the upcoming Whistler release, I can tell you that a lot of similarities exist between the MSN Explorer interface and the Whistler Beta 1 interface. Microsoft lifted the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) on Whistler on October 31, and I should be getting the Beta 1 code as you read this. I'll be sure to fill you in about it next week.

This week's tip:
This is an easy one. If you're a notebook user who has been using Win2K's Hibernation feature, you'll find that the system will recover from hibernation mode and be right back where you were when you told it to hibernate, not prompting you for a password. If you want the system to require a password, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings, Control Panel, Power Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. In the Options box, click "Prompt for password when computer goes off standby."
  4. If you already get the login screen and would rather not re-enter your password, clear that setting.