Software Updates.

Google announced today that they are discontinuing support for their web browser, Google Chrome, in April 2016 for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8. Current versions of the mentioned operating systems (Windows 7, 8, 10, Mac OS X 10.9, 10.10, etc.) will continue to receive updates to the popular web browser.

I’m surprised that people are still running these older operating systems, especially Windows XP and Windows Vista.  Windows XP has been around for 15 years and Windows Vista was, well Windows Vista, and Microsoft did their best to get people off of that software as quickly as possible because Windows Vista was basically a mess.

Many folks use Google Chrome as their primary browser. I used to, but Apple beefed up Safari in their latest version of OS X (El Capitan) to the point that I feel comfortable using Safari my primary browser now. I still do development work on Firefox, a popular free and open-source browser available on many operating systems, including the ones mentioned in the Google blog entry I referenced. If you’re dead set on staying on Windows XP, you can switch to Firefox and still do what you need to do.

But I wouldn’t really recommend it.

As a young geek I was always thrilled with the release of a new or updated operating system. I wanted to see the new graphics, the different approaches, the changes in paradigm. What new goodies would be lurking at every point and click as I moved around after a fresh update. Often times I would join into beta programs so I could help with the testing. I was even a pre-beta tester on Windows Vista (after that statement I always say, “I’m sorry”), but as I grow older and my expectations of how a computer should work become more solidified, I am cautious about upgrades today. I didn’t upgrade my work MacBook Pro to El Capitan until I was absolutely sure that everything would work. I take the same approach with my home computers and with Earl’s MacBook. I still upgrade, primarily for the security benefits and because it’s the most supported way to go, but I’m cautious about it. We have about six different ways to backup computers and mobile devices in this house. It’d be great if I could get all participants to participate.

While there are usually many bells and whistles associated with a software upgrade, there are also security upgrades that should be strongly considered. These security upgrades help keep the bad folks out of your hard drive. Yesterday I was disheartened to see that my medical records at the doctor’s office are still being maintained on computers running Windows XP. Windows XP is not really supported by Microsoft anymore, leaving these things open to new viruses and other types of nasty attacks. Ransomware is quite popular; your files are remotely encrypted by a nasty organizationthey send you a message that you have to contact a phone number some place and demand that you pay a ransom to decrypt your files. By the way, don’t ever respond to that sort of thing, just consider your files lost and go to your latest backup because you are backing up your files on a regular basis, correct? I’ve had relatives get caught with this sort of thing; they are now running Linux on their rebuilt laptops because Linux is much more impervious to that type of attack.

Part of the driving force of software upgrades is marketing. New software usually requires a faster computer and if you’re starting to fall behind the computer hardware curve, it may prompt you to get a new computer so you have the latest and the greatest. Earl’s MacBook Pro is about there, I don’t know how he chugs along on his six year old laptop with degraded trackpad quality. I don’t particularly like the idea of tossing a computer because the software has become outdated on it; we have a computer built in 1996 running the clock system wired through the house and it is working perfectly fine.

However, if you’re running Windows XP or Vista, you should really consider moving on to a better computing experience. At the very least you’ll still be able to securely run Google Chrome on your desktop.