Windows XP: outdated software prone to viruses

Computer users formerly using Microsoft Windows XP are now resorting to alternative operating systems after suffering incessant attacks by viruses. Hefty software fees charged by Microsoft for its products have not made matters any easier.

The ubiquitous Windows XP logo.

The ubiquitous Windows XP logo.

When it was launched in 2001, Windows XP truly put Microsoft Corporation way ahead of the pack. The soft, rounded appearance of XP was radically different from previous versions of Windows. The new operating system offered full plug-and-play features, making it very easy to connect and use new hardware. In terms of viruses, XP was more secure than Windows 98 (Windows 2000 never really became popular).

At the time, Apple Macintosh was having marketing problems, having been walloped by Windows with the launch of Windows 95 back in 1995. Linux still had a long way to go. Though it had already carved a niche in the internet server market, Linux was not user friendly. It required a knowledge of the command line while the Linux desktop was comparatively unattractive and prone to crashing.

Windows XP has become synonymous with computing. With rapid growth in computer literacy in Kenya, most people learnt computers with Windows XP. A great percentage of computer engineers learnt the ropes on Windows XP. That perhaps explains why Microsoft Corporation has difficulty selling the Windows Vista operating system since it was launched in 2007.

However, Microsoft is to blame for getting computer users addicted to Windows XP. There was a very long interval between Windows XP and Vista (2001 – 2007) amidst numerous broken promises. Indeed, Windows Vista began life as Windows Longhorn and was scheduled for release in 2004.

The fact that XP was in use for so long is a double-edged sword for Microsoft. The giant software firm continues reaping millions of dollars from XP especially after cracking down on software pirates in Asia, Africa and Latin America. On the other hand, XP has become too prone to computer viruses, trojans, worms and other forms of malicious software.

Organizations are having to deploy dozens of technicians just to keep their systems free from viruses. At any given time within a typical organization, at least a handful of computers will be down because of a virus. The fact that XP takes several hours to re-install makes for a nightmare experience.

New viruses are coming up so fast that anti-virus programmes simply cannot keep up. Besides, computer viruses have become extremely sophisticated and can update themselves in order to evade detection. With most anti-virus programmers located in the United States and Europe, viruses made in Kenya or other localized environments cannot be easily detected by anti-virus programmes. This was the case with the notorious Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo viruses of 2007. These viruses were created by Kenyan hackers and, since they did not affect the major computer markets of the world, it was months before anti-virus programmes had the necessary patches to deal with them.

Since 2001, competitors to the Windows operating system have been working hard to challenge XP, and the results are simply stunning. Apple’s latest Macintosh is way ahead of even Windows Vista and is greatly loved by graphics editors.

An Ubuntu Linux help menu.

An Ubuntu Linux help menu.

On the consumer front, Linux has really matured as a desktop operating system capable of doing a wide range of work. Linux can run word processing software, graphics and film editors, music players, internet browsers and more. In addition, any Linux computer can be configured to run as a low cost server. Most importantly, Linux is rarely affected by computer viruses. There are probably less than 100 viruses that can attack Linux, compared to almost 100,000 for Windows!

But what really is Linux? And how many different types of Linux exist out there? What is the difference between Ubuntu, Suse Linux or Red Hat?

Linux is a Unix-like operating system developed in 1989 by Linus Torvalds, a university student in Finland. According to his biography, Torvalds was developing an operating system that could be used on desktop computers. At the time, Unix was the main computing software for mainframe computers, those giant machines that took up an entire room. The fact that Linux evolved from Unix means that they have a lot in common.

By the early 1990s, the Free Software Foundation – based in the United States – decided to adopt Linux as a licence-free and royalty-free operating system. The growth of the internet played a great role in spreading Linux. People from all over the world could download Linux, examine it, modify it and present their own versions. To this day, Linux remains free unlike Microsoft products. The fact that Linux is free means that organizations are saving millions that would have been paid as licensing fees.

The development of the Linux Window system – or the X-Window system – means that Linux is getting better with each release. While it takes 3 – 5 years for Microsoft to upgrade Windows, there is a new release of Linux virtually every week. Big Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, release new versions twice a year.

Organizations in Kenya are installing Linux in their computers to eliminate the costs of cleaning viruses from Windows computers. The most popular distributions used by companies are Ubuntu and Suse Linux. These two have great technical support from such reknowned software dealers as Canonical and Novell. There is also a wide pool of technicians already familiar with Ubuntu and Suse. Both operating systems are easy to upgrade and its possible to install new programmes from just the click of a button.

Cyber-cafes across the country are installing Linux in order to reduce software maintenance costs. At first, it was difficult convincing clients of the merits of the new software but with time, Linux has gained a steady appreciation as a reliable software. As a result, Linux is spreading to homes and schools.

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6 Responses

  1. […] more here:  Windows XP: outdated software prone to viruses « The Nairobi Chronicle View admin's Profile      Subscribe via RSS RelatedBookmarksTags […]

  2. The article is worthwhile as it shows the alternatives to the ubiquitous Windows we are used to The main reason why Windows is plagued by the thousands of viruses is due to its presence-Probably seven out of every 10 computers online are based on Windows-that being so it would not make sense for the authors of malware to create for other OS such as Linux based or Macs.Remember malware is used to profit owners so the more people they can target the better the returns.
    Having said that it would be worthwhile for computer users to try out Free linux distributions which can enable small and medium scale enterprises to save on costs associated with running Windows OS..

  3. I’m familiar with Windows from version 3.1 to Vista (I’m yet to experience Windows 7 having only read about it). I have also used various linux flavors including OpenSUSE 11, Mint, Kubuntu and Fedora. I currently use Ubuntu 9.10 having started out with 8.10.

    I wouldn’t call myself completely techie as I’ve built most of my knowledge through experimentation and reading on my own but linux does rock.

    It’s relative ease of use notwithstanding, linux is cheap, can do just about anything Windows can (word processing, net access and emailing, spreadsheets, database management and installation of programs); doesn’t have viruses (I’m yet to encounter one) relative to Windows; is constantly evolving and improving; mostly free; has wide support and many user forums; and is resource efficient, just to name a few benefits.

    Microsoft have also angered many in Nairobi, to which I can testify, by levying crazy, un-Developing World fees and confiscation of PCs from cybercafes (denying people business), and people have been exploring alternative OS’s to that company’s detriment.

    Usership of linux is growing and the user numbers growing by the day.

    New users need not worry about moving from full icon-mode to a bit of command lines as there are very attractive flavors out there – Mint and Fedora are the best I’ve yet seen.

    Linux is an adventure and worth trying out. You need not be geeky to sample what else is out there for your computer use.

    PS: One more observation. I’ve shared this elsewhere but here goes again. I’ve noticed that users of Windows Vista and Windows 7 are generating documents with unreadable extensions, .docx. Such an extension cannot be read by Windows XP users whose documents end in .doc. This is not a problem with Ubuntu 9.10 as it has a wide range of extensions it can read. Let new users banish any fear of using linux.

    • I am 100% linux user. The difficulty with linux in places like kenya at the moment is that most of those guys trained in Xp will not help to configure safaricom or zain modem on Linux. At safaricom Im building, the technicians helping people connect could only work with windows. They didn’t even know what an OS is.
      I managed to have two people convert to Mint and they liked it. Lucky enough, with mint gloria then, safaricom Huawei E220 was connecting out of the box, better than in windows in fact.
      The other problem I found is exageration of the cost of services for linux. One guy went to ask for an Ubuntu CD. the computer shop said they could get him one at Ksh 10000.
      Those guys with time to make virus should be of better use to humanity using that time to develop a linux distro suited for kenya.
      On the sign outside your shops or workshops please let us know that you also deal with linux

    • Hey…. Please I think you can help me fix my computer… I needs like a new installation of Ubuntu …i by mistake deleted my computer roots… Now it needs a manual fix… Please call me via 0719483772 or facebook. Mgk twotwoninesix….. I’ll greatly appreciate… Email is muriukiken2296@gmail.com…..muriukiken2296@yahoo.com

  4. we have a computer shop at home and the profit that we get from it is just awesome .

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