Keeping old PCs alive

Keeping old PCs alive

Summary: Contrary to the assumptions of many of us, a lot of people are going to find Microsoft's Eiger offer compelling. Eiger will be a version of Windows XP for "obsolete machines" -- obsolete in that they run operating systems Microsoft no longer supports.

TOPICS: Security

Contrary to the assumptions of many of us, a lot of people are going to find Microsoft's Eiger offer compelling.

Eiger will be a version of Windows XP for "obsolete machines" -- obsolete in that they run operating systems Microsoft no longer supports.

Yes, such machines can run Ubuntu Linux, which is free. There are a host of Linux Live CDs that one can get. But the cost of software is just one small part of the equation here. There's also the cost of the home network manager's time.

I learned this firsthand recently when my daughter's 733 MHz Windows box was hit by a vicious adware attack. Conventional techniques didn't work. The adware used all the standard virus tricks -- loading itself into memory first, copying itself into restore directories -- which frustrated anti-spyware applications. If Microsoft could deliver an idiot-proof transparent solution for this, I realized, allowing her PC to run until she's grown and out of the house -- $150 wouldn't seem like so much.

I already hear your objections. Why trust the people who gave you the problem? Why spend money for something you can get free? Believing Microsoft on security is like buying a Clinton promise on celibacy.

What I'm saying is that, for many, this offer will prove compelling. There's money to be made here. Give me an equally-compelling open source alternative any teenager can use.  People will pay for it, if it's idiot-proof, secure, and delivers value.

Topic: Security

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  • Older PCs and XP

    I don't know about your daughter's PC, but I have found that XP works reasonably well on mid-range PIIIs and above. The key is to make sure that you have enough RAM (at least 256MB, 512MB is better) and that you optimize for performance (System Properties, Advanced, Performance). Once you shut off the fancy video effects, XP runs a lot faster on any machine, especially older ones. Also, minimize the crap that runs on startup.

    As far as Linux, while I respect it in some applications, I don't recommend it for most people for home computers. All of the non-techies that I have known who tried it have reverted back to Windows in frustration. They still have to deal with virus and spyware issues, but with the right software, that is easily managed. As the marketplace has shown, despite its warts, Windows is still the best choice for most people.
    • Very droll

      It's a Windows marketing myth that Linux isn't for "non-techies". In my experience of helping friends un-stuff their Windows boxes, non-techies have become completely overwhelmed by the overheads of configuring and maintaining the raft of 3rd party anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-adware and firewall packages without which Windows cannot be safely connected to the net.

      All it takes is one succesfull intrusion into the registry by one of the hundreds of thousands of Windows exploits out there, and your "non-techie" - indeed, a number of quite experienced home users - are stuffed.

      The Windows registry is supposed to be completely invisible to the end user, it's supposed to be wholly machine maintained. The fact that the Windows registry can be "maintained" at will by Windows adware and Windows viruses and Windows worms, without any input or even awareness from the user, is testament to the flawed Windows architecture.

      Non-techies, by definition, tend not to want their PCs to do much more than email, surf, multimedia work (cameras, scanners, digital image manipulation). They can do that on Mandrake or SuSE with no hassle at all. No virus. No worms. No 3rd party "registry cleaner".

      The view that Windows is the only option is, as I first said, a Microsoft marketing myth.
      • I didn't say it was the only option

        I said the offer MS is putting out will be compelling for many people.

        I asked who we in the open source community can create an equally compelling offer.

        I also indicated that there's money to be made.
      • Simple Reply:

        Greedy peoples reality is usually distorted.
      • There's two areas in which Linux still needs some catch up

        First is gaming, but if you are a PC gamer who has a lot of Windows-only titles you are no more a candidate for switching than a gamer with mostly PS/PS2 titles is a candidate to switch to Xbox.

        The second is video. Playback on x86 Linux machines is on par with Windows, but on non-x86 machines you don't have the advantage of using win32 codecs. Plus video editting is inferior to Windows offerings as far as ease of use, and video DVD burning is relegated to line command or alpha-stage projects on Sourceforge. They could be brought up to par within a year, but it will take a lot of programming hours and money to get it rolling, so companies like Novell better start ponying up.
        Michael Kelly
    • Lazy and Brain washed

      Sorry about the subject. But I have to but in here. Now don't get me wrong I think Eiger is a GREAT thing. We have a house full of older computers and infact some Linux disrtebutions are too much for the older ones. My kids use Linux and Windows. In fact only a single laptop runs windows XP. All the desktops in the house run Linux. I have used Linux since it came out (as well as others) We switched the kids over to Linux 2 years ago and we have less problems and very little mantainance now using it. The Linux desktop is very easy to use (don't be lazy read and learn :) The kids have a great time chating in MSN,AIM,Yahoo. Things like Java,flash,real player (and more) plugins work fine. They can also use MS applications using wine and crossover. We have very little or no pop-ups we don't worry about viruses too much. My kids could trash a windows system in a week! Yes part of that is my fault but I can't spend all my time baby sitting an Operating system. Don't download that, don't install that! I don't have to say that anymore. Use it and have fun! I won't say that Linux is easier to install and set up than windows. But it is not that hard and gets easier all the time. I guess we have been imprinted by Big Irons to be hand held and confined to a no brainer please do it for me operating system $$$$. I do have respect for the Software giants and it's great that we all have a choice. Here we enjoy stable freedom :) for free. We also buy and support too.
      • Which Distro did you use?

        And how long did it take you to set up?
        • Cobind Linux

          Thanks for asking me Dana. Check out I was looking for a striped down Distro with a lightweight desktop to install on some of our older computers and came across Cobind. I also wanted to customize it for my kids to use. Cobind is built on the Fedora core so updates are easy enough and even easier using the Yum update GUI. The graphical install was fast and easy. A minimal core application suite. Nice stuff too!! XFce really looks great with lots of themes and colours. Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect but seems to be a great solution for my kids needs. So instead of a BIG 3/4 disk Distro to trim down and customize. I was able to build "on"(1 disk) with wine and a few other applications as needed. Cobind offers Applications to custom build a Distrebution for large or small population roll outs. These applications cost money but I downloaded their Desktop distro for free. BTW.. took me a little over an hour maybe a little longer to set up on a Pavilion 4550z. I did have to install a sound card because the junk sound card/modem that came with this HP was unsuported. Had to beat the driver in under 98 anyway to get it to work.
  • XP versus earlier version

    How is using XP going to help? Everything you went through for Windows/whatever would have affected Windows/XP too. Heck, a lot of the more current viruses and such don't affect earlier versions of Windows so in some ways they are safer!
  • Why not do what I do with older hardware?

    I use Windows to play games and run various other applications and such, but I use another OS to do most of my web surfing. Even though I use AdAware and SpyBot S&D on my Windows boxes, I've never picked up any evidence of spyware on my systems.

    Linux is perfectly good for browsing and other similar internet tasks, and even my Mom can use it.
  • Expensive and weak

    For the average small IT shop with 10 machines:
    10 licenses of Eiger
    1 new server-class machine for all to connect to
    1 Windoze 2003 server license
    10 "client access" licenses.

    Yes, I can SEE how profitable this would be.
    Roger Ramjet
  • $150 to ressurect old computer

    versus $200 for a new one that is probably more powerful

    What's the value proposition here?
    • Right on

      I agree with you 100%. But there are many foolish people out there that think hardware is expensive. Too bad for them.

      $150 is retail pricing though. I'm going to wait and see what this version of windows will do. It might be good on new hardware since a stripped down OS will always run faster and more stable.
      • Keeping old desktops alive

        As someone else mentioned, Eiger is essentially a thin-client solution - so you'd need a server running elsewhere to run Eiger on the desktop.

        Hardware is cheaper these days, but that's no reason why people should have to go out and buy new hardware (and junk the old) when it's still perfectly usable. Download a copy of Ubuntu and the cost of keeping that system running a few more years is very reasonable.
        • What about maintenence costs?

          It often costs more to maintain old hardware than to buy new hardware. I know too many companies who will spend $30K a year on maintenance contracts for an old server that runs 4 times slower than a brand new $30K server which only costs $5K a year to maintain. This is actually a very common practice.

          You also need to consider the hard-to-calculate loss in productivity costs by running sluggish old hardware. Then there are the costs of securing old hardware.
          • Sparing

            Most hardware maintenance contracts are, frankly, major ripoffs. For a shop with more than two or three systems, the maintenance is higher than keeping a supply of hot spares.

            Once the systems go obsolescent, they should be taken off the hot-spare list and put to cannibalism. When a departmental print server goes down, you don't fix the sucker, you replace it with the current "hangar queen:" the last system taken from the next level up of downshifting systems.

            Hand-me-downs work very nicely for more than childrens' clothing.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Sorry no...

    If what I am seeing about Eiger is correct, the home user will need to have a server running for the clients to connect too... ummm how is this going to help the already technically challenged?

    Use SuSE, Xandros, Linspire and be done with it.

    1. No virus worries
    2. No 3rd party defrag tools
    3. No 3rd party security tools needed
    4. No AV other than one to scan for Windows virus's (and that is transparent to boot!)
    5. Cost is far more reasonable than what Microsoft offers (think about it, after you pay for the OS, the AV, the Firewall, the Ad ware removal and detection tools, the Spyware removal and detection tools, the time to maintain these tools (updates) and then to run them (sure you can do it when you are not there... until it finds something))

    Bottom line is the Linux solution, once implemented and the minor nuances learned, is a more cost effective solution to reviving an old PC. And I have been saving a lot of people a lot of money and time doing just that.
    Linux User 147560