No. of Recommendations: 2
The trials and tribulations of an online investor are endless. Zone Labs has just announced it will cease to support for Windows 98/98SE/Me, because Microsoft will end support for Windows 98, 98SE, and Me on July 11, 2006.

I love Zone Alarm as a firewall. Years ago, when I realized I needed a firewall, I bought their ZoneAlarm Pro. As they updated the product, I switched over to the free version, because I didn't need the advanced features. If I had to pay for ZA, I would, because it's a good product. I hate running virus software on my computer because of the performance hit and because of the “sludge” such programs represent, though I'll freely admit that the hit was more significant in the days of early generation processors, and its been a long while since I've benchmarked my computers with programs like SiSandra and then tried to tweak them to gain every last CPU cycle to be gotten. Today's computers, even lagging generation ones, are so fast that there isn't much need to over-clocking if fast, but affordable, computing is desired.

Periodically, I'll make use of one of the free online virus scans. But they always report the same thing: my computer is clean. I've never been tagged with a virus, worm, Trogen, etc., because I use a firewall, and because I practice very safe computing with regard to opening e-mails, sharing files, etc. No computer can be secured if a determined hacker wants to get into it. But by using a firewall, by securing ports, and by practicing safe computing, it's possible to keep a low profile and not attract unwanted attention and attacks.

Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do about ZA's decision to back away from Win9x/WinMe. Most people scoff at WinMe, but I like it a lot. I own a licensed version. But because it doesn't require the online registration procedure that XP does, I don't hesitate to do rip it out and do a clean install on a periodic basis. I own XP, but I don't even remember what hard drive it's on.

Explanation: I own old computers the way that some people own old cars and typically have 10 or 12 of them, anyone of which could be put online, but some of which I greatly prefer because their MB enables installing multiple video cards, which, in turn, enables running a multi-monitor set up. Or I prefer them because they run so quiet. Typically, the newer the processor, the greater the need for cooling and the louder the fan. The newer the case, the larger the power supply, and the noisier the fan. So, it's fairly easy, through judicious parts swapping, to get an older computer running whisper quiet without resorting to internal, sound-dampening tricks.

Probably what I'm going to have to do is build a dedicated financial computer, install XP on it, install the latest ZA update, and then restrict the rest of my computers to either off-line use or to non-financial uses such as web-surfing where I won't need to care if my security is breached, because I can reformat the hard drive if I do get tagged with a virus. All I'll have to do is be careful about file sharing within my home network.

Hassles, hassles, hassles. If it ain't one thing it's another. For sure, compared to the “good old days” of doing investing in person or by phone, today's investor has it easy with 24/7 access to accounts, etc. But that access is prudent only if the connection is secure, and the security system can be trusted only if it is up to date. By abandoning support for Win9x/WinMe, Microsoft (and, in turn, Zone Labs) are increasing the vulnerabilities of users of those older OS's. So, kicking, screaming, and protesting, I'm either going to have to upgrade or else find a firewall as good as ZA that will continue to support older OS's.


PS Actually, there is a third alternative, which is to migrate to a Linux distro, and going that route might be a fun, technical challenge. I actually even do own a Linux box and have put it online before without a problem. But no matter what I do, my life has, at least temporarily, gotten a bit more complicated, as has the life of anyone currently depending on Win9x/WinMe for their OS.

Bottom line? Rethink your security measures. In these days of indentity theft, etc., it is merely prudent to review and raise your defenses.

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