Windows XP sp2 is here…

If you’ve been getting xp auto updates, it will start to download itself automagically in the background. Supposedly, this is supposed to not interfere with general operations, but it ground my desktop here to a halt during the process. The download is 75Mb to 225Mb depending how up to update your machine is already (takes about an hour or so on a broadband connected idle machine).

When you start the install it, it grinds away for a moment, then tells you that it will complete the process in the background. Yeah right, my desktop here was pretty much unusable as it did its work under the hood. It appears to backup up everything in case you need to undo the update, but that seem’s pretty scary to me.

I’m on my 4th sp2 rollout (new desktop at home, old desktop at home, laptop at home, and desktop at work). Initial observations and thoughts:

1. New Security Manager. After rebooting into sp2, there’s a security console that nags you about automatic operating system updates and making sure you have firewall and antivirus.

2. New xp firewall. xp had a firewall before, but it was not enabled by default and buried in network configs. Now, its front and center in the security console and turned on by default. As far as I can tell, its just like zone alarm in the way that it plays traffic cop. Unfortunately, if you turn the new firewall off, xp nags continually you about not having a firewall. So, I’m giving the xp firewall a shot here on my desktop and seeing what havoc it wreaks. It appears to leave windows file/printer sharing open by default.

3. New pop up blocker. sp2 adds a popup blocker to IE, that’s turned on by default. It appears to work pretty well, but it has some contention with other blockers (ie, google and myie2 (aka maxthon)). I’ve found that personally, the best option is to turn off sp2 blocker off and turn google off and just use myie2’s).

Note: in the might cause web developers grief dept. The sp2 popup blocker considers the old download via javascript redirect trick (ie, load a page then change the document.src to the item to be downloaded) to be a blockable action (it reports a security issue with downloadable file) and gives an option to continue the download (though the placement on screen makes it easy to miss.)

4. Misc. dept: there are other more subtle changes. The control panel applets have been rearranged a bit around the new security settings, etc. Web developers may want to spend a little time getting familiar with the firewall settings, in case clients start having problems.

5. Good News department: I haven’t messed around too extensively yet, but I haven’t found any applications broken by the update, phew! There’s incompatibility list of about a zillion programs making the rounds. I haven’t hit on any of those yet.

6. In the ‘eh?’ department. I noticed on reboot that my xp welcome screens no longer say ‘home edition’. wonder wassup with that…

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