Hey Microsoft, Don’t Push Me Away

Posted March 18th, 2009 by Mike Cherim

The doomsayer said the end of XP is near and the doomsayer foretold correctly. On April 14th, 2009, Microsoft plans to end mainstream support for the Windows XP operating system (OS). Even though critical support — whatever that means — will still be offered until 2014. This leaves me with some choices, none of which may be as good for me, or Microsoft, as just continuing the needed free mainstream support would be. Here are my options:

The Choices

  • Perhaps ignore the loss of support and hope things will just work out.
  • Get new computers and upgrade to the Vista or Windows 7 OS.
  • Say screw it and jump ship by getting a Mac or Linux machine.
  • Loudly complain about it hoping something will change for the good.

Ignore It

This is probably be the route I’ll take due to myriad factors affecting my other choices. I suspect this will also be the route taken by many others. The big question is what will I encounter if unsupported? Will I regret the decision and then find myself stuck? Others must wonder the same thing. My decision doesn’t just affect me either: Barring one machine missing some stupid music file, beethov9.wma, hindering its upgrade from SP2 to SP3, my entire office runs Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 (SP3) installed.


I could bite the bullet and upgrade to Windows Vista. That is, after all, what Microsoft would advise me to do if I were to ask. But in all practicality, this isn’t even an option. First of all I would have to upgrade every machine I own save my personal development platform. None of the computers in my company are built to handle Vista. Yet, ironically, they all perform splendidly running XP. Moreover, they all do exactly what we need them to do. They run our software nicely. My personal development platform could handle Vista without a problem. One reason is that I have 3 gigabytes of RAM. But I have that much RAM because I need the power to do what I do. If I spend it on my OS then I’m right back to where I was before adding more memory. It’s not an option.

Jump Ship

Ahh, the Mac and Linux users are smiling. They know this is the only real option, or the best or most obvious option as some will likely tell me. But is it? In my company I know we have one critical piece of software that will only run on Windows. That’s problem one. Again, another factor is the expense, especially since our machines do exactly what we need them to do, as was mentioned. Then there’s the issue of learning a new operating system. I don’t expect I’d have a problem with this, but my employees might. Not all are geeks like me. None of them are, in fact. I am a one-man IT department. All that said, jumping ship may very well be an option when we are ready to upgrade, on our terms. Some of it depends on what Microsoft decides to do.


I guess I could call this post an open complaint to Microsoft, though I’m hardly screaming bloody murder. Not my style. I’ll be more quiet about it than that. I will speak most loudly with my future actions. If my company gets squeezed out of the Microsoft family then so be it. They do have the option to prevent this from happening, though. And I don’t mean hurrying up Windows 7 — I don’t even know if that’ll be better than Vista or if it’ll solve my problems. Instead I mean leaving me with my options. Including letting me run with XP until my needs dictate otherwise, and to support me in the meantime. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. It’s not my fault that XP is a great OS (the best they’ve made I think). It’s not my fault it still serves me and my company very well. It’s not my fault Vista proved to be something less than everyone had hoped for.

And You…?

Are you in the same boat? Between a rock and something else? What are your plans? What option will you adopt? If you’re a Mac or Linux user, tell me, are your experiences much different than my own? Are your systems flawless? Hearing some the grass appears to be greener on the other side of the fence, but I’m not a moron. I know how fan boys can gush. I know how love can be blind. Has anyone gone to Mac or Linux and regretted it? Has anyone done this and actually gone back to Windows? If so, why?

And Microsoft. How about you? If you’re reading this, are you going to be sticking to your guns? If so, why? Or will you listen to reason and continue mainstream support for perhaps your most popular and most widely used operating system ever? To me the best path is obvious.

30 Responses to: “Hey Microsoft, Don’t Push Me Away”

  1. Georg responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Good to have more than one option :-)

    1: I prefer win2K on my main machine, and will run it as is until it dies on me. Thus, I can ignore the whole issue for now.

    2: already have XP and Vista running on similar boxes, so upgrade is an option. Not entirely happy with Vista, but it’s working.

    3: don’t like my Mac all that much, so having more of Apple’s hardware/software is not an option.

    4: got Ubuntu on same type of boxes as XP and Vista are on. Works fine for me, so I will probably jump ship and run Linux everywhere when I feel the time is right.

    I have already decided on Linux for my next, portable, machine. I won’t be the main user of that machine, and find it easier to maintain things on a Linux based machine than on windows or Mac.

    For the most business-critical software I’m looking at open source, cross-OS, alternatives. OpenOffice etc. Most “eats” data from windows files as if they were native.
    Running various windows emulators for non-replaceable software on Linux doesn’t seem to be much of a problem either, but I’ve just started to look into that side of it.

  2. Tommy Olsson responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 2:18 am

    As you know, I threw Windows out several years ago and went with GNU/Linux. I’m on my second Linux box now, using Red Hat’s Fedora. Personally, I find it easier to use than Windows in virtually all aspects.

    You mentioned one thing, though, which is usually what makes people forgo Linux: being dependent on software or hardware that is only developed for Windows. There are often alternatives, but not always, and learning to use a new program instead of one you are comfortable with can be a royal pain.

    I was worried recently when my wireless broadband provider went bankrupt. There are other providers that have coverage in my area (I think), but they all have one thing in common: their modems require Windows. My provider is the only one that has an O/S agnostic solution that merely requires a network card. Fortunately, a US company bought it up and will continue to run it.

    But there’s the other side of the coin, too: most popular software available for Linux is open source and/or free, and is usually ported to other operating systems, including Windows and Mac OS X. The main software I use on Linux at home, I also use on Windows at the office: Apache, PHP, MySQL, vim, Inkscape, GIMP, Opera and Firefox.

  3. Jen responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I’ve already switched to a MAC a couple months ago, however I had been wanting to for years - and not just because of the whole windows XP mess. And I love it! I finally also have a web site editor with a built in spell check, and it’s free! No more double checking my spelling with Word before copying and pasting it into the text editor for coding. (If there was one that did the same for PC’s I hadn’t found it). I haven’t regretted switching since the MAC is faster and easier to deal with than my old PC laptop . Of course, that laptop was a few years old so that may have had more to do with it than anything else. We’ll see how I feel after I’ve had this one for a couple years.

    And I wouldn’t say the MAC is flawless - I’ve run into a few problems with it (though they were pretty easy to fix - just needed to reset a couple settings/uninstall and reinstall printer drivers, that kind of thing). I did have some trouble with the word processing software - the MAC I have didn’t come with anything other than the TextEdit software - (which was actually pretty decent if simplistic), so I downloaded OpenOffice (free - open source) - which kept crashing. Now I’ve got NeoOffice (also free and open source, made by the same people as OpenOffice) which is more stable but still perhaps not the best. I actually prefer the old MS Word 2003 to what I have now. I’m also not using everything the MAC comes with - there are a lot of built in programs that I’ll probably never use and I hate iWeb - the built in WYSIWYG editor which makes crappy sites.

    But anyway - My take on the whole thing is if XP still works for you than leave well enough alone. If it does what you need it to do than why go through the hassle of changing everything? Be prepared for what might need to be done (either upgrading or switching) but for now leave stick with what works.

  4. Mark Groen responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Ignore it, for now is a good option imho. Win7 should run on your lighter weight hardware so maybe next year at this time is a better switch date.

  5. Jen responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I always use Firefox, :) I was just talking about having a spell check feature for the web design text editors. Ultra edit didn’t have one (at least not in the older versions that I remember), nor does Dreamweaver. There probably is something that has a built in spell checker for PC’s but I never saw it.

  6. Noname responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    If you’re going to go with a Linux dist you should probably use Ubuntu or ArchLinux and stay as far away from SELinux as possible.

    IMO, Gimp can do everything except for vector graphics (there’s Inkscape for that). You should sit down with it and try it out. There’s alot that’s different so there will be a learning curve. Just make sure you check out all the settings first, it’s highly customizable.
    Not sure about InDesign though… have you tried Scribus?

    Which versions of InDesign and Photoshop is it? Wine might work. Compatibility page for, InDesign and Photoshop. Another alternative might be to run a VNC server with the software installed in XP.

    Spell-checking in Firefox also works for normal text input fields. There should be a “enable spell-check for this field” type of choice in the context menu if you right click a text input field. You can also enable it for all text fields by going to about:config and setting layout.spellcheckDefault to 2.

  7. Noname responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Gedit has a spell-checker and you can run it on Windows if you want to. Also, Notepad++ has a spell-checking plug-in. Another editor, that I know of, with spell-checking, Bluefish.

  8. Steven Clark responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    We have Vista on a laptop - its NOT an option lol…

    I think I’ll be sticking with XP for a while, but it’s obvious that Microsoft Window’s business model is about squeezing revenue from us. So they drop support and slowly pressure us over to the dark side again for another tip into the money register.

    Unless of course Windows 7 turns out to be awesome (did I just choke?)… and cheap (yep just choked)… :)

  9. webecho responds:
    Posted: March 19th, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Mike
    It’s a pain I know - I’m in the same position.
    One ray of light - Windows 7 … I’ve been running the beta on a laptop for a couple of months. It dos all the coding nicely and even handles Ableton Live (which can be very processor/memory intensive) - I’d even be close to saying that it runs better than XP on the slappy to be honest.

    2 months isn’t long, but one crash in that time (and considering it’s a Beta) is acceptable - more to the point, it didn’t ‘really’ crash it said “Im saving all your work because I have to restart because something’s wrong”. When I started up everything (including firefox tabs) opened up as if it had never gone. Ok, I lost 2 minutes while it re-booted but .. better than losing work.

    Don’t do the MAC route mate - you’ve spent years and years understanding the why’s and wherefores of Windows - you have your machines set up well and even with a switch to a new interface like 7 you still understand the theory. My experience with MACs has been nothing but frustration, I regularly spend hours searching for a solution to fix my wifes iBook issues - half of that just trying to work out where the hell the offending item is kept.

    HTMLKit (by Chami if you’re googling)- free, spellchecker - lots of add ons to save you coding time - great little program.

  10. Brian Smith responds:
    Posted: March 21st, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Have you tried Vista on your hardware? I was reluctant to install Vista on my two-year-old laptop (a Thinkpad T60 w/ a 32-bit processor, 3 GB of RAM, and a 7200RPM disk drive) because I heard Vista was slow. But, surprisingly, Vista seems faster than XP on my laptop. Also, keep in mind that the major things that slow down Vista are Aero and Windows Search 4.0 indexing. You can turn off both (though I have both on). I don’t know why my upgade experience was better than others’; maybe Microsoft/Lenovo/ATI/Hitachi worked hard to optimize performance on the T60 since it was such a common business laptop.

    That said, I would stay with XP until you have a compelling reason to upgrade. I upgraded to Vista only because I wanted to get UAC (I install/update/uninstall software very often, so UAC saves me a lot of switching back and forth to the Administrator account). If you don’t want UAC and you don’t want the search-based interface, there’s not much reason to upgrade to Vista. And, if you don’t want the new window management, there’s probably not much reason to upgrade to Windows 7 either. But, when IE9 is released you will have to upgrade since it won’t run on XP.

  11. Megan responds:
    Posted: March 23rd, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I switched from Windows to Linux (Ubuntu) over 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. I also tried working on a Mac for about 8 months at work and could never get used to it. I really think people should try Mac first before jumping ship. Unfortunately that’s not easy to do since you can’t just install it on any hardware. I actually thought I would be switching back to the Mac to use Dreamweaver but I soon got used to other tools (Quanta Plus is my fave).

    As other users have said, it is possible to run Windows applications on Linux, either using Wine or through a virtual box. Unfortunately as web developers we will have to continue running Windows in some form as long as IE is onaly available on that platform (forever, basically!). You can get IE (v. 6 and below) to run on Linux using IEs 4 Linux but that’s currently only available up to v. 6.

  12. Kim responds:
    Posted: March 24th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I am reliant on an old laptop, so for me upgrading to Vista or W7 are not possible, so I am taking the dual booting route with XP and Ubuntu. That way I can use Ubuntu on a day to day basis and switch back to XP as and when I need it.

    I am also another fan of HTML Kit which is a great scripting tool and if you pay for a licence (something I have been meaning to do for a couple of year now, but then I find the free version so good I never quite get round to it), there is a version ported for Linux.

  13. Jed responds:
    Posted: April 7th, 2009 at 4:21 am

    I’ve been a unix user for more than 10 years and I guess you’ll know what my advice would be.

    But it doesn’t have to be that abrupt. You can wane people into an OS slowly. Try getting a mac mini and get everyone to use it and be familiar with it. It accepts generic monitor and kbd/mouse too so you don’t have to worry about it being that expensive.

    As for your Windows-only software, well I guess you have no choice but to stay or upgrade to Vista.

    Windows XP is quite stable so you don’t have to worry about it crashing that much if it’s just a production machine and you are properly filtered and protected. Thing about windows machines is, they are quite susceptible to viruses but you already know about that :)

    Vista is okay too. I’m swear by Unix OSes (linux/mac/BSD) but I’m not a zealot when it comes to Windows. If they can get the work done then that’s enough reason to stick with it.

  14. Stomme poes responds:
    Posted: April 21st, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I’ve been a non-geek Ubuntu user for… well since warty warthog at least. I write all my code with either gEdit or vi depending on what it is, and use VirtualBox to test the IE and other windows and Mac browsers (waiting for Unix Chrome…)
    I’m running the (non-free) Sun version of Virtual Box (for the USB sound options for JAWS) and it’s very much a hog. I have two of them actually, one with a native IE6 and another with IE7 and Tredosoft IE’s. While I could possibly try to put something like Flash or Photoshop on there, I wouldn’t want to bet it wouldn’t puke often and regularly. If you ever go the Linux route you’ll have GIMP. Thousands of tools, filters and scripts you’ll never use– the only thing it can’t have (well, besides CYMK colour dammit) are any algorithms that Adobe owns and keeps to themselves– though any open-source developer can write something that does the same job, and likely already have.

    If I were in this situation I’d do option 1– but at the same time, start preparing for an OS changeover. Likely you can keep going with XP for a very long time, which gives you and non-nerds time to try out stuff. You can throw some version of Unix or Linux on the pansiest and oldest of boxes (though likely not Ubuntu, it’s kinda heavy with all the Windows-ness it has : ) and getting to see what all GIMP etc can actually do can make you best informed on whether a form of nix can do the job for you. It would also give you a chance to try out stuff like VirtualBox (and the 3 or 4 other softwares that do similar work) and see how well (or not) those run, and if they are able to hold the applications you cannot find a good-enough non-win alternative to. It also lets you see how comfortably you would deal with the single biggest nix issues– drivers. More and more companies are making cross-OS drivers but some things surprise.
    One plus about Ubuntu, or Suse, or likely Fedora (not sure cause I haven’t used it since RedHat8) is they nowadays have a pretty friendly UI for the non-geeks.

  15. Stomme poes responds:
    Posted: April 21st, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve often been sent photos from other people, and I open them in GIMP, and it’ll open a little window saying “this file uses Adobe rgb, convert?” and I’ve always said Yes (I suppose I should try No and see what I get) and I cannot see the difference between the pre and post editing as far as colour (but I can imagine if you are switching between programs with the same file some tool in one program or the other may not work). I also haven’t seen if GIMP can imiate Adobe colorspace. The algorithms I meant were the sorts for things like filters and fancy effects (so, I dunno how it goes with the colors).

  16. Johan Swarts responds:
    Posted: May 4th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I’m running Vista x64 on my notebook and it is extremely stable, smooth and very kind to my workflow. I mainly use my PC’s for content production and a little coding on the side. I only index my emails, my documents and the start menu items, so no slowing down there - an as a bonus I don’t have to touch the mouse to launch a program. Instead, I merely press WINKEY and start typing the first two or three letters of the program I need, followed by Enter. Its much faster than anything I’ve encounterd on OSX or Linux

    At work I use a Mac and I can truly say that Leopard is a very overrated OS. Do not fall for the marketing - it has just as many flaws as any other OS. (Little things irritate the heck out of me in Leopard. You can’t, for example, resize a window from any other location than the bottom right corner.) Many of OSX’s supposedly brilliant and exclusive features are built into Vista anyway => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpR6jwQXc3Y

    I do use XP (SP2) on one of my PC’s, though, and I’m very excited about Windows 7. Definitely getting that :)

  17. Alan responds:
    Posted: June 1st, 2009 at 7:26 am

    I am a server-room IT guy (as opposed to DTP, web design, etc) so I will always run GNU/Linux or another FLOSS *nix on my personal machines and whichever servers I can, but I know what you’re going through. As much as I really just don’t like Vista, we’ll have to switch eventually. Windows 7 doesn’t sound any better, as it’s based on Vista. I’d like to think my Vista/7 criticism was purely technical, but I’ve hardly used them (no “run” menu? Common!). I have, however, read a bit about the possibility of a DRM nightmare in Vista and 7.

    Good luck with your decision… you’re not alone!

  18. Sriram responds:
    Posted: June 14th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Very late to the ballgame here… it’s been a while since I checked your feed! …

    critical support - whatever that means

    It means they will continue to issue patches & security fixes for XP until 2014 (Windows 2000 is currently still getting patches). The end of “mainstram support” just means that you can’t call Microsoft support (phone or online) for help. But seriously - have you ever done that? I know I haven’t.

    Actually, it also means that they may drop XP as an officially supported OS for some future as-yet-unreleased applications (ie. minimum requirements might state Vista & later) - it won’t necessarily mean they *won’t* work on XP (unless if they depend on a Vista-only feature like DX10), you just can’t call them for help if problems occur.

    3rd party vendors are of course completely free to continue supporting their apps on old versions of Windows.

  19. nahrafqifahs responds:
    Posted: January 28th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Same problem with us. Our company is base on Geological Research and all the machine we have use a XP as OS… we also use ArcGIS for mapping tool. We have ArcGIS 9.2 and it’s only support XP. Although they have launched ArcGIS 9.3 that support Vista and 7 and required to upgrade license for $$$$$, we STILL NEED XP… Yes! We strongly need XP! :X

  20. Berthold responds:
    Posted: April 8th, 2010 at 6:17 am

    I’m sure you have the issue resolved by now, but here goes anyway: I planned on sticking with XP for the rest of my natural life. There was no reason whatsoever to upgrade and after I slowly applied Service Pack after Service Pack, I felt absolutely safe. Besides Windows itself, I used no Microsoft software whatsoever, and everything else gets its own updates, so doesen’t rely on Microsofts support for safety.

    I’ve tried to migrate to Linux for over 10 years, but every time I try it out I find it not doing what I want. I spend a week or so fighting with it, installing this and that, and always end up on the command line trying to figure out how to adapt some commands I got online to my specific problem before I realise that it’s pretty futile when I have a perfectly good operating system on the other partition. Sure, it’s not free, but it works very well.

    That said, my old laptop slowly died on me, component after component failing. I picked out a machine with Windows 7, knowing that I was going to have to give up the idea of getting XP running on it for lack of drivers. Because the machine wasn’t delivered on time though, I (luckily) repicked into a Samsung, which to my great dissappointment ran Vista. According to several forums, neither XP nor 7 would work on this machine. Still, I made the leap of fate.

    Apart from a few annoyances with some older software (games in particular), iffy networking and a rather bothersome User Control, Vista (with SP2) has been smooth sailing so far. I can’t compare speeds across several OSes of course, but I am very satisfied with how and what (namely all my design software) it runs.

    I guess as long as your current hardware is trucking along, there really isn’t much of a point in upgrading. And if you do, there really is no reason to be afraid the new software is going to completely destroy your workflow. Sure you might have to do a little adapting, but more often than not, some features may well make up for that. Switching platforms is way more of a hassle, and I strongly suggest getting a company to do it to really make sure you have as little downtime as possible.

    Best of luck!

  21. Shahid responds:
    Posted: August 26th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    As a developer, I am just not happy that IE6 is still alive.

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