Microsoft released Windows 2000 (Win2K) to manufacturing last week, and for the past few days, evaluators in the press, beta testers, and participants in Microsoft's Joint Deployment Program (JDP) and Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) have been excitedly unwrapping CD-ROMs. What we've found, however, hasn't been quite what we expected. It turns out that we haven't received the final version yet—what we have is a preview.

First—and least important—is a change to the code itself: Microsoft had told us that the code would be limited by license to 120 days. In fact, the code is time-bombed and will stop working 120 days after you install it (I owe that observation to fellow Windows NT Magazine contributor Tom Henderson, who tested the code by resetting the date). The license agreement contains a 120-day limit, but that's not all—the agreement also contains the following language:

"THE PRODUCT IS NOT FOR PRODUCTION USE.
You may not demonstrate, test, examine, evaluate or otherwise use the Product in a live operating environment or with data that has not been sufficiently backed up."

I've asked Microsoft about these restrictions, and the response, to date, has been a mite confused. (In fairness, we've only been talking since yesterday.) My contacts at Microsoft assured me that the only difference between the code I got and the code it provided to OEMs is the 120-day time-bomb. I believe that assurance—in part, because other features (including the requirement to type in a 25-digit product code during setup) look like those you’d expect to see in a production package. But the no-production-use limitation in the license is what I'd expect to see in a beta or release candidate—not in a production product. Add the interesting fact that in this version, tech support is available only on a pay-per-incident basis, and I'm sorely confused. Have I received final code or Release Candidate 4 (RC4)?

Now for the good news. Whether it's RTM code or RC4, it looks pretty solid. I had basically the same installation experience as I had with RC3. The only anomalies I've seen so far involve communications; I'm using a beta version of Microsoft ActiveSync for Windows CE that gave a critical error, but the error went away after I logged out and logged back in. A script I use with Dial-up Networking to log into my ISP also gives an error, but the script turns out to be unnecessary to get logged in, so I’m getting along fine.

And, as I reported last week, you can order the preview from the Microsoft Corporate Preview Program (CCP) Web site or by calling 1-800-442-9513. Evaluation copies cost $14.95 and include both Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro) and Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server); Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Win2K AS) costs an additional $9.95.

A Special Message from the Windows 2000 Pro UPDATE Editor
I want to thank all who have written with questions or comments about these newsletters. Moving to Windows NT Magazine from the now defunct WINDOWS Magazine was a traumatic experience, and your mail has done a lot to make me feel welcome. So have the wonderful people at Duke Communications, who have been a writer’s dream to work with. They don’t ask dumb questions—they do ask good questions; when they change my copy, they improve it; and they pay on time!

You have my very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. See you in the new millennium!