Saturday, November 9, 2013

The End Of Windows XP

    As we come into this holiday shopping season, there is something worth considering about next year.  On April 8th of 2014 Microsoft will stop all support for Windows XP.  What does that mean?  Well, it means no more security updates.  It means that the bad guys will have an even easier time infecting every Windows XP computer with viruses.  It is, bluntly, A Bad Thing.  If you have a Windows XP computer, which I wouldn't be surprised since it was a very good operating system, you really need to think about upgrading soon.
    The thing is, most criminals and virus writers don't really care about your computer.  Oh, don't get me wrong, they'd be happy to steal your bank account information and your credit cards and wring you dry.  But the biggest thing they do is infect your computer to make it attack someone else's computer.  When you get a virus, it is quite possible that you are helping to spread the pain and misery to other people.  You become, unwillingly, an accomplice to the crimes of the virus writers.  Security is a never-ending race.  Both sides look for every mistake in programming they can find, and bad guys exploit them while good guys fix them, both as fast as they can.  But when Microsoft gives up, when they drop support, so will everyone else.  Your antivirus program will also drop support, maybe a month or two later, but they will - they did when Windows 98 was dropped.  Without support, you are standing still in the great race, and you have no chance - except to hope the bad guys don't notice you, which in the always-connected internet age is kind of hard.
    Windows Vista users are a little better, support for Vista goes to 2017 - but even that is not as far down the line as it seems, four years can pass quickly.
    So, my point is, if you have a Windows XP computer, or even a Vista one frankly, it is worth looking at all the holiday deals and seeing about getting a new computer with Windows 8.  Now, I'll be brutally honest, Windows 8 is a stupid design that frustrates as much as anything else.  It seems like Microsoft can only design a good operating system on every other try, and this wasn't one of the good ones.  But it is safer, and it is supported, will be for quite some time to come.  If you can find Windows 7 it was one of the good ones.  If you want to jump off the Windows train, a sensible choice, Apple makes some great computers - they just cost a bit more.  Or, you could even take the plunge and try Linux, the Ubuntu operating system is pretty easy to pick up if you've used Windows, though it will require you to be willing to do some work and learn more about how to use it.
    What option works best for you I can't say, but as a computer guy I feel like I should start sounding the warning now to get people thinking about it.  There are more than enough bad guys doing bad things, we don't need to help them by using insecure operating systems.  That's your public service announcement for the day :)

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