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!

Advertisements

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.

Windows 8.1 Start Button is Returning

They relented.   I suspect that part of the reason why Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft was invited to retire was the flop that is the whole Windows 8.1 Metro interface on a desktop computer.

I’m not a fan.  I have a machine here, an older touch screen model, with Windows 8.1 and it is gathering dust.  Most of the reason why it is is because the blocky “Metro” or “Modern” interface is just so annoying to use. 

Yes, I can work around it.
Yes, I learned it.
Yes, it is a solution in search of a problem.

That isn’t the point.  It is a computer.  It is *MY* computer.  If I don’t like what an operating system does or how it looks, I will change it.  I run three operating systems here, Windows 7 mostly but also that lone Windows 8.1 machine, Mac OSX Mavericks, and Debian Linux.

They all look different and they all have their benefits. 

Not everyone knows how to adjust things, nor should they have to.  After all it is *your* computer isn’t it?

There are more people running Windows XP than Windows 8.1.  Windows XP at this point is a week away from being abandoned by Microsoft with no support.   While that is still a wait and see situation, the market has spoken.  The non-intuitive Windows 8.1 is just not liked by the majority of people out there.

Windows 8.1 seems to run desktop programs faster and is widely reported to do so.   Those are the reason why you bought your computer – to write letters, run spreadsheets, and surf websites like mine.  You want to do more than one thing at a time.  You may want to listen to music or watch a video while chatting with friends.

All of that is difficult to do at the same time in the “Modern” blocky interface.  It just doesn’t “work” with the way you want to use your computer if you want to do more than one thing at a time.  Microsoft says it is a training issue, you’re just too used to the Old Way of doing things, implying that you’re stuck in the past. Apparently they were mistaken.

To get around that you have to find your older desktop programs, drag a tile onto the start screen, and create a link.   Did your eyes glaze over?  I suspect 90 percent of the people are lost on how to do that. The number of people asking me how to do exactly that is pretty high.

Now, they’re giving you back your Windows 7/Windows XP/Windows Vista style start menu.  The Blocky Metro Programs will look like the old school desktop programs so you can use your programs mixed in with your faithful copy of Firefox and Libre Office, Winamp, or whatever software you have found that You like because yes, it is Your computer.

So give it time.  Microsoft will be rolling out this as an update, most likely on a Patch Tuesday and all the sudden you’ll have your computer back to what you needed from the start button.  (Pun intended)

It may even give me an excuse to pull that touch computer back from the place I hid it.   I have a Sharepoint Server on that if I remember correctly.  I could use some more experience on it.

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.

Now It Looks Like Windows XP Will Get Virus Updates After All

Microsoft blinked.

After saying April 8, 2014 XP Users will get nothing from Microsoft, they changed their minds a little.  It is a reprieve, and a temporary one at that.

Microsoft will provide Virus Warnings until July 14, 2015.

Bastille Day?  Interesting choice.  All the virus writers will have to wait to storm the defenses until that day.

Of course if you are using some other virus scanner like McAfee or Norton,  they will continue to support you like they have been.

This doesn’t mean that they promised to provide fixes in Windows Updates, the holes that scare the IT Guy at your office will still be there.   It only means that they will be providing updates to their anti virus program Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until that date.  You will still be targeted by virus writers for those holes in the system.

Microsoft Security Essentials is the same program that runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is included or “baked in” to Windows 8 and 8.1.   It seems like the virus signature file downloads are most likely the same in both products but there’s a switch somewhere that will be thrown to stop it from working with Windows XP.

Planned Obsolescence.  Pay more and upgrade or else.

Their response is straightforward – upgrade to a newer operating system.

This might be why I have so many Linux based computers around these days… But for people who don’t want to learn a new operating system, don’t stick with XP – the holes will still let the viruses get in, and if the antivirus doesn’t catch them, you won’t get a fix from Microsoft.  If you really are against learning a new Operating System, Windows 7 is the closest thing that you can get for that old beater of a computer that looks “normal”… you know – looks like XP.  Even Windows 7 may not save you if you have a really old machine with less than 2GB of memory, but Linux would run comfortably on most machines in that class.

Most.  Don’t get silly, that old Pentium 4 needs to be recycled.  I could get something  to run on that, but it would be limited and I’m not really interested in doing free support.

Also, if you really are going to keep your old machine and upgrade to Windows 7, remember that Windows 7 is an install not an upgrade.

About 30% of all desktop computers run some form of Windows XP.  I’ve read statistics that “Some Form Of Windows XP runs on 95% of all ATM Machines in the US”, although I really doubt that statistic.   That “Some Form” is probably Windows XP Embedded which is a very different monster than what you know and love on your desktop computer.   The networking component has been made more secure, although you have to wonder just how secure it really is.

I’ll stick with my earlier comments, time to upgrade folks.  XP is about to XPire.