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May 28, 2002—In this issue:
- Coming this Fall: Windows XP Service Pack 1
2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
- Intel Price Cuts Run Deep
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
- Readers Respond to Service Pack Size and Frequency Question
- Attend Our Free Windows Security Solutions Webinar!
- Nextech 2002
5. INSTANT POLL
- Results of Previous Poll: Licensing 6.0 Program
- New Instant Poll: Service Pack Frequency
- Featured Thread: Workgroup Printing
- Tip: How Do I Activate Windows XP from the Command Line?
7. NEW AND IMPROVED
- New Edition of Windows 2000 Server Guide
- New Audit and Reporting Tool
8. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
In a meeting last week with Windows XP Lead Product Manager Greg Sullivan, I learned about the changes coming in XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), which Microsoft expects to ship late this summer. Some of the changes will benefit the enterprise—a welcome distinction after the almost single-minded consumer orientation of the original XP release. And some changes might surprise you as much as they surprised me.
XP SP1 is partly the result of customer feedback, but XP is also the first Microsoft OS release with an embedded error-reporting system customers can use to report bugs to Microsoft: When an application crashes in XP, or a similar catastrophic event occurs, a dialog box appears asking whether you'd like to supply information about the problem to Microsoft. Sullivan said that response to this feature has been excellent and that this feedback directly affected SP1 bug fixes.
"We don't get a lot of credit for this," he told me, "but the online error-reporting system is responsible for several fixes in SP1." Sullivan noted that the bug reports in XP follow a 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the problems are caused by the same 10 percent of errant applications and devices. "It really helps us find problems in the ecosystem and get them fixed quickly," Sullivan said. A future goal is for a more immediate online crash analysis: "We'd like to get to the point where we fix bugs after only a single crash," he said.
SP1 includes a rollup of approximately 40 Quick Fix Engineering (QFE) and security fixes that have appeared since Microsoft released XP last October. The rollup includes critical fixes that the company released between the XP release to manufacturing (RTM) and the XP SP1 RTM, as well as application and device compatibility updates. Sullivan also said that Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative had a direct influence on SP1. "The Windows Division underwent a rigorous code review," he said. "We've changed our entire software development process because of the Trustworthy Computing initiative." Sullivan said that the Windows Division spent most of February and March reviewing every line of code in XP and Windows 2000, looking for common coding mistakes that lead to security problems.
XP SP1 also includes some new capabilities, including USB 2.0 support, an optional Microsoft .NET Framework installation, a new Windows Messenger version, and support for the enabling technologies behind Mira, Freestyle, and the Tablet PC. Corporate users with no need for Mira, Freestyle, or Tablet PC support—or the .NET Framework—won't need to download or install these features. In fact, Mira, Freestyle, and Tablet PC support will only come with compatible hardware, Sullivan said. "These technologies will be OEM deliverables," Sullivan told me. "They will require XP SP1, but corporate customers and application compatibility will not be impacted by these new scenarios."
The exclusion of the .NET Framework as a required part of SP1 surprised me, but Sullivan said that it would just be another variable for corporate deployments at this point and that making it optional will let companies choose whether they want to install it. The next Windows version will include the .NET Framework as an integrated component.
The biggest news with XP SP1, however, is a new component called Set Program Access and Defaults, which is designed to meet the requirements of Microsoft's proposed antitrust settlement with the US government. This so-called Compliance Change adds a new icon to Add or Remove Programs and the Start Menu, letting end users determine which Microsoft middleware applications—Internet Explorer (IE), Outlook Express, Windows Messenger, Windows Media Player (WMP), and Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine (JVM)—to enable or replace. At a deeper level, OEMs and corporate administrators can determine which of these components appears in the UI and which are replaced by competitive applications, such as Mozilla, AOL, or RealONE.
Microsoft is taking this approach to conform strictly to the letter of its agreement, which states, "Microsoft shall allow end users ... and OEMs ... to enable or remove access to each Microsoft Middleware Product." In other words, Microsoft isn't letting you uninstall these middleware applications; it's simply hiding end-user access to them by deleting icons from the Start Menu and desktop.
The good news is that the Set Program Access and Defaults UI lets you more easily choose which applications you want to use as the defaults in these middleware categories. So you could, for example, more easily roll out Mozilla or Netscape as your Web browser. However, the companies making these products must make a small coding change so their products appear in the list of acceptable applications in Set Program Access and Defaults. Sullivan assured me that Microsoft had contacted all the appropriate companies months ago regarding this "trivial" coding change and that product versions utilizing the change will quietly begin appearing this summer.
And this summer will be a busy time for the SP1 team. XP SP1 Beta 1 is due within a few weeks, with a few release candidate (RC) builds expected between July and September. If all goes well, Microsoft will release XP SP1 by the end of September. I've posted more information about XP SP1 on the SuperSite for Windows at http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/windowsxp_sp1_preview.asp.
Incidentally, if you're waiting for Win2K SP3, Sullivan told me that its release was "imminent." When I pressed him for a more exact date, he said that the release should be widely available by July.
Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
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2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Intel, the world's largest microprocessor maker, routinely cuts prices to drive demand for new products and fend off competition from Advanced Micro Designs (AMD). However, the company's latest price cuts are unusually large, with certain chips falling in price more than 50 percent. This weekend, Intel announced its new microprocessor price list, with steep price cuts all around, but especially for the company's new Mobile Pentium Processor-M (Pentium 4M) chips, which haven't sold as well as expected. For the complete story, visit the following URL:
3. KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT
(contributed by Paula Sharick, [email protected])
Thanks to everyone who responded to my May 14 column about the size and frequency of service packs. After all these years, I'm still amazed at the Internet's power to keep us connected. Although the bulk of responses came from the United States, I also heard from readers in the UK, Norway, Germany, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and several locations in Canada.
I tabulated the responses, without any personal information except location, in a table on the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site. I organized the table entries by the preferred frequency of service pack releases, starting with zero and ending with monthly. Several responses made me laugh, including one that suggests that Microsoft developers adopt a techie version of the Hippocratic oath that states "First, do no harm...." My personal favorite is the response at the top of the list from a reader who stated, "I would prefer Microsoft release an OS that works." Although we might accuse this individual of pie-in-the-sky thinking, I know deep down we all agree with this premise. For the complete results, visit the following URL:
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
If you're using Windows 2000 to run mission-critical applications, you know Win2K has security concerns. The Windows & .NET Magazine's Security Solutions Summit, a half-day online event, addresses where the vulnerabilities lie, how you can strengthen your enterprise's security, and how you can exploit the same tools that hackers use. Register today!
Nextech 2002 is the new event for the next generation of IT covering storage, Web services, outsourcing, and networking. This FREE conference and exhibition runs June 11 through 13, 2002, at Earls Court, London. Register now!
5. INSTANT POLL
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Do you think Microsoft's new Licensing 6.0 program will lower overall upgrade costs for your organization?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 346 votes:
- 4% Yes, it will lower upgrade costs
- 51% No, it will raise upgrade costs
- 39% It won't change our upgrade costs
- 4% Don't know
- 3% We don't use Microsoft products
The next Instant Poll question is, "Would you prefer that Microsoft release more frequent but smaller product service packs?" Go to the Windows & .NET Magazine home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, I prefer smaller, more frequent service packs, b) No, I prefer large, less frequent service packs, c) I think the company's current service pack release schedule is fine.
Thomas wants to know how to share a printer in a workgroup and give all users access to it without having to mirror user accounts on the machines. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL:
(contributed by John Savill, http://www.windows2000faq.com)
XP will typically remind you to activate the product (most users will have 30 days to activate XP after installation). To activate XP manually, you can use the Start menu shortcut in the System Tools Accessories folder. At the command prompt, type
In case you're wondering, msoobe stands for "Microsoft Out of Box Experience."
7. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Bob Kretschman, [email protected])
Sybex Publishing released the fourth edition of "Mastering Windows 2000 Server" by Mark Minasi, Christa Anderson, Brian Smith, and Doug Toombs. The new edition includes a security focus that contains coverage of security templates, IP Security (IPSec), certificates, and additional step-by-step examples that show how to accomplish essential tasks in DNS, Active Directory (AD), and other Win2K topics. The book also contains a CD-ROM that contains the entire book in electronic format. The book costs $59.95. For more information, visit Sybex Publishing's Web site.
IS Decisions released WinReporter, an advanced audit and reporting tool for networks running Windows XP, Windows 2000, or Windows NT. WinReporter facilitates network management by retrieving data linked to the OS network and maintains retrieved information in an ODBC-type central database. WinReporter lets IT teams find all servers that don't have the latest service pack installed, count all installed software on the network, detect all unregistered software, get precise information about available disk space, list groups and users by domain and computer, and list RAM sizes before migration to a new OS or installation of new software. For pricing and other information, contact IS Decisions at +335 59 41 42 20, email [email protected], or visit the company's Web site.
8. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT THE COMMENTARY — [email protected]
- ABOUT KEEPING UP WITH WIN2K AND NT — [email protected]
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — [email protected]
(please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — http://www.winnetmag.net/forums
- PRODUCT NEWS — [email protected]
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE SUBSCRIPTION?
Customer Support — [email protected]
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