Windows XP, zombies and tablets vs phones

By | October 31, 2016
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Right, that’s the scary Halloween bit done… though I’ve actually got something to tell you about today that could be a bit scary too – but not for everyone. In fact I’ll even mention zombies in a moment, so that’s quite Halloween-y… (Oh, and there’s a question about tablets and smartphones in a moment, but no zombies in that one!)

Do you have Windows XP? It’s a fairly old version of Windows now, and chances are you aren’t using it. (If you aren’t sure, you can check here)

But I know some people still do – and there’s been no end of confusion about it in the newspapers and so on.

Back in 2014, Microsoft stopped supporting it – that means it doesn’t get security updates any more. My advice at the time was that if you don’t use it on the internet, you don’t need to worry about it. But if you do use your computer on the internet, you really are taking a risk using Windows XP, so it’s best to upgrade.

Some people have argued that they have an anti-virus program, so it’s OK. But it’s not as simple as that – there are all sorts of nasties on the internet, not just viruses. And one thing that makes Windows XP particularly at risk is that none of the main web browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox) are being updated for it – so they aren’t getting updates when someone spots there’s a “hole” in them that could let a hacker into your PC.

In fact several online bank websites and some shop websites won’t work at all on XP now – it’s not that they couldn’t make it work, it’s that they won’t let it because they’d have to use technology that isn’t safe. (Some versions of SSL, which helps keep the information you put into a website secure, don’t work with Windows XP.)

Of course, you might have been lucky so far and not had your PC attacked, even if you’re using Windows XP. But you might not even know – some of the attacks hackers are doing are quite hidden – they could have turned your PC into a “zombie” PC, where it sends spam emails or does other online attacks for them. You’d probably never know.

But even if you have been lucky so far, it doesn’t mean you’ll carry on being lucky.

If you never buy anything on your PC, never use online banking, a credit card and so on, you might feel a bit more comfortable. But even then, if someone had hacked your PC, they could be using it to send illegal spam emails or to make all sorts of online attacks, including possibly seeing email addresses you’ve sent email to and targeting them.

If you have Windows XP, my advice is simply don’t use it on the internet. It’s too big a risk. If you want to use it for writing letters, playing games (without being on the internet), keeping your accounts and so on, that’s fine – I certainly don’t think everyone should be updating all the time. But for going on the internet I’d either put a newer version of Windows on the PC, buy a new PC or use a tablet instead.

And if you don’t use Windows XP but you have friends who do, maybe mention it to them – to help avoid them discovering something scary on their PC!

What’s the difference between…
Someone asked me the other day what the difference between a smartphone and a tablet is.

It’s a good question – and sometimes the manufacturers themselves don’t seem to be sure. A while ago there was even a craze for “phablets” which were a sort of cross between the two.

The short answer is that a smartphone can make phone calls and send and receive texts (to phone numbers). And that’s true – but it’s not all.

Smartphones are generally smaller – often much smaller. But there are some pretty big phones and some pretty small tablets. Generally phones have a screen up to 4 or 5 inches in diagonal whereas tablets usually start at 7 inches on the diagonal.

They use the same “operating systems” – Apple’s iPhone uses iOS, the same as the iPad. And most other phones use Android, like the majority of other tablets. But the phone versions are often a bit different, to make it easier to use on a smaller device (or, you might say, just because the manufacturers like tinkering…).

Even where it’s technically the same, some features become more or less useful with a small/big screen. For example I don’t mind typing on my tablet but I sometimes use voice recognition on the phone so I can talk to it instead.

I’m also much more likely to have my phone with me when I’m out and about, which makes it useful for things like taking a note when I think of something I need to do or taking the odd photo.

Quite a lot of apps that run on both a smartphone and a tablet will look a bit different, too, to work better with that size of screen. Some websites, too.

So although the short answer is “You can make phone calls on a phone”, in practice there’s a bit more to it than that!

4 thoughts on “Windows XP, zombies and tablets vs phones

  1. paul smith

    Just to clarify that certain tablets have the capacity to allow phone calls the Lenovo Yoga is a prime example of this having slots fr sim card and sd card. Whereas not ideal as a phone the option to conference call when working on projects or Skyping while running a presentation are god features to have

    1. Tim Post author

      Very true – it’s not many but I’ve always wondered why more manufacturers don’t do this.

  2. John Nicholson

    Hello Tim,
    You mention voice recognition again and it would be really handy for me but i have a Windows phone. I do a bit of writing and being able to dictate something and have it on screen ready to amend and type out if i wish would be useful. I have Windows 10 on my portable laptop and an Apple Mac that i use for general stuff at home as it is faster. Hope you can help.
    Many thanks,

    1. Tim Post author

      there’s actually a speech recognition mode built into Windows 10 – they just don’t make it as obvious. It does insist you “train” it to recognise your voice before you use it, unlike the ones on tablets, but it might be worth giving a go.
      To get at it, go into the start menu and type in speech – you should get a speech recognition option, click on that and it’ll start up the training.
      I would suggest, though, that you get a separate microphone. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, but the built in ones in a laptop can be a bit iffy (though you could always try it that way first – if you do later change microphone it’s worth training it again as your voice will sound different through the other microphone).
      Hope that helps


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