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Planned Obsolescence 

I read this about the ransomware outbreak that has crippled hospitals and other places that are running older versions of Windows – https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/15/15641198/microsoft-ransomware-wannacry-security-patch-upgrade-wannacrypt

One of the things that has always bothered me about Windows is how Microsoft will bring out an operating system, it spreads worldwide and then, after a few years, just stop supporting it; no more automatic updates and if your computer running an unsupported version of Windows has a problem, you’re faced with either paying Microsoft a lot of money to fix it up or pony up the money to buy a new computer that will support the latest version of Windows.

The article asks if Microsoft’s program of planned obsolescence is at blame and I kinda agree with that, plus I know all too well how fussy it is trying to get enterprise-level software current with updates; because of the number of computer systems involved – from servers to laptops, desktops, etc., just upgrading from say, Windows XP to Windows 7 can be a massive and expensive venture and even when such a project is approved, it takes time to implement… and that’s after a boatload of compatibility testing like you just wouldn’t believe.

I’ve been a part of too many of those upgrade projects and I can tell you that they’re no picnic.  But because they’re so expensive in money and man-hours, a lot of businesses running enterprise-level versions of Windows take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it” approach and that usually doesn’t help them to keep running systems that are really inadequate to keep up with how quickly the technology changes… and that’s even if something like this ransomware hack isn’t happening.

And, please, don’t get me started on how many people don’t keep their devices updated when updates are available or how many businesses are running inadequate versions of anti-malware software… and if they’re even running it at all.  Even the anti-malware software I use on our computers, Malwarebytes, says that if you’re running the free version, your computer isn’t safe – just the folks running premium version of the software are safe from this hack.

The cyberwar is escalating and no one is safe because the companies that writes the software our many devices use really do think more about their bottom lines and how they can keep their product lines making them money and, sadly, continuing support for older software version takes huge bites out of their profits because they’d rather you replace your “outdated” hardware and software.  The result, as you’ve probably been hearing about, is that a lot of people have been affected, from home users to hospitals and, here in the US, FedEx.

The costs to replace not only the affected systems and loss of data is staggering and I shudder to think of how those hospitals affected could be causing life or death situations for patients because they have no access to their computerized data and processes.  The biggest and yet to be answered question is why would someone do this in the first place?

Because they can.  Do the people who launched this attack have an agenda or some point they’re trying to make, some change in the world they’re trying to make happen by force?  If they do,  haven’t seen anything written about it but what’s really on my mind is whether or not device and software creators safe now going to see the folly of their planned obsolescence behavior.  We are deeply invested in this electronic age and many of us have our whole lives on various devices and, sadly, devices that may or may not be immune to being hacked and held captive for money or some other unknown reason… or just for the hell of it and because it can be done.

Microsoft has developed the bad habit of releasing buggy software then relying on users to report problems so they can be fixed and it’s because it’s cheaper for them to do this than to pay a team of people to close up all the holes and make the software bulletproof before it goes gold and released to the public.  Such an effort takes time and it’s proven to be a very shoddy way to do things; it might save them millions of dollars along the line… but the cost to users who get affected by these exploits has a price tag that goes beyond mere money.

Just my opinion but there has to be a better and more concerted effort by the companies involved to make damned sure that when we buy their products, we can use them without having to worry about being subject to a cyber attack.  It seems to me that if they cannot provide a quality product, it might convince folks to not buy said products going forward and I do wonder if anyone has given any thought to what will happen to their corporate bottom lines if/when people decides it’s better to be safe than sorry and stop buying their stuff…

 
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Posted by on 15 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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The Post-install Blues

When I worked as a systems engineer, there were a lot of times where I’d be called on to install software and I found it to be fun and a pain in the ass, mostly because I don’t think I ever really trusted software that supposedly installs itself and without problems.  Of course, I cut my teeth on those first generation monsters, you know, the ones that took up whole rooms just for one computer and installing software meant having to create all of the directories, writing batch files, all that ancient stuff.

I just updated one of our six computers to Windows 7 and, jeez, I feel like I’m back at work again, installing software then monitoring the computer for any issues, software conflicts not already listed – those little things you normally don’t worry about until they don’t work, like my JRiver Media Center software.  For some odd reason, it went tits up going from being on a Vista machine to a Win 7  machine and I don’t recall this being a problem.  My antivirus software, which was misbehaving in ways its makers never saw coming, decided that it, too, was going to act even weirder.

This is the third machine converted to Windows 7 and it seems to be taking the machine’s outdated Pentium 4 processor to task as it settles in; the other two just hum along like it’s nobody’s business with their AMD 64 and Intel Dual Core processors.  Still, I’m happy with the upgrade, was kinda pissed at how long it took – it reminded me of the old days of installing Windows and feeding the diskette drive all those damned diskettes.  Then there are all the updates; the Alert Center has been pitching a bitch about stuff I don’t want to be bothered with right now and I’m still testing programs to make sure they still function and, no, the Windows Compatibility program didn’t flag any of them except iTunes and that’s fine; I don’t use iTunes on this computer.

Had to reinstall the antivirus software, then go through the hassle of reconfiguring the firewall portion in advanced mode; I just don’t trust automatic “novice” modes because I like knowing what might be talking to my computers… and I so dislike doing that – all the IP addresses start to look the same after a while.  But, I got it done because some habits just don’t go away; I was damned good at what I did when I got paid for it and I’m still damned good – I have to be since computers and software just want to keep doing things to baffle the daylights out of me.

Unlike when I was working, I only have two  users I have to deal with:  Linda and my mother.  Linda’s learning computer science by proxy – my revenge for having to learn criminal justice stuff when she was in school; she’d glaze my eyes over with legal stuff, I return the favor and explain how data’s written to hard drives to her – in detail.  My mom, well, she’s always coming up with computer problems I’ve never heard of before and explaining them takes a bit of work; try explaining how wireless works in simple terms to someone with no real understanding of things technical.  Mom’s pretty sharp, though, and only saves the really insane stuff for me to figure out.

I learned not to like trying to diagnose computer problems over the phone and with people who have no idea what they’re trying to tell me… and who won’t understand what I’m about to tell them in order to fix it.  It’s like trying to do brain surgery while being totally sensory deprived, if you can imagine that.  Trying to track down potential network problems gives me headaches, especially when I had to have a picture of our entire corporate network in my head and see how all the servers were linked together.  It does get easier when you only have six computers networked but it’s a pain trying to figure out why the computers have dropped off the Internet when nothing appears to be wrong…

So much for being retired, huh?

 
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Posted by on 29 July 2010 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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