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Tech: OS Confusion

JohnInKansas 22 Sep 11 - 02:17 PM
Amos 22 Sep 11 - 02:37 PM
dick greenhaus 22 Sep 11 - 02:54 PM
JohnInKansas 22 Sep 11 - 03:43 PM
Amos 22 Sep 11 - 04:54 PM
JohnInKansas 22 Sep 11 - 06:46 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 22 Sep 11 - 09:05 PM
michaelr 22 Sep 11 - 09:25 PM
JohnInKansas 23 Sep 11 - 01:34 AM
GUEST 23 Sep 11 - 06:36 AM
Andrez 23 Sep 11 - 07:06 AM
JohnInKansas 23 Sep 11 - 03:29 PM
jeffp 23 Sep 11 - 03:41 PM
JohnInKansas 23 Sep 11 - 05:15 PM
michaelr 23 Sep 11 - 06:37 PM
EBarnacle 24 Sep 11 - 07:43 AM
jeffp 24 Sep 11 - 11:32 AM
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Subject: Tech: OS CONFUSION
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 02:17 PM


Windows XP has been in "extended support" for several years now, with patches and updates limited to "critical fixes" but with nothing available for routine maintenance or to accommodate the use of new features implemented in things like Java, HTML, etc. Despite still being used on about 40% of all computers worldwide (~60% of which are pirated copies?), the current plan is that ALL SUPPORT WILL END IN APRIL 2014.

Those who have continued to receive critical updates for WinXP must recognize that new vulnerabilities continue to be found, and patched. New vulnerabilities will continue to be found, but WILL NOT BE PATCHED once support ceases, so the exposure to malware for anyone who continues to use WinXP will zoom, possibly disastrously.

The options for anyone wanting to continue using Windows (and Windows Programs) are Vista, Windows 7, or the still pending Windows 8.

Although the release for distribution of Win8 is scheduled to come a little before the "final death of WinXP" many advisors consider the schedule "optimistic" and do not advise waiting for Win8 before replacing WinXP. Even if the release schedule is met, early releases will need some "shakedown" before the majority of users really should plan to buy into it, so going directly from WinXP to Win8 is probably not a good plan.

Many WinXP machines will not be capable of running Vista, or of running it usefully, and it's becoming difficult to get a new machine with OEM Vista. Win7 is capable of using more machine resources than older versions, but minimum requirements are not really clear. Investigating whether you have a machine capable of running another Win OS now so you'll know whether to plan for a new computer is recommended.

The eventual Win8 is intended to be able to run on "simpler machines" (smart phones, pads, notebooks) but it's not clear whether typical WinXP machines are "simple in the right places."

(Going directly from WinXP to Win7 is a significant "culture shock." Going directly from WinXP to Win8 may look more like a "meltdown of civilization," so you may want to look some at how they differ as part of your decisions.)



For some time, a preferred method of getting a Linux machine has often been to buy a machine with OEM Windows installed, and replace the OS (or dual boot) with a free or purchased distro of Linux.

Windows 8 is intended to incorporate a feature now being called "Secure Boot" that prevents the machine from starting from an "unsigned" boot program. The feature will be implemented in HARDWARE that essentially replaces the customary BIOS chip on the motherboard. Recent malware appearances have been able to modify the BIOS so that the malware is installed before the BIOS boot and the threat is significant enough to justify some solution, although votes are still out on whether Microsoft has the best one.

There is at present NO AGENCY responsible for the necessary "signing" of OS variants, so it's not clear whether something will be worked out; but there is the very real possibility that you will NOT BE ABLE TO INSTALL LINUX on any computer purchased with preinstalled (OEM) Windows 8. There is a suggestion that an alternate OS can be made usable, but only if the OEM maker has the "signature" and incorporates it in the chips at the time of build,(?) and at present there's no clear way for the required signatures to be created or distributed to OEMs – or to induce them to include them.


Watch news sources for further developments.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS CONFUSION
From: Amos
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 02:37 PM

IT strikes me as interesting that the long series of inheritance of arbitrary complexity continues to haunt the Windows world, starting unto the first generation!


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS CONFUSION
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 02:54 PM

To me it's astounding how the world has changed because Steve Jobs doesn't like to type.

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS CONFUSION
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 03:43 PM

In a separate item of some concern, I've begun seeing comments regarding the likelihood that Microsoft will soon KILL OFFICE.

The argument here is that there are too many competitive programs that are "just as good." While for casual users, and idiots like magazine editors, the claim has some validity, Microsoft is built as much on Word and Excel as on Windows, and those two were respected, useful, and incredibly powerful programs long before Windows existed.

Unfortunately, to discover the power one has to RTFM, and the intent appears to be to culture a society in which nobody has the ability to do that. (The "manual" has been removed in recent Office versions.) Recent versions of Word, as an example, make it nearly impossible for anyone to discover anything beyond copy/paste/send. The skeletal vestiges of the old program are still there, but are obscured to the point of being "undiscoverable" by anyone who doesn't know about "what it was" from prior versions. From "lots of idiots use Word" Microsoft has gone to "lets make something only idiots can use."

PowerPoint should never have been produced, and any manager who PERMITS those reporting to him/her to display PP pitches demonstrates an incompetence (and complete disinterest) that should be cause for dismissal. PP is an excuse for the boss to take a nap while pretending to be interested in something the crew is doing.

Beyond Microsoft, Flash and current Adobe PDF are basically malware walking - poorly maintained, buggy holes supporting mostly whatever malware anyone wants to piggyback on them. PageMaker, once a good program, is virtually dead, although there are rumors that FrameMaker may survive in some isolated caves. PhotoShop (expecially recent Elements) has more chrome and go-fast stripes than visible functional features. "Improvements" in Corel seem questionable unless one really likes crayon art.

Maybe I'm lucky being old enough that I may not live to see all that much of "the new world" that's coming.

(If this sounds like a rant, maybe you don't understand the situation.(?) ;·)


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS CONFUSION
From: Amos
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 04:54 PM

Framemaker is still alive, as is QUark Xpress and Adobe Whatsis. Acrobat, IMHO, is a valuable tool, and I haven't had much trouble with it. Some. THere are a free genuined Word competitors out there, notably OPen Office and Apple's Pages (simple but adequate for most uses). But it would be a shame for Word to surrended its niche as the standard of full-featured WPers for that huge middle ground that calls for more than a simple text program and less than a full-blown page layout program.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 06:46 PM

Actually, Amos, Word contains capabilities to do virtually everything that FrameMaker or Quark Xpress can do, so far as the professional print shops are concerned, with the additional consideration that the "document" is much more easily ported to other aps. Once it's in one of the other "layout programs" it's rather more difficult to bring it back to a different use.

The choice between Word and another pro-level layout program was largely just a matter of whether your print shop had the one you'd like to use, since layout is usually a last step before going to print. It always required some effort for users to find all the features in Word, but nobody with half a brain would tell you that it's easy to be a master layout operator with any of the others either. Very few of the few features (there are some) the high dollar programs have that are missing in Word are actually needed except in a few specialized niches, although some features get used "for convenience" where they're not really much help to the printers.

The problem now is that even though (most of) the features are still in Word, they're concealed so that it's nearly impossible even for capable users to get to them.

It would appear that Microsoft needs to return to a "pro version" for Office, especially for Word and Excel, and admit that what they're pushing for the rabble is a toy version for twats (people who use twitter) intendended for tweeting and twitting and not much else.

The PDF format is a good one, but Reader, and Acrobat (which has had eleven different names in versions we've bought for professional use) are NOT ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED. Response to known vulnerabilities has been months behind the need, and patches frequently have needed patches for the errors in the patches. Flash is possibly even worse (although maybe better than when Macromedia owned it). I don't - and WON'T - have Adobe Reader on my computer, much less Adobe Acrobat - because I found something better (and lots of bucks cheaper).

Some Microsoft publicity releases have alluded to replacements for both Flash and PDF, and there's some support for the idea among the tech commentators. Although it's probably premature to predict which way it will go, it's quite reasonable to expect that both may disappear - at least in most usages - fairly soon.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 09:05 PM

Dual, Quadruple, (Octupable) boot systems are the way to go.

EVERYTHING - a "normal person" requires came packaged in WIN98 (it was a serious stretch of dollars and sense to move beyond DOS 3.5)

Office 2000 gave the user photo, video, audio, editing into communication messages.

Apple and MS give a neatly "packaged deal," sort of like Drug - Store - IceCream. Some of us ... still have a taste for the quality, and independence of DIY.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: michaelr
Date: 22 Sep 11 - 09:25 PM

...even though (most of) the features are still in Word, they're concealed so that it's nearly impossible even for capable users to get to them.

What would be the point of creating a program while hiding its features? I don't get that.

John, I've been told that every other MS OS that's been released is crap (e.g. 2000, Vista). Does this mean that when I decide to upgrade, I should choose 7 and shun 8?

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 01:34 AM

michaelr -

MSDOS 3.5 wasn't too bad.

Windows 3.1 gave you a graphic view that was helpful for most people.

Windows 3.11WG added local networking.

Win98 started off with some instabilities, but the update to Win98SE made it reasonably useful. By the time it got to Win98SE SP2 it was fairly stable, but ridiculously un-secure by current needs.

Win2000 was specifically intended for "Enterprise Users" (big business) and was based heavily on Win NT, a much more powerful, mostly command line OS used by (some) businesses for networks and business programs. In some respects it was the most reliable/stable Windows version up to that time, but sometimes offered enough "power" for novice users to hurt themselves.

Win ME (Millenial Edition) was a blunder intended to be a "Win 2000 for ordinary people" that was - putting it simply - pure CRAP.

All of the above are DEAD due to end of support. Because of vulnerabilities to even trivial malware, none should be in use now. (Even if you can manage to keep one operable, you will likely be a source of propagation of malware to others.)

WinXP was fairly well-liked by users, and remains on at least 40% or more of all computers currently running. The percentage quoted varies with who reports usage and is confused by the very large number of counterfeit/pirated copies extant, especially in China. Many people still like it, although having used an older laptop with WinXP on it a few times recently I wonder what it was we liked - simply because it's excruciatingly slow compared to later versions if for no other reason. (But it was a really old laptop, of course.)

An END OF SUPPORT for WinXP has been announced a couple of times, then extended because of protests from the large user base; but support WILL END in 2014, as noted in the first post here.

Vista actually is more stable and much more "secure" than any prior versions, but the user interface is not well liked, and some significant vulnerabilities (that shouldn't have been there) were found after release. Many users have been "unimpressed" with the new interface, so:

Windows 7 is the latest currently available Microsoft OS. While the early advertising slogan was "it's not Vista" Microsoft improved on what people didn't like in Vista by making Win7 "more so, so it's better." (only slightly sarcasticly assessed)

Since very few computers produced in the WinXP era or before will have the hardware resources to run Vista or Win7 effectively, the approaching demise of everything older than Vista leaves only those two as viable options for now, and for nearly everyone an upgrade probably should come installed on a new computer.

Vista (sort of) began the mainstreaming of 64-bit Windows, which of course requires a 64 bit processor. Both Vista and Win7 have 32-bit versions that are okay when run on a 32-bit machine, but performance with the 64-bit version is reportedly much better. Vista 32-bit really needs at least 2 GB RAM and benefits quite a bit if 4 GB is installed, although 32-bit Vista can only use an actual ~3.6 GB of it. (You can't generally install "more than 2GB" without going to 4GB.)

I haven't bothered to look at what the max RAM is for 32-bit Win7, but the recommendations strongly favor going to 64-bit for Win7 for other reasons. Some machines available now with Win7 include 4 GB RAM, but 8 GB would probably be better unless you're a "light user."

Vista 64-bit machines should be able to use 32 GB of RAM, which sort of restores the ability to "have more than you need" if you want to.

Win7 is what most builders are shipping now, although a few vedors still may offer Vista. Win7 introduces a whole new "interface" that I haven't had sufficient experience with to really say how traumatic the changes may be; but complaints about Vista have been sufficient to suggest that most people upgrading now should probably go directly to Win7. Vista is a more secure OS than prior versions, and additional security is claimed for Win7.

IF YOU'RE STILL RUNNING WINXP, you do still have a couple of years before support ends completely, but it would be a very good idea to start thinking seriously about when you'll move on and what you'll want when you do. And for most, you will want to start saving up the cash for a new machine.

WHEN you get a new machine, it probably would be best to get a 64-bit processor since later upgrade paths may be closed for 32-bit ones within a reasonable machine lifetime. Vista, and probably Win7, are "big" so 500 GB Hard Drives would be a minimum I'd suggest for a desktop or "power laptop," and I probably won't buy less than 1T. If you're interested in a notebook/notepad you might get by with something like 300 GB(?). USB-3 is available from some sellers now and would be a very good idea, since with the bigger drives moving half-Terabyte batches of files with even USB-2 can take DAYS, weeks with original USB-1. USB devices remain much more available than alternatives like Firewire, but apply your own preferences there.

Note too that many features advertised are NOT AVAILABLE in the "Basic" or "Home Basic" OS versions, so you might want to consider a "Premium" version. Upgrades are easy, since all recent Windows install disks (or preloads) include all versions, and an upgrade can be turned on with a phone call and credit card, but it's an additional cost that's slightly more than getting the right one preinstalled.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 06:36 AM

GNU - or any of the Linux Line.

Faster than a speeding bullet and able to boot all systems in a single flash.

We all know that price is what holds most users back. However, from today and continuing through the entire mellenium ... the sytems are free.

Movie Editors - three to choose from
Sound Editors - six different choices
Photo Editors - a magnificent ten
Mail systems etc etc etc

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: Andrez
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 07:06 AM

Thanks John, an interesting and thoughtful look into the near future. Will respond a little later once I deal with a particularly annoying router config problem.



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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 03:29 PM

New comments regarding the Linux situation at:

Demystifying UEFI, the long-overdue BIOS replacement

With a referal to a Microsoft "paper" at:

MSDN Blogs - Building Windows 8 -Protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI

May have comments later, but she's calling me on "urgent business."


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: jeffp
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 03:41 PM

I have a computer with XP that is never connected to the internet. It runs my sound and video processing software. Do you recommend that I upgrade or am I fairly safe? How likely are my programs to run under Windows 7?

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 05:15 PM

jeffp -

If the computer runs to your satisfaction and you'll never connect to the internet, there's relatively little need to upgrade; but you should consider that the internet isn't the only source of infections. Any method you use to load programs/files or to offload them to any other machine can be a way of transmitting malicious code.

An infected recording that you edit could deposit something that would become part of the next recording you edit, thereby passing the infection to the next machine that plays the recording.

Historically, most "business office" infections not too long ago came from someone "playing a game" brought in on a floppy disk (long ago) or more recently on a memory stick. (It used to be called a "sneaker net connection.") The method has been used quite recently - with the mysterious virus designed to attack uranium concentrators made by a specific company and sold to a particular country being "input" (it's said) via a flash drive "innocently" given to "someone" with access to the network that controlled the refining facility. The infection could have been hidden in a new version of PacMan(?).

Windows 7 advertises improved ability to run "legacy programs" but it's not clear (to me) whether it's the same "virtual machine" method used in Vista or possibly something slightly different. This is one of the features that, in Vista at least, was NOT AVAILABLE in the "Home Basic" versions supplied with many machines, but available to those who got the "Home Premium" or higher versions or who upgraded. I've seen little feedback on how well it has worked for people who have an appropriate Win version and tried to use it.

For reference: Another possibly significant thing omitted from the simplest (cheapest) recent Win versions is the utility for making a full Recovery Disk for System Backup. There are other ways of doing this, and I've never seen a Microsoft Backup that restored anything, so it may not be too important.

Microsoft has web sites where you can look up whether a specific program has been "verified compatible" to either Vista or Win7; but only programs tested by Microsoft or reported by the program builders are likely to be listed, so most programs I've tried to check on have been "missing" in the lists. Several older programs that Microsoft says are not compatible do, in fact, run adequately on my Vista. About the only way an individual has of being reasonably sure is to try to run the program on the OS, although those certified as compatible are a fairly safe bet.


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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: michaelr
Date: 23 Sep 11 - 06:37 PM

Thank you, John. That is valuable information.

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: EBarnacle
Date: 24 Sep 11 - 07:43 AM

Lady Hillary and I were at the rollout out MS's new business system back in May. The system seems impressive and, when I inquired about compatibility, we were told that it was not compatible with XP or earlier systems. We will be getting 7 machines in the near future. Windows only goes back two systems, so forget about Vista as soon as 8 is introduced.

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Subject: RE: Tech: OS Confusion
From: jeffp
Date: 24 Sep 11 - 11:32 AM

Thanks John. I'll keep it in mind.

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