Washington Post: ‘Windows XP a house with a second floor built of spackle, wood filler & duct tape’

“Windows XP is turning five years old, but will anybody want to celebrate the occasion? Rob Pegoraro writes for The Washington Post. “In that time, this software has been Microsoft’s most successful release ever in terms of sales. The research firm IDC estimates that about 485 million copies of XP, excluding pirated versions, had been installed by the middle of this year.”

Pegoraro writes, “But XP has also become an apt demonstration of the difference between ‘popular’ and ‘widely used.’ People use XP but don’t love it. Why should they?”

“This operating system has needed a steady diet of patches to stay close to healthy… You can think of Windows XP as a house with a second floor built of spackle, wood filler and duct tape,” Pegoraro writes. “And even with all those updates, the operating system has met only a few of its goals while falling short of others in a catastrophic manner. And it’s done so for reasons that can’t all be blamed on XP’s design or Microsoft’s own actions. That, in turn, means that its long-delayed replacement, Windows Vista — now due to ship in January — may run into the same problems.”

“Windows XP has failed its users worst at keeping them safe from viruses, worms and spyware. Service Pack 2 shut some of the worst holes, but XP still demands far more oversight than its competitors,” Pegoraro writes. “You can’t just blame that on the cockroach-like persistence of the crooks responsible for releasing all the garbage. Microsoft didn’t do its job, and that failing goes far beyond individual vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.”

“The root problem is XP’s inability to police the conduct of any program. Its default “administrator” setup grants the user and every application the run of the entire system,” Pegoraro writes. “XP represents a missed opportunity. If Microsoft had known it would be living with XP for so long, it should have pushed back its release to fix some of those problems.”

“But could it have known how bad things would get? Could anyone? The review of XP that ran under this byline five years ago never even used the word ‘security,'” Pegoraro writes. “That raises a scary thought: What’s the ugly flaw in Windows Vista that people will be screaming about in 2010, but is escaping people’s attention right now?”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Barry” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: Why bother? The future is already here; it has been for a long time now. Get a Mac today and you’ll have a safer and better personal computer with Mac OS X Tiger than Vista promises today — and you’ll have access to Microsoft’s far distant future with Mac OS X Leopard due in spring 2007. More about Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Infoworld: Microsoft’s WIndows Vista not so revolutionary after all – September 11, 2006
Microsoft’s greatest trick: convincing the public that the Wintel PC platform is open – March 06, 2006
Computerworld: Microsoft Windows Vista a distant second-best to Apple Mac OS X – June 02, 2006
Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness – December 20, 2003


  1. It’s a pretty good analogy, but it implies that the first floor is sound, which is certainly not the case.

    In security discussions, I always refer to the script kiddies as kids playing with matches, where Microsoft is the contractor who insists on building the house out of balsa wood and flash paper.


  2. So, it isn’t a good analogy.

    I also don’t like the way the author kind of make an excuse, ie “Who could have known?” Farcical.

    Real computer specialists foresaw all sorts of security problems decades earlier – UNIX has been this way for 30 years or more.

    There is no excuse!!

  3. I think the author should have gone a little deeper into the fact that it does not only grant the default user administrator status but at a root level! You can’t even touch this type of stuff in OS X.

  4. “You can’t even touch this type of stuff in OS X.”
    Yah you can… netinfo and enable root user. Make the root user and admin the same group if you want to make default users admin with root level access.

    Either way, I’m so sick of the excuse that the only reason windows has more virii than macs is because of all the hackers. Would os x be attacked be attacked more if it were more popular??? Definitely. Would there be just as many viruses as windows? I highly doubt it. As stated by numerous people already, OS X is built off of Unix (freebsd) with security in mind. All the accounts are Unix type accounts with PROVEN security features. But windows says… lets make everyone root… and we can all have fun and love each other. Then all their other security hole software… I just don’t trust their software. Plain and simple.

  5. XP is a candy-coated wrapper on Windows 2000 with a few consumer friendly additions. 2000 was a massaged version of Windows NT. Enough history.

    The head of security at Microsoft publicly stated at a security conference in London some time back that Windows was not designed with internet security in mind. Think of that-an OS designed in the Internet era where network security is not foundational.

    Mac OS X was built upon a modified version of FreeBSD UNIX. UNIX was designed with security in mind from the very start due to the nature of it’s original market. Both UNIX and Mac OS have added tweaks and improvements to that basic security foundation. It’s not perfect, but it’s far beyond anything ever developed in Redmond.

    Windows is a kludge. The poster child of kludge software. Mac OS is a modern OS built upon the best available foundation available at the time it was being developed and has been greatly improved with each update.

  6. “The root problem is XP’s inability to police the conduct of any program. Its default “administrator” setup grants the user and every application the run of the entire system,”

    So does Mac OS X now because so many applications are demanding a administrator password to install and alter Mac OS X.

    What is the result? We now have application exploits taking over our machines.

    Adobe, McAfee, Symantec, ClamXav and even applications on Sony music cds!

    For instance why does the new buggy Aqua NeoOffice need a admin password to install? It’s just a office program. Drag and drop.

    Why are these developers demanding elevated access when they don’t need it?

    The same problem on Windows machines, the marketing department want’s full access to our systems because “the other guy” is going to get there first.

    Just imagine what valuable information and control when root is theirs?

    They can bypass firewalls, open ports, decieve the System Preferences, disable or bypass Little Snitch, install DRM schemes and so on.

    So this problem has advanced greatly on Windows machines, but is the future of Mac OS X as it gains in market share.

    What can you do? Demand developers respect you and your machines.

    Contact them and ask them if it needs a admin password, if so then say their program doesn’t meet your companies security standards.

    Right now these marketing departments don’t respect you, they see you as a mark, ready to be exploited for more sales or profit potential.

    If we don’t stand up, Mac OS X will be just like XP.

  7. I think this type of article shows the genius of Apple’s new marketing campaign, new more competitive pricing and the added Boot Camp capabilities (along with options like Parallels). Once PC users connect the dots and realize that they can upgrade their PCs and still have access to all of their Windows programs without the added overhead that Vista will require (while dabbling occasionally and then more frequently in this strange new operating system called OS X), the switching will snowball and leave Vista even farther out in the cold. All the pieces are coming together…

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