Microsoft Security Patch For Windows XP

Just in Case You Still Have Windows XP! Here’s help.

Ethics and Spirituality

If you’re still using XP, get this Microsoft security patch to help protect against ransomware attacks. Also consider trying Linux. Plus more tips for Windows XP users.

There are many reasons why some people still use Windows XP, the best being that they can’t afford to upgrade their hardware and software to Windows 7. Or maybe they have tons of stuff on their Windows XP machine, and everything “just works.” They don’t want to go through the hassle of moving to another platform. (There is no simple upgrade from XP to Windows 7. It’s really more of a migration which also involves a learning curve.)

If you can’t or won’t give up your old Windows XP, you need to be EXTREMELY CAREFUL about using it on the Internet, since Microsoft no longer supports XP with security patches. EXCEPT…

The recent outbreak of ransomware attacks has caused Microsoft to issue a…

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Another Reason to Drop Windows

FedEx was among many companies disastrously affected by last week’s global ransomware attack. It was completely stupid and unnecessary. The shutdown (a desperate attempt to halt the spread of the attack) caused big dispatch problems for drivers and tracking issues for customers. I did all my documentation on paper yesterday and the package scanner was useless.

A multi-billion dollar company still using WindowsXP (unsupported, even with security updates for most people, although some corporate customers have been able to extend support – for a big fat fee) and that doesn’t even have backups in place?!? There’s no excuse for that. Yesterday’s chaos was completely unnecessary.

Y’know I’m a Linux fanboy and would love to “convert” my company to Linux, but that’s obviously not going to happen. If FedEx is stupid enough to use a long-unsupported legacy Windows OS and not even back their stuff up, they’re sure as heck not gonna be smart enough to take the necessary steps to avoid another hack by switching to Linux or BSD. Maybe they’ll be smart enough to have backups in place, but my experience with the company has demonstrated some particularly foolhardy nonsense at the corporate level.

But the rest of us can learn a lesson from this! Most readers of this blog are just casual, “ordinary” desktop and laptop computer users (students, home users). WindowsXP was the best Windows OS ever! It’s only gotten worse since then, and that’s why a lot of people are still using it. The later versions of Windows got bloated and resource-hungry and kept interrupting users with notifications, updates (always in the middle of writing a term paper or something), and other stuff that demands the users’ immediate attention. A lot of the software that “comes with Windows” isn’t for the user at all, but for the OS! Just to keep it running and stable and reliable. That’s bloatware and hogs even more resources, slowing everything down.

If you’re one of those folks hanging onto WinXP because you have an old computer that still runs it fine, or the newer versions of Windows are confusing and even a little terrifying, take a lesson! Don’t be like FedEx. There are Linux distributions that even technophobes like me can use, that are fully updated and supported, free of bloatware (so it stays out of your way when writing that big ol’ term paper), and that cost nothing to get and install on your computer!

For newbies I really like Linux Lite. It’s made for novices just like Linux Mint and many other “newbie-friendly” Linux distributions, but it works very well on those older machines that ran WinXP so well! I could also recommend LXLE because it’s made for older hardware, but it is not designed for newcomers to Linux. Neither is AntiX (MX), or Salix, and neither are many of the other “lightweight” distros aimed at older computers. Linux Mint is great for novices, but it’s so heavy it doesn’t run well on those perfectly good but modest older computers.

Treat Your Moderate-to-Severe Technophobia With Linux Lite!

I’ve written before on both my own fear of technology, and about Linux Lite. Today I’ll combine both subjects. It all started with a flare-up of my moderate-to-severe technophobia that started last week, triggered by a discussion on Diaspora about systemd, the evil “one ring to rule them all” program manager used by most Linux distros these days. Just click on the systemd tag for a little more about it (but not much – I’m no expert).

But it’s big and intrusive and “does too much.” Some people complain that it’s an attempt to wrest control of Linux from it’s end-users to the developers, maybe more. The interest of so many “big evil corporations” in adopting it has the same familiar red-flag properties that have people running scared of Google and Facebook, using TOR and proxies online and that kinda stuff. Well I guess it just got to me, having gone on for so long.

I mean, it just depends on how you look at it, right? Or maybe…

I had already dumped Google, killed my gmail account, and quit facebook over fear of becoming a commodity for these companies to sell to advertisers and government agencies or whatever. Now, oh my Lord, systemd is threatening even the sacred refuge I fled to for privacy and safety and dignity! I’ve never experienced any issues – that I know of – with systemd as far as functionality. My Linux OS does what I want it to, does it well, and stays out of my way (unlike Microsoft’s OS). But still…

So…. I went and did something really stupid. Please don’t laugh (at least not where I’ll see you or hear you).

Instead of just switching back to Salix, PCLinuxOS, or any number of other systemd-free Linux distros that I have run before (because there’s no Gnome in any of the Slackware derivatives and PCLOS is too resource-hungry), I tried to rid Xubuntu of it’s horrific, demonic, intrusive systemd. I read on how to do it “safely” before I gathered my courage and ventured into the dark, fearful, mysterious netherworld of the command line interface (CLI). I didn’t do so recklessly or without a plan. I checked and double checked, referred to several official and unofficial sources, and proceeded with all deliberate caution.

I don’t care what the experts say. The only Ubuntu-based stuff that is free of systemd and that can function without it, is based on version 12.04 and older. None of those are supported anymore. I not only crippled my operating system, but apparently something I did in my efforts to exorcise the evil systemd demon from my machine seems to have physically damaged it somehow. Every technophobe’s worst case scenario! Push the wrong button and

Poor old Dell Dimension desktop. It served me so well for so many many years! Linux kept that old relic out of the landfill for decades! And then killed it, mercifully fast. No, I killed it, in a fit of technophobic panic over something that I really know too little about to be so worried about. Rest in peace, you trusty old friend. <sniffle>

But I didn’t spend a dime for my new one. An HP all-in-one with a huuuuge 500 GB hard disk drive! It was unresponsive after an upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10. My partner used it to play one of those Windows-based MMPORPGs (Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game) on Windows, and bought a new one to keep playing, and for Skype and other stuff she absolutely has to have for her job… All of which, by the way, will run in WINE on Linux. Now’s my chance to show her just how effective Linux can be as a drop-in replacement for that bloated, expensive OD from Redmond!

So:

I’ve loaded up Linux Lite again, because it has cool tools, Xfce desktop’s simplicity and beauty, and readiness for the tasks I want to demonstrate for my Windows-addicted partner. This new computer is many times more powerful than the noble old relic that preceded it, and I hope it will help me win over one of the most challenging Windows addicts I know.

Stay tuned!

More Mozilla Replacements

Last time I wrote, I was describing replacement software for Mozilla products. Not because I’m one of those rabid FOSS activists who runs only GNU, open-source, non-proprietary software (I really don’t know how anyone actually does anyway), but because of Mozilla’s politics.

I had replaced my once-beloved Seamonkey with Midori (Xfce’s own awesome lightweight web browser) and Geary (A Gnome project, unsupported for awhile and recently resurrected and updated). Both are wonderful!

Just out of curiosity because of some minor limitations with Geary and Midori, I wanted to try the GNU versions of Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird. They are IceCat (GNU’s version of Firefox) and Icedove (GNU – Thunderbird).

I installed them on my custom Xubuntu-core machine by adding the repository from Trisquel Linux (all GNU software) and using Synaptic to load ’em up.

IceCat refused to display anything with Java until I modified the settings, which I expected. Other than that it’s every bit like Firefox or Seamonkey’s browser, but a whole bunch quicker and more nimble. A good Mozilla replacement!

Icedove is awesome, and right out of the chute it has all the features I loved about Seamonkey’s mail reader and composer, including in-line links and images, Address Book, etc., which Geary lacks, as awesome as it is. Another good Mozilla replacement!

So if you think you can’t do without Mozilla’s great products, but don’t want Mozilla’s branding or to use their products showing, even unwittingly, some support for their political corruption, check out these sweet GNU alternatives.

Grrrr, GMX Mail

Stupid GMX Mail. I should have known, I guess. I don’t trust Google (and therefore I don’t trust Gmail), so I set up an account at a free e-mail provider called GMX. Free POP3/IMAP access, generous terms, all that. Very popular. Great Webmail interface but I like to use a 3rd party e-mail client (like Thunderbird, but I use Geary).

But the outgoing server (smtp) times out, fails, won’t connect, whatever. Constantly.

Welllll,

It turns out that GMX is apparently known to be a big ol’ spam factory, so a lot of ISPs block it. Who knew? Everybody but me, I guess.

Fine, GMX, be that way. I don’t need your stupid outgoing server anyway, and since it’s blocked by a lot of people, I’ll bypass that.

The trick is to use your own ISP’s email server for outgoing mail. You’re not stuck using your free e-mail provider’s smtp server, y’know.

Shared just because – a lot of us are un-Googlifying, especially since Google has started quietly censuring conservative sites and profiles lately. Natural News, for example, has been effectively “banned.”

I’m not recommending GMX by any means, only suggesting that if you’re using one of those free email services and an e-mail client like Outlook, Thunderbird, Eudora, etc., you can use your ISP’s outgoing server if the free one is as unreliable as GMX’s has turned out to be.

Giving away my MacBook Pro and going back to Linux

Ethics, Freedom, and Clarity.

thealarmclocksixam

I’ve used GNU/Linux as my main and only desktop OS since more than 10 years (as a University student first and now at work).

I’ve always been fine with Linux and I never felt like I was missing something (except Skype, maybe – or a better multiscreen support on KDE). I would from time to time change my desktop environment to refresh the user experience when the UI started to become boring on the eyes (cycling between Unity, KDE, elementary, GNOME) and that purely aesthetic freedom felt great.

But I kept seeing a growing number of colleagues around me using Apple laptops. Were/Are they all blindly following the flavor of the week? No, I don’t think so, they’re smart people. I concluded that there had to be something really better about these MacBooks.

So I ordered one as my new work machine…

…and my experience with it has been positive (yes…

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Update Garmin Nuvi Maps for Free!

No you don’t have to have either Windows or Mac in order to update your Garmin Nuvi GPS (or Magellan, TomTom, and a few others). And no, you don’t have to pay for updated maps either, even if your GPS is older or unregistered with the company.

I did it, and I’m still as technophobic as I ever was. So if this li’l technophobic sidekick can manage it, it’s likely that any of my readers can. I do the FedEx Ground delivery driver thing, and I have an old hand-me-down Garmin Nuvi that I use on my route. Not for directions, but just as a “rolling map” to tell me where I am and streets are coming up as I travel.

The technique I’ll show you here uses OpenStreetMap, a free and open-source collaborative work. Maps are updated much more often than the official Garmin maps. They also show considerably more detail, judging by my Nuvi’s performance today. I’m just going to write about the Garmin GPS because that’s what I have and all I really know. But according to this wonderful web page, it also works for some other brands.

I navigated to my /home directory and created a new folder named “GarminNuvi.” It has a subfolder called Maps.

I connected my Garmin Nuvi to my computer via a USB port and it was automagically mounted, thanks to Thunar’s awesomeness (Thunar is the Xfce file manager in Linux). I then copied the map file, named gmapprom.img, to /home/robin/GarminNuvi/Map. You can do this in the terminal or just open your file manager as root (“sudo thunar” in a terminal window) and move the file from your Garmin to the “Map” subfolder. This is a safety thing! ALWAYS BACK UP the old map in case something goes wrong! Now you can DELETE gmapprom.img from the Garmin. I renamed this backup file gmapprom-old.img. If I needed to restore it, I’d give it back it’s original name.

Select and download the new maps from http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ It’s easy, just follow the prompts on the screen to select your map by continent, country, state, province, or customize your own. If you customize yours, you’ll need to enter your e-mail address and they’ll notify you when it’s compiled and ready to download. My old map is North America, nearly 3GB in size! Yikes! So I selected only my own state for the new map, because that’s really all I need and it’s just a few hundred MB in size. Easy peasy. And fast! The file you want for the Garmin Nuvi is named osm_generic_gmapsupp.zip.

Move that file to /Garmin/New and extract it there. 7-zip works, most default "archivers" work for decompressing zip files. After unzipping it, you'll have a file called gmapsupp.img. For the Garmin, you must rename that file to gmapprom.img. This is your new map! Copy it back to your Garmin, re-start it, and take it for a test drive.

Save a copy of your new gmapprom.img in the /Garmin/New folder as the next backup. When it's time, that can be moved to the Old subfolder. But until you're sure everything works okay, keep that old one around!