Category Archives: XP

Breathing new life into old hardware with Ubuntu

I’ve got a five year old Compaq laptop computer that ran Windows XP Pro for years (except for a time when I ran Vista in order to write an e-book on Vista security). With additional patches over the years, the system has been running more slowly, even after performing a lot of work to optimize performance.

I also have security concerns. This computer is used by other family members (including teens) who are less security-conscious than I am.

After saving some personal data, I’ve removed Windows and installed Ubuntu Linux.  The install procedure is very simple. If you are wondering whether it will run on your hardware, you can boot it and run it from CD-ROM to see whether all of your hardware is supported.  Critical were Ethernet, WiFi, and USB drives. All worked flawlessly – so last night I installed it over WindowsXP (and am hoping that I won’t regret doing a dual-boot first). Today I am installing updates. After that I will re-create all of the same user accounts and restore users’ bookmarks (browser favorites) and files.

Not counting work computers, this now makes the computers in our home running mostly Unix. My Macbook runs Leopard, and the Compaq runs Ubuntu. There is a Windows XP Pro running on a desktop computer, and we have a little Acer netbook that runs XP.

Commentary on Microsoft and Mac

I’ve been a PC user for 25 years and switched to Mac last year. It is SO much easier to use, HIGHLY reliable, no hangs or reboots, no DLL hell. The Mac just runs and runs and runs, absolutely reliable, no performance problems.

I ran Vista last year and it is AWFUL: terrible performance, compatibility problems, booting took a long time, and it lost all of my data twice. After six months I switched that laptop back to Windows XP. XP is the last MS OS I am buying. We are either going 100% mac, or going to run Mac and Linux systems. Microsoft has been so completely disappointing with continued security problems (despite “the memo” in 2002, things have continued to get worse) that I have completely given up on them.

I have used PCs since 1985, and it’s really disappointing to see the direction that MS has taken. Windows is no longer a usable OS, but a symbol of the bloat and middle age that has occurred in the MS company itself.

I am sold on my Mac and wonder why I waited to long to switch.

If you switch to Mac, you will be amazed at how easy it is to use. You’ll be productive on day one, without all of the attendant problems present with Windows.

Last day to buy XP

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Today is the last day to buy Microsoft Windows XP.

It’s the end of an era.

I’m glad I don’t need a new OS right now, but next time I’m in the market for a computer, it’s going to be running Linux. I used Vista for six months (even wrote an e-book about its security), and it was so intolerable that I switched back to XP.

Microsoft has SO violated the public trust with Vista. I have no confidence that Windows 7 will be any better. In fact, it may be worse. I will be long gone.

Apparently the protests and petitions sent to Microsoft have fallen on deaf ears.  Microsoft is apparently so full of itself that it really believes that Vista is better. After all, look at the numbers: it’s selling like crazy (never mind that dealers have little choice but to gag what is forced down their throats).

One independent computer dealer I know is selling all of his new computers with Linux, and is doing well.  I’m sure that there are many more like him.


Microsoft to stop selling XP on Monday

New Windows vulnerability is worm bait

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The first patch for 2008, MS08-001, addresses a vulnerability present in Windows XP and Windows Vista networking software. Specifically, the vulnerability is in code that manages IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) and MLD (Multicast Listener Discovery) protocols.

The vulnerability, if exploited, gives an attacker the ability to execute the code of his or her choice on the system. This is a system-takeover class vulnerability. And because IGMP is enabled by default on Windows XP and Windows Vista, this is a vulnerability that could be exploited with a worm that could spread through the Internet in hours or days and wreak havoc.

More information:

MS08-001 Patch

Protect your PC with a firewall

Network World article

Will Vista be the OS that is passed over?

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Will Vista go down in history as the OS that most corporate environments passed over?

Just a few months into Vista’s life cycle and Microsoft is already talking about Windows 7. I cannot help but wonder if Microsoft is talking about Windows 7 about a year earlier than planned, on account of the market’s lukewarm response over Vista.

I’m not an IT manager now, but I have been for many years, in the modern Windows / UNIX era. Were I to contemplate upgrading to Vista now, my thought process would go something like this:

I’m trading an OS (Windows XP) that is known, stable, compatible, predictable, runs on current hardware, and familiar to users…

…for an OS that is new, unknown, stability unproven, incompatible with many things, often requires hardware upgrades, and unfamiliar to users.

So why would I upgrade to Vista? Because I have too many staff and not enough to do? Because I don’t have enough to worry about? Because I have too much slack in my budget and I want to increase my support-per-headcount numbers? Because it’s been too long since the executives hunted me down with torches and pitchforks demanding that I make their systems work better?

And… Vista is memory-hungry, particularly if you use Aero. Forward-thinking companies that are on a three-year PC refresh cycle have one-third to two-thirds of their systems with insufficient memory to run Vista very well, so performance is also an issue. Few corporations are going to do field upgrades of user workstation memory; fewer still will upgrade them to newer systems. IT is too commoditized – especially end user workstations. Vista requires more oomph in user workstations than most companies are willing to provide. By the time companies get their workstations up to the point where they can all take Vista (compatibility and other issues aside), Windows 7 will be out. If I were CIO for a day in any major company, I’d keep my Windows XP and wait. No sense ripping out something that’s not broken, eh Pacha?

I was in a similar dilemma about ten years ago. I ran an IT shop that supported about 500 users. We were Windows desktop, Novell file and print servers. People from headquarters (the parent company with tens of thousands of employees) began to pressure me to change out the Novell environment for Windows NT. My counterargument was simple: Why should I spend thousands of dollars of resources to turn file and print into file and print, especially when users won’t even notice?

So I was able to delay that window dressing change for over two years. Only when Exchange came along was there a viable business case for making the change, and then I did.

Back to the main story. Will Vista join Windows ME on the scrap heap of OSs that companies rejected? Only history will tell. But Microsoft’s coming out early with Windows 7 appears to say, “Vista is yesterday’s news. Look what’s coming next!”

Disclaimer: I am invested in the success of Vista: I have written an e-book on Vista security and have written articles and podcasts on Vista. Here I’m just calling it as I see it.

More reading here:,289142,sid1_gci1266197,00.html,289142,sid1_gci1260015,00.html

Erase your paging file at shutdown

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There are risks associated with the use of computer hibernation. One risk is associated with sensitive information that may be present in the system’s paging file (pagefile.sys) such as passwords or the plaintext version of encrypted files. If an intruder is able to steal a computer in hibernation, he or she may be able to access the hard drive, including the entire contents of the paging file and hibernation file.

I should clarify this – even a system that is shut down is at risk: the paging file is still there and may have sensitive data on it.

One effective way to reduce this risk is to erase the paging file when shutting down the computer (note that I said shutting down and not hibernating). You can activate this policy (which also zeros out the hibernation file at shutdown if hibernation is disabled) by following the procedure in this procedure (Windows XP only):

Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy > Local Policies > Security Options > Shutdown: Clear virtual memory pagefile. Set this to Enabled.

Lock your workstation while you’re away

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Many security incidents (including a few that I’ve seen) result from an office worker leaving their workstation unlocked while unattended. One case I can discuss involves someone who sent a scathing e-mail to everyone in the organization from another employee’s workstation while that employee was away in a meeting.

In Windows XP and Vista, you can lock your workstation by holding down the “Windows” key and then pressing L. For Windows 2000, or for keyboards lacking the “Windows” key, press Ctrl-Alt-Del, then K.

The “Windows” key is near the Shift and Alt keys and looks like this:

Windows Key

NIST, FAA, others ban Vista

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It seems that Microsoft may be a victim of its own success. Windows XP is quite a reliable desktop operating system, so why should organizations spend vast fortunes migrating to Vista? Further, there are many application compatibility issues and questions (on one of my home systems where I run Vista Ultimate, several programs do not run at all or run improperly).

So it may be of little surprise to learn that U.S. government agencies, including NIST and DOT/FAA, are banning Vista, for now.


NIST bans Vista (Dark Reading)

U.S. FAA bans Vista, IE7, and Office 2007 (Information Week)