Risky upgrading to Windows XP - is Linux better?
Who one considers to upgrade to Windows XP to achieve the best of two worlds – the versatility of Windows 9x and the reliability of Windows NT, one should understand that this will lead to some dependency on Microsoft.
The reason for this is the product activation which happens online or by phone. It ties the installation more or less to the specific hardware configuration of your PC. Since the activation can happen via phone (and thus is guaranteed to be anonymous), it is questioable if Microsoft really does this to reduce the number of illegal installations.
But maybe Microsoft’s biggest problem aren’t the users with illegal installations. Maybe they worry more about those users who still use Windows 98 or NT 4.0 (or even Windows 95) and are satisfied with it.
Even when Microsoft announced to discontinue support for these old systems, these people (usually not too technical folks) did not buy news computers or new operating systems. (Their old machines would be overwhelmed by Windows XP, that’s why I mention the purchase of new hardward.)
There are very few reasons to upgrade their PC/ software for people like my local small car dealer who still runs a Windows 3.1 installation to connect to the DMV and register cars.
Now Microsoft found something against these people who boycott consumerism: Product activation. As everyone knows, sooner or later you have to reinstall Windows for some reason. Maybe a new hard disk, or the installation is damaged. Fast forward to 2008. Microsoft has been selling „Windows Vista“ – the successor of Windows XP – for several years now but you did not feel like jumping onto that wagon yet. Now you bought a new hard disk (since it is supposedly impossible to crash a Windows XP installation, haha) and want to reinstall your Windows XP.
Microsoft’s server can simply reject your product activation attempt and force you to upgrade to Vista (or whatever they sell then).
But it gets better. As you know, Windows XP tries to reject unsigned (not certified) drivers, firewalls, utilities etc. In the current state it shows you a warning that you’re about to install possibly dangerous code that is not certified by Microsoft. With one of the many Windows security update you may have changed this behavior from a warning to a flat rejection.
So Microsoft can control what software you are able to install.
They can very easily render „old installations“ to be useless, outdated and even dangerous if security patches cannot be applied. At the least you would not be able to use your new scanner or digital camera with your outdated Windows. At the worst, you cannot install a non-Microsoft virus scanner.
The latest idea is „Windows Genuine Advantage”. Read the propaganda here:
The idea is that urgent security fixes are available for everyone and the full range of updates only for „validated genuine windows users“. Unfortunately Microsoft made news this month (September 2005) with a failure of their validation servers.
As you can see, the possibilities for power and abuse are endless and one does not need to be a pessimist if one prefers to stay away from automated operating system updates, online activation/ validation and Windows XP in general.