Reader and subscriber Choppy Cusachs, also a member of our local computer club in Baton Rouge, wrote me with some thoughts on Windows 98 Second Edition and Microsoft’s end of support (July 11, 2006).
I’ve been concerned, as I said in a post on the Clickers
Conference, by the impending end of Microsoft support
It is not that I expected Microsoft to fix
the major problems, like not taking into account the
amount of memory on a system for assigning resources,
or doing better garbage collection, as the computing
bible calls it. I can reboot every couple of days with no
net loss of time. I can even boot to SafeMode to be
able to defrag.
It is that other vendors are following suit.
Zone Labs says the next round of Zone Alarm Security
Suite won’t run under 98SE.
I’ve had quite a bit of grief with my wife’s laptop, which
runs WinXP, so I am looking elsewhere. Yesterday
I got a printer that will work with Linux, so that I can
dual boot for a time and do mail and surfing in Linux.
Got a surprise in Romania. Took along the card reader
for my Olympus cameras, with intent to download the
pictures we took to computer and back up to a little
jump drive, just to be safe.
XP didn’t recognize the
reader, so had to go to the Olympus web site and
download a driver. Thought the big difference between
XP and 98SE was that only the latter needed a driver
for every attached device.
Would appreciate your reflections in the letter when
you get time and a bit of free space.
First, let’s talk about the other vendors dropping support for Win98SE (and Win98 and WinMe).
As I see it, this really isn’t a game where the other vendors can carry on without Microsoft. Some issues really have to be fixed in the operating system, if they’re going to get fixed.
I don’t think any of the large vendors, the ones who are announcing that they are dropping Win98/98SE/Me support, really want to take on the task of meddling in the Operating System.
On a more mundane point, economics, the numbers of machines still running Windows 98/98SE/Me are dwindling. They frequently don’t have the horsepower to run the suite of protection products needed in today’s Windows world: anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware/anti-adware and anti-spam programs.
Yet, these are the same machines that are the most vulnerable.
Back to economics, the users of these machines are stretching them as long as they can last. Some may spend money to replace hardware and update anti-virus programs annually, but many are trying to minimize what they spend on their machines.
The other issue for the software companies is that making their products work on earlier versions of Windows is not free, and neither is the support for customers on those machines. Windows XP has a new way of doing things — many programmers can avoid re-inventing the wheel by using Microsoft’s .Net Framework to provide a lot of pre-written code. All the programmer has to do is to worry about his program’s unique functions.
If you haven’t noticed, the Windows 98/98SE/Me End of Support is being followed closely (in September) with the End of Support for Windows XP Service Pack 1. There are so many security improvements in XP SP2 that are not being ported back to earlier versions.
With the reduction of market for the software companies, they have little incentive to keep providing updated versions for the older computers. Microsoft’s "End of Support" becomes the visible excuse to cut the ties to these older machines, but there are a lot of reasons why the ties are being cut.
I think you’ve got the right idea with looking at Linux. With a free resource like Linux, someone who’s willing to learn can convert their older hardware to a free operating system and get a few more years.
On your last comment about “the big difference” being USB drivers, I’d have to say that this was just one of the more visible differences. I found XP to be faster and much more stable on the couple machines that I upgraded from Windows 98SE to Windows XP.
On the other hand, Windows XP demands more memory than earlier systems. Early Windows XP computers, at least the cheap ones, were often sold with 128MB of memory. At that level, technically, XP would run; however, it spent much of its time passing data to “virtual memory” — back and forth from real memory to the fake memory on the hard drive.