Locked but Loaded


Last week, Cisco let it be known that he was ready to give up his Mac Mini in exchange for a Windows PC. It’s what his friends have, it’s what his school runs, and, well, he’s seven.

Still, going from OS X to Windows? Giving up the slick ‘stack-of-six-CDs’ form factor for a mini-tower’s worth of eyesore? Apple to MS? The boy needed some serious talking-to. Two days I geared up for it, simplifying my reasoning to elementary school level. But in so doing, I completely defeated my own arguments. And, well, he’s seven.

So I spent the weekend putting together a decent XP-class P4 out of my previous two rigs. An upper-end core solo from right before the duos took over, a couple of gigs of RAM, an 80 gig drive for the OS and a 320 for his growing collection of, uh, ripped media, etc.

Now, I’m pretty handy with XP. I managed and was the technical lead in two projects that migrated whole critical networks of hundreds of workstations over to the platform from NT. I designed the Active Directory configuration for the severs and developed tightly locked down, closely managed workstation configurations for a variety of user types and requirements. I took full advantage and squeezed every bit of functionality I could from global/local policies, user profiles, and everything the Zero Admin initiatives could give me to come up with a solid, reliable, and relatively secure XP-based workstation build.

So no bot-net-bait on this home network. This little guy’s machine will be locked up tight as a drum. But after a relatively blissful year on the OS X security bubble (which is fast approaching critical mass as the Mac market share does the same — inevitably attracting the ne’er do wells and popping this lickable aqua-themed bubble) and all that vaunted XP experience, I still can’t help but feel like I’m handing the kid a loaded gun. Or a thermolyte explosive charge with remote detonators scattered all over the Internet.

I’m not an Apple elitist by any means — I run Vista on my primary desktop mostly by choice, and I’m learning to love my media-serving, torrent-leeching ‘buntu box — but this has got me asking, how responsible is this?

And, more importantly, is there a special circle in hell for those who give XP boxes to their kids?