Feeds

back to article Microsoft issues less-than-helpful tips to XP holdouts

Microsoft seems to have realised what most everyone figured out years ago: come April 9 there will still be millions upon millions of computers running Windows XP and therefore open to all sorts of potential attacks. Redmond's recognition of the problem appears in a new ”Cyber threats to Windows XP and guidance for Small …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Linux

Install Linux

"Or install Linux, an operating system utterly likely to leave an XP machine eminently usable and secure."

Seems an eminently sensible solution to me. Been using Debian for years now and never looked back...

31
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: Install Linux

Linux is free, but it's still less than 2% of the desktop market.

Quite literally, they cannot give it away.

The tin foil hat wearing beards are convinced that it's all an evil conspiracy by Microsoft. Or something. I really don't know to be honest. But at least the reg comments gives them a nice safe place full of other beardie weirdies, where they can all slap themselves on the back and argue over which Linux is best with the other 4 people who use it. But the unfortunate fact is as soon as you put Linux into the mass market of people who don't have beards and strong body odour, you end up with Android - a security and privacy disaster.

2
18
Silver badge

Re: Install Linux

"But the unfortunate fact is as soon as you put Linux into the mass market of people who don't have beards and strong body odour,"

Well congratulations for mustering your gigantic intellect to put forward such a compelling argument.

( up to your usual standards BTW )

13
1
Bronze badge

Re: Install Linux

Missed the obvious flaw in this argument:

"You don't know upgrading from XP is a good idea and you're expected to know how to install Linux."

Installing Linux is not a solution for those people who rely on "Geek Squad" or the "Knowhow" team to move their life from one handset to another ...

2
0
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: Install Linux

Wrote :- "The tin foil hat wearing beards are convinced that it's all an evil conspiracy by Microsoft. Or something."

The "something" is quite simple : the fact that you cannot buy a PC without Windows, or a Mac without OS X, at any but a few specialised outlets.

Sorry to disappoint your pre-conceptions, but I don't have a beard or tinfoil hat. I believe you are thinking of Richard Stallman; but in fact he is not a huge fan of Linux either.

Beard-less, hat-less icon.

6
1
Anonymous Coward

Linux?

And Linux is secure... why? Is it by default, because it's not Microsoft?

Or it's just that there haven't been enough attacks on it, since it's a small slice of consumer computers population, and not worth targeting?

12
42

Re: Linux?

Perhaps it's because it is not ruled by the bottom line. Profits have been known to get in the way of both functionality and security. Or maybe it's because they have 2 million eyes looking at the code for bugs instead of 200. Perhaps the Anonymous Coward should read http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/ before posting again?

28
7

Re: Linux? @AC

I'll give you a very good reason:

Linux does not log you in as root, which effectively is what Windows does by setting you up by default as administrator rather than a standard user.

And another windows howler is that it allows you to download and run an exe while in guest mode.

19
3

Re: Linux?

Small slice of the consumer computers [sic] population?

Linux, on the other hand, powers the majority of web servers and routers, which is why the Web is still working. Definitely worth targeting, I should have thought.

17
0

Re: Linux? @AC

@rm -rf/

"Linux does not log you in as root, which effectively is what Windows does by setting you up by default as administrator rather than a standard user."

For one thing, modern versions of Windows don't even act as "root" when you are logged in with an Administrator account, everything you run runs as a standard user unless you elect to do otherwise via a UAC prompt.

Furthermore, the issue most people actually face isn't "running as root". If you have a computer with a single user account, being root isn't really a big advantage. Most malware is perfectly capable of stealing data and doing whatever it feels like under a standard user account. And, for the record, Linux isn't really much better at protecting a user from applications/scripts they choose to run under their account, although it does make doing so marginally more difficult (which is akin to security through obscurity)

"And another windows howler is that it allows you to download and run an exe while in guest mode."

And Linux allows anyone to chmod +x anything in their home directory and run it. Your point is?

6
19

Re: Linux?

@Mark Simon: "Linux, on the other hand, powers the majority of web servers and routers, which is why the Web is still working. Definitely worth targeting, I should have thought."

There are plenty of compromised Linux webservers on the internet.

3
11
Bronze badge

Re: Linux? @AC

Quite right!

The prime way of avoiding serious trouble is to work as a pleb user, not administrator - especially when using the Internet. This is far more important than using antivirus or keeping patches up to date.

2
1

Re: Linux? @El Andy

"For one thing, modern versions of Windows don't even act as "root" when you are logged in with an Administrator account, everything you run runs as a standard user unless you elect to do otherwise via a UAC prompt."

What complete bollocks - when you run a piece of software as admin that software runs with admin rights, when run as a standard user it runs with standard user privileges. Security 101 fail.

"And Linux allows anyone to chmod +x anything in their home directory and run it. Your point is?"

You have a poor understanding of Linux, just like you do of windows.

As always if you have physical access to a machine an experienced hacker can pwn anything, it's your average user we are talking here and preventing them from breaking/infecting a system.

8
3

Re: Linux?

majority? A large % sure, but I don't know that there is any meaningful statistics - several flawed conclusions including one recently published on el reg. Truth is, nobody really knows.

0
0

Re: Linux? @El Andy

Actually you have an outdated understanding of windows.

You aren't running with "elevated" (eg root) rights in windows even logged in as an administrator out of the box (of course if you disable all the security you are of course then doing so, but I don't think that makes windows insecure, but you a total tool).

You often have to specifically choose to run with full elevation for more and more tasks - to make sure you absolutely totally and utterly mean to allow unfettered access.

If all the Linux evangelists and friends could stop pretending they "know" windows security when they haven't used windows in years, and certainly haven't deal with anything even vaguely recent (hint: unfettered access has been gone since XP was replaced and every version is more secure and more slickly implemented in this regard) we'd all be fine.

You can use Linux by all means, that doesn't bother me at all, but please stop complaining that MS spread FUD when you do the same thing. Windows is nothing like the Windows of XP, 2003 and before.

3
5

Re: Linux?

Linux is secure because it doesn't suffer from the stupid structural design choices made by Bill Gates himself in the name of "ease of use". Just three utterly stupid design decisions rendered every version of Windoze completely insecure, and condemned every Microsoft user to a hell of anti-malware snake-oil nonsense in a completely useless effort to keep the nasties out.

7
2
Bronze badge
Linux

Re: Windows is nothing like the Windows of XP

But surely what we're comparing Linux with here is Windows XP? It will run happily on XP-era machines and eliminate the security problems of running an unsupported version of Windows. Linux is not perfect, bulletproof or suitable for everyone, Windows has got more secure over the last decade, but for limited hardware Linux is an easier upgrade path from XP than a newer Windows version, and for some of the people who are still on XP it offers an altogether adequate replacement. The difficulty for Linux advocates is going to be getting the message across, to what may be a largely non-technical audience[1], before they get hacked or forced to upgrade to something they don't really want.

[1] I know some very technically competent people who are still using Windows 2000, but they already know about and use Linux too.

2
0

Re: Windows is nothing like the Windows of XP

It's cheaper to buy a new (but not top of the line - last year's top model) Laptop with Win 8.1 installed than it is to buy a windows upgrade for your XP box, but that is cheaper for the average PC user than installing Linux. The operating system of choice for SysAdmin types is a massive learning curve for a Windows XP user. Unless you think your own time is worthless, stay well clear of Linux and its impenetrable pirated UNIX jargon: "Linux does not log you in as root", "chmod +x", etc.

By the time you are a Linux expert, you will have spent in man-hours far more than the $750 or so for a modern Win 8 touch-screen laptop that is far superior to an XP-era primitive PC, now lumbered with an operating system hardly anyone wants.

1
10

This post has been deleted by its author

Facepalm

Re: Linux? @Vince

Stop talking Crap !

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240214560/Cut-Microsoft-admin-rights-to-mitigate-92-of-threats-study-shows

and here

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/security/report-64-of-all-microsoft-vulnerabilities-for-2009-mitigated-by-least-privilege-accounts/5964

Still think your running as a standard user when you are logged in as admin ?

I use windows extensively and I make sure I'm a standard user as much as possible. It's you who are spreading damaging FUD and giving users of windows bad advice.

USE A STANDARD ACCOUNT !

2
3
Silver badge

Re: Linux? @El Andy

A popup that reads "are you sure you want to do this? It might be bad!" is not security.

0
0

It depends on the distro...

...as I would not recommend Arch, LFS, Gentoo, etc. to anyone who has not learned there way around a "User Friendly" like Mint or Ubuntu. That being said, I would not expect anyone (even the most experienced MS Grey Beard) to switch without a learning curve. Just because Linux has X Windows and office suites does not mean that people will be able to over come the learning curve before suffering from a loss of productivity. I imagine that it is this very thing that has kept them on XP so long. The biggest hurdle for any die hard XP user to over come is that of being a die hard XP user. Once they do that though, they are free to choose freedom or a new gilded cage.

14
0
Bronze badge

Re: It depends on the distro...

+1. I had no trouble teaching my aunt and uncles to use Ubuntu with XFCE configured such that it resembles the XP Desktop. As long as the programs they're used to are available there is no problem (they're already used to Firefox and VLC anyway, so the switch to Linux was less painful than those who used a lot of Windows-exclusive software. The only program that required them to learn a lot more was LibreOffice).

That said, the biggest problem with switching from Windows to Linux is still games. Sure, Valve has moved to launch most of their games in Linux, but unless Loki Software comes back from beyond the grave and start porting the games again, I doubt if we're ever going to see SimCity 2013 or StarCraft II on the platform :(

(Yes, I know SimCity 2013 sucks and that both EA and Activision are evil and I shouldn't have bought their games. But SimCity 2013 was like one of those really nasty accidents- on one hand, you can't deny it's grisly. On the other hand, you just can't take your eyes off it. Wine? I tried SimCity 2013 in Wine- it gave me some "unable to activate the game for your platform" bullshit).

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: It depends on the distro...

Personally, I use Windows 8.1 (+Start8)... mostly because I develop Windows software.

I'm not a Windows or Linux advocate, I gave Linux Mint a try a while ago.

For a regular user, the learning curve for Linux is a myth. In fact, XP to Windows8 is steeper - especially with the likes of Linux Mint.

For the XP users that I "support":

- 90% of their time is in the browser.

- Their file operations are usually limited to "My Documents", the desktop, or a usb drive.

- Most have pre-ribbon Office.

- Still have their pre-loaded crapware installed

- Bloated, out of date, and ineffective AV software, from PC World.

When they upgrade to Linux, they get:

- The applications in the "start menu" are categorised by their type, rather than company name.

- The software manager is just like an app store; everything works, no compatibility issues, no downloading exes from random sites, etc.

- LibreOffice is more comfortable and familiar than the latest MSOffice

- A "new" computer, for a cup of coffee + biscuit.

It's a no-brainer.

A Windows "power user" might have more of a hard time re-learning.. although if they do enjoy using computers, they might even have more fun with it, exploring a new system.

It's not for me, though. Like many here, I'm locked-in.

26
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: It depends on the distro...

"...the biggest problem with switching from Windows to Linux is still games."

No, the biggest problem with Linux is that installing programs.

Time and again I've heard people recommend this or that distro., but when it comes to what should be the simple process of installing a program... well, there is no such thing as user friendliness.

4
23
Bronze badge

Re: locked in

To quote that great philosopher Bob Marley: emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

sorry off to get a bite to each (getting the munchies)

7
1
Bronze badge

Re: It depends on the distro...

For must-have Windows (TM) apps (or definitely-want ones!) there's the option of running XP in a virtual machine. You can set up VirtualBox on Linux so that the guest XP has no network device, and is thus beautifully insulated from the Webs of Pain, but shares storage with the Linux host. This might work for some apps, though things that must be network connected, or need blistering graphics performance etc. are unlikely to benefit.

I speak from experience: I have a VM set up just like this to host (a) Garmin software that doesn't work well under Wine, and (b) an ancient version of MathCAD which remains useful at rare moments.

Oh, and inexperienced folk are going to want a helping hand to set that up, too.

5
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: It depends on the distro...

No, the biggest problem with Linux is that installing programs.

I think you're "holding it wrong".

Actually, I've installing stuff to be much much easier than Windows. It was one of my tipping points for making the switch last year.

You have a package/software manager, which works a bit like an appstore. You click 'install' and it downloads the software (and any shared dependencies that you don't already have), and installs it all for you. No questions, no clicking next, and unticking bundled crap. Uninstalling is just as painless.

I think you're trying to do it the Windows way, by going to a site and downloading it from there. Yes, those instructions are usually for developers or people with special requirements.

16
0
Bronze badge

Installing programs

I really wonder who finds the Ubuntu or Linux Mint software centres too user unfriendly to use - both are as simple as Google's Play Store on Android and, presumably, whatever Apple let you use. Search a catalogue of tens of thousands of programs, click the 'install' button and give your password at some point. Done.

13
1
Bronze badge

90% of their time is in the browser

Exactly.

This is why Microsoft set out to destroy Netscape all those years ago and were prepared to do it illegally. It's one of the few times you can't say they didn't see the future correctly.

12
0

Re: It depends on the distro...

"No, the biggest problem with Linux is that installing programs."

If you insist on installing programs as you were taught in Windowsland, then yes, you will have difficulty.

If you have any familiarity with iOS or Android, you know how to install programs in Linux, as Linux was doing it that way longer.

Many Linux distros have a software manager, the name may be different for each distro, which acts like a store. You search by category,name or keyword for an application you wish to install.

You click to install, the manager adds any necessary library packages, and installs them.

You can do multiple installs at the same time, and no re-boots needed.

13
1
Bronze badge
Linux

Re: It depends on the distro...

That 90% applies to most business users too. There are quite a few application vendors that do everything in a web interface.

I really don't know why we give people full blown PC's any more. A thin client is the most any of them need. And to that end, why do most of them really even need a windows environment? Data entry can be on a dumb terminal...

5
0
Bronze badge
Linux

Re: It depends on the distro...

"or people with special requirements."

I see you've used Slackware before :D

(Me too, I'm a Masochist)

1
0

Re: It depends on the distro...

Quite right. You need to keep Windows as it is the game manufacturers favoured platform at present. Still says it all when the only thing Windows is kept for is a games machine....

2
0

Re: It depends on the distro...

You not understanding a very simple thing like a software centre is not a Linux problem. It couldn't be simpler really.

9
1

Re: It depends on the distro...

I just switched my Dad's old laptop to Xubuntu. Pretty much all he did in XP was pictures, email, and web. He used Firefox, so it was trivial to move his profile over. The only issue he had was figuring out where to enter his wireless password. He loves that it boots faster, and that the machine "feels" faster than it did under XP.

6
0
Bronze badge
Windows

Talking of browsers - Re: 90% of their time is in the browser

Would an addition to the list in the original article be something like

"Install Firefox Web browser and then install the NoScript add in for Firefox"?

What percentage of crap would that cut out?

PS: Near the local University there are three computer shops flogging kit to students. Second hand Win7 CoreDuo [2] 15.x inch laptops going for about £95 to £150.

I use GNU/Linux on my recycled Thinkpad at home, and I use Windows 7 at work looked after by people who seem to know what they are doing. I'm thinking about the type of XP user who just switches it on a few times a week...

1
0

Re: It depends on the distro...

Or even a terminal window on a thin client, by golly

0
0
Bronze badge
Linux

Re: no such thing as user friendliness

You have to be kidding - to install something in any Debian based distro just fire up Synaptic, search for what you want by name or description, click "mark for installation" click "apply" and you're done (with all the dependencies handled for you, and the new software added to the main menu). Includes a centralised update tool that maintains everything in the software repository, without those resource-hogging popup-opening nags that Windows apps stick in the system tray, and without multiple reboots.

1
0
Silver badge

How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

I switched to Linux before XP was released, so I genuinely have no idea.

10
2
Silver badge

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

I have an 8 year old retail XP-SP2 install disk that's never been activated, that I could sell to you if you want to have a 'retro' experience ....?

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

"I switched to Linux before XP was released, so I genuinely have no idea."

Well that was a waste of network traffic, wasn't it?

2
9
Devil

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

I've just done it, and its a complete pain in the backside.

1) Windows update does not work. No clues, nothing. It just gives an obscure error message, which has limited advice on MS about how to fix. Web searches reveal that you need to install service pack 2 in order to get windows update to work.

2) I still don't have sound :-( Dell don't seem to have the drivers for my service tag any longer.

These are PCs donated to a charity for shipping to Africa. Therefore I would block all access to IP addresses in the developing world - treat it as the Wild West.

3
0
Silver badge

And there are the first three hurdles

Decades ago computers came with floppies/CDs to re-install the operating system. At some point, users were supposed to burn those CDs themselves from images on hidden sectors of the hard disk. The first hurdle is to find those CDs - if they exist, and hope they are still readable.

Next up, part of the terms and conditions of using Microsoft software is you agree that you can be raided by FAST - at your expense. Having genuine retail install disks is not sufficient to avoid getting fined. I would also need the receipt - and the chances are even if you have one, it is not legible after 8 years. Software houses had difficulty enforcing re-sale bans, but I really do not want the hassle and expense of proving I have a valid XP license to a judge while all my computers and disks are locked up as evidence for months.

I had forgotten about the activation hurdle. Does it mean phoning someone who tells me XP is not supported and cannot be activated or does it mean the computer talks to a server that says XP is not supported and cannot be activated?

11
0

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

It rather depends on which version of XP you have: I have an SP1 upgrade, so first of all I had to reinstall Windows 98SE... I found that Microsoft auto-updates did not interweave correctly with the Service Packs 2,3. so continuous intervention to attenuate this process was necessary. That was just getting XP reinstalled and up to date; then there were the non-Microsoft applications which had to be reinstalled, sometimes from diskette, and obtaining the patches for those, where my version was past its E-o-L, where the original supplier had been taken over, or even gone out of business etc.

About one week's work to get to approximately where I would have been had my recovery from backup not failed for some reason. Never again. After that episode I switched to Debian which does not harrass me every time I change my configuration either, since the concept of theft does not apply to free software.

11
1

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

1) Windows update does not work. No clues, nothing. It just gives an obscure error message, which has limited advice on MS about how to fix. Web searches reveal that you need to install service pack 2 in order to get windows update to work.

I've had similar problems with some installs. I have a feeling it's something to do with installing a new version of MSIE too early on in the process and also not running MSIE during the install / upgrade. I now make sure each MSIE version than comes in I open it up to make sure it's initialised.

1
0

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

You need WSUS Offline Update (http://download.wsusoffline.net/). Download it NOW and get all of the updates, runtimes and Defender details. Then when you do a fresh WinXP install, just run the installer that the package generates. Come back an hour later, job done.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

If you're talking about going from Linux to XP on a modern PC, you'll probably find you have to hunt out the drivers before it will begin to write to the disk. I can't remember if the XP I put on a previous PC just to update the BIOS didn't like SATA or something else, but it involved sticking a driver on a floppy disk and pressing a key at the right point.

(Conversely, if you put something like Win7 on any less modern kit, you may end up having to buy some new stuff - no-one bothered to do Win7 drivers for the sound card in this PC. It explains why I got it for free, and it works with Linux.)

If you're talking about re-installing XP on something that already has it, the bigger problem is re-installing the programs and data.

People who have not experienced having a /home partition with all their data and which is kept safe during OS upgrades think it is normal to have to restore everything from a backup every time.

People who have not experienced a decent repository system think that having to go to a dozen different places to reinstall / update a dozen different programs is normal.

15
0
Bronze badge

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

Why would you install XP on PCs to be shipped to Africa ?

Isn't that a bit like Nestle giving out free baby milk as a sales tactic ?

6
0
Bronze badge

Re: How much of a challenge is re-installing XP?

It is aggro from beginning to end.

XP does not install on modern machines with SATA set to AHCI mode. Use the BIOS to alter that setting to COMPATIBLE. When you come to install an AHCI driver (e.g. Lenovo) there may be a procedure where you end up in AHCI mode.

As Bert 1 mentioned, MS Update does not work; but you do a few things first as advised by MS and eventually it gets going.

It can be hard to find device drivers for post-2001 hardware. In my experience Dell and Lenovo have most of what you need for their machines. But third party sites these days just want to stuff you with crapware.

Some hardware seems to have no drivers until you have XP SP2 or SP3 installed.

It will take all evening if you have a good broadband connection.

Windows NT4 used to be as bad near its end. You needed SP3 before you could put in SP6a, then there were updates after that.

4
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.