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The Seven Year Itch

We who know better have to care for them.


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It's more than seven years since Code Red hit. That Code Red summer we were motoring around in the RTP, listening to the news bulletins. And later when we passed by the HQ of Red Hat we got the idea for the Red Hat Diaries. We were late in the game. And as the name implies we still hadn't thought of Apple.

We'd seen two British websites provide roadmaps for escaping from Windows. Proving migration was possible and was relatively easy as long as one could lift one's lame butt and do it. We felt it was time we too made the move - to help and encourage others.

The 'New Millennium' had become one long nightmare for Windows users and we understood intuitively this nightmare would never end. We had the advantage of being system engineers but even in our case - even with a pedigree in Unix - it took some time to synthesise a comparison between the two systems. The synthesis has been completed. It might take a couple of years for the simplicity of it all to dawn on someone but there it is. Unix has a security model - and Windows? Windows has zip.

We've been writing articles for well over ten years proselytising why people must leave that platform known as Windows for their own good. When you look back at what's happened you see it's an incredibly long list of unbelievable events - all the more unbelievable because almost no one reacts.

We were sure the damage caused by the Love Bug in May 2000 would finally force even the dumbest admins and decision makers to admit it was time to abandon Windows. We were wrong. Along came variants on the Love Bug injected into web traffic by educated people who claimed they were doing this just to show the lame that the outbreaks wouldn't stop until people trashed Windows. And still nothing changed.

We saw AnnaK, we saw Sasser, we saw them all. Nothing changed.

We saw the Linux community get downright furious. We saw them send letters to Windows users demanding they get off the Internet. Windows users were ruining the neighbourhood.

We've sat and wondered time and again what type of lowlife it takes to not realise - or to consciously ignore - the fact that nothing we do online is unrelated and innocent. That our behaviour directly affects others. And when it comes to Windows it's never a good effect.

Seven years ago this spring we completed our migration from Windows. Eight months we'd worked on our plan and chosen the space age Apple OS with NeXTSTEP. It's hardly a decision we've ever regretted.

We've never looked back.

And Mark Shuttleworth's Ubuntu came along and gave people another offer they can't refuse: an alternate - and superior - operating system delivered to your door completely free of charge. The GUI isn't as good as Apple's and the development environment is rather ramshackle but compared to Windows for ordinary users it's freedom at last.

We've seen how entire countries have decided they will make their own operating system based on Linux. That they can't use Windows either. We've seen Linux make it to Mars. And so forth.

In the one corner there's Unix and all its flavours. In the other corner - all alone - is Windows. The system Bill Joy said should never have been allowed to connect to the Internet. Looking back at the past nine years of this millennium it's hard to argue Bill Joy was wrong.

And still they go on, and still they come with their excuses, and still they spout their annoyingly dumb rationalisations. You've all heard them so many times before. They get downright sickening after a while.

Oh if Apple ruled the world then there'd be just as many viruses because all the virus writers would concentrate on Apple instead. Or Unix or Ubuntu. Or all of them. How exactly would that take place? What attack vectors would they use? What followup procedures would they use if they were ever able to break the perimeters?

Do any of these people have the faintest clue how real operating systems work? No they don't. Of course not. Just this past week Sydney ran into someone who vowed never to buy a Compaq computer again because it always checked the disks when it started up. Try to convince them this had nothing to do with Compaq and everything to do with their powering down without a proper shutdown - go ahead. Good luck.

People don't read or learn what they don't think they have to. They might see something in the news about Conficker but they won't pay attention. They all have a computer at home today. They basically know what it means to connect to the net - to those 'Intertubes' - but that's about it.

Day in and day out - or as often as they sit in front of that blasted box - they greet the same ugly blue and red interface with the crappy graphics and feeble UI. That's all they know and that's all they're likely to ever know. As long as the purveyor of that system is allowed to go free and sell his wares. People won't stop using it and go to something safe until they're forced to. People just don't care.

We who know better have to care for them. We have to pressure consumer groups and governments to clamp down on this nonsense. To care for and protect this Internet thing so ordinary people can approach it with a more comfortable attitude. So the Internet works for everybody. Unconditionally.

There won't be much happening security-wise the week after Windows has been removed from the Internet. Or the week after that. Or even the week after that. There'll be hackers still hanging about but they won't be able to cause Conficker/Code Red/Love Bug type catastrophes anymore.

The days of billions of dollars of damages for yet another attack on Windows will be gone forever. Admins are still going to have to be careful but the overall environment will be more relaxed. People will finally get to chill out. And things will stay that way.

Can the DMV prevent faulty automobiles from getting on the highways? Then an equivalent organ can prevent dangerous computers from getting on the information highways. Can consumer products be banned because they are unsafe? Then Windows and the rest of the Microsoft web product line can be banned as well.

But don't count on your ordinary Joe Luser to help. This is something we have to do ourselves. And don't count on Joe Luser being grateful either. Most likely he won't even notice things have changed.

Coincidentally it's also seven years since Bill Gates formally apologised to the world at large for the pain and suffering his products caused. And he promised to make things better. That's seven years ago too.

Feeling itchy?

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