Game over

by Volker Weber

The expense of maintaining a Windows PC is out of hand. And I am not talking about tightly controlled environments in large enterprises where IT can dictate what the user can do.

I am talking about the PC that your mother uses. Or any person that does not care about the PC per se, but just wants to surf the Web, send some emails and keep in touch with friends. If you have a family of those to support, this can turn into a fulltime job. I have received a few dozen of the latest Windows worm today. You can no longer even install an XP machine and update it over the web, because the moment you go online it will be infected.

This shall be my resolution: I will no longer recommend any PC or help anyone who wants to run Windows. All PCs that I pass down to friends or relatives in need of support will run on Linux with me as root and the owner as a regular user. Anyone who wants to play games gets a console. Anyone who wants to buy a new machine will get a Mac. If your PC with Windows breaks, I am not interested.

I feel much better now. :-)


I agree! I was so frustrated that I just purchased a new Apple Powerbook a few weeks ago to use at home. It is just awesome!

Tom Brandt, 2004-02-20

I agree also! For over one year now I have stopped helping people with their windows installs. But I have successfully migrated lots of them to linux and it works, they are really happy now.

Detlev Buschkamp, 2004-02-20

Just installed the new home pc for my secretary a couple days ago - connected it to the internet to update the virus pattern files for preinstalled Norton Antivirus and got a virus. Norton told me that the pc is infected but couldn´t clean it. No chance to update the pattern file as the virus dropped the connection. Had to install PC-cillin from a CD to get rid of it.
By the way i catched 500! virus infected mails within one month on my company mail virus scanner...

Huptus, 2004-02-20


Which distrib of linux would you recommend for a standard home use ?


Gaston, 2004-02-20

Well, I too started recommending Macs to friends & family. Easier to use, easier to maintain. The only person I will continue to support running Windows is my 89 year old grandma. She's using WfW 3.11 on a 286-16 to fire up Solitaire and for she isn't connected to the internet, there's not much to do besides changing the CMOS battery once a year or so.

@Gaston: I'd say that really depends a lot on where you live for localization does matter - at least to the end user. For Germans I'd currently recommend SuSE Linux. Mostly because it's got a usable interface and comes complete with easy to use setups for ISDN and DSL access to the internet, sensible default settings for the firewall included.

Stefan Rubner, 2004-02-20

I totally agree. Being the only informatics student in a dorm of 8, it's always up to me to help everyone with their windows problems. But I already converted two and 3 more are nearly convinced ...

Malte Diedrich, 2004-02-20

more opinions like this are really needed.
100% agreed !

Ingo Harpel, 2004-02-20

Completely disagree.

My family and friends can't afford the additional cost for Mac hardware. Linux ... it's cheaper, but by the time I got my development environment configured, rebuilt stuff, etc. the cost would be higher [for me].

And it's only a matter of time before their's equal opportunity attack/impact to OS users. Anybody who thinks that because there hasn't been a major reported attack against OSX there will never be one is smoking some really good stuff.

I have installed new machines recently and have not encountered the problems you describe. What I do, however, (even at work), is run behind a firewall/router. These devices now cost < $60 in the US and I've got about 5 or 6 of them (some with 4 ports, some capable of being chained, some with 803.11b, one with G). I never set up ANY machine -- regardless of OS -- raw to the internet or LAN. Ever. If I have to gain access to a local LAN (print server, source code server, file server) resource, I go old school and hand edit the HOSTS file -- a little bit of old style unix on a windows box. In case you don't know, the hosts file is in \[windows]\system32\drivers\etc folder. No ports are enabled whatsoever in my standard config. If I need to grant access to a local user (myself in another office/location) --

On a related note: I run one WiFi segment wide open -- but tiered through a double DMZ. WiFi only provides access (without WEP) to external (Internet) stuff. If you need access to internal resources (printer/file server) then that's a WEP protected (whatever that's worth) WiFi or phyiscally wired network.

My home offices are similar configured. Net cost to do this ... < $100 for the router/firewalls [non WiFi ones are discontinued merchandise at many computer stores around here and I saw a 803.11b WiFi router/firewall $49 at WalMart yesterday.

I acknowledge that this approach is nothing to do with PC maker/OS -- it's really defensive infrastructure provisioning so that I can focus on what's more [important] to me -- and would apply against any device that I installed into said infrastructure.

phil, 2004-02-20

Nice engineering. Not what mom would use though. Your development environment is not useful to her either. Web browser, mail client, word processor. Done.

All of that is installed in 30 minutes from any Linux distribution. Other than Windows everything runs without admin/root privs. Including the firewall. If you want to put a router/firewall upfront: Nice. That helps even more.

And it's only a matter of time before their's equal opportunity attack/impact to OS users.

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.
— Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics

I will deal with that when it happens.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-20

My family and friends can't afford the additional cost for Mac hardware

If they can't afford an eMac for $800 (plus <$100 for memory) they may be happy to use Linux on hardware that some PC owners scrap because it does no longer meet their requirements of current versions of Windows.

That $800 is icluding screen, keyboard, mouse and a whole lot of kick-ass software.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-20

On the subject of viruses etc., whilst it’s true that non-Windows are vulnerable too, one has to consider this: UNIX-based systems are fundamentally different to those centred upon Windows: they simply don't open themselves up to the leve of attack that Windows does.

Of course MS products get hit more due to their sheer popularity, they’re a soft target, but that isn’t the whole story.

I work day in day out with WinXP and Win2K. They’re both fine at first, but the issue is that a lot of organisations load up their systems with extra software, upgrading and adding to the base machine often on a weekly basis.

Now, you can argue whether this is good practice or not, but regardless, it happens, and it soon results in slow unstable machines. All down to the fundamental OS design. Don’t even get me started on the hassles we’ve been having with firewall software...

I will not countenance this nonsense at home. I just want to get stuff done ;-)

Ben Poole, 2004-02-20

I hate FUD

If you create a Internet Connection (e.g. DSL or ISDN) with XP the build in firewall is automatically activated.

And this is no playmobile-firewall that creates fancy bubbles about programms connecting to the internet, but instead just blocks all incoming stuff including messenger spam and blaster worms.

And Windows update nicely loads it updates in the background using the remaining bandwith. Yes, it will sent the product key to MS and also the hardware info for driver updates, but who cares.

Stop this FUD!

Klaus, 2004-02-20

Klaus, you miss the point. I don't say "Game over for Windows." I say "Game over for me recommending Windows or helping with Windows."

Volker Weber, 2004-02-21

I think he was talking about my post ;o)

We don't use MS Windoze Update nor do we use the built-in firewall, so they're not what I’m railing about.

Remember, it’s only FUD if I end up fearful, uncertain or doubtful. I’m none of those ;-p

Ben Poole, 2004-02-21

@Ben: Sorry, but I guess it was my post that triggered Klaus, 'cause I was the one to mention firewalls.

@all: My indention was _not_ to discredit Microsoft for _not_ having a firewall built into their operating system. (I'm very well aware of the fact that they have done so). I just wanted to point out that when installing Suse Linux you have the _option_ to activate a firewall, which - once activated - will have sensible default values in place. That's just one point why I would recommend SuSE Linux to end users in Germany, in case I'd be asked about what Linux distribution to use. This was a direct response to a very clear and precise question. Well, at least I thought so.

Stefan Rubner, 2004-02-21

I can relate to most of what was said above...
....while I like to tinker with some problems sometimes I just want to use the computer to get some work done. Usually that includes a level of the above, but sometimes it's just enough.
Like the last game for my son, that just refuses to install properly on my new machine....

I spend enough time in my day job hunting obscure failures that I usually do not want more of the same later...

That is the same reason why I bought a Panasonic DMR HS2-EG1 DVD recorder instead of building one based on linux....
Black box.. if it does not record stuff, breaks etc I'm not the one to blame...

Also having been (confession time) a Team OS/2 member I have spent more than my fair share of time supporting other after they just screw their more of that thank you very much..

So why a Pc and why XP and not Linux? And why no console for my kid's games?
1st) my two darlings are just 4 and 6 years old, so Educational Software is what I want them to use, don't know that that type of Software is available for a console
2nd)Control: I want to make it clear that they play on MY machine and thus follow MY rules. I Install stuff. I delete stuff. They may play for a limited time on weekends. I log them in for those games that need to run on Power User level
3rd) simlar to two, consoles are so easy to handle that they'd be tempted to operate them on their own (heck I know how much time I spent on my c-64 once I got it...all comes back to haunt you I suppose;-) )

What really annoys me these days is that each of the Desktop OSes I know well (Linux, WindowsXP/NT/2000, OS/2) need a not so small amount of work until everything is configured to my liking.
And once thats done it is not easy to recreate.
That is my current pet peeve with those three.

Martin Forisch, 2004-02-21

I you read about this latest study, you will realize that Linux as a secure operating system is a myth. (Also checkout my weblog.)

Compared to Linux and Windows, Mac OS might be a more secure operating system, but the reason for this is the relatively small number of users. And everybody knows why. Not all kinds of software are available for it. Surely, even your mother will wish to install a certain kind of application sooner or later which is not available for the Mac.

If you know how to handle Windows properly, you won?t have any problems with worms and viruses. I am a Windows user since Windows 3.0 and never had a problem with a virus. And believe me, I am installing lots of programs.

Michael Pietroforte, 2004-02-21

You have been long enough in this business to understand the value of these analyst reports. :-)

Also please note: I am not advising people to drop Windows. I am simply stating that it will be a whole lot easier for me to maintain Macs -- and Linux for those who cannot afford a Mac.

What do these analysts say? Mac is the most secure because they count only a few hundred incidents? Yeah, sure. The most dangerous place on earth is a bed. The majority of people die in a bed. :-)

Volker Weber, 2004-02-21

Sure, I know the value of these studies. You can use them to support your prejudices. ;-)

Michael Pietroforte, 2004-02-21

It seems that this thread has an emotional factor.
Hej, it´s just software. OK, Linux is the best of it, MacOS the 2nd one, and who want to be restricted Win is the 3rd. But once more, it´s just software. Not your girlfriend, your mom or something like this. Having that in mind, you are really laid-back.

And now, go and load Linux on your desktop :-)

- this is posted using 100% recycled electrons! -

ingo harpel, 2004-02-22

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