Microsoft Delivers Last Service Pack for XP

In what can be considered a minor milestone, I suppose, Microsoft finally made public what figures to be a beta of the last service pack for its venerable Windows XP operating system.

It'll be interesting to see, however, just how hard Redmond pushes Windows XP SP3, given that the company would much prefer Windows users to buy copies of Vista instead of staying with the now six-year-old product. Evidence that Microsoft may not go all-out in promoting the new update can be seen in a statement released by the company that reads, in part: "Windows XP Service Pack 3 doesn't bring significant portions of Windows Vista functionality to Windows XP." However, given that Vista still isn't "wowing" the industry, (as Microsoft officials thought it would back at the product's splashy January launch in New York City), this halfhearted endorsement may not discourage users from sticking with XP.

While SP3 contains a lot of bug fixes and some performance improvements, there are some new features -- nothing that will take your breath away, though. New features include Network Access Protection (NAP) that better allows desktop users to work more smoothly with the NAP features built into the upcoming Windows Server 2008, the new Kernel Mode Cryptographics Module which combines a number of cryptographic algorithms, and the ability to optionally install the update without a product key -- much like Windows Vista.

Users and developers can download the beta version of SP3 here.

New Virus Attacks Google Ads
BitDefender, a specialist in developing anti-virus software, has identified a new trojan capable of hijacking Google text ads and replacing them with ads from a different provider. The new threat, which the company calls Trojan.Qhost.WU, can change an infected system's Hosts file.

According to company officials, the modified file contains a line that redirects the host "page2.googlesyndication.com," which in turn points to an IP in the form of 6x.xxx.xxx.xxx to a different address in the form of 9x.xxx.xxx.xxx. So infected machines' browsers will read ads from the server at the replacement address instead of from Google.

According to Attila-Mihaly Balazs, a virus analyst at BitDefender, the new threat "is a serious situation" that can damage both users and webmasters. He said users can be affected because the ads and/or the linked sites can contain malicious code, given that they're used to promoting malware in the first place. Webmasters can be affected because the trojan can turn away viewers which represent a potential source of money. The company is counseling users to let BitDefender software delete the trojan.

More details about the trojan can be had here.

Leopard Outrunning Tiger
Despite reports from early adopters complaining that Apple's Leopard OS is buggier than a Florida swamp in July, the product is already outselling its immediate predecessor at the retail store level after one month.

According to market researcher NPD Group, Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) is outrunning Tiger (Mac OS 10.4) by some 32.8 percent in terms of dollars, and 20.5 percent in unit volume. What's somewhat surprising is that it's not just home users that are contributing to its jackrabbit start; an increasing number of businesses are buying it, as well.

This news keeps intact Apple's sales record of its Mac OS X series of new releases outperforming their respective predecessors. For instance, Tiger had a 30 percent gain over Panther (Mac OS 10.3), while Tiger was up 100 percent over Jaguar (Mac OS 10.2).

"It's really stunning to see Apple have one blowout OS launch after another," said Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group. Swenson did note that the dollar and unit growth can be attributed to the product's November launch, right around the corner from the holiday season, as well as to the growing number of Apple retail stores. Also stimulating Leopard's sales relative to those of Tiger -- both on clients and servers, and among consumers and businesses -- was the arrival earlier this year of Adobe's Creative 3 Suite and the slick-looking Intel-powered Macs.

"There's this convergence of the end-of-the-year buying spree that corporations do and with budgets in corporations. We are selling quite a few Leopard upgrades both on the server side and on the client side to work groups in large companies trying to burn their budgets," said Michael Oh, CEO of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based reseller that specializes in selling Macs.

Mailbag: The Crash of IE 7, More
Are you among the Internet Explorer users who've been locked out of the browser after this month's patch rollout? Readers share their tales of IE woe:

Yep, ever since the update, IE sometimes crashes on two separate machines. Most times, if I go back to the Web site a second time, even immediately, it works.

Funny, too -- it even crashed when I went to the MSFT site following a link regarding this issue.
-Kevin

I tried to uninstall KB942615, but it didn't have an uninstall. So in checking the log, I found that KB942615 had failed to install properly. I uninstalled IE 7 and found out that IE 6 worked fine. I then tried to reinstall just IE 7 (and left KB942615 unchecked). However, KB942615 tried to install itself again and failed again anyhow. And of course IE 7 couldn't access the Internet. The client needed to be able to access the Internet with this computer so I uninstalled IE 7 and it is working fine again with IE 6.

So when Microsoft figures it out, they also need to include a cleanup routine to get rid of all of KB942615 so that IE 7 can eventually be reinstalled along with any needed updates.
-Dale

I am glad I am not the only one. I have had nothing but issues with IE 7 since the latest update. Not only does it crash but I cannot get rid of the initial setup screen for preferences. It always opens in a tab with my homepage in a different tab. I have tried to uninstall IE 7 to no avail. IE crashes when I try to download certain files, also. I will remove the patches and hope the MS can get this figured out.
-Jeffrey

I ran into this issue on my home computer. Re-registering the urlmon dll seemed to fix the problem for me, at least temporarily, but if it starts up again I'll just uninstall the patch.
-Mary

IE crashed again with the message "Unhandled exception in IEXPLORE.EXE (URLMON.DLL): 0xC0000005: Access violation."

The instruction is --> 7E21B5CE cmp dword ptr [esi+12E0h],ebx

This mostly happens when I select an item from the address bar drop-down.
-Brian

Why would we expect MS to fix recent flaws in IE when ever since IE 4, you can't print an unframed Web page, either landscape or portrait, with text blocked or not, without the text on the right end of the lines getting truncated? If they've never fixed that, they're not likely to fix much else. This is the workaround I advise folks to use: Firefox or Netscape if they have it, or if they're stuck with IE, then use the File, Edit with MS Office Word option. The frames get changed around, and the look is different, but at least you get all the text on the page.

Funny that this bug has never existed in Netscape, but has continued in IE for more than 10 years. Could they have put it there intentionally to "prove" that they didn't steal the code -- that worked properly -- from Netscape?
-Fred

Doug reported recently on the Netherlands' decision to switch its government agencies to open source. These readers have been there, done that:

I use Ubuntu 7.1 desktop at home, dual-booting with XP Media Center. Ubuntu works for most everything except games and music-notation applications. Unfortunately, the heavy-hitters in this arena -- Coda Software and Sibelius -- have both chosen not to port their respective flagship applications, Finale and Sibelius, over to Linux. I suspect they'll be revisiting this decision in light of the Netherlands' decision.
-Gregg

Right now, I have two OSes on my PC at work: Fedora 7 and Windows XP. At home, my laptop has Fedora 7, my wife's computer has XP and my computers have Fedora 8 and Windows 2000. I switch between the two OSes all the time. I could use Fedora 7 all the time except for the need to program in Visual Studio for our ASP.NET applications. However, I also have administrative duties on our CentOS 4 servers that require X-Windows. XP does not do this for free like Fedora does. So we save the money and don't buy X-Windowing software and just use Fedora.

I like Fedora. There are not many things I can't do in Fedora that I can in XP. Some Windows Media Web sites don't work. This is because of DRM or embedded media players not being compatible with Linux embedded players (MPlayer). Other than this and ASP.NET, that's all I can think of.
-Ken

And count Joe among the growing ranks of people who've taken up "self-Googling":

I have to admit that just last week (while no one was watching), I Googled myself. The only problem is that of the nearly 1 million finds in Google, it's hard to sort out the real me. It doesn't help to have a common name that's also shared with the lead singer of a once-popular rock band.

By the way, I've also Googled all my neighbors to see their past history. Once again, you have to sort through many false finds, unless their name is somewhat unique. The more interesting information, though, is often found by going to some county government site and viewing the scanned copies of court documents (e.g., divorces, marriages, legal actions, law enforcement), deeds or mortgage agreements.
-Joe

Tell us what you think about any of the topics we've covered here! Send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com or leave a comment below.

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