Tag Archives: Computers

The Truth About Linux

Deviating a bit from my normal routine this morning, I am writing you from the Crimson Cup coffee shop while enjoying my cranberry and orange muffin, and hot mocha. I’ve got about fifty minutes before I have to leave for a customer visit, so I thought I’d write to all of you (though with the spotty internet here I may have to post this later in the afternoon).

Stabbed-Tux-Linux-PenguinI think it’s time I come out and say it; Linux is a frustrating operating system.

Okay, for the techies out there let’s be specific: Zorin 6 built on top of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is frustrating, though trust me, it’s not alone.

Last week a game on my Steam wishlist was on sale. Specifically, The Walking Dead Season 2 and the 400 Days DLC (the DLC would be effectively free since I could pay for it with Steam wallet funds gained from selling trading cards). Unfortunately I forgot about the sale until the next morning, giving me until 10am PDT (or about 1pm my time) to get the game. I was at work which understandably restricts game purchases but I had the solution in hand, take my trusty old netbook out for an internet spin.

When I get to Starbucks the equivalent of my Start Menu and Taskbar are gone. Apparently an update I’d run the other day killed the Avant Window Manager (which as it turns out was kind of out of date and unsupported, unbeknownst to me since it came packaged with Zorin). True, Zorin is now up to version 9, but 6 is in LTS support until 2017, so I should have been all right. I had to launch Opera with a terminal (command prompt), only to find out I couldn’t get to my network settings to actually connect and authenticate with the wireless.

Long story short I was able to boot my computer up in another OS, authenticate with two-step verification with Steam, which involved two-step verification with the Gmail, and buy the game.

So, after some forum searching it turns out there is a more up-to-date version of Avant Window Manager, and I can download the source code from GitHub. As a sidebar the Avant developer in the forum seemed really kind of rude, especially to Linux n00bs just trying to learn their system (directed at others not myself since I only tend to create new threads if my specific problem hasn’t actually been solved). Like with a lot of Linux programs you must first configure the source code, make the source code, and then install it. You don’t have a nice EXE guiding you through the installation process and doing everything in the background. To compile Avant, I needed a development version of Python, different apparently from the Python I’d installed to run scripts (and that’s a whole other story involving installing SSL libraries and in some cases gcc and make).

Three steps later and I am ready to compile. Oh wait, unknown error, missing library, invalid C++ compiler.


Screw it!

I’ll install Zorin 9 lite, since it’ll probably work better on my older hardware anyway. This involves using pen drive linux to write another OS disk image to a flash drive, booting my computer up from the flash drive, and installing the new OS (after two hours of backup of course).

My point, an update forced me to reinstall my operating system. No matter what your complaints about Windows, when’s the last time you had to do that?

And maybe a Mac is better. In fact if one of you cheeky Apple lovers wants to gift me $1399.99 or a new MacBook Air, go right ahead. Ready to put your money where your mouth is?

Computers are inherently frustrating, so you don’t need to heap additional layers of frustration on top of the baseline. No average user could have gotten even half as far on my specific problem as I did (and frankly my only solution was a reinstall so I’m not even particularly elite).

Though it kind of hurts me to say it: Windows Works.



I need a shower.

~For those of you concerned, no actual penguins were harmed in the making of this post, just that stupid Tux. And that GNU bull or moose or whatever, I’m coming for you next!


Filed under Trube On Tech

Life with Linux

220px-TuxIt’s been about two months since the XPocalypse, and also two months of living with Linux (specifically Zorin) on two desktops and my old netbook, and I thought it was time to share some of my thoughts/feelings. As a programmer I’ve always had a passing familiarity with Linux (I had to use emacs in an x-window system for a lot of my homework in college), but I’ve never really had it on a computer I used all the time. Most of my day to day work is done on the new Windows 8 machine (which has hella crazy battery life), but I use the old Linux box as a way to train myself for a day when I want to make old hardware work for me rather than buying new hardware. So, in no particular order, here are my impressions.

  • I love startup and shutdown. Updates don’t hold up my shutdown and the thing is all the way off in less than ten seconds. One of the dreads of any windows computer is going to leave and realizing the thing wants to do 13 updates you weren’t planning on. This actually screwed up a netbook computer of my dad’s when he was cut off from the internet at a Panera. Not so with this box. It boots up quick, and shuts down quicker.
  • Zorin’s Windows look and feel is pretty good, but the version I installed (6.4 LTS) isn’t the best with desktop icons so I find myself mostly using the menu. The menu keeps programs pretty organized, though not always where I would expect them, and I’m not sure how to re-arrange and create my own folders and sub-categories.
  • I got Steam to work and brought over roughly 25% of all the games I own. I haven’t messed with Wine yet, but presumably I could get a lot more programs to work that way as well.
  • The Ubuntu Software Center is convenient for finding programs and installing them from a centralized location, but most programs seem horrendously out of date. Calibre was at least 40 revisions back, and ScummVM was back several releases as well. If it’s software you use all the time, you’re probably better off going straight to the developer’s site and getting the latest version.
  • Installing programs manually can take many forms. ScummVM came with a .deb package that Ubuntu could install through the software center. Calibre came with a long command line command that you paste into a terminal to install. Neither seem to have built in update mechanisms so this procedure must be repeated each time a new version comes out. Your mileage will vary depending on the programs you are using.
  • For internet Chrome seems to be the best, mainly from a plugins perspective (flash is installed and working without having to download). I use Opera but the one packaged with Zorin is very old, 12.16. I haven’t tried to update to the latest yet, but the old version serves well enough.
  • I use the old netbook a lot for downloading torrents from Humble Bundle (my latest eBook or game purchases) . Torrents tend to be the fastest and easiest way to manage the bandwidth downloads take up (sharing 15Mbps while trying to watch Netflix can get a little tight). qTorrent is pretty good, though its default setup crashed my router a few times before I told it to dial back the number of connections.
  • Using Google Docs and LibreOffice are fine, close to the OpenOffice experience I used to use. Probably won’t use it for any long projects, but nice to know it’s available.
  • ScummVM and DBGL work well and allow me to port a lot of my old games to this machine. Overhead can sometimes make games run more laggy than they seemed to on Windows.
  • The file explorer is tabbed and capable, arranged in the same groupings as Vista-8 (Docs, Music, Videos, etc.)
  • I like that print screens automatically write out a file.
  • Wireless connections seem better able to handle security at the enterprise level. My old netbook is the only computer I have that can connect to my company’s wireless.
  • VLC media player is a classic for video playback. Haven’t found an audio player I love yet.
  • Still playing with notepad replacements equivalent to Notepad++. Haven’t found one I like yet.
  • I’ve been meaning to test programming IDE’s but haven’t really gotten around to it. Installed CodeBlocks and Geany.
  • I’m not really happy with PDF readers either yet. SumatraPDF is one of the best windows ebook, pdf and comic book readers and I have yet to find something that simple and elegant for linux.
  • Lubuntu is definitely better on old hardware and Zorin’s lite release is very similar to its full release so switching between them isn’t difficult.
  • The number of updates seems much higher than Windows, but at least they don’t get in the way.
  • USB devices recognize easily except for my USB 3.0 hard drives. Might be more a fault of the hardware (though Windows XP did not have this problem).

Have you ever played with a Linux system? What are your impressions? Any recommendations?

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XPocalypse Next

Well, you’ve survived the XPocalypse, but you’ve only got a few years to prepare for Microsoft’s next disaster, the end of Vista. We’ve got the XPocalypse, but what should we call the last days of Vista?


Here are a few suggestions. Feel free to submit your own in the comments:

  • eVisteration
  • Vistactomy
  • God help the Vista who gets between me and my sista
  • Visteria
  • Vistopia
  • Hasta la Vista, Baby
  • And God help the Vista who gets between me and my man
  • Vistastrophe
  • Die Die Die
  • Vistacular
  • Vistalitus
  • Alta Vista
  • C’est la Vista

Any thoughts?


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After the XPocalypse: Zorin – As close to Windows as Linux can get

Say you have an old desktop that used to run XP. You don’t really want to spend the money to replace it, but you don’t want it gathering dust either. Bottom line, you don’t want to spend any money right now and you’re willing to try something new and radical, yet safe and familiar.

Look no further than Zorin:

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 08_02_06

Never heard of it? Well, you’ve probably heard of Ubuntu. Zorin’s a flavor of linux with Ubuntu as its starting point. Zorin’s mission is to provide a Windows like experience for people who are new to Linux. Be warned, it is still Linux. There will be a learning curve, but you can do it!

First off a word about versions. The version I’m recommending you install is Zorin 6.4 Core LTS (0r 6.2 Lite LTS if your machine is really ancient). LTS stands for “long term support” which in the Ubuntu Linux world means 5 years. Zorin 6.4 is the latest LTS available, based off Ubuntu’s 12.04 LTS. It’ll be good for about another three years, and then you’ll probably need to do another install. You can try something newer but support times are shrinking. They used to be 18 months and now they’re 9 months. So this OS should last you 2-4 times as long as any other option besides spending money.

For this install you will need:

*Clarification on support. Zorin 6.2 and 7.1 lite are no longer supported, but there is no version of lite for version 8 of Zorin (the latest). The 6.4 Core has the longest support of 2017. The reason for this is that Lite version is based on Lubuntu (lightweight Ubuntu) which has a different support cycle. I recommend using Core if your system can handle it, and the latest lite if not until a new version is released. (This differs from the version of Zorin I originally recommended for download, I am correcting the original post). A new LTS version of Ubuntu should be released sometime this month, but when that update affects Zorin is unknown.

You’ll be installing Zorin either with a live USB or live CD/DVD. There are some pros and cons to either solution:

  • Burning a CD or DVD from an ISO is pretty easy. If you don’t have the software on your computer, try InfraRecorder.
  • If you don’t have an optical drive (external or built-in), then flash is really the only way to go.
  • But not all BIOS’s support booting from a USB (more on this later).
  • Using a USB allows you to create a full linux live system with persistent files that you can boot on any machine (in other words kind of like a virtual machine).
  • But the data files are unencrypted and lost if you lose the USB.
  • USB will be faster, but DVD will be easier and will auto-eject when finished installing.

My suggestion is create both options (flash drive and CD/DVD) and try both to see which works. Flash drives can always be reformatted and CD/DVDs are cheap. Plus you have a backup of the OS if you ever want it.

Step One: Bring your USB to live

Assuming you’ve already burned a live disc, we’ll now create a live USB.


Pendrivelinux’s UUI has some pretty simple to follow instructions. Select the Linux OS you’re installing from a drop down list (Zorin OS is under “other”). Browse to the location of your ISO. Select your flash drive (and optionally format it).

The persistent file size is the area of your drive used to store any files or settings you create while running the live system. This makes it easy for you to try what you like, and then install everything you’ve changed without having to repeat it. If you’ve got a big flash drive, go ahead and slide this bar all the way to the end.

Click create. Be patient, this could take as much as a half an hour to complete, but probably more like 15 minutes. Get a coffee. Send some e-mail.


At some point it will start extracting the ISO image. This will pop up another window and will probably be one of the longer parts of the creation.


The only disadvantage to the persistent drive it takes a few minutes to create. The program has to create a virtual drive that’s formatted correctly. If the program doesn’t look like it’s doing anything, trust me, it is.

Some people prefer UNetbootin. Both work, there’s no real advantage to either. Use whichever you prefer.

Step Two: Get to your BIOS, or hit F2 repeatedly

Your BIOS is what actually runs first whenever you turn on a machine. Modern computers hide the BIOS so you don’t even see that it’s working, you just see Windows. But trust me it’s there. They’re all a little different, and you even hit different keys to get to them. You’ll have to look up which one works for your computer but good candidates are F2, F9, F10, F11 and F12. My older ASUS netbook (model eee 1005 HA), used F2.

You’re looking for a tab marked Boot settings or something like it. You probably will only be able to use your keyboard to move around.

On the ASUS there are two boot orders, one marked “Boot Device Priority” and the other marked “Hard Disk Drives”. Make sure to have your USB plugged in when you are making these changes. Make “Removable dev” your first boot priority, and make the USB the first of the two hard drives. This setting doesn’t seem to hold if you remove the drive or even shut the computer all the way off.

Most BIOS have CDs as the first priority item. You can leave this and make USB the second to cover all bases.

If you’re successful you should see UUI’s load screen and then the Zorin live system will boot.

Step Three: Look Around

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 08_02_06

There’s an icon on the desktop that might just be how we install this OS. It’s called “Install Zorin OS”. Before you click it, click on the network icon in the bottom right and connect to your internet connection. Make sure your device is plugged in. This install may take about an hour.

Feel free to play around with the menu, or any of the buttons at this point. Familiarize yourself with the programs that come pre-installed. Everything’s organized by category so it should be pretty easy to find what you want.

Step Four: Push the button

Click the “Install Zorin OS”. If you’re running from a live CD, be patient if it doesn’t respond immediately. After a few screens asking what language you speak Zorin will bring up this screen:

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 12_42_48

You can do one of a few things at this point. The first option is to install Zorin alongside the existing operating system. If you think you’re going to need XP in the future, just to run some programs you can’t get running anywhere else, go ahead and choose this option (I did).

Note: XP demanded a chkdsk after I finished installing Zorin (probably because of the repartitioning). This is normal and XP should run fine after it finishes the check.

If you think you’re ready to only live with Linux, go ahead and pick option two. Be aware this erases all your files and programs so hopefully you made a backup? If not, quit and try again.

Step Five: Figure out how big you want Zorin to be

After you hit continue you will see this screen:

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 12_44_38

On the left is your old OS (assuming you kept it), on the right, Zorin’s new home. 40GB is a pretty good size though you can always go bigger depending on your needs. Just click and drag the bar in the middle to manipulate.

Note: Ubuntu does not define a GB in this case as a true gigabyte. It is instead 1,000,000,000 bytes. A real gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 bytes. So our 40 “GB” drive is actually about 38.4 gigabytes, still more than sufficient.

Step Six: Click “Install Now” and Wait

Partitioning the drive for your installation will probably take a while, especially if your hard drive is really full and hasn’t been defragged in a while. When true installation begins there will be a few screens for determining time zone, keyboard layout, and login credentials. Once you’re done, Zorin may show you a video while it finishes copying all the files over.

Note: Your user icon can be difficult to change after installation so make sure you pick one you’re going to like (especially if you take a picture of yourself 🙂 ).

Step Seven: Reboot when finished

If you’ve plugged in a flash drive to install the OS you may want to choose to continue playing with the live so you can do a full shutdown rather than just a restart. Otherwise you might boot back up into the live system instead of the one you just installed.

Step Eight: Run updates

The shutdown icon in the bottom left will have a menu option that says either “System Up To Date” or “Check For Updates”. Click this either way, and then click “check” on the screen that comes up.

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 19_07_00

Zorin 6.4 had 337 updates as of this writing. After you click install you’ll be asked to authenticate:

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 19_07_23

Get used to doing this, this is linux’s user account control.

You may see this screen:

Screenshot from 2014-04-07 19_20_05

“If you don’t know why the file is there already, it is usually safe to replace it”. Not a great habit, but seems okay in this case.

Step Nine: Enjoy!

Here’s a few things to try:

  • Click on the internet category and use Zorin’s internet manager to install the browser of your choice.
  • Click on the system group to change the look and feel of zorin.
  • Take screenshots and see them auto appear in your pictures folder.
  • Try to use WINE to install a windows program (more on this another time).

This primer should get you started at least. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, or show me something cool you’ve done with Zorin.


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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After the XPocalypse: How to take the Vista out of 8.1

Windows 8.1 is Microsoft’s latest operating system, but it’s hardly the greatest. It has little business adoption, switching between apps and real programs is frustrating and disruptive, and it made all the visuals flat and boring so that they could maintain a consistent look between their laptops, desktops  and the partial OS they run on the Surface.


But all is not completely lost. You can make Windows 8.1 into a system you’ll love, or at least won’t hate quite as much. And hey Microsoft’s gonna support you for another 9 years so if you can get used to it, you might learn to love it.

Get Office all the time, not 365 days a year

For starters buy yourself a copy of Office 2010 or 2013. It’ll cost between $85 to $139 for Home and Student, and into the $200s for anything pro or multi-user. But trust me, if you need Office, and unfortunately for a lot of you OpenOffice doesn’t quite cut it, this is a far better solution than Office 365. Don’t be seduced by fancy words like “Cloud” and”Your documents on all your devices” or “always up to date”. Since when has Word really gotten all that better? I like the equation editor they added in 2007 (used it extensively for my fractal book), but other than that and maybe native save as PDF support, I’m unimpressed. Unless you’re a student Office 365 is going to cost you $99 A YEAR! Where does Microsoft get off charging something like that?

Have you met Windows 7?

You could downgrade to Windows 7, if you owned Windows 8.1 Pro, which if you don’t know, you probably don’t. There are ways to try to do it yourself. This guide from PC Magazine might help.

Not Metro?

Hate booting to the Metro Screen? Here’s a few things you can do:

  1. Right Click on the taskbar and click “Properties”.
  2. On the box that pops up, click on the tab that says “Navigation”.
  3. There’s two cool things you can do from here:


  • In the “Start Screen” section there are two boxes you should check. The first is “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, got to the desktp instead of Start”. Otherwise known as “Boot to Desktop”. If you want Windows 8 to work like every other computer you’ve ever owned. Do this step.
  • The second is “Show the Apps view automatically when I got Start”. This is as close to the traditional start button as you’ll get without third party add-ons. Make sure the second box underneath is checked as well (as shown). You can click the up arrow on this screen to get to the Metro view if you ever want to.

Shut it down

You know what else the start menu had that this one doesn’t? A proper shut down button. Now you could go into the power settings and tell the computer to shut down when you close the lid. But if you want to watch what it’s doing, and bypass updates you weren’t planning on waiting for, do this instead:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select New–>Shortcut.
  2. Type “shutdown /s /t 0” into the “location” line. This is an old DOS command Windows still recognizes. A full reference can be found here, but this line basically means shutdown this computer “/s” in 0 seconds “/t 0”.


This won’t have  fancy icon, but you can pick one by right clicking on the shortcut, selecting “properties” and clicking “change icon”.

Command your computer

There’s a surprising amount you can still do with old DOS commands and I highly recommend you learn some. But one thing’s clear, you need a command prompt (or terminal as the Linux people like to say). The Apps view you brought up has this under the Windows System line:


Right click on the icon and click “Pin to taskbar” to send this to your desktop taskbar. While you’re there you can also get the task manager if you want it or the run command.

But command prompt does it all. Type the following for a few useful commands and programs:

  • msconfig – Brings up your system configuration and allows you to change what programs are running at startup.
  • taskmgr – Brings up the task manager. Which also changes startup configuration apparently.
  • regedit – Brings up the registry editor.
  • dir /s /b > output.txt – Takes the current folder and creates a human readable text file with basic information about every file and subfolder in that directory.
  • calc – The old school desktop calculator, not the app.

Send it in a letter

Your best friend is the send to desktop icon. If your program is not listed in the Apps view (and it won’t catch them all), go the the program’s location on your computer and right click, hover over “send” and select “to desktop”. Between the taskbar and the desktop you should be able to put most of the programs you use on a daily basis without even having to bother with the start button. I use the left side for applications and the right side for games, and the task bar for stuff I get into all the time. If you’re a gamer, this is Steam and Desura’s time to shine, as one icon can get you access to a whole library of games.

&*%$! Homegroup Icon!

Noticed that, eh? Microsoft has a bug on some computers which causes the Homegroup icon to mysteriously appear on your desktop. You can’t delete it, can’t even move it. And you probably would never use it.

  1. Right click on the desktop and select “personalize”.
  2. Click “Change Desktop Icons” on the left.
  3. Check the box that says “Network” and hit apply.
  4. Uncheck the box that says “Network and hit apply.

The icon should now be gone, but probably not forever. Hopefully a more permanent solution will be released soon.

I want my Start Menu!!!

Don’t we all. Two programs to try are Classic Shell and Start8. Start 8 is $4.99 and Classic Shell is better. From what I’ve read Start8 is closer to the real experience, and works better with 8 so it may be worth the money. For the moment I’m toughing it out to see if I can get used to the current configuration, but if not I’ll probably try Classic Shell. I personally don’t like to try a lot of third party programs I don’t know until I get to know an OS a little better.

Microsoft did recently announce it was bringing back the start menu, but with no clear roadmap as to when the update will be rolled out. Also the ability to use apps in the desktop environment. Probably by the time we’re ready for Windows 9, Windows 8 will be all it can be.

I have a feeling I could write another one of these guides in another six months with a whole bunch more useful information, but hopefully this will be enough to get you started. Please post any questions you have in the comments. I’ll play around and try to solve any new problems you might pose.

Tomorrow we’ll cover Zorin-Lite for the Windows crowd that doesn’t want to spend any money, and is really new to linux.


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.


Filed under Trube On Tech

XPocalypse XPlained


If you haven’t yet, take a look at my post #XPocalypseIsNigh for XPocalypse survival tips. And don’t forget to stockpile bottled water. It’s kinda standard procedure for these things.


Today I thought we’d cover the basics before we get into more technical tips and tricks.


Whoa, lot of acronyms there. What is EOL?

EOL is short for “End of Life”, or end of support life. It means your copy of Windows XP* will no longer get critical security patches, and may become increasingly vulnerable to attack.

*XP is short for eXPerience. And nothing is a truer Windows eXPerience than end of support.

Okay, so what does that really mean?

There’s actually a couple of parts to this:

  • XP has been in “Extended Support” mode after the end of mainstream support in 2009. Extended support means they’ll patch critical bugs and prevent against attack, but no more service packs and no more new features.
  • What ends of April 8th is patches to critical bugs and exploits. The malicious software removal tool (designed to help clean an infected computer) will still get monthly updates for at least a year.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (Microsoft’s free virus scan) will no longer be available for download for XP users after April 8, so get the installer now from here.
  • Windows 7 Pros “XP Mode” will no longer be supported (Win 7’s built in virtual machine of Windows XP using Virtual PC).

That sounds bad, what should I do?

Well, for many people, buying a new computer is going to be the best option. Windows XP machines don’t tend to be up to running newer operating systems like Windows 7 or 8. It might be worth checking though. Microsoft has an upgrade tool to check if your system can run their new operating systems.

But I like XP, can’t I still use it?

Yes, at your own risk. It depends why you want to keep XP. If you use your computer a lot for the internet, which if you’re reading this blog I suspect you do, then you really shouldn’t keep it. If, however, you’re willing to take the bold step of unplugging, of living off the grid, and being content to transfer files on flash drives to keep your cherished programs, then go ahead.

Okay, I get it. XP won’t be that safe on the internet. But I don’t have the money for a new machine.

There are options. Later in the week we’ll be talking about Zorin-Lite, a lightweight linux solution (a flavor of Lubuntu for those of you curious). Zorin is designed with Windows users in mind and is actually surprisingly powerful. Download it here if you’d like to follow along at home.

Alright, you’ve convinced me, but I don’t like the look of 8.1. Can I still buy 7 and should I?

Windows XP was Microsoft’s most successful operating system until Windows 7. Windows 7 is used by 47% of desktop users today. Its EOL is January 14th 2020 (it goes off mainstream support on January 13th 2015). That said, it would kind of surprise me if Microsoft kept to that date, given the number of current users, and the anemic numbers for 8.1 (in the low single digits %). Most businesses passed on Vista, opting to stay with XP or wait till 7. As the XP EOL loomed, most chose to invest in a proven OS which is Windows 7. You can still buy copies at most stores or online, or you can purchase Windows 8 Pro with downgrade rights. And in my experience (if we’re talking laptops for a second) 5-6 years is a long life span for a laptop. Buy one you’re comfortable with and you’ll be happy for a long time.

I like to have the latest version, but I want to see my start menu and my desktop in 8.1.

We’ll cover how to make Windows 8.1 work as much like 7 as possible later in the week.

I have Vista should I be worried?

Vista is the next product to go out of support on April 11th 2017. Vista makes up about 5% of current PC users, and most of them bought their system years ago (the last machines with Vista pre-installed were sold in 2011 and many of these had upgrade rights to Windows 7). I hate to be blunt but, your laptop will probably die before Vista will. Buy an external hard drive, get used to backing things up and start saving. A new computer is in your future in the next 1-3 years. Upgrade to 7 if you can.

Is XP to Windows 7 or 8.1 an upgrade?

No, in the sense that Microsoft maintains all your programs and updates completely smoothly. However, I recently did an XP to Windows 7 install on a machine for my church. I had some documents still on the machine (backed up) but was curious to see if they’d be erased or maintained after the install. To my surprise they (and the whole XP OS) was placed in a folder call Windows.old. I can’t run XP on this machine any more, but at least I have access to everything created with it. I’d assume 8.1 can do something similar, but again it might not run on most XP boxes.

What about the Surface?

Well, there you run into a few problems. For starters the included keyboard is thin and tends to break down after vigorous typing, so you’ll need to buy a better case. And the Surface Pro is pretty expensive (nearly a thousand dollars). Your onboard storage space is smaller (think 16-64 GB). And most importantly, Windows 8 RT is not a proper operating system.

By this mean I mean that it runs apps not programs.

Apps are tiny little program-lettes that do a small segment of what a full featured program can do, and even if they have the whole suite of features, tend to present them in an over-simplified or limited way.

Remember programs, those things with EXE on the end? Can’t install those on a Surface. So your games from Steam, or your favorite open source compiler, or even that copy of Office you own that still has one more activation left in it, can’t install any of them on the Surface.

I heard RT is short for wRong Turn. Sounds about right to me.

If you want a tablet, you’re better off buying an Android with Bluetooth capability and a keyboard. There are way more games and cool apps, and you can keep everything under $300.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Chromebooks, they seem pretty cheap.

There’s a reason, and for the record, they’re not that much cheaper. You can get a full featured laptop with a 500 GB hard drive, 4 GBs of RAM and a dual core processor for around $300. Chromebooks are only about $50 cheaper (if that).

Also, more importantly, they need to be connected to the internet nearly all of the time to be useful. You have very little onboard space, and you can’t install all of your favorite programs. And forget about gaming.

There’s a reason they call it getting Scroogled.

Should I be worried about businesses still using XP?

This is a toughie. My favorite Chinese place down the block uses XP to create receipts and handle credit card transactions. Some of these are a flavor of XP called embedded which will be supported for about another year. But bottom-line, if it’s connected to the internet, it might be able to be compromised, and credit card fraud and identity theft are on the rise. Might be a good time to use cash. Or, if you can have a good relationship with the business, you could always ask their plans, or even offer to upgrade their computers (maybe for some tasty General Tso’s chicken).

What about ATM’s?

Again this is trickier. Most banks are trying to catch up to the end of support, and some are even paying Microsoft to continue to support them while they make the switch. ATMs are typically older and more expensive than your average desktop, and something more painful to replace. And you probably won’t be able to notice which OS your ATM is using as easily as other kinds of business computers. Best bet is to ask a teller, and maybe withdraw or deposit some cash with a real person (though if they use a computer too you might want to ask about it as well). I know this sounds picky, and kind of a pain in the butt. But if you’re friendly, patient, and courteous, most people will respond in kind.

What’s “Zero-Day Forever”?

It’s Microsoft’s designation for end of XP support. “Zero-day” is the day someone discovers a security flaw in Windows (or any Operating System) before Microsoft has a chance to patch it, or the computer conducts a Windows Update. For XP’s which will no longer receive updates, this zero-day will be permanent.

I want to keep using XP despite all the warnings. I’m sure I’ll be okay.

You laugh in the face of danger. I can respect that. Here’s a few suggestions if you’re stubborn brave.

  • Use a limited user account for most activity. Password protect your admin account with a strong password and almost never use it.
  • Use third party virus software that will continue to support XP. Most are pledging they’ll continue to offer support into 2015.
  • Consider using Tor for web browsing. It’s anonymous, a little more paranoid than most browsers, and warns you in many ways if you’re about to do something stupid.
  • Save your money and back up your files.
  • Don’t leave your computer connected to the internet unattended.

Why is Microsoft doing this to me?

Well, to be fair, it’s not just doing it to you. It’s doing it to millions of other computer users, 27% of the desktop market to be exact (though admittedly a lot of those are in China). XP is more than 12 years old and there are better things out there. And it costs a lot of money to support legacy systems (plus you need to have a talent base that even remembers how to work with older code). Working in the software industry, I can understand the need for EOL. Things don’t last forever, even though maybe they should. If you don’t like it, consider linux (though make sure you get an LTS version which is supported for 5 years or be willing to self-perpetually upgrade). It may be free but it still costs something.

Alright, you’ve pretty much ruined my day. Anything else you want to tell me?

Well, I hesitate to mention it but… Office XP and 2003 go out of support as well. Better try a new version of Office, or better yet OpenOffice (if you don’t mind that it likes to count open quotation marks as words).

I’m a Mac user

That’s nice. I say good day to you, sir.



Well that about wraps it up for today’s knowledge dump. If you have any more questions please feel free to leave them in the comments. Tomorrow we’ll have an appreciation of the late great XP that was.


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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The death clock is nearly at 0:00:00.

On Tuesday April 8th, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP, the second largest operating system still running in the PC market. 27% of all Desktop computers running today still run XP (according to NetMarketShare). Since it became available for sale in 2001, XP has seen its support deadline extended from 5 years to 10 (bringing regular consumers up to the commercial level of support), then from 10 to 12 (in part due to Microsoft still selling XP on Netbooks as an alternative to Linux as late as 2010).

To some of you this is old news. To others Microsoft’s March 8th warning on your desktop may have been a wakeup call. Or if you’re not the automatic updates type, you may be hearing it for the first time from me.

Never fear. Ben Trube Writer has you covered.

All next week I’ll be covering XPs demise, from what you should do on the last days of support, to how to make 8.1 work for you. A not-exhaustive list follows:

  • I have Vista, should I be worried?
  • Can I upgrade from XP to Windows 7?
  • What’s this Linux thing I hear so much about?
  • Argg Windows 8!
  • Is the XPocalypse really that bad?
  • What is Zero Day Forever?
  • Why is Microsoft doing this to me?
  • Will my XP machine be safe to use?

Things you should do before next week (See I have your weekend all planned out for you. Isn’t that nice of me 🙂 ):

  • Download every Windows Update you’ve missed. Go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com (using Internet Exploder). Click custom instead of express and check most if not all of the optional updates (as well as the high priority ones). Repeat a few times until no updates are left.
  • DO install Microsoft Security Essentials if you haven’t already, or at least download the current installer.
  • DONT download Windows Live Services or the Bing Bar. You won’t be using them anyway.
  • Buy an external hard drive if you have big video files or oodles of pictures. A 32GB flash drive if not. A hard drive will run you $50-60, a 32GB flash less than $20.
  • Backup your files.
  • Download Zorin 6.4 Core LTS from here and/or Zorin-Lite 7.1 Lite from here. Burn the image to a disk. If you don’t have a CD/DVD drive download this too. Maybe go ahead and buy that flash either way.
  • Figure out how your XP machine is connected to Internet, and how to disconnect it.
  • Put a strong password (alphanumeric, upper and lower case, and special characters (!@#$*)) for your administrator account. If you don’t know which one this is, it’s probably the account you’re using.
  • Create a limited account and also password protect it. If you keep using XP, this is the one you’ll want to use most of the time. (Both these things can be done from the control panel–>user accounts)
  • Shop for a new laptop if this is within your price range or budget. Don’t buy anything that says Chromebook, or Windows 7 Starter. Windows RT (on the Surface) is probably also a deal breaker. I like ASUS and Toshiba brands if that helps.
  • For advanced users: Create a virtual XP machine with VMWare of VirtualBox.
  • Enjoy this comic from here. (It’s a bit of an ad but funny).
  • Go outside (assuming it’s not raining).
  • Take your XP netbook out for one more spin around the block. Then turn off its wireless.

Have a great weekend!


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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