[S] Windows 95 or Windows NT? SUMMARY

Terry Elrod (Terry.Elrod@UAlberta.ca)
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:20:01 -0700


Many thanks to those who responded to my query, which was:
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I seek advice on whether switching to Windows NT would be better for running long S-Plus 4.0 jobs concurrently with other programs.

It's time for me to get a new PC. I've settled on a 300MH or better Pentium II machine with 128MB of RAM, a machine that could accommodate Windows NT. In truth, I am happy with Windows 95 except that some of my S-Plus (and other) jobs are often long and Windows 95 won't give enough of a share of CPU time to foreground tasks while S-Plus 4.0 jobs are running in the background. Windows NT, I am told, offers "true multitasking".

If anyone knows of a way to force Windows 95 to give less CPU time to S-Plus when it is running in the background, that would be terrific. (I know how to do this for MS-DOS programs running in the background, but not for Windows programs.) Otherwise, advice on whether Windows NT gives foreground programs adequate responsiveness would be most appreciated.

I will summarize replies to the group. Thanks in advance.

Terry Elrod

P.S. A Unix operating system is out of the question for me, I'm afraid. ;-)
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No one knew how to manage task priority under Win95. (Erik Simmons even checked with "Microsoft Certified Engineer types" at work on this point.)

My query prompted Willem deWinter to post a summary of responses to his recent posting of the same question. (See his summary, RE: [S] Windows 95 or Windows NT? > SUMMARY, posted to the group on March 11, 1998.) Not surprisingly, replies to my query were similar.

ADVANTAGES OF EACH CHOICE OF OPERATING SYSTEM:

Reasons to stay with Win95:
Needs less RAM (as little as 32Mb for smaller data sets).
S-Plus 4.0 allows adequate responsiveness to foreground tasks given enough RAM (at least 32Mb).
Win98 will be available soon (and may be better at multitasking?).
Better support for hardware devices such as scanners and CD-ROM drives.

Reasons to switch to WinNT:
Fewer crashes.
Faster on Pentium II than Win 95 given enough RAM.
Allows prioritization of tasks. (Setting a program's process time to IDLE means it will only use slack CPU time.)
WinNT is the operating system of the future, while Win95/98 is transitional.

ADVICE FOR EACH CHOICE:
Here I have assembled scenarios that include advice under each option.

Win95:
Getting more RAM and a faster PC may allow adequate responsiveness of foreground tasks.
Update to Win98 when it comes out.

Win NT:
Get an adequate machine for this operating system: 128Mb or more RAM and Pentium II processor.
If graphics are used a lot, also get a very fast graphics card (one with 8 Mb RAM on board).
To analyze larger datasets under S-Plus, get a SCSI hard drive or a second drive with its own controller.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS:
Get a real computer for the same money (Sun UltraSparc 10).
Run linux as the PC's operating system.
Use R instead of S-Plus.
Configure PC to allow booting up on user's choice of operating system.

WHAT DO I CONCLUDE?
I suppose I'm obligated to confess my own conclusion. I'm certain I will get a machine that is "up to" running Win NT. It appears there is a good chance that my primary complaint with Win 95 on my current machine--that foreground jobs are unresponsive--will disappear. If so, then I can stay with an operating system most familiar to me (and colleagues and support personnel) and avoid worries about hardware incompatibility. Switching to Win NT at a later date is always an option (and apparently an inevitability). I'll tempted to start by seeing how Win 95 does on a fast, RAM-loaded machine.

MY THANKS TO:

Lynd Bacon, Madeline Bauer, Clint Bowman, Ed Callahan, Benjamin Clardy, Willem deWinter, Bert Gunter, Malcom Jones, Jun Liu, Jens Oehlschlaegel, Prof. Brian Ripley, and Erik Simmons.

I hope my NT friends are not too disappointed in me!

Terry Elrod
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Prof. Terry Elrod; 3-23 Fac. of Business; U. of Alberta; Edmonton AB; Canada T6G 2R6
email: Terry.Elrod@Ualberta.ca; tel: (403) 492-5884; fax: (403) 492-3325
Web page: http://www.ualberta.ca/~telrod/
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