Windows 10: What to do, what to do?

Brian Wed, 2015-09-23 14:13
Spies in my software—no, thanks!

The impending “upgrade” of my computers to Windows 10 has been bugging the bejeezus out of me. On the one hand, the interwebs is alive with analyses of the stupendous amount of spyware included with Windows 10, the difficulty of circumventing it, and, just coming into view, the fact that in a number of cases you can tell Windows 10 not to do something, and it'll do it anyway.

One alternative is to get rid of Windows, and convert my computing life to Ubuntu, a Linux-based freeware system. I've been using it off and on for years now, but it's a lot of work—you pretty much have to become an expert in Ubuntu in order to make it work properly, and to solve the problems that inevitably arise—but you can be fairly sure that at least your own software isn't ratting you out. (As an example of the difficulties, it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get those two “em dash” characters in Ubuntu as I typed this paragraph.)

Since I first heard Microsoft was going to give me something for free, I've never thought it a great idea. How could they not be up to something? The revelations of the last few years that the US NSA/CIA/FBI are just a tad too interested in all law-abiding citizens' data, and Microsoft's close working relationship with those forces (see, for example, here. Search on 'Microsoft,” and you'll see what I mean) give me great concern that NSA nosey Nellies are going to have an easy time of it, rooting around in my bits and bytes.

It's not an easy decision. Ubuntu can be quirky. But my mind has now been made up for me. Way to go, Windows!

The other day I decided to have some fun with a Facebook friend of mine who'd posted something from a Facebook page I thought to be, well, less than credible. It involved extracting a clip out of an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'd never worked in the video format before, but, really, how difficult could it be? And it just so happened I had a Windows-based video editor program that I bought from Ashampoo last year when they had a sale, and I couldn't resist. i hadn't got round to using it yet, but, really, what could go wrong?

Well, the first thing that happened was when I tried to load the Buffy episode into the editor, it told me my system's mp4 codec was "missing or corrupted." That's all. I couldn't understand that—all my computer's media-playing programs play mp4 videos with no problems whatsoever. So I did some searching in their support, and they referred me to a codec installation application, which I downloaded and installed.

Now, as almost everyone knows, you have to be very careful when you download this stuff, because they often try to saddle your system with a bunch of stuff you don't want. Well, I wasn't paying close enough attention, because, after all, the company that sold me this program had sent me to get this codec. I apparently mixed up the "want" button with the "don't want" button, and I got a bunch of stuff I didn't want.

Wow! My new software hijacked my Firefox browser, added adverts to the pages I loaded (covering some of them with this crap), and wouldn't let me change back to my usual home pages (common in this type of malware). Also, it slowed everything on my computer down to an excruciating crawl. To add injury to this insult, my video-editing program still couldn't load the Buffy episode.

Sixteen hours later (some of them spent sleeping), after thorough scans with Malwarebytes and Ad-Aware, I discovered SuperAntiSpyware. After a couple of scans with that, my computer was back to normal.

So I set about to use Ashampoo's video conversion program to change the Buffy episode from .mp4 to .avi, so I could edit it that way. The conversion took about six hours (some of which was spent sleeping). Well, it loaded, but the .avi version was noticeably darker, and every time I clicked on something in the video editor, it would churn and churn, doing something, apparently, until the cursor came back and I could click again.

I gave up.

Then, I got an idea. Why don't I try Ubuntu, and see if I can find a video editing program I can use? Approximately 45 minutes later, my video clip was ready, and I posted it.

Windows 10 and Microsoft, you can take a flying leap. Ubuntu's my choice.

(Nb: I'm not all that brave. I'll still be running some version of Windows—I've got thousands of dollars in applications that require it, and it's pretty hard to work with smartphones without Windows or Mac—but in a virtual machine, where it can do less harm.)