Yesterday, I think I managed to talk someone out of buying a Windows machine during my lunch break at work. I did it from my cube, where I'm paid good money to support Windows users all day long. What did I tell this person to buy?
"Walk into an Apple store and pick a Mac, any Mac."
OSX is really the only choice for non technical users who require decent security and reliability---out of the box. I don't want to be associated with the clueless Mac twits who have swallowed Steve Job's KoolAid, but take some number of non-technical users, half running Windows and half running OSX, and release them into the wild. After a few months, which users will have had fewer problems? If you said "the Windows users," my advice to you would be to set the crack pipe down and listen in on the calls I take during business hours.
Don't get me wrong, I have food in my belly because Windows is so bad. I guess I have B Gates to thank for that:Microsoft Corp. security researchers are warning about a new generation of powerful system-monitoring programs, or "rootkits," that are almost impossible to detect using current security products and could pose a serious risk to corporations and individuals.
The researchers discussed the growing threat posed by kernel rootkits at a session at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco this week. The malicious snooping programs are becoming more common and could soon be used to create a new generation of mass-distributed spyware and worms.
With names like "Hacker Defender," "FU" and "Vanquish," the programs are the latest generation of remote system-monitoring software that has been around for years, according to Mike Danseglio and Kurt Dillard, both of Microsoft's Security Solutions Group.
The programs are used by malicious hackers to control, attack or ferret information from systems on which the software has been installed, typically without the owner's knowledge, either by a virus or after a successful hack of the computer's defenses, they said. Once installed, many rootkits run quietly in the background but can easily be spotted by looking for memory processes that are running on the infected system, monitoring outbound communications from the machine, or checking for newly installed programs.
However, kernel rootkits that modify the kernel component of an operating system are becoming more common. Rootkit authors are also making huge strides in their ability to hide their creations, said Danseglio.
In particular, some newer rootkits are able to intercept queries or "system calls" that are passed to the kernel and filter out queries generated by the rootkit software. The result is that typical signs that a program is running, such as an executable file name, a named process that uses some of the computer's memory, or configuration settings in the operating system's registry, are invisible to administrators and to detection tools, said Danseglio.
If you're wondering what I run at home: I've been using Windows 2000 Pro since 1999 without incident.
But if I think Windows is so bad, why do I use it?
All operating systems are flawed. I have no blind allegiance to any OS, I just use what works the best in most cases. Since 1999, that has meant Windows 2000 for me.
2000 is a good, all-around, desktop OS, if you know how to harden it for security, which I do. (And no, I don't use anti-virus software. I do, however, know how to use hardware/software firewalls, proxy servers and non Microsoft browsers, email and productivity applications.) Using Linux as a desktop OS has been nothing but a pain in the ass for me. It's ok, but things are always broken. I run Mandrake Linux on the server; enough said. I actually bought a Titanium Powerbook about two years ago, but I sold it because it seemed slow to me---having been used to the speed of Win2K and various Linux distros. OSX on current generation G5 Macs is now fast enough for me to consider using as my "daily driver." If I had the need (and the money) I would use a Mac. Besides, I drool a little when I use Final Cut Pro and Garage Band.