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Version: April 30, 2015.

Microsoft Windows XP "end of life":
Conflict of interest.

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 typical 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 to think.

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 manipulated.

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 through taxes.

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.

Microsoft has said there will be no version of Windows called Windows 9. The next version will be called Windows 10.

For many people, it may be useful to wait for Windows 10, and hope that is a finished version. See, for example, this article: Still no word on when Windows 10 becomes available. (April 29, 2015)

According to its policy, Microsoft will say that the "end of life" of Windows 10 is a few years after its introduction, even if many vulnerabilities have been found and fixed.

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 Windows.

Also, the later versions of Windows don't support some older programs that are commonly used with Windows XP.

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, 2018.

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 want?

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 defects.

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 Windows 7.

Then Microsoft released Windows 8. The InfoWorld article linked above, and other media, seem to agree Windows 8 has many problems.

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 doing.)

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 August 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 fixes.

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 money.

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 paragraph:

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:

  1. A browser is vulnerable  This is less likely to occur if the latest version of the browser is installed.

    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.

    Note, however, 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.

  2. Bad download  Someone downloads a malware attack file using a browser (or other software, like FTP software).

    Educate every user to open only files that are expected and trusted. 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.

  3. An email attachment is malware  Educate every user to open only files that are expected from the sender. Otherwise they should ask for advice.

  4. 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 malware:

  1. 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 firewalls.

    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 network.

  2. 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 successful.

  3. 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 being used.)

    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 elsewhere.

    However, MSE is not installed when a Windows operating system is installed. It must be installed separately by someone with administrator access.

    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.

  4. 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 anti-malware protection.

  5. 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 safe.

  6. 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 rapidly.

    Amazingly, to me, Microsoft has arranged that the later versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which the company says are more secure, cannot 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 supplying Firefox.

    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.

  7. Browser add-ons make browsing more secure. I recommend these Firefox and Pale Moon Add-ons:

    1. FlashStopper  Without FlashStopper, videos that use Adobe Flash may start playing immediately when you visit a web page. With FlashStopper, 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.

    2. NoScript  Prevents all uses of the JavaScript computer language in a web page 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.

    3. Ghostery  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.)

    4. Web of Trust (WOT)  Alerts users to web sites that may have malware.

  8. Avoid some browser "plug-ins":

    1. 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."

      Note: The Java computer language is not related in any way to the JavaScript computer language. Most web sites need JavaScript to display correctly.

      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.

    2. Windows Activation Technologies Plugin  Somehow Microsoft installs this plugin. It allows Microsoft control over a browser.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 insecure.

  11. 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 has often been found to be insecure. My experience is that web sites have moved away from using the Java computer language.

  12. 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 article, 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 months.

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 protection.

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 completely secure.

News stories have given the impression that vulnerabilities would continue to be found forever, but that isn't true.

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 product.

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
bad reputation.

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, 2012)

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
business models.

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 price.

Microsoft may change the contracts and arrangements under which versions of Microsoft Windows are sold at any time. Customers have no control. The Windows 8 comparison chart on Wikipedia shows just some of the complexity.

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 Media Center.

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 aren't finished.

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 their work.

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 programming.

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 life.

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 controversy.”

A 2002 article on a U.K. web site by a famous computer professional, 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, apparently.

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 bully.

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, Another 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 favorite, Bill."

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 story. Quote: "Reasons Microsoft is worse than the Borg."

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 money-making companies.

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. Wikipedia has a flawed article about the litigation: United States v. Microsoft Corporation.

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 mentioned.

Still to come in a later version of this article:

  1. Information about other browser add-ons.
  2. 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 appropriate 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.

Version: 2015-04-30_028

Copyright © 2014, 2015
by Michael Jennings
of Futurepower
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Do not distribute or post to a web site.
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