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Upgrade from Windows XP

February 25, 2006

Micro$haft is preparing to release Windows Vista this year, saying that enhanced security is the top reason why users should fork over the money for the upgrade. And yet, simultaneously, they are also beginning to sell security products to businesses and $50/year antivirus subscriptions to end users. Doesn’t it strike anyone as being particularly ballsy to write crappy software all full of security holes, sell it at exorbitant prices, and then turn around and charge subscription fees to help fix it?? M$, are you for real?

It’s no secret that Vista hasn’t even hit the market yet, and already M$ has released a security patch for it.

To be fair, M$ is right about one thing. Security is, in fact, most definitely the reason why you should upgrade. …But what I take issue with is how they define “upgrade”. If you define “paying good money to move from an exceedingly broken and vulnerable OS to a somewhat less broken and vulnerable OS” as “upgrading,” then have at it, I guess.  I don’t call that “upgrading” — I call it an insult to our collective intelligence.

Microsoft says we should all upgrade for security reasons. (I’m sure the fact that this would line their already-filled-to-bursting coffers with even more profits has nothing to do with this recommendation.) But you know, profits notwithstanding, they are absolutely right. All previous versions of Windows including XP are riddled with security holes, and by all means we all should upgrade. But if you believe for one second that Vista will be the answer to these problems, you are seriously deluding yourself. Naturally M$ will tell you that each succeeding version is THE solution to all previous problems, simply because it’s profitable for them to do so!

A smart consumer will take the wheat and leave the chaff. Yes, each version of Windows will get better as M$ learns from each new catastrophe it has helped create, and we all pay the price (literally) in IT expenditures and downtime while they learn. But when you finally get sick and tired of the merry-go-round, you’ll consider a serious upgrade – to GNU/Linux or Mac.

But first, some excellent free advice from me as a long-time computer tech:

You should always keep at least one backup copy of all your important data in a separate location — in case, heaven forbid, your computer gets stolen, your hard drive crashes, your house catches on fire, or a plumbing problem turns your computer room into a swimming pool while you’re away at work. Whenever you do any software install, whether on Windows, GNU/Linux, MacOS, or any other operating system, you should make an extra backup, just in case you mess something up or a failing sector on your hard drive decides this would be a great time to quit allowing your system to access an important system file.

Yes, yes, you say. I have all my stuff backed up. What do I do now?

GNU/Linux options if you don’t feel comfortable installing it yourself:

  • Find a [GNU/]Linux Users Group (LUG or GLUG) close to you for help. Many of them periodically have “InstallFests,” events where anyone who wants Linux can just bring their computer in for free installation. For example, there will be a very large one this year at the Desktop Linux Summit 2006 in San Diego, California. Or for something less formal, just ask a LUG or GLUG member for assistance. GNU/Linux people are generally more than happy to help and quite eager to share their knowledge.
  • Find a GNU/Linux-savvy computer technician and pay him/her to install it for you.
  • Purchase a computer with GNU/Linux preinstalled. More and more often, major computer manufacturers are selling computers with GNU/Linux installed and ready to go.

A few of the most beginner-friendly GNU/Linux flavors to choose from if you’d like to try doing it yourself:

Mac options:

  • Purchase an Apple computer with MacOS X preinstalled. As of this writing MacOS 10.4 is the newest version.  Mind you, MacOS is proprietary software and as such, is subject to many of the same pitfalls as Windows – it’s just that Apple is better about addressing them than Microsoft is.

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