Windows XP

WDST technical operation center
technical operation center

It is time to plan and upgrade those machines running Windows XP. After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer be updating the software and/or patching security holes. Many in the IT industry believe that after that date, hackers will attempt to break the popular operating system which has been in use for twelve years.

Approximately one-third of all Windows operating systems in use today are XP.  Microsoft has already warned users that potential hackers could use security patches and updates for Windows 7/8 systems to scout for vulnerabilities in XP.  I know several radio clients have automation systems and office networks that run primarily Windows XP.  Microsoft may be overstating the risks of remaining on XP, then again, they may not be. This situation has been described in several trade magazines as “A ticking time bomb,” or equally dire:  “Microsoft urges customers up upgrade or face ruin.”

In radio station infrastructure, very few systems are as vital as the audio storage and automation system.  Without a functioning automation system, most stations would be dead in the water.  If an automation system were to hack and be ruined completely, I do not think there are enough people left on most stations’ payrolls to run an operation manually, even for a short period of time.   I, for one, do not want my phone to start ringing on April 9th with a bunch of panicky managers talking about how unacceptable the situation is.

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13 thoughts on “Windows XP”

  1. Hopefully those automation systems are on separate networks without direct internet access. If so XP will run a long time without worrying about hackers. They can only hack what they can reach.
    Stations using their automation PC for studio email (they’re out there) may find things far less pleasant!

  2. (Quote) Without a functioning automation system, most stations would be dead in the water (End Quote)

    One possible solution: Rivendell Radio Automation. It’s free, it’s open source and it runs on CentOS Linux. Right now it’s powering the Salem Communications radio chain, Radio Free Asia and the Radio America Network in Washington DC, and numerous commercial & non-prof stations in the US and overseas.

    Don’t scrap your current system, but just install a copy in an unused offline 64-bit box for fun, add some music and spots, and poke around with it between now and April.

  3. I echo the sentiments of Chuck, as long as the automation system is not connected to the outside world the end of support for XP is not as dire as some might suggest. Windows XP has matured quite a bit in its lifetime and it’s no wonder many people stuck with it over Vista, especially given the mess it became. It would have benefited M$ if they did the homework they did for Win 7 beforehand instead of giving people a bad experience with Vista.

    With my fulltime gig supporting computers in 19 campus buildings among a variety of users it’s no wonder boxes get infected. One freelance client insisted their studio automation unit doubled as their internet machine. I think they learned by the third or fourth time they were taken off the air that this wasn’t the brightest of ideas! Even a golden oldie computer running BrowserLinux would save a lot of headaches over having to mend the automation system time and again.

    I do wonder where some of the automation systems stand as far as operating systems go, as I still see some boxes out there using Windows 2000 or Server 2003.

  4. Chuck, some good points there, a wise person would run their automation system on a separate network and keep the internet away from it. Most places do this, but there are a few that have everything on one subnet.
    Alan, I have looked at Rivendell a few times and I like the layout. I am not familiar with CentOS, my Linux versions have been Mint, Redhat-Fedora, and Ubuntu so I am familiar with RPM and Debian distros. I have also fooled around with some light weight kernels like DSL and Puppy. I think the Open Source is the way to go, but many station owners have so much invested in their closed source software that making that change will not be easy.
    Bill, have some clients still running Windows 2000 operating systems on their automation. My windows machine runs Win 7 and my Linux is currently Ubuntu 12. I am happy with both. Windows server 2008 R2 and 2012 R2 seem pretty good to me, too.

  5. Still have a lot of clients using Nexgen on XP…and yes…I’ve tried to get most of them to upgrade…and only one of them has. That being said, I agree that as long as you’re not interneting on them…I wouldn’t worry too much. I still have about 15 DOS RDS Phantom automation systems in service…most of them on 386 or 486 machines, using Netbui networking to transfer audio in and out, and they just hum along fine…all of them are at least 20 years old.

  6. Regarding putting legacy boxes on their own subnet, you still want to take care that it’s not an Internet-connected subnet. Someone at some time will think it’s a good idea to fire up IE6 on the automation box for some crazy reason.

    And don’t forget about other infection vectors like USB thumb drives and the like. If the thought is “no one would plug a USB stock in here, why would they? For what purpose?”, then answer this: If you put a button in the studio that had a sign above it reading “do not ever push this button – engineering staff only”, how many times a year would some random non-engineering staff push said button?

    Legacy stuff like XP is best eradicated. It’s a liability.

  7. Paul,

    CentOS = RedHat, for the most part. The latter is a commercial product and the former is a free open source version based on it. Operationally, pretty much identical.

    The Rivendell folks cooked up an “appliance” DVD that performs a complete installation of the OS and the automation system on any common 64-bit PC. Worth finding.

  8. I’ve got Rivendell up and running. But its strength is in the OS (Ubuntu) that it runs on. And of course, you need the hardware to support it.
    I never liked XP- thought it stood for eXperimental Platform.
    Does this mean there will be a free number for any XP install you might do?

  9. Chris, are you the one who got the Phantoms remote desktop/VNC enabled using PC anywhere for DOS? I tried to do that with my late model Phantoms, but couldn’t find cards compatible with dos drivers. No matter, we’re finally weaning ourselves off RDS. Which is a shame. If Register had just ported this to XP, he’d be doing business now. Nothing out there does what Phantom does for SAT stations with multiple sources as quickly as RDS, even if it is a biatch to set up. I’m going to miss the day when our Phantoms are gone. Even though the new system is much more capable, the Phantom was a radio “Appliance” when that was the only way, Now that “Appliances” are back, the automation systems aren’t. One unit that could do everything, and still does, that’s RDS Phantom. Too bad it’s hardware dependent.

  10. Whoa … Out of curiosity, I just went to look up the RDS Phantom on the web and there’s a placeholder at effective on Jan 6. How long has the company been shuttered?

  11. J Swift,

    I stumbled upon this while doing some searching on Rivendell, which I am starting to tinker with. Anyway, our group uses Phantoms exclusively for now, and to remote access them, get yourself some intel NICs-they should have DOS drivers. Also, for remote control, use a program called NetSupport Manager (that is what RDS equipped Phantoms with instead of PCAnywhere). Just be sure to get the NetSupport Manager version for DOS, which I believe 7.1 was the highest DOS version available. That will do it so you can access the Phantoms accross a LAN. If you want access to your systems from accross the internet, you will have to do a “dual hop”. Use your remote access software of choice to remote into a Windows/Linux/Mac machine on your internal network, and then on that machine load up NetSupport Manager and access your automation systems.

    By the way, for anyone interested who happen to stumble upon this thread looking for XP, Phantom, remote access info-NetBeui DOES WORK on VirtualBox in an XP VM. So even if you are still using Phantoms like we are, there is nothing to prevent you from upgrading your XP machines to Win7 and/or Linux. That way you have a supported operating system, but won’t lose the luxury of remote access to your DOS systems, or other “legacy” features. I have read that NetBeui can be installed on 32bit verions of Vista/7, but I have not tried it, and in this day and age, why would you want 32bit Windows 7 anyway…

    Hope this helps someone out there…


  12. “I still have about 15 DOS RDS Phantom automation systems in service…most of them on 386 or 486 machines, using Netbui networking to transfer audio in and out, and they just hum along fine…all of them are at least 20 years old.” You ought to see how they fly on modern hardware. If Register had ported this to XP, they’d still be in business. Can’t find anything else out there that handles switching between 7, 8, 9 different sources as easily. Alas, it’s the reliance on the specific ASI card that did them in for us. We couldn’t find one to replace our dead one, so the journey into “modern” automation began. The new systems are great at voicetracking, but suck at doing multiple sat sources.

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