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Things that happened last week

Posted 09-09-2009 at 04:15 AM by bitpicker

Sometimes when it rains it pours.

Last week was like that - computers were having problems all around me, as as I am the person everyone around me turns to when that happens (I'm sure many of you can relate), they all became my problems.

There were three major incidents plus a hardware-related fourth more or less at the same time. The stories of the three are, I think, somewhat enlightening - especially as to the inertia Windows users show when it comes to something other than living with Windows problems.

First was a Win XP computer which had developed a glitch that was most probably hardware-related; after much fiddling the harddisk with the system and personal files was transferred to a different computer which of course threw XP out of whack. In the end I had to reinstall.

The original computer had come with Win XP of course, and it had had troubles previously, I am sure someone else had to reinstall it at least once previously. The trouble now was that the original installation disk was one of XP prior to SP1. While I was able to install that one using the product key provided with it, no SP would install because the service packs did not accept that key as genuine. Who knows how this number ended up on Microsoft's bad side, but the fact remains: the system could not be made any more modern than XP without SPs, while the antivirus and firewall (which had worked on the borked previously installed system, so some SPs would have to have been installed there) would ask for SP 2 and 3 respectively in order to work.

In the end of course, because the computer had to be available quickly for writing job applications, I installed Ubuntu 9.04, having to use ndiswrapper for the AVM WLAN stick and write a short callup script for Skype with a prepended call to some v4l compatibility library so that it could make use of the cheap webcam, but all in all including the troubleshooting this took less time than it took to install Win XP up to the point when the trouble started.

The owner of the computer had been pretty skeptical, but I suppose that has changed now; and her six-year-old figured out how to start Firefox in the new system in no time.

Next, a colleague told me that his bank had barred him from online banking because he had, according to their information, a trojan. I have since found out that indeed some German banks appear to have contracts with service companies which monitor internet traffic and filter out trojan packages which contain account information, then notify the banks.

My colleague had already removed some infected elements from his system with his antivirus. The program had not, however, removed the calls from the registry, so now he had three error messages on bootup and no idea what to do about them. Now, someone more experienced would have tried to use regedit to find those calls, but regedit was disabled; the trojan had set a value in the registry to 1 which prohibited editing of the registry.

First, I scanned the whole system from a bootable Linux CD (incidentally from the same vendor the antivirus system my collegaue used came from) and found six further infected files which I then removed manually. Hijackthis took care of virus-related registry entries, included the one mentioned above. After three hours of work I was pretty sure that the system was now clean again.

But my colleague is still content to return to online banking using Internet Explorer instead of a more secure, not browser-related way to do online-banking, let alone consider to switch to Linux at least for such important online work. Even though he repeatedly said that he would never have been able to solve any of this on his own he would rather risk getting into the same trouble all over again than try something new.

Third, someone gave me an HP notebook on which Vista had originally been installed, but her son had removed it in favour of XP (he'd rather have installed Linux, but she didn't want that). The son being a continent away at present she turned to me when she found that there was no support for her network adapter in XP - actually there were five more hardware problems, two of those related to high definition audio, no surprise there, the others to other parts of the chipset. HP tech support hadn't been able to help, didn't even state what network adapter the box had. All documentation spoke of 'Ethernet' but nothing any more precise.

So I booted Ubuntu on it. Needless to say, everything worked right out of the box. Dmesg told me we had a forcedeth chip on our hands, so we eventually downloaded a driver package from nvidia which worked like a breeze and removed all the problems except the audio ones, but I expect there are no drivers for XP for that, it being a province of Vista's DRM shackles.

I also showed her Open Office 3 while we were at it, to show her that it was indeed closer to the MS Office she was used to than the MS Office 2007 she had to get acquainted with now, reluctantly.

But would any of that convince her to give Linux even a try? Nope. 'I have no time to learn something entirely new' she said, as if Linux required her to learn alchemy first. She would rather spend her time battling the same old Windows problems forever than investing it into getting rid of those problems once and for all.

It would be ok if Windows users were able to solve their own problems, but mostly they aren't. They still steal our time with always the same problems, we solve them for them, but when we tell them how to avoid them for good, they just return to business as usual - after all, they have us to solve their problems for them.
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  1. Old Comment
    It would be ok if Windows users were able to solve their own problems, but mostly they aren't. They still steal our time with always the same problems, we solve them for them, but when we tell them how to avoid them for good, they just return to business as usual - after all, they have us to solve their problems for them.
    Then make them pay, a least the 2nd or 3rd time they come to you. Not necessarily money, possibly by listening to your "rant" on the dangers of Winders, possibly walk them through the fixes -- making them experience 1st hand the pain of cleaning up after Bill & Steve (B) & their minions.

    By the 4th time, the only options you offer should be Linux or real money. By real money I mean your going rate as a self employed professional computer consultant -- in my case $85/hr. starting when I leave my house, but not including the trip home.

    I would think this through & write it up in advance. Then give a copy of it to each person you help under your old friendship policy. Maybe make them sign a copy for you. If you don't put your foot down, they will continue to take advantage of you.

    The fact is, you are letting them abuse you, just as they are letting M$ abuse them. (I think that we should refer to them not as "users", but rather "usees" or "abusees").

    The only "Winders" box I maintain free is the W2k one that belongs to the woman I live with. I told her that when support for 2k runs out, it's Linux time. I'm looking for a way to start that transition now.
    Posted 09-13-2009 at 05:57 AM by archtoad6 archtoad6 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    You need to use archtoad6's comments in his last paragraph with extreme caution. I have been in this battle for a year now with my wife over XP. I still have not converted her. Until something breaks or a bad virus comes along her computer will have winders if I want to live in peace.
    Posted 09-14-2009 at 06:11 AM by Larry Webb Larry Webb is offline
  3. Old Comment
    My wife has been converted to Linux (ok, her computer has. But you can wish... ) a long time ago, and she's not looking back. No danger there.

    Getting paid is nice (I occasionally do!) but I prefer solving problems, not patching holes, even if patching gets paid.

    Posted 09-14-2009 at 06:20 AM by bitpicker bitpicker is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Originally Posted by Larry Webb View Comment
    You need to use archtoad6's comments in his last paragraph with extreme caution. ... if I want to live in peace.
    You're right, I didn't mention -- I was trying not to go too far OT -- that she & I have had this discussion & she has "agreed" to try Linux. We'll see if she remembers this agreement when it's time to start the conversion.

    One thing I (or anyone else in this circumstance) have going for me (him/her) is "Winders" itself:
    • Hardware -- KDE will run on the same h/w that 2k or XP will, while Vista or 7 almost certainly will require an expensive upgrade. Not only to the box, but maybe also to the printer(s) & other peripherals as well.
    • GUI -- If KDE is easier to learn than Vista, then the "sale" may be easy.
    Posted 09-14-2009 at 07:23 AM by archtoad6 archtoad6 is offline
    Updated 09-16-2009 at 06:22 AM by archtoad6
  5. Old Comment
    One solution I've seen in the past is that if someone insists they 'need' Windows so you get roped into re-installing, insist on installing a dual boot setup on the understanding they use it if(when) Windoze dies on them again. They may then become curious enough to give it a go, or be forced to in order to continue working when Winblows lets them down...
    Posted 09-15-2009 at 06:51 AM by rich_c rich_c is offline


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