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Yet Another Windows Nightmare, aka YAWN…

July 17, 2009

Attacks against unpatched Microsoft bug multiply

Any seasoned Windows user will not be surprised that there’s another known Internet Explorer security bug that Microsoft has taken much to long to address. Yes, they have released a little workaround script to temporarily disable the dangerous ActiveX control in question. But as a computer repair technician of many years I can assure you that the article’s assessment of that workaround is quite correct. Most people aren’t keeping up on this sort of thing – especially since it happens so annoyingly often – and are unlikely to use that script, since it requires taking time out of real life to go download and install it.  This, after another similar incident last week.

These frequent opportunities to have one’s computer invaded and/or data stolen or deleted should serve as a wake up call to how truly dangerous it is to run Windows.  With all the spyware out there nowadays, it’s pure lunacy to do online banking or taxes or any other sensitive transactions on a Windows machine any more.  I have had customers tell me horror stories about getting victimized by identity theft after making such transactions, and finding out later that their Windows machine got infected with spyware shortly before it happened.  Danger, Will Robinson!

As a computer tech I can also tell you that by and large the most common repair these days is removal of viruses, spyware, adware, trojan horses, and keyloggers.  I speak as someone who has been cleaning up Microsoft’s messes for a long time when I say it continually amazes me how much time, money, and energy are spent just keeping Windows systems free of malware.  This in addition to the hefty 100 or 200MB service packs one has to keep downloading and installing, and having to deal with sudden crashes so frequent and ubiquitous they earned their own moniker in the computer world – “BSoD” for Blue Screen of Death.  (Here for your viewing pleasure is a video where Bill Gates himself gets hit with one of these at Comdex, a large computer conference… poetic justice, many would say.)

So I’ve used the acronym YAWN here for the reason that these occurrences are the same boring song sung over and over again.  If you’re not fed up by now, you haven’t been paying attention.

When you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you’ll seek an alternative.

Some people respond to this problem by switching to a Mac.  But I think that’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire.  Part of the problem behind Microsoft’s shoddy software is the fact that they alone control that software, and users’ freedom of choice is the last thing they care about.  That’s why they are far more concerned about using antitrust tactics  to force out competitors (1 2 3 4 5 – oh heck just google “Microsoft antitrust”) than they are about making a superior product.  Now, while Apple’s software is clearly much better than Microsoft’s, they’re worse for user freedom of choice.  This is because, like Microsoft, they have exclusive control over the software – but they also have exclusive control over much of the hardware.  If Microsoft chooses not to remedy a software issue, Windows users are out of luck.  Mac users are subject to that problem too, but worse because the same exact concept also applies to hardware.  If Apple decides it has no plans to remedy a hardware problem (and I have heard various complaints about this), Mac users are out of luck on this front too.  I don’t recommend taking the Apple route, for these reasons.

GNU/Linux is easier than ever to use, and built with security and user freedom in mind.   It has an active worldwide community that provides support and continuous development of free software – “free” as in “freedom” and often “free” as in save your money.

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