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Guest column: 'Apocalypse' for XP computers overblown

By Travers Jordan

       There have been numerous stories regarding the "XP apocalypse" lately, with one Gazette story even comparing it to a "Mayan style cataclysm." Well, considering that the 2012 Mayan armageddon decidedly didn't happen, perhaps it is a fair comparison.
       So what's really going to happen to XP computers on April 8? The answer for most people is: not much. Strictly speaking, exactly one thing will happen: Automatic Updates will cease to function. What does that mean for your computer? And what do automatic updates do, exactly?
       To sum up, updates patch holes in the operating system that hackers can exploit, and fix bugs that can cause glitches and crashes. At this point, XP has been updated a lot . Are there more holes to find? Quite possibly, but they haven't been identified yet. Another factor that most articles fail to mention is the likelihood of actually being targeted by a hacker.
       Unless you're part of a large business with a clear Internet presence, the odds of actually being hit by a hacker are extraordinarily small. It's difficult for people to even know to look for you, let alone have a reason to try to get into the system. Most viruses and other malware sneak into computers via different means. Primarily rogue e-mails and infected advertising slots (don't worry... the Pioneer's ads are safe!).
       So what should you do about the XP thing? That depends on your own situation. If your computer is rather old to begin with (and hasn't been upgraded at all), your hardware may be aging and in need of replacement or upgrade. But newer XP systems likely need little done at all. The real impetus to upgrade to a newer system will likely come when other software developers (not Microsoft) stop supporting XP. Since the system still has a 30 percent market share, we should have a few years left.
       (One note: If you're running Microsoft Security Essentials, definition updates for it will be ceasing at an as-yet-undetermined time. So you may wish to switch to another, free anti-virus program. My opinions regarding the effectiveness of these programs would take another column, but I will squeeze in the recommendation to not buy Norton or McAfee. Ever.)
       So, fellow XP users... enjoy your old-but-awesome operating system as long as you like. I know I will.

Travers Jordan owns and runs Techno Guy Computers. He has provided technical support for the Westside Pioneer since 2004.

(Posted 4/3/14; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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