Operating Without Windows XP

By April 17, 2008

If you are a Windows XP user and don’t want to use Vista, there are other reliable, secure and user friendly operating systems to consider. Since January 2008, InfoWorld has been collecting signatures for a petition to save W

indows XP, the operating system that preceded Vista and that Microsoft will stop selling after June 30, 2008. As of April 15, the petition has garnered 142,226 signatures.

When Vista arrived in 2007, it received mixed reviews. Though it looked better (read: resembled Apple’s OS X) and the search function was considered superior to the XP operating system, the annoyances of using the system outweighed the benefits.

So, what’s the big fuss about? For one, Vista is more sluggish because it demands more computer memory and space on your hard drive. Third-party drivers for some printers and other devices are still unavailable from the companies that make those devices. What is more, the User Account Control (UAC) pesters users with constant security pop-ups – a feature deliberately intended to "annoy users" in hopes of pressuring intermediary software makers to make their applications more secure. Created with good intentions but annoying, nonetheless.

Even the recently released service pack (SP1) didn’t resolve issues. One reviewer remarked that “SP1 doesn’t resolve some of the most annoying flaws in Vista…these problems will either never be fixed fully or (we’ll) have to wait for SP2.”

On the other hand, not everyone admonishes the Vista system. Indeed, many find the UAC an improvement to the weaker security measures of Windows XP. One PC user commends the Vista Aero interface for giving the OS a cleaner, more modern feel. Other features include a better start menu; more intuitive file explorer that leaves a bread crumb trail for improved navigation; and an advanced windows firewall (better than XP). But are these features worth the cost of upgrading from XP? Apparently not.

Many businesses continue to use Windows XP because the cost of retraining outweighs any advantage to switching to Vista from XP. In fact, many people still use Windows XP because they like it better than Vista – it’s faster and simpler to use. As of March 2008, XP still has 73.59% of the operating system market and Vista only has 14.02% according to Net Applications, which measures operating system market share as reported by MSNBC.com.

Microsoft will, however, continue to provide XP users regular tech support until April 2009, and “extended” tech support for patches and security updates will continue through April 2014.

So, what are the options for XP users reluctant to switch to Vista?

For one, swapping your PC for a Mac will provide the option to use Leopard OS X, an operating system considered more secure than Windows because there are fewer viruses made for the Mac OS. For their May 2008 issue, Popular Mechanics reviewed both Vista and Leopard operating systems and found that “Leopard OS trounced Vista in all-important tasks such as boot-up, shutdown and program-launch times.” Actually, if you want to use Vista, it will run faster on a Mac using Apple’s platform switching Boot Camp software than on a PC.

Another option is, Ubuntu, a free community developed, Linux-based operating system that is ideal for laptops, desktops and servers and includes a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software (OpenOffice), and an instant messaging application. Though Linux-based systems have been preferred by the more technologically advanced, Ubuntu was created for general public use. The platform is easy to download and use and secure. Furthermore, Dell offers affordable computers with Ubuntu pre-installed.

And, if you want to remain with Windows, the good news is that Bill Gates recently revealed that a new Windows operating system, known as Windows 7, will be released “sometime in the next year or so.”

Kathleen Clark
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