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Windows Replaced

Last week, my wife called me to tell me that we had been infected by a virus and that she couldn't get online without her browser being forwarded to inappropriate sites. Further, there were new icons on the desktop, nasty messages popping up all over the workspace, and a saturated network. Sounds like more than just a virus. We were hit, and hit bad. Immediately, I told her to shut down the computer, and remove the network cable. I would address it when I got home from my trip.

When I got home from Pittsburgh, it was worse than I thought. We were not only infected by one virus, but many, trojans and worms included. Complicate that with malware, spyware, adware and dialers, and you can imagine my pain trying to clean up the operating system. Whoever attacked us, got us good, however, just on the Windows XP machine. My Linux machines remained completely, and totally unaffected. Fortunately, for us, not much is on that computer of personal worth, and my wife responded quicker than I thought, pulling the network cable as soon as she noticed the attack. If the attacker got anything at all, it wasn't much, and certainly of no value or cause of concern.

After spending several hours Friday night and early Saturday morning, I made no progress in removing the infection from the operating system. At this point, I told my wife that it was probably time to say goodbye to Windows, relying on our digital lifestyle with Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X. The decision has nothing to do with Freedom of software, but rather, everything to do with security and peace of mind. See agreed, and Sunday afternoon, the Windows partition was wiped clean (after backing up necessary data of course) replaced with Ubuntu 8.04.1.

For me, this is a big win, being an advocate of security and Free Software. However, I believe I sense some reluctance and fear from my wife. I'm not sure if she's going to enjoy this, as she has developed a strong relationship with Microsoft Office, in particular, Word and Powerpoint. I am confident though, that through, she will find new life in a competing office software suite, and find Ubuntu Linux not as scary as she thinks it may be.

So finally, after 5 years of being Microsoft-free personally, my family has now made that switch as well. Good Fortune is headed our way.

{ 16 } Comments

  1. Doran Barton | July 15, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Congrats Aaron! I still use Winbloze to do video editing, but everyone else in the family uses Linux and it's been that way for a few years. There were some moans and groans when I declared those computers Windows-free, but nobody really misses it now.

  2. Mark | July 16, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    You have an interesting opportunity to watch what difficulties your wife has, and document those.

    I hope there will be further updates.

  3. Stoffe | July 16, 2008 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Good luck! It seems that many of even the most enthusiastic to switch to OO.o does not make it, though. Once used the the MS offering, it seems that there just is too many things that even the new 3.0 does not have. As usual, a small % uses a small % of features, but everyone's got *something* they use.

    I'm watching that as we speak on my dayjob, where the creative director finally gave up last week and installed MS Office again after using only OO.o since November. He likes OO.o, but well, Impress just is no Powerpoint - according to him. So he gave it the most serious try I've seen, but no dice. And frankly, mostly it seems to be about worse-or-different workflow, not actual features.

    That is not to say that you can't do everything needed in OO.o. Just that it is lots less polished, somewhat feature creepy (is it possible to say that? :)) and clunky - and no, it still isn't really viable to collaborate with MS users - the documents invariably gets messed up for even the simplest ones. For many people, especially for those doing presentations, the layout/looks *is* the content.

    So it's great for us who never really got into MS Office. But hard to switch to. At least now there seems to be a really honest effort to correct these things, so you can help by documenting any problems that occur. 🙂

    Good luck!

  4. Flávio Pontes | July 16, 2008 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I've done the same thing when my wife boght her notebook a couple of years ago. We were short on money, as always, and we decided to go for a pre-installed linux model to save. As soon as it arrived I formatted the HD and installed Ubuntu dapper on it.
    The first two weeks were bad for her but eventually she came to like ubuntu a lot. Now she is an advocate too!
    The same happened to my mother-in-law, who is completely computer illiterate, except for Word and Excel. She bought a computer that came with that crap Vista Starter Edition. It was so slow that I eventually convinced her to install Feisty. The only problem I had was an i865 IGP that I had to downgrade to the vesa driver. But the computer was so usable that she never decided to keep ubuntu in it. In fact she became fond of in due time.
    I really like OSX, but I'm fond of giving away my freedom. Besides, here in Brazil Macs are expensive...

    Hope I encouraged you.

    Good luck

  5. Aaron | July 16, 2008 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    @Doran Barton- Thank you sir! I am most excited to see the progress of Linux in our family, as I surely can administer the machines, versus the Windows counterparts.

    @Mark- I may or may not. I certainly don't want to make an example of my wife on my blog. I'm confident that there will be growing pains, but I'm sure we'll settle into our new seats soon.

    @Stoffe- I disagree. Those who rely on Microsoft Office for everything related to their document needs, need to realize that there are better and free alternatives that will satisfy them just fine. may not be *everything* Microsoft Office is, but I have yet to see anyone use everything in Microsoft Office. Further, the freedoms posed by will show themselves as people begin their work, and see it's superior nature.

    @Flavio Pontes- Thank you sir. I've had no problems personally with using nothing but Linux for all of my personal machines. I realize that some people need to make sacrifices, and there are growing pains with making the switch, but as with anything new, this is expected. It's a great operating system, both for the desktop, and the server.

  6. Alan | July 16, 2008 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I'm just passing through, having noticed your blog when going through my Planet Ubuntu RSS feed. Regarding OOo, our experience is not as some people are describing here. Our company has used OOo exclusively since it was founded in 2003, before that we were all MSOffice users in a large corporation. It was initially driven by cost (start-ups don't have any money) but now we wouldn't use anything else. OOo is stable, continuously improving, feature rich and highly usable. it also runs on both XP and Linux, enabling us to maintain a mixed OS environment. We maintain an environment largely free of MS applications and exchange documents with the outside world through pdf (our policy is that documents should not be circulated outside the company in an editable form). On the few occasions where we have collaborated on MS Office documents with external parties (ie: NDAs, joint proposals), we have found that OOo performs admirably.

  7. Jonas | July 16, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Well, if for some reason is not good enough (and I mean feature-wise, not because she's used to MS-Office and the way it works) wine could be an option. Could be meaning-it depends on the features she may need. Word and Excel works fine though, which are the only ones I occassionally need.

    Of course, not completely MS-free that way but better with just the Office suite than the OS + Office suite. At least as far as the security goes.

  8. Gerald Beuchelt | July 16, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Aaron -

    Interesting read. I was in a similar situation with unreliable networking on Windows due to old drivers, bad performance, and general security pains. Finally, I setup a SunRay with Ubuntu behind it and pretty much all woes went away overnight. I can manage the system and the family uses the terminal without any significant issues.

    Our biggest issues were actually not Microsoft Office, but IE. But after a while (and a few themes and add-ons later) the experience is now acceptable to them.

  9. Roland | July 16, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    If she has problems, why not set the box up for dual-boot?

  10. Wade Menard | July 16, 2008 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Since free software is not an issue for that computer, Microsoft Office works really well under Wine 1.1.x these days, as has been mentioned.

  11. stevoo | July 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    So you should do a shrine to whoever hit you, or do what sited your wife was looking 0_o at while you were away.

    Anyway that is win win for you i can say.
    MS free, know it is up to her to learn a few thinks, but i dont believe it will be too hard !

  12. "the wife" | July 20, 2008 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    OK- so i downloaded a ferocious virus and pretty much destroyed my precious Windows.... but, hey, I have very valid reasons for using Microsoft- As a school teacher, I have spent HOURS creating many powerpoints w/it and they don't play back the same with OOo. I have taught technology workshops centered around how to use word and excel in integrating curriculum. I love MS because I know it like the back of my hand. It's hard to give up what you know! However, I LOVE the gimp. That is fun software to play with. Since the Windows machine went down in our home, I have used OOo and it's not TOO bad. it will take time to get used to, it runs a lot better on an ubuntu machine than my mac- ...i have my gripes with aaron on features that are different but he is happy we are windows free and that makes me happy.

    (By the way dear Aaron- if openoffice doesn't work out for me, we are getting microsoft office for my mac for christmas)

  13. Aaron | July 20, 2008 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    sweets- You didn't have to admit to downloading a virus and destroying the computer. I was perfectly content with just mentioning that it happened without the "how". I think most who read this post was content as well.

    However, regarding the MS Office for Christmas. I will purchase that, if and only if, you give OOo a solid try between now and then. I really think you'll find a good product behind it, if you only give it a try. Which, by the way, OOo 3 is scheduled for September. I've already installed it on your Mac, and it looks great.

  14. Dopey Joe | August 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Funny, my wife has been using my Windows Vista install going on 1.5 years, and never had any of the issues your wife had. PBCM in your household seems rampant.

  15. Yonah | August 5, 2008 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I find it all to predictable you blame Microsoft. Your wife's machine got infected as a result of her own ignorance. Yes, some risk does come from running an OS that supports > 90% of the software market (good and bad), but it's ultimately her responsibility to learn not to open illicit email attachments or install unknown software she doesn't recognize.

    The best security is knowledge, period. Rather than teach her how to do things the right way, you just take a shortcut by giving her an oddball OS to use. That's the real shame here.

    I also call your own technical knowledge into serious question if you were not able to remove the infection from the machine. That demonstrates you do not have a keen understanding of how Windows works, nor do you understand how to control it's environment. Rather than educate yourself, again, you take the easy way and blame someone else.

  16. Aaron | August 5, 2008 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    @Dopey Joe- No, bad software on an insecure operating system seems rampant.

    @Yonah- You're absolutely 100% correct in the fact that I don't have a keen understanding of how Windows works. I have not used a Windows machine since 2004. And of course I blame Microsoft for building an insecure operating system. Viruses shouldn't exist, but they do, so, who do we blame? The fool, or the fool following the fool? Further, I took no easy way out. If you read the post, you will have learned that I spent *hours* trying to get the infected machine cleaned up. I have better things to do with my time, then work on a broken operating system. Further, had I succeeded, how would I know that the machine is 100% clean, after an intrusion of that nature? Sorry, but even the most staunch Windows admins will tell you to reinstall, of which I did, just a more secure operating system.

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