I'm sticking with Windows XP

I'm sticking with Windows XP

Summary: You've heard it all before -- the bell tolls for Windows XP. The governor isn't calling to give it a reprieve -- Microsoft is officially declaring it end of life for system OEMs on June 30.

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You've heard it all before -- the bell tolls for Windows XP. The governor isn't calling to give it a reprieve -- Microsoft is officially declaring it end of life for system OEMs on June 30. On April 14, 2009, mainstream support dies. Enterprises with extended support contracts can keep trundling along until April of 2014.

Does that mean everyone should go straight to Vista right now? Hell no. I certainly am not.

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Look, let's face it, Windows XP is now in the prime of its life, like an older pro golfer who is now at the best of his game. He's figured out what his quirks and weaknesses are and how to compensate for them.

Windows XP with SP3 integrated is about as solid a Windows desktop OS as we've ever gotten -- it runs all the apps I want, including Office 2007, all the modern browsers, and if you're a gamer, it still has everything you need.

Other than for software and integrated testing, there is absolutely no compelling reason for me to use Vista for my own personal use. None. Zero. Nada. Of course, there are a number of challenges to drawing a line in the sand in this way.

If you buy a new PC, you're gonna get Vista -- that is unless your OEM of choice offers Windows XP through some sort of limited time "downgrade disk" program. And realistically, they can only do this for you through the end of January 2009, which is the real drop dead date for license availability for system builders -- or if you are a large company with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement with volume licenses and can use downgrade entitlements.

Many new PC's that are Vista preloaded are able to use XP, but there are a number of situations where you might encounter driver support issues, where your OEM may not supply drivers itself for XP for a particular system model.

However, this can usually be rectified by visiting the chipset manufacturer's website directly, if you happen to know what type of hardware is in the machine -- a Linux boot disk, like System Rescue CD or Knoppix will easily tell you via the dmesg kernel output or the lsmod command what drivers are in use.

While it's certainly going to be a big pain in the rear for consumers, XP ending its OEM support life is not a problem for me. For my own home computing needs, I mostly buy inexpensive, generic x86 boxes that I run Server and Desktop Linux OSes on, and I use virtualization and hypervisor software stacks, be it running on VMWare Server 2.0, Sun xVM VirtualBox, Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or ProxMox to abstract the OS from the platform.

Virtualization has effectively neutralized the driver support problem, because in a VM, you can present any number of virtual drivers to the guest, and the installation of virtualization tools will accelerate the performance of paravirtualized systems.

On systems that are compatible with the newer bare metal virtualization technologies, such as KVM and Parallels Server, such paravirtualization tools aren't even necessary. I predict that in the future, maybe within five years, all OSes will be virtualized, regardless of whether if it is server-based or desktop-based. With VT-X, VT-D and AMD-V technology built onto every x86 chip, this will eventually be the preferred method for running all environments.

Virtualization geeks aren't the only folks looking at VM technology to extend XP's life, however. Desktop virtualization for enterprises is very real -- just take a look at what Citrix, VMWare, Sunand Qumranet are doing with their products -- and believe me, this stuff isn't primarily targeted for Vista, it's targeted for XP.

With desktop virtualization, you can toss your PC entirely and go with a thin client terminal, and take advantage of virtual infrastructure high availability and the economies of scale that come with server and desktop consolidation and the ease of centralized management.

Are you sticking with XP, no matter what pain points you need to go though in order to dodge the Vista bullet for as long as possible? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Windows, CXO, Cloud, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Storage, Virtualization

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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381 comments
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  • What happened to the cries for increased security?

    Not saying they originated with you Jason but prior to Vistas release everyone was labelling XP a leaking sieve wrt to security. Full of holes which could not be patched but required a complete redesign. With the release of Vista Microsoft has increased the security of Windows significantly over XP. But you don't find this a compelling reason to use Vista?

    This is not to say you should run out and replace your current XP installation with Vista. But rather consider obtaining Vista when you replace your hardware.
    ye
    • As was XP wrt to 95

      All Microsoft products are leaking sieves wrt to security. 95 was an improvement over 3.11. XP was improvement over 95. Vista is likely to be an improvement over XP.

      From my understanding of the workings of Vista, the major architecture issues that make windows a security problem have not been changed. Any security improvements will be incremental, not revolutionary.

      From what I've seen from Vista machines I've worked on, Microsoft still hasn't gotten the right idea bout security. They've made it more of a pain to use the OS.

      Once again, I'm severely underwhelmed by Microsoft's software efforts.

      I may upgrade to Vista when I upgrade my hardware, but then again, I may not.
      jgt10@...
      • Perhaps you could detail these major architectural issues that...

        ...make windows a security problem. I keep hearing about them. But have yet to see anyone specifically identify them. Perhaps you?
        ye
        • Here we go again ,,,

          Anytime someone has something negative to say about Vista,
          the knight who is called ye comes to the rescue. How much
          do you get paid from Microsoft ye ?
          Intellihence
          • You're one to talk

            Ye has a legitimate question. It should be answerable by someone who claims to know the problems are there.

            So why do I suspect we won't see an answer? :)
            wolf_z
          • Prolly because it's been repeated ad nauseam...

            ...and doesn't need repeating here, unless you want more oodles of links to choose from...
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • What's been repeated ad nauseam is...

            ...vague claims which never have been supported with facts. Repeating opinion without supporting it does not constitute proof.
            ye
          • Quit acting stupid, ye...

            You know what I'm talking about. You've been practicing damage control around here for months.
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • @b8375629: I don't know what you're talking about.

            Perhaps you'd care to spell it out for me? Or will you just continue making vague posts with little to no substance?
            ye
          • Yeah ya do

            Jeez, here let's start with these for the umpteenth time. From 2008 going back...

            http://vista.blorge.com/2008/04/04/windows-vista-security-programs-fail-detection-tests/

            http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,131167-page,1/article.html

            http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/blogs/mcallister_on_software/144500/vista_security_is_annoying_by_design.html

            http://www.theinquirer.net/en/inquirer/news/2006/12/24/vista-security-spec-longest-suicide-note-in-history

            http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000571.html

            http://www.itjungle.com/two/two041107-story01.html

            http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070530-windows-vista-no-more-secure-than-xp-report.html

            http://www.linux-watch.com/news/NS3428189546.html

            If those aren't enough, I can supply you with more...
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • @b8375629: If you've got a point then state it. I'm not reading through...

            ...a bunch of links in an effort to determine what point you may be trying to make.
            ye
          • Point's been made about Vista Security, many, many times

            But you're like the EverReady Bunny of Vista damage control.

            You just keep going...and going...and going...

            ;)
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • deowll

            I can tell you one. Every program running on a computer should be in its own sandbox with no ability to change the OS under any circumstances what so ever. If you want to start it click on the file. If you want to deleat the deleat it and it all goes. No malware can touch the OS without a major permission from the user that they aren't going to give unless they are crazy or had a seriously brain dead moment.

            One side issue is that real backup clean install disks should come with every PC. The way it is they say make your own and if something goes south while that is happening you end up with nothing.

            At least for me with a linux distro and running office as long as I'm backed up I can get up and rolling in maybe an hour or less. Course the back up disks did seem to burn this time but I won't know till I need to use them.
            deowll
          • Maybe I'm way off base here but......

            Would it be possible to have the core system on a RAM chip?
            Updates mailed out from MS, Apple etc.
            trm1945
          • Snow leopard stalking? more like Choking

            How many venders aresnubbing OSX because of its poor changes and want to copyright and screw them over?

            Lets see Nvidia, will make drivers for OSX in their new video cards.... when they get around to it.

            Autodesk - photoshop, maya, etc... all support Windows 64 but not OSX in 64 bit. Why?

            There are oodles of others that are supporting gladly Vista 64 but not OSX.

            OSX made a move to be proprietary and alone... and so they shall be... alone ( except for macfans that know very little but want so desperately to belong.. somewhere... anywhere)
            JABBER_WOLF
        • Well...

          ...I work in development and work with windows a lot. Vista has a lot of under hood changes. So for the better, some for the worse. And MS is making strides towards making things more secure for current OS's and future OS's by mandating several things from 3rd party developers. The bigger IMHO is getting rid of the registry. New software should not be storing more than the bare minimum required in the registry. This will better allow MS to remove it in future releases.

          I still feel that the user system needs to be updated. And that UAC is not the answer stopping people from using an admin account by default. I feel they should go with a more *nix like user system personally.

          I do feel Windows needs an overhaul from the ground up. There is too much code left over from the 90's in it. This is the single largest security issue IMHO. 10-15 year old bugs that show up that would not be there if the OS was rebuilt. It would be a massive undertaking, but I feel it would be for the best in the end.
          Stuka
          • I appreciate your effort but you didn't really answer the question.

            I don't believe anyone has equated the registry to a security issue. As for using the admin account by default do you understand how the admin account works under UAC? What specifically about legacy code is the security issue?
            ye
          • Vista is Microsoft's first real attempt ...

            ... to rid Windows of all that vulnerable legacy code.

            Applications which were properly written and certified for XP run fine under Vista but many many legacy applications violated MS programming standards (ostensibly to wring more performance out of them). The problem is that as soon as an OS vendor starts enforcing it's own programming standards stuff breaks and instead of blaming the ISVs who (1)could have written their programs correctly to begin with, and (2) have had 18 months to correct their own mistakes, people blame Microsoft, not the ISVs.

            The transition from XP to the new NT6 kernel will be no easier when the next version of Windows ships as it is with Vista.

            Microsoft's first mistake was to let legacy code work its way into the NT kernel. Its second, and BIGGEST mistake was to allow XP to go for nearly six years without a real upgrade.
            M Wagner
          • The kernel's just fine, it's everything else that's the problem

            "Legacy code" never got into the NT kernel. The NT kernel is and always has been a pretty solid piece of software. It had a great security model in it from the start. However, the "always admin" mentality from 9x meant that when the masses were moved over to XP, they dumbed down the system, making it more compatible, rather than having it take full advantage of the NT security model.

            XP would have had just as many problems as Vista is having (actually, it did have that many problems, people have selective memory however) if they would've had XP locked down as it should have. When XPSP2 was released, with all the attetion to security, I was still surprised they were doing nothing about the run-as-admin problem. Unfortunately that would have caused too many problems that would have blocked people from applying the SP.

            P.S. since when is 5 years and 1 month (XP = Oct 25, 2001, Vista = Nov 30, 2006) "nearly six years"?
            PB_z
          • Given

            you make a couple of valid points there.

            In my memory XP was a memory hungry and a cpu hog as well at the time, but with hardware getting more powerfull each month and service packs cutting away some of the sluggyness and after a few good testimonials i gave it a try 1,5 year later.

            Don't forget why Windows ME was a failure. 98SE could do anything you wanted at the time. ME was obsolete before it came out.

            Vista was kinda obsolete before it came out too.
            I mean an document search engine running all the time? It's 2008! the dumbests of users maybe need a tool like this.

            As for the NT Kernel.. i got a gut feeling, that NT3.51 was still good, cause that came from Cutlers team directly. But as they moved MS kept fiddling around with it. A lot of technies know that the TCP/IP Stack in NT 4.0 is directly "lent" code from FreeBSD.
            In time the code just gets messy, cause they keep changing it.

            And Touche on the 5.1 != 6 years.. :) But in headless marketing mumbo jumbo ranting.. 5.1 == 6 years :))
            TedKraan