Microsoft has officially made today, June 30th, the end of the line for further Windows XP sales and has declared the operating system to be dead. Unless you’re a OEM disc-purchaser, in which case you can still get ahold of it. And of course, what with the millions of users around the world that use it (and will be still using it, if the popular viewpoint on Vista doesn’t change), Microsoft made sure to make it clear that support and updates will continue for the venerable operating system until 2014, which in my opinion is an amazingly long time to continue to update an operating system you’ve just declared dead. Seems to me like an “official talking point” that will make people irritated, but very few people (proportionately speaking) will actually seek out the alternative methods to continue to acquire XP.

I think people’s reactions to XP’s death, and Microsoft’s subtle hemming and hawing as it suggestively pushes Vista to them, are quite interesting. I’ve frequented a few forums and blogs today to see what the talk on the internet is about it, and many forums are filled with frothing, caps-lock filled posts about how Windows XP IS TEH BEST EVER, and raging that Microsoft expects people to buy Vista. What do they expect Microsoft to do? They’re a corporation who wants the people to buy their new toy, same as any other company would. While I’m certainly no Microsoftie (anymore at least), I have to say that my thoughts on the whole operating system debacle have mellowed somewhat.

Since my last rant on Vista, Service Pack 1 came out, improving the load time quite a bit (at least on my machines; your results may vary), more and more companies have finally pulled their heads out of the sand and released drivers for their hardware (at least, the 32 bit versions; I’m still not altogether sure about the 64 bit version and driver availability). These days, while I still have a crash on Vista maybe once a week, I find the whole system to be quite snappy. I wouldn’t complain if more of my older, classic games were supported in the “Games Explorer” (one feature of Vista that, while I was originally excited about it, now fills me with utter apathy) but that’s one remaining complaint, I suppose.

XP was the first operating system that I ever really understood, I think. Before that, I had used DOS, and then WIndows 98 on my parents’ computer. The first PC I ever built myself ran Windows XP, Service Pack 1. I was completely enthralled with it and how fast it was compared with Win98, how well my games ran (Myst, anyone?) and how smooth and streamlined it looked compared to the boxiness of its predecessors. All the computers at my high school still ran Windows 2000, so I believe this might have even been the first time I had ever seen XP, come to think of it. Those were such simple times, back when dial-up internet was all we had and I didn’t have to worry about a million spam emails a day. It ran games, and it stored my burgeoning digital photo collection (it was probably under 2,000 photos then) – and it did it perfectly, with nary a BSoD to be found.

It’s that stability and reliability (which have only improved over the years with SP2 and SP3 that are going to have enterprise customers and XP huddling close to each other for warmth for a long time. I’m definitely still on XP’s side for that one. The cheap licensing of XP, combined with the fact that many businesses have older systems, coupled with the security benefits of the new XP Service Pack 3, and the utter lack of “wow” that Vista really offers to anyone looking for a reason to upgrade, means if Microsoft had decided to not allow so many loopholes for XP to still make it out there, a lot more medium and large size businesses would be pretty pissed off, and for a good reason. I’m no expert, but all of the domains we control here at DoIT do just fine running off of Windows Server and Group Policy; we don’t need Vista’s “shadow copy” “bitlocker” or any of that extra stuff when we can just write the permissions for users over an entire domain. I used Vista here on my machine at work for a little while when it first came out, and I dropped it within weeks (those were the “bad old days” of Vista) for lack of video driver support, Java support, Oracle Database support, Novell support, and many others. Even now, over a year later, while I’m sure all that would be fine with the updates that Microsoft et al. have put out, that’s not going to change the fact that Vista just isn’t needed on any business machines.

In closing, I guess my current thoughts on Microsoft’s operating systems are this: if you’re getting a new PC of medium to high-grade components, it’ll come with Vista anyway, and you shouldn’t worry about it. It will run just fine and smoothly with Vista and Aero’s interface and all that good stuff. If you’re getting business machines, don’t bother with Vista if you can help it; the cost and system requirements of it just do not outweigh the security benefits, which are pretty much moot if you run a good system firewall and server.

Oh yeah…one more little thing that has REALLY been ticking me off in the past day is that some Flash player update I installed recently has been causing my computer to give memory errors and restart. I know that’s exactly what it is, but even so, Vista (unhelpfully) pops up with a little window that says “Your computer has restarted due to a hardware error! Please contact your vendor for more information!” I wrote an infuriated email to Microsoft growling to them that with XP at least I could count on a nice hex code error number that I could look up and try to figure things out myself, but now I’m told to contact the system vendor. I am the system vendor, Microsoft! I’m waiting for my personal phone call and apology from Steve Ballmer now…