Articles > Windows XP
Version: May 31, 2014, #1
At present there are
frequent new versions.
For a company with a virtual monopoly,
software flaws are profitable.
April 8, 2014: Microsoft began charging millions for support
of its Windows XP product. Microsoft's policy is not an "end of life". It is the beginning of a new way to make money from customers who bought Windows XP.
All Microsoft operating system and office suite products have "end of life" dates designed to try to get customers to buy new versions.
After years of fixing defects in Windows XP,
Microsoft's product is still so defective that people
shouldn't use it?
My observations and opinions,
explored here, seem far more realistic than the media
coverage. Windows XP did not instantly become unsafe on April 8, 2014.
The media has an extreme conflict of
interest. Advertisers want sales of new equipment.
Advertisers don't want people to continue to use old equipment.
What you have read may have been influenced by what advertisers want you
Also, most of those who write for the media about technology have little understanding of technology. One of the reasons is that hiring knowledgeable writers is expensive.
There are many cases in which it is better
to keep using Windows XP. This article explains why and
how. It is written to be helpful to people with little technical knowledge.
Most of Microsoft's hundreds of millions of customers who still use Windows XP will no longer get fixes for security defects. It's as though a car manufacturer told all owners of its older vehicles that the vehicles are unsafe now and owners must buy new vehicles or pay millions of dollars to keep them. Except it's worse: Software doesn't have mechanical wear.
Large customers are paying huge
amounts. Declaring that its product has an "end of
life" is already immensely profitable for Microsoft. For example, see these articles:
IRS, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, misses XP deadline, pays Microsoft millions for patches (April 11, 2014) [title edited for clarity]
That story uses the word "aged" to refer to Windows XP. Software does not have a "life". It always does what it did originally. It does not age.
Dutch government to pay Microsoft 'millions' to extend XP
support (April 4, 2014)
(U.K.) Government signs £5.5m Microsoft deal to extend Windows XP
support (April 2, 2014)
Government leaders are often
extremely ignorant about technology, and therefore easily
Can Microsoft prevent distribution to taxpayers? If a government pays to fix a vulnerability, can
Microsoft prevent that government from giving the fix to its
citizens? Fixes are simple and cheap to
distribute, and citizens will have already paid for them
Can a government be forced to accept a contract that prevents
fixes in product defects from being distributed to its citizens?
Can Microsoft, a company with a virtual monopoly, be allowed to create anti-customer profit-making arrangements? For example, can Microsoft manage its programmers in such a way that there is little attempt to find flaws?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, there must be additions to contract law.
Expect attacks. There may be
attacks on the ideas here from people who will make less money if
people keep Windows XP systems. Some of those attacks may be
extreme. Some attacks may be run by people who research and exploit any lack of technical knowledge.
I suggest that you require all arguments to be strictly logical and to supply deep understanding.
What can replace Windows XP? The
newest version of Microsoft Windows, Windows 8 and 8.1, has a bad
reputation. Here is an InfoWorld article:
The sorry state of Windows 8.1 Update 1 (February 10, 2014). A
search shows many others.
Microsoft alternates finished and unfinished
versions of Windows. (See an exploration of that below.) The newest
version, 8.1, is, at present, an unfinished version. So, there is
no easy choice.
For many people, it may be useful to wait for
Windows 9, and hope that is a finished version. This article says
Windows 9 may be released in April 2015:
Windows 9 release date, news and rumors (January 23, 2014)
According to its policy, Microsoft will say
that the "end of life" of Windows 9 is a few years after its introduction, before any defects and vulnerabilities have been found.
Microsoft sells each new version of
Microsoft Windows as an entirely new operating
system. Customers are expected to pay the full price for
an entirely new version, not just an upgrade price, even if most of the software in the new version is identical to that in the old version.
The path to a new version of Windows is
expensive. Microsoft has provided no easy upgrade path
from Windows XP.
Windows 7 is the latest version of Windows that is
generally accepted. The cost of configuring Windows 7, and dealing
with new issues, is, for most customers, far greater than the cost of
buying Windows 7. The cost is not only in installation and
configuration, but in buying new hardware and installing and
learning and teaching people to use the new version of Microsoft
Also, the later versions of Windows don't
support some older programs that are commonly used with Windows
In Windows 7, there is a "Windows XP
mode" available with the more expensive versions of Windows 7.
However, to me, XP mode seems troublesome and unfinished. Instead,
I use software called VMWare that allows me to run a full copy of
Windows XP under Windows 7.
Microsoft stopped selling retail
versions of Windows 7 on October 31, 2013. See what
Microsoft calls the Windows
lifecycle fact sheet. Microsoft will stop fully supporting
Windows 7 on January 13, 2015, about 8 months from now.
Windows 7 is, by Microsoft's definition, already partly a dead product.
Microsoft says Windows 8.1 will "die" soon. Microsoft will stop fully supporting Windows 8.1, the latest version
available now, a little over 3 1/2 years from now, on January 9,
Customers who accept Microsoft's push to get them to
abandon Windows XP now will be expected to abandon Windows 8.1 a
short time later, and pay the full price to do so.
Software does not have a "life
cycle". The concept of "end of life" of sofware is a method of exploiting the fact that most people don't have technical knowledge of software.
When used with the same hardware, software
always does what it did in the beginning. Software is not a living
thing; attempts in the media to characterize software that way are
dishonest attempts to manipulate.
I wrote software 28 years ago that is still in
intense daily use today by a world-class company. Software is
merely instructions to computers. The computers run those
instructions robotically, exactly the same way every time. New
faster hardware still runs the old instructions, although a new
operating system may not support old software.
Computer professionals are often fond of the new
features in new software. However, in a business environment
software is just part of doing the job. The business is the focus,
not the software. If the software does what is wanted and needed,
it doesn't matter how old it is.
If you don't need new features, you don't
need new software, except if you decide that different
software is more secure.
Each new version of Microsoft Windows is
designed to require more powerful hardware. The biggest
customers for Microsoft Windows operating systems are huge computer
manufacturers. To give the big customers what they want, Microsoft
designs each new version of Microsoft Windows to require more
powerful hardware. That requires buying new computers.
Should the hundreds of millions of users of Windows
XP buy new hardware when their old systems are doing what they
Microsoft releases finished and unfinished
versions of its Windows operating systems. Windows 2000
was a finished version. The next version Microsoft released was
Windows ME, supposedly an improvement of Windows 98. It had many
Then Microsoft began selling Windows XP in October
25, 2001. It was Windows 2000 with very very buggy new software.
(That is my best understanding of a simple way to characterize the
full reality.) Now, after Microsoft has fixed literally thousands
of defects, Windows XP is considered to be a good version.
There seems to be general agreement that the next
Microsoft Windows operating system version after Windows XP,
Windows Vista, had many problems.
Then Microsoft released Windows 7. It is generally
agreed that Windows 7 is a finished version. It apparently may be
characterized as a finished version of Windows Vista, but customers
who had already paid for Windows Vista paid the full price for
Then Microsoft released Windows 8. The InfoWorld article linked above, and other media, seem to agree Windows 8 has
Before Windows, the Microsoft operating
system was called DOS. Microsoft sold finished and unfinished
versions then also. For example, DOS version 3.0 had very
serious problems. Customers were expected to pay the full price for
an entirely new operating system when they bought DOS version 3.1,
which fixed the major problems.
DOS Version 2.0 had defects, version 2.1 was okay.
Version 3.0 had defects, version 3.1 was OK. Version 4.0 had
defects. Version 5.0 was okay. Version 6.0 had defects.
(One of the problems in DOS 3.0 cost me 8
unpleasant hours. I traveled to another state to help a customer
there. The problem the customer was having was due to very serious
sloppiness in DOS 3.0, not due to anything the customer was
For literally decades Microsoft has been releasing
software before it is really finished. There have been very few,
usually weak, complaints. Microsoft users have been allowing
Microsoft to be sloppy. Possibly one of the reasons is that often
those who are technically knowledgeable make more money if there
are problems. And those who aren't technically knowledgeable
don't feel that they know enough to criticize.
History of Windows XP After
releasing the first version of Windows XP, Microsoft began
finishing the product. Microsoft bundles its fixes into what it
calls Service Packs, abbreviated SP.
SP 1, released
February 3, 2003, bundled fixes for 319 problems. See the
Microsoft article, List of fixes in Windows
XP Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 1a.
It wasn't until Service Pack 2 was released on
10, 2004 that many of the very serious problems in Windows XP
were fixed. Windows XP with Service Pack 2 might be considered to
be a different version of the Windows XP operating system, it was
so different from the initial Windows XP version. See the Microsoft
article, List of
fixes included in Windows XP Service Pack 2. There were 828
Service Pack 3 of Windows XP was released on May 6,
2008 with 1,116
fixes. In the very loose definition of finished that we have
come to expect, it seems to me that Windows XP SP3 was the first
"finished" version of Windows XP.
Windows XP has been a good operating system since
then, even though many defects have been found since. Microsoft
began selling Windows XP in October 25, 2001, so Windows XP was
"finished" about 6 1/2 years after it was released.
Articles in the media have been saying that Windows
XP is 12 years old. However, it has been about 6 years since
Windows XP SP 3 was released. It seems more correct to say that
Windows XP is 6 years old, not 12.
Since Microsoft released Windows XP SP3, an informal count
indicates that there have been more than 459 defects fixed.
Microsoft has not released a Service Pack 4.
One of Microsoft's methods of making
money: Provide safety methods only professionals are likely to
know. Quote from a
Wikipedia article: "In Windows XP, every user is set
up as an administrator by default (unless added through Computer
Management). As a result, most home users run all their software
with Administrator access. However, this leaves most users
unwittingly open to potential security threats..." [minor edits for clarity]
Computer support professionals fix the problem by
configuring limited users. Somehow, we don't have enough social
cohesion to get the message to most of the non-professional users,
so the fact that Microsoft designed the default user to be completely open to installation of malware
makes Windows XP far less safe for non-professionals.
See this New York Times story:
Corrupted PCs Find New Home in the Dumpster (July 17, 2005).
Most people are not prepared to deal with a computer infected with
malware. It is cheaper for them to buy a new computer. If they buy
a computer that uses Microsoft Windows, Microsoft makes more
There is a conflict of interest. If Microsoft
allows Microsoft Windows to be released with many flaws, Microsoft
makes more money.
That is not the only deliberately arranged
shortcoming. Every computer needs a software firewall. The software
firewall Microsoft supplies with all versions of Windows has incoming
protection but lacks outgoing protection. See the next
All Microsoft Windows operating
systems are, in one way, designed to be
vulnerable. The software firewall supplied with all
versions of Windows prevents attacks from outside, but, if malware
is somehow inside a computer, the Windows software firewall does
not prevent the malware from communicating over the internet. The
design is certainly intentional, software designers and managers certainly understand the issues.
If malware somehow does get inside, the Microsoft
Windows software firewalls do not prevent the malware from
contacting another computer on the internet to transfer passwords, or to get instructions from malware authors about
how to control an infected computer.
The 2 lists just below explain the
vulnerability categories and defenses:
Malware infects a computer or network in 4
ways, all from outside:
- A browser is vulnerable This is
less likely to occur if the latest version of the browser is
If you are using the computer as a "limited user", even if the browser has a defect, malware would need to also find and exploit a defect in Windows XP, because limited users don't have rights to install software. That is not likely. On April 8, 2014, when Microsoft said XP was at its "end of life", I understand that there were no known vulnerabilities in Windows XP.
that a defect in a browser could allow malware to do something destructive on a web page. That is not a defect in the Windows XP operating system, it is a defect in software running under the operating system. A defect in a browser may have the same effect on any operating system.
- Bad download Someone downloads
a malware attack file using a browser (or other software, like FTP
Educate every user to open only files that are expected and
As was mentioned above, it is unlikely that a downloaded malware file could corrupt Windows XP when running as a limited user. Malware might ask for a password, but that is not a corruption of the operating system, or a fault in the operating system. And if the computer has a fully capable software firewall, malware cannot communicate to another computer, or to the internet.
- An email attachment is malware
Educate every user to open only files that are expected from the
sender. Otherwise they should ask for advice.
- CD, DVD, or USB drive As above,
educate every user to use only files that are expected and trusted.
Otherwise, users should be distrustful and ask for help.
How to make all versions of Microsoft Windows safe.
These are the defenses against
- Attacks from outside are NOT
successful. The hardware and software firewalls prevent
attacks from outside. We are not hearing of cases in which an
attack from outside could penetrate both hardware and software
The hardware called a "router" that connects to
the internet contains a hardware firewall. There should always be a
router between you and the internet or you and an unfamiliar
- All normal use should be as a "limited
user". Limited users don't have rights to install new
software. After many years of Microsoft fixing the defects in
Windows XP, limited users are very secure. Even if somehow there is
an attempt to install malware, the installation is unlikely to be
- Most malware is caught with
"real-time" anti-malware software.
"Real-time" anti-malware software scans every file at the time that
it is accessed to detect if it contains malware. (That is different
from scheduled scans for malware that run when the computer is not
Microsoft provides free anti-malware software, Microsoft Security
Essentials, MSE, that has gotten good ratings. See the January 16,
2014 InfoWorld article,
Microsoft extends XP anti-malware support until July 2015.
After that, it will be necessary to get anti-malware software
However, MSE is not installed when a Windows operating system is
installed. It must be installed separately by someone with
That's another arrangement by Microsoft that stops complaints
from professionals, but leaves everyone who doesn't know about
MSE vulnerable, thus maximizing Microsoft's income, because
people are likely to buy another computer if they have problems.
- You must have a software firewall
that detects attempts to communicate from inside to
outside. The firewalls that come with Microsoft Windows
don't have that ability, as was mentioned above. The Microsoft
firewalls only detect attempts to attack from outside.
Many years ago, malware was written by angry
people. Its only purpose was to destroy files. Now, malware is
almost always used to get control over a vulnerable computer. To do
that it must be able to communicate over the internet.
If a software firewall, that detects attempts to
communicate from inside to outside, discovers that some new
software is attempting to communicate, it will stop that attempt
and show a message on the screen. If the user denies that attempt,
the malware will not be able to function as designed.
Limited users should never allow communication of
new, unconfigured software to the outside. They should call for
help immediately so that the malware can be removed and the means
of infection can be understood.
Free software firewalls:
ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2015 and Comodo Free Firewall can
be used with the free Microsoft Security Essentials for
- What has been your history? Have
you had problems with malware in the last few years? If you
haven't, your users seem to have safe habits, and you have
reason to believe your family or organization will continue to be
- Use a more secure browser. It is
better to use the free Firefox browser
rather than Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser that is
supplied with Microsoft Windows. Firefox has had far fewer
vulnerabilities and vulnerabilities are, in general, fixed more
Amazingly, to me, Microsoft has arranged that the later versions of
Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which the company says are more
be installed on Windows XP.
Important: Make sure you get Firefox from the Mozilla.org web site; Google
has sold an ad to some other organization that says it is also
The free Pale Moon browser
is based on Firefox. The Pale Moon group has made some
modifications to Firefox that seem to me to be improvements.
For example, in the Pale Moon browser the Find text choices, Control-F, are together on the left side of the screen. In the Firefox browser the Find choices are partly on the left and partly on the right of the screen, making it easy not to see a choice made earlier on the right.
Configure both the Firefox and Pale Moon browsers so that the small files called "cookies" are not saved. Cookies contain information left by the site that you visited. Cookies are often needed while you are visiting a site. There is no reason to keep them later, after you re-start the browser. (You can configure exceptions if you want a web site to remember visits.)
Configuration instructions: Go to
File > Tools > Options > Privacy.
See the History section.
Choose: Firefox/Pale Moon will: Use custom settings for history
Uncheck: Always use private browsing mode
Check: Remember my browsing and download history
Check: Remember search and form history
Check: Accept cookies from sites
Choose: Accept third-party cookies: Never
Choose: Keep until: I close the browser.
Uncheck: Clear history when Pale Moon closes.
- Browser add-ons make browsing more
secure. I recommend these Firefox and Pale Moon Add-ons:
Without Flashblock, videos that use Adobe Flash may start playing immediately when you visit a web page. With Flashblock, Flash videos won't start playing until you click
on an arrow.
Adobe Flash is apparently the cause of much of the
instability in Firefox. In past years Adobe has released new versions frequently. For example, Adobe released 5 new versions in the first 4 months of 2014.
It says, "Flashblock does not work ... with NoScript
installed", but that is not correct. If the particular
Flashblock works fine. That's not as difficult as it may sound.
until specifically allowed. Requires users to be trained in what
uses to allow, or that settings be configured in advance. Configuration of new computers is easy, just export the settings from NoScript in another computer and import to others.
See Ghostery, just below, for more explanation.
When you visit a web site, it is common that the site you visit loads data from other web sites. Ghostery stops unwanted connections to over 1,000 web sites that may have
vulnerabilities. For example, the CNN web site loads 6 "trackers".
A visit to one web site is often a visit to many other sites, also. The NoScript and Ghostery Firefox
browser add-ons mentioned just above stop web pages from loading
software from other web sites besides the one you are visiting.
Those other sites may be infected with malware.
The Ghostery Firefox add-on reports that visitors to the Los Angeles Times newspaper web site home page are linked to 16 other web sites: Adobe Omniture, Amazon Associates, Audience Science, Auditude, ChartBeat, DoubleClick, Facebook, Google Analytics, Google+, JumpTime, Krux Digital, Legolas Media, NDN Analytics, NetRatings SiteCensus, Optimizely, Quantcast, Rubicon, ScoreCard Research, and Tynt.
The NoScript Firefox add-on reports that visits to the L.A. Times home page also access these 7 web sites: google-analytics.com, jsrdn.com, newsinc.com, optimizely.com, rubiconproject.com, tribdss.com, and tribune.com.
If none of those 23 organizations are accessed, the L.A. Times home page still displays normally. (Retrieved April 13, 2014.)
- Web of Trust (WOT) Alerts users to web sites that may have
- Avoid some browser "plug-ins":
- Java Plugin The Java computer language has been far more insecure since Oracle became the owner, it seems to me. If possible, uninstall the entire Java language and any Java plugins. This April 14, 2014 article by respected security analyst Brian Krebs, Critical Java Update Plugs 37 Security Holes, says, "... seriously consider removing Java altogether."
Some features of the free LibreOffice or Open Office office software suites are dependent on the Java language. See the Mon, 09 Dec 2013 - 9:00 PM answer at that discussion.
- Windows Activation Technologies Plugin Somehow Microsoft installs this plugin. It allows Microsoft control over a browser.
- If it makes sense, put computers with outside
access on a separate network. Malware attacks must come from
outside. Arrange that DVD and USB drives are not available to the
user and that anyone wanting internet access use computers on a separate network.
- In high-risk situations, moving to the Windows 7
operating system may make sense. Windows 7 has a more advanced
security system. But vulnerabilities have been found in Windows 7,
and running Windows XP as a limited user with a better firewall
has, over the years, been very secure.
And, as mentioned above, Microsoft has already stopped selling
retail versions of Windows 7, and will soon stop selling what are
known as OEM, Original Equipment Manufacturer, versions. Also,
aside from the other problems people have had with Windows 8, newer Microsoft
operating system versions have added software. Judging from many years of past experience, that added software will later be found to be
- Mozilla Foundation has given the software that
works with its Firefox browser 3 names: Add-ons, extensions, and
plug-ins. Make sure all are the latest versions; vulnerabilities
have often been found in what are known as plug-ins. All 3 are
accessed from the Tools > Add-ons menu choice.
Adobe Shockwave Flash and Adobe Acrobat plug-ins have often had
vulnerabilities, and there have been frequent fixes.
It seems reasonable not to install the plug-in known as Java, which
often been found to be insecure. My experience is that web
sites have moved away from using the Java computer language.
- Don't use Microsoft Office. Use the free LibreOffice or Open Office. (They are very similar versions of each other.) Many vulnerabilities have been found in Microsoft Office. Microsoft makes more money if people feel they must buy new versions of Microsoft Office. Since vulnerabilities are a way to make more money, apparently Microsoft management allows sloppy programming.
It is necessary to download two Libre Office files, the Main Installer and the LibreOffice Built in help file.
For many people and companies, continuing
to use Windows XP is reasonable. That's not only my
opinion, but the opinion of many others. For example, see the
Forget the XPocalypse: Sticking with Windows XP can be a smart
move. (April 7, 2014) However, that story doesn't fully
support the title.
Of all personal computers,
28% still ran Windows XP in March 2014. (As of April 8, 2014)
That is hundreds of millions.
One story: 10 years use of 18 computers
running Windows XP The people who work at the company
I'm using as an example do a lot of personal browsing, and are
not especially likely to take warnings seriously.
In the beginning years, the vulnerabilities found
in Windows XP were much worse than those found recently, and
Microsoft was much more likely to delay fixing the flaws for
However, in this particular company there was in
that entire time only one serious malware infection, and that
infection caused no loss of employee hours.
Eventually someone may discover some
vulnerability that is able to attack Windows XP
successfully. It is possible that Microsoft will fix the
defect only for governments and large organizations who have paid
Microsoft millions of dollars for continued support. Although
Microsoft would, at that point, have been paid for the fix, it is
possible that Microsoft would not offer it to the other hundreds of
millions of customers.
Of course, Microsoft could add protection against
new vulnerabilities found in Windows XP to its free Microsoft
Security Essentials anti-malware software, which will be available
until April of 2015, but maybe Microsoft won't do that.
If a vulnerability is found in Windows XP, it seems
likely that anti-malware companies will add protection against that
vulnerability to their for-pay anti-malware software.
By declaring that Windows XP is at an “end of
life”, Microsoft has created a financial opportunity for itself
and for independent contractors that are now offering
The Microsoft Windows update process has
been somewhat leisurely: Someone detects a vulnerability
in Microsoft Windows software. Microsoft assigns someone to find
the defect and fix it. The collection of fixes are offered on
Windows Update on
the 2nd Tuesday of every month, “Patch Tuesday”. The update
process is somewhat leisurely, and has been for years.
It seems reasonable to expect that the
discovery of a vulnerability in Windows XP would cause plenty of
media coverage. Windows XP customers would have plenty of
notice. Also, generally there have been temporary methods of
preventing vulnerabilities until a defect can be fixed.
The final result: After the defects in
Windows XP are fixed, there won't be any more defects.
Microsoft has provided thousands of fixes for Windows XP.
Eventually all will be found and fixed, and Windows XP will be
News stories have given the impression that
vulnerabilities would continue to be found forever, but that
Microsoft has a long history of releasing software
that is later found to have vulnerabilities. So, it is possible,
even likely, that Windows XP will be safer than some new Microsoft
Conflict of interest is
sometimes an excellent guide.
Interests conflict: Microsoft makes more money if versions of Windows have flaws, because if there are problems, people often buy new computers with completely separate copies of Windows, or buy a retail version of Windows.
Interests are allied: Companies that sell only anti-malware software depend for their profitability on keeping Microsoft's products safe.
Need extreme security?
Here's how to have that
with any operating system.
Suppose, for example, the accounting department of a large corporation uses 10 computers with Windows XP. Those 10 computers can be put on a private network that has no connection to other computers or the internet. To make a private network, all that is required is a router that costs less than $100.
The head of the accounting department can have a DVD drive so that accounting results can be distributed to other networks in the company. Since there would be no way for new software to enter that private network, vulnerabilities could not be exploited.
Employees who work on private networks can have internet access using computers in a nearby break room, for example.
For extreme security, all computer cases must be locked. No computers can have an active USB, DVD, or diskette drive, except for one computer that has a DVD drive to accept new data or to distribute results. All new programs can first be checked with Jotti's malware scan.
All computers should have real-time malware scanning for extra protection and to check newly introduced data files. Microsoft Security Essentials, MSE, is free and can be configured for real-time checking.
Microsoft has a
The cover of the January 16, 2013 issue of
BusinessWeek magazine has a large photo of Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer with the headline calling him "Monkey
Boy". See the cover by scrolling down in the article
Microsoft sued for misrepresentation. The
BusinessWeek cover says "No More" and
"Mr.", but that doesn't take much away from
the fact that the magazine called him Monkey Boy — on
its cover. Whoever wrote that headline was repeating a common phrase applied to Steve
Ballmer by people in the computer industry.
In my years of following such things I have never
seen such disrespect of a CEO.
Worst CEO: Quote from an
article in Forbes Magazine about Steve Ballmer:
"Without a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large
publicly traded American company today."
Another quote: "The reach of his bad
leadership has extended far beyond Microsoft when it comes to
destroying shareholder value -- and jobs." (May 12,
Fired for temper tantrums: In my
opinion, there is something that is necessary to understand about
the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system. It is a typical attempt
of Microsoft to make more money by releasing software that is not
finished. But even for a company that intends to be abusive,
releasing it was an example of extreme incompetence. News stories
say that Steve Ballmer was fired because of severely incompetent
behavior that lasted many years. For example, see the article
Steve Ballmer's temper tantrum over Nokia buyout led to his
firing, says report. (March 5, 2014)
It seems likely that Microsoft has
difficulty hiring good people to work in an abusive
environment. A cartoon web site, Bonkers World, made an
organization chart of technology companies. (June 27, 2011) The
cartoon shows Microsoft composed of departments that are extremely
hostile to each other.
More about Microsoft's
Microsoft's software sales depend largely on
having a virtual monopoly on an operating system, Microsoft
Windows, and on a word processor and spreadsheet in Microsoft
Office. Somehow there have been social weaknesses that have
prevented people and governments from seeing and dealing with the
defect in that arrangement.
Part of the business model is that, as mentioned
above, Microsoft sells each new version as an entirely new product,
requiring customers to pay the full price, rather than an upgrade
Microsoft may change the contracts and
arrangements under which versions of Microsoft Windows are sold
at any time. Customers have no control.
8 comparison chart on Wikipedia shows just some of the
Here is one of many examples of the difficulty of
understanding the terms and conditions of being a Microsoft
customer. Microsoft supplies Windows Media Center with Microsoft
Windows 7. But buyers of Windows version 8 must pay about $100 for
the "Windows 8 Pro Pack", which is only
available for buyers of Windows 8 Professional, to get Windows
However, the Microsoft article,
Making Windows Media Center available in Windows 8 (May 3,
2012), says that DVD playback is dropped from Windows 8. Those who
want to play DVDs must buy software from some other company!
Choosing which DVD playback software to buy is an
unpleasant, time-consuming job for a professional. It is beyond the
ability of most regular customers to make an educated choice. Many
incompetent or dishonest companies sell software.
It seems reasonable to guess that most computer
buyers do not realize that Microsoft has eliminated important
features from Windows 8.
It is extremely difficult for customers to defend
themselves from any company that plays games with software
features. People buy software because they want help with something
they are doing. They don't have time to stop their work and
deal with deliberate technological distractions.
"Embrace, extend, extinguish" was
a phrase used at Microsoft to talk about its anti-competitive
methods. For example, see this U.S. Department of Justice
PDF file: Microsoft engaged
in a predatory campaign to crush the browser threat to its
operating system monopoly.
Microsoft has a long history of releasing
software before it is finished. That's one of the
reasons that there are bad versions of Microsoft Windows: They
A five-year-old boy found a really, really sloppy
software bug in a Microsoft product. This BBC story, Xbox password flaw
exposed by five-year-old boy, is one example of the lack of
supervision by Microsoft of what it releases. (April 4, 2014)
In an online discussion of computer professionals,
they were amazed at how sloppy the programming has to have been to
have such a fundamental bug.
It is important to understand the nature of
the flaws Microsoft has been fixing. The flaws, or
"bugs" are due to sloppiness in the programming.
Sometimes well-managed software development groups still produce
software with vulnerabilities and shortcomings. But the thousands
of problems Microsoft has found in Windows XP since it was released
indicate that the initial programming was very sloppy and that the
development groups were poorly managed, or not allowed to finish
The BSD operating system is free. It has had an
excellent security history. There is a reason. The volunteer
programmers that produce BSD look for security flaws before they
release the software.
In contrast, if there is more sloppiness and
vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, Microsoft makes more money.
Security flaws are profitable. That's one of the effects of
having a virtual monopoly.
What does it cost Microsoft to fix
flaws? It seems reasonable to guess that, if Microsoft
continued to fix security flaws in Windows XP, there might be far
fewer than 3 of them each month, far fewer than 36 in a year. How
much does it cost Microsoft to fix 36 flaws? (Many flaws create
vulnerabilities only in unusual circumstances.)
When a flaw is discovered, at that time the nature
of the problem is already known. It's not necessary to spend
time finding the problem. It is only necessary to fix the
What does that cost? One million dollars a year?
Ten million? Since 2 governments have already paid more than that
for continued support, declaring the "end of life" of
Windows XP has already been extremely profitable for Microsoft.
After thousands of defects have been fixed,
the recently discovered flaws have seemed not as serious.
When I told my friend Simon that I was writing about Windows XP and
the fear of more security flaws, he said, "It's still
broken, after all these years?" Simon said he stopped
using Microsoft operating systems many years ago after having huge
amounts of trouble with Windows ME.
However, after all these years, many of the
vulnerabilities in Windows XP have been found and fixed.
Microsoft engages in habitual abusiveness.
Our society in general doesn't seem
to be able to defend against that.
Microsoft public relations managers and agencies
may encourage scaring people into abandoning Windows XP. Judging by
the many, many stories now, newspapers and magazines will continue
to fully accept the foolishness that software has a limited
We have no way of knowing how much of the coverage
is encouraged by money from Microsoft.
Misleading the public is a huge
business. For example, in 1953, stories in major magazines
began publicizing that smoking is destructive to health. Cigarette
companies fought that fact for decades. In 1969 an executive of a
cigarette company now owned by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
wrote: “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of
competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds
of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a
A 2002 article on a U.K. web site by a famous
MS "Software Choice" Campaign: A Clever Fraud (August
9, 2002) gives one idea of the constant abusiveness by Microsoft,
abusiveness that has never been sensibly handled by any government,
Bill Gates had an extremely bad
reputation. When Bill Gates was CEO, there were often long
delays between the time a security vulnerability was discovered and
it was fixed. These things are complicated and we don't have
enough information; it is not sure that the delays were caused by
Bill Gates. But now that Bill Gates is no longer running day-to-day
operations of Microsoft the delays seem shorter.
Many years ago, I estimated that it would require 8
full-time writers to document Microsoft's abusiveness. Since
Bill Gates stopped being involved full-time in Microsoft, the
abusiveness seems less, but dealing with Microsoft and its
unfinished products is still enormously complicated.
Former Microsoft employee Tom Evslin, a Microsoft
employee from 1992 to 1994, wrote Microsoft
Memories, a story about his painful experiences with Bill Gates
in Microsoft company meetings. Here is a quote. (He explained
earlier in the story that Bill Gates was called Billg):
Billg typically has his eyes closed and
he’s rocking back and forth. He could be asleep; he could be
thinking about something else; he could be listening intently to
everything you’re saying. The trouble is all are possible and you
don’t know which. Obviously, you have to present as if he were
listening intently even though you know he isn’t looking at the
PowerPoint slides you spent so much time on.
At some point in your presentation billg will say
“that’s the dumbest fucking idea I’ve heard since I’ve been
at Microsoft.” He looks like he means it. However, since you knew
he was going to say this, you can’t really let it faze you.
Moreover, you can’t afford to look fazed; remember: he’s a
Back then, Bill Gates was
often called "Satan". Atlantic Monthly, an otherwise
reputable magazine, even printed something that said that Bill
Gates was Satan. There was a story intended to be humorous,
Bill Gates Meets Satan story, that presented Bill Gates and
Satan as friendly with each other. In the 2nd to last line of the
humor, Satan says, "Of all my minions, you are my very
When Bill Gates was CEO, there were many stories
about the abusiveness of Microsoft. For example,
A Virus that Microsoft Can Handle and
If General Motors Built Cars like Microsoft....
People often referred to Microsoft as "The
Borg". Two examples are in this video and this
Quote: "Reasons Microsoft is worse than the
Now that Bill Gates is giving money to charities,
it is no longer fashionable to talk about him that way, of course,
even though he is on the Microsoft Board
of Directors, and is still actively involved in running the
company, according to recent news stories.
The public relations efforts about his philanthropy
have somehow hidden the fact that Bill Gates is involved with
The meaning of "virtual
monopoly": Apple sells computers that have been more
secure, but Apple computers typically cost 3 to 5 times as much for
similar hardware. Also, the Apple operating system, although much
less likely to have malware, doesn't run some of the programs
used in business, such as accounting software.
Fewer people have trained themselves to configure
and troubleshoot Apple computers; it is more difficult to hire a
knowledgeable person. Businesses typically don't buy Apple
computers because of the expense, so fewer employees and
prospective employees know how to use Apple computers.
Linux is a free computer operating system designed
and maintained by volunteers and big companies. It is very
reliable. However, software designed for the dominant OS, Microsoft
Windows, often cannot be made to run reliably under Linux.
Also, Microsoft software is poorly documented, but
Linux software tends to be much more poorly documented. Volunteers
and paid programmers who write Linux software typically don't
like to write documentation.
So, Microsoft effectively has a monopoly over
computers used in business and government, especially, not just
among the general public.
The U.S. government is corrupt:
Elections depend on donations.
In recent years, there has been little help
from the U.S. government in dealing with the abusiveness of
corporations. Professional public relations agencies are
often able to convince people of things that are not good for them.
The U.S. government has often seemed to support the abusiveness,
rather than acting as a democracy.
To get elected, candidates for political office in
the USA must have a huge amount of money for advertising and
campaigns. Usually, only candidates who accept donations can be
elected. Large donations usually come with expectations.
At one time, the US government had strong, healthy
laws against monopoly, strong "antitrust" laws. Somehow
those laws have been weakened. Somehow, it was decided that the
laws would mostly not apply to Microsoft. The Washington Post has a
timeline of antitrust issues with Microsoft from 1990 to
What I've said here
is my best understanding.
To me, it seems far more realistic than what
I've read in the media. However, no one can know everything
about these issues. It is possible I've made mistakes. Also, my
opinions are just that, one person's opinions.
This situation is a far more complicated story than
can be covered in a short article.
Writing this article has been a part-time effort.
There are far more supporting documents than have been
Still to come in a later version of this
- Information about other browser add-ons.
- Comparison of the business practices surrounding Red Hat Linux and Microsoft Windows.
Do you have suggestions or corrections?
Send a message. I will try to improve this article. I
can't give a guarantee because I'm usually very busy,
but I will do what I can.
About us: My company,
Futurepower ®, gives highly professional technology support,
not just with computer issues, but with technology in general. We
would make more money if we advised moving away from Windows XP in
all cases. But we provide support as cheaply as possible; that
tends to make our customers feel loyal.
Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft Windows
XP are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. ZoneAlarm is a
trademark of Check Point Software Technologies. Firefox is a
trademark of Mozilla Foundation.
Copyright © 2014
by Michael Jennings
of Futurepower ®
All rights reserved.
Do not distribute or post to a web site.
Link to our web site for the latest version:
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