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Originally published March 7, 2014 at 4:08 PM | Page modified March 8, 2014 at 11:37 AM

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Second-chance platform iffy for old Windows XP machines

A community project called Android-x86 seeks to extend the useful lives of Windows XP computers, but the particulars remain unclear, writes Patrick Marshall. Other topics: getting Media Player on Windows 8.1 to play commercial DVDs, and security-certificate pop-up warnings.


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Q: I saw your recent response about Microsoft ending support for Windows XP. I agree with your concern about sending older computers to the landfills (hopefully, recycled instead).

I was wondering if there is a reason Android OS can’t be installed on a re-formatted hard drive on an older PC. It would provide a lot of the functionality that people use, and maybe those PCs won’t end up in some bin, waiting to be crushed. I hate wasting stuff.

— Chris Butler

A: Nice thought, but I’m afraid that’s not a viable option, at least for now. The problem is, operating systems have to be designed for the hardware they run on.

You can run Android on a Windows computer using a virtual machine, such as BlueStacks, which essentially acts as a translator between the Android OS and the underlying hardware. But that runs on top of Windows, so you’re still stuck with an unsupported, less-than-secure operating system.

There is a community project called Android-x86, which is working to port Android to the x86 platform — which is what Windows XP runs on — but it’s not ready for consumers.

What’s more, we don’t yet know what the system requirements will be when it is ready, so there’s no guarantee it will run on those old machines.

Q: I recently upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 because I added a touch screen. Everything works pretty well except that I can no longer play DVDs. All I had to do before was pop them in the drive, and Windows Media Player would load. Now I can’t even find the drive from within Media Player.

What up?

— A. Keller

A: Apparently there are licensing fees Microsoft would have to pay if it allowed playback of commercial DVDs. You can download a feature pack that will enable this feature in Media Player, though it will cost you $10.

Just go to windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/feature-packs.

Alternatively, you can download any of a number of free video players. I use VLC media player, which you can find at www.videolan.org/index.html.

Q: I consider myself somewhat computer savvy and fairly well-informed about computer scams, phishing, etc., and always try to be very careful (shred everything, never open unfamiliar emails, etc.).

However, I did something very foolish yesterday, and now I’m wondering if I was scammed.

I am a health-care professional and have been applying for jobs at https://www.usajobs.gov/, a secure website run by the federal government. I found some interesting positions available with the U.S. Army Medical Command, so I followed the link from this secure website and the following pop-up message appeared on the screen: “The site’s security certificate is not trusted!”

To make a long story short, I ignored the warnings and created a new account, stupidly entering my Social Security number. I never did receive a password from the site, and now I’m wondering if this is an elaborate scam or if it is simply bureaucratic bungling by government employees.

Shortly after I completed this action I began to worry about what I had done. Was this a scam?

— PK, Seattle

A: I suspect you’re OK. That message is coming up after you click on a link that’s on a legitimate site, so it’s most likely that the medcell.army.mi l webmaster didn’t attach the correct certificate to that page. I’d contact the webmaster at the site and ask about the warning.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.



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