Over the last year or two, the Windows operating system has started to resemble the South Bronx in the early 80s. Yes, it’s intrinsicly valuable, but it’s also become dangerous. The young and innocent must be protected from predators.
Over the weekend, Microsoft slowly rolled out a massive service pack for Windows XP – the latest version of its operating system. Since I have a bunch of machines to update at home, I downloaded the 225mb version and then passed it across my network to all the machines.
The size of the download will certainly keep people with dial-up accounts from getting the pack. It will probably intimidate many broadband users as well. That’s a massive file to download.
I’m taking few chances, so it was installed on my spare machine first. I figure there’s nothing mission critical on this machine so I can survive should the machine be unhappy with what I did.
Microsoft actually expects to see some troubles, though I have seen few specifics. Since it closes holes in certain ports with its new firewall, it’s sure to break programs that communicate in a non-standard way – even if they’re doing so for a perfectly legitimate purpose.
After the download, installation took about 25 minutes. It didn’t ask for my help, other than clicking off on the EULA.
As far as I can tell the installation was a success. I immediately noticed my wireless network, which needed me to manually start it on every reboot, was now finding its own way to operation. I’m not using Internet Explorer or Outlook Express on that machines, and I know that’s where a lot of the security enhancements were aimed.
There are two things which trouble me. First, this service pack doesn’t address problems for people running Windows 98, a perfectly fine and usable operating system. We have two machines at home (Steffie’s desktop and my laptop) which are running Windows 98. Neither machine has the firepower to switch to XP. They will continue to be susceptible to all the same attacks that brought this service pack on in the first place.
My second problem concerns whether Microsoft will allow this patch to be used on systems with bootleg copies of XP. It would seem obvious that they shouldn’t support those who steal from them, except for the fact that many of the ills this service pack stops are passed along to legitimate users. So, no inoculation for them means they may make my computers sick in the long run.
It is certainly a quandary for Microsoft. I don’t know what I’d do if it were me. However, if viruses and spam from zombie machines continues because of Microsoft’s policies, I’ll be ticked.