Save Windows XP? Ha! I have an even better idea

Save Windows XP? Ha! I have an even better idea

Summary: I confess: I was wrong about the "Save XP" movement. And I can't think of a better day than today to publicly come out in support of a bold new plan to bring back a truly great Windows version that Microsoft has sadly abandoned. It's light, fast, and insanely secure. Are you willing to stand with me?


I confess: I was wrong about the "Save XP" movement. And I can't think of a better day than today to publicly come out in support of a bold new plan to bring back a truly great Windows version that Microsoft has sadly abandoned.

In 2008, InfoWorld presented their "Save Windows XP" petition to Microsoft President Steve Ballmer. At the time, InfoWorld's editor was practically in tears, as he admitted in his "Final plea to save Windows XP":

Last Friday, we FedEx'd the Save Windows XP petition to Steve Ballmer. I have to say that sliding the memory stick into the envelope was an emotional experience: More than 210,000 users have made their voices heard to the world's largest software corporation. I think there's still a slim chance that Microsoft will change its mind about making XP available after today, particularly if we get more major media pickup and another wave of signatures today.

At the time, I didn't understand how sliding a memory stick into an envelope could cause anything more painful than a paper cut. Oh, was I wrong.

Sadly, the mainstream media conspired with Microsoft to prevent that final surge of media pickup, and XP was entombed in Carbonite on June 30, 2008. Meanwhile, InfoWorld abandoned those 210,000 users and the Save XP movement they so proudly joined.

I spoke to one of those signers this week, a recently retired software industry executive named Craig B. (not his real name), who ticked off the reasons why Microsoft needs to return to its roots. That conversation is what convinced me to change my mind.

For starters, B. told me, Windows 7 is simply too complex to work properly. "Your own editors say that Vista contained over 50 million lines of code," he told me. "And Windows 7 is even bigger! If you printed out all that code your printout would stretch across three continents and eventually wind up in the middle of an ocean somewhere. And then where would you be?"

Windows 7 is also slow, my source argued. I didn't completely follow his explanation here, but the sheer volume of words and chiefly technical data (apparently derived from measurements uploaded by his global army of robot-controlled Windows PCs) was convincing.

And finally, he said, all these new versions of Windows are completely insecure. "The international hacking community targets Microsoft on the same day every month, almost always a Tuesday," he told me. "Microsoft is forced to release dozens of updates to handle these attackers. And still they keep coming back."

OK, it's big, slow, and insecure. So we should force Microsoft to bring back XP, right?

Wrong, B. told me. XP suffers from all those problems as well. He leaned in a little closer and whispered in a conspiratorial voice: "Bring back Windows 3.1."

He was dead serious. And when I thought about it, I realized how right he was. It's less than a million lines of code, even with MS-DOS 6.22 running underneath, and it's lightning fast on modern hardware. But best of all, it's amazingly secure. B. challenged me to find a single Microsoft security bulletin for Windows 3.1, and even after hours of searching on I couldn't come up with any. He says the ultimate setup for power users is a fully loaded Apple iPad running as a hypervisor with multiple individual 4MB virtual MS-DOS machines, each running Windows 3.1. "None of them can connect to a network," B. said with obvious satisfaction, "and they can't talk to each other. Hell, on an iPad they probably won't be able to do anything. How much more secure can you get?"

I had to admit he had a point. And that's when I decided to start the "Bring Back Windows 3.1" movement. I'm collecting signatures on my online petition in the Talkback section below. If all goes well and Microsoft doesn't stamp out our movement before it can be born, I expect to collect a million signatures and present them to Steve Ballmer exactly one year from today, on April Fools Day, 2011.

Are you willing to stand with me?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Just add Trumpet Winsock and a copy of Mosaic v1.0 and we are cooking!!!

    There are no security bulletins for Mosaic 1.0 either!!! Security through obsolescence!!!
    • or a packet driver to shim your depca

      Mosaic was amazing. Even more amazing what Jeff Bezos clearly saw in all of that right back in '93 with such clarity.
  • RE: Save Windows XP? Ha! I have an even better idea

    Pfft...why stop there? Why not punch card computers? Or
    Abacus? I defy you to hook up an abacus to a network and
    infect it with a rootkit. Those things are completely
    unhackable, (unless one has an ax).

    Oh well, at least you're not trying to bring back
    Microsoft Bob.
    • I miss Bob.

      And his many, many failures.
  • Nice one.

    Although slightly obvious ;-)
  • Ed, you rule

    Craig B. sound like a really clever and honest guy. Is
    there any chance you could convince ZDNet editors to take
    him aboard as a blogger?
    • MS is probably far too busy at the moment to do this.

      Apparently, the FSF just formally identified some Linux code in Windows 7. MS is currently negotiating with Eben Moglen on how to resolve this, but it looks like MS will soon be forced to release at least the Win7 kernel under the GPL.
      • You almost had me there...

        ...I almost asked you for a link, then I remembered the date.

        Happy April 1st! :)
        • Shucks! >:-) !! (nt)

  • Windows is for wimps ...

    ... what's wrong with DOS and programs written in assembler? They still qualify for the M$ and INTEL inside logos.
    • Right!

      MS-DOS 3.1 still runs great on my 1984 Compaq Portable, and I daresay it's even more secure than [i]Win[/i] 3.1 ever thought of being. Let's save MS-DOS!
      • MS-DOS? Secure?!

        Dark Avenger and other viruses made MS-DOS a veritable minefield, and gave rise to the antivirus industry we all know and loathe today. (Anyone else remember McAfee Scan.exe and Clean.exe?) MS-DOS looks so much brighter under the light of nostalgia, but those were dark, scary days, indeed.

        No, I propose we truly get back to our OS roots, and get behind a truly secure, portable operating system, one that has stood the test of time.

        That's right: It's time to bring back CP/M!
        • Forget CP/M

          Let's go back to the two most popular kinds of computers in the 1980's
          that didn't happen to be an IBM or one of it's many clones... I'm talking
          the Apple II family of machines (II/Plus, E, C/C+, and GS) and the
          Commodore VIC-20 and C64.
    • and Lindows is for limps {nt}

      • Ba-dump-bump-TSSSSSHHHHH! {nt}

    • qemm

      I still have a couple of boxes of Quarterdeck Memory Manager still in shrink wrap if you're interested...
  • No Thanks....

    If you cannot connect to anything what is the point? 90% of what people do on a PC is surf the web. I still say there needs to be a slimmed down version of Windows that is stable, secure and basic. Remove the ancient code that is no longer used but still there that is hackable to make the footprint smaller... less code means less vunerabilities to a degree.
    • Went right over your head, didn't it?

      Quick... what day is it?
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • (Snicker) Where's Rockhead Davidson when you need 'im?

    • Quick fix

      Pick up the keyboard and hold it upside down. Shake it until the loose screw under the keyboard is apparent...