Using Windows 7

Until this past summer I had been away from the Windows ecosystem for some time. Because of the high volume of Windows users in my area and that I use Linux systems, I wanted to test some interoperability ideas. I bought a refurbished Windows 7 64-bit system.

Backup strategies are a primary reason I bought this system. I want to understand the built-in backup tools along with the shadow copy feature. Understanding these features is important toward understanding interoperability with Linux based NAS and backups systems.

The refurbished system came packaged with instructions for activating the license. After using free/libre software for many years, I felt peculiar having to perform that act. I felt — unsettled. Subhuman. I never owned a copy of XP or Vista and never had to experience this event. Booting into the system to activate revealed a system message that I had three days to active.

When I first booted the system I noted about 20 GB of hard drive space being used. I did not know what that includes. I did not want to compare apples to oranges. Yet there are no apps installed. A typical free/libre distro provides a full suite of apps installed. Even after adding dozens of apps, hard drive space is unlikely to break the 20 GB barrier.

As a side note, the freely available Windows 7 virtual disk image is about 11 GB in size. Again, nothing but the operating system occupies the image.

Somehow I think “WTF” is appropriate.

The Windows 7 desktop looks well polished. Windows 7 comes with something called parental controls, something that is unavailable in the free/libre world without serious sweat equity.

Despite the polish, the interface is sufficiently different that I did not always know where to find things.

The system defaults to a single user account with full administrative privileges. I added a second account without those privileges. I have found no way to display the login screen such that the administrative account name is not displayed. For security reasons, seems to me users should be able to keep the name of the admin account hidden. A little security by obscurity. Free/libre login managers work this way.

I named the administrative account root. Original, huh?

I have not enabled the Guest account. Conceptually this seems like a handy feature because the account is scrubbed upon logging out. This could be useful with house guests. Then again, I rather house guests use my Linux systems. A guest account feature is not included in most, if not all Linux distros.

I performed many updates since buying the machine. They take a long time. Often I wonder what the underlying software is actually doing to take so long. Snooping through my system?

There is no meaningful feedback about what is being updated. At the end of the update a dialog is available that lists the updates. I feel uncertain and insecure because I have to trust the updates. I could configure the system not to automatically update but even a manual update requires a degree of blind trust. Either way, I have no idea whether an update will brick the system or what spyware is being installed.

Often the update descriptions are not helpful. At all. No change logs either. Clueless blind trust is expected and required.

A frustrating aspect with Windows updates is the continual need to reboot. Many updates are divided into separate steps. Some updates are not activated immediately. Upon logging out a message appears not to reboot or shut down. Upon rebooting, a similar message appears. These update increments are annoying because a person cannot use the computer.

Somehow I think “WTF” is appropriate.

A reboot is rarely needed when updating a Linux based system. Even when the kernel is updated, the reboot is not required until, oh, whenever the user decides. Days or weeks if a user routinely suspends to RAM.

I installed Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft Defender Offline, and Malwarebytes. Considering the infectious nature of Windows I have no idea why Essentials and Defender Offline are not part of the standard installation.

I created a Defender Offline ISO DVD. Seemed to work okay.

Whenever I boot the system there is a flurry of disk activity, even while I am not yet logged in.

I always feel uncertain about using the system. I have not monitored the network connection, but I wonder how much data is being continually phoned home. Even the Windows XP file manager phoned home. I always feel naked. There is an aura of distrust.

The firewall seems functional. A basic external nmap scan based on simple pings reveals nothing, which is good. Scanning with detailed probing finds the machine. The scan shows the infamous NetBIOS ports open. Why those ports are open on modern Windows systems is beyond me. Ports for UPnP and RTSP are open.

I have not yet performed any backup. I need to make at least one clone snapshot image in case, or perhaps when, the inevitable happens and the system is infected. While I am not living in fear of such an event, that I even have to think about that is unsettling.

Another reason to clone is to provide a way of learning how to reinstall the system. Unlike Linux systems, I do not know how a person creates a simple list of installed software to help expedite that process. Linux package managers provide a way of creating a list of installed software, from which a script could be written to support bare metal reinstallation. I have not performed a full reinstall in years, instead using clone disks and backups to restore my systems.

The refurbished system did not come with an installation DVD and instead came with a recovery partition. Eventually I was able to download an ISO image, but I could do so only from within Windows and only with the Windows web browser. Attempting to download from within Firefox in a Linux based system is futile. Probably an Active-X problem.

Somehow I think “WTF” is appropriate.

Browsing online Windows how-tos reveals most writers assume all users are running with an admin account. Seldom are additional instructions provided about running admin apps when logged in with a non admin account.

Several times I have wanted to run terminal commands. I have not yet investigated the Powershell.

Along with this effort I spent time installing and tinkering with Windows 10. Windows 10 is a privacy nightmare. Some of the telemetry options installed in Windows 10 are being installed in previous Windows OSs, such as Windows 7. I plan to remove all of that nonsense and hope to post a related article.

Other than my original desire for interoperability testing, I plan to keep my distance from Windows.

Somehow I think “WTF” is appropriate.

Most noticeable to me is how much I do not trust Windows. To me this is the most unsettling part of Windows. All human relationships are based on trust. So much has changed from the benign design of NT4 and W2K, the last Windows licenses I purchased.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Windows

Next: Recovering Deleted Files

Previous: Things to Do After Installing Distro X