JWR: I had to ad my own two cents to the Preserving a Digital Library. As a seasoned IT pro myself (one of my early customers upgraded all the the Windows for Workgroups network I setup for him to Windows 95 himself and called me when he couldn’t get it working) I have reliance on my systems, be it my cache of reference documents and ebooks to documents I’ve written myself to my gear and prep inventory spreadsheets.
I see no reason to choose Windows XP over Windows 7 or Windows 2000 or Windows 3.1 when it comes to back doors. Every version I can remember since Windows 3.1 was rumored to have a back door. That includes XP, 2000, etc. A Windows preference you may wish to stick with XP just because it can run on older hardware.
With regard to activation, sure you can over the phone, but we are talking disaster planning. What happens when you have bugged out of the area you lived in due to a storm and arrive at a motel and your drive has crashed and you reinstall and then the phone lines are down when you try to activate. I’ve seen a number of desktops, laptops and even servers just decide one day they were no longer activated and require a re activation or reinstall to fix. I myself also have some laptops with OEM XP which will install and run for years without ever activating, so Windows 7 is not the only (Windows) OS that can do it.
On a related note Windows activation has been cracked multiple times over the years resulting in Microsoft changing and improving the code over time as well as blacklisting some licensed and OEM keys which were widely pirated. This has resulted in a few combinations of install CDs that would not accept the license key on the computer I was attempting to reinstall. Many of us IT folk who dealt with end user workstation installs ended up with multiple XP install CDs so we could use one with worked with a customers license. By the way, a quick call to Microsoft World Wide Fulfillment with a valid license key would allow purchase of a replacement media for around $20, though its been quite a while since I last called.
I’ve chosen the Linux route. For the average end user its no more difficult to install now a days than Windows. I run the oldest distro (Slackware) which comes with a stock Kernel compiled to be very compatible. I’ve taken the drive from a laptop and stuck it in an adapter and booted it in a desktop. Sure I might not have gotten all the extra hardware or X windows to work upon first boot but the Kernel was able to figure out the new hardware and load the right modules to get the system up and running. Try that with XP without a BSOD.
I’ve seen activation issue over the years with software such as Microsoft Office as well. I’ve seen compatibility issues even with Adobe PDFs. I have some scans that were created with an old version of Acrobat that the current versions of the reader have to repair them to open them. When I made the Linux switch I started converting everything to as open a format as I could. This was I have no software that needs activation or even a license and my files are more portable to new software should the need arise. One of the things I strongly suggest when you are refreshing your backup media is to test opening various files to ensure the software you have now can open the file you saved many years ago. Lastly there will never be an end to which is more secure, closed (Microsoft, Apple) or open (Linux, BSD) source. Close proponents argue that its harder to find exploits without access to the source while the open source world says more eyes can quality assure it and fix it faster. The closed source software still has the highest number of exploits if you look at statistics though there are many other factors such as size of user base, ease of exploiting, availability of tools, etc. I believe the open source side is a better match to self reliance. – Eugene X.