Windows XP

This past week-end, my brother and I rendezvoused at our stately ancestral home in Hopewell, VA. The aforementioned brother said he had a problem or two with his laptop and I — having nothing better to do at that moment — volunteered to have a go at fixing his machine. Midway through turning off a few start-up items, I casually asked what he planned to do with the laptop once support for Windows XP ends next April. To my dismay, he said that this was the first he’d heard of it; Proof positive that he does not read this blog as I’ve mentioned the XP “sell-by date” quite a bit over the past year.

XPdeath

So just in case you’ve not paid any attention to what I’ve said over the past year – I’ve been married for 37 years so I’m used to it – Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP on April 4th, 2014. That means no more patches, security updates, etc.  Since there are 500 million +/- XP machines out there and comprising around 40% of the market as of May 2013, those PCs still running XP will be sitting ducks for the malware industry. Those guys never miss a beat when it comes to vulnerability so don’t expect them stop attacking Windows XP when the 8th of April rolls around.

Those of you still hanging on to your XP machines will have to make some serious decisions and soon. Computing hardware has progressed so much in the 12 years that XP has been with us that your trusty laptop purchased in 2006 won’t be able to run Windows 7 or 8. You’ll need to either buy new hardware or consider switching to Linux; Ubuntu or Mint will run quite nicely on my brother’s Gateway laptop. Whatever you decide to do, you need to be quick about it. Whether you choose to buy new hardware with Windows 7 or 8 pre-installed or make the move to the FREE Linux operating system, doing it under the gun is no picnic and leads to a significant increase in frustration. There’s always a period of adjustment when you make a move like this.

Because I seem to be a voice crying in the wilderness – at least on this blog – I’ve added a count-down clock to the side-bar.  Remember, tempus fugit.

RESOURCE:

See Microsoft’s End of Support page at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/endofsupport.aspx

Over the years, I have been asked repeatedly: “What kinda games you got on all those PC’s of yours?”. My answer has invariably: “Well, not very much at all.” I have to confess that I am not much of a gamer and never have been, much to the disappointment of friends – both male & female – family members, in-laws, etc. I’m just not “game oriented”. (It probably originated in my total lack of athletic ability and has migrated to board, card and electronic games.) Indeed, the top three games in my quite small pantheon of electronic amusements are:

  1. Tetris
  2. Sokoban
  3. Centipede

Another game that I have played on the computer from time to time is the old XP version of Space Cadet Pinball. Perhaps, some of you liked it as well. Since Windows XP is riding off into the software sunset, you might want take this game over to Windows 7.

Tech Republic’s Windows Blog offers detailed instructions on just how to move Pinball from XP to Windows 7. The instructions are pretty straightforward and the only thing you’ll need is either an old XP machine that still runs or a copy of the XP installation DVD. (Fortunately, I have both!) Once I get this going on Win 7, I’m going to try running it in Windows under Ubuntu – a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

Read all about it at http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/migrate-3d-pinball-for-windows-space-cadet-from-xp-to-windows-7/6149?tag=nl.e064

A number of my recent TechnoRants© have dealt with computer security. This latest threat deals with the Domain Changer virus which will impact PC’s , MAC’s and probably Linux machines as well so listen up!

The FBI recently broke up a hacker ring based in Estonia that was responsible for unleashing the Domain Changer virus. The concept for this new bit of nastiness originally turned up in January ’07,  has been perfected in this most recent release and is based on a long-postulated threat to Domain Name servers. So, what does it do?

First of all, I’m not going to try to explain Domain Names. Instead, have a look at the Wikipaedia article on the Domain Name System. The Domain Changer virus has infected at least 86,000 computers and is lying dormant until July 9th of this year. On that day, it will “wake up”,  redirect your browser to “fake” versions of actual websites, slow down your internet speed and disable your anti-virus & other security software. The hackers would then make money from ads on those fake websites, many of which are probably for software to “clean up” your PC and get rid of whatever is slowing it down. The hackers would win two ways:

  1. They would obtain your credit card information
  2. The “software” would load more viruses/malware on your system.
In other words, this is the internet equivalent of “Thank you sir! May I have another?”
How do you know if you’re infected? Go to the Domain Changer Working Group website and read the brief information about the Domain Changer virus. There will also be a link at the top of the home page
that will direct you to instructions on how to Detect an infection. The detection bit is all done via the internet and you won’t have to download any software, etc. There are instructions for Windows XP, 7 and MAC OS X.
If you are infected, there is information about tools  to disinfect your system. Finally, there is general information on how to protect your system from being infected.
If you’re a Windows user and have questions, need additional help, etc. Drop Dr. Data a line and I’ll try to give you a hand.

 

This post concludes my short series on Linux as a possible post-XP use for your PC. OK, so you’re convinced that you want to give Linux a try. What next? You could, of course, download a copy of  Ubuntu or some other distribution, burn an installation CD, wipe your hard drive and start over fresh.

The problem with starting with an empty hard drive where your XP (or Vista) installation used to be is that you lose everything to do with Windows: all your software, all your data, everything. Most of us like a phased-in transition where we have a foot in both worlds – at least for a little while.

There are three possibilities here:

  1. Install Linux – in this case Ubuntu – within windows. Once you do that, you’ll get a menu every time you boot your machine asking if you want to start up Windows or Ubuntu.
  2. Install Ubuntu in a virtual machine so that you can run Windows and Linux side – by – side at the same time. There are a number of free virtual machine programmes that will handle all of this. Just keep in mind that your PC does need to have enough horse-power to carry this off.
  3. Finally, you can try what I did which is to buy a second hard drive, install Linux on that drive and make adjust your BIOS so that it goes to the Linux drive first when you boot. Linux is smart enough to realize that there is a Windows installation on the same physical machine and will present you with the boot menu mentioned above. This way, you can use Linux or Windows on the same machine. Once you’re done with Windows and comfortable with Linux, you can wipe the Windows hard drive and use it as additional space for your machine.

The first 2 are explained in an article from PCWeek. If you’re still a bit leery about switching from Windows to Linux, you can burn what is known as a “Live CD” and boot your machine from the CD rather than your hard drive. You get to test drive Linux but you will lose any applications you install as well as any files you create. You can get around this last bit by saving your data to a flash drive. This approach is also described in the PCWorld article.

Finally, there is the problem with your MS Word & Excel files. There are some very good office suites for Linux such as OpenOffice and Libre Office that will read and create documents that are compatible with the Windows analogues.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this very brief introduction to Linux and that you will at least consider it as an option when Windows XP goes the way of all operating systems.

 

OK. I’m going to get the important bit out of the way first. If you’re running Windows XP – any version – on your work or home PC(s), you have until April 9th, 2014 to move to a new operating system because XP is going away. Oh, it will still work on April 10th, 2014 but Microsoft will end it’s support of XP on the 9th. That means that there will be no more patches, no more security updates, etc. If one of the baddies out in cyberspace – and they are legion – decides to release some virus/malware/scam directed specifically at Windows XP on April 10th, Microsoft is going to say “Too bad. You should have moved to Windows 7 or 8 before now.” In other words, you are going to be S.O.L. and I’m not talking about “Standards Of Learning” here.

The trouble here is that there are plenty of PCs/Laptops that are still working just fine – whether at home or in the office – but lack the horsepower to run Windows 7. Some of those machines cost a fair chunk of change back in the day and people don’t want to get rid of them while they still work and work well.

One theoretical solution would be for Microsoft to release XP to the world of Open Source software. In other words, XP would be supported by the enthusiasts and organisations that like working on old software and operating systems. Mark Gibbs from PCWorld makes this case but comes to the same conclusion as I did: There’s not a bloody chance that Microsoft would ever do something like this.

So, in one sense, you’re back where you started with a good PC & an unsupported operating system. There is, however, a more practical, existing solution in the Open Source community: LINUX. This operating system has been around since 1991 and has lower disk and memory requirements than Windows and has breathed new life into many a PC. What’s more, you can still run those legacy Windows applications under Linux and best of all it’s Free!!!

Tomorrow, I’ll rant a bit more about Linux.

For those of you still using Windows XP, bad news: Microsoft will cease it’s support of this long-lived operating system in 2014. My advice: Move to Windows 7 post haste because Windows 8 is on the horizon and promises a sea-change in how you interact with your PC.

You can see the connection between Windows 95, WIndows XP, and Windows 7 even if some of the new whiz-bangs and gim-cracks are a bit confusing to those whom XP has been the only thing to use for the past decade or more. Windows 8 changes the game – completely.

My purpose today is not to fawn over the Brave New World promised by Windows 8 but rather to comment on the remarks of technology pundits who claim that its Raison d’être is to – wait for it – Save The PC. Continue reading

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