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Stability of a product today vs yesterday.


Keatah
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Today I can spec out a system and make a list of parts, or configure a laptop. And it's good for only 4 or 5 months at best. Back in classic days of Apple II & Atari 400/800 I could do the same (sans the laptop) and prices and parts would be good for almost two years! And if there were speed or performance improvements I didn't have to redo any of it except the main console, all else, including software would work just fine.

 

Not so today, OS changes, memory/processor changes, graphics are upgraded, even connector styles change rapidly. RS-232 & Centronics lasted from the 1970's well into the 2000's, and beyond in specialized applications.

 

And those OS/ API changes are ridiculous and redundant and make-work. Not only that an arbitrary OS change often sets in motion a cascade of 500 other updates and patches, none of which are backward compatible more than a few months at best.

 

And BIOS support? Good luck in getting support for something more than a couple years old. The manufacturer doesn't give a rat's ass.

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The biggest problem is that there is no incentive to optimize anything or to stay within fixed limits anymore.
Companies *cough*Microsoft*cough* have grown dependent on Moore's law bailing them out.
They have also grown dependent on being connected to the net. Bug? Aaaa... who cares... we'll patch that next week.

Plus, gave devs seem are more interested in cool visual effects than better game play.

Edited by JamesD
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I don't know, maybe it depends on the product(s). My last PC build that I did lasted me for about 3 years, and it *could* still be going strong, I just wanted an upgrade. I mean it's not like my Apple IIc wasn't already outdated the day I got it in 1985... and by 1987-88 it was hopelessly outclassed by 16 and 32 bit machines. Similarly, by 1991 or so, those machines would have been outclassed by various IBM compatibles. I don't think it's all that much different now.

 

I think maybe people had more of a thought in the early days of computing that these things were more like appliances that you bought once every ten years or so, but that doesn't mean computing itself wasn't constantly moving forward. (Otherwise we wouldn't be where we are today.) People were just being left behind without necessarily knowing it, because there was no internet. I remember having my Apple II and thinking it was the bees knees for years, but then I went to a friend's house and watched him open his Amiga 500 and I was like "holy crap." And that was 2 full years after the Amiga was first released. I had heard about it but just had no real idea how far technology had really progressed. From that point forward, I've been basically keeping up to date. That was my eye-opener that hey, technology actually keeps moving even if I don't.

 

(That said, I've written here before about that day and I still was happy that I had more that I could actually *do* with my Apple II. But seeing the Amiga made me realize that my Apple II wasn't the be-all, end-all of computing that I previously thought it was. And that day came just a couple years after I got it.)

Edited by spacecadet
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Why do people feel the need to upgrade, especially if their existing software does what they need?

 

I mainly use my desktop PC for writing, website development, and photo editing. I run Windows XP. The software I mainly use includes Word 2000 (or 2002), some photo editing software of about the same vintage, and a freeware text editor.

 

Nothing has been updated in at least 7 or 8 years, and I see no reason to do so anytime soon. Obviously, it is not online. Incoming/outgoing files are transferred via flash drive.

 

It is slightly annoying when I use Word on another computer, as I have to remember to save the document in an older format for portability reasons, and there are a (very) few PDF files that will not open in my older version of Adobe Reader, but otherwise this set-up does everything that I need it to do.

 

In the distant past, I used Word Perfect 4.2 between 1988 and 1993, at which point I got a new computer and switched to WP 6.0, which I then used until the next hardware upgrade in 1998 (and I migrated to Office '97).

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Updates... I hear you.
I liked XP, and once Vista had some patches it was pretty decent.
Windows 8 was a pain at first, but after tweaking, some upgrades, and some add ons it worked fine for me.

10... I've had a few more BSODs than I care for, a locked up machine, SD interface detects the insertion of cards but they don't show up in the drive list, power management ignores my settings at times, and one of the biggest pains is Windows update. It can ignore my settings, completely takes over my machine or bandwidth at times with no way to halt an upgrade.
I had to stop using my 2nd laptop for a couple weeks because it kept downloading the same update over and over.

*edit*
So why did I update?
My old machines got torched.

Edited by JamesD
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I'm *STILL* using Office 2003, prior to that I had Office 4.3 and Office'97. It does everything I need, and more. I prefer the older stuff because it doesn't pester me about updates or subscription fees. And it just works.

 

Why do people feel the need to upgrade, especially if their existing software does what they need?

 

I would guess because they are told they'll get a better experience or there are new features they'll need, and it'll have updated security. Security is always a big selling point.

 

But about the better experience part, I'm not so sure on that. Part of the "experience" is going to be having to learn all new commands and conventions and specific actions. That's going to take time. I don't mind doing it once in a while, or for something totally new. But to do it as part of an upgrade that doesn't really benefit me or increase my productivity? No.

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Security is always a big selling point.

 

Which, to be fair, is a valid one.

 

The real problem is explaining security to end users and getting them to understand why it's important. An OS that's gone unpatched for the better part of a decade is basically ripe for the taking - and even one that's air-gapped can still be compromised; Stuxnet was a good (if extreme) example of that.

 

The general end-user mindset of, "I don't have anything anyone would care about, so why do I need to care about security?" misses the point. The data on the machine is rarely valuable (though anyone hit with ransomware may likely disagree), but the ability of a mailicious actor to use the machine itself for other purposes typically is.

 

Between end users who won't patch their machines or use up-to-date antimalware packages, buzzword-du-jour Internet of Things devices, home networking equipment that's stupidly easy to compromise, and devices connected directly to the Internet that never should have been in the first place, you've got a massive attack platform against everything else with an IP address just waiting to be leveraged.

 

Yes, I am putting some - not all, but some - of the blame for this on end users. That's not to condemn them for a lack of technical expertise, but rather to ease some of the pain of having to repeatedly bang my head off the desk when they do things that they should know better than to do in the first place. The number of times I've heard, "I don't want to update my computer; it takes too long," followed by, "gee, the computer's acting really funny, do you think I have a virus?" is just depressing.

 

(Note: I don't typically deal with end-user issues, but I do have a couple of decades' experience in Information Security at an enterprise level. Boneheaded decisions tend to be made less in that world due to the fiscal and regulatory ramifications of getting it wrong, but that doesn't mean that enterprise always gets it right, either. It's just that it usually gets it right more often than it gets it wrong, though there have been (and will continue to be) notable exceptions to that maxim.)

 

This turned rantier than I expected, probably because I've been dealing with a patch management strategy overhaul recently and it's something that's in front of my eyes right now. But, still... Facepalm.

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The best security is to keep a machine offline...completely off the grid. I use a PIII 750 running Windows 2000 for a ton of tasks (burning disks, document editing...just a ton of stuff) and it works just fine for all of that stuff. I store some important files on one of its hard drives and I can bring anything I want to it via USB drives (that have been scanned first of course). The thing is not connected to the outside world in any way. Now that is a secure computer!

Edited by eightbit
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The best security is to keep a machine offline...completely off the grid. [...] The thing is not connected to the outside world in any way. Now that is a secure computer!

 

That's my strategy, too! The only way to get access to the data on that desktop PC is physical access to the hardware. Common thieves are not going to bother, and I'm too unimportant to attract the attention of anyone with the desire and/or skills to surreptitiously copy the contents of the drive.

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The thing is not connected to the outside world in any way. Now that is a secure computer!

I think the only problem with a setup like that would be getting it up and going. Installing software that you'd need and having to manually find and download then transfer required software libraries (.NET version hell and the like). I would like to have something like that though.

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I think the only problem with a setup like that would be getting it up and going. Installing software that you'd need and having to manually find and download then transfer required software libraries (.NET version hell and the like). I would like to have something like that though.

 

I have made a habit (for years and years) to retain and store all offline updates and such for various operating systems. If I had to wipe it clean and start from scratch right now I can have it running and fully configured with everything I need in about an hour.

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I did exactly that.

 

I've got an XP rig that I've kept all the documentation for, this applies to anything downloaded. I was careful to get all the drivers and libraries and patches/updates and software upgrades to everything and keep it all on disk. All the dependencies, API's, add-ons, plug-ins, and more. Each software package has it's own documentation section, this means web captured docs, or pdfs or chm or whatever is popular at the time. I also keep any registration codes. I tend to avoid things (on this rig) that require online activation and all that.

 

If the internet ever disappeared for any reason I'd be able to rebuild and repair this setup from scratch. This includes installing any piece of software without internet access.

 

It's ok to get software from the internet. Not any different than getting software from BBSes back in the day. The important thing is to have all of it and any dependencies. It's rare that I have to reinstall something, but it's part of my long-term computing initiative. I want to be able to use this rig well into the future.

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I have made a habit (for years and years) to retain and store all offline updates and such for various operating systems. If I had to wipe it clean and start from scratch right now I can have it running and fully configured with everything I need in about an hour.

 

For a few long-term key systems, I also made a backup image that I can restore from. This would be basically a blank OS with whatever configs and drivers. I also keep a 2nd image, ready to restore too, that has everything all installed and set-up. A lot of time adds up over the years.

 

Is the event of a catastrophic hardware failure, after repair, I could be up and running with all the apps and everything in an hour if I did the restore. More if I manually reinstalled everything. OS patches included.

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For a few long-term key systems, I also made a backup image that I can restore from. This would be basically a blank OS with whatever configs and drivers. I also keep a 2nd image, ready to restore too, that has everything all installed and set-up. A lot of time adds up over the years.

 

Is the event of a catastrophic hardware failure, after repair, I could be up and running with all the apps and everything in an hour if I did the restore. More if I manually reinstalled everything. OS patches included.

 

 

Great minds think alike ;) I have been doing exactly this (two OS images, one stock and one with everything installed) from as far back as I can remember.

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I learned many good habits from being classically trained. Mainly by TRS-80 Pocket Computers and Apple II. To a lesser extent, all the other 8 and 16 bit favorites.

 

I think it started with keeping multiple save games for those text adventures. Or versioning my basic bbs programs. Always able to jump a few steps back if I mangled something. We also learned to tuck the original disks away and operate from copies. Lots of good concepts in those vintage books and manuals that carry forward.

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My orginal c64 from >30 years ago still works, although the keyboard is in bad shape. I think with a few minor tweaks (faster CPU, modern storage, and non-dialup internet) I could be pretty happy computing with an 8 bit machine in 2017. A souped up c128 or Apple 2 wouldn't be bad. I would miss managing music and photos, but everything else would be fine. Well, I suppose I like my color inkjet as well... and USB peripherals. Okay, let me amend to "almost" ... word processing, spreadsheets, email/BBSs, games - all that would be fine on an 8-bit machine with a few modern upgrades.

 

I avoid OS upgrades like the plague, they've caused nothing but trouble recently. The only reason I upgrade is if its required by some new hardware I happened to get (aka got a new iPad, but it required a new iTunes, which required a new OS - crap like that).

Edited by BydoEmpire
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In my opinion, you can't really compare today's systems to vintage systems. The reality is, vintage systems mostly single-tasked, while today's computers and smartphones are performing multiple functions simultaneously. Sure, the former is generally more stable, but also obviously far more limited. And it's not like vintage software was all that stable anyway. I had plenty of crashes when creating databases and even simple word processing documents.

 

I'll take the pluses of modern systems along with the negatives over the pluses and negatives of vintage systems any day. Having lived through the previous decades of computing (just like most of the rest of us), I can remember all the frustration along with all of the fun. My warm fuzzies about vintage computing are mostly tied to gaming. The other stuff was pretty hit or miss. And for all the faults of the modern way of doing things, not only am I constantly connected and can easily multi-task, but I'm also confident in the knowledge that all of my work is safe thanks to automatic local and cloud syncing. A corrupted tape or disk in the past and you were pretty much screwed. Now I can lose a whole system and jump on another system and not miss a beat.

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Pretty much 90% of the beef I gots with modern systems is the amount of updating. Every goddamned week something needs to be changed. And then changed again because the previous change changed something that shouldn'a been changed in the first place if people weren't changing things just to change them!

 

An immediate in-your-face example could be that intel dust-up with patching for those new security flaws. Now we're not supposed to update? or roll something back? The patch they made last week is bad, so now we have to do it again..

 

Goddamned fucking intel. They NEED to take a step back, slow down for a moment, and THINK about a hardware fix. If that isn't practical, at least have that hardware fix ready for the next series of chips. Screw the schedule and the beancounters that force it on those submissive engineers.

 

How many times will the tech industry cry wolf before the village stops listening?

 

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/tech/cpus/intel-warns-users-not-to-install-its-spectre-meltdown-patches/1/

Intel has been forced to warn users not to install the microcode updates it released to mitigate against the Spectre and Meltdown processor design flaws more than two weeks ago, following the discovery of widespread random-reboot issues across all processor models.

Following the disclosure of major security vulnerabilities in the speculative execution features of most modern mainstream processors, Intel released a series of software patches with the warning that they could impact performance for a variety of mainly server-centric workloads by up to 35 percent - a hit large enough that it has been quietly advising server customers to think long and hard about whether they are more concerned by security or performance. Taking a hit that large was bad enough for the company's image, but worse was to come: Intel was forced to admit that the microcode updates were causing random reboots, initially believed to be limited to older Broadwell and Haswell parts but later verified as affecting all Intel chips.

That Intel released a faulty patch months after it was informed of the security flaw is terrible, but what's worse is that the fault is bad enough to force the company into warning customers not to install it - more than two weeks after it made the patches available and encouraged their use. 'We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions [of the patches], as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behaviour,' Intel's Navin Shenoy has posted on the company's newsroom page.

'We ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution so we can accelerate its release. We expect to share more details on timing later this week. We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date,' adds Shenoy - the latter seemingly contradicting the company's stance that the currently available patches should not be installed.

Intel users are now faced with a dilemma: Removing the microcode update will leave them vulnerable to attack using the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, but installing them will have a guaranteed impact on both performance and stability.

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Pretty much 90% of the beef I gots with modern systems is the amount of updating. Every goddamned week something needs to be changed. And then changed again because the previous change changed something that shouldn'a been changed in the first place if people weren't changing things just to change them!

 

An immediate in-your-face example could be that intel dust-up with patching for those new security flaws. Now we're not supposed to update? or roll something back? The patch they made last week is bad, so now we have to do it again..

 

Goddamned fucking intel. They NEED to take a step back, slow down for a moment, and THINK about a hardware fix. If that isn't practical, at least have that hardware fix ready for the next series of chips. Screw the schedule and the beancounters that force it on those submissive engineers.

 

How many times will the tech industry cry wolf before the village stops listening?

 

Agreed with the sentiment. But there's a corollary to the above: just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

 

The Spectre / Meltdown vulnerabilities are, in a large part, down to one of the worst marketing-driven shifts in computing of the past 20 years: the idea that 'commodity' (which in this case really means 'x86', 'x64', or 'nearest AMD equivalents') hardware can be made to do things as well as other architectures (Sun, SGI, PPC, etc.) do. Ditto ARM.

 

In terms of raw performance, this assumption may be correct in many cases. It may even exceed the performance of those architectures in the same cases. But the underlying hardware on the Intel/AMD and ARM platforms in question were never designed from the ground up with the memory and execution compartmentalization that the other (more expensive) hardware platforms had built-in. In short, we started using hardware that was, from the birth of the first IBM PC, intended for desktop computing tasks in a single-user / single-tasking environment in ways that were never envisioned for that architecture to operate.

 

Subsequent generations of Intel hardware attempted to graft on some of the features which would have mitigated or outright prevented the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, but (and in no small part) due to backwards-compatibility considerations, those bolt-on additions weren't as effective as they could have been had they been designed in from the start.

 

Having said that, the one thing that has struck me throughout this particular round of vulnerabilities as being incredibly stupid is the approach of 'we'll fix the hardware problem through software!' Patch the OS all you want, folks; the underlying hardware is still going to be the problem. This isn't to knock the idea of improving the robustness of the OS' security posture - that's a Good Thing. But calling it a fix when it's impossible to reconfigure the logic on a die is, at best, disingenuous. It's a workaround, plain and simple.

 

There's still billions of affected devices out there and many of them will still be there when, on a long enough timeline, their OSes have been outdated for long enough that new and unpatched exploit vectors are able to once again take advantage of the vulnerabilities in the hardware they're running on.

 

Just because you can use commodity hardware to do certain things doesn't mean that you should. It also doesn't mean that commodity hardware should necessarily be designed the way that it is.

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