Windows XP is dead, long live Windows XP

How my XP computer has been given the gift of eternal life.

Warning: may contain computers.

So Windows XP reached end of life in April, meaning it’s almost certainly not safe to take it online.

I’d long been using another operating system for most stuff but there were still a couple of things I needed XP for. Running my printer was one of them, as, amusingly, the drivers are not available for later operatng systems. Editing Word documents was another, because although my non-MS word processors could read and save to the .doc format, they didn’t always play nicely with Word tables.

XP was OK anyway. It ‘just worked’ most of the time (after it had had twenty minutes to wake up). So the challenge was how to use the internet and keep XP beyond its end of life.

The answer was two machines, only one of which went online. The online computer runs a more recent operating system that doesn’t take a third of an hour to switch on and won’t deliver my passwords straight to spammers, or whatever. The XP box is my offline computer. So now, on the odd occasion I need to download a Word document someone has emailed me, I can save it to a USB drive and take it to the XP machine. I’ve needed to do that precisely zero times since April, but you never know.

I have, however, printed two letters. That’s right. Two. Remember when people used to talk about ‘the paperless office’, like it was an exotic destination? Well, they don’t talk about it any more, because we’ve arrived, without noticing. Still, it’s nice to be able to send a printed letter. And the printer I have works just fine. I shouldn’t need to buy another printer in order to send two letters once every blue moon.

Other applications I’ll continue using under XP include the sound editing program Wavepad, which is rather elegant (and far nicer than Audacity). And since the half-decent monitor is hooked up to the XP machine, I do some image editing on it. As it turns out, GIMP works well under Windows.

So here’s how the vintage operating system has been made usable. Now that it doesn’t need to go online, I’ve stripped out the programs that are only relevant online. It turns out that’s most of them. The result: it’s sprightly. The twenty-minute boot is down to 90 seconds, like when it was new.

I’ve given my XP the gift of eternal life. But that gift comes at a price. It’s not allowed anywhere near the internet.

11 June 2014