XP in Context

It’s one thing to measure a lifespan in dog years. It’s another to measure it in technology years. If a 12-year-old dog is like an 84-year-old-person, then a 12-year-year-old operating system is truly older than dirt. Here’s a look at XP’s timeline.

Most of you will remember Sept. 11, 2001 forever. As grave as that day was, six weeks later, Microsoft issued the XP operating system.  We can all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Do you remember what technology you were using at the time?

You are likely reading this article on the Internet, which you reached either by a Wi-Fi connection to a high-speed, broadband network or by a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.

In 2001, the Internet was nothing like it is today. You probably accessed it through a dial-up modem as a customer of AOL, CompuServe or a local provider. DSL service was in its infancy, usually only available to phone carrier customers who lived less than two miles from a switching facility. Internet access by cable TV companies was also in its infancy.

While both industries could offer Internet access, you still used the phone company for telephone service and the cable company for TV. Today, either company can provide Internet, TV and phone service with speeds and capabilities only imagined by a few scientists. And more people are using the Internet to bypass those companies for all of their services.

Think about your smartphones and tablets. Cell phones in 2001 were clunky devices that you could only use for talking. And, it didn’t take too much mobility to be outside your service area and racking up roaming charges. Your phone? It could have been a Nokia. That was the leading manufacturer in 2001.

Today, more and more people have no landlines in their homes, and many business people on the road use cellphones as their primary phones. And the cellphone itself? In addition to being a telephone, it keeps calendars and contacts and provides access to email and the Internet.

If you have a tablet, can you imagine life without it?

Some people thought X-10 was a cool way to control the lights in their houses from their desktop computer. Now, you can control lights, appliances and door locks – and answer your doorbell – with a mobile device.

Video conferencing through Skype or any number products may have done more than any technology to shrink the world.

All of this change happened since 2001, during the life of XP. Our technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. XP really did withstand the challenges of its time and more. But when you look at everything you want to do with computers and devices, your needs have outgrown the capabilities of a technology that dates back more than 12 years.

If you still have XP, you had a good run. Now, it’s time to catch up. We’re available to help you. Just call us (973-433-6676) or email us.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

When They Pull the Plug on XP

Back in 1999, everyone worried about what would happen with Y2K. Would major data systems worldwide crash when on Jan. 1, 2000, when the first digit of the new year changed from 1 to 2? Fear of the unknown greatly motivated fixes and preparation, and the moment passed without a pause. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will pull the plug on the XP operating system, still a workhorse for many small businesses. We know exactly what will happen, and we know how to prevent problems. If you don’t heed the warnings, here’s what you’re in for.

The security of your data and any sensitive information you have stored on a computer with Internet access will be at high risk for being hacked. April, 8, 2014 will be the second Tuesday of the month – Patch Day – the day Microsoft releases upgrades and bug fixes for all of its programs. On this particular day, there will be NO updates or bug fixes for XP. To paraphrase Edgar Alan Poe’s raven, there will be XP support “nevermore.”

For hackers, the doors to XP-based computers will be wide, wide open – “evermore.” One way they’ll get into your computer is through your web browsing. All they need to do is a set up a website that entices you. It can be about anything that interests you: bargains, great utility software, etc. Once you visit the site, they can use analytics to capture information about your computer. It’s the same information your favorite websites gather to send out cookies – those bits of information they use to tailor your visits to your preferences.

The information they get will include the browser you used – and its version – as well as your computer’s IP address. They can easily sort that information to find who, for example, used IE 8 and XP to visit their site. IE 8 is the last browser that had any support for XP, so once they see that combination, it’s like finding an unlocked door.

But wait, as they say on the TV shopping networks. There’s more.

If your XP computer crashes, do you have the disks to reinstall the operating system and your critical business applications? (See Update for Security, Performance and ROI) You won’t be able to get the OS software from Microsoft, and your application software publisher likely won’t have versions old enough to support XP.

The latter point is simple business. Programmers and publishers don’t make any money from old stuff sitting on an electronic shelf. Like everyone else, they need to move on to newer and more robust products. So, finding the software you need may be more difficult than finding a tube for an old table radio.

Even if you find the software, you’ll need to find someone who knows how to work with the old software and all of it quirks. Newly trained technicians likely haven’t worked with XP and may not understand its evolution to be able to fix your problems. On the other hand, someone who can support your XP systems will hold the advantage in supply and demand. The fewer people who have the knowledge you require will be able to charge more, and you could quickly lose any economic benefit you gained from holding on to old technology.

If you insist on keeping your XP systems, are there work-arounds? Yes, but they’re detours from the path of operating and cost efficiency. We can, for example, isolate XP computers from the Internet. That will help keep them safe and free to access files and applications on an internal network. However, the user – and the business – will lose functionality.

What’s the best way to stay plugged in when Microsoft pulls the XP plug? We have advised our clients – and will continue to advise them – to migrate to the Windows 7 operating system.  We can’t beat this drum loud enough or long enough. Windows 7 will enable your business’ users to continue with a familiar interface and a system that should still be around for a long time (for technology). Large corporate users, which we can define as any company large enough to have a “Fortune” designation, have not moved to Windows 8. They are staying with Windows 7, and that means Microsoft will continue to support them with updates and bug fixes, and programmers and publishers will continue to develop new and improved business apps. It’s where the money is.

With the announcement that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down, we expect Windows 7 to be a bellwether OS until the company sorts out its management issues and decides its technology direction.

You still have seven months to plan and budget for your escape from XP. We can help you avoid the XP jail. Call us (973-433-6676) or email us to discuss your best options.

Another Reason to Avoid Windows 8

An ominous security issue with Windows 8 was raised recently by The Motley Fool. Those of us who follow the investor-targeted newsletter know they look below the surface when giving their advice. Thus, it was no surprise to us to read that the German government, which supports the world’s fourth largest economy, said that Windows 8 is unsafe due a backdoor called the Trusted Platform Module. While the article discusses Windows 8 alternatives from a business point of view, there are some good technology underpinnings to their contention. You can read it here. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your alternatives Windows 8 for life after Windows XP

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.