Frugality in the digital world

Many things I learned, I learned from my parents; most probably you did so too. I believe passing of knowledge and wisdom through familial generations takes place worldwide. One of the virtues that was instilled upon me when growing up in Japan, which to some extent is still how I relate with my material possessions, was to not waste anything. The mantra was that one can fix anything and nothing is too old to toss out.

How is this, basically the concept of “frugality,” pertinent to a column on demystifying the digital world? Specifically does frugality apply to digital world possessions? I’m exploring this because I’ve seen a worrisome trend in the past couple months that could lead to some computer users becoming a victim. Ignoring the warnings and continuing to use Windows XP machines leaves users open to the risks of a computer virus of identity theft.

Technology evolves too quickly and due to what I call “built-in obsolescence,” most older technology becomes useless beyond certain point. Due to this same evolution, newer technology becomes affordable more quickly.

Many businesses lease computers instead of buying them outright because they don’t want the initial capital outlay and leasing takes care of built-in obsolescence by refreshing technology at lease renewal. For personal use, though, many of us probably make that initial capital outlay. And just like a car we may even become fond of our computer and continue to use it even after its useful life.

As a result of the disruptive innovation we call the internet, you live in both real and digital worlds simultaneously. You use your computer, smartphone and/or your tablet to connect to the internet to reap the benefits of the digital world. However just like anything else that provides benefits, the internet has nefarious entities trying to misuse those same powers. And those same nefarious entities can target people still using Windows XP.

For computer hobbyists, enthusiasts and “geeks” like this columnist, there are unofficial workarounds that may temporarily enable Windows XP to receive security updates because Microsoft still supports one special version of Windows XP used in banking; they just don't support the consumer and most other versions. But for a typical user keeping abreast of and applying these workarounds at the innards of Windows XP can be challenging, if not daunting. One may take the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument as to why one keeps using the Windows XP based system. That argument is only half correct because even though the system, aka hardware, is not broken, the operating system, aka software, is now good as broke since Microsoft is not supplying the security updates to consumers since April.

So technology is one exception where being frugal is not always the appropriate answer. With entry level laptops regularly on clearance for under $400 there is no good reason to continue using Windows XP. Earlier this week I saw a respectively equipped entry level laptop on clearance for $359 at our local big electronics chain. Also consider a tablet which can handle most entry level functions such as email, browsing and comes with a universe of affordable apps that may be appropriate as the replacement for your Windows XP system. Technology evolves and now you have options!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 13, Posted 9:06 AM, 06.24.2014