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There is still a cheap way you can run a Windows XP computer

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April 11, 2014

As you probably all know by now, Windows XP's expiration date of support and security updates officially ended as of Tuesday this week. With about 21 percent of all personal computers still running Windows XP, there's a good chance you are among those whose computer is now running an unsupported operating system. That could leave the door open to some serious hacking down the road.

And doing an upgrade to Windows 7 isn't a good option either. Yes, it will keep all your apps and settings, but it'll also preserve all the clutter and some very bloated files that slows down an old Windows install, and you're still limited to 32-bit Windows 7.

What you need to do is to reformat the hard drive, start all over, and reinstall all your programs and software.

But you'll be happy to learn that there's another, albeit little-known secret to replace your old, unsupported XP operating system with a new one that's fairly secure, current, gets regular Microsoft security updates and comes free of charge.

The solution is to simply run Windows XP as a 'Zombie OS' on something else. Chances are you're already using Windows XP for a particular application that's incompatible with 64-bit Windows. Backwards compatibility with legacy code was dropped to keep the size and complexity of the OS down.

In fact, Vista was the first 64-bit version of Windows to see some adoption, even if that OS never won the hearts of nobody, when its users suddenly found that some of their beloved but ancient apps didn't work any more.

So, MS' Windows 7 introduced a workaround-- run in Windows XP Mode. This is a free download for Windows 7 Pro and above, comprising two files-- a compressed virtual machine containing a complete, pre-installed copy of XP Pro, and a copy of Microsoft's free desktop Hypervisor Virtual PC, preconfigured to run that copy of XP with desktop integration.

In that manner, Windows XP appears on Windows 7's desktop and so on. This has been dropped in Windows 8.x – the newer OS has its own built-in hypervisor, and by now, you're meant to be running 64-bit native apps anyway.

But Windows XP Mode still remains a free download, and with a little work, you can get it running on the cheaper editions of Windows 7, or Windows 8.x – and even on Linux Ubuntu. All you need is a different hypervisor.

If you're a committed VMware user, then the freeware VMware Player will do, but otherwise, Oracle's Virtual Box is free and open source as well.

You only need proprietary code for the extension pack, which adds USB2 support among other things – but it's still free!

You can download the XP Mode VM freely from Microsoft's website, but to do so, your PC needs to pass Windows Genuine Authentication. Once you have the file, you'll need an archiver to unpack it.

You need an XP licence, of course – the copy in the VM is keyed against Virtual PC's emulated hardware and will fail when running on VirtualBox, so you're going to need a valid XP Pro licence key.

Microsoft handily includes a key in the download file ("sources\XPM\KEY"), but the chances are it won't work. Of course, you may well have one on a sticker on your PC case or knocking around somewhere.

Once you've unzipped the downloaded file, you'll find another archive ("sources\xpm") inside it. Extract that, too. In there, there is a VirtualPC VM image and its virtual hard disk ("VirtualXPVHD").

Next, create a new Windows VM. Move Virtual XPVHD into your new VM's folder ("~\VirtualBox VMs\XP Mode"), insert a full stop in the appropriate place ("VirtualXP.VHD"), and when VirtualBox asks whether to create a new virtual HD or use an existing one, choose it.

Now you can boot your new virtual machine. It has to go through the final stages of setup – that's your chance to set it to the proper keyboard of your choice, etc and then it will finish loading.

The catch is that the VM has the "VirtualPC Integration Components" pre-installed, and they won't work under VirtualBox, meaning that the VM will lock up.

You'll have to forcibly power off the VM, restart it, uninstall the VirtualPC files, try to shut it down, watch it freeze again, close it, and reboot it again.

However, it should still restart OK, at which point you can install the VirtualBox additions and reboot it again. Now, you're in business, and you'll also probably remember why you wanted to get rid of XP in the first place.

In other IT news

Fujitsu said earlier this morning that it's in the process of bringing its system-on-chip (SoC) designs to the next level for two new super computers it says get 40 percent more processing capacity while consuming less than 50 percent of the power required.

The company also says that its GS-21 2400 and GS-21 2600 SoCs need 70 percent less data centre space. The SoC devices at the heart of the two servers consolidate 14 chipsets, Fujitsu added.

The new servers can run up to eight cores, a 256 KB primary cache, 24 MB of secondary cache, I/O processor, memory controller and system controller.

The new units, due to ship in September 2014, include software enhancements supporting up to 10 virtual I/O configurations per cluster, rather than the three original configurations per cluster of the current generation systems, with as many as 20,000 virtual I/O devices per config.

There's also various software enhancements-- standard SQL interfaces in the GS-21sx that features Fujitsu's “Data Utilization Pack” providing server access to GS-21 network databases and relational databases.

The new design also features a Web interface that provides mainframe access from mobile devices and an access management UI that offers design support, user authentication, and ID management.

Additionally, the company announced that it has won a contract to upgrade the supercomputers at Japan's space agency JAXA. It's currently developing the planned 3.4 Petaflops machine, a successor to its PRIMEHPC FX-10, which will have 24 times the capacity of JAXA's current super computer.

It's clear now that Fujitsu is competing headon with the likes of CRAY and other super computer makers. We'd be tempted to say that Fujitsu is liking the higher margins on those SCs.

In other IT news

Seagate's fully owned subsidiary LaCie is announcing new storage solutions using 6 TB disks and Thunderbolt connections for faster performance.

That’s 12 TB in the 2-drive 2 big system, 30 TB in the 5 big enclosure and 48 TB in the 8 big rackmount shelf itself.

LaCie says the 8 big is its first rackmount Thunderbolt 2 connect product so far, but that others could be in the works soon.

The 2 big transfers data at up to 420 MB per second with its two Thunderbolt 2 ports. It can use USB 3.0 for more everyday connectivity.

It has a hardware RAID controller and a pair of hot-swap 6 TB Seagate drives spinning at 7,200 RPMs. The RAID provides 0 (striping) and 1 (mirroring) levels with a JBOD facility allowing the two disks to be used independently.

LaCie suggests up to five 2 bigs can be Thunderbolt 2 daisy-chained with a 4K display to a MacPro to create a 4K video workstation with 72 TB of raw storage capacity.

The 30 TB model can transfer data at up to 1,050 MB per second and has hardware RAID 0, 1, 5 and 6, and the JBOD facility is present as well. There are dual Thunderbolt 2 ports again.

The spec sheet says users can reduce power consumption by pressing the front button to spin down disks without disrupting daisy chain transfers.

The 1U rackmount 8 big will cost more. LaCie says forget Fibre Channel, Thunderbolt 2 is better, and the system can deliver up to 1,330 MB per second-- “Unlike Fibre Channel, Thunderbolt 2 is truly a plug and play and single-vendor solution. No port mapping or multithreading is required to achieve this performance.

Thunderbolt technology even supports optical cables, which means you could connect a LaCie 8 big rack system to a computer located up to 200 feet away.

There’s a hardware RAID controller with levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and the JBOD setup option. With that kind of speed, videographers can work directly from RAW files in Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, get maximum quality from footage, and see edits in real time.

Source: MWSS.

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