Yesterday I pulled through my collection of IBM ThinkPads to see which ones worked and which ones needed an update to start working again.
I found my old ThinkPad T40p with its massive — at that time — 40gig HDD that I used two years ago and ran into the ground with heavy usage. 


My new ThinkPad T43p
has a 100gig HDD. It’s amazing how things change.
It’s also amazing how things stay the same. My T40p booted up just fine
after being dormant for about a year and I was able to get it connected
to the internet.

After updating the BIOS, disk controller, Wi-Fi
drivers, video driver and a slew of other features from the IBM (now
Lenovo) website, the T40p was slowly getting back into fighting shape.
Then I visited Windows Update on the Microsoft website to update my
core Windows XP Pro files.
After verifying my Windows authenticity and then installing ActiveX
controls to get Windows Update working again, I was met with a list of 41 High Priority Updates
for my machine!

41 High Priority Updates are a lot of necessary updates for what was
supposed to be a rugged and impenetrable Operating System when it was
first released!
It took over three hours of downloading and re-booting and updating to
get the T40p back into a current — and allegedly more secure —
Windows XP working state. You forget how difficult it has been to
securely run Windows XP when you do High Priority Updates over the
months as necessary, but when they are all there in a list at once and
spanning 41 updates, you begin to question why you ever stayed with
Windows as your Operating System of choice in the first place.

30 Comments

  1. I had do do the same thing the other day. My laptop crashed and I had to reinstall everything and it took most the day to get Windows updated. What a bunch of junk.

  2. That’s why a lot of businesses are concerned with installing Windows and upgrading — the threat to insecurity is massive unless you’re always patching what you have.
    Let’s hope Windows Vista works better out of the box.

  3. I’ve had to reinstall Windows operating systems several times in my machines since way back when I used Windows 3.0 & floppy disks, always has been and always will be a pain.
    Our machines at home always seems to be automatically updating themselves, OS, firewalls, virus checkers, spyware detectors.
    Here at work we have over 500 machines and it seems none appear the same, IT are always over to install the latest service pack and updates. I think we have some Windows 2000 operating systems running here and there still and I found a laptop running Win 95!.
    I tend to use Firefox at home as we do at work, but I have IE7 too but never overly impressed with IE. Sites always tend to look different.
    Mik

  4. Mik!
    I agree getting all the various flavors of Windows updated and secure is a nightmare.
    I was doing a research job at a major medical university some time ago and the machine I was using was running Windows 95 and I wrote a book about Windows 95 —
    http://bolesbooks.com/win95.html
    — so I know all its ins and outs and security deficiencies over the years and the machine was completely out of date and there was no way to download any security fixes.
    Then I checked the other machines in the building and they were all out-of-date with varying flavors of Windows – none of them XP – and access to Windows Update was not allowed by the network.
    So here you have all these insecure computers running Windows and they’re all in various states of critical vulnerability with no one interested or capable of keeping them updated.
    K2 is designed for Firefox and Michael Heilemann, its core designer, openly says he does not care about IE and nor does he want to support IE any substantial way. Now that’s a big problem for those who wish to use K2 on their blogs because ordinary, non-tech, blogs like this one routinely have IE visitors outweighing all the other browsers combined – Netscape, Firefox, Opera, etc. – by over 70%.
    I’m glad there are some in the K2 development pipeline who are working toward IE compatibility as well. That is vitally important.

  5. That’s why I don’t upgrade alot of times and even have autoupdate turned off. They may say its a flaw, I say if you don’t have a firewall/antivirus on your system, that is your flaw. I’ve been running XP for a few years and have yet been nabbed by anyone. So whats the conclusion in all this? Keep up with programs you know work and let M$ blow in the wind 🙂 That’s my philosophy and it hasn’t failed me yet.
    I did have an IMB laptop that had win3.1 on it that I upgraded to win98 a while back. Poor suckers so old it cant handle anything else. I gave it to a friends son so he could mangle it to death learning.

  6. That’s an excellent philosophy, hterry. The AutoUpdate feature of Windows is a little strange as your slave silently checks in with the Evil Empire without telling you!
    😀
    As long as you’re vigilant with what comes and go into your cyber life you should stay healthy and secure for a long while.

  7. If you want to use Vista, you are going to need all the horsepower you can muster. All indications suggest it is going to be more of a resource hog than XP. Hardware firewalls are much more effective than software ones and dont eat up system resources. Even if you have one computer, its worth getting a cheap router to connect to your DSL/Cable modem. Most routers have extensive port blocking configured out of the box. Also, most Adware/spyware can be avoided by excercising caution in dowloading software. Much the same can be said for viruses. Using a web-basd email client helps to avoid viruses transmitted via email. Again, caution must be excercised in downloading attachements. I personally find having to wait for an antivirus program to scan a flash drive or downloaded program every time to be extremely annoying. The scans are so resource intensive that on many computers you just have to sit there until the scan is done. With a properly configured firewall and excersing internet street-smarts, I also encourage people to save their money rather than shelling out for the latest Norton/Symantec product that will consume system resources and may open up additional security holes itself. A recent article is PC Magazine found that many security programs are themselves insecure.

  8. Excellent advice, Jonathan.
    Setting up a home Wi-Fi system is a fine way to protect all your computers because, as you so rightly suggest, a modem/router is an good source of protection from the nastiness living just beyond your reach.
    Vista will be interesting. I hear it should run “okay” on my new T43p — but most laptop users will have to buy a new computer to take advantage of all of Vista’s advantages — and that’s precisely why all the hardware makers have been hankering for a new OS from MSFT!

  9. Should I laugh?
    IE is a massive security risk, there simply isn’t enough space to complain about all the problems, even with IE7. It took Tom Farris all of 15min to find a serious venerability in the browser, needless to say I’m not at all surprised, though I’m suitably impressed that it took someone 15mins to find a problem. You can read more about his findings here.
    http://www.security-protocols.com/advisory/sp-x23-advisory.txt
    Norton is another joke. A year ago I ran a test on a friends computer, Mr. I’m-a-qualified-technition ran his over priced Nortons and standard firewall while I ran a free versions of AVG and Tiny Personal Firewall. We stopped surfing after 30min and did scans, he already had a virus and I didn’t. We then ran some online checks, and while my computer was fully stealthed, his wasn’t. I then, with his permission, accessed his computer online and proceeded to infect it. At no stage was there any warnings on his computer that I was there, or about the virus. When he tried to scan for the virus it wasn’t picked up AT ALL.
    Four my first year in eCommerce we did a test on how fast it took someone to attack an unprotected computer, it was only a few minutes. We then did a check on a standard windows xp system, and it wasn’t much faster. Of course, we also froze a computer and then tried to see how far we could overclock it, but thats another story.
    So, with the above said, spending money on programs doesn’t mean jack. You can find a LOT of really great free programs online that can do a better job than a lot of paid programs. My advice to anyone is to pick up a pc magazine next time you’re buying groceries. They have a disk with them that usual has a whole range of great free software.
    Now for the typical krome chat about being paranoid.
    DATA IS UNSTABLE!
    People need to stop acting like their pitiful little programs are going to save them. Stop with the visiting of dodgy sites, stop stealing MP3s through a dodgy peer to peer network (and most of them are dodgy, especially Kazaa), and by god stop using standard windows programs. And by god all mighty BACK UP FREQUENTLY! Back up your system on a regular basis, make several copies, and DO NOT store them all in the same place.
    Do I sound paranoid? Of course I do, and I am. I had my whole web design portfolio destroyed by my ex, that was five years of work, gone. I had made regular back ups, but I had all my back ups in one place. He wiped my computer, and then smashed all my back up disks. No, not everyone has a crazy ex like mine, but I never saw it coming, and I’m sure theirs weird stuff that can happen to anyone.

  10. Hi krome!
    Excellent advice. IE is a big target for the unscrupulous among us and I agree it should only be used as a test browser for website design and never as a main tool for seeing the web.
    Thanks for the heads up on that security protocol! That’s more than a bit scary.
    Do you recommend Firewall and AV protection even if you’re behind a router?
    I agree with your paranoia. Having a single copy of something is a dangerous non-method of backing up your data. I used Connected Backup from Iron Mountain to manage my vitals:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/06/19/connected-128-bit-aes-backup-review/
    Sorry to hear about your disks being destroyed! Not a nice thing a’tall!

  11. Before I go on, please DO NOT overclock your computer. Overclocking is fun, but isn’t a game to be played by the faint hearted, or the financially impaired. It can destroy your data, cause unrepairable damage to your hardware, and be damn expensive in purchasing and installing strange modifications. The weirdest of which, that I’ve seen, is a water cooling system.
    This is a very good question as I’ve found a lot of people who think that because they have a local router they don’t need any protection on their computer. The simple answer is that you should always have protection on your local terminal. But, and there always is one, there are exceptions to this.
    Depending on the situation when a router is run in conjunction with a proxy, and is properly maintained, it can end up being pointless bothering to have a firewall. You should, however, still have an anti-virus. The reason for this is that anything that can get through the hardware firewall in the router and the proxy firewall, is probably going to have no problems laughing it’s way through a local firewall. On the other hand, not all viruses are from external sources, and thus an anti-virus should be installed.
    The exception to this, is a technical one. In some cases, and this isn’t a home use situation, people use “dummy terminals”. So there will be no firewall or anti-virus on the local terminal because everything will be on the server that said dummy terminal is hooked into. Actually, there’s nothing on the dummy terminal what so ever (no HDD does that to you).
    It’s my understanding that a lot of broadband modems are sold as routers. If this is the case do not trust it to protect your computer as they were never originally intended for this use. Think of it more as an added protection, and continue to use a firewall and anti-virus on your local terminal.
    The following are links to free software that can be of use to any Windoze user. I don’t personally use Zone Alarm, but it comes highly recommended by many reputable PC magazines. AVG is considered the best free anti-virus by the same magazines, and is even considered better than many expensive programs.
    Zone Alarm
    http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/home.jsp
    AVG
    http://www.majorgeeks.com/download886.html
    The following have been added because they’re really good for helping any Windoze user keep their PC in good health. The last of these programs is used to free up RAM while using your computer. This is very useful as Windoze doesn’t free up RAM very well. Basically, this can help your computer by freeing up memory for it to use again that would normally end up sitting dormant because Windoze forgets to free it up.
    Ad-Aware
    http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
    Empty Temp Folders
    http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
    RegCleaner
    http://www.worldstart.com/weekly-download/archives/reg-cleaner4.3.htm
    FreeRam XP Pro
    http://www.yourwaresolutions.com/
    Good god this is long … :-/

  12. I knew it would get stuck in moderation, we should all smile that we’re safe from spam here .. hehe
    I forgot to mention that SpyBot Search and Destroy is an alternative to Ad-Aware, and there’s debate as to which one’s better, some people love one and some love the other. While was a bit weird because that’s what I use on the windoze side of my system.
    I’d also like to mention that if you want up to date tech info you’re better off to take a relaxed jog around the blogsphere than purchase a magazine, I’ve found that magazines can be up to four months out of date on their information. The only reason I suggest purchasing one is for the disk of free stuff, and they do have some useful information on local issues which may not be covered in a blog.

  13. Great info Krome, gonna check out those links. We have routers, firewalls and virus checkers plus adaware and spybot.
    I always smile at the advice, “Watch out for email with attachments from people you don’t know.”
    So when the worm runs through your friends address book and sends itself to you, you’re going to open the attachment and infect your PC because you know the sender!”
    Mik

  14. Great info Krome, gonna check out those links. We have routers, firewalls and virus checkers plus adaware and spybot.
    I always smile at the advice, “Watch out for email with attachments from people you don’t know.”
    So when the worm runs through your friends address book and sends itself to you, you’re going to open the attachment and infect your PC because you know the sender!”
    Mik

  15. krome —
    Yeah, some of Chris’ longer, multi-hotlinked comments also get auto-moderated but those kinds of comments are always the most informative because they’re packed with keen outside information that enhances the thoughts being expressed.
    I use ZA Pro and AVG — the paid version — as my main sticks of defense.
    Paper magazines do have a lengthy lead time. The free disks do that their age worthwhile.

  16. krome —
    Yeah, some of Chris’ longer, multi-hotlinked comments also get auto-moderated but those kinds of comments are always the most informative because they’re packed with keen outside information that enhances the thoughts being expressed.
    I use ZA Pro and AVG — the paid version — as my main sticks of defense.
    Paper magazines do have a lengthy lead time. The free disks do that their age worthwhile.

  17. Mik —
    You make a good point about your friends’ infections hitting you and infecting your good machine. My Spam processing service allows me to Whitelist email addresses but they also scan every message even if the addressed in Whitelisted for viruses before allowing it on to me. That’s a handy defense to have on hand.

  18. Mik –
    I completely agree with you, and it always cracks me up. The more common way to get a virus now days is via a peer to peer network (Kazaa is riddled with them), and through playing online games. Please note that your LONG list of friends and co-workers emails can be considered a peer to peer network.
    A lot of viruses depend entirely on you having an email client on your computer to manage to continue infecting computers. It takes advantage of a hole in OutLook, and express is even worse. Thats why it’s a good idea NOT to have an email client, but significantly important that the one you choose is more secure.
    It’s one thing to deal with firewalls and anti-viruses, but rather pointless if someone uses things which poke holes in the security you’re trying to create. As an example, I text my templates in IE, and I have a hell of a time doing it because every time I open IE I receive massive warnings from my firewall about security issues.
    Dave –
    The upside to the disks is no download time for programs. Which probably isn’t so much an issue for Americans who have much better access to stable broadband connections. The other thing is a lot of the time they can have purchaseware for free on them, the full version.
    I could be here an eternity giving out different warnings. There’s so many things that people need to be aware of when it comes to the security of their HOME PC, and yet they think it only applies to big companies. Things such as key loggers, which can be used to steal all your bank account and credit card details.
    Last year my information systems tutor told us an interesting story of a guy who had the police show up at his front door and arrest him for kiddy porn. The poor gentleman had never been to a kiddy porn site in his life. What had happened? His computer had been being used remotely to store and share said kiddy porn without his knowledge. Is this possible? YES!
    My tutor went to then say that this person was actually a friend of his, and he ended up helping to prove that he had no knowledge what so ever of his computer being used for this. The point to the story was that the net was like the matrix, if you’re not one of us (protected) then your one of them (a dummy terminal to the nasty people).
    I find it amusing that you need to get a drivers license to get behind the wheel of a vehicle that can kill people, but anyone can walk into a shop and buy a PC, which can be used to steal or destroy someones entire life

  19. Love the advice, krome!
    How are key loggers installed? Are they sent as email messages that people open and run or what?
    If you’re running a good AV and a good firewall can you still get porn stored on your computer and a key logger installed even if you don’t ever allow anything in or execute any files? If so, how is that done and how does one prevent it from happening?

  20. Nothing is ever 100% safe. But the chances of someone doing anything nasty to you if you have a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs is limited. But people need to remember to update them on a regular basis, and by regular I mean at least once a week. Now days it’s those three things that are needed as a common standard, not simply a firewall and an anti-virus.
    here is an interesting article about $420mil and keyloggers.
    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_zdpcm/is_200503/ai_n13453129
    As a note, this shouldn’t deter people from shopping online. I have been shopping online for almost six years and NEVER had a problem. I have friends and family who shop online, again, never with a problem. As Johnathan said, with “internet street-smarts”. Check that the site is secure (like lock and all), clean your computer regularly, and don’t burn a hole in your credit card!
    This is one of the down sides of all the “dangers” with regards the net, people can become so focused on the security issues that they miss out on enjoying what the web has to offer. Not to sound like too much of a girl, but shopping is defiantly much better online at 3am with a coffee and smoke in hand.
    I always manage to find things a lot cheaper online that I could purchase them at a local store. As an example, when I was purchasing baby stuff I spent a little under $1,000NZD on items that would have cost me more than twice that if I’d purchase it locally (actually it was over $3.8k when I priced it all up).
    My favourite online score would have to be a box of 80 spiritual books I scored for $80, a lot of the books were worth $40 each, and many of them are first edition prints.

  21. Thanks for the update, krome!
    I found an old license key that was still good for the Zone Alarm Security Suite — it incorporates firewall, AV, Spyware and everything else under the sun in one, compact, package. Now I feel safer than ever!
    😀
    I’m with you about buying online. I do it all day every day and I’ve never had a problem. I buy from Amazon.com all the time.
    My credit card company did call me with a Fraud Alert. Fastmail.fm renewed my account and I guess their international credit card processor set off alarm bells with my card company and I appreciated my bank’s effort to contact me to verify the legit charge.

  22. I don’t actually have my own credit card, so all my purchases are either done through an internet fund transfer from my bank to theirs, or with pay pal. My partner, however, does have a credit card so he was kind enough to purchase my game subscription to Neopets for me.
    I actually hate shopping, because I don’t deal with crowds very well. It can cause me to have an anxiety attack and start freaking out, sometimes becoming violent or running out of shops. Online shopping has been a saver for me because I don’t need to worry about all those things.
    Something else that REALLY should be mentioned about online shopping is that you can do research. If you see an item you like you can do a quick Google search to find out more about it, read reviews, and even check prices. This has actually cause a problem for some shops because it means that an net shopper is a far more intelligent and informed consumer, which leads to having higher expectations of shops. This becomes a problem because you become use to being able to get answers, and in a lot of cases shop assistants can’t answer those questions.

  23. I’m right there with you all the way on the benefits of internet shopping, krome! It’s faster and much more efficient. I also use Google to find coupons when you checkout and you’re asking to enter a coupon code for an added discount.
    :mrgreen: