“Grow a spine” and get off Windows XP: An epic “intervention”


blog If you’re like me, you’ve seen many seriously outdated pieces of technology still being used in organisations right around Australia.

Dot matrix printers, fax machines, “datacentres” that are actually just a few ex-Dell desktop PCs with Linux installed and shoved into the back of an office closet; and so on. As a race, humans are quite often happy to put up with old technology because it’s just too much damn effort to upgrade it to something that would work so much better.

In this vein, perhaps one of the most irritating pieces of legacy software that is still kicking around is Microsoft’s most famous operating system, Windows XP.

When first released back in August 2001, XP was a revelation to the world’s computer users. It was the first Microsoft operating system (sorry Windows 2000, you don’t count) to successfully marry the stability of the Windows NT kernel with the consumer user-friendliness of Microsoft’s Windows 98 operating system, itself a revelation in its time. Because of this, and because of a constant series of upgrades that increased XP’s functionality, the operating system is still widely being used today.

However, it’s safe to admit at this point that XP is a dog. Its multi-tasking is abysmal, it does not handle modern applications or hardware very well, and as for its security capabilities … well, you only need to look at Royal Melbourne Hospital’s recent experience with a troublesome virus to see how well XP keeps the attackers from its gates.

One IT professional who has really had enough of XP is Geordie Guy, who you may remember used to have a prominent role in Electronic Frontiers Australia. Guy has posted an extraordinary rant about XP on his Medium blog this week, calling for an “intervention” for those who still run Windows XP.

A few choice pars (we recommend you click here for the full glorious rant):

“By now you are squirming. You can’t leave XP because Urology Results 95 and the August 2003 build of the intercepted communications software and the 8000 cheap telesales agent workstations and iLaw 2004 all require it. The vendor told you so, in that meeting you rang your assistant from to get them to fax the purchase order, before you all went back to that place for kickoff drinks.”

“Your problems are not unique, or if they are, it’s because they’re bespoke creations that you hand-crafted yourself. You’ve completely lost sight of the priorities of businesses in executing on their objectives, and your day-to-day is defending your legacy product choices. You aren’t solving problems in the same model as your peers, you’re actually the centrepiece of a new problem model.”

“Grow up. Grow a spine. Go back to the problem-to-solution mapping that hundreds of years of human history, and your competitors, use to succeed.”

We commend this rant to anyone who is struggling with Windows XP support tasks. It’s probably not going to be helpful in convincing anyone to shift off Windows XP — you’ll likely need some complex business case analysis for that, or (in the consumer space) some flashy new apps or functionality to do that. But it may make you fell better :)


  1. Still using XP on a home machine? Switch over to Linux Mint. I did years ago & haven’t looked back.

      • It’s said to be friendlier for Windows users. I installed Ubuntu 14.04 for an almost completely computer illiterate friend about a year ago, & she took to it like a duck to water, so YMMV.

    • We also switched to Mint once XP support ceased & now still find it both faster & more responsive than even Windows 10 when set up as a dual-boot option on both our new desktops running SSDs.

  2. This is the result of cost-benefit analysis not mandating the CBA of maintaining status-quo – including risks of not maintaining current release software, of not updating hardware etc.

    Far too many IT groups in businesses during the 90s, 00s and even 10s have gotten away with preventing change due to cost without acknowledging the debt that grows by not maintaining up to date systems and processes.

    It’s a change that prevents CI and other more modern approaches to service delivery from taking off. It’s one that should die ASAP as it’s not efficient and is an example of bureaucracy in the workplace – whether government, listed, public or private.

  3. Around the time of XPs impeding EOL I changed the dialogue with clients about upgrades. I stopped trying to sell them on the advantages of newer technologies (like the complementary improvements in productivity moving to devices with SSDs and Windows 7, preferably with 8+gbs of RAM for vastly improved multitasking/multi-window), and instead focused on risk. IT isn’t just a more efficient way to run your office, because it is integral to the whole business it becomes the largest potential risk to the business as a going concern, and also to the Directors as personal liabilities if they knowingly make bad decisions and things go south. From viruses to hacks, data loss and data theft, disaster recovery and asset loss due to theft and accidents that themselves could expose the organisation, an unhappy IT event could spell the end of a business overnight. This is easier to sell to SMBs than medium and large enterprise, obviously, because they feel that exposure more directly, but the larger the business the greater, not smaller, the risk.

    It’s time that we, as an industry, focus on the risk of poorly designed, funded and supported systems. The result of not doing so is inevitable.

    • We do essentially the same thing at work, however we inform our customer that there is no support from Microsoft, and use that as the primary source of risk. that’s generally enough to get businesses planning an upgrade.

  4. “Grow a spine” and get off Copper: An epic “intervention ”Go back to the problem-to-solution mapping that hundreds of years of human history, and your competitors, use to succeed.” like Fibre

  5. OK Renai, you got it right… Sort of. Yes, NT did marry Win9x, and its child was indeed XP. But, yes, “…it’s safe to admit at this point that XP is a dog.”

    Never, in all history, has any Microsoft OS ever had a default security setting : “Treat LAN as hostile.” Let’s be clear: Win1 through 3 weren’t even sure what a LAN was, and had no idea about security. Win9x didn’t care and didn’t want to care. NT had some good thoughts, definitely knew what a LAN is, and W2K was arguably Microsoft’s most secure OS ever. But not even Vista treated the LAN as hostile.

    FWIW, and I’m making a rough guess that the origins of this OS-tan were much more knowledgeable than me, most people regard W2K as being the pinnacle of Microsoft get-it-done OS’s. Certainly it took a major effort to undo the damage and bring us W7 which is almost as good.

    So I certainly agree: if you have not done so, “Grow A Spine And Get Off Win_(Bad)_eXperience”.

  6. I’m in a business who’s production system still runs on NT4 and SQL Server 7, and some ancillary systems run on Win3.11, and a lot on XP and 2000. No matter how much I advise on the operational security risks and how the systems limit the speed of production, I have not been able to convince anyone to re-engineer the mess. I can’t even add new users because the DCs have upgraded to the point that Keberos doesn’t work. I’ve been able to virtualise it so it isn’t running on ancient hardware, but that is about it. Managers will ring almost on a daily basis and complain about something not working how they expect, and I will explain that we cannot change it because the ancient environment doesn’t support anything else, but they wont put forward the money or effort to get away from it. It is often difficult to have any conversation without eyes glazing over, but attempt to use language which is understood, and they won’t believe you.

    I’ve even had management say they don’t trust me because, essentially, I say things they don’t want to hear. The most recent example was when an outside engineering firm management hired to make changes to another system caused the DB server to become unresponsive, because their new code opened database connections once-a-minute but didn’t close them them. When I explained it to them that they needed to get the outside firm to fix their code, they chose not to believe me until levels of IT management above me sat them down in a closed meeting and told them I was correct.

    The only solution I can see is for me to find another job. Its got to that point. Bone-headed management need to start listening to their engineers, after-all you hire them for their expertise, and take accountability for decisions made in the past. But this is Australia, and the attitude too-often expressed is “she’ll be right mate” and “not my problem, brov”, right up until the business goes down the gurgler. If management were held to the same expectations of rigor as professional engineers (or doctors), it would be a different story.

    • Undisclosed, I feel your pain and yours is a very very common story. That’s why I started my own consulting firm years ago – I have as much say in the clients I choose to work for as they have in choosing me. I work with people who value and respect my expertise and advice, I love what I do and I’m paid very well for it. I can only recommend either working for an IT firm with a culture of support, encouragement and recognition of your skills, or start your own business – it can be hard work sometimes, but done right it is universally more rewarding.

  7. Microsoft have moved on, it’s now, “Grow a spine” and get off Win7: An epic “intervention ”. Windows 10 auto updates”…

    • Yah. There’s just One Small Problem… Win7 is the last M$ OS you can get the “Classic” desktop natively. You know, the one with retro squared corners, total control of the frame, paper and ink? That was killed stone dead in W8, and will never appear again in any M$ offering. FWIW, I’ve left the wife’s account on Aero, and there’s a couple of apps that are forced to use white ink… I have no way of changing this in Aero. In Classic it’s easy. And yes, I do use Classic Menu :)

      Auto updating? OK, big ongoing debate… The first thing I did with W2K and W7 was make abbsolutely sure I had SP4+Rollup1 then SP1. And I disabled all auto updates. It’s a bit of a pain now for fixing a 10-yo* IE11 security hole which is growing bigger by the hour, but I only use IE for one (count it: 1) site, my employer’s intranet, but that’s already so insecure… I’ve never had any dramas through Not Updating the OS, EVER.

      Eventually, my box and therefore W7 will die. That’s what happened to the W2K box. I think by that time ReactOS will be RFS, they’re aiming at W2K3 functionality but will probably have something that looks like W7-ish. This is not so big a disaster as it seems: I migrated all my legacy software to W7 with zero difficulties. I did discover that x16 apps won’t work on x64 :( but that was only one app, easily UPGRADED. I upgrade apps quite frequently!

      * It seems M$ has known about the bug since IE8/9, but only recently decided to tell us and offer a fix :[

  8. You have no idea how personally I feel the pain here. I worked with an ASX 200 company still rocking XP on the desktop and IE 8 and they were wanting a modern web experience……suffice to say there was a shit tonne of polyfil

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