Windows Client UPDATE--Further Explorations into Windows XP SP2 RC1--May 13, 2004

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Implementing Client Security on Windows 2000/XP


1. Commentary: Further Explorations into Windows XP SP2 RC1

2. Reader Challenge
- April 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
- May 2004 Reader Challenge

3. News & Views
- Microsoft: No XP SP2 for Pirated Copies

4. Resources
- Tip: Solving "Page not Found" Error When Accessing Windows Update
- Featured Thread: Profile Folder Problems

5. New and Improved
- Ashampoo WinOptimizer Platinum Suite Gets New Features
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: Further Explorations into Windows XP SP2 RC1 ====

by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

I recently received an email message from a reader who was in quite a panic. He had installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) Release Candidate 1 (RC1) on a computer that his site really needed for a couple of specific tasks and was surprised to discover that one of those tasks didn't function correctly with SP2 RC1 installed.

The reader was worried because the IT department had installed SP2 RC1 more than a month ago, they'd installed a number of other applications since the SP2 RC1 installation, and--he told me somewhat sheepishly--the IT department couldn't figure out how to remove SP2 RC1 from the computer.

Starting with what I thought was the reader's simplest problem, I instructed him to launch the Add or Remove Programs applet in the Control Panel and remove the service pack from there. You can imagine my surprise when he told me that the SP2 update wasn't in the list of currently installed programs under Add or Remove programs.

This prompted me to look at one of the SP2 RC1 computers I was running. Sure enough, no service pack was listed, nor were any updates that I'd applied since I installed SP2 RC1. However, I did see a little check box at the top of the Add or Remove programs window that said "Show Updates." After I selected the check box, all of the installed updates (e.g., hotfixes, service packs) automagically appeared.

Not seeing the check box is clearly a case of familiarity on the user's part; the check box wasn't there before, why should it be there now? But after giving it some thought, I've concluded that the check box is a good idea. I'm sure that in the final release of SP2 you'll be able to disable the check box, most likely through Group Policy, thereby making all updates invisible to end users and giving them one less thing to play with and break their computer.

I wanted to make sure that my advice to the reader was accurate, so I removed SP2 RC1 and all updates that had been installed after it. Doing so took a few steps because of the necessary reboots. The uninstall routine generated a message that told me what applications had been installed after SP2 RC1 and that these applications might be affected if I removed SP2 RC1. I let the uninstall routine continue and made note of the six applications that had been installed post-SP2 RC1.

After I removed all of the SP2 pieces and hotfixes applicable to SP2 RC1, I went to the Microsoft Windows Update site-- apply all of the post-SP1 hotfixes. Applying the hotfixes took several passes because some of the updates required independent installation.

After my computer was completely updated, I checked the basic Microsoft Office applications to make sure they still worked. The only problem I encountered was that when I launched Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, it loaded along with the installation routine for Microsoft MapPoint 2004. To stop this from happening every time Outlook was launched, I had to reinstall MapPoint (which was one of the six applications that were installed post-SP2). No data was lost, and after I reinstalled MapPoint I found no other functional problems with the applications installed on the computer.

As I said in "A Heads-Up on Windows XP SP2 RC1,", I don't recommend running technology previews such as XP SP2 RC1 on a computer you really need. However, it's nice to know that you can recover from just taking a look at it.


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==== 2. Reader Challenge ====

by Kathy Ivens, [email protected]

April 2004 Reader Challenge Winners

Congratulations to Chad R. Dean of Waterloo, Iowa, whose correct (and amusing) answer wins first prize in our April 2004 Reader Challenge. He gets a copy of "Windows Server Undocumented Solutions: Beyond the Knowledge Base," by Serdar Yegulalp (McGraw-Hill Publishing). Laurenzo Grabois of London, England, wins second prize, a copy of my book, "Home Networking for Dummies," Second Edition (Wiley Publishing). Visit to read the answer to the April Reader Challenge.

May 2004 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by May 27, 2004. You must include your full name, and street mailing address (without that information, we can’t send you a prize if you win).

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for a receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at on May 28, 2004.

The May 2004 Challenge:

At a recent Sunday afternoon party, I ran into a neighbor who's an IT administrator at a large company. As we devoured crabs and shared a pitcher of beer, he told me he'd spent several frustrating hours that week renaming more than 100 files on the accounting department's file server. Apparently the files had been updated to reflect 2003 information, but the filenames hadn't been changed--they all had "02" in the names. He opened Windows Explorer and moved through the folder and its subfolders, pressing F2 and typing the new filename, one file at a time. The files were originally named Q102PL.doc (for first quarter profit and loss), Q102BS.doc (for first quarter balance sheet), YE02PL (for year-end profit and loss), and so on. There were files for each quarter, for each type of record (e.g., profit and loss, balance sheet, accounts receivable/payable, budget).

"What a frustrating waste of time," I commiserated. "It's a shame you're not as old as I am, because I could have renamed all the files in each folder in about five seconds. I've often thought I should write a book about MS-DOS for administrators, because most of you are so young you never had to learn DOS."

How much do you know about using MS-DOS? Answer the following questions correctly to be eligible for a prize.

Question 1
Given the filename examples I just described, enter the MS-DOS command that will update all the filenames in the current folder from 02 to 03.

Question 2
The commands you enter while you're working in a MS-DOS session are memorized so you can recall and reuse them. Which of the following programs performs this memorization:

A. dosmem.exe
B. doskey.exe
D. all of the above

Question 3
True or False: You can copy, cut, and paste text from a command window.

==== 3. News & Views ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft: No XP SP2 for Pirated Copies

This week, Microsoft verified that Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the company's long-awaited security update, won't install on pirated copies of the best-selling OS. Press reports had suggested that Microsoft was going to let pirated versions install the update, but the company says that XP SP2 will behave exactly like its predecessor, XP SP1, in that regard.

"Recent press reports indicating Windows XP Service Pack 2 will install on pirated or illegal copies of Windows XP are not true," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Instead, prior to installing, SP2 will check the operating system's product ID against a list of known pirated product IDs. If the product ID is found to be invalid, SP2 will not install."

Microsoft recently delayed the long-awaited XP SP2 from the first half of 2004 to July or August, mostly because the company discovered incompatibilities between the update and some software applications and services. XP SP2 includes various new security-oriented features, such as a new on-by-default software firewall and other technologies that combat electronic attacks.

Although Microsoft is adopting an XP SP1-like stance, the company's decision to prevent pirated copies from installing the XP SP2 update wasn't an obvious one, Microsoft sources told me last week. The situation is complex: Although the company obviously wants to prevent pirates from reaping the benefits of XP SP2, what happens when electronic attackers use unpatched, pirated copies of XP as worm or virus "zombies" in distributed attacks on legitimate computer users? In the end, Microsoft decided that the benefits of preventing pirates from updating their XP copies outweigh the benefits of protecting those systems. Let's hope that the company made the right decision.

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==== 4. Resources ====

Tip: Solving "Page not Found" Error When Accessing Windows Update

(contributed by David Chernicoff, [email protected])

I recently experienced a problem in which the Microsoft Windows Update Web site-- loaded and then generated a "page not found" error in the main frame when it tried to load the page that gives you the option to scan for updates. The problem was intermittent and not repeatable on demand, and although more of an annoyance than a major problem, it temporarily stopped me from updating the selected computer.

While working through some other networking issues, I discovered an empirical solution to the problem. If I removed the Windows Update site from the control of my local proxy server and let page requests be passed directly through to the Microsoft server, the problem went away. I'm not 100 percent certain that the proxy server was the problem, but making this change has prevented a recurrence of the "page not found" error.

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