Windows? Oh, right, that means malware

We’ve been a Microsoft-free household for the better part of a decade.  I had one lonely copy of Windows XP on a virtual machine so that I could occasionally use iTunes to manage my iPad.  Everything else runs some variant of Linux, OSX, or iOS.  Until yesterday, Christmas day.

We purchased new hardware so the girls can a) run their Windows-based games, and b) stop fighting over the other “fast” computer.  It wasn’t a terribly expensive machine (<$200) but it offers decent performance.  We went completely over to the Dark Side and purchased it from our local Microsoft Store.

I was pleased with the whole process — I rather prefer the tenor of the Microsoft Store over the Apple Store (located a few storefronts away in the same mall).  Windows 10 is supposed to be so much better, too.  I’m not a fan of the interface but it is intuitive for some tasks.

I have just, as I type this, finished removing malware.  Already.  Less than 24  hours after turning their new, fully-patched Windows laptop over to the kids, there is malware on it.  The built-in Windows Defender virus and malware scanner didn’t detect it, of course, but it was clear that something was wrong when I borrowed it back to check on it.

Color me unsurprised.  I’m just glad that I took a whole-disk image before first boot.  I think I will be restoring it to factory settings before too long.  (the bastards don’t include recovery media anymore.)  I’m also glad that tools like MalwareBytes and Spybot Search and Destroy have free versions.

New Year’s 2014

xmas tree
The Christmas tree at Quincy Market, December 2014

We have established some new family traditions around Christmas and New Years:

  • a family night out to Quincy Market to see the Christmas tree and have some dinner;
  • the early-evening fireworks on Boston Common for New Year’s Eve.

These are real, official traditions – we’ve done them for at least two years in a row.

The night at Quincy Market isn’t fancy: a casual stroll around the touristy section of Boston, with some overpriced dinner and maybe some trinkets from the various and sundry vendors.  A ride on the carousel, before it closes for the year, is mandatory.

selfie, Dad and Alpha child
My beard makes me look like sasquatch

Along with the Christmas tree there is a light show called ‘Blink,’ which plays every hour or so.  Music by the Boston Pops is piped in over the loudspeakers.

We chose to stay home for Christmas Day, rather than travelling to Connecticut to join our folks.  That is a tradition I can get behind – so much less stress than driving around all day.

We didn’t plan much for the day.  We held open the possibility of going to the cinema, but the girls wanted to stay home and watch a movie we got for Christmas (Guardians of the Galaxy).  Having a low-stress holiday is refreshing, so unlike the holidays of my childhood.

My folks weren’t thrilled with not seeing us – my father is very resistant to change, and he’s accustomed to hosting the entire family – but we had Christmas Part II on the following Sunday, which was actually pretty fun.

A pair of starbursts over Boston Common, New Year’s Eve 2014

This year Baba (the kids’ name for their grandmother) joined us for the fireworks.  We took the train in, ate dinner in the city, and walked to the Common with hot chocolate in hand.

The weather was cold but the sky was clear.  The show ran a little long, about 15 minutes, but the kids were thrilled and we all forgot about the cold for a bit.