back to article How Microsoft can keep Win XP alive – and WHY: A real-world example

What if Microsoft announced it's not ending support for Windows XP next Tuesday after all, and instead will offer perpetual updates (for a small fee, of course). Something inside me, somewhere between my sense of humor and soul-crushing cynicism, drove me to turn that dream into an April Fool for this year. But all cruel …

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  1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    XP will only be insecure if connected

    If, as in your example, a system has to continue running XP it is only a security hazard if it has a direct or indirect connection to the internet. For your example disable all protocols except NetBEUI on the XP systems and transfer any necessary files to them on a USB stick (or CD or even floppy).

    For other cases putting a paranoid firewall between the XP box and the outside world might suffice.(Firewall in whitelist mode allowing only a few specified IP addresses to communicate with the XP box and only over specified ports.) This is not as secure as an air gap but may be adequate.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      I must admit that this was also my first thought. I can't imagine a benefit to having a cnc machine such as a lathe connected to the internet even if it is through an XP PC. Another alternative would be connect the XP boxes with serial lines to a central file server (running your favorite *nix or *nix-a-like?) to retrieve the CAM files and let them sit disconnected most of the time.

      #sz -be /to/the/rescue

      1. Mike Pellatt

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        I have a "customer" (in the sense that it's the precision engineering firm that my wife's ex used to own/run and I help them out occasionally) who has an NC machine tool controlled by a PC.

        It runs Windows 95. The hardware includes a Hercules graphics card and one of those multi-serial boards. The issue isn't the software - coz of course it will never, ever see the internet or a USB device and It Just Runs (tm). The worry is the hardware. Three years ago I sourced a populated motherboard, a herc graphics card and a hard disk that are pretty much identical to the system, and cloned the software it onto the hard drive. I doubt I could obtain them now. The only worry is that multi-serial card. I have no idea if/when they'll replace that machine tool. All I know is it meets their needs today, which are of course driven by their customers.

        1. Gary Bickford

          Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

          One thing IBM did very well back in the 1960s and 1970s was excellent emulation / simulation of older hardware and operating systems. At one point, as I heard tell, the US Social Security Administration was running Autocoder for the 7900 (an assembler-level language running on a 1950s machine), simulated on an IBM 360 running DOS (a 1960s mainframe OS, emulated on a 360 running MVS, simulated on a 3070 running VM. (I probably have all the details wrong, but you get the picture.) This was because the original code *was* the SocSec's business logic, and rewriting raised the probability that the new code would not output the same numbers, causing havoc in the real world.

          I assume that sometime in the early 1980s or late 1970s, the administration finally bit the bullet and rewrote the code. But maybe not - the Federal Employees Retirement system is still almost entirely based on paper, for similar reasons.

      2. NogginTheNog

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        " I can't imagine a benefit to having a cnc machine such as a lathe connected to the internet"

        If the machine can only talk NetBEUI then it never will be.

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      Indeed sir, however, my "how to survive the XPocalypse" article is a few days down the road. I have a list of methods, refined from keeping NT4 and Windows 2000 systems going all this time...

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        "Indeed sir, however, my "how to survive the XPocalypse" article is a few days down the road. I have a list of methods, refined from keeping NT4 and Windows 2000 systems going all this time..."

        Ahhh, Windows NT4 running on a DEC Alpha. What a lovely stable setup,! My one ran 60 progress databases for a multinational.

        I have Windows 3.1 running on a machine with good old Trumpet Winsock for connectivity.

      2. oiseau Silver badge

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        > ... my "how to survive the XPocalypse" article is a few days down the road.

        I'm eagerly awaiting to read it.

        Thanks in advance.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.....

      Some of the machinists walk around with USB keys in their pocket, so they can move settings between machines... Why? Because not all the fabrication equipment is networked. But also because they can't find anything on that damn network share.... In fact, the last time someone used it they took off the wrong settings and it cost the company a fortune in retooling! So no more network copies... "One copy only, and we'll ensure its always the latest as the previous one is overwritten on the USB key, right lads?"

      Said machinist then takes the USB key home where their kid uses it to copy a picture or something for a school project off the home PC. Monday morning comes and said machinist plugs the USB into the critical XP box. 24 hours later Crypto-Locker has pwned the box!

      What's worse a lot of these machine shops have absolutely no backups to cover hardware failure either. At the very least they should pay a Server 'Pot' person to clone the drives on crucial boxes, and keep them offline for those rainy days!

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        Procedures, procedures, procedures ...

        Said machinist then takes the USB key home

        Bzzzt. Machinist to collect cards from office.

        Procedure: Securely fasten CNC machine USB devices to 15 cm mild steel angle iron. Fixed.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

          >Procedure: Securely fasten CNC machine USB devices to 15 cm mild steel angle iron. Fixed.

          Is WindowsXP compatible with 6in mild steel?

          I know for Windows8 you need to use Titanium

        2. RobHib

          @ Jonathan Richards 1 - - Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

          "Procedure: Securely fasten CNC machine USB devices to 15 cm mild steel angle iron. Fixed."

          Or as some do, remove USBs and floppies* altogether and replace them with a secure wireless/Bluetooth linked to a server that serves no other purpose (i.e.: not otherwise connected to the net). That way, there's a chain of command and QA is guaranteed.

          ___

          * As many CNC-ers would know, floppies are still alive and well in this environment, even hard-sectored ones which I've otherwise not seen for several decades.

      2. RobHib
        Boffin

        @A.C. -- Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        Even if it is....

        In any normal production environment, Windows--any version--will usually only be the UI for the controller software, important machine functions reside within the CNC machine's embedded code.

        With respect to a Windows failure (through virus, HD failure etc.), then the normal procedure would be to either mirror the drive with a functional copy of Windows and its controller software or simply unplug the drive and replace with one that's pre-configured with Windows etc.

        The current job--the M Code that's loaded onto the machine--will need to be reloaded from the tool room / development shop's library. The only thing lost might be log and counter files.

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        "Said machinist then takes the USB key home "

        This is a non-problem, a matter of lax procedure and easily dealt with.

        Attach a real credential to the USB stick with a ring - some sort of ID card, and lock the rings to an eyebolt set in the wall. Give each person onsite a similar card with their ID on it. Give the key to Two Trustworthy People, to whom you pay a stipend to be the keymasters. Someone wants a stick, they must ask for one and surrender their ID.

        Now you post a notice on the staff noticeboard: All Staff IDs must be claimed by day's end. Removal of USB sticks from factory is a firing offense. You have to mean this, of course.

        If you have the ability, make the ID part of the clocking in procedure and you are watertight.

    4. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      My brothers firm has to use a Windows 98 laptop connected to their lathe. They have a stockpile of abut three old laptops I bought off Ebay for like £30 each and slapped Win98 on them. They don't connect to the web so its not really an issue.

      They are set for another 10+ years. Business as usual.

      1. david 12 Bronze badge

        Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

        >Windows 98 laptop ... They don't connect to the web so its not really an issue.

        It's not an issue even if you do connect to the web. Modern virus, worm, rootkit etc can't run on Win 98, and the internet is mostly unusable in IE5. Even USB is not a problem: we never did get USB to work properly on our Win98 machines, and if you did, now-standard software rules rule out usb problems anyway.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      "and instead will offer perpetual updates (for a reasonable fee, of course)."

      They already do offer this.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      "transfer any necessary files to them on a USB stick (or CD or even floppy)."

      Why not. After all, it's good security advice like that that successfully saved the world from Stuxnet (and countless other stick-viruses before that whose names I forget).

      It wasn't good advice?

      Howcome all the upvotes then?

    7. BillG
      Happy

      Re: XP will only be insecure if connected

      I have an XP machine that hasn't had a windows update in too many years to count. It uses Outpost firewall and Avira antivirus and has never had a security problem, ever.

    8. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "Amazing new technologies were pouring out of Microsoft..."

      Huh? Almost always: "new technologies" .NE. code. There are a few exceptions, but none that I can think of that would apply to MS.

      Perhaps they could learn to Hibernate without assuming that all (for example) 4GB of RAM needs to be saved to disk. It seems like the OS doesn't even know how much and which memory is actually being used. It seems that they just stupidly save the whole 4GB block. Has nobody else noticed this?

      Perhaps they could learn that if there's humans about, for example someone just having turned on the PC, then perhaps the humans could be allowed on the Internet in front of every single last installed program, and the OS, all seeking updates all at once for fifteen bloody minutes. Perhaps I'll stop caring when the fibre is connected to my house.

      Perhaps they could provide a GUI where the Internet connection could be defined in terms of price and speed. So if the PC is connected via satellite at $0.50 per kilobyte, then all software maintenance and other non-human riff-raff would be automatically disabled. They've made zero allowance for having ultimate control over the Internet, except by dozens of individual settings all over the place. Many of which get reset by idiot programmers with updates. Daft.

      Perhaps when MSSE needs an update, it wouldn't have to download a massive file each time. Stupid.

      They don't even get the basics right - even in The Year Of Our Lord 2014.

      It's bloody frustrating.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

    However, this time it is not about the money. Microsoft has all the money in the world, they want world domination.

    "What good is money if it can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?" Montgomery C. Burns

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

      I agree with you, and with Mr Pott's analysis, but I would add one proviso: I have no problem with paying - or, more accurately, recommending that customers pay - for ongoing support for XP, provided that when the PCs were purchased the supplier from who they were sourced notified the customer of the date on which the O/S (for which they were paid, after all) would go out of support. It is of no consequence to the end-user that the supplier bundled MS software on OEM licence terms or on retail terms or whatever; what matters is that if you buy a box with a feature (in this case, XP) and that feature has a 'death' date, the supplier should be required to tell you that date at the time of purchase.

      1. Anons anon

        Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

        But here's the thing: There ISN'T any "death date" for Windows XP. It'll still work fine, even after the cut off date for official support.

        Microsoft even extended support for XP, even though it was originally intended to stop it in 2009.

        Everyone who bought a PC with XP on it, would have known, or would be told if they asked, that official support would end in 2009. That means that they would have had almost a decade to plan how to migrate from XP, and set aside the funds to do so.

        That they didn't do this, or never thought of it, is neither Microsofts nor the retailers fault. Just like you can't blame them, when you visit a porn site that gets you XP machine infected.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

          Everyone who bought a PC with XP on it, would have known, or would be told if they asked, that official support would end in 2009

          Who are you trying to kid?

          People will look at the expiry date on a packet of ham or a loaf of bread.

          They probably wouldn't look at it on a tin of beans, or frozen peas.

          As for a computer... ? Consumers wouldn't even consider there being an "expiry" date on something like that.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

            And would they have been told that newer versions of Windows would stop netbui, or direct access to the parralel port, or support for x?

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

              And would they have been told that newer versions of Windows would stop netbui, or direct access to the parralel port, or support for x?

              Joe Average User? No. And to them it won't matter because they don't need it. The ones that DO need a particular kind of support will look whether that will still be provided by Windows.newerversion, OR they'll take the approach "It works, don't touch it"

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

      > they want world domination.

      Too true. I doubt the issue is profitability of XP and associated support programmes. I suspect the real issue is ecosystem upgrade. You need W7 for Outlook 2013 which needs Windows Server X which means Lync needs an upgrade and sharepoint. If XP doesn't need upgrading, none of the rest happens either.

      As far as W8 goes, it was an attempt to ram the windows mobile interface into the marketplace by leveraging the desktop. The XP drop dead date is there to force upgrades to the new interface in the hope they will pick up new mobile market-share as people get used to it.

      Then there is the problem of mono-culture - from MS' point of view, the lack of it. XP and W8 aren't all compatible (despite "compatibility mode") MS doesn't want dev's to have to code for multiple Windows platforms nor do they want new features OS features to be ignored as dev's seek to provide a common experience across all platforms. Even worse would be devs deciding that something like QT provides a better way to do apps which cross Windows (and other OS) platforms than native apps. With OSX, IOS and Android eating away at consumer GUI mindshare, MS has problems in almost every direction.

      Then there is the obvious - why just get paid for maintenance when you can slap a new GUI on and call it a new OS?

      The W8 thing must really hurt. A failed mp3 player is one thing, but an OS that no-one wants is a shock to their core business.

      None of this is to say that MS is dying, but they do have a lot to lose and as PC's continue to be replaced by more appropriate mobile form factors, MS knows it has to do something to break out of the traditional business desktop, and they need to do it quickly before ARM chips move up-market into PC-class devices.

    3. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Mr. Trevor Pott's analysis is correct

      It they are still using XP they will not magically want to buy a Surface and a Winphone!

  3. JustWondering
    Pirate

    Pay for XP?

    I'm as open as anyone to new ideas but ...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Pay for XP?

      Youalready can pay for extended XP support - if you are a company, you need at least a few hundred seats and it will cost youma couple of hundred bucks a year per seat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pay for XP?

        UK and Dutch governments have already signed up for extended support. Whether that means that Microsoft will issue regular security patches for them, I don't know.

        http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/04/not-dead-yet-dutch-british-governments-pay-to-keep-windows-xp-alive/

  4. pirithous

    XP Needs to Die

    XP Needs to Die: it's a fifth wheel that has stuck around because it's more lightweight than anything else Microsoft has released (besides maybe server core), and runs most all the applications people use. Windows 7 brought bloat, eye candy, and features barely anyone used such as bit locker, but it wasn't all that much better than XP. XP's default theme was ugly, but that was easily turned off. The idea that Windows 7 is more secure than XP remains to be debated, as I have seen just as many infected Windows 7 machines as XP machines. Is UAC security? No, it isn't. Microsoft's "numbers" say otherwise, but I don't trust anything that comes out of that company, code included.

    It would make sense for MS to have an OS in place for XP users to jump to besides Windows 8.1 Update 1. They're continuing the feudalistic app store model with the ugly preschool-esque 4-bit color Modern tiles, and there's still no Start menu. From the leaks, it looks like the entire Modern shit will continue to take over a user's screen when the Start button is pressed. Microsoft apparently doesn't understand that the whole bifurcated user experience is something many people don't want, and that there are millions of people out there who don't want to deal with Modern whatsoever.

    The beauty of Linux or BSD, is that you can customize your system however you want; you don't have a company foisting old school tactics on you, saying how you will use your computer, and forcing you to interact with it in a specific way. Yes, Windows doesn't need to be as customizable as Linux for the consumer market, but they have it so locked down, going for the whole totalitarian-we-are-god-embrace-extend-extinguish mentality, that it's sickening.

    Guess what, Microsoft, "Embrace, extend and extinguish" doesn't work anymore. Fuck you, and you can flush your shitty ass operating system right down the toilet.

    1. Shannon Jacobs

      I hate shopping with a gun pointed at my head. Hello, it's you, Microsoft?

      You didn't make your case for killing XP very persuasively. What I will say based on several years of post-XP experience on 4 or 5 machines and over 30 years in the industry is that I see no compelling reason to switch EXCEPT for the gun that Microsoft is pointing at me. Pay up, or take your chances, and you certainly know how small they are based on Microsoft's security track record.

      I think the economics are highly debatable. It is not like Microsoft is desperate for cash and couldn't afford the minor charity. It's simply that Microsoft wants to force us to newer OSes, and I feel no real sense of security with ANY of Microsoft's OSes. The basis of the problem is actually the reverse of following the money. No matter what damage Microsoft's errors inflict upon you, it's just too bad and by opening the shrink-wrap and accepting the EULA you have agreed to it. If Microsoft agreed to continue support for XP, at least I would think they had some confidence they can secure it, but the added complexity of post-XP OSes merely makes it that much easier for the real experts to pwn me without my ever detecting it. At least that's how it feels to me.

      Unfortunately, Microsoft's business model is excellent, no matter how flawed their software is, and they have established that standard for the entire industry. Can you imagine how software would be designed if the company selling the software was actually liable for the abuse? Hint: DEFENSIVELY and CAREFULLY.

      Sorry, but Linux is not the solution. Linux is more like a possible answer in desperate need of an effective business model.

      1. pirithous

        Re: I hate shopping with a gun pointed at my head. Hello, it's you, Microsoft?

        "Sorry, but Linux is not the solution. Linux is more like a possible answer in desperate need of an effective business model."

        You are so off base with that comment -- you must be joking or just ignorant. Yeah, Linux running most of the world's servers is an OS desperately in search of an effective business model. That's why IBM invested $1 Billion into Linux just recently. They invested $1 Billion into Linux over a decade ago too. The Linux desktop is getting better and better all the time. Is it perfect? No. It's good enough for Google employees and the city of Munich (and me), however. I just severely quashed your entire post. Let me know when you wanna start living in reality.

        http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/41926.wss

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I hate shopping with a gun pointed at my head. Hello, it's you, Microsoft?

          "running most of the world's servers "

          Most of the world's servers run on Windows Server (75% market share)

          "That's why IBM invested $1 Billion into Linux just recently. They invested $1 Billion into Linux over a decade ago too. "

          Actually that's because they are desperately trying to counter the wholesale migration of their midrange boat anchor business onto Wintel...

          1. Fireice

            Re: I hate shopping with a gun pointed at my head. Hello, it's you, Microsoft?

            @AC

            Please join a long line of people pulling stats from their rear. [http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/operating_system/all]

            Do you want to tell us about your new application that dwarfs the number of web servers?

            1. Mage Silver badge

              Re: I hate shopping with a gun pointed at my head. Hello, it's you, Microsoft?

              UNIX/Linux Family is used by 67.5% of all the websites whose operating system we know.

              ALL versions of Windows 32.5% of all the websites whose operating system we know.

              [A lot of them seem to be Server 2003!, the Server version of XP]

              OSX about 0.1%

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

          Not the point. The example given is an excellent explanation of what *real* people want from computers. The "computers-as-an-end-in-themselves" crowd need to get a grip on this.

          The salient point for the use case presented is: who will write the Linux drivers for those CNC lathes that are no longer in production anywhere in the world and are too expensive to simply toss out because someone thinks the real world follows the IT model of obsolescence? And on what equipment will these wond'rous Linux solutions be tested? I doubt the place has a spare CNC lathe just lying around for the purpose, because machine tools are like locomotives: standing still they are losing money.

          Living and working in the IT world distorts perspective. We turn over kit at an alarming rate just for the sake of doing so and lining the vendors' pockets. (Don't make me wheel out tales of the endless meetings over servers humming along nicely but creating panic in the enterprise because they are at "End Of Service Life"). In the real world machinery needs to earn its keep and to do so until it falls apart.

          1. Carabus

            Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

            The 747 Jumbo Jet started flying in 1970, and large numbers are still flying today. Until a year ago I work on the maintenance of some of its onboard systems. There weren't any cheap computer systems in 1970 but as soon as these became available they were used to assist and automate the testing of onboard systems. So this time last year I was working with elderly PCs that ran DOS, Windows 3.1 and the like. So the firm kept a stock of ancient PCs in an attempt to maintain the capability of maintaining these aircraft systems. The cost of getting new software to run on modern computers, and getting it certified for testing passenger aircraft is quite prohibitive.

            There are all sorts of elderly software/hardware systems running on these aircraft too. Bear this in mind on your next cheap flight.

          2. pirithous

            Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

            A good developer could write a driver for a CNC lathe in a short period of time. Some devs have written a driver in a day. You make it sound like an impossibility.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

              "Some devs have written a driver in a day."

              But probably not in cases where the original hardware vendor either no longer exists, or no longer has any technical records for that particular model, or just wants to sell you a new lathe and is therefore unwilling to provide documentation.

              And once your dev has reverse engineered the hardware spec, they are unlikely to be willing to guarantee the correct operation of their driver. At least, they won't be willing to sign a piece of paper that lets you recover losses from them if the driver turns round in a month's time and refuses to talk to the lathe that your business depends on. You might argue that the lathe vendor signed no such paper either, but you have a decade or more of experience to build your confidence in the original driver. The new one is a leap in the dark.

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                Couldn't have said it better myself, Ken. Spot on. You, sir, have worked in the real world.

            2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

              I am curious about how easy writing a driver is when there exists no documentation on the equipment because the vendor has gone out of business. I also wonder how many developers would be willing to "develop a driver in a day" for such a device when screwing up the driver means having 1000lbs of hot metal spinning at 10K RPM come flying at them?

              Are you volunteering?

              1. pirithous

                Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                I didn't say to develop a driver for a CNC lathe in a day. Read the post before you respond.

                1. Stevie Silver badge

                  Re: Read the post before you respond.

                  "A good developer could write a driver for a CNC lathe in a short period of time. Some devs have written a driver in a day. You make it sound like an impossibility."

                  Ah yes, the old "please follow my unwritten thought through this sudden sharp turn" ploy. You certainly tricked us with your clever use of not staying on the explicit subject. Well done.

                  Though I have to wonder why you are citing a feat entirely irrelevant to the subject under discussion in order to prove whatever it is you feel was proved.

                  Other than if you don't tell people you've changed the subject they won't know you've done that. Which seems sort of self-defeating to the thrust of your (partly invisible) argument in my opinion, but there you go.

                  You got me.

              2. pirithous

                Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                @Trevor_Pott

                If it were on a Linux machine to begin with, using open source drivers, nobody would have to worry about when MS's proprietary OS's stop being supported, therefore leaving the I.T. department to worry about security. Yes, an open source driver could be developed on Windows, but usually any type of driver development on Windows is closed source.

                Your whole "sky is falling" outlook on a Linux driver developed for a CNC lathe is not a realistic outlook on the resulting outcome. With a very smart and talented developer and some serious testing, "1000lbs of hot metal spinning at 10K RPM come flying at them" is just a statement that apparently made sense to you at the time you typed it, but that is not a real world example. Drivers for CNC lathes should be open source, and should allow easy migration to new operating systems. Purchasers should demand this, to prevent vendor lock-in. But hey, if people want to be hooked up, ball and chain and all, to MS's proprietary model where they say what goes and what doesn't and dictate how you will use your machine, be my guest.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                  "Drivers for CNC lathes should be open source"

                  I agree entirely

                  "and should allow easy migration to new operating systems."

                  Again, I agree entirely

                  "Purchasers should demand this"

                  Once again, we agree.

                  "to prevent vendor lock-in."

                  And now you're living in a dream world. Customers can whine and cry and stamp their feet all they like, but the options are "buy what exists or go out of business/don't start your business." You don't get a say in what is on offer. Developers don't give a fuck and customers have zero pull.

                  Life sucks and then some fish eat you.

                  1. pirithous

                    Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                    "And now you're living in a dream world. Customers can whine and cry and stamp their feet all they like, but the options are "buy what exists or go out of business/don't start your business." You don't get a say in what is on offer. Developers don't give a fuck and customers have zero pull.

                    Life sucks and then some fish eat you."

                    All excellent points. People need to amp up the pressure for open source drivers.

                2. Teiwaz Silver badge

                  Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                  If it were an opensource driver in the first place, it wouldn't have been a problem. But hindsight is wonderful.

                  Opensource is a concept that has only recently gained more awareness outside IT. I only came across it in 1999, seven years after graduating in IT, I'd heard of shareware and free software (even used some, like Mindreader WP), and even theorised the possible advantages of such a system, but all I'd been taught about was the past, not the present or future.

                  The ideal solution would have been for a large number of companies who operate these lathes to cooperate in paying for the development of a new computer control system for these systems.

                  Singularly, the cost of development would be prohibitive, the dedication of one valuable machine to testing unacceptable, but together, the cost would have been neglible. Information could also have been shared, and even contracts obtained to have parts manfactured for machines that were no longer manufactured or whose manufacturers had gone out of business.

                  Unfortunately, this kind of cooperatrion rarely happens in modern capitalism. Competition does not breed cooperation..And bespoke software seems to be out of fashion...

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                    Unfortunately, this kind of cooperatrion rarely happens in modern capitalism. Competition does not breed cooperation..And bespoke software seems to be out of fashion...

                    Also, in specialist markets such as this, the number of suppliers is vanishingly small, and each of them doesn't want to give away many-figure contracts to the competition, so just about everything about them is considered trade secrets. This includes man-machine interfaces, communications buses, etc. In a small market, lock-in is basically a given, so it becomes a Hobson's choice: either accept the lock-in or don't enter the market. No Third Option.

                    QUESTION: Has the firm considered upgrading the machine and installing the related software onto an XP Virtual Machine running on top of the modern OS? With a virtual network adapter, the XP VM should still be able to talk NetBEUI to the CnC unless I'm missing something. This also has the potential advantage of improved failover capability (machine fails, swap it out and reinstall the image; VM fails, restore image backup).

                    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                      As per one of my previous comments, this isn't possible, as the second part of it's job involves proprietary drivers for ISA cards.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                        So it communicates by NetBEUI AND custom ISA cards? What kind of setup are we talking about that requires BOTH?

                        1. JaimieV

                          Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                          It's using what was available and known at the time - similar to modern kit that uses TCP/IP to talk to the server *and* USB to signal the hardware.

                        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                          Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                          I documented it in a previous comment in this thread here.

                          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                            Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                            I had trouble finding the actual thread. I see, so it's also custom hardware. At this stage, it's only "good enough" until it's "not good enough anymore". It isn't broke now, but it will break eventually, at which point one's lost the paddle needed to stay out of Crap Creek. A similar thing happens when a piece of hardware goes to EOL because a key component is no longer manufactured. It happens in every industry sooner or later. About the only thing that can probably be done is to start putting aside for some sort of migration plan while there is still revenue being generated.

                            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                              Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                              >it's only "good enough" until it's "not good enough anymore"

                              Yes. Name one thing that's not true of. The Pyramids at Giza have been "good enough" for their function (serving as mausoleum and memorial to the grandeur of the kings who commissioned them) for some several thousand years. Eventually, they will fall and be "not good enough anymore." That looks to be quite some time from now, and the lifespan is being extended through maintenance.

                              I have hammers that are decades old, a clock-radio as old as me, and my neighbor drives a car twice as old as me. All of which are "good enough" until such a point in the unknown future as they become "not good enough anymore."

                              I fail to comprehend the special wisdom of this statement.

                              > It isn't broke now, but it will break eventually

                              Which is pretty much reiterating the above statement. Yes. All things break. What you don't seem to be getting is that:

                              A) there are enough spare computer parts to keep the computer portion of the exercise in these lathes going for the next decade, at least. Realistically, I've got enough gear on the shelf to get 30 years out of those buggers.

                              B) The mechanical portion of the unit will make it deceased after the last computer component has burned itself out.

                              C) The software is the only bit in which there is an artificially planned obsolescence, and (wonder of wonders) the people owning the $7M machine are disinclined to honour the software vendor's desire to introduce artificial scarcity.

                              So yeah, it's "good enough until it's not good enough anymore." That day is quite some time in the future. Long enough to earn a profit from the unit and either eventually replace it. More likely, the owners will simply retire before the thing gives up the ghost entirely. They mortgage everything they have to buy the unit, they run it (and several others) for a few decades, they pay off the units, make a reasonable profit, retire and die.

                              It is good enough until it's not. And that's perfectly okay by everyone.

                              Except Microsoft.

              3. zapper

                Re: Re:Linux running most of the world's servers

                Totally agree, as I have two CNC machines in our shop, both running on XP machines and no route for upgrades - even basic elements in relation to direct access to serial and parallel ports cause issues with modern hardware.

                Maybe he should strap the willing dev to the front of the machine for testing - if the drive is screwed, then so is the dev - literally!!!

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: XP Needs to Die

      "Windows 7 brought bloat, eye candy, and features barely anyone used such as bit locker"

      It's pretty clear you don't know and never bother to understand changes Vista, 7 and 8 brought under the hood - especially to support new security features and take advantage of the latest hardware.

      There is far more than you think - I would suggest you to read Windows Internals (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963901.aspx).

      XP is now outdated code, and unless you really need to run if for reasons like those explained in this article, it's just lpainly stupid to run it on a multicore CPU, many GBs of RAM, SSD disks, a powerful PCie GPU/NIC, plus USB 3.0 and other new technologies unsupported by XP.

      But I guess many like XP just because it's easier to run an illegal copy...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        It's pretty clear you don't know and never bother to understand changes Vista, 7 and 8 brought under the hood - especially to support new security features and take advantage of the latest hardware.

        That's the point. People still have computers that are still (physically) working, from 10 years ago. Why should they replace working equipment? Who cares if the newer OSes support newer hardware, with 4 cores and 2gb graphics memory? They just want an OS that supports their current hardware - that is working very well, and does not need replacing!

        You're not getting it, are you?

        But I guess many like XP just because it's easier to run an illegal copy...

        You should know; you've said it enough times...

        But the cost of the OS is insignificant to the required hardware upgrades.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: XP Needs to Die

          So why they replace their working mobes with the latest "cooler" version? I too have old PC still working, I've a 2005 one that has just been reinstalled with FreeNAS to be used as such. It was running 7 until a few months ago, when I got a new one.

          XP will not stop working, it will keep on working, but of course the risk of being compromised will be higher and higher. You have to perform a risk assessment and assess how would cost you to be compromised over upgrading your OS and maybe your hardware - or switch to a different OS.

          Is really new hardware so expensive? Many PCs today cost less than a "cool" mobe.

          It's like when you have an old car still perfectly working, but finding spare parts becomes increasingly difficult, and maintenance expenses higher and not every shop may still accept it for maintenance - you may decide buying a new car is better, even if expensive. Sure, you can't crack someone else car easily...

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: XP Needs to Die

            Not everyone keeps buying new mobile phones, I use whatever work gives me.

            As to replacing computers, I would rather spend my money on a new intercooler for my car.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: XP Needs to Die

              It looks a lot of people are after the latest mobe for status reasons, even if they have no real technical need for an upgrade. While upgrading an outdated operating system, because it doesn't make you cooler (but it does make you more vulnerable) is not interesting. Nobody is crying if Apple no longer updates the older iPhones - why? Because almost everybody switched to a "cooler" model.

              When I buy a computer, I know I will have to replace it - or its OS - when the obsolescence cycle is completed. As when you buy a car you know it won't last forever, or a washing machine, a heating system, or an alarm system. You know when they are old enough maintenance costs and the risk of a sudden break could cost you more than "upgrading" them. Sure, there are those who blindly spend money in everuthing else, and when they found themselves in a cold winter with a broken heating system too old to be easily repaired, discover how silly they were....

              1. Belardi

                Re: XP Needs to Die

                That is fine for you.... its a PC. not an industrial computer. Its easy for YOU to upgrade or change out your computer. You are young, things are more open to you. In my youth, I upgraded to every new OS, even beta. Re-building your OS/boot/settings were a part of life - to make every Mhz count, because back then, our computer speed was typically single or double digit Mhz. NOT GHz. My first 5 computer speeds: 1Mhz, 2Mhz (C=128), 7Mhz (Amiga 1000), 14Mhz (A1000 CPU upgrade), 25Mhz (Amiga 3000). Then 100Mhz i486 as I entered the PC market.

                As we get OLDER and need to spend more time WORKING rather than tinkering, having a reliable computer was most important. My last Win98se system lasted about 2-3years from its fresh install. My XPs lasted 1~3 years. My current PC is a 2yr old Win7 install that should last me another 3~5 years. I rarely push my quad-core 3.xGhz intel to its limits (I forgot its clock speed).

                So for many companies, as long as it keeps things working, fine. Also, *YOU* are not the one who is spending money to pay to upgrade 12, 1200, 12,000 whatever PCs and making sure they work with the rest of the network or equipment... or training the minions to use it. At one of my small biz. clients, they have a $6000 plotter from HP who don't provide a working driver for Windows 7. Are you offering to BUY us a new plotter? Its BS that HP can't get a 10yr old plotter to work!! Again, this isn't the same as my $100 multi-function at home that tends to be replaced every 3~4 years.

                Its good to have forward thinking... but this isn't the 80s anymore. And you are correct in some ways... One of the things that HURT & killed the Amiga was that it was a locked-in design. Games made in 1991 were coded to run on 1986 Amigas.... ie: What works fine on the cheapest 7Mhz Amiga would have problems with my $2500 25Mhz, also the games wanted OS1.3 but would fail with OS 2.x or 3.x. Because the company was stupid to setup DevKits to state "STOP HITTING THE HARDWaRE" so hard. So they were kind of like consoles... So yeah, in 1992 the company was building and selling NEW Amiga PCs with OS 1.3, 2.2 and 3.0 - God what a mess.

                MS can cheaply afford to support XP Security updates... that is all they need to do. Yes, it would be GREAT if those companies can buy newer hardware with Win7 on them... but they cannot.

                1. DaddyHoggy

                  Re: XP Needs to Die

                  Upvoted because I went down the Commodore route (C64->A500->A500+) before stumbling into the PC Market with a Win95 Dell P60 with 16MB of RAM, which I immediately upgraded to Win98SE 96MB RAM and a P90 (the most that particular Dell would allow me to upgrade).

                  (I still have two working C64s and A500s although that Dell is long gone...)

                  When I worked for the MOD we had an incredibly expensive data capture machine with an Internal SCSI HD. To get to the data you had to hook it up to a Win98SE machine with a certain Adaptec family of SCSI cards and refresh the SCSI bus, which, after a few seconds pause, the Win98SE machine found the internal HD of the Data Capture Unit and we could read the data.

                  This function only ever worked in Win98SE! When we upgraded our labs PCs to NT4 and some others to XP, we discovered that this option never worked under these OSes. The manufacturer of the Data Capture Device tried very hard to come up with a solution but failed. So we kept a stock of Win98SE machines, Adaptec cards and SCSI drives because we couldn't afford to replace £100,000 worth of Data Capture Device with the £250,000 latest version of it.

                  This loss/change of functionality wasn't done maliciously by either the Device's manufacturer nor probably MS - it was probably never even conceived as 'an issue' until it became an issue...

                  A quick look in the cupboard reveals my HP 800CT (Win95B), My IBM Thinkpad 300 (Dual boot Win98SE/Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon), Generic naughties Acer P4 laptop (XP SP3) - they all still "work" - but I accept that my HP and IBM basically don't work on the modern 'net any more (and so I don't connect them) and that, actually, the Acer, if I keep it on XP will be the most vulnerable on the 'net (and I've tried a few liveCDs of various Linux distros and none of them seem to work fully on it), so I will probably just stick to my little Asus netbook (Win7 Starter of course) that I'm writing this on and increasingly my Tesco Hudl using a Bluetooth keyboard.

                  I will miss XP, we had some great times together!

                  (My daughter's laptop is Win8.1 running Classic Shell - it's sufficiently XP like now for me to resist the urge to throw it down the stairs)

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        We have a Pentium 4 at home, the children use it, it works, it is on XP and has been since built.

        Why would I want to spend my money on a new PC when I could spend on something I actually want?

        We also have a few XP machines still at work to run the software which newer than XP refuses to run.

        Vista was the start of the rot, the first time features were removed rather than added. This is another reason why XP will not die. It runs more software than any other MS OS before or since.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: XP Needs to Die

          Buying what I want.

          Just bought a nice model railway loco today.

          Much more fun than a newer copy of windows.

          A green Baby Warship

      3. RobHib

        @LDS -- Re: XP Needs to Die

        But I guess many like XP just because it's easier to run an illegal copy...

        My-my, you really do have a chip on your shoulder, don't you? Do you work for or have shares in MS? Seems like it.

        ...And to answer your question about this same matter in a later post of yours, yes, the XPs are fully licensed, moreover, as with many organizations, we've more licences than copies of Windows in use.

      4. kiwimuso
        FAIL

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        @LDS

        No, it's a legitimate copy but I just don't fucking NEED most of the stuff you mentioned. So fuck off you patronising bastard!!

        Don't let your prejudices get in the way of an actual debate!

        Actual cash is supposedly outdated now (by some) but it still hangs around as it it still has it's uses.

        You and MS may consider it outdated code, but if it does all that one needs, then it's not actually outdated - is it!!

    3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: XP Needs to Die

      " Windows 7 brought bloat, eye candy, and features barely anyone used such as bit locker, but it wasn't all that much better than XP"

      Bzzzzzt: Wrong! XP started the bloat & eye candy with the Tellytubbies hill and many transition effects, Vista took it to stupid extremes. Win7 development included the WinMin process which reversed a hell of a lot of bloat. 7 introduced little new candy and it can all be easily switched off. Put 7 in classic mode with visual effects set for best performance and it is perfectly acceptable.

      Win 7 even introduced useful tweeks such as when you press F2 to change a file name the extension isn't selected. The 7/2008R2 combo is superb for GPO admin too. Ok so that exhausts my list of known improvements but at least there are improvements with 7 unlike Vista, 8 or any office after 2003.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        useful tweeks such as when you press F2 to change a file name the extension isn't selected

        I actually find that feature mildly annoying.

        It's an extension of the "hide extensions for known file types" philosophy, and the infuriating way everything's now a "Library" instead of an actual disk directory. Acceptable on a consumer PC, perhaps, but why propagate this nannying to servers? Why, when I'm logged in as a server admin and I start Explorer, do I see a load of crap about Games and Music Libraries?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        "Win 7 even introduced useful tweeks such as when you press F2 to change a file name the extension isn't selected."

        Bloody hell that 'improvement' is so damn annoying!

      3. launcap Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        >Win 7 even introduced useful tweeks such as when you press F2 to

        >change a file name the extension isn't selected.

        You mean the same as the default for MacOS? Nice to see MS 'innovating'..

      4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: XP Needs to Die

        > Bzzzzzt: Wrong! XP started the bloat & eye candy with the Tellytubbies hill and

        > many transition effects, Vista took it to stupid extremes

        I'd agree on that. I resisetd even moving to WinXP because of that. Had to bit the bullet eventually when Win2000 went out of support. At least I eventually found how to de-crappify XP (and eventually Win7) and make it look/behave more like Win2K (such as outright *disabling* the themes service). Unfortunately there's *NO* way to disable Win8's pastel-coloured toy interface, even after disabling the themes service.

        Way back in the Win3.x days you could outright *replace* the system shell (remember Norton Desktop for Windows?). I've looked at some of the current shells (LiteStep, SharpEnviro, etc) and none seemed to work anywhere as smoothly or integrated as NDW. For all the effort I'd have to put into them, I might as well stick with Linux. Of course, would *love* to see Mate or Cinnamon ported to Windows (including enough of a runtime that their various apps could be ported in too).

    4. kiwimuso
      Pint

      Re: XP Needs to Die

      @ pirithous

      Indeed! When I started reading your post I was about to tell you (rudely) what I thought of your initial sentence. Fortunately, however, I read it all before ranting! LOL.

      So have an upvote!

      I have been in IT since the early 60s from mainframe through to pcs.

      I have now retired.

      Why in hell would I want anything more than XP and Office 2000 at home. It does me nicely for what I want to do and I have no intention of paying MS for product(s) I don't want or need.

      I have just bought a new Win7 laptop as I thought my XP one had died, (it hadn't, it was just the screen which is now replaced) so now I am stuck with it.

      I grant you that Win7 is probably/possibly a more secure OS and it might even be a lot better, but I hate the UI (and I don't use the term 'hate' lightly) as I can't find anything I want as in their wisdom MS designers have renamed functions, or placed them in places where it was not before.

      Fortunately I discovered that I could get an XP type view of the Control Panel, but even with that, I still find there are things I can't find. If you are using it every day for work, that may not be a problem but for just doing emails and the odd letter at home, a likttle bit of photo tweaking and some music, and not a great deal more than that I just don't need it

      Not to mention that I have some old programs running under XP which again does what I want them to, so I have no intention of upgrading (at a cost) to newer version which will run (possibly no better either) on WIn 7 or whatever.

      I realise that I could use Libre Office or similar, and whilst I have loaded it, there is some functionality in Word and Excel which doesn't exist in Libre Office.

      If MS offered ongoing support at a modest fee per year as outlined in the article, I would certainly consider that.

      In short I just plain can't be bothered learning new UIs when I don't need 'em to do what I do.

      I am investigating the possibility of going to a version of Linux, but I will certainly not be upgrading to more MS stuff. Sadly a lot of my programs don't have a Linux version. On the other hand I believe that one can run XP under Linux in a virtual box, so that may be the way to go.

      I am still trying to get Virtual XP to work properly under Win 7. Mostly OK, but it won't see either my network or printer at the moment. The whole exercise is just bloody frustrating, and a huge time waster - especially as I am pretty computer literate.

      Whatever happened to the idea of 'it just works'! Maybe I'm dreaming and it never was like that, but I do believe that was the dream we were sold

      Have a beer. I am, as I need to cool off now.

  5. Scoular

    It seems that many people including decision makers at Microsoft simply do not understand that in industrial situations it is common for capital goods to have an expected life exceeding 20 years. That includes ( or should include) any software packages necessary as in Mr Pott's example.

    If it works initially then why should it not continue to work and there is probably little scope for justifying an operating system change on the grounds of looking pretty or doing things unnecessary for the application. It is simply not good enough to say that the software if going to effectively go away at some arbitrary date. It is not just machine shops, ATMs are not all that easy to up grade for technical and legal reasons and there are plenty of others in similar positions.

    If MS wants to be in that market ( they undoubtedly were willing to sell into it) then it needs to understand the nature of the market and deal with the real needs. As Trevor points out the cost of ongoing support is not unreasonable but abandoning customers is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or maybe the market needs to adjust. Equipment lasting 20 years might have been fine last century, but as technology progresses, so does the rate at which we churn out new/better tech. 10 years is plenty of time today, and in the next 50 years or so, you're going to need to upgrade every year. If, today, your choices are "run an insecure operating system" or "go out of business", then you seriously messed up running your business, or shouldn't have had one in the first place because you weren't ready - and you deserve to go out of business.

      1. janimal
        Mushroom

        "Equipment lasting 20 years might have been fine last century, but as technology progresses, so does the rate at which we churn out new/better tech. 10 years is plenty of time today..."

        You can't just generalise 10 years as an adequate lifetime for a capital expense. That's ridiculous. It is all tied in with margins & volumes and opex.

        In addition change for what often amounts to little or no improvement is inefficient.

        "and in the next 50 years or so, you're going to need to upgrade every year."

        Well I hope you're earning very big money from your business degree, because in your world view life is going to get a lot more expensive in the future

      2. Sander van der Wal

        The PC needs to adjust. Mature technology always moves at glacial speeds, simply because it works good enough and money is better spend on different things.

        Essentially, the PC is mature, and XP is its OS. Its fine for what it needs to do: show some reasonable UI to control other mature stuff that won't be replaced for ages either. People wanting fancy need to buy something else.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        10-year max life for capital equipment ?? You gotta be joking

        Equipment lasting 20 years might have been fine last century, but as technology progresses, so does the rate at which we churn out new/better tech. 10 years is plenty of time today

        If you think train fares are outrageous today, try applying a 10-year life to equipment used on the railway. Signalling systems for starters, or the trains themselves. I think a doubling of fares overnight would hardly come close to covering the additional costs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "it is common for capital goods to have an expected life [far exceeding typical PC/server lifetimes]."

      Indeed it is, which is why Windows XP Embedded was around, and will be supported (complete with patches) for a few more years.

      Strange that it's not mentioned afaict in the article or comments.

      Not that I'm recommending it, other options may well be more appropriate in some cases - but it did and does exist. MS were already committed to continuing to support it, even before MS decided that a sufficiently large cheque book would also provide continued support for generic (non-embedded) XP.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "If it works initially then why should it not continue to work"

      Quite, and I confidently expect isolated systems running XP to carry on working until the hardware fails. I've heard no credible claims that XP is going to stop working next week.

      It's obviously different if you want to use your lathe to surf for porn on the internet. If that's what floats your boat, I suggest you get a new lathe with Windows 8 on it. (It'll serve you right.)

  6. RobHib
    Flame

    Irrelevant Here.

    Irrelevant here. All our XPs are still on sp3.

    Can't you people including Microsoft actually get the idea why there are so many XPs still in service?

    We XP users just want to be left alone. We don't care about viruses, we don't care about patches/updates. We are NOT interested in Microsoft flogging us new crap, NOR new services, we are NOT interested in upgrades! Get it??

    XP sp3 is working just fine as it is, it has been for years -- in most cases raw out of the box as sp3, it will continue that way in many of our applications for years to come.

    We have NO intention of changing anything.

    Now, just piss off!

    1. Geoff Campbell
      FAIL

      Re: Irrelevant Here.

      Um, yes.

      And what, precisely, is stopping you from doing exactly that? No-one is going to take your XP away from you.

      GJC

      1. RobHib
        Windows

        @Geoff Campbell -- Re: Irrelevant Here.

        Nothing, and that's exactly what we are doing.

        Perhaps some explanation is necessary. That abovementioned comment was written after many posts by me where I was careful to explain the rationale behind such decisions.

        Let me be precise about this:

        1. Microsoft, in its newer offerings (Vista, W7 and W8 etc.), has only provided customers with a range of products that are functionally different to XP, thus there's no newer equivalent products to XP now available, and (b) Microsoft has now finally withdrawn all support for XP.

        2. Not only were Microsoft's newer products both functionally significantly different to XP but also Microsoft provided no built-in fallback options to provide the equivalent of XP; thus their deployment was difficult and expensive (and little incentive to use them).

        3. Operationally, the new products were so functionally different to the previous line W95/98/W2K & XP that in ergonomic terms it was the equivalent of say General Motors or Ford offering their new vehicles with the position of the brake and clutch interchanged. By providing no fall-back position to earlier versions, Microsoft was just experimenting on its users, we were its guinea pigs, W8 being the quintessential example.

        4. In fact, Microsoft actually withdrew all useful/effective support from XP ages ago when it failed to provide updated drivers etc. for new mobo chipsets and other hardware. By failing to do so Microsoft used coercive business practices to 'force' users to newer versions. However, many resisted this coercion.

        5. Whilst most techies and readers of El Reg welcome upgrades and new technology (believe it or not that also includes me), Microsoft's changes were unacceptable for both many normal and commercial/industrial users.

        6. What we are now witnessing is a pretty open and brazen campaign by Microsoft to make these reticent and recalcitrant miscreants feel guilty, in that somehow by not upgrading they are going to be the downfall of computing (by hinting that their unpatched machines will be the downfall of everyone).

        7. To my knowledge, there is no other company in history that has suggested that by continuing to use its previous product, the world would come to and end. In marketing terms, this has to be a first.

        8. Now, who caused this 'catastrophe' in the first place? If there is to be a 'downfall' then I'd suggest with respect that Microsoft's business and marketing practices will ultimately be to blame.

        1. Geoff Campbell

          Re: @RobHib

          Nah.

          (To counter accusations of TL;DR - I did read it, all, but decided that taking on entrenched views, even badly wrong ones, was a bit futile, really.)

          GJC

          1. RobHib

            @Geoff Campbell -- Re: @RobHib

            Yeah, right. Hopefully by the next life I'll have learned to be less argumentative. ;-)

            1. Geoff Campbell
              Pint

              @RobHib Re: @Geoff Campbell -- @RobHib

              Oh, no, you won't :-)

              (Panto season appears to be hanging on in there quite late this year...)

              GJC

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Geoff Campbell -- Irrelevant Here.

          What you said. Especially point 4. Very especially point 4.

          1. RobHib

            @A.C. -- Re: @Geoff Campbell -- Irrelevant Here.

            That MS missed so many opportunities to advance computing truly smarts.

            Doesn't it?

        3. Mpeler
          Big Brother

          Re: @Geoff Campbell -- Irrelevant Here.

          Good points. I think the folks who came up with that detestable ribbon should be tied up with it and made to watch Teletubbies all day....

          I think, though, that the real motivation for getting folks off of XP is that it's the last Microsoft operating system without the so-called secure media path, one of the many "features" brought to us in Vista.

          Little by little by little Big Brother is being build into our PCs and other boxes, all of which "phone home" every so often, and have various timers, counters, controls, etc. to be sure that we do what "they" want. I don't think it's so much copy protection as content control, i.e. WE control what you see (aka the Outer Limits TV show...).

          Any content deemed unacceptable to the licensing/what-have-you hardware will either be reproduced using low-fidelity playback options, or not at all. We don't have the military-industrial complex here, we have the Microsoft-Hollywood complex....just as bad...I like Windows, but Vista/Win8 are just trash. Win7 is barely acceptable, but an option provided needed features of XP are there.

          Have a look at built-in drop-dead-dates on printers, and their associated evil spawn chips on ink cartridges.

          Planned obsolescence and the like. There are many of us who are NOT cheap, but don't want to change a running system, nor do we want to buy new hardware every time some software vendor fancies adding some unnecessary eye-candy to their GUI (ending up with what I term a GUI mess...like the ribbon).

          With regard to these fans of ever-shorter product lifecycles, some people want something new, whether or not it's better; I want something better, whether or not it's new.

          </rant>

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant Here.

      I guess you all are still using 2001 mobes. After all they still work and can make calls and send/receive SMS, right? No need to change them every year with a cooler smartphone, right?

      Hope you paid for all those XP licenses...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Irrelevant Here.

        "I guess you all are still using 2001 mobes. After all they still work and can make calls and send/receive SMS"

        Were talking about desktop computers here, that have already matured since the 90s and are now being artificially end-of-lifed.

        Not a technology that has only just emerged this decade.

        If you can't add anything constructive to the discussion, then shut up.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Irrelevant Here.

          Matured? I see a lot of new technolgies entering now desktop PCs. Multicore CPUs, GPUs for high-speed parallel processing, SSD disks, 10Gb and higher networks, IPv6, and so on. Sure, you don't need them to update your FB page, you can do it with your expensive mobe which you of course need to update every six months to feel "cool", because it adds "exciting new technologies" like a fingerprint reader, or some more screen size, right?

          It's you that understand nothing about IT, it's something more than what you do in your bedroom, so please, shut up, coward.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Irrelevant Here.

            Matured? I see a lot of new technolgies entering now desktop PCs. Multicore CPUs, GPUs for high-speed parallel processing, SSD disks, 10Gb and higher networks, IPv6, and so on.

            I've used computers before 16 colours, and well before the mouse. Honestly, desktop computers haven't really changed in the past decade, for what consumers use them for. Don't believe the marketing.

            You can still use your old Compaq presario for emailing, writing letters, and whatever else 90% of desktop users do. Try it, if you don't believe me.

            Sure, you don't need them to update your FB page

            Exactly.

            you can do it with your expensive mobe which you of course need to update every six months to feel "cool", because it adds "exciting new technologies"

            I don't own a mobile phone. And to be cool, I've stopped wearing socks when I wear sandals (apparently it's not cool to wear it like that).

            It's you that understand nothing about IT, it's something more than what you do in your bedroom, so please, shut up, coward.

            While on the topic of maturity...

            Trying to aggressively put an anonymous person down like that, without even adding anything constructive, just because they do not share your opinion does demonstrate your inability to even pretend to be a mature adult.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Irrelevant Here.

              "Honestly, desktop computers haven't really changed in the past decade"

              Are you sure? Just open one of ten years ago, and a new one. It's easy to spot the differences. And there are even more you can't see. You see them if you actually code for them.

              There's a lot you can do with an actual desktop you couldn't do ten years ago. Sure, an old PC still works. And XP still works. Keep on using it, nobody forbids it. Just you can't ask Microsoft to mantain it when it's no longer a viable business.

              "I don't own a mobile phone. And to be cool, I've stopped wearing socks when I wear sandals (apparently it's not cool to wear it like that)."

              Ahh, you're Stallman!

              "Trying to aggressively put "

              I was not the first one to be aggessive - and I was fully constructive - I explained what there's new in actual PCs older operating system can't support, but it looks people like you understand only new widgets as "improvemetns", and that's say a lot about what you know about IT.

              Your post was totally irrrelevant and not constructive at all - frankly I do not care if you have a mobe or not, or if you wear socks or not. But I guess you're wearing the same socks for the last thirteen years and never thought to "upgrade" them...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Irrelevant Here.

                There's a lot you can do with an actual desktop you couldn't do ten years ago. Sure, an old PC still works. And XP still works. Keep on using it, nobody forbids it.

                Personally, I use the latest and greatest hardware my company can acquire. My job requires me to, and I love experimenting and learning about new things. Its what keeps me going. I'm a software engineer working on consumer products which has to work on devices before the likes of you get their hands on it. I'm all for the whole world upgrading every month - that's more customers!

                However, even though me and my company have thrown £1000's at Microsoft, I am (by far) not their typical customer.

                Get your head out of the IT industry and look at the real world. Along the lines of this article (did you read it?), you don't need SSD, touch-screen, or translucent window borders to operate a lathe, check patients in, print labels, book a holiday, write a CV, email/chat with relatives abroad, or watch farting dog videos. People have been doing that very well for over a decade... how are they struggling by not having the latest and greatest that the IT industry will produce next year?

                And while you're at it, lay off the forums, meet real people.

                Just you can't ask Microsoft to mantain it when it's no longer a viable business.

                The article (please, read it) shows that it is, even at the worst pessimistic scenario.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. RobHib

                  @A.C. -- Re: Irrelevant Here.

                  However, even though me and my company have thrown £1000's at Microsoft, I am (by far) not their typical customer.

                  Precisely correct, and for that very reason Microsoft has failed.

                  For a given version number, every version of Windows, Home, Professional, Enterprise etc., is essentially identical--just appropriately nobbled to suit marketing requirements.

                  Most noticeably, there is NO technical version of Windows--a version not meant for general consumption but rather for developmental technical/scientific and or industrial use. A version in which 'Administrator' was actually an administrator with super-user status etc., or where I could select whatever specific GUI I wanted, or where I could bolt on another file system which doesn't belong to MS.

                  For example, one of my pet peeves, is not being able to hierarchically control or set file-locking. If I'm stupid or careless enough to accidentally unlock and delete the wrong file--a critical system file for instance and BSOD the machine then so be it. Past usual default warnings, I should be able to what I want with techie-specific O/S.

                  If proper techie versions of Windows were offered then many of the criticisms leveled at Microsoft would disappear.

                  1. Mpeler

                    Re: @A.C. -- Irrelevant Here.

                    Microsoft has added a lot of functionality, with the emphasis on fun rather than function (eye candy, etc.).

                    They've taken a single-user OS and basically kludged it into a multi-user and/or multiprocessor OS, rather than building a true server OS from the ground up (looks like marketing won that battle, eh...).

                    When the only choices out there are MS (with its MULTICS-derivative file system) and any of the *X's (with their MULTICS-derivative file systems), we're pretty much sunk until someone has the guts to come out with something completely new (and I'd hoped that WinFS would have been that....).

                    Maybe not all of the "big iron" bells and whistles for home users, but a more-secure, well thought-out file system and security scheme would have been nice. On the server side of things, it should have been designed with the datacenter in mind rather than just a clone and go....

                    1. RobHib

                      Re: @A.C. -- Irrelevant Here.

                      They've taken a single-user OS and basically kludged it into a multi-user and/or multiprocessor OS, rather than building a true server OS from the ground up (looks like marketing won that battle, eh...).

                      Dead on, methinks.

                      Despite my love of Linux, the Win32/64 API is all pervasive so we have to live with it or somehow manage it. The real tragedy in all this is that there is no true competition for MS. As I've said elsewhere, it would be wonderful if say ReactOS were to offer an alternative clone of Windows but that project really hasn't gotten off the ground, so it's back to MS.

                      Where there's a monopoly and a captive market, one can't expect innovation to flourish, unfortunately.

                    2. Roland6 Silver badge

                      Re: @A.C. -- Irrelevant Here. @Mpeler

                      "When the only choices out there are MS (with its MULTICS-derivative file system) and any of the *X's (with their MULTICS-derivative file systems), we're pretty much sunk until someone has the guts to come out with something completely new."

                      Yes, it is very interesting looking back and seeing that the MS and Unix juggernauts between them have largely defined what an OS is and how we interact with a computer. In some ways Steve Job's NeXtStep was possibly the last attempt at a different user desktop paradigm.

                      As someone deeply schooled in distributed systems I found it interesting comparing the first editions of say Andrew S. Tanenbaum's books on OS's and networking and his later versions, they nicely illustrate just how much we've been blinked by TCP/IP, Unix/Linux and Windows.

                3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                  Re: Irrelevant Here.

                  "The article (please, read it) shows that it is [viable], even at the worst pessimistic scenario."

                  Er, no. The article's analysis is pretty flawed. People who are stuck with XP talking to old hardware have the option of isolating the XP boxes from the internet and carrying on as before, indefinitely, at zero cost, and zero risk.

                  The only people who need to pay for XP support are idiots in government who tethered themselves to IE6 and then went to sleep for a decade. Microsoft saw them coming and are charging three times Trevor's "viable" rate (initially, jumping to even larger multipliers in the next few years). MS will get their fee, too. The problem with the article is that there's no *larger* market for paid support if MS drop the prices to the levels suggested here (because you can isolate the machine and pay nothing), so there's no reason for MS not to gouge the small number of idiots for all they can.

          2. RobHib

            @LDS -- Re: Irrelevant Here.

            It's you that understand nothing about IT, it's something more than what you do in your bedroom, so please, shut up, coward.

            The old axiom says I shouldn't bother answering such provocation, but I'll add this: If you were actually aware of the exact extent of my involvement in IT and other hi-tech work, then you'd realise how foolish you look.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: @LDS -- Irrelevant Here.

              And if you knew what my job in IT is, you would stay very silent, believe me.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @LDS -- Irrelevant Here.

                "And if you knew what my job in IT is, you would stay very silent, believe me."

                Ya, checkin' oot websites from Yo Momma's basement....

        2. RobHib

          @A.C. -- Re: Irrelevant Here.

          Were talking about desktop computers here, that have already matured since the 90s and are now being artificially end-of-lifed.

          Too true. It is almost criminal the amount of tech waste there is these days. Perfectly good equipment is so often just junked by consumers in the name of fashion. One only has to go down street during a council pick-up/clean-up to know that. Only last week in my suburb I counted over 37 CRT TV sets and monitors in just one street alone awaiting council collection. Many of these were modern flat and wide screen models, and they were in perfect condition.

          Note: don't let anyone twist these words, clearly there's many applications that require state of the art equipment etc., but this isn't the issue.

          BTW, I'm highly tune to this. Years ago, when I was a kid interested in electronics and electronic components were considerably more expensive than now, I used to scrounge rubbish tips for old radios and TV sets just to salvage the components.

      2. RobHib
        Coat

        @LDS -- Re: Irrelevant Here.

        Can't speak for others, but I use an el-cheapo LG dual-SIM device whose unlocked price was $24.99 or so. You're right, it deliberately has no internet access--as it's a telephone! Text is disabled at the telco, so it remains strictly a phone. The number is silent too. That way I remain in charge of my time--not others!

        If I have to use text, I use another SIM, internet is confined to a portable with decent screen real estate.

        I am not alone either, the boss won an iPhone as a door prize at a tech conference, he offered it to anyone who wanted it and no one did. It now resides in its original box in one of the office draws.

        That's Microsoft's problem, it's unaware of how truly diverse its users really are!

        1. Greg D

          @Rob

          You dont know how much of a tech-hipster you sound like right now.

          Is this sort of thing now common? I was sure this kind of use-case was very minimal (in global terms). Desktop use may not have changed much (in generic terms) in the past 2 decades, but the usability of the technology has, as well as become very much more refined. You XP hipsters are holding that up, which is where a lot of this weird hate seems to stem from.

          In any case, you lot can rage all you want. Fact is, Microsoft are a corporation, and like all corporations on this planet, here to make money. Lots and lots of money. How can they do that if you tech-hipsters won't buy their new stuff?

          How did you ever like Microsoft in the first place if you feel this way? Why aren't you using a 10 year old Linux kernel instead?

          Now, can we get out of the 80's mainframe man mindset and continue pushing technology forward?

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: @LDS -- Irrelevant Here @Rob

            I can't understand why people here who would be ready to kill someone to get a new mobe one day earlier than general availability - even if it just adds different colored icons, and even if they just bought the last model two weeks before, and just to do plain old tasks like messaging - complain so much because Microsoft is stopping support for a thirteen years old operating system because they want to keep on using their old PCs they love so much and would never change. It's totally a nonsense. I can't really understand what the problem is - but greed. Upgrading the OS is like your car or house insurance policy - you pay for it every year even if you don't have issue - but the day you need it to protect it you know you're safe. You can avoid it and face the risks - you can use an outdated version of Windows or Linux - nobody stops you - but the responsibility is yours. Just you can act risky and blame someone else because is not protecting your from risks without you paying for it.

            Sure MS is a company and needs money, those money comes from selling products - selling a mobe is not different than selling an OS. Why an OS should be supported indefinitely so you don't have to pay for an upgrade, why is ok to make a mobe obsolete every year? Why can't you run iOS7 on the original iPhone? Why can't you run OSX on an older Mac? The latest update doesn't support models just a few years old. No one complains, why? While a ten years old PC can run 7 without issues. So, please, tell me what is the *real problem". Is you don't want to pay for Windows? Ok, no one forces you, plenty of alternatives around. Don't want to upgrade your hardware? Ok, stick with XP and face the risks, or again, choose an alternative. Just stomping your feet like children and crying "uaaaahhh, Microsoft must give us free XP upgrades" won't help you. Just make you look like children - and greed ones.

          2. RobHib
            Mushroom

            @ Greg D--Re: @Rob

            Greg, the issues are truly prosaic when you analyse them.

            1. Operating systems are still essentially file-loaders, once they were only file-loaders. They're just a means to an end, which is to make a computing system provide some useful function.

            2. By putting between 100 and 1000 (use any reasonable guess) times the code necessary to load files, Microsoft has created a market for Windows per se--rather than the job it's supposed to do (right, most of us are 'suckers'--victims of Microsoft's marketing department).

            That's to say, Microsoft has made what was a tool into something that's 'now a joy to behold' something which people want to own, tweak and care for, not to mention get teary-eyed and emotional over! Brilliant marketing, but rotten IT engineering!

            3. Turning Windows into the behemoth bloatware that it is, has:

            (a) Muddied the waters--for instance, an office worker who is allocated a PC where Solitaire has been removed is likely to cause and industrial incident or workplace disharmony (true, I've seen it happen).

            (b) Windows security becomes a nightmare simply because Microsoft integrated Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer (and other stuff) into Windows. Moreover, security was made considerably worse by both IE and Windows Explorer sharing much of the same code!

            (c) Because of all the unnecessary dross and concomitant issues, security, UI changes etc., becoming the centre of attention for nearly two decades, truly important functional improvements to the Windows O/S have not or still aren't being made. For example, with Vista, Microsoft aborted WinFS which would have truly revolutionized the Windows filing system.

            (d) So Windows--even the very latest version--is left with a truly antiquated filing system and file structure--something it also shares in common with Linux, UNIX etc. This rotten decayed file structure just lingers like a rotten smell because Microsoft hasn't seen fit to upgrade Windows with a better one. And no one else will move to fix it either, as they cannot--unless MS does the same (exchanging files would be a potential nightmare).

            Thus, for going on 40 years, via CP/M, et al, we've still this antiquated file structure with its horribly limited, primitive and dangerous* attributes (R, RO, date & time etc.), which intrinsically does not support integrated encapsulation, integrated metadata, file and metadata encryption, including machine/environment, user and program notes/scratch areas and file history, etc,. etc.

            * Reduces data integrity.

            Again why hasn't this been done? Because Microsoft and the vast majority of other commentards can't see the woods for the trees because of all the other useless distractions that everyone has been arguing over for decades.

            4. That's only a tiny part of my argument, I've not time here to cover the many hundreds of other improvements that ought to be part of a modern operating system, except to say that Microsoft--through its sheer market presence--could have implement and had widely adopted, that is, if Microsoft were genuinely true to IT and Computing ideals per se.

            Instead, the biggest IT company of all time is still groveling around in the mire of security patches, marketing fiascos--W8 etc., because it will not (and has continually refused over many years) to take simple measures such as providing the user with the ability to decouple many non-vital Windows subsystems from core ones (IE for instance).

            It is not me or my organization that is holding IT and Computing development back by continuing to use XP, rather the complete antitheses is true.

            Let's get it clear once and for all, we're still using XP ONLY because Microsoft has NOT progressed its operating systems to a point where it has become a necessity for us to so do. Doubling and tripling the size of Windows' installed code base, often for little more than some marketing or cosmetic reason DOES NOT constitute sufficient reason to upgrade (in fact the opposite is true).

            Never let it be said that I'm holding back computing. Nothing could be further from the truth (and, unfortunately, I don't have such powers anyway).

            1. Anonymous Bullard
              Windows

              Re: @ Greg D--@Rob

              "Microsoft has NOT progressed its operating systems"

              How dare you. I'll give you some progress since XP:

              - Transparent window frames.

              - Start button removed

              - Start menu removed

              - Opaque window frames.

              - Start button added.

              - IE is almost compliant with 2010 standards.

              - Ribbon added to Office, and now Explorer.

              - Smoother and nicer graphics on Solitaire.

              - Shell icons can be larger.

              - The taskbar clock also shows the date.

              - They can convert a desktop computer into an extra large tablet - with their bare hands!

              1. RobHib
                Happy

                @ Anonymous Bullard -- Re: @ Greg D--@Rob

                Thanks for your adroit perception. Err, now you've listed 'em I see how truly impressive improvements have been. 'Tis wonder how so many of us failed to notice! ;-)

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Irrelevant Here. @LDS

        >"Hope you paid for all those XP licenses..."

        Well there are no indications that MS are refusing to take annual licence payments for XP (and other legacy products) from members of it's various volume licensing programmes...

        The only issue I can see is if you are using systems with MS OEM licenses, as you may have licensing problems with 'repaired' systems, depending upon the extent of the 'repair'.

      4. Tim99 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Irrelevant Here.

        @LDS

        I acknowledge that I am a recalcitrant old fart, but I am still occasionally using a Nokia from then Wikipedia: Nokia 8210. It makes and receives phone calls and texts. Sometimes I use my "new" Nokia 11 series that is "only" 10 years old.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    This is the fault of Trevor's clients

    They chose poorly in buying equipment that relied on some ancient protocol and were not supported by the vendor to be upgradeable to something more recent.

    I'm no fan of Microsoft, but would they be to blame for not supporting Windows 3.11 because someone was stupid enough to buy expensive hardware their business depended on that was only compatible with Winsock, and didn't work with fully standards compliant TCP/IP stacks?

    Perhaps they bought from a company whose business plan is "don't upgrade old equipment so they have to buy brand new stuff from us" or perhaps they bought from someone who went out of business long ago. Either way, it has nothing to do with Windows XP.

    Put the Windows XP machines in locked cases to prevent physical access, and on an isolated network with a single secure Linux machine that is allowed to receive USB sticks with the engineering data required for the CNC lathe, that is sent to the XP machines via FTP. There, done, now their XP machines are secure (or at least far more secure than they probably are now even with Microsoft providing patches, if they're on the regular network today)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

      No it is not!

      At the time these machines were bought, there was no other choice.

      It takes at least two to three years to bring a machine like that to market.

      If you were starting to build a CNC machine a mere ten years ago, the only possible OS for the host control machine was Windows XP.

      I know a company that tried to use Linux back then - it failed miserably due to the poor to nonexistent driver support in the 00's.

      That's no longer the case for drivers, Linux support is now very good.

      However, it is still the case for much of the proprietary 3rd party software that such machines need to talk to.

      - AutoCAD does not run under Linux, and won't unless Autodesk decide to port it, while Solidworks only added a Linux version in the last year.

      (Much as I think AutoCAD needs to die, it's still an industry standard.)

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

        2 things:-

        1. I have a machine tool here less than 10 years old - it runs NT as XP was too new then. I expect it to run at least another 10 years.

        2. We run Bricscad instead of AutoCad - it is also available on Linux and uses DWG file formats.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

        They should have used XP Embedded - which has a different lifecycle - or some other embeddable OS with different lifecycle support policies.

        They choose to use an OS which was never designed for such tasks, because it was cheaper and easier, and of course their customers will now pay for it.

        But you can't blame Microsoft because someone else made the wrong choice then. Microsoft products lifecycle are well laid out. You have to take them into account when you design a product with a much longer lifecycle.

        For example there is specific hardware for system that needs to be available for many years - it's more expensive because the maker warrants that same hardware and spare parts will be available for many more years than plain commercial hardware, and it means it needs to store enough parts to fulfill its warranty.

        "I know a company that tried to use Linux back then - it failed miserably due to the poor to nonexistent driver support in the 00's."

        There's no driver until you write it. Again, it looks it attempted to go down a fast route without a proper investment. It should have had the driver written, isn't this the very meaning of Open Source? It's not "software I have not to pay for".

        Don't blame someone else for very bad decision made by the management of those CNC supplier.

      3. RobHib

        @Richard 12 -- Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

        If you were starting to build a CNC machine a mere ten years ago, the only possible OS for the host control machine was Windows XP

        Absolutely correct, or more likely (and more commonly) they've proprietary solutions, such as FANUC et al. Only days ago on a similar topic I mentioned that recently I came across an exotic 4-axis CNC machine worth just sub-$1M that dates from 2000 which uses Windows 2000. This machine has an estimated life of 25 years which means that its Windows 2000 installation could run until 2025.

        (In industrial control and CNC, ideally more robust O/S environments (such as the well-tried QNX etc.,) ought to be used but in practice this has not been the case. Presumably because Windows programmers are a dime-a-dozen.)

      4. DougS Silver badge

        Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

        If you were starting to build a CNC machine a mere ten years ago, the only possible OS for the host control machine was Windows XP.

        What does that have to do with this machine's apparent requirement for NETBEUI? They couldn't use standard TCP/IP, they had to use a proprietary protocol?

        Sorry, despite the 37 downvotes I received, I still think it was a stupid decision. Surely there were other CNC vendors who had better designed products where the OS could be upgraded without replacing the whole thing. That would have been the first question I'd ask, and I'd insist on a guarantee of that in writing.

        Obviously if you bought a decade ago XP was the newest "standard" OS you could get, but that doesn't mean you should be stuck with XP for two decades if that's how long that CNC is able to remain in operation. Planned obsolescence in a consumer product costing a few tens or hundreds of dollars (and is probably useless in a few years anyway) is one thing, but is unforgivable in industrial hardware costing tens of thousands and expected to last a decade or two.

        I repeat, his clients choose poorly. If Trevor was consulting for them back then and signed off on this product without alerting them to the risks, he's to blame too (though if he was asked at all it probably went something like "here's the cheap alternative we're planning to buy, go ahead and list your objections if you want, but we've already signed the PO so it won't matter")

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

          @DougS: for the particular folks discussed in this article the machines themselves were designed in the mid-90s, originally with Windows NT 4, though they didn't make it out the door and on the floor until very near the turn of the millennium. They were upgraded a few years later to Windows XP, specifically because the manufacturer wanted to stay with as secure a system as possible.

          There are two components to the machine: one is a DOS (or OS/2?)-based controller that accepts raw inputs of files via NetBEUI. That's build into some card that's buried deep within the machine's guts. The second is the Windows XP system that sits on top of a motherboard with a bunch of ISA slots. This has two roles: the first is to drive something very much like an X/Y cutter as well as some sort of pre-polishing unit that makes the whole system go from "block of metal to 99.9% finished piece" in one go.

          The second purpose of the Windows XP machine is to run some proprietary software made of out of ground demon that converts a primitive turn-of-the-millenium CAD format into whatever byzantine machine code is required by the system itself. That file is fired off over NetBEUI to the machine for machining, then the Windows XP system coordinates the X/Y cutting and polishing.

          The XP box has TCP/IP on one NIC in order to accept input from the proper workstations and NetBEUI on the other side in order to talk to the machine's controller. The XP box is built into some freaking case of ultimate sharp edges and wrist-slitting death about 19 panels into the machine.

          The company that made these went out of business ages ago. I remember being part of the migration of the systems from NT4 to XP. (I was not a part of the original purchase decision,) and I have been called back recently to secure the XP boxes for another 10 years of service.

          And the CNC folks are only one group I have to deal with. The Photo Lab I work with has a bunch of stupid expensive photo printers that do roughly the same thing as the above; receive specially formatted images into a local buffer along with some metadata, then print onto gigantic printers. These things are still running Windows 2000 because we could not for the life of us get the drivers for the proprietary cards - let alone the stupid software - working under Windows XP.

          All efforts by multiple individuals and companies around the world to get these systems ported to Windows 7 have failed, and not for lack of time or money going into the project. The original manufacturer was bought up at least three times. The current owner of the IP won't release any documentation. We're trying to reverse engineer everything, but it's a complicated pig and we're in way over our heads.

          I wasn't part of the purchasing decisions on those either, but I inherited them and I have to make 'em go. There are newer printers running Windows 7, and we'll do this dance once more in 2020.

          In both cases - and frankly, I could bring up several dozen others, from bakeries to fire halls - alternatives simply did not exist at the time of purchase. If you wanted a widget to perform the specified tasks at the specified rates using the specified materials you had exactly one vendor who made a device and this is how they chose to make it.

          Should the people making things like CNC lathes and high-end photographic printers have been making control units out of Microsoft's client OSes? Hell no. That was an idiotic decision on their parts. Is it fair to blame the shop owners who bought the only thing they could buy to make their businesses go? I guess that's a question you have to ask yourself. You seem to think that's cool beans. I call it blaming the victim.

          Is it fair to blame Microsoft? Maybe, maybe not. Microsoft did choose to sell these operating systems to the companies manufacturing this equipment. They've never been particularly nosy about how their software got used and that led us to the world we're in today.

          Like it or not - and regardless of who you choose to "blame" - the reality is that Microsoft's absolute and total dominance of the endpoint market in the late 90s and throughout the 00s is what got us into this mess. Microsoft's software was what developers and businesspeople were familiar with. So it ended up everywhere. Even in warships!

          Microsoft has no legal obligation to support an OS forever. I would personally argue that it is the height of self-importance and arrogance to expect them to support it for free even as long as they have chosen to.

          Where I part ways with those who run Microsoft - as well as a number of commentards - is that I believe that part of Microsoft's moral, ethical and social obligations are to offer ongoing paid support at a price affordable by the kinds of SMBs who are ultimately the victims of this mess, without the minimum floor of several hundred systems.

          Additionally, I feel that Microsoft's choices in this matter will have long-term repercussions in the trust that customers will be willing to put into Microsoft, something that Microsoft - and many commenter - don't seem to agree with. In fact, several folks seem to feel that I, my clients and everyone else int he world is somehow morally obligated to trust Microsoft. I can't even begin to understand that mindset.

          You claim that there aren't enough companies that would pay for this to be viable, I say that's absolute bullshit. I work with some of the most underfunded SMBs in the first world and they would fall all over themselves to get in on that. To say nothing of the banks, governments, etc that would be on it like white on rice. Hell, for $65/year, I'd keep several of my old laptops on Windows XP just because it saves me the hassle of porting their stuff to Mint.

          I've talked the numbers over with some of my contacts at Microsoft, RedHat and a few other companies. Largely, they agree with my figures, though they feel I am underestimating how many individual units worth of XP support would get sold at that price.

          There is consensus that XP support could be maintained for a decade or more profitably. The biggest issue they have is finding developers that would be willing to shackle the rest of their careers to that OS, so we have some lovely debates about how much money it would take per dev to get them to sign on the dotted line.

          Microsoft can make a profit supporting XP for another decade at prices affordable to SMBs without a floor cost in system counts, period. They choose not to. Why is not something they are willing to discuss openly, other than to say that "Windows XP is 13 years old and it is time for anyone using out of support operating systems to move on. Windows 8 provides numerous advantages that will enhance productivity and prepare businesses for the future of working in the cloud."

          So if you want to blame someone, that's on your head. That's your morality and your ethics that's causing you to point fingers. I don't really blame Microsoft. They have a choice. They made that choice. I am highlighting the fact of that choice and the real-world impacts of that choice.

          The choices Microsoft make determine whether or not I trust them in the future, with what I might trust them and how far. In the meantime, I will help my customers harden their XP systems for continued use. The world will keep turning, but I won't be advocating using Microsoft's software for anything truly mission critical; especially where there aren't many alternatives. Hopefully, my clients will have the option of heeding that advice. They certainly haven't had the choice in the past.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

            "Additionally, I feel that Microsoft's choices in this matter will have long-term repercussions in the trust that customers will be willing to put into Microsoft"

            MS have a long track record of leaving their users with a sour taste in their mouths as they pull (or render unusable) features on an apparently dice based whim. Like many other Mac users, I got my fingers burned when MS decided to pull VBA macros from Office in 2008 for no obviously good reason. It thoroughly screwed workflows for people who just wanted some basic continuity from a software vendor on a pretty basic, but often crucial, feature. The fact macros were restored a version later was neither here nor there, since myself and most of my colleagues took 'fool me once...' etc to heart and switched to alternatives.

            Microsofts apparent inability to recognise the critical importance of trust to its customers must be a good part of why its dominance is fading across almost all areas of its business, yet reading their press coverage, you'd never guess they even knew they had a problem.

          2. DougS Silver badge

            @Trevor

            That thing has DOS guts? Wow, that is some ancient hardware....Microsoft's market power caused some really poor decisions to be made for product introductions I guess. The best alternative would be to put that CNC machine on an isolated network with a stripped down Linux box that takes USB sticks with the design files and ftps them to the XP box. Then it can languish in insecurity for another decade, or until some proprietary part on the CNC dies and the company is forced to replace it.

            PS loved the reference to software made out of ground demon, I'll have to remember that one, I think I've run into that myself!

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: @Trevor

              Well, I'd love to share exactly how I plan to solve the issue with this machine, but then I'd be spoiling a future article! :)

          3. RobHib
            Thumb Up

            @Trevor_Pott -- Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

            "I was not a part of the original purchase decision,) and I have been called back recently to secure the XP boxes for another 10 years of service."

            This is one of the quintessential comments in this set of posts. Nothing else need be said to prove that XP is far from dead whether we like it or not--or if we love or hate Microsoft. Facts are facts, and they've spoken.

            Even I'm surprised at the extent of the feedback to this article from those who are still using XP, W2K and even NT--someone even mentioned WfW3.11. It's surprising in the sense that in a tech publication such as El Reg where one finds a preponderance of propeller-heads that the matter of seemingly-obsolete OSes is so alive and well.

            Someone ought to bring these posts to the attention of Microsoft, as I reckon I've not previously seen a more comprehensive summary of the key issues (with respect to Windows generally) in any one single place. Moreover, with this type of reaction over the closure of XP support breaking out everywhere, it seems to me that Microsoft would do well to seek out many of the players in these posts for their experienced opinion.

            I sympathise with your post almost completely, its blueprint could be overlaid on mine and you'd find that the match would be uncannily close.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: @Trevor_Pott -- This is the fault of Trevor's clients

              Microsoft are entirely aware of this article, and the comments. I believe the exact phrase used by one of my contacts was "you just don't understand why it's important that XP die, do you?" As I mentioned in my article: Microsoft talks to loyalists, not critics. That this doesn't appear to be changing at any point in the future is a large portion of my vanished faith in them as an ongoing supplier of business-critical technology solutions.

              If you only listen to loyalists you only design products for people who would buy any crap you pushed out anyways. If you listen to critics you can not only understand why you're losing customers, but what you need to do to staunch the bleeding and eventually heal the wounds. Again, as mentioned in the article, to do this would require a culture change from Microsoft. One not in evidence.

        2. RobHib

          @DougS -- Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

          "Obviously if you bought a decade ago XP was the newest "standard" OS you could get, but that doesn't mean you should be stuck with XP for two decades if that's how long that CNC is able to remain in operation."

          You're right in theory but in practice that's what often happens. As I said several days ago in a similar topic, the last thing say a manufacturing operation is concerned about is the fine makeup of the components in one single machine tool in its production line. So the 'if it ain't broke don't touch it' axiom reigns by default.

          To the company executive who forks out the annual maintenance funds this axiom makes considerable sense (I know, I'm battle-scarred from many fights over maintenance funding).

          In such arguments, techie purists like me lose out to the necessities of day-to-day operation and senior management pragmatism. And even for me, it's hard to justify updating the O/S in say video display signs and similar applications--after all what would be achieved in so doing?

          As I've also previously pointed out, several months ago I toured a brand new factory operation of a large multinational manufacturer of industrial equipment. During the tour, even I was surprised to see that in this brand new plant every one of the computer terminals was running XP!

          BTW, there was nothing shonky about XP's licensing, they had longstanding licence arrangements with MS that were simply propagated to the new plant (keep in mind that this plant came on-line in 2013).

          The fact is--like it or not--XP ain't going away for a while yet.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients @Doug S

          >What does that have to do with this machine's apparent requirement for NETBEUI?

          Probably because the original design of the machine's network interface dates from the 80's when NETBEUI was common (remember NetBeui was released by IBM in 1985; who were the dominant player in the IT market) and CIM was the big thing - in part because the cost of controllers fell due to the widespread availability of industrial 'PC' boards and also we were seeing the first real fruits of LAN standardisation.

          As for using NETBEUI, I direct you at MAP 2.1/3.0 and the technical rationale for using a cut down stack - which the OSI purists objected to... With the demise of MAP/OSI in circa 1989~1990, the MAP alternative was never widely used or implemented, so given that PC's continued to support NetBeui why change, particularly as TCP/IP suffers from all the same issues as OSI in a single subnet LAN environment?

          So NetBeui has effectively been around largely unchanged for nearly 30 years, not bad for a 'proprietary' standard.

    2. RobHib

      Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients

      I'm no fan of Microsoft, but would they be to blame for not supporting Windows 3.11...

      Whilst they're not in my establishment, I do know of people who still use win 3.11. This is not the issue however (see my earlier post).

      Despite it's many faults, XP was and is successful by having evolved from a line of earlier versions. Its replacements, Vista, 7 & 8 etc., are not sufficiently functionally equivalent, thus, in many circumstances, problematic to use.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Logic doesn't enter into it

    Or so appearances would suggest. A couple of years ago Microsoft closed the studio that produced the "Flight Simulator" series, which apparently was still quite profitable. I forget the reason exactly, but "doesn't fit with our strategy" rings a bell. If companies exist to make a profit, MS is evidently very picky about 'how' it makes one.

    Having shut down the FS series, they then pulled a 180 about 2 weeks later and decided to make another flight sim from the ground up; lavishly appointed, the initial game would be free but very limited, but the add ons would be purchased via MS in a model that screamed "we want an app store too" at about the time Apple's was making big headlines. They appeared to miss that the very open nature of the original series, which definitely didn't allow MS a slice of add ons, was what made it massively successful in the first place - anyone could develop for it, for fun or profit. The lacklustre total of a mere half a dozen paid, fairly insipid offerings for the new sim in the store and a idiot proof flight model guaranteed fans of the original series stayed away, and the whole project was shelved less than a year after starting.

    If I have a point here, its that logic and actual workable strategy don't really seem to enter into the MS decision making process; they don't seem content with the profit in front of their nose, they're too busy gazing at the apparently larger fantasy profit in some misty future, one that always seems to rely on inexplicably forcing their users to accept some violent shift in practice and expectation just because it looked like a good idea when sketched on the back of a napkin in someones lunch hour three years ago, before getting dangerously out of control - the Win 8 tiles surely have to be a case in point.

    The thing that has always made MS a ton of money, office, still does so due to the lock in mentality that seems to afflict the institutional users with deep pockets. But that dominance is slowly but surely being worn down, and with it the luxury of making the endless, expensive serial mistakes that defy all logic in other parts of the company. When they're faced with the necessity of having to produce the things people really do want - like patches for XP - to earn a crust, they might find that listening to their customers is not only good business sense, but not such an unpalatable way of making a profit after all.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Logic doesn't enter into it

      But you miss a point: if MS had released a new FS XI with an improved flight (and ground) model, better GPU support (FSX still uses DX9, and only partial DX10 support), voice controlled ATC, better use of multithreading because of the number of cores now available (FSX SP2 makes only a limited use of multithreading), touch input support, ecc. ecc. I (and many others) would have upgraded instantly.

      What is happening with XP is more alike users pre-FSX who didn't want to upgrade because the new, improved version was heavier (and required powerful GPUs and CPUs) and some of their add-ons could have not worked (and for a not small percentage, the need to look for new cracks and the like...)

      MS Flight was more alike a Win7 -> Win8 RT shift than an XP -> Win7 upgrade - this latter is much more alike a FS 2004 - FSX upgrade, soon you understand the latter is much better. And add-on developers could deliver far better products when they could deliver FSX-only add ons.

    2. RobHib

      @A.C. - - Re: Logic doesn't enter into it

      The thing that has always made MS a ton of money, office, still does so due to the lock in mentality that seems to afflict the institutional users with deep pockets.

      Correct, same with your earlier point about MS's decision making processes. It's similar to the point I made about why many XP users had not upgraded--the fact is that the newer offerings were essentially sufficiently different to not warrant the effort of upgrading.

      The mentality of institutional users is clearly a significant problem why products such as MS Office have reached a development plateau. To give a well known instance, industry pundits more experienced than me have suggested that word-processing has made little progress over the last decade because of MS Office stagnation and that this has been because institutional users have not demanded anything any better.

      These examples might seems at odds with one another but in reality the same underlying issues are at work.

    3. cordwainer 1

      Re: Logic doesn't enter into it

      I wish I could give this a hundred upvotes. And unless you have any objection, I'm going to e-mail a copy to Microsoft :-)

  9. The Empress

    Or you could set aside the depreciation for 10 years and use that accrued amount to buy new computers

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Computers are easy.

      Machines are not.

      A single production line tends to start at £10 million and up, with an expected lifetime of 20 years and often a payback period of 5-10 years, bought via bank loan.

      If the line still works and makes the product, what company is going to blow another ten years profit on a new line?

      That money comes from the workers pay packets. Are you happy to forego a pay rise for the next few years simply to upgrade from XP?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Production Line

        >with an expected lifetime of 20 years

        Even back in the early 80's the IT industry had problems getting their heads around the concept of providing support over this period of time. Whilst MS offers longer support for Windows Embedded over it's desktop/server versions it still doesn't satisfy the user requirement; to do this MS would have to offer at least 25~30 years of support to allow for development and build which can take several years.

        >If the line still works and makes the product, what company is going to blow another ten years profit on a new line?

        Plus if they aren't building new premises, they will have to handle the non-productive time whilst the old production line is stripped out and the new one installed. Depending on the size of the production line, these activities could take a few years...

        1. DragonLord

          Re: Production Line

          Stupid developer here, but as we're talking about systems to control HARDWARE, wouldn't it have been better for the companies that built the hardware to make it so that you could remove the control component and plug in a new one for say £100,000 and around 1 day's down time? You know the good old fashioned modular approach. That way it wouldn't have mattered what the software industry did (even if microsoft went out of business) they could still just slot in a new module with an upto date os and drivers and application support. Hell they could also allow for changing AutoCAD formats. These are all lessons that the software industry has had to learn in order to keep stuff together.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Production Line

            You are very correct about building things more appropriately in the first place. However the commercial computer industry is very young, it has changed massively in its time due to huge advances in technology and along the way common sense has often given way to convenience or greed. In this case I mean greed through trying to get a product out as quick as possible, ignoring the future or best practices. This applies equally to the designers of industrial machinery utilising the advantages that computers could give them.

            This is where defined standards are critical to everything. We wouldn't have the Internet we have today without defined standards which are, relatively, vendor neutral. Individual vendors will always want to push their take on something which shouldn't really be seen as a wholly bad thing, as long as the end result is sensible. The more open these standards are the better as it allows the implementation of a solution by multiple, competing vendors and interoperability between systems. Again, we wouldn't have the World Wide Web without this - instead we'd be mired in the locked in blight that was AOL, Compuserve and similar.

            Standards benefit many levels, for example Virgin Media uses cable modems that adhere to the DOCSIS standard. This allows VM to select the "best" or "most appropriate" solution for them which need not be a single supplier or manufacturer. The residential power plugs we take for granted all use a defined standard, with defined tolerances and performance - consider the nightmare this would be without this basic standard - an extended form of travel plug nightmare. For reference, in the early days of computers and PCs, many used proprietary connectors for the other end of the power cable rather than the IEC form that is now uniform internationally.

            Ideally the designers of industrial machinery mentioned here should have used defined communication standards and definitely not use closed, proprietary protocols such as NetBEUI / NetBIOS and similar. Unfortunately these short-sighted decisions are often made in the pursuit of new technology and fast (i.e. cheap) development time. At the time these devices were designed, more open protocols such as CAN (CAN-Open), CAN/TCP or the many other protocols may have not been available or the devices that were available just did not have the right functionality.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Production Line

              "the designers of industrial machinery mentioned here should have used defined communication standards and definitely not use closed, proprietary protocols such as NetBEUI / NetBIOS"

              The industry standard production line panacea, going all the way back to the mid 1980s, was going to be MAP (and before it, MMFS).

              It was about as industry standard as Itanium.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            @Dragonlord Re: Production Line

            In most cases the hardware consists of several parts. There's the machine controller, a box filled with relays, PLCs, boards taking input from a variety of sensors and other such machine-specific stuff. It drives the motors, solenoids, valves, etcetera, and is usually tightly integrated with the machine itself. Apart from breakage and the occasional mods to boards because of noise sensitivity and such, there's little need to tinker with this bit. And there's the controlling PC, taking the design and setup files, mangling them and pushing the results to the machine controller. It's this part that has an OS and one or more applications for driving and possibly monitoring the machine.

            If you want to replace the latter, you'd have to build a PC that has the same interface with the machine controller, and put an application on it that talks the same protocol. The installed base and the effort to build and test the new setup determine whether it makes economic sense for the manufacturer (or a third party) to do so, or just keep everything as it is.

  10. MooJohn

    End of the road

    Yes, they *could* keep patching the antiquated OS forever but there is a point when it is time for people to move to something more current. You *can* go online with a Win 3.1 box -- where is the uproar for the lack of updates for Trumpet winsock and Netscape Navigator? No software should be required (or expected) to receive updates in perpetuity.

    The PCs still running XP are quite likely to have bulging capacitors and other imminent hardware failures. Even if the OS kept going the hardware would die beneath it. IDE hard drives aren't exactly easy to source these days so good luck maintaining the moving parts.

    Put XP on a virtual machine if you must have it for production needs. Keep it separated from the rest of the world and it will run fine on modern equipment. The tools you use from 2001 won't care about updates and you won't either.

    1. frank ly

      Re: End of the road

      Just as a matter of interest, two months ago I bought a Kingspec 32GB 2.5" IDE/PATA _SSD_ for my old laptop. It cost me £40 on e-bay from a Chinese supplier. It works fine, but I'm not sure for how long, and it's given a speedy and silent new lease of life to my 8 year old laptop.

      Good idea with the virtual machine solution. As long as it's just network connections that are needed it should be simple to do.

  11. rajivdx

    I agree with the author. Not all Windows installations are on 'PC's and not all can be upgraded. We for instance have an advanced DVB broadcast analyser equipment that we purchased 15 years ago for $50,000 - and it runs Windows NT4.0, not even XP. We cannot upgrade it (believe me, we have tried to upgrade to Windows 2000 and failed - we could upgrade the hardware from Pentium III to Pentium 4, but no further as NT did not support it) as new drivers are not available and the manufacturer does not exist anymore. I am sure companies in similar situations like ours will be quite happy to pay Microsoft hundreds (maybe more??) of dollars a year to be able to continue using their expensive & often irreplaceable equipment.

  12. Charles Wolfe

    The article is correct

    I fully agree with the author. XP SP3 does all I need to do including develop complex math, scientific, medical, and related software. Office 2003 is much easier to work with than 2007. With Office 2007 I can add function buttons/icons to the little area given over to the user "toolbar", but I cannot add a critical function to the relevant section of a stupid "tool bar" ribbon. I have old equipment that functions perfectly fine using XP, e.g. a plotter designed for DOS! Why should I throw out perfectly functioning equipment because MS decides not to support the OS anymore or e.g. drop support for tape backup? My industrial sewing machine is about 40 years old and was bought used. It is still supported by the repair community and parts can still be had; same for my 1968 GMC pickup truck.

    Before continuing, I propose a law for software vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle and IBM modeled after the law pertaining to automobile and truck manufacturers, at least in the U.S. They must support a vehicle for 10 years after "release" date. I propose software companies must support for 20 years, roughly the "average" lifetime of industrial equipment. If I buy a "turn-key" system for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, I don't want it made worthless by an action of the OS supplier -- hey, if MS goes "belly up". tomorrow is any of their code in escrow so someone could at least give us a graceful exit from MS's world?

    Since I grew up in the era of mainframe and mini computers, the concept that all OS and related software is leased and there is a cost for most support, the idea of paying MS a reasonable fee (from my perspective, not necessarily Microsoft's) is not repugnant. I prefer that to having to do anything in the "cloud". I have 45 years dealing with computer security issues. Keeping a private time-share network with "umpteen" terminals attached via hard wire, phone lines and microwave secure was difficult enough. Having my programs and data in the hands of a 3rd party who could disappear at any time for any reason is wholly unthinkable. Suppose AMAZON decides to get out of the "cloud" business and just shuts it down? What if some day MS decides "Office in the Cloud" was a bad idea, not unlike "Bob" or, as described in other comments, Flight Simulator, what happens?

    I can update my laptop to Vista easily because I "downgraded" to XP (but Vista!). I can still get an OEM Win 7 for our 2 desktop machines. I'd much rather Microsoft just made a good, reliable product and made actual market driven improvements to it (e.g. improved security) rather than wasting so much of our time and grabbing our money for software that has truly become mostly sugar and very little protein. I know a number of Ph.D. former employees of MS. Why former? Because they got tired of being paid to do good work that was thrown out by marketing or some other idiot bureaucrat.

    I've gone on long enough ...

  13. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Wrong economics

    The question is not 'what cost should XP support be to give Microsoft equivalent profits to upgrading to Windows 8'. The real question is 'How desperate is the customer'. In this example, replacing the equipment would cost $7 million, so the desperation is $6.9 million divided by the expected life time of the new equipment - say 20 years. That makes an annual fee of $345,000. Putting up the prices, reducing salaries,mortgaging the site and giving 100% of the profits to Microsoft should be enough. As a side benefit, no profit means no taxes!

    According to http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/03/20/doh_microsoft_nhs_one_year_xp_deal/ the NHS is desperate enough to pay £30-40 million and "Microsoft’s list price for custom support is $200 per PC in the first year of a support deal, $400 for year two, and $800 for year three". I got burned like this 20 years ago, and ever since my rule has been 'No source code, no sale'.

    1. RobHib

      @ Flocke Kroes -- Re: Wrong economics

      The issues you raise further strengthen my conviction that Microsoft's ability to rule the roost is on the wane. For starters, the novelty of computers is long well over, now the old excuse 'the computer is down' no longer cuts it.

      We now live in a much more computer-literate and pragmatic world where the B/S and hype Microsoft used to use when Windows first saw the light of day is no longer believed. I'm not sure what that ultimately means for users but I'd reckon MS will have to do considerable rethinking.

      If I had a choice then I'd like to see at least one other company producing Win32/64 API compatible O/S products in competition with Microsoft. This, I'd reckon, would bring much needed innovation to the O/S market.

      Unfortunately, there's nothing on the horizon that would fulfill this wish of which I'm aware.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: @ Flocke Kroes -- Wrong economics

        RobHib, yes we live in a more computer-literate world, but one in which almost nobody actually knows how to fix their computer problems. Sure, my 5-year-old can use my tablet pretty successfully, but tablets are toys and hopelessly inadequate for most types of work. (Much as I love my tablet, and I do sometimes do work on it, it's not a patch on a "proper" computer.)

        So, a Win32/64 API in a 3rd-party OS? You mean WINE then? Or a better example would be OS/2. Which company is going to step forward and rebuild the entire Windows API from the reference manuals? I have no doubt it could be done - it's "just" a bigger version of the Compaq IBM-compatible BIOS project - but it's a hell of a big (and expensive) project. And then as a user of Windows software, what would you do? Buy Windows or Otherdows? See how that worked out for IBM OS/2. A better DOS than DOS, a better Windows than Windows - the thing is it really was (in my experience), but that didn't cut it when you could just buy Windows instead.

        And yes, everyone thought I was mental for running OS/2 v3 on my own PC.

        1. RobHib

          @defiler -- Re: @ Flocke Kroes -- Wrong economics

          I'll reply to the easy bits first. The reasons why few know how to fix their computer problems is hobbyhorse of mine and the explanation is long and complex, it'll have to wait for a moment.

          So, a Win32/64 API in a 3rd-party OS? You mean WINE then?

          No, that didn't occur to me at all, although it's solution I actually use. What I had in mind was some commercial operation that built a clone of Windows using all known (published and unpublished but known) Win32/64 APIs.

          It hadn't occurred to me but an enormous hack of OS/2 might suffice. I had something more like ReactOS in mind but developed to work (the opposite of dead-in-the-water ReactOS). BTW, ReactOS does incorporate parts of Wine (which seems to make sense).

          The concept, as you rightly imply, is wishful thinking. I know of no company who'd develop the Windows API from scratch. However, despite my derogatory comments about ReactOS, its tiny development team has gotten the OS to the point were it actually runs MS Office and some other well known programs, thus developing the Win 32/64 API can actually be done from scratch.

          BTW, before I go further, I need to declare my past. I was an avid OS/2 user from v1 to Warp and I actively resisted moving to Windows until the inevitable struck. Likewise, everyone thought I was mental for running OS/2. There was a group of us OS/2 diehards who were regularly laughed at by the 'un-knowledgeable' but that made us only more determined to continue using it. Also, the way Bill and cronies purloined the OS/2 code for NT only irritated and made us more determined. I still have Xearth on my desktop albeit the Windows version 1.2. I first tried Xearth on OS/2 (rather than UNIX from which it had been originally ported). Xearth is showing its age now and I wish someone would update it. At one time I even looked into doing it myself.

          And what would I do if 'Otherdows' became a reality? Depends on the application, it's unlikely I'd recommend it to anyone who'd need PC hand-holding, but if it worked I'd deploy it in various areas, especially in places that wouldn't justify buying a full Windows (e,g,: old PC boxes that otherwise might be discarded). It depend on how well it worked really. If it was really solid and essentially compatible for most things except say DLLs and EXEs that actually were a part of Windows, then MS would never get another look-in.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: @ Flocke Kroes -- Wrong economics

        "If I had a choice then I'd like to see at least one other company producing Win32/64 API compatible O/S products"

        Perhaps it is time for The Open Group to update POSIX and add a Win32/64 addemndum...

  14. Mark 85 Silver badge

    XP --> Win7-->???

    Interesting points raised in the article. So XP will be around for quite awhile, though unsupported. Will MS seek those machines out and hit them with fees for unlicensed software? Once upon a time, there was legacy involved... the OS needed to be backwards compatible with older apps that business had. Since the Vista Follies, MS has seemed more interested in pushing out whatever they feel like

    MS has no regard for those businesses that need to keep records for X number of years due to government mandate. To upgrade an OS or software without providing legacy support should be corporate suicide for them. We had 10 PC's with Win 3.11 because the data that needed to be maintained due to government regs couldn't be used the newer OS's. The app was locked into the original OS for many reasons, the biggest being the app company was bought out and then their product line dumped by a bigger company. The kicker was that periodically our PC's and OS's were audited and MS raised holy hell about those 10 Win3.11 boxes. They demanded we upgrade at a huge cost. We finally just hid those PC's in the back room and waited for the government reg timelimit to runout.

    1. Lapun Mankimasta

      Re: XP --> Win7-->???

      for is it not written, "Pan-Am is the Microsoft of these times"? And also, "What Microsoft was to your grandchildren, Pan-Am will be to your fathers"?

  15. Change can be good

    WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

    Get the most worth out of your PC ass long as it works well.

    How to Break free from the cycle of Planned Obsolesce?!!??

    Stay safe with Linux.

    There is a very good chance Linux OS will run well with older hardware with lower specs

    Switch to the free, safe, secure & awesome OS: www.ubuntu.com/download

    Its the worlds most popular free OS. It has free upgrades & security updates. It has a free office suite, LibreOffice that comes standard along with other great apps/programs.

    For those who like the Windows look, I would recommend: www.kubuntu.com & for older computer with lower specs www.xubuntu.com or http://lubuntu.net

    Or try Linux Mint: http://linuxmint.com

    Because the Linux option is free & now so easy (user friendly) one must give it a try. You have so much to gain.

    Lots of people give their time, effort & money to make these great products that they just give the world for free. So they may not have the huge ad budgets & would need users like us to spread the word. Although its free, you are welcome to donate if you like the software.

    For those worried about Office 2003 support ending try LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

    Time to check out the free, safe, secure & feature-packed LibreOffice. Its truly multi-platform & takes just a few minutes & clicks to install.

    Try it now you have so much to gain: www.libreoffice.org/download

    Thunderbird is safe as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

      Sadly, for a lot of users the answer to XP support is most certainly not Ubuntu/Kubuntu or Mint.

      These people know XP. Put them in front of the brown turd that is Ubuntu and they will run a mile.

      Can Ubuntu control a lathe? Nah, I doubt it.

      Come back to planet earth and get a dose of reality.

      Although I'm a supporter of Linux and have been using it since Slackware 1.1 came out on Floppies I know that simply preaching the Ubuntu mantra won't work. The answer to life, the universe and everything is not Ubuntu (or anything from Canonical for that matter).

      When Canonical started Unity the problems ahead were plain to see so I hauled up the white flag and moved to CentOS and Open SUSE. Sure I could have moved for Debian but as I was working more and more with RHEL, it just made sense to go that route.

      There is life outside Linux and more importantly, outside Ubuntu. Once upone a time it was a good option but recent releases are just not cutting it anymore. I am not alone in that realisation. Many of my friends have moved to Debian bacause of the bad quality of the Ubuntu releases.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

        "Can Ubuntu control a lathe?"

        Yes, it can.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

          Sure, even MS DOS can, guess Linux can do it as well. The problem is nobody cared to use it to do it...

        2. RobHib

          @hplasm - - Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

          Right, Ubuntu, Windows, QNX etc., etc. all can control a lathe.

          However, as I've said elsewhere, what happens in practice often turns out to be just implementing the prosaic. Technically better/more sophisticated/more secure systems are regularly passed over simply because there's more Windows programmers available and such.

          That's the realistic fact of life in a modern IT environments, like it or not.

          For example, I'd love to replace all our versions of Windows with an alternative Win-32 compatible API O/S but there's no alternatives available (other than say the free Windows clone ReactOS which is so flaky and its development so uncertain that one wouldn't be in one's right mind to even consider it.)

    2. king of foo

      Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

      "Um, but the helldesk only know how to use/fix windows...

      And we spent £££££££s recruiting and training microsofties."

      "I know, but its crap"

      "I don't care if its crap. We're going to keep throwing good money after bad because its too difficult to change"

      "The users really won't notice. Look, there's a start button and everything"

      "I don't care. They know how to use windows and office"

      "But you're talking about XP and office 2003. It's all changed. It will actually be an easier transition to gnu/Linux"

      "Oh shut up. I don't want to listen. Can't you just lie to me and try to rip me off instead?"

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

      Its the worlds most popular free OS

      I think that would actually be Android… (Linux kernel I know).

      I think people will try some of the Linuxes simply because Windows 8 is such a change that they might as well try something completely different. Going to help a friend evaluate at the weekend: 6 year old laptop with XP and only 256 MB. Bankix + browser + mailer + OpenOffice might be sufficient.

      But you still get downvoted for spouting.

      1. frank ly

        Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

        @ Charlie Clark

        If it's only 6 years old, can't you give it more memory?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

          @frank ly - that will be assessed - would allow Linux to have a Windows XP for the couple of programs that are needed - Basecamp for a Garmin GPS, or even Windows 7, which I think is a fine OS even if I prefer Mac OS. It's currently dog slow because of swapping stuff in and out of memory. It's not my machine so it won't be my decision.

          In any case, forcing Windows 8 down people's throats is the best opportunity that Microsoft's competitors have had for years. But rather than a surge in Linux users (thanks to volume licensing most computers will have a paid for Windows 8 licence so MS won't really care what OS they run), I suspect it's just driving consumers towards (non-MS) tablets.

          This somehow has a Android (x86) notebook with Windows VM opportunity written all over it.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

      "stay safe with Linux"

      Which Linux distribution has been supported fro thirteen years? And Linux is not famous at all for backward compatibility - it you have software written for an old release of Linux and not mantained by anybody, there's a good chance it won't work on a newer release.

      Here the main issue is not the software is not working with 7, it's 7 no longer support a really outdated protocol like NetBEUI. It would have happened if they had used AppleTalk as well, being the latter no longer supported by OS X since 2009. Just, nobody used expensive Macs to run industrial equipements.

      "There is a very good chance Linux OS will run well with older hardware with lower specs"

      And there's also a very good chance it won't run with newer hardware with higher specs (just being hit by Debian 7 not supporting Dell PCIe SSD disks...)

      1. Anonymous Bullard

        Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

        While I don't agree that Linux should be used by everyone to replace XP, I feel it's the duty of the community to improve the community and dampen the FUD.

        Which Linux distribution has been supported fro thirteen years?

        Debian, Slackware, SuSE, and RedHat have been going for 20ish years. That's not what you meant? Well, then there's the distros who use a "rolling release" upgrade system (like arch).. where the OS is constantly patched, with no "major upgrade" song and dance. Majority of software installed on the system is also updated, by the way - not just the OS.

        And Linux is not famous at all for backward compatibility - it you have software written for an old release of Linux and not mantained by anybody, there's a good chance it won't work on a newer release

        It's not famous for it because it's never been an issue, either way. Do you have any links to this, or is it just a hunch of yours? Any personal experience? FUD that you've read?

        The beauty of Linux is, if there's a peice of old software that doesn't work with a newer system.. you can update it (or hire someone to). Usually, it's just a case of a re-compile.. perhaps bring in older versions of its dependencies. If it's something that people actually use (even if the original author has abandoned it), there's a good chance it is still maintained.

        In the Windows.. could I say the same about pre-Corel Paint Shop Pro? I would love it to work well with Win8. VB6... plenty of love/demand for that, still - but the author isn't interested. WinAmp? Wink? Intranets that require IE<8?

        I tend not to use Linux on the desktop, mostly due to lock-in.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

          "Debian, Slackware, SuSE, and RedHat have been going for 20ish years" Well, Windows is much older. But which *release* has been supported for thirteen years? Is Debian 5 still supported, for example? Earlier versions?

          "Any personal experience? FUD that you've read?"

          Sure, we ported our software from Debian 5 and 6 to Debian 7 in the past months. While I have Windows software written for Windows 2003 that works without issues with Windows 2012R2 - just install it, software written for Debian 5 needs work to be updated/recompiled for Debian 7 - or it doesn't work.

          "The beauty of Linux is, if there's a peice of old software that doesn't work with a newer system.. you can update it (or hire someone to)"

          The beauty, or the nightmare. If software is no longer mantained you are in deep waters - not everybody is a programmer able to mantain code, or can find one doing it - and you may not have the source code at all.

          And, believe me, any software that doesn't run under 7 or 8 is software that would have not run even under XP if you ever tried to log in with a non-administrator account. Windows development guidelines are something most "developers" never took care to read and understand, and filled the world with crappy software, just to blame Windows when their bad written software have issues because they're no longer allowed to write everywhere in the filesystem or something alike.

          Anyway I upgrade my software every four-five years at most, thereby I've no really issue with very old versions not running on latest OSes, although I see PSP8 running under 7 without issues, although I no longer upgraded it since X3 because it became too crappy and switched to Lightroom/Photoshop. BTW even older versions of Photoshop works under 8.1 with no issues.

          Intranets that requires IE < 8? Install IE 11, press F12 select the desired document mode, and user agent string. So easy.... maybe if some of you takes some time to learn what's new in 7, 8, IE11... instead of just spending time spreading as much FUD as you can in forums about Windows...

          1. Anonymous Bullard

            Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

            Windows is much older. But which *release* has been supported for thirteen years? Is Debian 5 still supported, for example? Earlier versions?

            Allow me to quote what you didn't: "then there's the distros who use a "rolling release" upgrade system (like arch).. where the OS is constantly patched, with no "major upgrade" song and dance."

            Plus, the upgrade isn't difficult at all. Just a single command, then a reboot. Done. No data loss, re-formatting, or re-configuring. I've done it, and it works really well.

            "Any personal experience? FUD that you've read?"

            Sure, we ported our software from Debian 5 and 6 to Debian 7 in the past months. While I have Windows software written for Windows 2003 that works without issues with Windows 2012R2 - just install it, software written for Debian 5 needs work to be updated/recompiled for Debian 7 - or it doesn't work.

            And vice-versa.

            If software is no longer mantained you are in deep waters - not everybody is a programmer able to mantain code, or can find one doing it - and you may not have the source code at all.

            But it is still technically possible to do it, and in the vast majority of cases, you will have the source code. If not, then that's your own fault for comitting to closed-source!

            Windows development guidelines are something most "developers" never took care to read and understand, and filled the world with crappy software, just to blame Windows when their bad written software have issues because they're no longer allowed to write everywhere in the filesystem or something alike.

            But the problem still does exist - whoever's you want to point the finger at. Just like "your developers" who had to port between Debian releases (snigger).

            Anyway I upgrade my software every four-five years at most, thereby I've no really issue with very old versions not running on latest OSes, although I see PSP8 running under 7 without issues

            Honestly, you have to admit it doesn't quite work as well. (although it does run better than the latest versions by Corel!)

            Intranets that requires IE < 8? Install IE 11, press F12 select the desired document mode, and user agent string. So easy....

            Whoopsie.. I don't ask my users to do that. There's the "X-UA-Compatible" (or whatever it is) header that does it for you. But, it doesn't really work. Ask the 1000's of people at work still tied to older IE. I've spent months re-working someone's crappy internal sites to work with modern browsers.

            maybe if some of you takes some time to learn what's new in 7, 8, IE11... instead of just spending time spreading as much FUD as you can in forums about Windows...

            Actually, I love the fact that they're now trying to keep IE up with the times, it makes my job a bit better. My IE-only hacks are decreasing. I wasn't bashing it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: WHY because Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.

            "And, believe me, any software that doesn't run under 7 or 8 is software that would have not run even under XP if you ever tried to log in with a non-administrator account."

            doh! you obviously haven't read the article. as a result, you have completely missed the point...

  16. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Interesting article. I have an ancient laptop that is still soldiering on, and I am tempted to upgrade to win 7, which apparently is possible (and cheap: < 8 quid for me at uni), or failing that to wipe the entire windows partition and do a clean Linux install on the entire disk. Others, as indicated do not necessarily have such an option

  17. king of foo

    no

    I have a feeling most XP PCs will be in offices, not manufacturing. The most used applications on them will be ie6/7 and office XP/2003... and perhaps sage or something that has plugins for office.

    Oh, now add SEP and a web proxy.

    Yay! We are immune from harm! XP end of support? What? Will the PCs still work? Yes? Well what's the problem? La la la la la I'm not listening. Wench, go get me a coffee...

    Please dear God make there be a problem. I want to see these smug ******s in middle management fired for their **** poor decision making. Sometimes you need a flood. A flood with piranha's. And an open sewer main.

    1. John 110
      Joke

      Re: no

      @king of foo "Sometimes you need a flood. A flood with piranha's. And an open sewer main."

      Sharks, surely! (ref: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2724064/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

    2. king of foo

      Re: no

      Ooh! 2 thumbs downs! At least I did something right today if I p'd off a couple of middle managers that also happen to be commentards.

      Sharks would indeed add value. And perhaps some bubble bath.

  18. auburnman

    Liability mentality

    Microsoft will never* reverse course and decide to continue supporting XP for cash. That will keep them on the hook if/when in future a big company gets hacked or loses valuable data and an XP vulnerability can be proven as the root cause. Currently they have a fairly strong defence if this happened, but if they were still making money supporting XP? Lawsuit.

    *Obviously the overpriced support available to big players is an exception to the rule. This is basically keeping big government departments sweet and should be low risk in lawsuit terms as big organisations still widely using XP can safely assumed to be too poorly managed to consider launching lawsuits.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Liability mentality

      > Lawsuit

      I really don't think so. Read through the EULA some time when you have a spare four hours. Microsoft has foresworn any liability that they possibly can, and (from memory) where they can't, the limit of their liability is the price you paid for the software.

  19. Tromos

    One day that lathe will break

    Of those millions of 'must run' XP users, there will be hundreds of drop-outs on a daily basis as the hardware fails or a better solution turns up. The annual subscription goes up. The increased cost makes a few more users look for alternatives. It will soon enough come to an end anyway.

    The only way to give it a really long run would be with a much bigger team actively developing. The users that drop out would be replaced by new users coming on board, hardware failing wouldn't be a problem as the system would now support the newer chipsets (USB3, etc.). If marketed from the outset on a subscription model with upgrades, patches and a commitment to respond to the collective wishes of the users, I can't see why it couldn't keep going for quite a while (except I can't see MS doing this).

  20. hidaraf

    Remember NTbackup?

    I think I remember NTBackup does Not run more than a OS change away.

    So XP--> Vista --> Win 7 --> Win 8 makes at least 3.

    Will it restore?

    Start setting up VMs....

    Oh well , had nothing better for the weekend

  21. MisterBombastic

    You can receive patches

    If you've got a Premier support contact + you pay even more on top of that, XP will remain supported and patched for you. It's just not happening for free anymore, which after 13 years is reasonable I think.

  22. Crisp Silver badge
    Go

    I read as far as the $500k a year development job...

    And immediately started updating my CV

    1. janimal

      Re: I read as far as the $500k a year development job...

      Indeed as a Soft Eng myself I couldn't help wondering what I've been doing wrong all this time. Trevor's manpower and cost estimates are way, way out there.

      Although I have been out of the industry for a little while, my estimate would be more like 10-20 developers @ 80 - 120k ($). In reality they wouldn't even need to be exclusively developing for XP support either.

      MS costs for continued security updates for XP would barely be noticeable in their accounts. Just a couple of weeks salary for one of the top execs. :/

      1. Don Dumb

        Re: I read as far as the $500k a year development job...

        @janimal - Trevor's manpower and cost estimates are way, way out there.

        I think that was the deliberate aim of Trevor's calculations -

        as he needs to make some (big) assumptions, it makes sense to underestimate the amount Microsoft could make from support and overestimate the cost of providing it (including wages). As it is clearly finanically viable under these assumptions then it really is fair to say that it would be profitable and viable proposition.

  23. jason 7 Silver badge

    So does OSX and Linux...

    ...provide eternal support?

    Do they still provide updates and support for software they churned out well over 10 years ago?

    Just asking.

    1. Decade
      Linux

      Re: So does OSX and Linux...

      MacOS X, that is a valid criticism. Apple wants you to replace everything on a regular basis.

      But for Linux, the comparison is not apt. Linux does not have a single support option, because there is not one Linux. There are Mint, and Ubuntu, and Debian, and Red Hat, and Arch, and Slackware, and many others. And there are the non-Linux operating systems. There is less incentive for long-term support of Linux distributions, considering that most people get paid very little for it and release their efforts for free, but if you want very long support there are Red Hat/CentOS and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server.

      And, because Linux and most of the software built on it are free and open source, you have the option of downloading the source code and fixing it or contracting it out yourself. That is inconceivable to a mind trained on Microsoft and Apple technologies. That is why Richard Stallman is right in the long term.

      Also, Microsoft did not intend to be supporting Windows XP for so long. It was a horrible historical accident, due to the exposure of insecurity during the rise of broadband, and due to the extremely poor fit of Windows Vista. Microsoft is not committing to support any other system for more than 10 years and some months.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: So does OSX and Linux...

        AFAIK, no Linux distro is supported for more than five years. Then sure, you can patch it yoursefl (or find someone to do it) if and only if:

        1) You have the skill and resources to do that

        2) You have the source code available.

        The problem with the article is that nor 1) nor 2) is true. Even with Linux, some proprietary tools and hardware may come with binaries only and no source code. The backward compatiblity of Linux is far worse than the Windows one - unless you have source code, can recompile it and fix issue that may arise by libraries and compiler changes... and again you need a good software developer to do it - something not everybody has at hand, especially if he has to work on proprietary hadware he's never seen before.

        Sure, Linux is ok for your websites - but don't believe it's the solution to every IT problem...

        1. jason 7 Silver badge

          Re: So does OSX and Linux...

          So the long and the short of it is...that neither of them have basic/simple long term support in mind for the average joe/business past around 4-5 years.

          Thanks.

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: @LDS

          The "backward compatiblity of Linux" problem is when you change kernel version and some muppet decided, yet again, to change APIs on the basis that they assume all can just re-compile.

          What I said was you can patch a working system for security holes in virtually every case without changing versions. I did not say it was easy, but possible. With MS you have no such ability at all, and given the typical extended support costs they are asking for you could hire a decent programmer just for that job alone.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: @LDS

            "What I said was you can patch a working system for security holes in virtually every case without changing versions"

            Yes, in theory you could. But is it practical? No, it isn't, unless you're a company with the resources and the skills to backport every security fix, and test them, while the old codebase and the new one diverge more and more.

            After all if you pay MS they will still support XP for your, so where's the difference? How much would cost you a developer, or more, and the infrastructure needed to backport and test?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So does OSX and Linux...

          There are rolling distros, that are constantly being patched.

          Also, the upgrade process for any mainstream distro isn't hard, or breaking. It's a single command, or a few clicks.

          But I wouldn't want the masses to start using Linux. Especially when you consider the majority of posters here are the "experts" for Windows.

          I enjoy the exclusivity. I wish Linux advocates (who do mean well) would pipe down about it, sometimes.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: So does OSX and Linux...

            Also, the upgrade process for any mainstream distro isn't hard, or breaking. It's a single command, or a few clicks.

            I remember chatting at conference last year with a hardcore developer (his day job is helping OEMs port Android to their ever-changing hardware). He's used Ubuntu for years but had swapped it for MacOS because the updates continually broke stuff. It's not that he couldn't patch it or even fix it himself but that he couldn't stand the time it was taking him to do this all the time.

            1. Mike Pellatt

              Re: So does OSX and Linux...

              He's used Ubuntu for years but had swapped it for MacOS because the updates continually broke stuff

              That's the price you pay for using a distro that "is never more than six months away from the latest version of anything in the open-source world." (http://www.ubuntu.com/about/about-ubuntu/ubuntu-and-debian). It's too bleeding-edge for stability - if you want that, use RedHat/Centos or Debian.

              Horses for courses, old chap.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: So does OSX and Linux...

      Not as such, but with Linux you have the code and the patches and if it matters enough find someone who can patch things and also there is an incentive to share that.

      In most cases it is stuff that MS has dropped that makes upgrading a pain, along with DRM-like stuff that rejects old drivers that are not signed, etc.

      But really for most XP-dependants the road now is likely to be one of auditing what they do, why, and how to isolate them from t'Internet and then moving all web/email/exposed stuff to newer, more secure, machines.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So does OSX and Linux...

      "Do they still provide updates and support for software they churned out well over 10 years ago?"

      Yes, and if "they" didn't, someone else would... or "you" can do it yourself, if it's critical.

  24. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Peasy

    Remove all admin rights and install SteadyState.

  25. Decade
    FAIL

    Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

    This type of thinking would so be foreign in Microsoft's earlier days. After all, Windows 3.1 came out in 1992, and nobody was calling for it to be supported in 2005, 13 years after it was released. Granted, Windows XP compares much better against Windows 8 than Windows 3.1 compared against Windows XP.

    Keeping XP alive is bad for Microsoft. It means that Microsoft has lost control of the Windows APIs. As HiDPI screens finally appear, Microsoft needs programmers to switch to APIs that work well with these displays. Otherwise, people have a horrible experience and continue switching to tablets running Android or iOS.

    Keeping XP alive is bad for the Internet. Besides the obvious security issues and botnet zombies, XP sucks at IPv6 and web standards. XP also never will support exFAT, and will gradually lose the ability to run newer hardware, as the drivers are written for newer versions of Windows.

    Keeping XP alive is even bad for the people who use it. Industrial equipment requires Windows XP? That's so your industry's fault for tolerating proprietary drivers. Everything should have been open, so you could drive it with whatever operating system exists in 20 years. Do you expect a PC platform to last for 20 years? That's insane. 20 years ago, Intel's latest processor was the 100 MHz Pentium, running in a Socket 7 motherboard with maybe 4 32-bit PCI slots, some ISA slots, and IEEE 1284 parallel port and RS-232 serial ports. It's now hard to find a PC with any of these interfaces, though you can get cards and adapters for everything except for the ISA slot. It's best to think of the junky Windows XP box as part of the otherwise fancy machine, and woe will befall you when the weakest, least replaceable part finally fails.

    Using Windows indefinitely is a horrible idea. It needs contact with Microsoft to be officially activated, which means it requires Microsoft to keep their activation systems running. Microsoft will do so for now, but the day could come when your system fails, and you fix it somehow, but that triggers a reactivation, and Microsoft's servers could have stopped responding. It's better to use a system that doesn't require activation in the first place.

    1. John 110
      FAIL

      Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

      "That's so your industry's fault for tolerating proprietary drivers. Everything should have been open, so you could drive it with whatever operating system exists in 20 years. Do you expect a PC platform to last for 20 years? That's insane."

      Meanwhile, out here in the real world....

      1. Decade
        FAIL

        Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

        "'Do you expect a PC platform to last for 20 years? That's insane.'

        Meanwhile, out here in the real world...."

        ...decisions are made by insane people with money?

        Well, "ignorant" might be more charitable, but there's only so much charity I can tolerate.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re:@Decade

          You are right that Windows was a bad choice of platform for so many reasons, but usually the decision is based on what is cheap & practical now, with the presumption that product development and support will continue so upgrades to newer hardware/OS are thus managed.

          In practice companies fail, get bought over, or otherwise decide to orphan products so support stops but lots of users have business-critical stuff that is no longer upgradable when the OS, like Windows, drops aspects of backwards-compatibility (often for other good reasons, like security).

          Sadly short of an open source system, you are stuck making the best of what you have, not what you wanted.

          More recent MS OS with product activation checks are even worse and should never be used. But they will, because some green programmer only knows that way and all problems look like nails...

          But retuning to one of your gripes, that of PC hardware, what other computer platform has been more-or-less supported for 20 years? It is far from ideal, but a longer supported choice is hard to find.

          1. Decade

            Re:@Paul Crawford

            "What other computer platform has been more-or-less supported for 20 years?"

            Well, the MC6800 series is still represented by the HC08 family of processors. That's more than 30 years now.

            I don't think the computing platform should be part of the device. The interface should have open specifications, so whatever platform in the future could be adapted to drive it. For example, the best replacement for the Commodore 64 disk drive might be a flash memory adapter, not an exact replica of the original disk drive with all its original problems.

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Paul Crawford

              The MC6800 series is a CPU, not a computer platform, i.e. not a standardised board with "computer" (CPU, RAM, boot loader, etc) and expansion slots for extra interfaces & custom cards.

              Most equipment designers want to concentrate on the "added value" they provide, which is the custom part, and not to have to develop the computer/boot loader/networking/etc.

              That was why the original IBM-AT was so attractive - you got a functioning stand-along computer, along with plenty of development tools, and documented hardware that made it easy to build a special ISA card for whatever custom job you needed done.

              The transition to Windows made that harder but safer (Linux is marginally easier as you can see most device driver's code to copy & adapt, but neither as simple nor dangerous as DOS' direct-to-hardware approach), and PCI is far more complex to implement (even with a cots chip or IP core), but the same basics apply: a PC is still a cheap, easy and longest lasting platform to develop for compared to any other I can think of.

    2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

      Motherboards with ISA slots are still available - too much specialized equipment depends on ISA interface boards so there is still a market that the hardware makers are prepared to fill. (Even ones with the H81 chipset for LGA1150 CPUs - see www.dfi.com.tw/news/NewsDetails.jsp;jsessionid=C6F2FBF5001AA7ED6BFBEDAFC3C0C58B.node1?press=3764&pressName=HD620-H81_Haswell_4th-Gen-2.html for example.)

      Unlike M$ the hardware makers are prepared to support old standards as long as there are customers willing to pay. (For people stuck on XP you can still even get new ISA motherboards with socket 775 !!!!)

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

        Here are some ISA motherboards:

        http://www.bressner.co.uk/isa-motherboards

        If you need more then various 19" rack mount PCs support ISA / PCI mixes.

        We still have ISA cards with DOS control software, but now running in dosemu on Linux (which allows selective control of direct hardware access).

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

      "As HiDPI screens finally appear, Microsoft needs programmers to switch to APIs that work well with these displays."

      Actually no. Programmers don't need to use new APIs at all. If you followed the guidelines laid down 30 years ago in the Book of Petzold, using GetSystemMetrics() and the like, the only thing stopping your XP application from scaling perfectly on a Hi-DPI system is the fact that later versions of Windows deliberately lie to you when you call these APIs. The "fix" is for you to recompile your application with a manifest containing GUIDs that were only published in the years after Vista was released.

      1. RobHib
        Flame

        @Ken Hagan -- Re: Keeping Windows XP alive is not good for anyone

        "the only thing stopping your XP application from scaling perfectly on a Hi-DPI system is the fact that later versions of Windows deliberately lie to you when you call these APIs."

        This nonsense is so infuriating that I'm surprised there hasn't been more uproar over it. Why does Microsoft continue to do this?

        This sort of imprecision has permeated throughout Windows for years, take Explorer's 'size' display which rounds to the nearest 1k. When you have say an autorun.inf file that's only 33 bytes and Explorer shows it as 1k it's BOTH infuriating and time consuming. What is even more annoying is that one cannot increase Explorer's precision with say a switch or in the options setting. Don't the patronising bastards who did this realise that for many technical users the difference between 33 bytes and 1k byte is actually important?

        Perhaps I'm just too old fashioned for this postmodernist age where nothing is absolute and striving for truth and accuracy is seen as outdated and a waste of time. I was schooled in old fashioned engineering where integrity and accuracy are important axioms in one's work. For example let me illustrate this with a case from my past:

        Job was a weighing plant involving multiple strain gauges. [Figures aren't gospel as they're from memory.] I check the accuracy and resolution of the gauges and the spec says the accuracy is ±0.03kg and the limiting resolution ±0.005kg. Ok fine, we need a digital readout that indicates three decimal places at most (if truthful, only two). And if marketing insists then I wouldn't put up a huge fight over including a 4th digit (but I would insist it was masked a different colour).

        Now the software programmer insisted that we add two more digits because his calculations were to 6 decimal places. My advice was ignored; so, in practice, the poor hapless customer got a machine that he thought was far more accurate that it really was (even if the true accuracy was specified in the fine print of the manual).

        With no amount of arguing could I convince this software guy that actually displaying the last two digits in the machine's LED display was both misleading and deceptive.

        [I know what follows is a generalisation but I've seen too many similar examples to that above for it not to have some validity, moreover we've many examples of Microsoft doing it, albeit here decreasing accuracy.]

        What is it about software programmers that allows them to so willingly accept such practices--that of playing lose with reality? There was nothing in my software training that explains it except accuracy and rounding weren't given the priority they were in engineering. It seems to me that actual hands-on contact with physical reality imbibes an understanding that somehow evades those who only see it through the screen and keyboard.

        As we've seen, Microsoft has been guilty of this 'precision crime' for many years. What I find very troubling is that so few users actually consider the issue important. Perhaps it's me and my stuffy old training which no longer has any relevance in the modern slap-dash world.

        (Nevertheless, as I write this, my formal logic training is screaming out that "I must be losing control of my senses to even contemplate the previous sentence".)

  26. CadentOrange

    $500k per year to work on XP?

    As a developer, sign me up! Even assuming that I get only half of that as the rest go on overheads and employer taxes, that's a stupidly good deal. Few software engineers in the UK outside of high frequency traders are paid that much.

  27. Vince

    "What if Microsoft announced it's not ending support for Windows XP next Tuesday after all, and instead will offer perpetual updates"

    I for one would be angry and cry. Windows XP is outdated, and just not fit for modern purpose. The effort to make most things work outweighs the benefit, many apps would be crippled by being restricted to 32-bit (more and more *need* 64-bit to function).

    XP sucks, it has had its day, and needs to be put out to pasture now.

    Do you think Apple should still be supporting the OS available on the Powerbook G4 too? No - why should Ms be supporting something on such ancient in technology terms hardware? It's so old, it hurts. Literally hurts.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      32/64 bit

      You're missing the point. If you're (the generic you) are developing some app, then by all means do so in 64 bit. Those needing to keep XP around do not, as a rule, have the need to run the newest whizziest programs on those machines; they do so because they're unable to upgrade, the reasons for which have been given in the article and several replies.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Updates

      OS X newer versions and Linux newer versions at least usually have some sense.

      Vista (& Win 7 SP for it) and Win8 are not upgrades. They are just awkward and don't fix annoying GUI bugs in Explorer also add new GUI bugs.

      Wine + Mint for new HW and the olde HW will keep running CP/M, DOS, WinForWorkgroups 3.11, Win 98SEWin2K and XP.

      Much as I dislike Win2K, I found I could get some newer XP stuff to run on it and all the old NT4.0 stuff to work, so the laptop once with Dos/Win3.11/Win98/NT4.0/Win2K and Red Hat Linux only has DOS,WFWG3.11, win98, Win2K (using NT's boot ini). Mint and XP are on two other laptops.

      One PC with XP and Satellite cards, two as servers with different Linux distros. We had NT4.0 servers for about 10 years and a short dalliance with Server 2000 and Server2003 before moving all the data to Debian.

      I have also a dedicated CP/M and DOS machines "archived" in the attic. Dosbox isn't suitable for some old HW.

      Some fancy expensive ISA HW I have I managed to get the 3.1 driver to run on Win98SE (no modern version).

      This isn't a new problem. There was not this "panic" response from MS at previous EOL.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "many apps would be crippled by being restricted to 32-bit (more and more *need* 64-bit to function)."

      Christ on a fucking bike, mate! What are you smoking?

      Outside of database servers, video editing and weather forecasting, hardly anything is *crippled* by being squeezed into 2GB of working memory.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Windows XP is outdated, and just not fit for modern purpose"

      What's your definition of "modern purpose", and how doesn't XP fit it?

  28. billium

    Get the Facts

    Microsoft Windows has short limited lifetime.

    "Amazing new technologies were pouring out of Microsoft, and Redmond appeared to be listening to its customers." :D

  29. paulmilbank

    Meh

    storm, meet teacup.

    Software vendors don't and can't support software forever.

    Virtualise, airgap, and screen off XP machines if they are going to be expected to do this for a long time to come. It is up to smart IT staff to provide solutions for customers like these, just blaming Microsoft is not good enough. There are ways to maintain these machines that do not rely on MS patching them forever.

    Millions of PowerPC computers are out in the cold due to Apple no longer supporting them. Hell, Snow Lion is less than 5 years old an is no longer supported. something like 1 in 5 Macs run that.

    Even Linux, the solution to everything, is not supported forever if it is supplied through a vendor.

    Everyones favorite cloud superpower Google retires more products than you can shake a stick. Lets also not forget that they are slowly supporting less and less of AOSP in favour of closed source in house development.

    XP has had a good run and Microsoft are not evil for putting it out to pasture. Even if it was supported for 20 years, someone would have software coming up on 21 years of service and grumbling about darn Microsoft ripping them off.

  30. paulmilbank

    Meh

    storm, meet teacup.

    Software vendors don't and can't support software forever.

    Virtualise, airgap, and screen off XP machines if they are going to be expected to do this for a long time to come. It is up to smart IT staff to provide solutions for customers like these, just blaming Microsoft is not good enough. There are ways to maintain these machines that do not rely on MS patching them forever.

    Millions of PowerPC computers are out in the cold due to Apple no longer supporting them. Hell, Snow Lion is less than 5 years old an is no longer supported. something like 1 in 5 Macs run that.

    Even Linux, the solution to everything, is not supported forever if it is supplied through a vendor.

    Everyones favorite cloud superpower Google retires more products than you can shake a stick. Lets also not forget that they are slowly supporting less and less of AOSP in favour of closed source in house development.

    XP has had a good run and Microsoft are not evil for putting it out to pasture. Even if it was supported for 20 years, someone would have software or hardware coming up on 21 years of service and grumbling about darn Microsoft ripping them off.

    1. RobHib

      paulmilbank - - Re: Meh

      Support, whilst important, isn't the primary issue. Rather it's why so many are still using XP and have the need to so do.

  31. Rob Moss

    Not quite true...

    ...why not just run the application through Windows XP Mode on Windows 7? Okay, so Windows XP Mode support dies off at the same time as Windows XP support, but that doesn't mean that you have to spend 100% of your time in an unsupported environment.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Not quite true...

      Or use a VM of XP on any OS of choice, more flexible.

      But neither deals with XP in interface applications where it has to deal with custom hardware cards.

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Not quite true...

        > Or use a VM of XP on any OS of choice, more flexible.

        I expect the machines that were running XP on the hardware probably don't have enough horsepower and resources to run a hosted XP in another OS (remember, you can't throw extra memory at a system that can't physically support it). So it goes back to the issue of the cost of new hardware.

        However, if you are going with new HW, I think VirtualBox supports parallel port passthrough. I know it supports PCI passthrough, I don't know if that includes ISA as well. You still *can* get motherboards with ISA slots for just this sort of application.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 7's days are also numbered

    I noticed with horror that Windows 7 has also been dropped from my Action Pack Subscription. Microsoft really do not want Windows 7 as the defacto standard for business.

    Like many on these forums, I find the dual interfaces for Windows 8 are just annoying and so I recommend my clients use Windows 7 as the best workable alternative, especially as most PC suppliers are still making it their default OS for new builds.

    So just as many are stumbling with Microsoft pulling the XP rug from under their feet, prepare to fall again as Windows 7 gets tugged.

    You have been warned!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not only Microsoft

    Not too long ago, I had to hoist the Jolly Roger and download a long past version of CADKEY for a local machine shop. They had picked up a bargain CNC milling machine only to discover it required an outdated version of CADKEY which Kubotek refused to sell. Kubotek wanted to sell the latest version which wouldn't talk to the old equipment.

    What companies like Microsoft and Kubotek forget is that when their software is used to power industrial equipment, it is not unusual for these machines to be in service for as long as 30 years. In some regards, this is the fault of the equipment manufacturers who want to sell new machinery and existing customers be damned. In any case, there is money to be made supporting the old equipment if the equipment manufacturers and software companies would do so.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: It's not only Microsoft

      But is this an MS fault? There's XP embedded for such systems, not plain XP. There are other industrial OSes available. The issue here is not they use Windows XP, the issue is they use NetBEUI instead of TCP/IP. Even if they had used some protocol over a serial link (RS-422), they would have no problem upgrading the OS. Instead they choose to use a protocol that was already obsolete because they didn't want/know to use a serial link or add TCP/IP to DOS.

      If someone chose the wrong tool for the job, who's to blame? I guess there's also a lot of industrial handheld devices out there using PalmOS, Windows Mobile, and other mobile OSes... they're being replaced by Android ones, why nobody complains? I had to buy USB-serial adapters because some networking devices requires to be able to connect through a serial port if you can't access them via network, why nobody complains that most shiny new laptops have no more serial ports? Or maybe we should blame MS for this also?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: It's not only Microsoft

        >"I guess there's also a lot of industrial handheld devices out there using PalmOS,"

        Yes a client has a system based on Symbol/Palm barcode scanners (dates from circa 2000), due to their diminishing spares holdings they are now looking at replacement. Unfortunately I've yet to identify a candidate replacement end user device platform consisting of palm with docking/charging/modem station - it seems that whilst the technology is much more capable, in terms of usable functionality it has taken a major step backwards...

        Provided I can satisfy the fundamental business requirements at a reasonable price, no one will complain what platform I select... Obviously the client would like to simply replace old Symbol/Palm devices with new, unfortunately Symbol stopped selling these back in 2007...

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: It's not only Microsoft

          > Yes a client has a system based on Symbol/Palm barcode scanners (dates from circa

          > 2000), due to their diminishing spares holdings they are now looking at replacement.

          It's a severe limitation of iOS and Android that they have no provision for ***LOCAL*** synchronization, the way PalmOS did. To me this is a severe step backwards, and none of the current mobile solutions can approach the functionality of PalmOS. It seems it could be a simple enough patch to add a PalmOS-compatible sync stack to Android, but I'm sure Google & friends would resist taht with every fibre if their being.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even with the authors deliberate overestimations for cost of support to Microsoft, and underestimation of the size of the problem, it still showed it would be profitable, in isolation of the rest of the Microsoft business, to keep supporting XP.

    The main problem not discussed here is 'rest of the Microsoft business'. Microsoft's revenue is built on selling shiny new toys, but to get those new toys, you have to buy shiny new platforms as well.

    If they prop up XP as a viable o/s, how will they force users and business to keep sending them revenue for shiny new things.

    I'm the biggest fan of driving out obsolesce and aged kit, as supporting newer o/s and hardware is preferable from a stability and functionality perspective. However, when you see them gouging the NHS for £40 million for a years support and hanging the rest of user community out to dry, then something doesn't feel right with their business model or ethics.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The main problem not discussed here is 'rest of the Microsoft business'

      Good point, lets look at the 'rest of the Microsoft business', I suggest relevant products are those it targets at business/enterprise: BizTalk, SQL-Server, Dynamics etc etc.

      and what do we see, but the same cavalier attitude to support and compatibility... Compare this to IBM and other reputable enterprise vendors who give notice of change, particularly about functionality that will be dropped in a future release...

      "Microsoft's revenue is built on selling shiny new toys"

      No only in the consumer/ 'Home' and micro business space, in the main business/volume space revenues come via Select and other annual volume licensing agreements.

      MS's problems go back to the 90's when they decided to effectively only have one product for both the 'Home' and 'Professional' markets. As we've seen with Windows 8 specifrically, this strategy is now unwinding as they try and produce something "new and fashionable" for the consumer space whilst at the same time trying to keep it's bread and butter enterprise business customers happy.

  35. thx1138v2

    You can bet your bottom dollar that there isn't a programmer at MS right now that _wants_ to work on XP. It's a career dead end. And I imagine MS might be able to find some retired old fogeys like myself that _might_ be willing to work on it but they would be few and far between. So I'm not sure MS could even find the personnel to do this.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      They could send it to a maintenance group in India (if they didn't it already...) and have some lame, cheap developer working on it. That would be the best way to make people upgrade to a later version...

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        RE: They could send it to a maintenance group in India

        I suspect the outcome from the current negotiations between MS and the Chinese government, will be MS opening a Windows support centre in China...

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Hence the cost of $500k per dev...

    3. Tom 13

      re: _wants_ to work on XP. I

      Somewhere there are enough unemployed programmers who will take the job. MS just has to advertise for it.

      Maybe their real fear is if they turn it over to such a group, one of them might be energetic, brilliant, and a born leader who can breathe new life into the old OS. Which could sort of put the kabosh on their corporate road map.

  36. Michael 28
    Coat

    Anyone know the current status of Windows for Warships™????

    Mine's the scuba suit.

  37. bjr

    Have you tried a Virtual Machine

    If the problem was software only then a virtual machine running on Linux is the obvious answer, because NETBEUI is involved you will have to try it to see if the performance is good enough (it probably will be). Because this is a business the choice of Linux distros is simple, You should use a Redhat Enterprise Linux clone like CentOS or Scientific Linux. RHEL is supported for a very long time, 11 years, and it's incredibly stable, it just doesn't break. If you want to clone the existing system you follow the same procedure that you would to create recovery files in case of a disk failure. Using something like Acronis, or any other XP backup tool, to create the recovery files. Then you need to create a fresh KVM virtual machine on your Linux box, there is a very simple GUI to do this with. You should set the MAC IDs on the virtual NICs to be the same as the MAC IDs on the system that you are cloning. After you created the VM you should attach the ISOs of your recovery disks as virtual CDROMs. Then boot the VM and follow exactly the same procedure that you would if you were restoring to a fresh hard drive in a real PC. Once you are done you can boot the VM and you will have a clone of the original machine. If you have an install CD for XP you could also just create a fresh XP virtual machine.

    Once you have the VM you won't be tied to any particular piece of hardware, you can move a VM anywhere, it's just a file. As long as you make sure that the VM on the new machine is a clone of the original (same MAC IDs, same virtual graphics card), XP won't know that it's been moved. This will allow you to use the system forever even if the PC dies, you can always move it to a new PC. You also won't have to worry about the system becoming corrupted, as long as you keep backups of the VM file you can restore the system. If you keep a copy of the VM on the same PC then you can restore the system in about a minute, all you have to do is rename the backup copy to the primary VM's name and reboot the VM.

    The underlying Linux box won;t be subject to viruses, it will be much more stable than any Windows system. Linux includes SAMBA so it can share directories with the Windows systems on the network, including the XP VM. If someone needs to access the Internet from that box they can do it from Linux so it won't be subject to any malware. I've been using WIndows VMs on Linux since 1999. I've never had a virus on my WIndows VMs, not even when I had a Win98 VM, because the only Internet access I do on the VMs is to a couple of trusted sites like Microsoft and Intuit. I use Linux to access the Internet and it's immune to the malware that's out there including the stuff on sites of a sleazy nature.

    1. Bob Camp

      Re: Have you tried a Virtual Machine

      The VMs can get infected just like a real machine, and the viruses can spread around within the VMs. What difference does it make if the XP machines are infected or virtual XP machines are infected? I can restore an image running XP natively just as easily as copying over an infected VM. Plus you need Linux drivers for all the proprietary equipment, which is a non-starter for many. Not to mention some of us need to use old PCs.

      I have Windows 95 boxes running proprietary ISA cards. We just renewed another 20 year contract using the same equipment. It is connected to the network. Guess what? No viruses the entire time. We have a separate firewall for the entire company that protects it, which includes blacklisting various websites including all online e-mail. Since it's only used to drive the card (which drives several tools), nobody really uses it to surf the Web anyway.

      As long as people are careful, you can continue to use Windows XP.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Have you tried a Virtual Machine

        Proprietary PC hardware is going to come to a head no matter what simply because the hardware and its maker will eventually run out of time. In a situation like that, the only option is to start saving up ahead of time since the day of reckoning is a question of "WHEN", not "IF".

        The idea of using the VM is pretty sound in this case since it means the machine can be upgraded (as needed) without having to lose the XP functionality. It's something that should at least be considered and perhaps planned for by, say, imaging the current machine in a known-good state and recording important details such as IPs and MACs. It at least opens a migration path that is not possible directly, and the good news is that it's not something that has to be done right away or in one go. Get the machine at some point, start putting things together bit by bit so that it becomes a useful redundancy in case the actual controller PC does fall over.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use the nLite tool to slipstream all post-SP3 patches + Sygate Personal Firewall

    Heh bloat. I used an old tool called nLite to create a minimal 150MB .ISO file which includes WinXP SP3 plus all patches integrated and a half decent free firewall application. It installs a fully working operating system with zero touches in under 5 mins and cold boots an old P4 with 1GB ram to working internet browser in under 15 seconds using hibernate mode (which takes under 10 seconds to write to disk and shut down). Total RAM footprint around 300MB but most of which is the browser! Why bother with anything else when you can completely restore a whole basic browser system from backup in under 5 minutes? I expect on a more modern machine with a fifty quid SSD installed it might perform considerably quicker but for now its easier to just routinely install a freeware antivirus, do a full scan then remove the software afterwards.

    1. IamITatHome

      Re: Use the nLite tool to slipstream all post-SP3 patches + Sygate Personal Firewall

      I am always in awe when I read stuff like this, somebody that beats the system. I am trusting an old boss from Manchester working in Oregon US a while back that says (compliment?) "youre a black pudding" or at least he called me that!

      1. RobHib
        Thumb Up

        @ IamITatHome -- Re: Use the nLite tool to slipstream all post-SP3 patches....

        Re nLite, I agree with A.C.'s assessment and what he has done. nLite is a remarkably useful tool for anyone who maintains XP systems on a regular basis and it's free.

        Whilst it is almost foolproof to use, it can take some getting used to for one to fully optimise one's install ISO. This is simply because we Microsoft O/S users aren't used to the plethora of options it offers, during an install Microsoft keeps us at arm's length and with minimal to say.

        I've been advocating that Microsoft should bring out a highly configurable version of its OSes for techie, engineering and scientific users, and if it ever does then nLite is pretty much how the initial functions of its installer should work.

        For me, nLite is a must-have, 5+ stars XP utility. Damn shame it's not available for the other OSes.

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Use the nLite tool to slipstream all post-SP3 patches + Sygate Personal Firewall

      I remember doing that. I also remember wondering why Windows shipped with so much bloat.

      Wait, scratch that. I STILL wonder why Windows ships with so much bloat.

  39. sisk Silver badge

    Possible solution for your client

    It's possible to get NetBEUI running on Linux. It's a hellacious headache to do and under normal circumstances I'd never recommend it, but you're talking about keeping $7m worth of hardware running so it's worth giving it a thought at least.

    Really running XP, even without updates, probably is your better option for as long as it IS an option. Eventually though you're going to run into the problem I ran into with a local business who paid me for a while to come in every couple months and maintain their Win98 box (similar problem, their customer database wouldn't run on anything newer and couldn't be exported): The computer died from a hardware malfunction and Win98 wouldn't run on a new one. In their case, since it was one machine running one app with modest requirements, I was able to get them back up and running with a VM, but I'm guessing VMs won't be an option with CNC apps. They tend to pretty beefy.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Possible solution for your client

      In this case, it's still an option since the CnC is communicating via a network protocol. As long as the protocol can pass through the virtual network adapter, it should be fine. It's when you get to a direct-hardware controller (or other things that simply can't be virtualized) that things get dicey.

  40. Dan Paul

    Has anyone ever seen the work at www.mdgx.com?

    Folks

    If you are locked into old hardware, reliant on old software, this guy at MDGX has done some very interesting things with the software side by replacing .dll's and other files with newer ones and gaining new features and compatabilities. Seems like he could help some of the people with problemic systems. Try www.mdgx.com - His site helped an old machinist buddy of mine with and old mill and CADCAM that had to be on Win 95.

  41. cptskippy

    Your cost analysis is way off.

    For starters you assume that any old developer can come up to speed on an entire operating system in short order. The fact of the matter is that the developers who can are relatively elite and would rather not be maintenance coders. Assuming you had a handful of developers who knew their way around the XP Code base to keep it patch, that's only part of the problem.

    The biggest hurdles with supporting XP are with integration testing, compatibility testing, regression testing, and a whole slew of other issues around certifying patches. Microsoft maintains vast arrays of machines of varying configurations in order to certify that changes to the OS do not negatively impact drivers and hardware compatibility. In addition to maintaining compatibility with hardware, they must ensure that they don't break software running on their operating system which is potentially a larger issue than hardware compatibility. Best case scenario they have 100 engineers to maintain the infrastructure necessary to pull this off and that doesn't take into account the cost of the infrastructure itself.

    Your real-world example seems to me like a problem you're expecting someone else to solve for you. The reality of the situation is that those XP machines won't run forever and hardware that can run XP is going to be increasingly hard to come by. The logical step is to virtualize those XP machines and run them on a more secure operating system. Virtualized instances would offer enormous benefits to disaster recovery by removing a dependency on legacy hardware and providing a simple recovery solution.

    That being said, another flaw with your real-world example is that there really should be an Air Gap between the network your industrial equipment operates on, and the network used for other business functions. Again, this is a problem you should be addressing, and not complaining that someone else hasn't solve it for you. After all, they're your client and they're paying you for solutions.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: there really should be an Air Gap between

      He never said there wasn't. In fact, given the XP machines running the CNC equipment are running NetBEUI and modern communications really depends on TCP/IP, I'd bet they are.

    2. sisk Silver badge

      The biggest hurdles with supporting XP are with integration testing, compatibility testing, regression testing, and a whole slew of other issues around certifying patches. Microsoft maintains vast arrays of machines of varying configurations in order to certify that changes to the OS do not negatively impact drivers and hardware compatibility. In addition to maintaining compatibility with hardware, they must ensure that they don't break software running on their operating system which is potentially a larger issue than hardware compatibility. Best case scenario they have 100 engineers to maintain the infrastructure necessary to pull this off and that doesn't take into account the cost of the infrastructure itself.

      As much as I like to rib Microsoft about it, I think the fact that they release updates that cause problems about every 3-6 months or so is a testament to how complex the testing needed to certify their updates is. They do employ mostly good programmers after all.

      Second:

      The logical step is to virtualize those XP machines and run them on a more secure operating system.

      I could be mistaken, having never dealt with CNCs, but I would guess that CNC controllers require the same sort of hefty 3D processing that CAD programs need. Virtualization software isn't really designed to provide that sort of capability and none I've used can do so well enough to recommend it.

  42. IamITatHome
    Windows

    I liked your article, you should work for Microsoft! Common sense is obviously DEAD from the top down in my country!

  43. hugo tyson
    FAIL

    What's the purpose of the computer again?

    So you have a CNC machine controlled by a particular computer. You can see it's a computer; it's a separate box(es) and looks just like a computer. IMHO the problem is that people expect to use that computer for things other than controlling the CNC machine, because they think it's a computer not just a controller for the CNC machine. So they add other software; they install updates other than from the manufacturer of the CNC machine. They network it and connect it to other things; they come to depend on it for other functions. All of which compromises its function as a CNC controller.

    Maybe it's that distinction that the 20-year capital equipment amortisation world needs to learn?

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: What's the purpose of the computer again?

      Err no

      I use a 486 powered PC to control the 4 and 5 axis robots we use

      The control panels are mounted on the front and the PC itself is buried in the electrical cabinet , next to the power inverter and connected to the axis motor drive boards.

      The documentation delivered with the machines says clearly that the machine tool co is NOT responsible for any problems if the end user installs any software beyond what already there.

      So if tech idiot 1 installs an AV package and said robot swings round 180 degree and punches a hole in the techie, then theres a whole lotta pain for everyone. heck even installing the manufacturer's service packs gets everyone one so twitchy we get them to do it.

      In the case of HDD failure, its manufacturer's HDD only as they have the approved software pre-loaded, we could copy it... but if theres an accident.... we're liable

      And thats the thing with CNC gear, if you mess up a printer driver, then you'll get a paper jam and a bit of a inky mess as a result, mess up a driver for CNC gear and you could get a 10lb cutting tool ejected from the spindle while its doing 8000 rpm...... and that aint a pretty sight.

      Boris

      Wheres the double fail icon?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the purpose of the computer again?

        "if you mess up a printer driver, then you'll get a paper jam and a bit of a inky mess as a result, mess up a driver for CNC gear and you could get a 10lb cutting tool ejected from the spindle while its doing 8000 rpm..."

        Indeed not. Something along those lines (albeit no CNC involved) happened to a very experienced machinist in Bangor Uni last July. The inquest was just a few days ago; the verdict was misadventure.

        And along similar lines but fortunately without the fatal consequences, if your NC machine tool is machining something like aircraft undercarriage from something like solid titanium alloy, making an unrecoverable mistake that leads to scrapping one off can get very unpopular with the bean counters. Very unpopular.

        Mind you, in all the setups I used to see, the PC was only ever a GUI/MMI/filestore. The actual realtime control was usually done by a proper controller from the likes of GE Fanuc or Siemens or...

  44. newsetter

    Symbiosis

    All you commentards are on poor form today. You've all missed a huge reason why MS wants people to upgrade - so they have to buy new hardware.

    Look at the crashing PC industry. There are 200 million PCs that could be replaced if people were forced to upgrade.

    People upgrade their PCs->hardware mfrs are very happy->hardware mfrs then keep supporting MS rather than going to Linux->MS gets money for licenses.

  45. Tom 13

    The mathematics of the situation aside,

    Given how hard they pushed for the subscription model on their flailing Windows 8, I find it surprising ironic they aren't willing to consider a subscription model in the one place where they might actually be able to sell it.

  46. El Andy

    It's not just Microsoft who end up supporting XP

    As a third party software developer, customers running XP is an additional expense for us. It means extra testing, having to find workarounds for APIs and technologies not supported by XP and adds a significant extra cost to doing business. However we can't really do much about that whilst Microsoft holds back the industry by propping up customers running an old PS. We essentially have to support XP at least as long as Microsoft do (and probably about a year or so later)

    It's time has passed. Move on and let the world get better for it.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: It's not just Microsoft who end up supporting XP

      >As a third party software developer, customers running XP is an additional expense for us. It means extra testing, having to find workarounds for APIs and technologies not supported by XP and adds a significant extra cost to doing business.

      What?

      Firstly, the costs of supporting your software on XP are the same those supporting another platform - if you develop for say Win 8 64-bit then you will be incurring costs associated with supporting: Win8 32bit, Win7 32/64 etc.

      However, with XP the question is why are you developing new stuff rather just supporting bug fix? An ERP vendor I'm familiar with, supports several versions of their product (basically all versions that their customers are prepared to pay support for). However, if you want to run their latest software with all the whizzy cloud bits then you have to upgrade... also they will do custom development if you really want your old ERP system to handle something new in the older version you are running...

      Finally, there is no real reason why your release and support cycle has to mirror MS's.

  47. chris 143

    I suspect VMs are your friend here

    EIther win7 with the xp vm

    or

    my preferred option of linux + kvm and a windows vm that you clone, use for that day and junk, means any compromise is limited, also dual NICs should allow you to keep windows and the rest of the network as seperate as possible

  48. Yoru

    Big Bang vs. Steady State

    In one of my previous posts I had floated the possibility of Microsoft changing to a rental business model, rather than expecting people to pay periodic lump sums for a big bang update. Were the updates included arbitrary changes to interfaces, intended to address the perceived business requirements, rather than any perceived needs of the user.

    I had made similar sums, but was less generous on salary, and assumed the price of the operating system would reduce to at least half. This resulting in the notional charge of 4 pounds ($6.64) a month. Not a million miles away from the figure in the article.

    However, what I was suggesting was a change in business model from lump sum big band, to rental steady state, period. Not just for legacy operating systems. This would be a paradigm change, but a change that was coherent and consistent. Resulting in an operating system that evolved toward increasing stability, with most of the updates confined to under the hood improvements. Most important of all, in such a paradigm changes to the GUI and other interfaces, would be on a specifically justified basis, and only be considered in full recognition of the likely impact it would have on the user.

    The problem for Microsoft in such a paradigm is that it would bring them into line with the Linux steady state approach, and into a head to head competition. Unfortunately, that head to head would boil down to some 200+ pairs of Microsoft eyes vs. several million pairs of Linux eyes. In the long term, this would be a competition that Microsoft could never win.

    This probably means that Microsoft is destined to continue as a Disruptive Innovator, since it’s the only paradigm it can compete within, and where the target of disruption is its own displaced operating systems. Until such time that the market no longer tolerates such practices. I suspect Windows 9 will be pivotal to that outcome.

    Meanwhile, I doubt that Microsoft aspire to become a maintenance organisation. Although I’d say its an even bet that they’ll follow in the tracks of IBM to include the operations of a later day systems integration specialist company.

  49. Tim Ryan

    The facts of Life

    As the owner of a couple of million dollars worth of kit running Windows 2000, even a few bits of NT4 with hardware boards and drivers that there is no way can be upgraded, the pending runout of XP was and is expected. Its a fact of life when you build industrial equipment on an IT platform. It can and will be worked around. The issue of short lifecycles on IT products and long lifecycles on industrial hardware is not going away, and Microsoft is no better or worse than the others in the IT business. Ask some scanner operators with key locked software running on Mac System 8 and praying that the hardware doesn't die. I'll bet on Microsoft any day over MacOS or perish the thought Solaris or HPUX.

    Trevor is right, and a past master at patching, working around, and resolving just these sorts of issues. After all isn't this the reason we all continue to feed the geeks?

    1. RobHib

      @ Tim Ryan -- Re: The facts of Life

      "The issue of short lifecycles on IT products and long lifecycles on industrial hardware is not going away,..."

      That you are using W2K and NT only proves the point. In my opinion, some of this could be fixed by legislation. Unless a sale contract specifically forbids it, all software and firmware would be deemed to have the same operational/service life as the rest of the equipment.

      This would serve two purposes: (a) a manufacturer of xyz machine would be very wary in his choice of software--either the vendor has to be very reliable or xyz manufacturer cannot offload responsibly for software to that (or any) vendor, (thus having to guarantee software support for the duration himself), and (b) the issue of software longevity together with its 'fitness for purpose' would come under an intense spotlight. That alone, IMHO, would be a good thing.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free software

    "The companies that manufactured the equipment no longer exist. There is nobody to rewrite the code in that lathe. (..) The choices for them are "run an insecure operating system" or "go out of business.""

    I certainly do appreciate the argument for free software.These are examples why free software makes sense. The software could be maintained, the OS could be upgraded. If the manufacturer went out of business another company or person(s) could take over maintenance and earn a healthy living.

    Now you're stuck with a dead product on a dead OS you can't upgrade, fix, or otherwise enhance. Great.

    However I don't appreciate the author's self confessed, past, blind adulation of microsoft.

  51. Mikel

    Security?

    This is the company that brought you autorun.

  52. Tank boy
    Facepalm

    Good article.

    MS really missed the boat on this one. They could have rolled out a new version/upgrade/update/etc. for people that absolutely need to keep XP because of the software they happen to be running/need. They could charge a nominal fee to keep the lights on at the HQ to make sure that XP stays safe, and although it might not make a lot of money (might even cost them money), consumer trust and more importantly brand trust would stay intact.

    But they didn't, shortly after Windows 7, Windows 8 rolled out, and we consumers are stuck with what they offer.

  53. TRT Silver badge

    Yeah, I get this...

    Microscopes bought up to 10 years ago, still perfectly serviceable optically and electrically, some of which have had new lasers fitted at a cost running to the tens of thousands of pounds... and they are wired up via proprietary cameras to Win XP boxes that have e.g. ISA slots for bespoke controller boards, or XP only drivers for the boards or camera, or the installation disks have been lost. The microscope companies work on a low-volume, high cost, niche market idea, and the replacement camera gear compatible with a modern box can set a research group back £40,000 or more. That's around 400 experiments. And just one of those experiments might reveal something like a cure for Alzheimer's or cancer or Autism or Parkinson's.

  54. Inachu

    I would like to see an optional soloution. Have Microsoft still sell XP but you are not allowed to install it anymore.

    Instead let XP boot from CD or DVD or a thumb drive.

  55. Vociferous

    "Microsoft would bring in $130m a year"

    Or, as it is known in this type of industry at this level, chump change. Crumbs. A business failure.

    I don't think a company like Microsoft would even get out of bed for any venture with less than a billion/year in PROFIT.

    Also it would risk slowing acceptance of Windows 8 and Microsoft Store, which are Microsoft's lifelines.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regime Change

    Microsoft is a corporation. As such it is devoted to extracting as much money as it can from its customers.

    The 15 years war.

    The original permissive licensing premise was: you bought it you own it, do with it as you will--as long as you do it on one computer at a time. This is not unlike a car or anything else you buy. You can even move it to another computer if you replace your old box. This was the prevailing dogma at the time; software was a physical object that you use as you wish. Because it was the first widely distributed digital, thus copy able product; Microsoft had to limit your use to a single computer at a time.

    Microsoft was not concerned with how you used software, just that you used theirs. At the time there were real corporate options, OS/2 and Sun. Microsoft was in a fight for dominance in the workplace. Tactics to maximize profits were of much less importance than the strategic goal market share.

    The computer desktop, not unlike a spoken language, is a natural monopoly. As groups of people need to communicate efficiently; they start to agree upon a common language. A common language results in a more productive and efficient environment. The efficiency of a common interface has the same benefit to society. These benefits are not unlike the gains in having a common electric grid or a common telephone system. The utility of an operating system has brought great power to an individual workers and productivity to their employers. Indeed the computer is unarguably an integral part of our modern economy.

    Rapid advances in hardware in this era gave computers a realistic 3 year life. The real and perceived increases in computing power and the inexpensive software bundles in this era made an aggressive upgrade doctrine de rigueur. The increases in hardware speed and the addition of features to software made workers more productive. An CIO was foolish not to upgrade, the economics mandated upgrade.

    By the late nineties, Microsoft had achieved their goal of market dominance. Indeed, M$ has subsequently been declared a monopoly by the EU and the US.

    A M$ victory

    M$ having won the OS wars was now in a position of unprecedented power. It now found itself in a position where it could dictate to its customers terms on its own choosing. It was at this point that M$ stopped providing new features, one can make an argument that every conceivable feature was already included, and started to change to a more restrictive licensing regime.

    M$ had seen it's revenue and profits grow exponentially; as it should have, as it gained market dominance. It was not ready to relinquish these profits to lazy indolent CIO’s who were happy enough with the computing power at their charges fingertips.

    New SKU's from M$ started to appear with different and more restrictive licensing. Indeed the concept of the license itself changed. Until this point, it was understood that you could use your software on any computer you wanted, as long as it was one computer at a time. This concept no longer suited the M$’s revenue demands.

    Licensing silently changed to use on single computer for the lifetime of software. If your hardware broke, you had to buy a new OS and productivity suite. This suited M$ as the gains in computing power were no longer apparent to a normal user. Indeed computer upgrade times started to lengthen as faster hardware no longer yielded increased productivity. The difference between Word lunching in a .75 seconds and .25 seconds is not worth the cost of upgrading. In tying the licenses to use to a particular piece of hardware; M$ ensured a continual revenue stream.

    Real world usage

    It takes 2 to 3 hours to load an OS for a user. Once you have created a usable image, you would want to leverage the time it took to create that image. You cloned that copy and moved it to another computer. Cloning a workstation for a user took minutes instead of hours. By cloning you could create 100 workstations before lunch.

    XP changed corporate distribution

    XP now needs to be activated to use? XP can only be installed on the computer you bought it with? XP is branded with the MAC address and CPU S/N? WTF???? I have to manage how many 25 digit keys?

    M$ knew this type of restrictive usage regime, you bought it, we control it, and you don’t own it; would be unpalatable to a corporate manager so it created the MLOP “Open License.”

    Licensing regime changed! The corporate user had to buy an oem license, the one that came with the computer they just bought. If the purchaser wanted a truly usable license, they had to additionally purchase an Open license.

    So what if you paid for the now ubiquitous OEM OS license. We, M$, think we should make more $. We think cloning is a feature for we should be paid.

    M$ has their cake, the OEM purchase; and eats it too, the MOLP purchase.

    XP is good enough.

    A grizzled IT manager, veteran of the XP engorgement, fresh from the budget scars of XP, still paying for new OEM licenses; finds that XP is good enough. It doesn’t crash, often. The workers are trained, mostly. Everything works, almost.

    M$: XP is must GO.

    They are not upgrading and revenue is falling (or at least not rising quickly). How do we, M$, keep the perpetual upgrade machine (PUMp), aka our cash cow, running?

    • We create API’s that are OS version sensitive.

    • We make the most recent version of these API’s the default in the development tools that we sell.

    • We keep poorly documented backward compatibility switches in these tools to keep the luddites at the EU and DOJ off our backs.

    As new third party software is created under our New API’s, eventually these applications will obsolete the older OS. We will create obsolescence without being its direct agent! DOJ can’t touch us!

    Third party software vendors, complicit in the PUMp; happily compile with the new API’s. They know that older versions of the software won’t install on newer OS’s. This generates new sales for everybody in the extraction PUMp and the governments won’t be the wiser.

    M$ 2008: XP must GO now!

    Damn, we gave corporations the MLOP. We said they can downgrade their OEM OS to the version of the OS to match their corporate standard. They are STILL using XP!

    We create a new license that limits a… downgrade right, that’s it a downgrade right! To two versions.

    They will have to upgrade now! We need to sell more, not MLOP but Volume Licenses with this new restriction.

    By the way we will remove the terminal server use right, limiting it only to Server 2000. Although we granted TS use rights on any server to early adaptors, we will make it seem like that right was granted only to S2K. Hell lets get out from under this cloud and call TS RDP! Legal tells us we won’t have to worry about any confusion between TS and RDP because they are different products!

    In fact, Legal shall now be an integral part of the development cycle. We probably spend more on Legal than we do in development . This isn’t for purposes of product liability; that was clearly stated from the first license; but rather from anti-trust legislation.

    M$ 2013 :XP must die, It must die now!

    They still wont go! All we are left with is fear, uncertainty and doubt. We will kill security upgrades. We will foster stories of doom. This is our last chance to rid ourselves the profit menace XP.

    Epilogue:

    How much of the core of the OS changed from NT? I suspect it is not the complete rewrite as we are led to believe.

    As a monopoly and an essential utility, we as society have a right to limit the extractive predilections of M$. We regulate the phones and the power and the gas and to some extent cable. I don’t begrudge them the right to make a living; but, I take umbrage when they can dictate that I cannot use something I have purchased.

    I purchased a MLOP which gave me perpetual use rights to XP along with some OEM version of the OS. It is disingenuous to sell me a perpetual use right when I cannot use it because MS has artificially terminated distribution of a perquisite. Failure to provide a platform from which I can use my “perpetual use” right has artificially terminated those rights without compensation.

    We are at the point where M$ profits come at society’s expense. Changing an OS is disruptive to everyone. Changing entire software ecosystems as is required is disruptive in the extreme.

    There is nothing architecturally that prevents M$ from building and selling a:

    new network stack with actual security

    new firewall that actually works like ipfilters

    new browser with actual security (Google Chrome works)

    As an IT manager it would be far less disruptive to implement these changes within the existing ecosystem; rather than deploying an entirely new ecosystem.

    All of the upgrades and their associated costs are unnecessary and are an impediment to our economy. I have yet to find a worker whose productivity has increased due to the implementation of window 8; quite the opposite I suspect.

    Many of the new “features” of M$ OSes seem to be structured around reduced licensing flexibility and planned obsolescence. I don’t remember a PDF writer, ( which Google provides in its browser); bare metal backup; reasonable editor, notepad++; etc.

    Don’t get me started with the whole M$ LDAP-excuse me, Active Directory domain controller forced upgrades to support new OSes.

    Microsoft should also be heavily regulated, but not within the confines of traditional regulatory structures, as these are not suited to software.

    I think all code that Microsoft monopoly produces should be held in trust by either or both the DOJ or EU. In the event that Microsoft obsoletes a piece of software, that code shall pass in to the public domain.

    1. RobHib
      Windows

      @A.C. -- Re: Regime Change

      Your account of Microsoft's modus operandi is about as precise and detailed as it gets; it's unfortunate, however, that there are not more of Microsoft's knowledgeable customers like you to corroborate such ugly facts.

      Your list exposes/details a multitude of unethical and questionable business practices which Microsoft has used over many years to opportunistically manipulate every cent possible out of its millions of customers—practices that Microsoft could easily exploit from its position of monopoly. Users, commentators and regulators worldwide have known about Microsoft's exploitive business practices for years and collectively have done nothing about them. Moreover, whilst we've occasionally seen such practices brought before the regulators, they've chosen to have done little or nothing about them, or they've just gone tut-tut; thus it's always been business as usual for Microsoft.

      The question is why everyone—from PC users to governments, from industry commentators to computing and information technology researchers—has given Microsoft such a joyous and carefree ride over so many years without demanding better products and services in return—has to be one of the biggest conundrums of the PC era.

      Given that Microsoft's monopolistic and exploitive business practices were so well known, then the big question is why has Microsoft been so protected by so many for so long. Right, why has Microsoft been allowed to go unchallenged and unfettered for between two and three decades. Alternatively, how is it that Microsoft has secured immunity from governments and regulators for so long, not to mention avoiding the widespread wrath of its customers?

      Part of the answer has to be that for well over 20 years, Microsoft has received little more than just noise in criticism, much of which has come principally from a disgruntled rabble of techie commentards, many of whom frequent on-line forums such as El Reg's pages to vent their spleen. Thus, they're easily dismissed or ignored in any discourse about big business, or those concerning government policies and regulation, and importantly, in matters of trade and the newly rising star of intellectual property…and of course, they were in fact ignored.

      Whilst no doubt future researchers will provide answers to these questions (and their findings may even possibly be the basis for new law limiting such abuses), that's of little consolation now.

      The biggest single reason for Microsoft not having been brought to account has been the failure of professional commentators, journalists and other experts to push home the many problems arising from Microsoft's monopolistic position, especially those associated with Windows.

      Rather than objectively analyse and report on core issues confronting Microsoft's products, for decades the technical press has been completely mesmerised by Microsoft—taking many of its pronouncements as gospel and without question. Moreover, it's been infatuated by the frothy baubles thrown at it by Microsoft—products especially designed to distract the gullible. Thus, we've criticism of sorts but they've nothing to do with the high level issues posed by the limitations of such programs (again Microsoft's marketing succeeds through distraction).

      (It's never ceased to amaze me how easily a good percentage of techies—even very knowledgeable and experienced ones—are distracted or are bought off by new tech which, in the grand schema, ultimately turns out to be of little value or relevance. Microsoft marketing has always known this fact and has played it up to the hilt; it's why it has gotten away with so much for so long.)

      There's also a wider social dimension to this not unlike fanboys' adoration of Apple and all things Apple—never a criticism to be heard anywhere. However, with Microsoft it takes on a more muted form along the lines that whatever Microsoft says and does then it does so with an air of authority, which even if not liked or thought to be wrong by users, should nevertheless never be seriously questioned by them. Hence, journalistic criticism of Microsoft spends most of its life skirting around the real issues that confront poor hapless Microsoft users.

      As mentioned in my post below to jelabarre59, with Microsoft there's also an element of Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon at work here. 'If the world's licking MS's arse, and whilst this is strange to me—given my problems with Microsoft—then the real problem must lie with me and not with Microsoft.'

      Nevertheless, whilst I find this longstanding herd mentality for not criticising Microsoft strange and illogical, I accept that faced with limited options thrown up by Microsoft's monopoly, that, for many, pragmatism is the order of the day. It's better to pretend to like Microsoft and to make the best of the bad lot that the monopoly has on offer.

      Silence, however, ultimately has gotten us nowhere. Instead, user inaction has allowed Microsoft to abuse licencing to the point where it's possible to level accusations of exploitation at its monopoly, and insufficient outcry/outrage has meant that in almost every country around the globe inadequate consumer law has been enacted.

      That Microsoft never offered an upgrade/ergonomic equivalent to XP, or never felt that it had to, and that it was free to experiment with the UI without regard to users' wishes has left Windows users in an invidious position, especially so with the demise of XP support.

      It's only now after much faltering by Microsoft—Vista, Win-7 bloatware, W8/8.1 fiasco, no upgrade or ergonomic equivalent for XP, failure of MS to add much needed core improvements to Windows, failure to adequately secure the OS, not to mention its willy-nilly changes to the UI, etc., that the world is finally starting to complain on mass.

      There'll be those who still think that complainers such as me are off the mark and ought to shut up and just go with the flow. My response is to have them reread your list of indictments against MS and to then ask themselves whether they consider this his how a responsible monopoly would or should act.

      I would also add that I don't sit around all day finding ways to criticise Microsoft just for the sake of it, I've better things to do. For me and millions like me, Microsoft's monopoly has been both unavoidable and very difficult. Despite Linux and other users saying that it's our own fault for initially using Microsoft, the matter is far from being that simple.

      I'd venture that almost everyone in IT management anywhere would have stories concerning difficulties arising out of Microsoft's monopolistic practices whether their principle OS is Windows or not. When I examine my time in IT, the overwhelming issue for me is the years of wasted time which I have had to spend trying to solve or sidestep problems created by Microsoft's marketing in its attempts to rake in even more monies.

      These time-wasting and ultimately expensive issues range from restrictive licensing through to policies concerning security such as the integration of IE and other subsystems into the OS and Microsoft's steadfast refusal to allow their decoupling from the OS, along with a myriad of other related problems, would never have surfaced—or if they had then they'd have been quickly dealt with—had Microsoft acted as an engineering company which concerned itself with providing customers with the best IT solutions.

      Rather, Microsoft has been a pariah of a marketing company run by marketers whose influence flows deep to within the operating parameters of its products. For instance, Windows' technical parameters have been optimised to fit Microsoft's marketing schema—not those of its users.

      What we must remember is it's not just my years of wasted time but it's also that of millions of others around the globe over many years. The waste of human effort finding workarounds to Microsoft's many unnecessary obstacles has just been enormous (and ultimately someone needs to put a reasonable measure against it). Frankly, this is unacceptable behaviour for any company let alone a multinational monopoly. As an international monopoly, Microsoft has a social responsibility to minimise and solve computing problems, not to create them.

      Quo Vadis, the question is where next from here. It seems the first step would be for the many timid commentators and technical journalists to reassess their positions—give up bribes of free copies of Windows etc. and begin a high level analysis of the many difficult issues in which Microsoft has placed its users. Next, it would seem sensible for users to push for some compatible alternative OS to the Win32/64 to be developed—or take over the essentially defunct ReactOS as jelabarre59 is hinting at.

      It's also time users started flexing their muscle. For example, I see you are posting as an 'Anonymous Coward'. Whilst I can understand the reasons for your action (such as the possibility of you being an MS employee or a company close to MS), criticisms such as yours are much easier to deflect if they originate behind a cloak of anonymity.

      A more concerted consensus of what has gone wrong with Microsoft's monopoly might ultimately have an effect on politicians and the legislative process. However, I've little faith in politicians correcting this in the near future, as it's clear that Microsoft has the ear of many governments, if not directly then indirectly through international trade and intellectual property treaties—treaties the likes of Microsoft and ilk have heavily invested in as an insurance policy against haphazard government legislation which might be detrimental to their interests.

  57. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    ROS

    This is the situation where ReactOS would be a perfect fit/replacement, if it were about 10-15 *YEARS* further along in it's development. For that matter, I think if a lot of these companies panicking *NOW* about the end of XP had started contributing to ReactOS' development 4 or 5 years ago, it might have been ready now to just drop into place. But those same companies were to cowardly to consider how FLOSS could help them, and so now they have to cough up the cash or fold up shop.

    1. RobHib
      Windows

      @ jelabarre59 -- Re: ROS

      Oh you are so correct. What I find infuriating is that the need for an alternative Win-API compatible OS was glaringly obvious well over a decade ago--and long before Vista. By Win-7, it was, metaphorically, the equivalent of being shot at, the need was so obvious.

      Still, the main industry commentards--magazine editors--etc., etc. did nothing but offer platitudes to Microsoft (and any criticism was kept minimal and muted). I'm still trying to figure out how MS 'bribed' or cajoled them (surely they couldn't have been that blind not to see what was happening, so why didn't they react)? Even cynical old El Reg could have said more.

      It's as if Microsoft enacted mind control over thousands of otherwise rational, knowledgeable IT people. It defies logic.

      It seems to me that there is a sort of Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon at work here--'if everybody's licking MS's arse then it can't be right for me to criticise it either'. It's been herd mentality not to criticise Microsoft, now it's possibly too late. Again, I find this logic just so strange to accept.

      As a person who fundamentally wants my computers to function efficiently and in certain ways, and everywhere I find that I am blocked [principally] by Microsoft, then it seems logical for me to not only to criticise Microsoft BUT ALSO to bring my problems with MS products to the attention of other users, as collectively we might be able to do something about them.

      Why powerful industry commentards haven't sought to do the same and used their influence I find very peculiar indeed. Then again, perhaps this is why I'm a techie and not a director on the board of a multinational company.

      The fundamental problem of having only one supplier of OS APIs has been with us for decades, even by Windows 95 any perceptive Windows user was well aware of the risks of having only one compatible OS on the market.

      (And we always had the military as a shining example, it has always required having multiple/alternative suppliers of materiel and components.)

      Why there wasn't an almighty rush to support ReactOS or similar alternative from very early on simply defies my understanding. Could it be that most users were intimidated by Microsoft and that I was not be the reason for my confusion?

      I wish I understood.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the dark side of capitalism

    Planned obsolescence and placating the whims of shareholders.

    Microsoft could have supported WinXP (and earlier OSes) forever. Make earlier products become free abandonware just like old games.

    But it's no good for shareholders if people refuse to upgrade to your latest and greatest, also euphemistically known as 'innovating'.

    This is precisely why Microsoft refused to let newer versions of Internet Explorer be installed on certain older versions of Windows. Same old IE browser, same old Windows, but you're not allowed to install because 'you can't get the best experience'. The spin is strong with this one.

  59. This post has been deleted by its author

  60. John Deeb
    Boffin

    Sounds like emulation is the way to go here

    Badly needing to run old software with out-dated requirements is a recurrent problem and often ends up with the same solution on a newer PC's. Just use the new machine's power to start-up some emulator which can emulate the whole stack, from OS, network to application. Strip the image from any other use and distribute or reload daily. This is how it's done in all the cases I encountered since the introduction of Windows 95 and NT as replacement of the old DOS (note: those machines would be safer controlled with non-scheduling DOS anyway). Configure the emulator as bridged interface and remove TCP/IP from the guest and the setup is safer than any "supported" XP config including some form of quick restore added as bonus.

    But yeah, I wouldn't worry about XP "security" if firewall, LAN, malware scanning and user interactions can be controlled to a sufficient degree.

  61. TimChuma

    Hardware needs to be up to standard

    Most of the problems I have seen with computers being "too slow" come from supposed experts trying to install updated operating systems on hardware that should have been junked. I have seen computers that took 2 days to run the install that could barely run DOS and they tried to put Windows on them. When I was reconditioning computers for a charity they would take all but 256Mb of memory out for computers running Windows XP as that was "plenty", no it is not.

  62. Inachu

    My only argument for not upgrading is.

    Your XP system runs great and is not on the internet at all and since it is never on the internet then it needs no antivirus so your system runs fast!

    You have a backup and software you bought for it is no longer in production and there is no other software like it on the market so you have to make do and you are very happy with the application you are using and you know all the ins and outs of the program and can work around issues because you came to know the buggy program and how to avoid it from crashing by not doing this or that.

    If your system is XP and on the internet then there are always hardware soloutions to block infections and so forth so you can still just rely on your backup image copy.

  63. Day-Jar View

    Cabinet Office agrees one year XP deal

    Well, here's a thing... not quite the scale Liam proposed, but it does perhaps indicate that some customers do matter to M$:

    http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/EHI/9338/cabinet-office-agrees-one-year-xp-deal

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