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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

In this introduction

Why This Book?

How Our Book Is Organized

What’s on the CD?

Conventions Used in This Book

Thank you for purchasing or considering the purchase of Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. It’s amazing the changes that 15 years can bring to a computer product such as Windows. When we wrote our first Windows book back in the mid-’80s, our publisher didn’t even think the book would sell well enough to print more than 5,000 copies. Microsoft stock wasn’t even a blip on most investors’ radar screens. Boy, were they wrong! Who could have imagined that a little more than a decade later, anyone who hoped to get hired for even a temp job in a small office would need to know how to use Microsoft Windows, Office, and a PC. Fifteen Windows books later, we’re still finding new and exciting stuff to tell our readers.

Some people (including the U.S. Department of Justice) claim Microsoft’s predominance on the PC operating system arena was won unethically through monopolistic practices. Whether or not this is true (we’re going to stay out of the politics in this book), we believe that Windows has earned its position today through reasons other than having a strangle-hold on the market. Consider that Windows NT 3.1 had 5 million lines of code. Windows XP weighs in with more than 30 million. This represents a lot of work, by anyone’s accounting. Who could have imagined in 1985 that any decent operating system a decade and half later must have support for so many technologies that didn’t even exist at the time: CD-ROM, DVD, CD-R and CD-RW, Internet and intranet, MP3, MPEG, DV, USB, FireWire, APM, ACPI, RAID, e-mail and newsgroup clients, UPS, fault tolerance, disk encryption and compression … ? The list goes on. And could we have imagined that a Microsoft Certified System Engineer certificate (MCSE) could prove as lucrative as a medical or law degree?

Although rarely on the bleeding edge of technology, and often taking the role of the dictator, Bill Gates has at least been benevolent from the users’ point of view. In 1981, when we were building our first computers, the operating system (CP/M) had to be modified in assembly language and recompiled, and hardware parts had to be soldered together to make almost any new addition (such as a video display terminal) work. Virtually nothing was standardized, with the end result being that computers remained out of reach for average citizens.

Together, Microsoft and IBM changed all that. Today, you can purchase a computer, printer, scanner, Zip drive, keyboard, modem, monitor, and video card over the Internet, plug them in, and install Windows, and they’ll probably work together. The creation and adoption (and sometimes forcing) of hardware and software standards that have made the PC a household appliance the world over can largely be credited to Microsoft, like it or not. The unifying glue of this PC revolution has been Windows.

Yes, we all love to hate Windows, but it’s here to stay. Linux is on the rise, but for most of us, at least for some time, Windows and Windows applications are “where it’s at.” And Windows XP ushers in truly significant changes to the landscape. That’s why we were excited to write this book.

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