Thought for the day: The long SP2 wait

Opinion

Thought for the day: The long SP2 wait

Simon Moores  

Simon Moores is beginning to get nervous about the imminent arrival of Microsoft's Windows XP SP2 and its compatibility problems.

 

 

 

 

The promise of a more secure and resilient update to the Windows XP, Service Pack 2 (SP2) has been in the proverbial post for some months now, and I for one could do with a copy.

I now have so many Windows updates and patches on my primary HP laptop that I’m starting to worry about its overall stability.

This particular model was rebuilt once by Microsoft before the installation of Windows SP1, and today I would guess that it needs rebooting at least three times each week when Outlook, Word and Internet Explorer freeze for some unknown reason.

Re-starting the laptop can take as long as 10 minutes, and although I can’t point the finger of blame in any single direction, I suspect that my layers of content security protection are a major factor in creating a "flaky" personal computer.

But what can one do? Without anti-virus and anti-spyware tools surrounding your Windows installation, one might as well, to quote Captain Blackadder, “Be sitting in the middle of no-man's land at night, smoking a cigarette and wearing a luminous balaclava.”

To the rescue comes Windows XP SP2 which, if you recall, is a service pack that will contain a number of features and fixes.

Security, such as the Windows firewall is now a default, and there is a new browser, greater e-mail protection and better memory handling.

Presently, SP2 is in beta testing but much like the hand-over of power in Iraq, it was widely predicted to appear by the end of this month.

Several sources are now saying that Microsoft may have discovered application compatibility problems which could delay the Service Pack, and it is this question mark over compatibility which makes people like me a little nervous.

Microsoft is facing a huge challenge in ensuring that SP2 doesn’t break customer applications but there is only so much in the way of rigorous testing that the company can perform. Put another way, there has never been, to my knowledge, a perfectly robust Service Pack of anything I can remember. 

TechEd reportedly admitted that strengthening the security of Internet Explorer, which include a number of changes, including the addition of a pop-up blocker and more granular Mime (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions), has had an adverse impact on line-of-business application capability, which is hardly encouraging.

The firewall could present another problem, as it is now turned on by default in SP2 and configuring applications individually to avoid being blocked is an unappealing scenario.

What we will get when SP2 eventually surfaces is a more flexible, robust and secure version of Windows XP and this is worth a ripple of welcoming applause.

However, I don’t much like hearing that “the time to test and implement SP2 is higher than a typical service pack”, even if the cost to patch code exploits one-by-one is "likely to be greater" than the cost of implementation of SP2.

For most of us this means that we’re trapped between “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and Microsoft’s next big push in its Trustworthy Computing campaign, which once again, takes us back to that lonely spot in no-man’s land, a cigarette and a free luminous balaclava.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security .

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com

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This was first published in June 2004

 

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