Sunday, 13 April 2014

An Open Letter to Microsoft

I'm a PC user. The siren voice of the Mac calls in the distance and has most of my working life, but I am a PC user.

My working life has spanned the rise of the PC. When I started we had dumb terminals accessing mainframes. I worked at my desk off green and white stripy printouts. I wrote stuff by hand and had a typist.

Then the PC arrived, complete with MS-DOS, running Lotus 1-2-3. What a revelation. I was never a real computer geek but I could write basic scripts in MS-DOS (until we were stopped from doing it). Then we were given Windows and Excel (running on an MS-DOS environment of course, but still point and click). Amazing.

Okay, so PC's froze and crashed. You saved your work every 5 minutes, but it was still a marked improvement on where we had been. The screen looked like hat you were going to print (as long as you could write the MS DOS printer driver line correctly to print landscape).

Then I got my first home PC, nearly 20 years ago, running Windows 95. Amazing. It still crashed, of course, but home computing had begun properly (I'd been using an Amstrad for w/p before that. Never crashed, but never really did anything else either). I had that PC quite a few years (it was a Gateway 2000, I think). Put in an extra hard drive, and upgraded the BIOS myself. Installed an internal modem as well, and got on the internet. Oh my. Virus city, with virus checkers delivered via a works programme on diskette, and the start of interminable downloads to fix bugs taking ages, messing up your settings, crashing the PC. Blocking the phone line.

Eventually I upgraded it to another machine, and ran Windows 98, I think. The children came along and got PCs for "school work", so we had three in the house, with various versions of operating systems, which I supported. They were mostly stable, but they still froze and crashed. But you put up with it, because that's what any Windows OS did. You learned to live with it, but each upgrade (which you  had to pay for or came with a new machine ) got a little better.

Then finally came Windows XP. It was stable. I can hardly recall it crashing. It was fast, it was easy to use. It did what I wanted. I could leave the children's PCs pretty much to themselves. After all the crap before it, I think I earned Windows XP.

And I use it still. Not on this machine (Windows 7, with the last machine upgrade), but on my Netbook. It's perfect for me. I can write my blogs, I can produce magazine articles, I can do spreadsheets. I can even browse the net with it.

And now you've said you won't support it any more. Hackers will be all over it you say. Upgrade now. XP is the past. It won't support touch screen technology.

Well, I have to say the best way of getting text into a screen is still a keyboard, not touch screen, so I say "So What?". I don't want to touch the screen when I'm typing, thank you.

It's not an original comment, but when you released the software you should have tested it properly. Any vulnerabilities being found now were in it when you first produced it. Any one else who produced any other product that now became a risk, regardless of how long ago it was developed, would take responsibility for it. You don't. You just tell us to upgrade to an operating system that won't really run on hardware that is actually perfectly adequate for its purpose. Windows 8 will cost me more than my Netbook is worth, and it'll probably run like a dog, and I'll have to upgrade it myself.

And I do all of this to stay where I am. I get no benefit from this apart from security from bugs you'll now publicise with your new software but won't fix.

It's immoral. You know it is. And you can afford to support XP. How much per annum to run the XP team? $1 million or more? Unlikely. You can afford it. It isn't obsolete. It's the perfect operating system to run on simple PCs.

Thank you for not listening.

22 comments:

  1. It's part of this ghastly trend caused by that mobile phone on steroids, the tablet. Swish, swish,,swipe, swipe! I hate it! I agree with you completely. Anything other than keyboards is a gimmick!

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    1. The tablet looms over all of us. If I have to dump the netbook I may end up with a tablet. Not too excited by the prospect as I don't do much of the stuff that tablets are good for.

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  2. Good for you to have the b*lls to say what we are all thinking sir.

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    1. You're welcome. It's my blog and I'll write what I want to.

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  3. I switched the last machine in the house to a Mac last year (with the exception of a Laptop that I need for my taxes [yes, the German tax authorities require you to do your taxes with a Windows only software]). Best decision we have ever made. Vote with your wallet and switch as well. Maybe then Microsoft will listen one day!

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    1. I have thought about this. The issue for me is I use PCs at work and always have done, so I'm quite good with PCs and understand them. Don't want to relearn everything.

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  4. First, I'm not here to contradict anything you wrote. Everything that you wrote is quite valid.

    The thing that I question is how many (if any) hackers would even bother with XP since most people (and certainly most companies) have long since moved on to a more "up-to-date" operating system.

    Why hack an operating system that almost no one uses anymore?

    Yes, I think MS should continue to support it . . . but I also don't think that you need worry about it.


    -- Jeff

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    1. Jeff,

      XP is still used extnesively. Lots of ATMs in non-western countries rely on it, and other embedded systems do as well, - because it works!

      Hackers in those countries have a real incentive to get stuck into XP.

      Trebian

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  5. As an IT professional for 23+ years... Microsoft has every right in the world to stop officially supporting something they no longer want to. Apple is much less forgiving when it comes to supporting old product - they only support their two most recent releases which typically gives their software a two-three year life span.

    Even freebie Linux is only officially supported for 24-30 months until it is deprecated.

    Either way, it isn't like your XP machine just ceased working. Just keep your anti-virus up-to-date and don't do any unsafe browsing and it'll be fine until the hard drive gives out.

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    1. Ski,

      Your points are fair. MS aren't obliged to support a product once it has been released into the wild. I haven't had this machine that log, - 2 or 3 years, perhaps, so I bought in at the ned of XP's life, so I haven't had 10 years use out of it.

      Only a couple of other points in response. Linux isn't a fair comparison, - as you point out its free, so when a version goes off support I don't have to shell out to upgrade.

      Secondly as I understand the core of Windows 7 and 8 are based on XP. If a problem is found in 7 & 8 and a fix published there's a good chance it also applies to XP as well so it can be reverse engineered to attack to older system. I think that's irresponsible

      If that isn't true, please let me know.

      Trebian

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    2. Vista, 7 and 8 are completely new builds, not based on XP. For what it's worth, my wife uses a rather low-powered netbook with Windows 7 on it and it runs well. I haven't tried 8, but Win8's hardware requirements are the same as 7 - it would probably run OK on a netbook with 2GB of RAM.

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    3. That's reassuring, and completely contrary to some of the press coverage! With the virus checkers and the non MS browsers still patching holes I should be okay.

      I've looked at upgrading to W7, but I don't see why I should pay again if it continues to work. And I only have 1GB of RAM.

      However I do have an Android dual boot environment on it.

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  6. Couldn't comment earlier, Treb, as I have only just managed to get my W8.1 running laptop back engaging with the internet. On an almost weekly basis (probably prompted by an automated update) it drops out of synch with the world and takes numerous restarts before it finally seems to re-register (or at least it seems to be restart/reboots, but who knows, maybe it is just time but restarting it is what I'm doing with the time) ...

    I'm with Legatus Hedlius, anyway - W8 is the most appalling system I have ever encountered. I bought this laptop because I want to use the keyboard (I feel it is close on fraud to put W8 on a machine like this - W7 was a million miles more appropriate) ...

    Phil
    btw I upgraded to 8.1 because 8 was so bad I just assumed 8.1 would be the debugged version. Wrong 8.1 is what goes wrong every week.

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    1. I have shared your pain from time to time, and so have tried to avoid W8. Elizabeth uses it, however, without any problems.

      What am I to think?

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    2. I'm with Phil - Windows 8 is execrable on anything other than a tablet.... for my money, and my history is much the same as yours though I started with Win 3.1, Windows 7 was the finest platform they ever put out.. stable, good looking, and easy to run... XP is a close 2nd... I don't know what I'm going to do when the time comes to upgrade.... w.r.t. your comments about XP, our work PC's have only just been upgraded to Win7 - so there'll be plenty of other people still using it......

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    3. W7 is good, - I've been on it for my main home PC for a few years now, and I use it at work. Very few problems with it, and it has some features that improve on XP. Bit memory hungry for my Netbook.

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  7. Your IT journey sounds very familiar (anyone for supercalc training?), but for one factor; I am a Mac convert for home and recreational use. It's not cheap, but it works more often than not, and doesn't cause much head-scratching. Home networking is a breeze too.

    For my various jobs I use remote desktop via my macbook, a windows 7 laptop and a windows 8.1 desktop (hurriedly upgraded from XP). I can't say flipping between them is much of an issue - it's just putting on a different work face for each one. Much more of a hassle is the 3 different versions of MS Office that I have to use!

    But, much as I hate to defend them, Microsoft have been flagging up the impending demise of XP for five years now. IT departments have long had their heads where the sun don't shine on this topic, precisely because XP was stable and did what it said on the tin.

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    1. May be when I finally retire and have more time on my hands I'll revisit my computing arrangements.

      But I do like XP, for exactly the reason in your last sentence.

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  8. It will be interesting to see what the NHS does, as it is big enough to continue to support XP on its own if it wants to for System1.
    Sooo ..... expect a committee fudge combining the worst aspects of everything from Serco :-)

    Regards, Chris

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    1. HMG is paying MS £5.5m to provide continuing support. Other Governments are paying similar amounts.

      I can hear Mr Gates going "Ker-ching, Ker-ching"

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  9. Love the post! I was sad when I had to upgrade from XP to 7. XP had been the best so far. Never crashed for me.

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    1. "Never crashed" is a great feeling. Shows where MS had got us to when they sold us a product that actually worked as advertised and we were grateful.

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