XPocalypse later?

English: This is a photo of a room full of com...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well it’s two months after the so called XPocalypse; the terrible wave of exploits that security experts predicted devastate the ancient operating system and I’m busy washing the remains of the egg off my face!

No sign of World-wide XP-specific attacks even though Microsoft were one of the first to shout in October 2013, when Tim Rains, director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group, cited statistics from the firm’s own telemetry to suggest that post-retirement Windows XP malware infection rates could jump dramatically.

But what did we get… zip, nada, zilch and a fair bit of egg on my face not to mention soem suspicions about talking many of my clients into dumping their tried and trusted old OS friend for it’s newer brother.

Last month a hack duped Windows Update into serving Windows XP systems with patches, but patches were from Windows Embedded POSReady 2009. That version, admittedly based on Windows XP SP3, was designed for point-of-sale systems, particularly cash registers, and automated teller machines. “Of course they say it is a bad idea to use the hack, they want people to move to Windows 8 and later Windows 9,” chimed in a reader identified only as “nilst2011” in a comment appended to the Computerworld news story.

But perhaps the good news, depending on your point of view, is that a zero day exploit for XP is not likely to target your ancient dual-core but be developed for a specific purpose and the available market of high-value Windows XP targets is dropping with every month, in short Cornficker 2 is probably not going to happen. In the last 12 months, XP has dropped 12.5% losing 33% it’s share as of May 2013, according to analytics firm Net Applications. If Windows XP continues to lose user share at its current tempo, it will be powering less than 10% all personal computers a year from now.

Meanwhile, despite the yolk being on me I’ll continue to recommend that users either install Windows 7 or 8 or buy a new machine. In the long run, I know it makes sense, in the short run, I hope my clients do as well.

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Xpocalypse Now?

 

Windows XP

Windows XP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s past April 10th 2014 so I’m assuming you have all upgraded your PCs from XP to, well practically anything really!

No?

OK, well you’re not the only one, leaving aside the corporations willing to £150 per machine per year for continued XP support (and probably only critical updates) if you still have XP what should you do now.

Emergency Check List
1. Start thinking about an upgrade, the longer you leave it, the more painful the upgrade will be…
2. Check to see your you are up to date on the pre-April updates.
3. Stop using Internet Explorer now, it’s linked to the Windows system and will be vulnerable followed by more vulnerable in the coming months. Choose Firefox or Chrome or Opera as your main browser. Install it today!
4. Stop using Office 2003 if you have it switch to 2007

If you have simple Word Processing and Spreadsheet needs, consider Outlook.com the MS email system comes with free cut down online copies of their Word and Excel applications.

5. Stop using Outlook Express – you should have done that years ago anyway. Invest in a copy of Outlook 2007 or later.

Update everything else, Java, Flash etc but check Java first if you don’t need it, uninstall it it’s a security vulnerability.

Basically, if you elect to stay with XP you are in the warzone, depending on what the hackers and malware exporters do next, you will either have no problem at one end of the spectrum or be the source of viruses and malware to thousands of other machines at the other.

No really knows the full extent of the problem, but the advice from the experts is that Microsoft have given you no real choice but to dump XP in favour of something else. I’ll talk about the options in another post soon.

XP to Linux – Keep it simple!

Linux Mint 11

Linux Mint 11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

For many of my clients and people I have spoken to, the prospect of moving from Windows XP to something else has provoked annoyance, outrage and in many cases a blank refusal to accept that they need to do anything. The fact of the matter is that in April Microsoft will stop all support for XP desktops and the first well designed piece of malware that hits the net will (potentially) have the power to wreck havoc on XP machines. Whether that actually happens only time and malware will tell, but this blog post is for the people who don’t want to take the risk and

 

a) Decide to migrate to another operating system and;
b) Do not want to spend money on a new computer.

 

That really means a Linux Operating System. Linux at time of writing is about 150 free open source operating systems, covering a range of PC hardware. Just about any computer from the last 10-15 years will run some form of Linux distribution or “Distro.” But one of the weakness of Linux from the point of view of the new user is the sheer number of operating systems – which one is the best?

 

From the point of view of someone an XP user and at the risk of annoying the various distro fans out there I think you can narrow the choice to 3

 

1) Lubuntu – an OS decided for systems with no a lot of RAM and low powered processors. Pentium 4 Pentium M and the like and less than a gigabyte of RAM
2) Linux Mint – for more powerful systems, dual core processors and more than a gigabyte of RAM
3) Ubuntu – Modern processors, i series, 2 gigabytes of RAM and better

 

There are numerous caveats to this list but it’s a good starting point for a beginner.

 

Zorin market a heavily customised version of Linux with a strong Windows “feel” it needs a fairly good machine to run the eye candy but might make the transition easier. I will do a blog post on Zorin in the near future

 

One consolation for the XP user coming to terms with Linux is that in addition to the OS Linux will come with lots of software, typically, an office suite, usually Open Office or Libre Office, Audio and Video players, image software, PDF readers and much much more. To add to the bargain, literally thousands more pieces of software can be downloaded using a dedicated download device built into the operating system. No hunting around trying to find what you want only to discover you have downloaded all sorts of nasties in the process.

 

However anyone hoping to use Microsoft Office or Quicken or another MS programme will be disappointed. It is possible to get some software to run under Windows but I would always advise beginners to look to some of the alternatives. http://linuxappfinder.com/alternatives

 

Most distros will come with a Live CD, DVD, or USB flash drive version appropriate for the user that wants to try it out before committing to an installation. ‘

 

If this all sounds too good to be true there are downsides. Linux is not Windows so there is a new thing to learn, even downloading new software can be daunting to the uninitiated.  There is a good chance your printer or scanner may not work and all your carefully purchased Win XP software is just a mini Frisbee collection!  Against that, the big Linux Distros update twice a year cost nothing to run come with all the software available for free and Linux is virtually virus proof.

 

Is it for me?

 

If you are a power user of Microsoft products probably not, if you spend time on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and browsing the web for Lolcats the chances are you will hardly notice the difference. Chrome and Firefox work perfectly well in Linux and some users may even enjoy a new challenege.
Links
Information on Ubuntu http://www.ubuntu.com/

 

Using Synaptic to download software in Ubuntu https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SynapticHowto

 

Information on Linux Mint http://www.linuxmint.com/

 

Information on Zorin, the Windows Friendly Distro http://zorin-os.com/

 

List of Linux operating systems http://distrowatch.com/