A pro-Windows post from a Linux fan

While I make no bones about being a fan of Linux and Free Software, I’m also someone who tries, at least most of the time, to understand opposing ideas and differing perspectives. For instance, I regularly listen to the MacBreak Weekly podcast even though I don’t own any Apple products and likely never will. I think the show is entertaining and it gives me a feel for how “the other half lives”. I also realize that the show was created by Apple fans, for Apple fans, but I’m not sure you can throw out all reasoned judgement in the name of supporting Apple…  even on such a pro-Apple show.

First a quick observation about the show in more recent weeks. It used to be that Andy Ihnatko was as staunchly anti-anything non-Mac, at least that’s how I remember it. But he is impressing me more each week with his reasoned observations and his willingness to call a spade a spade when it comes to things Apple could be doing better, or even things that Microsoft is doing well. His recent appraisal of the benefits of having more hardware choice in the PC (Windows) world, and the benefits of the netbook are refreshing to hear. I could be wrong, but I also remember him picking Ubuntu as a software recommendation as well some weeks back. I’d like to say it happened, but checking the mbwpicks.com site, I don’t see Ubuntu even mentioned. Maybe I just dreamt it.

Now take all of the sunshine in the preceding paragraph, invert it into darkness and evil, and heap it onto Scott Bourne. If you want to hear from a staunch Mac zealot, unwilling to entertain reasoned arguments for the other side of any issue no matter how well supported, then Scott is your man.

Case in point, Windows and viruses.

The standard argument is that Windows XP and Vista are virus magnets (and Windows 7 will be better but in no way immune). This is Scott Bourne’s response to just about any Windows related suggestion – sure, the netbook might be useful, but you’ll be so overcome with virus and spyware problems within 10 minutes that the machine will be rendered useless. Andy countered that the problem is “manageable”, and that while it might be severe if you had an old XP machine back on Service Pack 1, anything newer was not perfect, but simply manageable. Of course there is also the perfectly reasonable argument that Windows is 95% of the market and targeted much more so than any other OS. I’m not sure if all of this logic and reason is simply lost on Scott, but it appears so.

Now I’m strictly a Linux guy at home (Crunchbang FTW! ;) ), but I’ve been using Windows XP Pro here at work for about 10 years now (and Windows 98 before that). I’m fully connected to the Internet, and surf daily using both Firefox and Google Chrome. I have auto-updates turned on but almost never use Internet Explorer (I think IE7 is installed on here). However, I DO NOT run any anti-virus or anti-spyware software over and above the standard Windows Firewall. And I have not had any virus, spyware or pop up problems on this machine in years. Funny, I used to have spyware and pop-up problems back when I used to use McAfee, Lavasoft something, and later on, AVG. But I haven’t used any of those programs in the past 3 or 4 years and I haven’t had any problems. I install new software now and then including bittorrent clients, irc clients, web and desktop apps, mostly Free software and not Shareware stuff. A-ha.. maybe that’s my secret! :)

So either I’m just damn lucky or maybe I’m just smarter than most – I’d like to believe the latter ;) – but Windows hasn’t given me anything to complain about in terms of viruses and spyware. Make no mistake, it gives me plenty to complain about in terms of aesthetics and configurability among other things.

In the end I guess I’m just venting. The pro-Apple attitude at all costs approach just galls me. Enough so that even as a Linux fan I have to defend Windows in the face of blatant misinformation.

UPDATE: Per Chad Wollenberg’s suggestion, I downloaded and ran an anti-virus/spyware program (AVG Free Edition). It found about a zillion tracking cookies and nothing else.  And if anyone’s thinking we’re severely locked down here at work and that’s why I don’t have problems, I admit we’re behind a router, but I have port access for ftp, bittorrent, http, irc and streaming stuff, so I don’t think much is blocked.

UPDATE 2: It was not Andy Ihnatko that picked Ubuntu as his software pick.. Even better, it was Paul Thurrott on the Windows Weekly podcast Episode 104!! Ha!

6 thoughts on “A pro-Windows post from a Linux fan

  1. Even if you browse unsavory sites, you can run stuff in a sandbox and not worry about it. Some people just aren’t that knowledgeable. You’re a Linux user, so you’re a bit more knowledgeable about security things.

  2. If you’re not running anti-virus, how do you know you don’t have a virus? Hate to say it but you should at least run AVG. Nasty things can run in the background, and you can get them by using firefox. My wife recently got a nasty little trojan, and we think it was simply by surfing on facebook. If I had not had AVG installed, we wouldn’t even have known it was there. I’ve always enjoyed XP as a computing environment myself, although I prefer linux, but XP is swiss cheese, and should be treated as such.

    P.S. Have I ever told you I love your site’s look? Awesome.

  3. Chad,

    Duly noted. Our “IT Guy” ran a full check on all machines a few weeks back when the whole Conficker thing was at it’s peak and there were no problems then. But I will download AVG and give it another run through just to see.

    Honestly, I’ve seen no performance dropoff here in XP over the past two years either. Maybe I’m just extremely lucky. All I hear about is how Windows owners have to format and reinstall every year. I think a lot of it is hooey that’s all.

  4. The other thing to keep in mind is that since you’re at work, you likely have a firewall between your box and the internet. This probably keeps out > 99.9% of the stuff that infects windows computers almost immediately when they are plugged directly in to your typical home users’ cable modems.

  5. seems usual basic setup is: patched os, spi “router”. if a lone computer, leave print & file sharing off. always disable java in any browser. avoid IE [still not as usable as other browsers, though I’ll probably try IE8 late this year] but since some apps use components of IE, I’d set “internet zone” to max safety setting. IIRC, there are a few things in the “advanced” tab that need setting different from default.

    IMO, ~necessary extras:
    Proxomitron (run well through wine, it seems)

    Avira (nagware) or avast or payware (kaspersky?)

    comodo3 if your computer has the horsepower (p4 with ~1GB ram?), else a “lite” pfw, eg kerio2 (= possibly any competent “packet” fw?)

    win98 runs lighter than xp, and some non-MS people are trying to maintain patches for win9x. but I don’t know if any reliable testing exists for the patched result. presumably a firewall won’t protect any unpatched os or unpatched net app.

    having tried a few distros, i doubt any are as cfgbl as winxp. i also tried os10.3.[patched]. poking round suggested it is also less cfgbl than xp.

    however, my win tweaks include some mild registry edits. So to compare, I’d obviously, need to see the “compendium of tweaks” websites for osx and for the major nix fm/desktops/whatever. those sites should have many of the config file edits, yes?

  6. em said “having tried a few distros, i doubt any are as cfgbl as winxp. i also tried os10.3.[patched]. poking round suggested it is also less cfgbl than xp.”

    @em – That is stated with utter sarcasm right? I certainly hope you are kidding. Epic comment fail.

    Brian said “This probably keeps out > 99.9% of the stuff that infects windows computers almost immediately when they are plugged directly in to your typical home users’ cable modems.”

    @Brian: And of course 99.9% of those standard issued 99.9% cable modems aren’t supplied with the hardware firewall enabled?

    Anyone that argues that the merits of epic failure on Microsoft’s behalf as end user specific is sharing a myopic view. There is more to the security issues than the standard issue PEBKAC. If you don’t believe me, go and peruse OpenBSD and see what they are doing on a progressive and code based level to augment security.

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