Windows 7 – You Have Five Years Left

Start the drum beating.

Microsoft reminded us that yesterday, January 13, 2015, that they stop all support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020.

Now for most people they will yawn and move on.  After all they will wear out the cheap $250 laptop they are using now and move onto another cheap $250 laptop by then, sliding it under the bed or into the closet and forgetting about it until cleaning day.

“Hey!  I need to do something about that old computer!”.

For large businesses who haven’t even migrated onto Windows 8, they will look at the notices and hopefully begin to plan.  It is five years in the future, and while you still can get Windows 7 today, the machines they buy today will still be in use in three years, and possibly five.

Most people just shrug and accept the operating system that comes with the computer anyway.  It’s easier and you don’t have to worry about it until it gets too many viruses and you start looking for an answer.  At $200 per “In Store” virus removal at a big box store’s “Squad”, it is probably cheaper to just “move on” and get new at the low end.

It’s not one of those doom and gloom things, after all.  You have five years.  The machine you are using to read this blather will most likely be “recycled” but it is something to consider.

If you are one of those poor folks who has soldiered on with Windows Vista, you have until April 11, 2017 – a mere two years and a bit.  Then the most hated operating system since Windows 8.0 will be completely unsupported, just like the dearly departed Windows XP.

To be fair, once you get all the Service Packs, Bug Fixes, and Additional Changes installed in Windows Vista, it works fairly well.  It’s just bloated, slow, and you’ll be better off on Windows 8.1 as well.

But for Windows 7, this means that you will still get patches, just no new features.  Virus updates, bug fixes, and any other patches will get sent along as usual, but nothing really new.

Oh, and about that old computer?  If it runs Windows 7, it probably can run Windows 8.  If it runs Windows 7, I am certain it can run some variation of Linux, and if you really are nervous about support, some of those server versions of Linux are supported for another 15 years while others get another 5 with easy upgrade paths.

After all, that is what this blog is written on – Linux on a hand me down computer.  But Linux isn’t for everyone, even if I did train a 69 year old lady and her 35 year old son how to use it. 

Great story for an interview, though!

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Got Windows? Hit Windows Update – Even Windows XP

So that bug I have been banging on about?

The one that is a bug of doom, effects every version of Internet Explorer from Version 6 through present?

Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows 8
and
Windows 8.1?

Yeah, the fix is in.

Microsoft has relented since 1/4 of the entire PC Market is still running Windows XP.  Not to patch this one would cause havoc on the Internet and crash web servers, and make little babies cry.

This morning, I started finding messages in the security blogs that mentioned it.  This bug, the 1776 bug, with a rather nasty hole has been exploited.

As far as XP is concerned, Microsoft has said in the past that while support has ceased for it, they may at their own choice make patches to it in the future.   Since this was a big one, and it is the future, take advantage of it.

Even if you don’t use Internet Explorer, you will want to get this fix.

The steps are simple.  You may have already downloaded the fix and there could be a message waiting for you to either shut down or restart your computer to apply the fix

If not, just:

Click Start
Click Control Panel
Click Windows Update
Click Install Updates

and you’re on your way!

Now, if you will excuse me, my computer wants to be restarted.  I guess I really do need to take a break anyway!

Now Homeland Security Suggests You Stop Using Internet Explorer Especially With Windows XP

You know things are getting dicey when the Department of Homeland Security gets involved.

Personally I never liked Internet Explorer.   It’s the browser that is baked into every version of Microsoft Windows out there since Windows 95.   The problem is that it’s a single point of failure.   If there’s a deep problem with the browser, your whole computer is at risk.   Slowdowns caused by Internet Explorer are common, and in my own experience it runs like a “Lead Sled”.

I try to use another browser wherever possible.

Now a little more tech jargon.  You may have read about some shadowy problems.  A “Zero Day” or “0-Day” attack.   Simply put, it is an attack at that low level of your software.  You won’t even know that you “got hit” and will be added to a hacker’s portfolio.

Every version of Internet Explorer that is in use since version 2 is involved in this mess.   No matter what version of Windows you are using, you are at risk.  Since they aren’t updating that old software, you really should have upgraded that old copy of Windows 95 well before now.

There is a fix from Microsoft, and you can now get it in Windows Update, and it didn’t even whine at me to restart Windows 8.1.  Until you do there are a few things to consider.

First, get a second browser.   I prefer Firefox, others choose Chrome, still more choose Safari, and there is always Opera.   Pick one and use it.  It is your choice!

Second, if you are on Windows XP, you need to upgrade, Now.  Windows XP will not be fixed at this point.  Microsoft may go back on its word, but you are at this point vulnerable.

Third there is another wrinkle to this mess – Flash.  It’s the most common way most people look at those cute cat videos and the video that I embedded below about this bug.  It has its own Zero Day exploit and needs to be upgraded to version 13. This Flash Bug is also a problem for Mac OSX and Linux, so I will have a busy day upgrading things around the house.  Basically everyone gets hit by this one no matter what computer you have!

With Windows7 and Firefox, you can check by following these steps:

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. Follow this link to the Plug In Checker.  It will open in a new page or browser window.
  3. Any plugins that you run that are out of date will show up with a red button on the right that says “Update Now” – click that button.
  4. It will open another page for Flash.  
  5. Click the check box to refuse the offer of McAfee Security Scan Plus since you just do NOT need that software.
  6. Click the Yellow Install Now Button.
  7. It will open another page, wait a bit, then ask you to save a program.
  8. When your download is complete, run the installer to update.  Flash does not do this behind the scenes.  You will find it in your downloads directory and you will have to run it separately.  The program it downloaded was called “install_flashplayer13x32_mssd_aaa_aih.exe” but it will change through time and versions.
  9. It will ask you if you want to install it, and personally I tell it to tell me to upgrade instead of doing it automatically.   Personal preference.
  10. When you get the green check and the “Installation Complete” message, you can click Finish.
  11. It will then bring up a message saying that you’re done and ask you if you want to get this fantastic deal from someone who I can’t see because my ad blocker has blocked it.   Shoo, Adobe, I don’t want your deals!

Yeah, 11 steps but it goes quickly.

Microsoft has a fix out now for Internet Explorer, but you really do need to get a different browser.   One that supports ad blocking since they’re also a vector for spyware and viruses.

The video from USA Today is at this link if you want to see if your Flash has been updated.

Since Windows XP "Dies" Tomorrow – Hit Windows Update Today

Consider this a Public Safety announcement to my friends and readers that see this today. 

Tomorrow is the big day.  Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP unless you are the US or UK government or some other organization that pays for extended support.  This may change, but better to be safe than sorry.

Today I went in and checked and there was an update for my Windows 7 computer, a new definition for my anti-virus program.  Since I use Microsoft Security Essentials, which is built in to Windows 8 and 8.1 and available for download on Windows 7 like me, and Windows Vista – and TODAY ONLY on Windows XP, it was there.

In fact I did a “double windows update” just to be sure and there was a second definition update for Microsoft Windows Essentials.  So I installed it.

You people still running Windows XP will may not be able to get it tomorrow, even though Microsoft says that they will provide updates for a “limited time” for XP.

The rest of us are fine.

Why the rush?  I’m saying “Better Safe Than Sorry”.  You just don’t know what happens when someone does something major.  The whole Year 2000 bug was one of those things.  It wasn’t a major problem because so many people worked so many hours to make sure it would be nothing.

With Windows, you hit the start button and look for the Windows Update link on your start menu.

It is also in your Control Panel, if you can’t find it on the start menu.  Windows 8 and 8.1 will have to go into their start page and find control panel themselves.  It will drop you onto the old school Desktop and then launch Control Panel.

Very sloppy, Microsoft.  Very Schizophrenic design.  You could have done better.  Try again.

Oh wait, you just announced that you did.  You’re bringing the start menu back.  Good boy, now go sit back at your desk and give me that nasty Dunce Cap.

Really… tsk tsk tsk.

I suspect that basically they’re throwing a bone to people and saying that they will make their new Windows 8.1 work like their older windows simply because so many people disliked Windows 8 and 8.1.  As of this weekend more people were still running Windows XP than there were running Windows 8 and 8.1 together.  Windows 7 has the largest market share.

Now, if we could only convince them to make Internet Explorer go away – or at least be faster.  I swear sometimes it takes a minute just to repaint the page that I had up on it when I clicked Minimize let alone go for the next link and I have an i7 computer.

Patch Tuesday is Following You

Got Windows?

When you get a chance, today, I’m giving you a task.

Shut down your PC.

There, simple, right?

Want the reason behind it?

I didn’t think so but here it is as simple as I can phrase it:  Microsoft found some nasty bugs and they’re fixed.

All better?

Seems like this sort of thing is happening more often, Windows demands you to shut down the computer in an orderly fashion because there’s something scary that needs to be replaced. 

How do you know?

This effects all versions of Windows that are supported including Windows 8 and 8.1.  Touch Screen people, have a look.  If you see a shield, shut it down and come on back later.

In Windows 7 and earlier, Click on the Start Button.  Look at the “shut down” button.  If there’s a gold or orange shield next to it, save all your work, then click it.   It will close all your apps/programs/and what have you, then do its work.

You may continue to have messages come up after you click shut down, but just leave your computer alone, it will do what it needs to do.

After you come back to use it again, you know – turn it on?, it may go through some more churning before you can go back to surfing and playing solitaire.
Oddly enough this effects Mac OSX as well since there’s a security violation over there.  Microsoft Silverlight is the culprit.

If you are still using Windows XP, enjoy it while you can, you’re out of luck on April 8th, 2014 unless Microsoft has a change of heart and decides to fix things.  They’re pulling the plug there and if you don’t replace Windows XP with a newer version of Windows, or install something like Linux on it, you will be serving ads for some spammer in short order.

If you don’t want to go through that, you can buy a new machine that is probably 4 times faster for about 300 dollars.

Now if your old machine is a really cool and thin laptop and you want to rehome it safely, do let me know.  I’d love an Ultrabook to put Debian onto.

Not that I need one mind you, but it would be cool. 

I can also install Debian Linux for you for a minor fee.  The operating system is free and most of the things Mom and Pop like to do on it are free too so you can go on about your business with your old machine, new software, and some street cred while you’re at it.

You know, Surf, Solitaire, Letters… that sort of thing.

But Windows People, Shut Down your computer today.
Mac Folks will be told they have an update.

My Linux Machine … it just keeps going on without a problem.

I’m Sorry, It has Six Months To Live. Windows XP Is Dying.

Sure, lets be melodramatic for a bit.   I kept thinking of a doctor’s office with dark walnut book cases and the doctor talking to the patient in hushed tones. 

I guess I watch too much TV. 

We had this discussion last night.   Sitting on the bench, Bill, Kevin, and I, and our dogs Rack and Ellie, were watching life go by.  Bill’s Mom, Lisa, has an aged Windows XP computer.   We may be able to get some more use out of it by adding more memory since it only has 1 GB.  Maybe not.  But the thing that most needs to change is Windows XP.

On April, 8, 2014, Windows XP support from Microsoft will end.   Customers who pay lots of money will get support, but that won’t help you since Microsoft won’t be sharing that with the world. 

All of the dates for the end of life of Microsoft Windows are on this page.  You are safe with Windows 7 until 2020, although I suspect that you will find your software won’t work with it near the end.  Things might get a bit “weird”.

There are reports of people writing viruses to be set out into “the wild” on April 9, 2014 to create havoc.

Bot-nets, Trojans, and Viruses, Oh My! 

The result is that if you are running XP on your computer on that day or later, you really need to change that to a newer operating system.

So there’s the typical decision tree:

If you don’t need it, recycle the computer or pass it on to someone who can do that for you.  Problem solved!

If you still think you can use it, or you must keep it for “records”, or you’re just one of those paranoid people who can’t stand the idea of your old hard drive falling into someone else’s hands, you may be able to upgrade it.  Just don’t get onto the internet with Windows XP next April.  You’ll have a bad time of it, eventually.

Bad boys, Bad boys, What’cha gonna do when they come for you?!

Ok, so how do you know whether to upgrade?  If you really want to know, here’s a great oversimplification of things, but basically:

  • Windows 8 will work on a machine with 4GB of memory but if you are looking at a computer with XP on it, you’re going to be shocked when you start it with Windows 8.  You might want to stick with Windows 7.

  • You can install Windows 7 or Linux if you have 2GB of memory, an Intel Core Processor, or newer.

  • Assuming you need to keep the software and data on the computer, and your older computer has 1GB of memory and won’t take any more than that, Windows 7 Home can be installed, but it may be slow.  You probably won’t want to use it for much more than that “archive” look around for your old records or recipes.

  • If you don’t need the data and you’re comfortable with playing with new software, look into Linux.  Specifically Ubuntu Linux.   All the software you will need for normal “office” or “web surfing” use is free, including Libre Office to do what your Microsoft Office did for you.  One thing to consider with Linux is that there are very few viruses on Linux.  I don’t even run a virus scanner on my Linux laptops.

  • With older computers it gets more complex, but basically Linux will be your only option to use the machine on the web.  If the computer can’t take 1GB of memory, you really are limited.

Checking your memory is easy.   Start, find “My Computer” and right click on it.   Select Properties and it will be there for you.  Whether your machine can take more than what it has in it is another story, and you will have to do that research on the computer vendor’s website.  Good luck there, there are way too many combinations to fit in the scope of a blog article, so I can’t be all that specific.

Personally I have a mix of things here.   My older machines are either Linux or Windows 7.  While all of my computers are old, and some as old as 10 years old, I haven’t had to throw any out due to this XP thing – they’re all still serving a purpose.  Basically, this is the process I’m going through here as well.   Remember your mileage will vary and one size doesn’t fit all, you’re going to have to actually think this through, but it isn’t that tough, I’ve got faith in you!

Your Computer is Slow Because It’s Patch Tuesday

When I worked at a small insurance company Back In The Day, we had a user.   A specific user.

She was someone who my boss called The Squeaky Wheel.  

She was The Wheel for short.

She would field calls and do inquiries on people’s insurance accounts and wonder why “things are slow”. 

Back in that day, computers were not very scalable – you couldn’t make them faster or bigger without some major surgery done by some cadre of people dressed in suits and ties carrying black bags.  If that wasn’t surgery I don’t know what it was.

Basically that company had too small of a computer for the people who needed to use it. 

New Jersey people would recognize that as a “Blivit” – 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag.

Today is Blivit day for everyone reading this.   Even if you don’t use a Windows computer, the internet will be slightly slower.  

Why?

Well Microsoft has done their work.  They squashed some bugs, fixed some exploits, and solved some problems.   That means that your windows computer wants to download those patches which means if you are on a slow connection, like that insurance company, you’re going to have a slow day.

That’s OK, Microsoft did their job, your computer will be safer.   Now if we could just convince them that Windows 8 Interface with the butt-ugly start screen was a mistake and turned our nice little kitten of Windows 7 into the Blivit of the Decade…

This is for Windows XP, Windows 8, Windows Server, and a bunch of other things including Internet Explorer and “stuff under the hood”.

Never mind, just relax.   Switch to decaf.  Oh and lay off the sugar, we all have too much of that.

If you want to read a bit more about it, there is a write up on this link at Sophos’ Naked Security blog.

I think it will be an excellent day for me to work on that graphics project on my Linux machine and bring that one website up to the next level… again.