There has been a lot of talk in the past month over the looming doom of Windows XP. Microsoft will be pulling the life support plug on XP on April 8th this year. There are plenty of folks a bit jittery about this and those jitters are justifiable.
Microsoft Windows XP has undoubtedly been the longest running Windows operating system to date. Microsoft has extended the deadline for killing XP a couple of times. Now it appears there will be no stay of execution for the aging OS.
Even with all the publicity and news about the demise of XP, it’s gonna be a problem. A big problem.
“Decision day is rapidly approaching for the owners of millions of computers, automated teller machines (ATMs) and cash registers still running the Windows XP operating system. With less than 20 days to go before Microsoft ends support for the 13-year-old platform on April 8, millions of machines including 95 per cent of the world’s ATMs are still running on it.”Sydney Morning Herald — March 19, 2014
I spend a lot of time going in and out of hospitals. As I walk the halls, I see the well-known Windows XP professional screen saver floating around at every nurses’ station. I’ve talked to several nurses and staff that man those stations about the upcoming change. Every one of them shrugs as if they don’t understand the probable ramifications of running an outdated system.
Having said that, I understand that the majority of these hospital machines are part of an in-house intranet. I also understand that the software needed for these purposes is expensive and complex. Upgrading the OS and the software ain’t gonna be cheap. But even in the fairly safe confines of an intranet, all it takes is one careless user to insert an infected flash drive. You think that doesn’t happen? Take a few minutes and google “Stuxnet.”
Banks however, are another story altogether. An assistant bank manager here in Taylor is extremely nervous about the coming upgrade. He is well aware of the immense task in front of them. “Doesn’t Microsoft understand what we have to go through here? A system upgrade for us will be a nightmare. Why can’t it just stay the way it is?”
Because, Mr. Assistant Bank Manager, the two most important aspects of our lives are at stake. The keepers of our health and wealth are running an operating system that will give in faster than a drunk debutante on prom night, that’s why.
This perfectly illustrates the disconnect that many end users display when dealing with the underlying technology that buoys their business or job. As long as it works, they don’t think about it. Living in a small town, I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of people during the course of the day. I’m not really surprised at how many of them are still using Windows XP. Few of them are using Windows 7. Many are still using Vista.
And Windows 8?
Most seniors here have no idea that it even exists. Remember, my small town is defined and driven by us older folks. The average age in our town is 46.8 years of age. Most folks in my demographic seldom seek out tech news. If Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer aren’t talking about it on the 6 o’clock news, then it’s nothing to worry about. They rely upon their adult kids, nieces, nephews or friends to keep their computers current. Most of them are oblivious to the upcoming danger. Unfortunately, in the private sector it’s the senior set that will be hit hardest by the approaching malware onslaught.
Those of us who use Linux as our main operating system are insulated from this problem. A smaller number of us may be trying to help others wean themselves from Microsoft Windows entirely. The first thing some of us do is search for one of the more user friendly distros. A few of these distros claim to mimic one or more of the Microsoft operating systems. And yeah, there are some visual similarities, but that’s where it ends.
Distro projects like Zorin and LXLE tout their Windows-like appearance and ease of use in order to draw Windows users who are resistant to change. It does sound good in concept, but I don’t care how you dress up the user interface, it’s the inner workings that define the environment.
For the record, Reglue uses Zorin 6.4 educational LTS release for many of our kids. it’s a fantastic system and it runs on just about any hardware I’ve used. It’s also one of the most professionally presented systems available. But underneath the desktop, Linux is Linux is Linux.
I will do 50 to 60 more Linux installs for our Reglue kids this year. Often, we return to the home when the system breaks down or they are due for an upgrade. When we give one of our Reglue kids a computer, we support it for as long as that kid is in school.
I cannot accurately tell you how many of these Linux machines I turn on and see some-windows-program.exe on the desktop. Maybe the kids understand their systems, we teach them how to use them before we leave the home, but when dad, mom, brother or sister sit down, they have no clue. They’ve tried to install a Windows program on a Linux computer and it didn’t work. In there minds and there on in, Linux sucks. A live-in boyfriend of a kid’s mom recently voiced his displeasure:
“I can’t do a *** ****** thing on this POS. Bring us something we can use.”
I told him that, first off, the computer wasn’t for him, it was for Amie and 14 year old Amie was thrilled with it. I then told him that Linux was for people who are serious about computing — beyond browsing Internet porn sites all day. The space between us was getting uncomfortably warm when mom pulled into the carport. Boyfriend departed for places unknown into the back of the house.
So yeah, at first the new user might feel more at home with Zorin or LXLE, but don’t sell the system as a Windows replacement. That’s an injustice to the user and it sets up false expectations. They are not going to be happy when they can’t find the Documents and Settings folder. I’m not saying that Zorin sells themselves as such, but well-meaning friends or family members often do. I’ve had to clean up behind some of them on too many occasions. Once you get past the desktop, Zorin nor any Linux distro is going to fool most people, especially when software installation and management comes into play.
In my experience, many of today’s computer users rarely go beyond their browser when using the computer at all. Due to the vast improvement in the top browsers, Linus Torvalds’ goal that the OS shouldn’t get in the way of the user appears to be coming true. But for those who delve deeper into the workings of their computers, Linux should be highlighted, not side-stepped. In my experience, users just want things to work. Period. If you make that happen for them, then the underlying OS isn’t going to be a big deal.
So do Windows look-alike distros fail to meet expectations? Not if presented correctly. But if you know your friend or family member is going to want a complete Windows-like experience all around, don’t sabotage your own efforts, or mine for that matter. Because after all, Linux is Linux is Linux.
Later this month or early next month, we are looking at doing one or more articles on software you might miss from your Windows days. Some of you know we’ve kicked the subject around on Google Plus and I think you have some interesting things to say on the matter. As always, it’s your comments that make this a great free open source software site.