Leading CNN's tech headlines today once again, the battle to save Microsoft Windows XP is still in full swing. Many users are just now finding out about the June 30 deadline for sales of Windows XP, after which the operating system will no longer be available on new PCs. I'm not affiliated with Microsoft, nor do I have a particular passion to see XP go away, but I DO hope by writing this article to gather some user response as to why people are so concerned to see the death of the old XP. I'm hoping for feedback here, so please comment if you have the time.
Personally, I run both operating systems. I run Windows Vista Ultimate on my home PC and my laptop and I run Vista on my other home desktop and my work desktop. When given the opportunity, I almost always prefer to use my Vista machines over the XP machines. I'm just curious to know why others aren't so keen on the upgrade.
As an IT retailer and consultant I deal with new customers seeking computers every day. Most often they are business owners or data-entry personnel who don't have the time to research their own computer needs. They come to me and say "I need a new PC. Get me a price." It's been my habit to always ask them which operating system they prefer. Most often it's always Windows XP... they fear Vista. I hear all the time how bad Vista is, how buggy is it, how it's not going to last. When I ask them to explain their experience with me they usually tell me, "Oh I've never used it but I know it's bad. My friend (insert geek's name here) had it and he/she told me how bad it was," etc. It's always some variety on that same theme, always fear of the unknown, but nothing grounded in an actual example of anything... just rumors of what they've been told and fear of something they have heard is harder to use.
Let me try to shed light on a few things some of you who might not readily understand the OS world might need to know. I've been using XP since before it hit the market. I wasn't an uber-geek, but I was one of those lucky enough to get a beta copy. I was there USING computers hard core when it was first released. I only say this to impart that I've been involved in the process since it's inception. I've seen XP grow from the bastard child of NT to what it is today. Microsoft Windows XP was Microsoft's attempts to throw away the Windows 98 core processes and build a new system. When it was created there were only two choices to build from. Microsoft could either continue with the flailing, impressively vulnerable Windows 98 kernel, or they could build from their more robust and stable NT kernel.
Back stepping a second.... the "kernel" of the operating system is basically the brain of the software, much like the CPU is the brain for your hardware. The system relies on the kernel to keep things smooth. The windows NT kernel (brain) was less "smart" than the Windows 98 kernel, but it was hampered in the things it could do. Windows 98 was easier to use for everyone, but had massive vulnerabilities and limitations in its growth potential. Basically NT was the ugly genius kid handicapped in a wheel chair. No one felt comfortable around it, but it was really smart. Windows 98 was the opposite, more akin to the beautiful dumb blonde analogy... pretty to look at, but you really didn't want it to think too much.
With these things to consider, Microsoft decided they could work with NT and make it better, but 98 was never going to be smart enough to open a peanut butter jar... thus XP was born. They basically took the NT kernel and put a nice new fancy shell around it, upgraded its features, and put it out to market. Thousands and thousands of bugs and six years later, we all enjoy our zippy, pleasant to look at, charming Windows XP. It's taken six years to do it, but they finally have an operating system the world loves to use.
Fast forwarding to 2008, we are once again back at the same dilemma as in 2002. Remember that computing architecture becomes obsolete once every 18 months. At this point we've been putting the brain of XP in newer and newer computers every year. Now, we have these nice new porsche computers and the world at large wants Microsoft to stick in the big-block V8 from their 1991 Chevrolet.... (yeah, I analogize a lot, but it seems to work for most people).
Just like Windows 98 did 8 years ago, Windows XP has now come to the place in its life-cycle where it will no longer serve the needs of the computing systems available. It can't handle the higher memory options, etc. Additionally XP has been the single most frequently hacked operating system in the history of computers. It's the aids-patient of the modern computing industry, possessing a very weak immune system, no inherent defense against anything whatsoever, vulnerable to everything that might attack it. Rather than continue to try to upgrade it and keep it on life-support, Microsoft has agreed to let it die and move on to something it can work with... introduce Windows Vista.
For once, Microsoft didnt go back to the old kernel and see what they could salvage. Instead they completely threw most of it out and re-coded a more modern operating system possessing built-in defenses against viruses, built-in defenses against worms, trojans, user hacks, etc. It's more stable, more robust, can do more with less cost, and is generally easy to use. The introduction of the UAC preventing access to the registry from unauthorized software that hasn't been proven safe, Windows Defender, and other upgrades make the system much less likely to be compromised.
I will agree, for those of you who like running your hacked windows software, hacked games, and downloading illegal programs and music, it's frustrating as hell. Well, do me a favor and stop crying in the soup... you're ruining it for the rest of us.
Six months ago I spent a total of $1100.00 to build a new PC. For a little over $1,000.00 I managed to build a computer that not only runs Vista well, but flat-out whips every other PC I've put it up against. It games faster, multi-tasks better, never crashes, is reliable as hell, and will still be a high-end computer for about two years to come. Will it need upgrades? Sure. In about two years it will be time for another processor and maybe some more drive space, though I can't see using up one terabyte of drive space on actual computing programs, but who knows.
Since I built mine and got the chance to actually USE Vista, I've loved it. There is nothing in the modern business world I can't run, no tasks XP can do that I can't do with better stability, and it never crashes. As I write this, I'm running on about three weeks uptime, something XP could rarely if ever do.
I have another story for you, one which can better relate to some of you. I had a 60 year old lady come to my shop last week and tell me she needed a new laptop. I went on Best-Buy.com with her and picked out a PC I felt would serve her needs and would only cost her $749.00, which isn't bad for a modern day laptop running Vista. She called me from home and told me she was a little confused and wanted to know if I could help her understand her new PC a little better. Windows Vista was new to her and she didn't feel comfortable running it yet so she was still using her old XP laptop until someone could show her how to use Vista.
I told her to come to my shop any time she had the free time and I would spend some time walking her through the differences and help her get acquainted with her new PC. She came by this week and we spent a little over an hour playing, testing, showing her bells and whistles, and generally getting her to where she felt good using the operating system. Once I showed her how to do thing, most every comment she made about the performance of Vista was "Oh, that's easy!" or "Oh, that's nice. I really like that!" This woman is 60 years old and loves it. My suggestion to all of you out there who "think" Vista is the spawn of satan is to take your lesson from the 60 year old lady I helped this week. Spend one hour really learning how it works and I think you'll be surprised to find out that it very much makes your computer easier to use.
Now, to address the OTHER end of the spectrum, briefly. I have a few customers who are running business that required (notice the past tense) them to have custom-coded software created for their company years ago. Most of these platforms are hand-coded by programmers ten or eleven years ago. Naturally these customers are reluctant to make the move to Vista due to incompatibility issues with their custom programs, which I completely understand. However, being mad at ford because their new trucks wont play your 40 year old 8-track tapes seems a little ridiculous. Many companies chose to have a custom application written in order to save money purchasing a much more expensive platform to handle their needs, usually because some programmer told them "Oh yeah, this will last you for 20 years!"
Let me impart a little knowledge here. NO PROGRAM written by and "guy off the street" can be warranted to last more than the life cycle of the operating system he's writing it for, which is usually 5 years. Yes, it really sucks that you have to upgrade to something newer, but its part of life. You have to upgrade everything your company uses eventually. Buildings need renovation, vehicles need repair and replacement once repair becomes too costly, consumables get consumed (hence the name), copiers pass their lifecycle and need replacement, the finish wears off your desk after ten years, the leather in your chair cracks after too much usage, the stapler stops working well after banging out 100,000 staples. Even your staff gets older and less productive, eventually leading to retirement and replacement with a younger model better suited to modern business (read that as possessing a degree or equivalent). It's part of life. You're just going to have to accept it as part of doing business and pay the costs for upgrade. It's just part of the way the world works.
Ok... stepping down from my soap box to get a shower and head to work.... I have Vista users to rescue again today! Lol.