Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"I hate Microsoft" is the new tech bandwagon

It always baffles me how supposedly good tech people can jump on whatever bandwagon happens to be popular at the time. Take, for example, the 'Let's Hate Microsoft' one that currently seems to be all the rage.

I've been involved with computers since I was 9 years old (I'm 34 now) and I've used Windows since its very earliest version. When I was a noob, I got viruses and was hit by just about every worm that went around. Then, I took the time to learn about good computing habits, proper security, and sensible practices.

On my Windows XP systems I don't run an AV at all, I run Internet Explorer 8, I use Outlook, and all the other supposedly 'deadly' things that make Windows so insecure and dangerous. I occasionally will download an AV and anti-malware programs 'just to be sure' always expecting to find stuff. You know what? I never do!

In the last five to eight years, I have *never* had a virus or worm hit my computer. I don't get spyware, I don't have popups all over the place, and I don't have those ungodly messes of toolbars that you see many Windows users having on IE. Why? Because I took the time to learn proper security, best practices, and don't do stupid stuff. I also keep my system patched.

The fact is that a properly patched, secured, and managed Windows system is just as secure and stable as Linux. So then, why does it seem so many Windows systems seem to fall under the crush of malware?

Users.

Look at the statistics. For most of the major viruses and worms that have been out in the last few years, Microsoft has often had a patch available for the vulnerability they exploited before the software was in the wild. Sometimes, they've had patches available for months or even years. Yet users who listen to the anti-Microsoft drivel of 'they're trying to sneak stuff on your computer' become so paranoid that they choose to either turn off auto-update or they 'selectively' choose 'safe' updates without a good understanding of what the others do. The upshot is that they, through their actions, leave their systems vulnerable.

Now, to be totally fair, I'm also a Linux user (desktop and server Ubuntu and a few Fedora systems) and they are pretty rock solid. But it's easy to say how secure you are when you're in the minority and nobody cares enough to really attack you by writing malware for your platform. Linux also tends to attract a more sophisticated and technically savvy user base than Windows so it's a bit dishonest to compare the two. If all Windows users suddenly migrated to Linux and brought their computing practices along with them, guess what? We'd see a LOT of problems with Linux systems too. So, no, comparing isn't totally honest. But, if we are, we can *easily* find examples of vulnerabilities that were exploited in *nix software and used to own systems.

The simple fact is that *no* operating system, Windows or otherwise, is secure until you choose to make it secure. It doesn't magically happen. USERS have to take the initiative to be proactive about their systems.

It's very popular to jump on the "Let's hate on Microsoft" bandwagon. Everyone seems to be doing it. I've run into a lot of people who told me "Oh I wouldn't use Windows if you paid me. It's crap" yet when I asked them what exactly their complaint was they would mumble something about 'security' but couldn't go into any details. Why do you think that is? It's because they didn't *know* any details! They just heard the rhetoric and thought spewing it forward made them seem knowledgeable and cool.

It doesn't. It makes them sound stupid and uninformed.

So consider this: next time you want to talk about how much you hate Windows, ask yourself this: why do *you* personally hate it? Have *you* had bad experiences with it or have you just read all the hype and made your decision based on that? Have you educated yourself about proper system care and management?

If not, look into it. I think you'll find Microsoft is doing a pretty bang up job with security these days. The chants of 'Linux is going to OWN Windows' are fading away.

I love Linux but I can't say I hate to see the zealots go.

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