Cloudeight Internet: Our Little Rant


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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
(From our Information Avenue Premium Edition Newsletter - September 3, 2004)

Living A Longer, Healthier Life: Is It Right For You?

Quitting smoking, improving your diet, cutting out the junk food, increasing your exercise, cutting down on the alcoholic beverages, and cutting the stress in your life can all help you live longer. But, is it right for you? Of course it's right for you. It's right for everyone. Well, everyone who wants to live a longer, healthier life, anyway. But, what happens if you quit smoking and your stress level increases? Or you start exercising and sprain your ankle. Or you quit eating Twinkies everyday and become clinically depressed because you miss them so much?

Maybe this is a far-fetched analogy but we have to laugh when we see supposed technical experts advising their clients to wait on installing Windows XP SP2. We wonder if they don't have a hidden financial agenda. The longer you go around totally unprotected from drive-by downloads, surreptitious scum-ware toolbar installs, and other computer-gunking trashware, the more money they'll make "fixing" your computer. (We get angry when we receive letters from people ripped off by these self-proclaimed "techs" !) While Windows XP certainly isn't going to stop spyware completely, it's going to make it a little harder for the criminals who make the stuff to get it on your system without you knowing it (at least for a little while. There are billions of dollars being made by spyware companies..they are not going away any time soon.). And, Windows XP SP2 will make it a little easier for you to control spyware should you happen to get it on your system.

We had to laugh again when a couple newsletters came this week from a well-respected computer magazine with the subject "Windows XP SP2: Is it right for you?" One of the writers was pointing out potential security issues that may surface in the future. That is sort of like telling terrorists: "Hey, our food supply is really vulnerable". Isn't it rather stupid for these technical gurus to point out areas where the scumbags who make spyware ought to be looking if they want to circumvent Windows XP SP2's protection? They'll eventually discover areas of weakness, anyway, but do we need a technical editor from a major magazine and his staff giving them a road map? It doesn't make sense to us. Well, I guess it does. Later that magazine can say "See? We told you so!"

Not one of these wizards proposes a better, more solid solution for Windows security enhancement than Windows XP SP2 provides. They think you should wait until Microsoft has all the bugs worked out. Bah, Humbug! Windows XP SP2 has been through two "beta" versions and two RC (release candidate) versions. It is, by far, the most thoroughly tested service pack Microsoft has ever released. We've been using it (in various test versions since March). SP2 is not perfect but you're far better off with it than without it. Sure, they'll be more patches coming. This is the Internet. It's dynamic, not static. These magazines who want you to wait on the sidelines are not worried about your security, they are worried about protecting their own precious reputations. (Besides, Microsoft bashing is fun and profitable. Some people just hate winners.) When less than 10% of the people who install XP-SP2 have a problem they can pound their keyboards and whip out articles making it look like the majority are having problems. Then, they can bang their geeky chests and say: "See, we told you so! You should've waited!"

Judging Windows XP SP2 by the few who may have problems is like those in foreign countries judging America by watching the Super Bowl last year (Janet Jackson, etc.). Gee, we wonder how high up the scale of decadence we'd rank if that is the only basis on which those in other countries judge us? We're a great and decent country, but if others view us by looking only at our worst, they will never see our best. Judging SP2 by the few who may have problems is not fair either. The ones who won't have any problems will far outnumber the ones who will. But, the ones who do have problems will scream from the highest mountains and will make themselves heard. They will create a din so loud that it will drown the silence of the majority who will not have any problems at all.

Is Windows XP Service Pack 2 the end of all security problems? No. Not even close. Is it invulnerable? No. It's not even close. But, it will improve your chances of coming out of a browsing session unscathed. It will keep you safer. It will increase your security and it will help protect your computer from attack.  With Windows XP-SP2 installed, the chances of a virus executing on your computer without you knowing are less. The potential for a person running Service Pack 2 to spread worms via email is less. The potential for you to become infected with spyware delivered by drive-by downloads is less. You're far better protected with it than without it. Does Service Pack 2 mean you don't need anti-virus software? No. You still need a good anti-virus program. Does it mean you don't need a good anti-spyware program. No. You still need a good anti-spyware program. Will you still need a good third-party firewall software firewall after you install Windows XP SP2? In our opinion, yes you will. While Windows XP SP2's firewall is very much improved over the one which shipped with Windows XP, it still does not offer the protection of many good third-party firewalls like Sygate, Kerio, Outpost, Zone Alarm, etc. Will you still need popup-blocking software? No, we don't think so. In our opinion, you won't find a better or smarter popup blocker than the one that installs with Windows XP-SP2. We think its popup blocker is tops.

We've had people who have uninstalled XP-SP2 just because their 4 year-old photo-editing program didn't work right. Isn't that like throwing the baby out with the bath water? We'd rather look for a new photo editor, or at least an updated version of the 4 year-old one and be protected, than to uninstall Windows XP-SP2 and lose the protection it affords. It just seems to us that everyone abandons their common sense when it comes to major upgrades like Windows XP-SP2.  These supposed technical wizards who write articles based on the experiences of a few aren't using common sense either.And they're not doing the Internet community, as a whole, a great service either. But, maybe their agenda isn't your safety but their job security and magazine sales? The more viruses, worms, and malware programs floating around the 'Net the more things they'll have to sensationalize. And the more magazines they can sell.

In the end you're going to believe who you want to believe. Are you going to believe some geek writer at XYZ Computer Magazine, some friend of a friend who thinks Windows XP caused his computer problems, or are you going to believe simple, honest, facts? Most people who install Windows XP-SP2 are very happy with it. Less than 10% have any problems with it at all. Our recommendation? Install Windows XP SP2. You'll be safer and more secure on the Internet then you've ever been before.

Anyway, maybe you should give up that new exercise program. Heaven forbid you might sprain an ankle.

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