Windows XP

The Next Revolution in Computing & Astrology Software

When Microsoft first introduced their Windows operating system in 1985, they changed the face of personal computing forever. Their old DOS (Disk Operating System) ran programs by typing commands with individual keystrokes and combinations of keys, but Windows users started (especially since 1992 with the release of Windows 3.1) employing a mouse to move a pointer across the screen, to click on the options they wanted, to select and move text and objects to different places on the screen, etc.

Unfortunately, Windows was a very unstable system, and although it enabled you to open more than one program at the same time, it often crashed. With the launching of Windows 95, the stability improved, and real multi-tasking (running several programs at once) became feasible.

Up through the Millennium version of Windows (aka Windows ME), however, all versions of Windows suffer from several limitations:

1. All programs have to store their resources in one shared and limited area of memory. This meant that no matter how much memory you add, once this “system resource” memory is used up, everything would crash. Since as much as one quarter of this memory is used at startup by virus checkers and other programs that load when you turn on your computer, and internet browsers and astrology programs can each gobble up another quarter of your system resources, this severely limits how many programs can be open at the same time.

2. Programs can replace crucial system files with their own versions, which often disrupts the functioning of other programs, or Windows itself.

3. The entire Windows system is built on top of “rickety old DOS foundations” which often cannot deal with the complexity involved in juggling memory for several programs, and one program often “crashed” the entire computer. It’s like having your entire home’s electrical wiring dependent on one fuse.

All of these issues have been eliminated with the introduction of the industrial strength versions of Windows, i.e. 2000, NT, and now finally for the home user: Windows XP. Every program has its own “pool” of resources, the vital system files are protected (while each program can use its own), and the rickety DOS foundation has been replaced with a much more robust core that keeps each program from interfering with any other programs.

As a result, astrology programs that previously used enough system resources to occasionally be problematic, such as Star Trax Millennium or the Page Designer module in Janus, now run beautifully under Windows XP. If you want to open six different astrology programs at once, plus your internet browser and your word processor, you won’t risk crashing the system. I have experienced hardly any crashes since I’ve switched to Windows XP, and I used to have crashes almost daily.(I tend to run a lot of software at the same time).

But it is important to acknowledge that Windows XP does more than just provide greater stability and multi-tasking. The letters XP are short for eXPerience, referring to the brighter color schemes, support for multi-media, (specifically connecting to digital cameras, video editing, and CD burning), and other features that make your experience of using your computer more enjoyable and efficient.

In addition to starting up more quickly, and running programs at greater speeds, XP can actually repair and update itself if it runs into difficulties (as well as automatically repair your hard drive). XP enables you to return your system to an earlier time when XP was running better (especially important if you install an ill-behaved program that creates problems for your system), and can synchronize your computer’s clock to precise atomic time (quite important for us astrologers).

XP can also display fonts in a much more readable format on your computer screen using ClearType, which makes the most difference with laptop PCs, but even improves font displays nicely when you are working at a desktop. Since XP was designed for networked environments (where two or more computers are connected to the same server), XP is also much faster and more stable in printing from several different programs sequentially (in case you want to use several astrology programs to prepare printouts for your clients). Finally, if your software includes animation, e.g. video tutorials on using your software, the media player software included with XP is much more stable than previous versions.

The writers of astrology software will be able create larger, faster, and more graphically complex programs as a result of the developments in XP, and will be able to include multimedia features more easily, such as video tutorials, animations, and sound.

There are a couple of considerations to address, however, before switching to Windows XP. For one, you’ll need a computer with enough memory and speed to run XP efficiently.(See the Sidebar on “What kind of computer should you have for running astrology software?”) Additionally, you have to get Windows XP up and running.

The biggest challenge with Windows XP is getting it installed. If you can afford to, the most painless way to get XP up and running is to buy a new computer with XP pre-installed. If you purchased your PC after 1999, you can also reformat your hard drive and install XP from scratch. Note: you may still run into hardware compatibility issues and, for example, need to download new drivers e.g. for your video card, before installing XP. (Older computer systems are even more likely to have hardware problems, e.g. video cards, scanners, printers, etc. that are not compatible with Windows XP.)

I chose the hardest road of installing Windows XP over my previous Windows 98 operating system (without first removing Window 98), and I don’t recommend attempting this unless you are very technically minded and willing to spend a lot of time on the phone with Microsoft if you run into difficulties. You’ll also have to re-install some astrology programs (see below) and any advanced graphics programs (like Adobe Photoshop) if you install XP over a prior version of Windows.

Because earlier versions of some programs won’t work with Windows XP, you will need to update your anti-virus software and system utilities (e.g. Norton Utilities, Partition Magic, Drive Image, firewall software, etc.), and CD burning software. I strongly encourage astrologers to get Norton Systemworks 2002 in any case, because it includes both the best virus checker on the market, and it has the WinDoctor utility that helps keep Windows running well.

Most programs, including many astrology programs and even old DOS ones, ran without a hitch on my PC after upgrading to Windows XP. I ran into no difficulties with Kepler 4.7 and later, Star Trax Millennium, AstrolDeluxe Report Writer, Janus, AstroDatabank, Käla, The Vedic Bookshelf, Canopus, JigSaw, Solar Maps, Solar Writer reports, the Astrolabe Report System, the Electronic Astrologer reports, Win*Star, Goravani Jyotish, and TimePassages. I did, however, encounter enough difficulties with some astrology programs to enumerate them and their fixes:

1. Matrix Software.

If you are re-installing Win*Star on a new XP system, and using an older install disk, in rare cases (only with certain graphics cards) you'll need to temporarily set your system to 256 colors, install Win*Star, and then return your system to whatever number of colors you're used to. If you do get this error you can alternately call Matrix and they will send you a new CD with the new install program that will fix the problem.

If you purchased WinWriter reports before this year (2002), its installation won’t run on XP systems. However, there is a simple solution: go to their website: http://http://astrologysoftware.com/misc/net/regarea/Login.aspx?orig=, And download the latest update. It will automatically install itself, and have your WinWriter software running perfectly under XP.

Matrix advises you to use this link frequently, as updates will be posted there often in the future. The first time you use this link, you will have to “sign in” with your customer number (on your invoice), but from then on, you’ll be able to get updates immediately.

2. Shri Jyoti Star. When you update to XP, Shri Jyoti Star requires that you enter a new registration code again. Fortunately, the program’s author has created an automatic online registration process. Just go to: http://vedicsoftware.com, (scroll down to the Customer Area -- Registration and Upgrades) -- and you’ll be able to get a new code immediately.

3. Solar Fire. If you plan to install Solar Fire on an XP system, to avoid font problems, immediately reboot after installing Solar Fire (in other words, don’t run the program before rebooting your PC).

After rebooting, to make sure you have complete compatibility, get the latest upgrade file, by running Solar Fire and then clicking on their Help, "Find Program Updates on the Web".

4. Shri Muhurta. This Vedic electional program from GeoVision operates fully under Windows XP, but always crashes when you exit the program. There is no fix at the moment, but the crash is not disruptive to the rest of your system.

5. VegaSviri is a new astrological program from Russia that requires the use of a hardware key to operate (a hardware key is mechanical device placed on your printer port or USB port to prevent illegal copying).

The present version of VegaSviri works fine with XP. Older versions of VegaSviri (earlier than those released in 2002) shipped with a driver for their key device that did not work with Windows XP. If you own an early version, you can get a free updated driver by downloading it from: http://www.ctp.ru/files/hinstall.exe

6. Kepler.

If you install Windows XP over a previous version of Windows, with Kepler 4.7 (or later) already installed on your hard drive, the names and city screen listing become dark and unreadable. Re-installing Kepler over itself solves the problem.

If you own an older (than 4.7) version of Kepler, and encounter the same problem, you can contact Cosmic Patterns for a solution by calling them (800-779-2559) or emailing them at kepler@astrosoftware.com.

I was surprised to find so few problems with astrology programs in upgrading to Windows XP. It is an incredible joy to use this new operating system, and to be able to confidently run all of my astrology software without crashing. I can conduct astrological research easily, while keeping several Western and Vedic astrology programs running simultaneously. I highly recommend astrologers move to Windows XP.



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