Welcome to the Sep 14, 2014 issue of
CompuNerds.Net-News (←home page)
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(← Click) Even though Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8 - almost six months ago - it still accounts for about 30% worldwide of all personal computer Operating Systems in use. Windows 7 has about 51% market share, but Windows 8 and 8.1 have only 12.5% market share. That leaves around 8% for MacIntosh and Linux: see http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2014/08/01/windows-xp-falls-25-market-share-windows-8-1-loses-share-first-time/. (Of course, these stats are for currently installed Operating Systems, not the OSes on new devices such as smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks, where Google is leading the race.)
If Windows XP is the great-great-great-grandfather of Windows OSes, why is it still hanging around? Perhaps precisely because it has been around for such a long time: from 2001 up through the time Windows Vista was introduced and bombed, convincing many people to stick with Windows XP. And with its long run, lots of software was developed for XP, especially business software. This made many businesses dependent on XP if their software wouldn't work correctly on Vista or Windows 7. It's an expensive proposition to rewrite software, test it and retrain personnel to use the new software. So why should they stop running XP?
When Windows XP was introduced in 2001, the Internet was just then coming into vogue. Bit-heads like me had been developing software for the Internet, doing email and simply surfing around on the Internet for several years, but XP had built-in programs to automatically go online, send and receive email, surf the Web, and go offline. This led to a huge increase in casual use of the Internet. But it also opened up a Pandora's box of viruses, hoaxes and other malware: hackers began finding security holes in XP and application programs, and writing malware to exploit these holes. Microsoft kept patching and patching, but finally realized what was needed was a fundamentally safer architecture for the Operating System: thus Windows Vista and Windows 7 ("Vista done right") were born.
Microsoft gave users plenty of time to upgrade from Windows XP, even though it meant businesses had to rewrite software, test it and retrain personnel, so they could upgrade to Vista and Win-7. As we mentioned at the beginning, this April Microsoft dropped support of XP, which means if hackers discover any new security holes, Microsoft will not issue any patches for those holes. In spite of this, millions of people are still using this insecure operating system.
So what should these people do? Well, they should have upgraded to Vista or Win-7 when those operating systems came out because the installation program provided a smooth upgrade path: you simply ran the installation program and it automatically brought all your programs and your other files into the new OS. But those versions are no longer for sale, and Win-8 requires new and more secure hardware, which means you must do a "clean" install if you're upgrading from XP - Windows XP programs and other files aren't moved over. Yes, there are some third-party programs that can help make the transition easier, but it's still a real chore.
And what about the fact that Win-8 requires new hardware - a new computer? The Win-8 PC hardware is fundamentally different, so what can you do with your old XP machine? It's a shame to simply junk it if it still runs! Here's what you can do: backup all of your documents, photos and music to DVDs or a flash drive, then download a fresh copy of Linux Mint and install it on your old Win-XP machine. Linux Mint looks and feels very similar to Win-XP, but it runs faster and is more secure: it's continually updated and supported. It also gives you access to thousands of free Linux programs that let you do word processing, work on spreadsheets, make presentations, play music, edit photos, etc. I've done this for a few people, and they're happy with the results! Contact me if you need help with this.
The Security Blurb:
We mentioned that Win-8 hardware is more secure: what does that mean? As I wrote in the May 19, 2013 issue of CompuNerds.Net-News, "...the previous security hole in Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows has finally been plugged that would let someone boot a PC using a Linux DVD or flash drive: now devices built for Windows 8 will only boot into Windows because the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) "safe boot" firmware replaces the old Basic Input-Output System (BIOS) firmware. When an older Windows PC would boot with Linux, the Windows partition on the hard drive was wide open - Windows logins and passwords became irrelevant. Now with Windows 8 you can't boot into Linux at all, unless you first boot into Windows and turn off UEFI."
But in that same issue I quoted Bruce Schneier's article describing how we are living in a surveillance state wilder that George Orwell's dreams in his book 1984. Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Verizon, Comcast and dozens of other companies collect mountains of data about us: our age, marital status, income, finances, online and plastic-card purchases, our network of friends and other contacts, all the websites we visit and how often, likes and dislikes, religious and political beliefs, etc.
Now it has come to light how the NSA and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced Yahoo and those other online companies to cough up all their data on us: see Feds Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250K Daily for Not Complying With PRISM. That's one-quarter-million dollars per day, or $1,750,000 per week, or $7,500,000 per month, or about $100,000,000 per year, if they didn't roll over and comply with the NSA's and FISC's demands. Their argument is that catching foreign agents is like looking for a needle in a haystack, and unless they have access to the whole haystack the can't catch those nasty foreign agents.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court routinely approves any and every NSA request to spy on Americans if they have any contact with any "foreign entity." So does it really matter if your Win-8 hard drive is secure from a burglar or thief getting physical access to it, so he can boot it from Linux? Not when the Feds know if you're in contact with someone who worked in the military branch of the NSA and then spent more than 20 years in foreign - mostly former Soviet bloc - countries: that's me. So now you're tagged as a contact of a "possible foreign agent" by the mindless NSA software zombies that crawl through all the social media posts and emails sent and received via Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Verizon or Comcast servers. And they have the expertise to remotely hack into your computer, tablet and/or smartphone and vacuum up all your data. Sorry, folks, the game's over! They won.
Well, not quite over. There are things you and I can do to reclaim our privacy. Stay tuned!
The goal of our CN.Net-News is to share information that we think you'll find helpful as you wrestle with that little monster on your desk or at your side: your computer, tablet or phone. And we aim to present this information from a Christian worldview. Thanks for your time!
"Dr. Bob the CompuNerd"
Robert D hoskEN
See the "nerd" in my name? (It helps if you're a little dyslexic!)
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