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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols  
Redmond, We Have a Problem Here: XP SP2
By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Opinion: Implementing XP SP2 is almost as much work as installing a new operating system, and Microsoft needs to get the word out to its channel’s customers.

Redmond, we have a problem here. You see, I’m finding that patching Windows XP systems to Service Pack 2 (SP2) has all of the troubles and concerns that come with an operating system upgrade instead of a major patch.

Technically, I can handle that, but I suspect there are a lot of VARs (value-added resellers) and system integrators out there who don’t realize yet that implementing SP2 properly is a huge job. More importantly, I know that most end-users aren’t aware of just how difficult upgrading their businesses to SP2 is going to be.


I’ve worked with operating systems of all kinds since the ’80s, and the closest thing I can come to the XP SP2 upgrade in terms of Windows upgrade difficulty is NT 4 SP3. That patch has something else in common with XP SP2: It was absolutely necessary.

You can argue, as I did then, that NT 4 SP3 was required to finally make NT a truly useful server operating system. Today, XP SP2 is mandatory to make XP at least reasonably secure. As it sits today, an unpatched XP system is a security disaster waiting to happen.

PointerClick here to read why unpatched Internet Explorer is just too darn dangerous to keep using.

At the same time, though, if you’re in the Windows channel business, you’re going to have to do a lot of testing to make sure that your customers’ applications aren’t going to break under SP2. We already know that some applications will break. Microsoft’s own Microsoft Business Solutions CRM version 1.0 flat out won’t run with SP2, and you have to walk your way through a series of workarounds to get 1.2 to run.

eWEEK.com Special Report: XP Evolution

A close look at Microsoft’s CRM troubles reveals problems that you’re sure to run into with other programs. For example, CRM 1.2 uses pop-ups, and Internet Explorer 6 after SP2 now comes with a pop-up blocker. Or if you access a Microsoft CRM server from the Internet zone, you’ll now have to manually set its URL to the Trusted Zone before the CRM client will display properly.

I also foresee other, generic applications problems emerging. The main source of these problems will be the new, improved and—most of important of all—automatic Windows Firewall, which replaces Microsoft’s old and lame ICF (Internet Connection Firewall).

For most SOHO users, simply updating their firewalls to Windows Firewall-compatible versions should take care of these concerns. For instance, the popular new version from ZoneAlarm, ZoneAlarm 5.1.011, works with SP2 and its new Security Center.

PointerClick here to read why your PC users still will want third-party firewalls.

But corporate users who have never had a firewall on their desktop PCs are going to report a whole lot of “false” problems that will boil down a program or network resource having been blocked by Windows Firewall.

Next Page: Positive changes for Internet Explorer.

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