The End of the XP Era
I don’t have a computer. I have an army of computers. I’ve picked them up here and there. I’ve gotten some good deals, inherited them from people who were getting rid of them, and and so on. And I almost never get rid of a computer if it works (and sometimes if it doesn’t) and I am good at keeping computers working. I finally threw away two computers before the cross-country move. I purchased them in 2002. They still worked, but I needed some parts from them. My console has four computers (three operational, one requiring a LiveCD at the moment), soon to be five. I have five laptops in use (one of which with a cracked display), three working ones on stand-by, two semi-functional ones (obscured displays), and two non-functional ones (that, by combining parts, will make a single functional one in the near future).
All but four of them run Windows XP. Which means that this breaks my heart:
On April 8 2014 – exactly 210 days’ time – Microsoft will be putting Windows XP on its ‘end of life’ cycle.
This is not news in itself, yet with pressure ramping up against the near third of users still on the near 13-year-old desktop OS, the clock is ticking for enterprises unwilling to change.
Microsoft has put its cards on the table in this respect. A blog post last month from director Tim Rains warned against the very real dangers of carrying on with XP after support has ceased.
“The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities,” Rains explained, adding: “If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP.”
In case you think this is a marketing ploy to get you to buy new computers, this is a serious security threat. I will not be booting up a networked computer after that date. Which, given my army of computers, presents me with a serious problem. A lot of these computers are not worth what a Windows 7 or Windows 8 license would cost. And that’s if these computers can run Windows 7, which will be a challenge. I have access to Windows Vista licenses for very, very cheap.
Which I guess means that I am about to embark on a Linux the likes of which I never have before. One of the laptops already runs Linux. It’s a computer with good specs that never really lived up to them. A couple of component upgrades helped, but it still struggles. Which could mean that even getting Linux to run on some of these computers may require some tweaking. But my recent experiences have been encouraging that Linux will be the option for many of them.
Some of them are going to be a challenge, though. Mostly because they are specific-use computers. Two, for instance, are attached to television sets. All of my attempts at MythTV have failed. Which isn’t to say that it can’t be done, but it’s going to take some work. Another is on printer duty. Two of its primary jobs are printer-sharing and image manipulation. I haven’t figure out how to share Linux on a primarily Windows network, and I can’t use some of my imaging software on Linux. (Of the three I use – Photoshop, Paint.net, and GIMP, only the last is available on Linux.) One of the primary functions of one of the desktops involves audio and video conversion, which I have specific Windows software for.
So for some of them, I may have to install Vista or upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 (let’s assume 7). And I’ll have to decide whether to install the 32-bit version of Vista or 7, or the more resource-intensive 64-bit*. For the others, it’s created something of an identity crisis for them. Namely, what are they for? These are questions I have not had to ask myself in a while. Typically they sit, gathering dust, right up until I need them for something. Next time I need them, I may or may not be able to use them depending on what OS they have installed.
Not that I can blame Microsoft for this. They gave it their best:
Here’s a fun fact: XP first appeared at the end of 2001. As late as 2010, computers were still sold with XP installed. Windows Vista, which arrived 6 years after XP, only lasted until 2011.
If you think about it, XP will be nearly 13 years old. Like a teenager, it’s having trouble adjusting to the world. In spite of a major overhaul with Service Pack 3, XP just wasn’t built for the modern digital age.
It’s missing key security features introduced in Windows Vista. It can’t support the latest, safest and most Web-compatible versions of Internet Explorer. It can’t take full advantage of the latest hardware advances.
It’s becoming increasingly frustrating for customers and third-party companies. Many third-party companies would love to stop supporting XP. It takes a lot of time and money to make sure programs and hardware work on every version of Windows.
Windows XP is on so many computers because it was such a long-standing, and happy-for-me, operating system. That I am having this problem so many years later is a testament to how valuable it was. Rest in Peace, XP.
* – The rub being with 32-bit, it will only recognize 3GB of RAM. With 64-bit, I will be able to use between four and eight depending on the machine and whether or not I choose to upgrade. I don’t know whether 32-bit Win7 on 3GB of RAM or 64-bit Win7 on 4GB will actually work better.