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Safety in computing

9 posts in this topic

I am a OS enthusiast, and it occurred to me, Windows XP next year will be a ten year old OS, and I would go as far as to say that even though it has evolved, it has not evolved that much IMO.

Was recently reading an article from CNET on the "safety" of the Windows vs Mac platforms, and it came to mind, are we any "safer" now than what we were in the late 90s or early 90s when a lot of us got MBR viruses?

It occurred to me that on the same premise that many of us consider a mac to be safer due to its smaller user base compared to the more recent NT based OSs, would it be safer to say also that our old OSs of choice based on DOS may be "safer" now that they don't have such a broad user base as they used to, this of course assuming you're not using IE, I know it is probably a ridiculous question, but there are still a lot of corporate environments running what a lot of us would consider ancient OSs and ancient methods of DB and storage.

I'd like yalls opinions

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Weve have this discussion here many times and ofter it devolves into a flame war among the "Old OS people"(the relics of a bygone era that refuse to change) and the "New OS people"(the puppets of Bill Gates who fuel the upgrade cycle the "Old OS people" think they can stop) and few of the topics actually address "Security by Obscurity" -The idea that if no one else runs it its secure. The truth of the matter is EVERY OS i dont care if its Windows, Linux, or Apple is susceptible to malicious behavior the second you connect it to the Internet.

as for Apple, I will admit I cant discuss Apple rationally due to my deep seething hatred of their fanboy crowd. Most of my Apple discussions just end up making me want to beat the crap out of Justin Long and arent very constructive.

Back to XP though. if you compare XP RTM with an up-to-date copy of XP SP3 youll see tons of differences in security and functionality.

.NET, USB2.0, Bluetooth, IPv6, WiFi WPA 1/2, Security Center Functionality and WGA were all updated or added to the OS during its lifecycle as well as countless security patches were/are distributed for the OS so its a very different OS now than when it RTMed but at its heart it hasnt moved forward. I hate car analogies but XP is looking more and more like a riced up clown car its owner is trying to get taken seriously at a carshow.

I still run Windows server 2003 on my servers and even though it is technically a different kernel it still annoys me in a lot of the same ways XP does and I cant wait to get them on 2008 R2 but i just havent had the time.

Even though I loathe working on it, I have accepted that in my "corporate enviroment" I will probably have to tolerate XP in some capacity for at least another 3-5 years. Ive stopped deploying new machines with XP shortly after the release of Windows 7(Due to Vistas bad rap I had offered staff members the choice of running XP instead just to reduce the whining) but now I have begun the slow transition to moving everyone onto Windows 7 and slowly as my XP machines die out and are replaced I wont have to deal with it anymore.

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Agreed, the flamewar is almost inevitable. Somewhat OT but touching on one of your points, PC - it's been pretty interesting in a Win7 deployment I'm working on with a colleague of mine. The pushback on Win7 and appcompat testing for all of their myriad apps was intense, but eventually they hit a showstopper bug (for them, anyway) that Microsoft wouldn't fix due to XP being out of mainstream support, so they started down the upgrade road grudgingly (we determined this was fixed in Vista, and also worked fine in Win7). We had already been slowly upgrading their backend servers first (Server 2008 R2 instead of Server 2003, Exchange 2010 last month instead of Exchange 2003 (etc all along the board), along with an upgrade from a hodgepodge of Scriptlogic and vbscripts to SCCM 2007 for the migration). One wave has finished the Win7 + Office 2007 + new apps upgrade, and all we hear is how wonderful it is and why didn't IT do this sooner, etc. Given the fact the org has *finally* given IT money to virtualize and upgrade everything (it's been 4 years since they've been able to buy anything above and beyond breakage replacement), we don't really have the heart to tell the rank and file that their departmental (and every department did) pushback was the reason we hadn't done this yet :).

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Mmmm, not getting into the benefits of upgrading talking of software or hardware, what came to mind was that the safety issue still is still our no1 problem and one that keeps a lot of us in business.

Apple has a tendency to tell PC that it has "no viruses, spyware or tons fo headaches" which is the general non IT public perception of a Mac platform, although we know that not to be entirely true.

It seems that in the way that the hardware surpassed many of our needs when it comes to software, it seems that the software has lost its ability to surpass hardware limitations, today Windows 7 takes up a good 8GB of space after installed, and a Ubuntu Install takes a lot of space also, I know we may have a lot of storage today don't get me wrong, it just seems maybe if we had more hardware limitations our software could actually work better for us by trying to surpass those limitations, the same way software developers work on mobile platforms that have very little space does that make sense to you?

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Safety is relative and Windows is still Windows. New or old, it will be targeted and sometimes successfully exploited. That makes "secure" a moving target that has to be qualified by a couple of variables:

Safe against who or what?

For how long?

Both the new and the old operating systems have their strengths and weaknesses. When it's all said and done, security is a tradeoff. Convenience and security are opposing concepts. Windows default-permit design is also in direct opposition to security. No matter what version you use, whether it's 98 or Windows 7, you have to find that point in between that's right for you. All of them can be attacked. Likewise, all of them can be made safe to use.

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"Old OS people"(the relics of a bygone era that refuse to change)

Oh no, I just misread that twice as "Old People OS" :o

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It seems that in the way that the hardware surpassed many of our needs when it comes to software, it seems that the software has lost its ability to surpass hardware limitations, today Windows 7 takes up a good 8GB of space after installed, and a Ubuntu Install takes a lot of space also, I know we may have a lot of storage today don't get me wrong, it just seems maybe if we had more hardware limitations our software could actually work better for us by trying to surpass those limitations, the same way software developers work on mobile platforms that have very little space does that make sense to you?
Except there are a LOT of things you can't do on a mobile platform, being limited not only by the CPU but by memory and board footprint. If it weren't for software actually trying to push hardware boundaries, we might still have the capabilities of a PDA of yesteryear, but in a highly inefficient CPU tower! tongue.gif. Some people see feature creep and things as bloat, but personally I'd rather see less minimal, more manageable code and hardware to match rather than trying to write an entire C program in 100 lines or less because I've only got a 4K buffer on my phone. While the latter is better for some people, most developers (myself included) will tell you not only is it a nightmare to code, debug, and qualify to ship, it's an even bigger headache to maintain long term. Obviously given I've been a Unix and Windows developer for most of my work years (and some before) I prefer code re-use and the OS to provide many of the APIs I use, and not have to write my own unless necessary - it's more cost-effective, the code is easier to port and patch from one OS level or patch level to the next, and SE maintenance over 3, 5, or even longer year deltas means if I wrote readable and debuggable code, any good developer should be able to plop down and be proficient quickly.

Yes, tight and well performant code should be a goal of every developer, but not at the expense of readability and supportability. I for one am glad that lots of computers nowadays have multiple (real) CPU cores and lots of memory - hopefully it will bring about programs that make good use of those resources.

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IMO, security is not that much connect to the OS.

Every OS can be a virus Petri box as it can be unattackable depending on the configuration.

What's worse about security is the last fashions of the all-internet stuffs which often require dangerous relaxations of safety measures and added software which can be exploited.

Like Firwall exceptions, autoupdates, sharing access etc.

Digital video has been completely overtaken by the YouTube format. This alone is a safety breach because it forces you to enable activeX.

If poeple could live without activeX (and be able to watch movies without it), the world of PC would be much safer already.

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In my corporate environment, the newest thing we are rolling out is Windows 98SE and NT4 for servers. We find it much better for securing data than XP, Vista, 7 etc.

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