The current XP problem...

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 14 Apr 2008

Windows XP Logo

The blogosphere is currently filled with comments about Microsoft's current plan to stop selling Windows XP by June 2008. Many people are still very much attached to this older version of Windows and for very good reason. The performance is better, it is stable and is compatible with all their apps.

I say good riddance.

When XP came out it was revolutionary – Microsoft finally made the shift by mending it's enterprise and consumer operating systems into a common kernel. The result was better compatibility and inevitably higher quality software because software developers only had to focus on developing for one operating system. Their was a cool new colourful interface (which many corporate users hated...) and an overall more user-centric approach to operating the entire thing. But a few months down the line the problems started...users were riddled with security issues and worms targeting entire networks and bringing them to their knees. I remember during that time how my entire university campus was brought down in a matter of hours.

Well, over time XP became a much more lovable operating system, especially since the arrival of Service Pack 2. Suddenly it was stable, fast and an allround great OS to use. But six years is a very long time for an OS to be considered cutting edge, no matter how many updates it receives.

When Vista came out I jumped on it – maybe just to see Aero, but mostly to see what Microsoft have achieved in all this time (since SP2 that is because Vista basically rebuilt after the whole SP2 saga). I was impressed – it was stable, relatively fast, looked great and just had an overall feel of quality to it. I immediately updated all my capable machines to it – and that is where I learned its first vice – you needed some potent hardware. On anything less than dual core and a gig of RAM it was a dog. But I didn't care. Now MS has released service pack 1 with much fanfare – and a lot of supposed tech critics are saying that at "long last" we finally have SP1 like it is finally ready to be used. What hogwash.

Anybody who installed Vista and just did the relevant updates when they came out would not have any problems – SP1 is not a dramatic update. In fact, you will be hard pressed to notice the difference between the two. Sure there are a few visual cues (like the search option being missing for legal reasons) but overall almost nothing has changed except for small changes under the hood. Vista has been exceptionally secure as well over this year as well, SP1 or not. In tests on the amount of vulnerabilities of the modern OS's, Vista almost always comes out tops. Even the mighty Mac OSX with reality distortion field marketing is not doing as great. In a recent hacking competition Apple's Leopard was hacked first (because of a vulnerability in its amazing, wonderful superfast browser called Safari), and the Vista machine was hacked a day later because of a vulnerability in Adobe Flash (which they supposedly knew about, but just haven't got around to fixing it). What does that say about the great Mac marketing machine? Yes, there are those irritating security warnings in Vista – but they are there for your own good. The long term effect is to force programmers to create applications that don't touch the inner workings of the OS. Now if they start to do this, your entire computing experience will become more safe and reliable. Kudos for Microsoft for having the guts to do it.

If you have a new PC, or are planning to buy a new once, opt for Vista. It truly is a better experience to use and you will not be sorry. Many techies have a "if it aint broke don't fix it" attitude which is absolute bull when it comes to technology, and say rather opt for XP. If this was something to follow we would all still be riding horsecarraiges. If there is a newer better OS, go for it...

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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.