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.

The Dumpster Server

I have been building PCs for about 22 years now.  I haven’t bought a new in the box computer since the 1980s.  I know the hardware intimately, and if anything assembling a desktop computer is getting easier.

You would expect me to say that but the truth is that as they put more parts on the motherboard, there are simply fewer pieces you need to put on that motherboard to get a workable low end or mid level desktop computer running.  

Laptops are different.  I’ve repaired them and the smaller hardware is always more difficult to work with.  You don’t pull a motherboard in a laptop, they’re not designed for that.  Other than swapping out disc drives, memory and a few other parts most people need to keep the screwdriver away from their laptops.  Leave that to some guy with the tools and most likely a magnifying glass.

I’ve pulled dead laptops apart and replaced the LCD a couple times before, and while it is always annoying, it can be done.  Replacing a CD ROM with a DVD burner is an annoying upgrade but for the most part if you’re patient and have the repair documentation you can do it yourself.

All that might explain why I have contempt for services like Geek Squad’s $199 in home set up of a PC.  If you do that and you’re near me you’re going to get a lecture, especially since I could use the cash.  In Home PC Set Up is a dead simple exercise if you can Read The Friendly Manual and that manual has been reduced to a single sheet of paper these days when you buy a brand new PC.

I have a rather large pile of cast off PCs here too.  Since we have a network, I use an old desktop machine as a server because it is safer than putting the “750GB Craig Drive” in an external box and plugging it into the USB port that gets stepped on by the dog or worse, me.

For the most part, people will have their machines for about 2 years, then buy a new one because the old one is too slow.  Without realizing that it is installed things like “toolbars” and other “crapware” that hitchhiked onto their machine when they installed something that they really needed by taking the “Express install” instead of the “Custom install”, the machine slows down with each piece of software until that 2 year old machine joins the other one that was in the closet from 4 years ago.

I live near a shopping center.  In the back of the center there is a dumpster that has a habit of having an interesting amount of electronic hardware of all sorts.  Since I can solder a new switch onto an old board, I’ve salvaged some interesting things out of that dumpster.  The latest was a practically new office PC.  By which I mean lightly used, almost no dust inside, treated like it was a religious object then sent to the thrift store who put it in there.  I got it home, plugged it in and it turned on happily and went to an almost empty desktop.

After reformatting the hard drive from the recovery partition, the machine was fully functional and happy as a clam.   I added extra memory and realized that while it is a Pentium 4 3GHz machine, slow by today’s standards, it had a few benefits for me.   The motherboard itself was a small one – about the size of a sheet of letter paper with some of the bottom trimmed off.  The machine now had 1GB of memory and running Windows XP and was quick by even my standards.   Sure, it was built in 2003, but it had a lot of life left.

All that took me about an hour of actual “work”.

It gave me the opportunity to move the hardware inside that big black IBM case into a little cube of a case I’ve had here.  After moving everything along, I dropped the Craig Drive in there and now I have a server.

Why is that important?  You can’t stuff a desktop disc drive in a laptop no matter how hard you try.  If you are using a Cable Modem and High Speed Internet, having a network is nothing more than adding a little hardware and configuring the machines to work together.

The price was right, and it fit very nicely under my hutch on my pine desk out in the Florida room.   If it were a little newer, I’d tell you how to enable Wake On Lan so you can get your machines to start remotely… but since it isn’t I’m happy with walking out there to press the On button when I want access to that big drive.

Dumpster Servers can be real nice, if you know how to make them work for you.  Speaking of which, it’s time for me to “do a backup” of this laptop.   When is the last time you did a backup of your PC?  Hmm?

Virtually Safe Surfing

There are a lot of viruses out there on Windows.  If you are not using an anti virus program, you are probably harboring them as well as a trojan or two.

This isn’t a primer on how to get rid of viruses.  I have already gone down that road.   There’s a lot of different ways to clean a computer.   Most folks get frustrated that their machines have slowed to a crawl and go out and buy a new one.   If that’s you and you have a laptop that us under a year old in that state, feel free to send it to me… oh and get yourself a Mac, they don’t have the same numbers of viruses.  You won’t be quite as compatible, and the software is more expensive, but as long as you stay in the Mac Environment you will be much better off.   If you’re a casual user it frees you up from having to deal with all that virus crap.

On the other hand, if you’re a little bit technical, you should look into getting a virtual environment and running a computer in a sandbox.   That is how I am writing now.   I’m looking at Firefox running on a virtual Windows XP program that is running on Virtual PC 2007 that is running on Windows 7.

Got all that?

I have done all this so that I can stay away from Viruses and Google’s snoopy tendencies (They already know WAY too much about everyone and I’m moving away from Google’s software) and do everything I need to.  When I am done, I click the X box to close the entire environment, tell it no to “Save State” and its done.   All the snoopy things are gone.   There’s no connection to the main machine, there are no worries about viruses and illicit cookies, and I’m completely safe.

If you are really curious, and have an older Windows Machine that you want to save, you can create an image legally from your existing older machine (It is legal as long as you have retired the computer you image – like this one was), install free software like Virtual PC 2007 or VMWare Player, and you are good to go.   You just need to have an extra amount of memory over what you normally run on the computer.  

If I’ve lost you, find your favorite 16 year old geek and turn them loose on this and tell you what you want to get done.  Get the right software on the machine and you’re safe.

I’ve obviously glossed over everything here, this is basically a very high level executive summary.   But that is how to do it.   It works well.

XP Mode install on Windows 7

Now that I had installed Windows 7 on my Acer Aspire 5610, I set about this new thing called “XP Mode”.   If you have a lot of XP software, and who doesn’t, you will be considering this.   What it does is set up a way for you to run your old software in a box that looks like a Windows XP desktop within your Windows 7 machine.

It looks just like your current Windows XP desktop, if you’re still on Windows XP.   The way it works is that Microsoft is going to give you free for download a copy of Windows XP called XP Mode that will only install on a Windows 7 machine.  You will download that (Its a big one, 1.4GB of disc space) and a copy of “Windows Virtual PC 7” which is fairly small.   This only runs on Windows 7 so if you haven’t gone that route, this discussion won’t help you.   If you’re on a Mac I’d suggest looking elsewhere like VMWare Fusion 3 that I’m evaluating for my boss at work.

There is also another wrinkle.   Windows Virtual PC 7 will ONLY run on specific computers and only after you twiddle with your bios to turn on something called Virtualization.   If you have that you will have a great experience, if you don’t I’ll have a later post on what to do there, since I had to go that route for this machine.

To test this, surf over to this link and run the program that is on the page called the “Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor”.  That link will give you an idea of first whether your machine will run Windows 7.

Further you will want to look at this link which will tell you if you can run Windows 7 XP mode.  You will download a program and it will run and look at your hardware and tell you whether you have that little bit of extra goodies in your computer that will work with XP Mode.   The program is called “havdetectiontool.exe” as of this writing.

In my case it said no.   It would have saved me time surfing some really confusing pages on Acer and Intel had I done that but I’m hard headed.

Assuming it says yes, then surf the XP mode page here and select your language and version of Windows 7 that you have, and yes you do need to know that.   In my case it was Professional 32 bit and English.

Step 4 says download XP mode, and install it.   When that is done, download and install Windows Virtual PC.  

At that point you’re installed, you probably have some reboots to go through and some set ups, but I have seen XP Mode, its worth the effort, and lets you run Windows XP like you were used to.   It runs almost as fast as the Native Windows 7 that you are running as the PC operating system at about 97% of normal speed – from what has been reported.

The only gotcha is that XP mode will only be supported until 2014 so better get going huh?   Well by then you’ll have other worries and other PCs but for now it works like a champ from what I saw on my Network Admin’s laptop.

A week with Windows 7

I made the jump to Windows 7 this week on one of my laptops.   One of the thing I did in Key West other than take a shed-load of pictures was to help a friend out with his PCs.   He had one with over 100 viruses and needed the pictures out of it, another that he used as a desktop machine, a third that was “Dead” and some others in various repair.   I set him up with the three best, set up his router, and came home with the remainder.

The ones I came home with were better than what I had before, an old Dell Inspiron 600m that is fast enough under Windows XP to do anything I want, but I do budget time with it.   Since I hadn’t moved into either of the two new machines I had the luxury of deciding “What do I want to do with all this stuff”.   Since I am an IT Manager now, I can actually put these things to use.   The widescreen Gateway with the Core Solo processor which is still faster than the Inspiron is now my video editing PC and will get all the things that I do that take time.  Set it up and let it roll on XP.  It is stable and has a 17 inch wide screen, perfect for my web development under Joomla! (yes its a real name), and Video Editing.

I have this machine that was the fastest of the lot, an Acer Aspire 5610 with 2GB of memory.   It is a 2007 vintage from what I can tell, not new, but in physically good condition and pretty much perfect for the upgrade.   I have a (legal) copy of Windows 7 Professional that I won’t share so don’t ask.   I started the upgrade then went for a dog walk.  Yes, that easy.   I didn’t care what was on the machine and just formatted the extra two partitions after merging them and went out with Lettie The Super Dog for a mile around town.

When we got back, about 30 minutes later the Acer was sitting at a prompt asking me for a Key which I have.   I sent it back on its way after a few more prompts, happily installing and set about my normal morning routine.   It finished while I was in the shower and then I restarted it at the Out Of the Box experience screen – or OOBE (Ooo Bee).  Yes, that is what we call it where you enter in your name for a log in.

Basically in short what I’m saying is that if you want a machine that is clean and you don’t want a lot of junk running slowing you down, you will want to do a “Clean Format and Install”.  Go buy yourself a “Thumb Drive” of about 16 GB or so, it will cost less than $40, a copy of Windows 7 Pro (Skip the Home stuff, they leave too much out), and install it yourself. 

If you have Vista, you can do an upgrade but I decided I did not want to go that way with it.   I didn’t care what was on the machine.   If you do, the Upgrade procedure is not completely clean all the time, you may end up formatting the PC and starting over, so make sure you copy your My Documents tree onto that Thumb Drive (USB Key, Flash Drive or what ever name you wish to call it) so you don’t lose your recipes and letters to Mom and pictures of the Dog.   Also make sure you have copies of the programs you installed, back up your favorites and bookmarks to the drive, and just have a good long snoop around your PC and make sure you’ve saved everything you really DO need before installing.

If you have XP, back everything up because there is no way to do this without formatting your hard drive.   The Install of Win 7 will do it for you, but everything on the hard drive will be gone.

Let me repeat… If you are installing Windows 7 on a machine with XP, you will lose everything so back it up first!

I have used Windows 7 since the betas for about 6 or so months, maybe longer.   I’ve used it on some really strange hardware.   The biggest question is what would you install it on.   If your machine came with Vista, you should be safe – they typically come with 2 or 3 GB of memory and Win 7 is really happy there.

If you have an older machine, I would say that you probably have XP.  Windows 7 runs just a teeny bit slower than XP.   If you REALLY want Windows 7 then you can gauge for yourself but I’d recommend going to 2 gigs of memory first.

I have run it on a Pentium 3 1GHz laptop (IBM Thinkpad A30) with 1gb of Memory and it was useable but slow, however it was slow on XP.   I wouldn’t recommend it for long term use.

My personal opinion is that anything Pentium 4 or newer (Core Solo, Pentium M, Faster Celeron, Core Duo and so forth) with 2GB of memory will run fine.   You really want a faster machine.  Something approximately faster than a Pentium 4 2GHz but it will run on a slower chip and if you have a Pentium 4 “class” machine you’re due for a newer PC anyway.

I agree with what Microsoft says the following at this link

link_expandAllText = ‘Show all’; link_collapseAllText = ‘Hide all’;

If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here’s what it takes:
  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Vidyartha College FaceBook virus

Apparently there’s a worm or a virus going around Facebook.  

If you’re surfing through there, and are asked to update any software, Don’t!   This thing has been said to grab hold of your system and take over.   It will also take control of your Facebook account and mail all your friends to surf you and then they’re infected too. Facebook is saying its a Bug not a Virus, but treat it as a virus and be safe.

Mostly its hitting people in India or those with friends there.  Predictable with a name like Vidyartha but thats a different story since that is a college in Sri Lanka.

Currently there is no cure for this virus, er bug.

A few days ago, I did a long winded explanation on how to scan your PC for viruses using Microsoft’s tool.   If you’re on windows, and you’re not totally confident about your protection, the link below will give you full and long winded directions on how to scan your PC.   You’ll need your favorite soft drink, a block of “quiet time” and an internet connection for that.   Since you can read this, you have two out of three…

http://www.ramblingmoose.com/2009/09/microsoft-windows-virus-protection-for.html

Microsoft Windows Virus Protection for Casual PC Users

In view of the new Clampi virus that goes after your financial information, this seemed timely.   I hadn’t heard of it before I started on this post, but I did and went through the steps below, myself.
When I lived near family I’d go home and visit my Mom, and my Sister and my Nephew.   They were not the most technical people, but understood that there were uses for a home computer.   I got my nephew started when he was 2 with a PC, and he had one ever since.  Mom really didn’t see that she needed to learn although she was curious and my sister was an occasional user.
On the weekends I’d come home, after the long Honey-Do List I’d sit down and see if their PC, my nephew’s mainly, was still working.   This was back in the days before high speed internet was widely popular and they were still on a modem.   Every time I’d sit there, I’d hear “It’s not working right, do you know what’s wrong?”.   Sure, the virus protection was turned off, and after a scan there were sometimes hundreds of viruses.
That a teenager (then) would have viruses on the machine didn’t surprise me, and many people have them without noticing.   I personally run a copy of Symantec Antivirus on XP, don’t bother with anything on Linux or Mac OSX because I don’t do anything even slightly risky there.
I do have a backup plan and here is my recommendation.   For now and into the immediate future what I do is on Windows based PCs to surf via internet explorer, and this is about the only use I have for IE, the following link:
That link brings up Microsoft‘s free scanner.  It does not work unless you go there, answer the questions and start the scanner yourself.   Its best use is an occasional use where “something doesn’t feel right”.
Start the link, I’ll wait…
There’s a lot of text on that page, but if you page down to the button “Full Service Scan” and click it.
There may be a click through “Service Agreement” signing all sorts of legalese rights away, and a good lawyer could get them back, so page down and click “Accept” and a small window should pop up.   If it doesn’t, check your pop up blocker settings and allow the site to pop up.
Make sure that the following boxes are checked:
Comprehensive Scan
Virus Scan
Spyware Scan
All boxes under Performance and Network Scan should be checked.
Under “Comprehensive Scan” there is a link saying “Select Folders” or Customize.  This will allow you to set the scanner to look at drives other than your C Drive.   I’ve got two drives, so I can click there to turn it on to scan them, but if you are like 95% of the people, that link should be unneeded.
This being web software the links may change, so you’ll want to try this out if you’re unsure of your current scanner.   It is free, Microsoft tries to keep it up to date, and they intend to include this in the next operating system I’ve been told, called “Windows 7”.   For those of us out there who haven’t gotten Win 7 yet, and as of this writing, it is not yet out officially, this exercise is a great backup.
Oh by the way, you may want to do this and leave the machine up over night or while you’re at work.   It takes a couple hours for my machine to do a full scan.  It isn’t so much of a “resource hog” that you can’t do other things, but you then won’t have to babysit.  I have it running now as I sit in my Ikea Poang chair and bounce.
It took my system three hours to get to the point that it was through churning.   It came back with a window titled “Results”.   I didn’t have any viruses, thankfully.   But what I did here was to click the boxes that said “Defragment your hard discs” and clicked Next.
When you’re finished the scan, the final window asks you to “Let Windows OneCare take care of your PC”.  That is not necessary.   Click on the link that says “Not Yet, I’m not ready”.  
Now you have the Summary.   Click to clear the box next to “Share information with Microsoft”.  I don’t THINK so.   I personally share as little info as humanly possible.   Make sure that box is cleared, then click on the “Next” Button.
After the window refreshes, you may close that window and any other window you like.  You’re Done.
And so am I.   CYA!