Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A word to people still running on Windows XP

I know that you're out there:

Microsoft will not provide security fixes for XP after April.  That means that you will live in a Day Zero* world, forever.  So what to do, assuming that you don't want to throw away your computer (which is still working)?

Here's a thought: upgrade to Linux:
I decided it was time for me to let go. I gave Ubuntu 12.04 a shot. My computer felt modern again… except for that damn Unity UI. Why do all my apps have to be full screen? My netbook is not a tablet. And that Ubuntu Software Center is quite large and annoying. I dove in to a pile of configuration files to fix these problems and decided I got tired of fooling around with it. I stuck it out for a few months before giving up and giving Linux Mint 14 with Cinnamin a go, and now I am very happy. The only thing I needed to do post-install is get Google back in to my Firefox. A 5 minute fix. Not bad.


My Linux Mint experience has moved closer to my more expensive Mac experience, except Text Edit has been replaced with gedit. I actually like gedit better. It doesn’t scream at me to go to iCloud to just fiddle with a file. Also, “apt-get install” is vastly superior to launching the Mac Store.
apt-get install is the shiznit. There are GUI based install managers that will search for and find apps and then install them.  And you don't need antivirus.

Back to comparing with XP, the only slight drawback I see is that Paint.NET works better than Pinta, but I am willing to make that trade. With XP gone, I get modern memory management and a modern file system. Thanks to ext4, I no longer have to worry about defrag. I am pleased to let go of my virus scanner too.

My little Atom-powered 1 GB RAM netbook feels much faster.
My mainframe here at Camp Borepatch is an old Compaq dual core/2 GB RAM beast.  It's quite snappy on Linux, because it doesn't get cluttered up with defrag and indexer and all the other junk.  Every now and then I might have to kill the plugin-container because Flash is an abomination before the Lord, but that solves it - with Windows I'd have to reboot to clean up the memory leakage.  And dig this:
Ted@Borepatch:~$ uptime
  up 75 days, 9 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.95, 0.89, 0.89
Try that on Windows, suckas ...

Were I to install a new distro, I'd also go with Linux Mint (just back up your Windows data to USB before you upgrade).    Or you can buy a new computer.  Hey, it's your dough.

* A Day Zero security bug is a vulnerability that is discovered and announced (and typically exploited) before a fix is available.  It's the worst sort of security problem, because there's no way to defend yourself even if you want to.

UPDATE 15 January 2014 20:50: R. K. Brumbelow points out in the comments that Microsoft announced late this afternoon that they would extend the XP support window to next year.  You should still upgrade.  It's very unlikely that they will extend it again. The issue isn't going away.

UPDATE 15 January 21:18: The extended support is only for the Microsoft antivirus/antimalware.  The security patches stop in April 2014.  So you will in fact be living in a Day Zero world, relying on Microsoft antivirus to make it all OK after the Bad Guys pwn you longtime.  Start planning your move, whether it's free to Linux on your current hardware or to Windows 7/8 on new hardware.  Or to a Mac, if you're rolling in dough.


deadmandance said...

I need to dig out my old laptop with Mint on it and mess around with it some more. I just hate how when I have a problem with Linux and look for help, it seems that all the resources available were put together by people who are still stuck in 1997 in terms of web design...

Comrade Misfit said...

I've got an XP machine. I'm just going to air-gap the sucker and use it for file storage.

Comrade Misfit said...

Oh, yeah, and fuck you, Microsoft.

Eric Wilner said...

I've been running mostly Debian for a few years now (and mostly Linux of one flavor or another since the late 90s).
Will probably give Mint a try, soon; also a friend is thinking of going into the old-PC-rescue business, planning to use Ubuntu, but I'll suggest that he try Mint, now that the subject has come up.
I still have one physical Windows PC in the lab (running Win 7)... and an XP virtual machine, under VirtualBox, for dealing with such client-provided Word documents as have accumulated enough cruft that LibreOffice chokes on them (also for TurboTax, and crud like that).
I get really spoiled with virtual desktops, a proper shell, middle-click paste, and the vast supply of free software (plus the few commercial apps I use, mainly CAD).

Dave H said...

up 75 days, 9 min, 1 user, load average: 0.95, 0.89, 0.89

Pfft. Here's mine:

BusyBox v1.00-rc2 (2004.08.05-21:44+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

$ uptime
15:13:42 up 412 days, 17:25, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

This is a single-board computer with an ARM processor running embedded Linux. It's the brain of an automated ham radio tracking relay station. I also use it as a cheap-ass proxy to, among other things, get around the net nanny at work. (ssh is your friend.)

I confess it's not running anything you'd want on your desktop. In fact it's not running anything graphical at all. But it's still running.

eiaftinfo said...

Going through this upgrade with my hospital and nursing home customers. After 4/8/14 XP is no longer HIPPA complient. One IT department was told it was a $25,000 per day fine to even have one connected to the network after that date. In fact, waiting for the brown truck of happiness to deliver the first of 8 machines for a very small care facility . . . going to cost healthcare a fortune between now and April. Most places were not even notified of this by the government until just before Christmas.

newrebeluniv said...

I installed win 8 on an old Vista laptop and it runs a lot better than before. Just a few issues that were easily fixed and one that defies fixing. (the darned thing randomly stops connecting wirelessly to my home network for no apparent reason)


GuardDuck said...

Have Mint on an old netbook, makes it feel faster than it did out of the box.

Also on my primary laptop - which while newer, I still prefer Mint for day to day activities.

14:05:54 up 31 days, 6:55, 2 users, load average: 0.14, 0.38, 0.45

libertyman said...

Interesting to see the Mac at 19% of the market. It used to be , what, 5 or 10 percent?

I am still stuck with Microsoft at the college, and few things are as frustrating as say, searching for a file on the PC, which is easy-peasy on my Macs.

Dave H said...

Do the newer Windowses (Vista, 7, 8) show up as NT on the IFF?

maddmedic said...

I agree..
I have an old Sony Vaio running Ubuntu in my ammo reloading center and now that both boys are off to college..the 'downstairs' antique, last computer I built and still with XP is getting upgraded...Not sure which version of Linux I am installing on it..
Will take suggestions..

Borepatch said...

Dave H, no fair with uptime from a specialized box ... ;-)

I believe that Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 show up as NT 5. Got to be Vista out there, and I'm not seeing it.

Libertyman, I'm seeing > 7% Linux. That's what Mac used to be.

Borepatch said...

Madmedic, I intentionally did not recommend Ubuntu, which seems to be positioning itself as a tablet/smartphone OS. The buzz from the Cool Kids is around Mint. When I upgrade, that's what I'll choose.

Old NFO said...


R.K. Brumbelow said...

Microsoft extended support to 2015 earlier today.

burt said...

Heh... go look in the "Support" chapters in the 1994 and 1995 Yggdrasil books... suckas... LOL!

And that's AFTER running Debian and Slackware... after running ESIX and Interactive UNIX... and after running Microport SV/AT (yes, you read that right: System V UNIX on an 80286!)

Mint is built on the Ubuntu distro. If you want a better Ubuntu desktop experience than that horrid Unity crap, install Xubuntu. Same kernel, same tools - MUCH better interface.

My network-facing server is running Centos 6.5 w/ SELinux in full enforcement mode (sufficient policies to allow me to get specialized work done). fail2ban w/ 600 minute iptable banning and the firewall configured to close all ports except those being used. postfix using 3 RBLs. Password policy that requires mostly-random upper/lower case alpha intermixed with numbers and special characters.

Whatcha think, BP?

Dave H said...

Dave H, no fair with uptime from a specialized box ... ;-)

Yeah, I know. I checked the uptime every day for a month waiting for it to get to a year. I just had to brag.

Ken said...

Very nice. I've got a late-'05 Dell in the basement office running XP. I think I'll archive the important stuff and install Mint on it.

drjim said...

Been running Linux since 1995, and man, has it ever gotten easier to install and use.

i am covertress said...

ATMs, 95% of which run Windows XP, must upgrade by April 8 to avoid losing support