Being realistic about Windows


Madobe Nanami, Windows 7-tan

Another afternoon, another person appeals to me for help with their Windows laptop. Regardless of whether its a Windows XP, Vista or 7 machine, the problem is always exactly the same: viruses and spyware.

Steals some of his old man’s blood pressure pills

Since I was a kid I've been the go-to guy in our circle of friends and family for fixing computers, and I've done my fair share of them. Anecdotal evidence should always be taken with a grain of salt, but in my case the problem has been near universal. People treat their computers as appliances, download material without knowing what it is or where it came from, and treat the subsequent slowdowns as a fact of life. Almost every machine I've looked at has been riddled with spyware or viruses, and the problem simply isn't going away.

To quote my sister Elke who was a casual Windows user until 2008: "They're just used to it, its not unusual!".

Forgive any undue disrespect if you're a Microsoft guy or girl, but we've been hearing from many of you how secure Windows is now and how 7 is the greatest OS of all time. While I'm sure technical users have no problem keeping their systems running well, they're completely deluded if they think they're a typical use case.

Did I mention it’s fact?

Other OSs are by no means perfect, but despite their own specific limitations Macs or Linux boxes[1] I've looked at simply don't have these issues. Full stop. This isn't a case of unbridled fanboyism, its cold hard fact, and I wish Windows fans would simply admit it, just as a Mac user[2] I admit I pay a huge premium for hardware, or that my Linux boxes[2] have less (or far more complex) hardware support.

We can debate the reasons why (some of which aren't Microsoft's fault), but it's undeniable fact that in the hands of a non-technically proficient user Windows rapidly attracts junk and slows down like no other OS.

As a consumer operating system, the other issue is Windows is being pushed into places where it simply doesn't belong and is dangerous, such as ATMs, hospitals and critical process control systems, but that's for another rant post.

calms down drinks tea.


[1] Linux (or GNU/Linux, etc) is typically installed by a technically competent friend or family member, and I’m surprised by the number of them I’m encountering these days. It also lends a little credence to the notion that Windows market share is inflated, given that these machines were OEM-d with Redmond’s OS and are counted as such. That’s a topic for another post too.

[2] I grew on DOS and Windows machines right up to XP, but made the switch to Mac in 2001 and didn’t look back. I also maintain several PCs running Arch and Fedora Linux, and my file and media servers run FreeBSD.

[3] Nanami Madobe is adorable, as too is the new mascot for Azure. We need some official OS-tans for Mac OS X, Linux and BSD. We already have a platypus, a penguin and a daemon, but a team of *nix bishōjo characters shouldn’t be too hard!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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