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February 2nd, 2016

Redmond Admits Using Microsoft Supported Windows Is ‘Risky’

The Heart of Linux

I’ve mentioned often on these pages and others that, as a rule, us older folks tend to have severe allergic reactions to technology and tech devices. I believe I’ve successfully made my case, just by talking about the folks in my own neighborhood retirement community.

I am the anomaly. I’m an “old guy” who gets tech. Mostly anyway. Just don’t lean too heavily for my networking skills or you’ll fall down, busting your butt and getting nasty paper cuts from all of those antiquated certs. And sure, we can tick off names here of the folks who know what both an IDE and Gertitol are, but mostly we older people resemble “The Walking Dead” as we wander around Fry’s Electronics or Best Buy.

Best Buy, of course, is the place where many of us older people go to seek help in what it is we need in a computer. The sales reps there can be so nice. What they suggest is almost always twice the cost of what we really need, but hey, the Best Buy geek said this is the one to buy. Sales bonus for an extended warranty plan anyone?

But just about the time you peg one of us in the senior set as a lost cause, the next phone call you get can be a surprise….

Jane and her husband Claude live across the street from us. Both in their mid to late 70s, I’ve made a few “service calls” to their home. They are now both running Linux Mint on their “his and hers” computers, but the “hers” machine is dual booting with Windows 7. Jane doesn’t boot into her Windows partition often these days, but every now and then there is a reason to do so. Yesterday was one of those do so times.

With tax forms and paperwork spread out, Jane began her annual ritual of telling the IRS to go to He…telling the IRS that they are not required to file again this year. Normally you don’t have to file that paperwork annually but Claude has some retirement income that isn’t taxable which has to be explained on an annual basis. While she was trying to get that task done, she began to get pop-ups, allegedly from Microsoft, telling her that she needed to upgrade to Windows 10 as soon as possible. Jane X’ed out of the first popup and went back to work, but in less than 10 minutes she was having to fend off another dire warning that Windows 7 was not as secure as Windows 10 and she needed to upgrade ASAP.

Microsoft Windows 7 warning

In previous visits to Claude and Jane’s house I had cautioned both of them that if the messages they got for any reason seemed to be pushy or if those messages are telling you that you are in danger of infection, that is more than likely malware designed to get you to click a link. Evidently, Jane had listened. Since the “Upgrade to Windows 10” was a clickable link, she stopped what she was doing and signed out of Windows and booted back into Linux. From those friendly confines she began to do a bit of research as to what malware might be threatening her.

Turns out, she discovered that malware was Windows 10.

She called me to see if I was busy and would I come over and take a look at this for her. She wanted to make sure she was going to be safe in Windows — or as safe as anyone can be in Windows anyway.

Jane had taken it on herself to see what this was all about and in that look around the internet she found what she suspected to be true. Microsoft Windows it seems, is in the business of trying to scare old ladies or anyone else who doesn’t really feel comfortable in a technology environment. When I was able to get over there, she showed me what she had found.

What had been a growing state of apprehension turned in to full-on case of pissed off. But according to Chris Capossela, the chief marketing officer at Microsoft, I had no reason to be angry. After all, the software giant and convicted monopolist is only looking out for our best interests and online safety. Here…don’t take it from me. Here’s what Mr. Capossela is worried about:

“We do worry when people are running an operating system that’s 10 years old that the next printer they buy isn’t going to work well, or they buy a new game, they buy Fallout 4, a very popular game, and it doesn’t work on a bunch of older machines.

“And so, as we are pushing our ISV [Independent Software Vendor] and hardware partners to build great new stuff that takes advantage of Windows 10 that obviously makes the old stuff really bad and not to mention viruses and security problems.”

Really?

So you’re admitting that Windows 7 is a virus magnet? Funny thing…you didn’t mention that when you were marketing Windows 7 as your latest release. And what’s this about games not working and possible new hardware being unusable on Windows 7 PCs? Isn’t Windows 7 supported until the year 2020? Aren’t hardware manufacturers going to support Win7 machines until they are officially unsupported by Microsoft? That’s the way it was with Windows XP.

Oh, wait. Aha! Now it makes sense. You are worried about Windows 7 becoming the new Windows XP. You think that people are so comfortable with Win7 that they will put off upgrading until the last possible minute, huh? Oh, and there’s that pesky little prediction that there will be a billion Windows 10 installations by the year 2017….

So, while Microsoft falls just short of being the bully they were just a few years ago, the language used on these incessant popups are nothing but bullying scare tactics. How does our old buddy Mr. Capossela justify that?

“We think every machine that is capable of running Windows 10 we should be doing everything we possibly can to get people to move to Windows 10…. We are going to try to find that right balance, but we just know there’re many people out there who constantly kick the can down the street without a little bit more of a, frankly, push.

“And so, there’s no doubt with a base as big as ours, it is hard to move anyone to a new model without angering some people. We don’t want to anger anybody, but we do feel a responsibility to get people to a much better place, and Windows 10 is a much better place than Windows 7. We will always give you a way out, but we’re trying to find the right balance.”

“A bit more of a, frankly, push”?

Here’s a push for you Mr. Capossela. Why don’t you go talk with your boss for a while about these scare tactics. Why don’t you mention nice old ladies like Jane Cline who wrung her hands over this until some solid technical advice came her way.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become just a bit wiser, but in cases like this pal, I’d love to be the guy who rubbed your nose in this tripe. Microsoft hasn’t changed their stripes…they’ve just white-washed over them. But even that doesn’t mask the fetid stink of your corrupt business practices.

It’s all going to come back on you. I just hope I’m alive to watch it happen. Maybe I can do some little thing to facilitate it. That’s a goal worth living for.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

15 comments to Redmond Admits Using Microsoft Supported Windows Is ‘Risky’

  • Duncan

    Serious question: When will “older folks” cease to have that “allergic reaction” to technology?

    (FWIW I jumped off the MS malware bandwagon when MS made it very clear eXPrivacy would ship with just that, malware, at least from the perspective of the user they expected to buy and run the stuff, like most malware, not really so from the perspective of those controlling it. So by now reading about MS is like reading about Nazi Germany, history I’m definitely not interested in having happen again, but at the same time, history, not directly relevant to my current situation except in the those who aren’t aware of history are bound to repeat it, sense. So here I’m focusing on the other case made in “TFA”, the old folks allergic to technology case.)

    Actually, I’d make the case that the “severe tech allergy” of yesteryear is already largely historic. My own folks, now in their late 70s, use computers, or at least my dad does, keeping in touch with family and friends largely by email and keeping up on the news largely via the web, not so much my mom, who indeed could possibly be characterized as “tech allergic”. And indeed, TFA actually makes my case for me, as it’s slowly becoming a reasonable assumption that even “older people” will have internet access and either a computer in the normal sense, or at least one of those new handheld “cellphone” computers, that already have far more power than computers did back in the 80s and 90s when they went mainstream, thus serving as a very nice demonstration of how far we’ve actually come.

    Of course the problem, as presented, and indeed, as I’d agree, is that at least the current generation of “older folks”, still have very much a love/hate relationship with technology, and don’t really understand it very well even if somewhere along the line necessity made them no longer afraid to use it entirely.

    But as I said, already, it’s becoming quite common for “older folks” to actually have computers and internet access, to the point where these days it’s actually generally assumed in much the same way as having a phone was generally assumed by the latter third (half? IDK as I wasn’t around before the last third) of the 20th century.

    Meanwhile, I just turned 49 last month, so next year I turn 50 and officially become “old” myself, at least in the sense of being AARP (for non-US readers, American Association of Retired People) membership qualified (at 50), tho I don’t expect I’ll actually retire (or be able to financially even if I wished to) for at least another decade. As such, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my own entry into “older folks” territory and what it’ll me for me personally.

    And actually, I’m a gentooer, and can easily see myself in some nursing home in say 30 years, still running gentoo or whatever on my computer, happily building and updating to plasma 10 and linux kernel 12.x or whatever it happens to be by then… in say two minutes for the whole of plasma/kde-10 on my 4K-core (4096-core) with RAM measured in the TiB and PiB scale filesystems. =:^)

    And while being an avid gentooer I’m rather an extreme case for my generation, certainly by the time the millenials are retiring, I expect them to be as comfortable with technology and whatever the net looks like by then as they tend to be now (as someone pointed out in a discussion I came across recently, many modern kids have never even seen a corded phone and get confused when they first try to use one, as all they know is cell phones, and don’t have a concept of encyclopedias as books, as all they know is wikipedia, etc, and one has to ask how long before paper books become as unfamiliar as those corded phones…).

    So then the question becomes, how far into this transition will we be, before “tech allergic” no longer reasonably applies? Or, as seems to already be happening, is the meaning of “tech allergic” itself going to change, so that just as it no longer means “older folks” don’t use computers at all, but rather that they generally use them to some degree but don’t understand them and are still a bit scared due to lack of familiarity, it’ll eventually mean they’re fine with computers, and with cell phones, and with whatever tomorrow’s technology is… but only after it’s already /yesterday’s/ technology, the stuff they used back in their earlier to mid working years?

    Talking about which… being nearly 50, I already notice a bit of that in myself… I’m great with email, newsgroups, the web, etc, but don’t ask me to do IM/IRC or text-messaging, etc, as I much prefer the more deliberative ability to type in the big message, editing, sometimes deleting the whole thing or most of it and starting over, etc, with multiple messages grouped in a thread presentation, to this “new-fangled” idea of sending half-finished thoughts, completing them only some half-dozen one-line messages later, possibly with a dozen or more other similar line-by-line conversations going on in the shared IRC at the same time, without the benefit of threading to keep them all nicely separated into their own threads. I’ve already had devs and others on various projects, generally people of current college age or just past, fail to understand why I’m so uncomfortable in such contexts that I’ll give up and move onto a different project to volunteer with, rather than submit myself to “mandatory” IRC meetings, etc, as I already know I’m sufficiently uncomfortable in such contexts that I’m not putting my best foot forward, and don’t consider it worth the hassle if it’s considered mandatory, when there’s all sorts of other FLOSS projects just /begging/ for volunteers to help out.

    So much as I hate to admit it, the evidence suggests I’m already well on the way to being an “old fogie” myself.

    But the question remains, when will “tech allergic old folks” no longer be a majority-valid stereotype, or will it remain so even as the definition of “tech allergic” itself changes to accommodate, eventually, today’s young people that no longer know what corded phones are as all they know is cell phones, and who can’t well picture what life was like before the internet, as for them it has always been there?

  • tracyanne

    Interesting I’m currently in the process of moving a couple of younger than this retired techie, people, off a forced upgrade to Windows 10, because they really hate how it performs on their older but otherwise perfectly capable computer, and into the bargain they resent the way Microsoft forced the upgrade upon them.

    I’ve been told to blow away Windows, just back up our personal files and get rid of any windows stuff, including the restore partition.

  • Mr. Starks, let’s be careful about treating people “who know what both an IDE and Geritol are” as an anomaly. And “The Walking Dead”? There are enough of the walking and not yet dead to straighten you out, if the need arises. 😉

    Keep it up!

  • Mike

    I enjoy the hilarious antics of Mr. Ed Bott over at ZDNet as he tries to spin each new Microsoft tactic as something good and necessary for everyone. He defends everything from privacy invasion and data collection to sleazy misrepresentation and outright lying.

  • Is Microsoft becoming more blatant about forcing obsolence now? It seems like they used to try to keep it a secret that they were going to make your hardware and software obsolete as soon as possible.

    As to that “allergic reaction”, I, for one, have become less adventurous and more cautious as I age. I think that is true of most of us.

  • Juan

    Newer generations don’t understand tech, they use it yes, but have no clue what is going on inside: they just want their social networks.

  • Mike

    @Juan

    It’s not just newer generations. How many baby-boomers can tell you how a television works? They just want to watch their shows.

    Technical literacy has always been uncommon. The tech has changed, but not much else has.

    The difference today is that tech is now powerful enough to have a very real impact on your privacy and freedom. Will that be enough to change people’s behavior? Probably not, unfortunately.

  • tracyanne

    I left my people with a copy of Ubuntu 15.04 on a DVD. When I went back today, they said it seemed faster than Windows, which is interesting as DVDs are god awful slow. So I installed 14.04.3 , to give them breathing space before a major update, because they decided they actually like Ubuntu with the Unity desktop, and think it was easy to learn. The Husband even managed to sort out a network issue he had, by reading the local Ubuntu help files and doing what they told him to do in a bash terminal. He then told me the Ubuntu help stuff is way easier to make sense of than the Windows help stuff.

  • @charlie-tca I think MS is just in a hurry to get everyone on the Windows subscription treadmill, which will require a monthly (maybe annual) payment to keep using the OS.

  • Eddie G.

    As far as I see it, I’m not yet “old” I don’t think I’ll fancy myself that until the ripe old age of 80+! Right now I’m 44 and still can keep up with my nephews in basketball. This move by MS to get as many people using Windows 10 as possible is truly something to behold. Coming from “the past” I can remember when you upgraded your Windows system when YOU saw fit! (At least that’s what it appeared to be on the outside!) All the while you’d get these “Cumulative” Service Packs, and all manner of updates that were already installing bits and pieces of the next version of Windows on your machine. But now? It seems as if you want to continue to use your PC then you have NO CHOICE but to either upgrade or get left in the past. I started using Linux in 2004, and funnily enough it wasn’t Linux Mint, but Fedora that I cut my teeth on learning. I have been through the “dependency hell” and wireless issues and have learned, sometimes not in the friendliest of environments or forums, what I needed to do to get things to work. Since that time up until now I have made it my life’s mission to convert as many people over to Linux as possible. I don’t need fancy slide shows, I don’t have to show them the “eye candy’ that some distros come with. I don’t even have to stress that its a completely free and open source operating system/ I just ask them what it is they’d like for the computer to do, (most times its the usual suspects: email, web browsing, maybe some music or movies, and Skype) Then I show them Linux Mint, or Ubuntu, and let them choose….(almost 95% of them choose Linux Mint…I wonder whay!?…LoL!) There will never be a time when I will trust MS they could tout their latest offering as being sanctioned and blessed by the Pope and the entire citizenship of the Vatican. They have proven over the years to be shady, sneaky, brazen, ignorant, and dirty. And while they might appeal to the masses with their colorful tiles and flashy graphics, their eventually going to find out that the masses aren’t as dumb as they believe them to be. And Linux and open source will eventually overshadow their hold on not just the corporate world but the private sector as well. Viruses, malware, trojans, and spyware, while there might be some that exists for the Linux platform, there’s an entire planetful that exists for Windows!…which leads to having to have an anti-virus,….which will lead to having to get some anti-malware, which would lead to having to get spy-ware removal tools….etc…etc…etc in a never ending cycle. And please don’t be fooled, even though MS is claiming to “love” Linux? just take a look at their track-record regarding companies they HAD “friendly” relationships with, and how those companies turned out! Just save your stuff to an external hard drive and keep away from Windows and you’ll all be fine.

  • tracyanne

    Google now blocking websites that show fake download buttons – http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/02/google-now-blocking-websites-that-show-fake-download-buttons/?comments=1

    I wonder if that means Microsoft will get blocked for running those scare campaign ads.

  • henry kurth

    Regarding forced win. 10 subscription payments: that’s a total bullshit remark and you know it is.

  • Charlie Whitman

    I know there has been a lot of speculation about Microsoft moving people to a subscription based operating system. The problem I find with this, however, is that Microsoft has been misleading, err, I mean training people for years to think of the operating system as part of the computer. You buy a computer and you use the operating system on it for the life of the computer. When you want to upgrade, you buy a new computer. That’s been the script for years.

    If Microsoft plans on somehow moving people to the idea that the operating system is something that they need to pay regularly for, regardless of what hardware they’re running it on, I’m curious to see how they will do this without alienating a bunch of people. So far, they haven’t actually made any move to do this, and it’s hard to imagine them doing so without serious repercussions from their user base no matter when they do it. I suppose actually moving everyone to Windows 10 could be a first step in this direction, but I still think they would have to do something very clever and very gradual to get a lot of people on board with a subscription based operating system. I’m not sure they can do it at all.

    It’s all somewhat of a sideshow for me, since I’m running Linux. I still wonder, though, if that’s really what they have planned. My personal thought has been that they plan on exploiting harvested user data and targeted advertising to make up for any loss they might feel from lost shrink wrapped operating system sales and/or any reduced rates for OEM’s. Then they can supplement that with subscriptions for applications and application groups rather than the OS itself, as well as moving everything they can to the Microsoft store, mimicking the mobile ecosystem on the desktop. That’s the direction I see Microsoft going. I could be wrong, though.

  • Mike

    I think Microsoft is testing the waters. The monthly/yearly subscription for Solitaire is a good example. If they get a lot of traction, you’ll see bits of the OS gradually stripped out and replaced by subscription access. Windows users are pretty much at Microsoft’s mercy no matter what Microsoft decides to do. If you use Windows, good luck. I’m certainly glad I don’t.

    My machines run only libre software and that’s the way they will stay.

  • Kevin

    Subscription for the stable version / testing version for free.
    I think this is the general direction they can and probably are going to take things.