Is XP Service Pack 2 a disaster?

by Jonathan Hassell

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Bob Thompson writes this morning:

"Windows XP Service Pack 2 shows all the early signs of becoming an unmitigated disaster. IBM issued an internal memo telling their employees not to install SP2 until further notice, if ever. Several of my readers have said
that they have no plans to install SP2, despite the fact that Microsoft labels it a critical update. The problem is that SP2 breaks other software. Lots of other software. And the workarounds for a particular broken package, if indeed there are any, can be pretty complex, involving editing the registry, opening or closing particular ports manually, and so on. Not something you want users doing, and not something that IT departments have the resources to do machine by machine."

I have great respect for Bob, but he's off the mark with his assertions here. Let me take them step by step.

IBM did issue a memo halting installation of SP2. They did the same when Windows 2000 was first released, saying here were issues with TCP/IP and DNS, as I recall. But what smart company doesn't delay installing a new service pack for any application, including an operating system, until proper testing has been done? My thinking is that IBM wants to spend a few months ensuring their own applications will work with SP2, which is a smart step.

Perhaps several of Bob's readers don't have any plans to install the update, and that's fine. I don't see how that is a reliable metric that indicates a real problem with the service pack. I have no plans to buy a new car, but that doesn't mean I don't want one or think one would be put to good use. To say that "no plans" is a representative statement of the quality of the service pack is imprecise at best.

SP2 does break software, but it breaks software that was doing security wrong. Microsoft finally says, "Hey, program, we're not going to allow you to do this that way." They are enforcing security standards and programs
that break were doing things incorrectly. Besides, SP2 has been in beta for months and months and months. I do know there were last minute changes before RTM, but they broke one-off applications that aren't in wide, wide use. The fact that Symantec products don't work is only the fault of
Symantec for not being more proactive in development and testing.

Workarounds to make these products that are all but purposefully broken are complex, and you know why? Because you have to work at making SP2 do things the wrong way. Oh, what a problem.

I'm really growing weary of hearing everyone take Microsoft to task for the company's lack of fundamental security awareness. These same people then take Microsoft to task for incorporating improvements into an operating system that break other insecure applications. So you want security, and you want applications that work. Don't blame Microsoft for this one. I've been running SP2 for months and months and it's the most stable OS I have used to date. And I run a business on Linux.

Do you think SP2 is a disaster?


2004-08-18 00:13:16
same old story
Microsoft haters will point the blame at Microsoft for 3rd party applications not working properly that abused functionality in previous versions that wasn't working as advertised (if not actively using undocumented (and therefore private) APIs that they should never have used in the first place).

Many of them will fail to install SP2 and then in a few weeks or months scream bloody murder when they get infested with trojans and virusses that would never have stood a chance if they had had SP2 installed.
It was exactly the same story with SP1 as well. I've seen many people claim noone should install it because some games would possibly loose a few tens of a percent in performance.
Shortly after they indeed came back complaining about how crappy Windows is with all the virusses and trojans which people who had SP1 installed were safe from.

2004-08-18 01:42:07
It is only XP they are patching
The XP service pack is a good thing. Windows was broken and some more sensible security was in order. Microsoft did try to alleviate the pain by an extensive testing period.

The one thing that makes Windows not more secure are all those other Windows versions that do not get better security. Compare this with the service on the Linux platform where minimal development is going on to keep the platforms secure and functional.

The effort for XP is in itself a good thing. Comparatively, Microsoft is doing a cheap job.

2004-08-18 03:41:36
It is only XP they are patching
That's a very good point. The effort needs to be across the entire range of products and not just with XP. Thanks.
2004-08-18 08:36:14
I can say, working in IT at a major company, that telling users to hold off installing SP2 (or any major upgrade) is a pretty standard procedure. Those who are calling it signs of a "disaster" have apparently not heard of things like change management, testing, and controlled deployment.

To say that workarounds for SP2 issues are "not something that IT departments have the resources to do machine by machine" ignores the fact that most of them can be applied to the entire enterprise via Active Directory group policy objects (including opening Firewall ports and managing exceptions).

Now, I'm no big fan of Microsoft most of the time, (I'm a Mac user at home), but I agree with Jonathan. How can the best technology hope to win if we don't allow an even playing field -- even with Microsoft.

2004-08-18 19:44:21
Is XP Service Pack 2 a disaster?
Here is the lowdown. By the way, if you're an administrator running your business on Linux, then someone else is probably running it for you because it's more secure than Microsoft software and they know it.

Microsoft bug: Microsoft doesn't work

Microsoft has confirmed this to be a bug and it will be fixed in some version.

API Philadelphia "Where we invented the computer!"

The Microsoft OS Performance Team has written thousands of articles about this
bug in an effort to increase the lumberjack industry in Washington State so
they can all get back to an easier, non-thinking job. Now, however,
lumberjacks are concerned that they will be replaced by younger fishermen.

"Not that they really think all that much anyway." states Jan Gray, former
Overseer and Lumberjack from Yakima. "But if I can put my Washington displaced
workers back to work at what they are capable of, I'm all for it."

Hordes of lumberjacks descended on Redmond, Washington for two decades now.
Displaced by the federal conservation laws designed to get lumberjacks out of
the forest and into a place where they could do less harm, led to a massive
influx of re-trained programmers in the early years of Microsoft. California
wages were unacceptible, and the displaced re-trainees of Washington State were
actually paid by the State of Washington out of Federal Funds and thereby
reduced the starting yearly salary in Redmond, Washington, to $00,000.00 "But
lumberjacking is just about fished out." declared Gray. "We at Microsoft are
getting tired of re-training hopeless woodenheads. It is true that they will
take next to nothing in salary just to get in our doors, but we see this as an
indication that fishers and fishermen will take even less. Fishermen don't
like the lumberjacks anyway. Early experiments with fishers led to Team NT,
which soundly whipped the lumberjacks in Team 95. So we're going with
displaced fishermen. The lumberjack crowd is getting old at Microsoft, all of
them are over 25 now and Microsoft does not support long term employment

It is hoped that the specific skills possessed by the displaced fishermen will
lead to an eventual catch of this bug. Unlike the displaced lumberjack workers
who were retrained via the Washington State Unemployment Office because of
massive layoffs when the Forestry Conservation Laws were enforced, it is
presumed that fishers are not hackers, i.e., they will utilize their skills of
bait and hook, as opposed to outright taking something as cumbersome as an ax
to every problem.

What about displaced programmers? "They are not our cup of tea." Gray stated
emphatically. "Using displaced programmers would be like the Pentagon using
U.S. born citizens; it's unthinkable! No, lumberjacks, fishermen, foreignors,
they all do what they're told without conscience. It seems that if you've
never had a real job with real money, you will do anything without thinking.
Again, I'd like to state Microsoft's position on thinking: we won't tolerate
it. We have a longstanding "Just Say NO to thinking" policy here and that's
the way it's going to stay. The thinkers can just go and write working
operating systems like Linux and Unix; we don't want a working OS. We don't
have enough money yet."

What about the time it takes Explorer to refresh the tree screen? "I am
particularly proud of that code, I wrote it. ICompare and Array.Sort were very
troublesome, they were hard to invent as credible ideas. But, like the
Pentagon who I learned from, I figured that if you told people enough times it
was efficient and true, then they would believe it. Everybody believes it now,
even when the delegate GoToLaLaLand is invoked, people just sort of sit there
in a daze waiting for the directory tree to load. We borrowed some code from
'Looker' to flash them into hypnosis via the screen they are stuck at. They
don't even notice the time lapses and losses anymore. And that's good because
we are now teaching the public to "Not Think!" Gray then deferred to Dr. Wirth
of Intel.

"Look, they own us and we do what we're told. When we sell you a 15 gigaHertz
microprocessor, do we tell you that it's the crystal that is only running that
fast? No, we do not! If we were to tell people that their computers are
stilling running at very low megaHertz rates, why they'd call us liars; we
can't have them thinking about the truth. No, like the Pentagon, it's much
better to lie and call it something credible until people believe it through
advertising. I was a fisherman before I did this work you know, just like Sir
Isaac Newton. Einstein was a lumberjack, maybe a programmer, I don't remember
because I don't think anymore. I'm safe at last."

If a Linux programmer fixes the Microsoft bug will he get credit? "Absolutely
not!" says Gray. "We've reverse-engineered all of the source code of Linux now
and we've changed all the words, functions, calls, etc., so that no one can
recognise it and file Copyright Infringement cases and we're not going to start
recognizing real programmers now."

"Look, I'm not saying that our Geos, ahem, I mean Windows Operating System is
the best there is, I'm saying that it is the best there is. Get it? Don't
think, just accept it."

"We're doing everything we can to take the displaced fishermen off the streets
of Seattle and out of the piercing and tattoo shops and give our kids a break!
I mean, how many holes can you put in a person before business goes slack? And
since the Federal Government is going to pay for it, we're going to continue to
get rich off of the American taxpaying public once again. Besides, our fishers
can still work at piercing as long as they don't think while employed by

According to the Western States College Accrediting Association it is a
prerequisite at all Western States Universities that their students do not
think in any way think at all. They consider thinking to be a form of
"downloading of ideas" and do not want to become involved in litigation with
California's Governor Terminator. "It is better to have a blank slate at UCLA
than a working mind; we can deal with blanks, we can't deal with independent
thought." says the Admissions Office of the University of California at Los
Angeles which now offers a degree in Acting with a specialization in Acting
like you're a programmer. The R.I.A.A. and its non-thinkers have approved of
this policy. "Better to have a dumb kid than a smart Author." according to
Hilary Rosen of the R.I.A.A.

For those of you who may think this article is long and windy, I have to say,
just think how long and windy Microsoft is. I think, therefore I am, therefore
I cannot work for Microsoft.

©1994-2004 Terry James

2004-08-23 09:48:20
Is XP Service Pack 2 a disaster?
I must admit that I do not follow this.
2004-08-30 07:59:55
xp is a disaster for businesses
We have serveral computers running everything from Windows 2000, XP Pro, NT 4, and even some with Mac OS X. The automatic download of service pack 2 came with no warning from any of the manufacturers of some of these machines, the one that we had the initial problem on was a Dell Dimension 2400. This computer was only 1 year old and running fine, upon the "critical" download the computer ceased to run, only coming up in the safe mode. Communications with Dell forwarded me to Microsoft who them promptly forwarded me back to Dell and so on and so forth. Finally after going back and forth for 3 hours, the Dell representative said and I quote "Dell is telling their clients to cease all installations of service pack 2 and to not install service pack 2 until furthur notice. Service pack 2 is not recomended to install" I will be very interested where all of this ends up, but until then there is no way any of our computers at our shop are going to get service pack 2.

Toren Prawdzik
General Manager
Allied Photographic and Imaging Lab
Grand Rapids Michigan

2004-09-23 06:04:38
I assume O'Reilly old chap that you were a Beta testa for SP2 given that you have been using the product for months and months, if so I can understand your attatchment to it. I am not having a go at you in any way shape or form but your article was as bad as the anti SP2 articles doing the rounds because it failed to be objective. The fact is that the roll out of SP2, regardless of the quality of the product, has been badly mismanaged and poorly thought out. Why there is no accompanying compatability check is beyond me, particularly in light of the fact that I have so far seen 11 different computers that have been unable to boot because of driver incompatabilities following the installation of SP2. I do not I hasten to add work in the field of computer repair, I am a software engineer by profession but now work in a different field but still fix computers for friends, family and friends of family and friends.

I have spoken to a close friend of mine who is the IT manager of a large national food handling chain which uses some 4000 pc's and he tells me they have been experimenting with sp2 on ten different machines (5 networked, 5 stand alone) with different configurations and they are having problems with all of them so somethings not right.

I'm not trying to bash Microsoft, in fact it annoys the hell out of me when gormless twits spend 2 years of their lives trying to find vulnerabilities in an operating system then jump up and down about it like the programming team did it deliberately but we can't wear rose colored glasses either.

And one final thing, just to show I'm petty,sp2 isn't an operating system.