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No Comment: What won't be said about Microsoft
Jeff Pasternack
Nope. I'm not going to do it. Despite my feelings about Microsoft, I am not going to write an article slamming them for Passport's lax security that allows any two-bit hacker the chance to swipe your credit card info with a 30-minute bit of effort to write a script that capitalizes on a publicized hole. I refuse to discuss the announcement by a premier and widely respected research firm, the Gartner Group, in which they warned companies to not use Microsoft's web server software, Internet Information Server (IIS), because of the software's vulnerability and susceptibility to spreading viruses and worms to people who visit web pages hosted on servers that run IIS.

I can't fathom mentioning how Outlook and Outlook Express are the primary targets for virus writers and how users of these Microsoft products should be updating their systems to take on new software patches to correct the security flaws and holes. I won't be suggesting that you stop using Internet Explorer because of the way in which it allows viruses like SirCam to come into your system from a web page and potentially bypassing your firewall and anti-virus software. I'm not going to describe how their Smart Tags, which were supposedly removed from the current version of Windows XP, would have been used to take words displayed on my web site, or yours, or anyone else's, and turn them into links leading to the sites of companies who have paid Microsoft a marketing fee (but they apparently left it in Office XP).

I won't be communicating my thoughts on's article that discusses the recent settlement talks between the Department of Justice and Microsoft. Thus, I won't tell you that the agreement "does not state that Microsoft illegally maintained a monopoly in Intel-based operating systems, nor does it forbid Microsoft from bundling popular software options to further the company's ability to dominate people's computing experiences and expand its control of the Internet."

I won't examine why Microsoft doesn't support Java, which is generally regarded as the most strategic language in which to develop applications for the Web. You will find sites that offer streaming stock and sports scores, among other web applications, won't work without a patch. Nor will I scrutinize the likelihood that users may experience difficulty once they do find and download the Java support patch.

Despite my concerns about the need for Microsoft to remove user access to the raw sockets in Windows XP, I won't be running around like Chicken Little crying about how the rate of denial of service attacks will skyrocket. I won't even attribute this to the people who leave their DSL and cable modems hooked up all the time and don't use firewalls to lock their systems down.

I will remain silent on how hackers and virus writers easily use the macro tool in Office 97 and 2000 to capture, infect, harm or enslave your computer and data. I'll keep quiet on Microsoft's solution to this vulnerability, which is a pop-up window that more or less states: "This document contains a macro. Do not enable it unless you received this file from a TRUSTED source." I won't remind you that viruses of this nature are sent to you by YOUR FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES who are using Outlook or Outlook Express and don't update, or even use, anti-virus software. Please ignore the fact that your friends and colleagues are people who you trust. When Microsoft uses the words "trusted source," they are excluding these people because the only trusted source for files that show up in your inbox would be people not using the oft-violated Microsoft email programs.

No, dear readers, I won't be writing about any of these things today. Instead I've written about why none of the things I'm not writing about affect upgrading decisions any more. The answer, you see, is very simple. To use anything other than Microsoft products for office use is simply, and purposefully, too hard. Yes, I know, some Apple and Linux wonks will rattle their sabers at this thought, but nevertheless, it is true.

Here's a slice of life that just played itself out. My mother ordered a new Dell computer with more bells and whistles than Rudolph the Reindeer. She unplugged her old computer, plugged in the new one and turned it on. After registering at Dell's web site and setting her preferences, all she had left to do was install Quicken, Quickbooks, Norton System Works and Zone Alarm Pro. She restored her application data files and she was done. Time spent: Two hours. Number of reboots: four.

Now compare this to my experience. I started where she left off. I start by installing GetRight. It allows me to restart program downloads that are disrupted when my ISP drops the connection with only 2% left to go. Next I download and install Netscape 4.78 (6.x is too buggy, even for me), seven plug-ins to have the Internet experience I prefer, Real Player 8, Winamp, Corel 2000, Paint Shop Pro, Quick Time 5.0, some drivers for my mysteriously unsupported graphics card, keyboard and trackball and, finally, the SETI screen saver so that I can help find out if there are, in fact, any extraterrestrials within listening distance. And the last thing I install is RegClean, which is a Microsoft tool that cleans up the registry after the mess I made when customizing my computer to deliver the experience I want. I go into the Temp folder and remove all the temp files, run a few cleaning and maintenance programs, set my preferences and am finally done. Time spent: 10 hours. Number of reboots: 15.

Based on these two experiences, it doesn't take a genius to discover who among us is the weakest link: my mom! No, just kidding mom. I am, because I do not find the computing and Internet experience as created by Microsoft as being pleasurable. But who can expect the average, every day sort of person to go through all that I do? It's just too hard and, forgetting the glaring flaws noted above, Microsoft's products work just fine.

So, should you upgrade to Windows XP? Note that XP doesn't speed up your system at all. If you're tired of your old computer's speed, spend $50 and simply double your Ram. If you're still not happy, then wait for the first round of XP patches and buy a new box. If you have a computer less than two years old, stick with what you have because you know darn well that in the next 18 months, a new version of XP will be out. If you want that highly customized and very secure computing experience, where you're happy to spend the time tinkering around with your applications and settings, there are plenty of resources available to support your efforts. If you want an easy and simple computing experience, go with what comes in the box and don't worry about it. And if you want the simple experience for yourself but want to vicariously experience the other, feel free to stop by next Tuesday…I'll be reformatting my hard drive and starting from scratch. Again.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at