The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Small Victories? I'll Take 'Em...

I took the call late last week.  It came in on the HeliOS Solutions side of the fence.  HeliOS Solutions is the small company I set up to help fund The HeliOS Project.

A local business woman had just installed Windows 7 and was disturbed by what she was being told on the screen.  After installing Win7, she went about installing all the applications she used to conduct her business.  The computer she had been using ran Vista Business and she had come to depend on this group of freeware apps to do her job.   Of course, she had a licensed copy of Microsoft Office 2007 along with some Adobe apps.

But now, after she installed her freeware apps, Microsoft Security Essentials was giving her dire warnings about viruses...three or four of them according to her and would I come and look at her computer.

You bet.

What had happened is all too common in the Windowsphere.  Many of the developers for freeware apps she used had signed deals with advertising and marketing agents.  Developers have to eat too, but in order to do so, these apps now come bundled with "toolbars".  My customer insisted that she had check marked against "Install MyWebSearch search bar."

Along with other nuisanceware offered to her in the other programs.

I guess in this case, no doesn't always mean no.

This is nothing new, but this had not been present in the apps she had installed on her computer 3 years ago.

How things change.

Some of these bars are tough to get rid of...even to the point of editing the registry, but after an hour or so, I had both MSSE and Malware Bytes reporting a clean machine.

While I took the time to do the security and service pack installs, I told her about Linux and how it could save her a lot of headaches.  I explained to her that she could run her Windows7 in a virtual machine or use Wine or Codeweaver products to get individual Windows apps working in Linux.  Once I had the machine updated, I slid in a Linux live CD and gave her the tour.

One thing I notice over and over when showing people Linux...they cannot wrap their heads around the whole "No antivirus needed" thing.  I take the time to pull up various articles encouraging computer users NOT to use Windows to do their banking.  That usually does it.

She told me that even if she could not run her apps in Linux, she would like Linux installed as a dual boot so she could bank with confidence on the Internet.

Done deal.

That should be the end of the story but it isn't.

She told me that stability was essential to her business and that she did not want any further changes made to her computer.  She asked me if there was a way to make sure updates did not occur without her knowledge.  I explained to her that Microsoft had a nasty habit of changing the option back to daily checks and installs but we could set it up anyway.  I had her watch me as I did it.

She called me yesterday, absolutely livid.  Not with me, but with Microsoft.  Windows 7 had indeed went in and changed her options for updates.  She had spent two hours on hold or on the phone with MS support and the eventual answer was that it might possibly be a pirated copy of Windows.  In all likelihood, Windows had sniffed this machine as having a pirated copy and changed the settings to install the infamous KB971033.

Livid turned to near-rage as she spit the licensed serial number out at the tech.  She had paid 130 dollars at Best Buy for the licensed copy and could not believe someone would accuse her of having put a pirated copy of Windows on her computer.  She asked for a supervisor and was told that if she wanted to file a complaint, he would give her the URL to do so.

With that she slammed down the phone and called me back.

Unfortunately, one of her most counted-on apps will not run in Wine or Crossover.  Efficient PIM is a great little all-around calendaring app with a ton of features.  She has now upgraded to the full version just so she has a license, should she ever have to reinstall.  I had a legit license for WinXP SP3 and I installed it via VirtualBox on her Linux side.

From what I understand, she is now working more than half the time in Linux.  Microsoft is in the position to abuse their customer base this way because people think they have to endure it to access their computer.

I am glad to report there is one less of them today.

All-Righty Then...


PV said...

The beauty about this lady is that she knows exactly who to blame: Microsoft. You said it best yourself: too often, people essentially believe that Microsoft is infallible, so they blame their computers, or (worse, but unfortunately more frequently) people like yourself who have a genuine solution and are fully aware of their needs and the fact that Linux may not satisfy every single use case. It takes a good bit of humility on your part to willingly accept the fact that there are reasons why she'd want to continue using Microsoft Windows for some things, and it takes humility on her part too to not blame you (who is physically the closest person she can easily blame) but to blame Microsoft. For that, I tip my hat to both of you.
Or, as a certain insurance company says, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Amenditman said...


I love/hate this story.
I have heard it a bunch of times from recent MS victims who have found Linux, despite MS's best efforts to the contrary.
It is my story almost exactly, word for word.

I never get tired of hearing it. MS, you keep up the good work. The rest of us will keep on getting the word out about Linux.


Mechatotoro said...

Your post manifests that users are gradually becoming fed up with the abusive treatment they receive from MS. Those small victories are not so small after all and MS knows it.

Anonymous said...

Efficient PM is one of the few apps I really miss from Windows. It runs great in my VM but still, it's a shame Linux can't have an app this complete and able to tie into everything you want to tie it into. KDE came closest to it with their suite but even then it can't match the features of Efficient.

I wouldn't mind paying for a Linux version but unfortunately, that will probably never happen

Unknown said...

@ PV

Had I not pre-warned her about Microsoft's proclivity towards deception concerning updates, she probably would have blamed me. I was just fortunate that I physically showed her how to do it and that she saw with her own eyes that I had set it to not update anything.

This happens to legitimate and pirated copies all the time and google searches will bear it out. What probably bothers me the most is that many fanboi's defend the practice.

Must suck not owning your own computer.

John Hardin said...

I'm not a Windows fanboi by any stretch of the imagination, but I can see the justification for pushing security fixes regardless of what the user desires; there is a lot of attack surface out there for the bad guys to exploit, and reducing that is a good thing for the entire computing community.

However, I don't characterize "Windows Genuine Advantage" and its ilk as a security fix, regardless of how cheerfully Microsoft positions it as such.

Thomas A. Knight said...

A bit off-topic, but I happened to see one of Microsoft's latest commercials.

"This is Jane, and she doesn't think she needs to upgrade her three-year-old computer. So we're setting up a store in her living room so we can show her what she's missing..."

Really? That's the best you got Microsoft? Toss your perfectly functional old computers in favor of newer ones with the latest windows OS? Why not make windows work on the old machines?

This marketing campaign screams of desperation. Their adoption rates are horrid because people don't *want* the newest versions of windows. Trouble is, most people don't know about the alternatives, so they just keep using XP, because they figure it works just fine.

kozmcrae said...

The last time I helped someone with their Windows installation I rewarded with category 5 cluster headache.

Michelle Minkin said...

@ John Hardin:

While I agree that most computer users need updates pushed out to them, I also agree that those who know enough to block updates have an idea of what they are doing. I am one such person. I don't trust Microsoft to take out my garbage any more than I trust them to "know what's best for me".

I am stuck using Windows 7 at work and by default, at home since I do much of my work from home. That being said, I will check weekly for the available updates and do them. Guess what? Even though I do not check the box, the "caught ya" update installs anyway.

Who the frick does Microsoft think they are to put crap on my computer after I explicitly tell them not to?

They know exactly who they are. They are Microsoft and they also know they can get away with whatever they want.


gus3 said...

@Michelle Minkin:

If your employer insists that you use Windows (any version) at home, then your employer can furnish and administer the system, including any required connectivity. Tell them that Microsoft's crappy products are not welcome on the network that *you* bought and paid for.

CoryHess said...

My Linux conversions usually start with somebody telling me "I need a new computer.". When I ask why they usually say "I can't do...". You can fill in the blank with any number of memory intensive operations that people want to perform on their computers nowadays, be it stream video or navigate a media intensive site. My follow up is "What if I told you I could install something that would make that work again?". Once I show them how capable their system is to perform said task, their Linuxphobia usually doesn't last too long.

Gavin said...

It is very annoying when the Windows Update settings change randomly, especially on a laptop. Fortunately, this has not happened to any of my personal systems in many years (knock on wood) but I have experienced it in work settings (where it can be ridiculously destructive!). Typical MS domain environments have relevant domain policies that can be pushed out and enforced, as well as WSUS to centrally manage the updates, but of course this is overkill and unreasonable for a home user. Worse, MS does not even make such amenities available for owners/users of Windows Home Server!

Anonymous said...

they cannot wrap their heads around the whole "No antivirus needed" thing.

Does Greg K-H know about this? See, he suggests that everyone should install primitive av scanners as part of locking their linux workstations down. And if no av scanner is necessary, someone here doesn't know what they are talking about.

Clearly it must be Greg K-H, because you wouldn't dare tell anyone to do something that is flat out wrong, would you? Of course not.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe people are still pushing this false notion that if you run Linux you don't need any security software. Did none of you learn anything from the Linux kernel dev who got rooted without knowing about it for months? This false sense of impenetrable security that Linux evangelists push its why such things happen and the users are unaware about for ages because the person who told them about Linux said they.never had to worry about checking their system for intrusion.

Greg K-H said...

The compromise of and related machines has made it clear that
some developers, at least, have had their systems penetrated. As we
seek to secure our infrastructure, it is imperative that nobody falls
victim to the belief that it cannot happen to them. We all need to
check our systems for intrusions. Here are some helpful hints as
proposed by a number of developers on how to check to see if your Linux
machine might be infected with something:

0. One way to be sure that your system is not compromised is to simply
do a clean install; we can all benefit from a new start sometimes.
Before reinstalling any systems, though, consider following the steps
below to learn if your system has been hit or not.

1. Install the chkrootkit package from your distro repository and see if it
reports anything. If your distro doesn't have the chkroot package,
download it from:

Another tool is the ossec-rootcheck tool which can be found at:

And another one is the rkhunter program:
[Note, this tool has the tendancy to give false-positives on some
Debian boxes, please read /usr/share/doc/rkhunter/README.Debian.gz if
you run this on a Debian machine]

Unknown said...

@ Greg....

Wise counsel and worth posting. Thank you.