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Windows XP SP3 Continues a Legacy of Failure

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I'd like to extend a nice big F-U to Microsoft for releasing yet another product that's screwing up my computer (pardon my French). Windows XP SP3 has been out for a few months and I haven't heard about the world coming crashing down as a result, so I figured it might be safe to install. HA! I should have known the clowns in Redmond wouldn't be able to get this right.

I looked for the redistributable version (so I wouldn't have to use Windows Update later for my other computer), and all I could find was this behemoth of a file. I had Windows Update already running for another task (looking for an update to Remote Desktop to try to quash a problem at work, but no dice). I decided to try letting WU get the update. It seemed to download okay, started installing, then toward the end, it just froze. I think the words "Finishing Installation…" were even tattooed there on the screen. Nothing would function, couldn't even Ctrl-Alt-Del out, so I resorted to the reset button.

Thing comes back up and says "SP3 installation did not complete." Ya think? So it offers to uninstall itself. I figure this has to be a good thing, so I click OK. Software Update Removal Wizard comes up, starts doing its thing, gets to Restoring Catalogs and after a minute that hangs as well.

Reboot again, try to remove it again, winds up hanging at the same spot.

I reboot yet again, hit F8 to try to bring up "Last Known Good Configuration," get to Windows, check system properties and it still shows me having SP3. I mean, parts of it might be on there, but between a failed install, a failed uninstall, and the fact that it still thinks SP3 is here, I don't know what to make of it.

During all this fun, I was researching the installation freezes on my laptop separately, trying to see how common the problem is. Turns out installation problems with SP3 are pretty common, and it's prevalent among users with AMD processors. Guess what? My desktop machine in question is running an AMD Athlon 3800+ X2. Way to ignore a healthy chunk of your userbase by favoring Intel only, Microshaft.

This just in! Upon running Windows Update again, five of the six updates I chose to install…WON'T INSTALL! Alright Microsoft! High fives all around! [sarcasm much?]

At least I can get to Windows on the affected machine and might be able to keep working with it, but with a half-assed service pack partially installed, I'm not terribly optimistic. I guess this one's due for a clean reboot by year's end anyway.

I just don't get the mentality at MS. They release Internet Explorer 7, loaded with bugs, bugs, bugs, and more bugs (even going so far as to break MusicMatch Jukebox, my MP3 player of choice), then push right on into IE8 before really fixing them all. Vista comes out, causes all sorts of problems, they issue one round of fixes, then start moving right on to developing Mojave, the next iteration of Windows. I'm starting to think Windows is going the Madden direction and we're going to see the OS equivalent of a roster update with a different year stamped on it every 12 months.

They couldn't even release a game console without it breaking at a phenomenal rate. Someone needs to remind them that QA stands for Quality Assurance, not Quickly Avoid the issue or Quietly Advance to the next project.

I hope the blame lies with abrupt deadlines and poor management, because if this is really all the best and brightest among us are capable of, it's pretty disconcerting.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robet M. Barga

    I have never seen an issue with IE7 or Vista or my xboxes… Are yous sure this is common or are you just ranting?

  • Mark Buckingham

    Click any of the links in the article and you’ll see how common it is. A 16% failure rate, not to mention that at least a dozen people I personally know from different parts of the world and walks of life have had the red rings of death on their 360s (BC editor Ken Edwards included), is much more than just “me ranting.” The only way I figured out IE7 was killing my mp3 player was by searching on the Internet and voila, other people had the exact same problem. And no problems with Vista? Were you asleep during the first year it was out? Programs breaking, drivers not working, and the OS had a number of holes that still needed plugged.

    This stuff is fairly widely reported. Glad your luck has held up so far, but you are the exception.

  • bliffle

    Generally speaking, the installs I’ve done of XP SP3 have worked well, whether on my computer or a friends. Vista has installed well (followed by the SP1) and done simple stuff, but it choked on the drivers for a multi-purpose printer/fax/scanner. As far as I’m concerned Vista is an unusable system.

    I usually do a fresh install on a new HDD and then re-install all my apps and plugins rather than trying to update a copy of the old system with the new OS. It’s more work but it always results in a better system.

    I also install a linux partition on each system (ubuntu 8.04) and generally prefer it to XP, for a whole bunch of reasons that everyone’s heard before.

  • Mark Buckingham

    For AMD users still stuck trying to install SP3, http://tinyurl.com/6zs52d“>this tool/info might help you out.

    Just click “Do not connect” if you get the invalid certificate warnings and you can still get the info you need.

  • Mark Buckingham

    UPDATE: It’s been a few days since SP3 failed its way onto my machine….sort of. It’s been exhibiting random horrific problems, mainly involving the machine freezing up at odd times or shutting itself off altogether for no apparent reason, and the latest bug has the thing booting up, but the login screen for Windows never appears.

    It is unresponsive on my LAN at times, and has had laggy performance in a few programs.

    Bear in mind that this machine ran damn near flawlessly prior to putting SP3 on there. If I can uninstall it, you sure as hell bet I will. If not, looks like a wipe/reinstall is in my immediate future. *sigh*

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    About 8 weeks ago my computer started getting blue screens of death anything from 2 to 30 odd times a day. All the so called help from Microsoft was as useless as it was incoherent.

    The only thing I had installed was XP SP3, which I have removed and re-installed twice.

    About two weeks ago the crashes stopped just as mysteriously as they started. I can’t begin to explain how much I hate Microsoft!

  • bliffle

    I’m going to guess that you guys are infested with viruses. I don’t think most of these fancy virus checkers are any good.

    Most windows viruses that I’ve tracked down are enabled by either ActiveX or Flash. You can disable ActiveX in a windows IE seccurity screen, somewhere. If you do it early enough after installing a fresh system on a clean HDD most of your problems will disappear. Of course, a lot of fancy windows bric-a-brac won’t work.

    Flash can be removed through the Control Panel in the Add/Remove Programs screen. Of course, your youtube videos won’t play, etc. What I do is download the youtube video with a browser helper program and display it separately. And usually I do that with linux instead of windows because it’s easier and more reliable.

    But it’s hard to live without ActiveX and Flash because they are SO central to most of the website builders these days. Many websites are absolutely dependent on the damn things. And yet, they are NOT internet standard conformant. Microsoft is slipping one over on users by trying to make them de facto standard through popularity. But they are evil because they each contain backdoors that MS intends to use to control your computer, but teenage hackers quickly find these secret backdoors and create interesting new viruses.

    If you must use these vile programs you are advised to run your windows system in a Virtual Machine environment, such as the various Mac Windows simulators or VMWare or something like that. On linux you can use wine, virtualbox, the VMWare free client, etc.

    Too bad MS is so crooked. Too bad so many naive website builders are content to use bad authoring tools just because they are approved by MS and touted by dumb reviewers.

    Too bad MS is determined to change the Open Internet into a proprietary MS network.

    Too bad so many ordinary users are kept ignorant of this stuff and continue to use these devilish programs.

    Too bad magazine reviewers don’t warn users.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i avoid many of these problems by not using IE.

    and soon, i will avoid more by getting a macbook and giving up windows forever.

    p.s. i have a desktop computer up in my office that’s had a version of suse linux on it for several years now. it never has any problems.
    imagine that, an operating system that works.

  • Mark Buckingham

    I don’t use IE. Haven’t practically since Firefox came out. Viruses also seem unlikely, UNLESS they came as part of a package deal with SP3.

    I think it’s all too coincidental that all these problems started in the day(s) immediately following when I put SP3 on.

    That in mind, I’m inclined to call XP SP3 a virus.

    Also, I can’t just opt over to Mac or Linux or whatever (though I do open anything even remotely suspicious in a XP VM via VMWare). I also do tech support for a Windows-based software company and review PC games for a living. If I can’t give an honest appraisal of what issues other users restricted to Windows may encounter when using these programs, then I’m not doing my job.

  • Adam

    I was installing an update to my OPERATING SYSTEM and I restarted my computer in the middle of it cuz it was going too slow. Now my computer won’t work. Microsoft you suck.

  • bliffle

    Mark,

    SP3, as distributed, is not a virus. In fact, if you disable the real troublemakers (ActiveX and Flash) then XP is a very nice system. I use it regularly for a couple of things I MUST use, and it is quite benign.

  • Roe ANtinore

    Mark, I spent two hours today on the phone with a microsoft tech from India. Although he was polite and tried very hard to help me, in the end, they have to get back to me tomorrow. I have an HP Pavillion desktop computer running Windows XP Media Center Edition with an AMD Athlon 64×2 Dual Core Porcessor 3800+

    Long story short – I tried to install through the Windows Update site the SP3. It didn’t install, tried again, it didn’t install, tried to uninstall, it didn’t uninstall. Then called MS Tech because I now cannot even access the Internet or any programs that need the Internet like my email. They just don’t “connect”. They try but they don’t connect. Anyway, the tech tried to help me and finally we were able to uninstall SP3 but I still can’t access the Internet. Thus they are calling me back tomorrow when they have had time to “research” my problem. I’ve also had problems with IE7. So you are not alone.

    Good luck.

  • Mark Buckingham

    bliffle…Obviously SP3 isn’t a virus in the traditional sense. I was mainly making a comparison between how a normal virus operates (silently, mischieviously, often pretending to be HELPFUL software) and how SP3 was wreaking havoc on my machine under the guise of a “handy update” designed to “protect me.” Yeah, it protects me great because I can’t even use my computer half the time. Also, I like XP. I just liked it a lot more when it was only running SP2.

    Roe…I heard a big part of the problem was AMD processors. I have the exact same one you have, and while I was able to get SP3 to supposedly finish installing by using the 300+MB standalone network installation, the system is still FUBAR.

    UPDATE: Most recent side effects are that it’ll just reboot after being idle for about 30mins, and if it doesn’t do THAT, it’ll just start lagging so bad that when I move the mouse, I can go make a sandwich before the pointer on the screen responds. Clicking and keyboard input were nil.

    Here’s what I’ve done so far…
    -went to control panel, system, advanced, startup and recovery, settings, and unchecked “automatically restart” under System Failure, in the hopes that if there was a BSOD or error message, I might get a chance to actually SEE it, and get a clue as to the culprit. This didn’t help.

    -went to run, msconfig, and disabled anything left in Startup that might be screwing up the stability and to see if any new programs appeared. All I had that I wasn’t using was NeroCheck (updater for Nero) and SoftAuto, something that came with my Creative Zen mp3 player. Nero was on looong before the problems started, and I added the Zen software after the problems started appearing, so I can’t blame either of those. This didn’t help.

    -tried uninstalling SP3 again, got to the last item on the list (running processes before uninstall) and hung, just like before. I left it alone and came back later to find it at the login screen. I have no evidence that it completed (still shows SP3 in system properties) and for all I know it just did the idle reboot after 30 minutes again. This obviously didn’t help.

    -ran Ad-Aware, Spybot S&D, and a virus scan; the first two brought back nothing out of the ordinary. The virus scan was taking forever (3 hard drives in the system totalling 820GB or so) so I went to bed and left it overnight. Came in today to see the screen horribly lagging, and another window had covered the results screen, so I couldn’t tell if it found anything or not. I’m running it again, but I’m not expecting it to find anything.

    Next on the list to try…
    -reboot with Windows CD in the drive and try to have it “repair installation.”

    -reformat and reinstall everything. Fortunately, I have backups, so reformatting the C: drive by itself is just a hassle and a time-suck, not a catastrophic loss or anything.

  • Mel Vincent

    I’m currently researching SP3 crashes as a result of an automatic update – but not for myself. I’m checking it out for both my brother and father who just installed it via update on each of their computers.
    Unfortunately both of their computers have crashed and keep freezing.
    They can’t boot up to check this out for themselves. Seems like the solution is to (somehow) uninstall SP3…
    One wonders why I’m able to research it for them without crashing? I found another preventative solution to these sorts of problems. I bought a Mac and haven’t looked back.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Macs are nice and all for those who can legitimately use them. As mentioned before, working for a Windows-based software company and doing reviews of PC games, I don’t really have the luxury of switching OSes.

    Anyway….UPDATE!!

    I got sick of screwing around with SP3, so I gave up, backed up the few things I hadn’t yet (tho I forgot my Puzzle Quest characters [who safely co-exist on my laptop, thank goodness] and my Hamachi login/settings), and reinstalled from my old XP CD. Funny thing happened when I went to install SP2, though. It froze around the same place the SP3 install did, I got a BSOD, and it rebooted and uninstalled the SP2 stuff. Weird.

    On a hunch, I moved the installer file (screw Windows Update) from an external hard drive to right on my desktop itself, and ran it from there. It installed fine, rebooted, and came up just as it should have.

    So could there be something with installing service packs from removable drives or remote locations (like Windows Update)? Who knows. If it’s updating USB drivers and trying to read the SP file from a USB-connected drive, that seems entirely possible. I spose it could be happening with the network adapter, too, which may screw up the Windows Update version.

    All I know is, I’m done with SP3. I’m not going to screw my machine up by testing this theory out on it again. Maybe in a virtual machine, but ONLY there.

    Now, as I’ve spent the last 12 hours reinstalling all my apps, games, and other stuff, it’s time to create a restore point and go to bed.

  • Parag

    In this Free & Open World, why on earth should we have to give so much of importance to Windows & Gates????

  • Mark Buckingham

    Because so much of the world relies on their product to function.

  • http://www.bps.co.ee Paul Pignon

    We have to use Windows a lot. Most of you who work in the real world know that you can’t interest customers in a product unless it works with Microsoft stuff.
    So I installed SP3 on my main office desktop. I often work remote on it via Remote Desktop, which I have always praised as being one of the best things Microsoft ever did. After that Remote Desktop would not work.
    Any one else seen that? I dare not try installing SP3 again because I have work to do :-/

  • Mark Buckingham

    “I dare not try installing SP3 again because I have work to do”

    My sentiments exactly.

    That said, there seems to be some debate as to whether SP3 is to blame for RDC problems or not. These two links here and here have some info on it. I’m wondering if it’s just part of SP3’s beefed up security getting in the way.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Microsoft has a defective product? Really? I didn’t know such a thing could happen!

    Tell me it ain’t so!

    When you steal your original product (from IBM) is it any surprise that down the road you wind up selling trash?

  • http://jetsnewsviews.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Sorry guys but I’ve been using SP3 since it came out with no problems at all. My screen got the jitters, but it turned out to be a mouse related problem.

    Things even improved more when I downloaded the beta for Internet Explorer 8.

    The one thing I dare not do is upgrade to Vista which appears to be a nightmare.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Hi Jet…it’s possible a big part of what affected me was related to my AMD processor. My laptop uses an Intel, but after the hell I went through with my desk machine, I wasn’t about to take the chance.

    I run Vista only in a virtual machine for testing it and screwing around with it. I don’t have much interest in using it as a full-time OS yet. Maybe sometime during year 3 the hardware will catch up, the bugs will be ironed out, and it will ALMOST be a worthwhile OS. Just in time for MS to release the next iteration.

    Of course, the first thing I’m doing when I have to commit to Vista is applying my desktop theme, which a modification of the Win98 desktop. Hey, it worked, and I’d prefer functionality to pizzazz.

  • http://jetsnewsviews.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Mark, a suggestion

    Download Windows defender for the XP machine. It’s great it works in the background and is very good at spotting intrusions. It’s a no fuss no muss program.

    I get free Norton Antivirus because my ISP is AT&T and they seem to work seemlessly with windows defender.

    Also, despite all the warnings not to, I also have Spybot on board and it works great.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Thanks. I still have an older version of Norton SystemWorks 2003 that still accepts new virus definitions. Seems to work fine most of the time, though it flags files one day that were fine the year prior for some odd reason. One was a mod to run GTA: San Andreas in a window. Was fine for ages, then one day Norton freaks out about it.

    I, too, use Spybot. They’ve made a number of improvements over time, and it does a scan in a fraction of the time Ad-Aware takes.

    What all does Defender do anyway?

  • http://jetsnewsviews.blogspot.com/ Jet

    It works completely in the background. I actually have to bring the program up to see if it’s working and it is.

    Mine’s set to check everything every day at 7AM, it doesn’t even slow the system down like Norton does when it’s scanning.

    It works like spybot but is constantly updated and it finds all kinds of little buggers. It also downloads a “malicious software tool” once a month that does a thorough but quick check of your system once a month.

    The thing I like most is that even though it checks your system every day, it doesn’t plaster a report across your screen every day. In fact the only time you hear from it is if it finds something.

    Since installing it, Spybot hasn’t found anything, but I still keep it as a back up, just in case.

  • Bop

    Sounds like your SP3 download was corrupted or you had a conflict with Norton 2003, perhaps.

    I’ve installed SP3 on 5 AMD Athlon computers including 3 HPs (2 laptops) and had no problems. I have noticed however the network lag is horrid, all programs have slowed down including the search feature; on one program it takes up to a minute just to close and then reopen it so I just narrow it now. When I open a folder for the first time on the network it just freezes for 10 to 15 seconds on any computer I’m working on. Someone told me they installed SP3 on another computer and had the same problems with the network. Granted all computers are at least a couple years old but come on.

    BTW Vista really is a joke (unless you get the most expensive vs) — call it Windows ME(Squared) — Windows System 7 is coming so if you can hold off another 2 to 3 years till SP2 of that comes out, do it.

    To further my argument that Vista is a joke, new inexpensive laptops called Netbooks (which don’t even come with 56k modems or DVD drives) put out by Asus (EPC1000HD $375 at Best Buy) and Acer (Aspire-1 $350) have Windows XP SP3 preinstalled on them — not vista, and guess what — network lags (especially with searching) are the same even with them — worse actually since they have less than a 1GHz Intel processor (and this is with 2GB of Ram in the Asus which I bought (both computer and ram) from Best Buy (didn’t like the Acer because there is no way to take the HD/Ram out and it didn’t come with any recovery software (Asus actually had a recovery DVD and it’s quick))…..

    Get rid of Norton 2003 and your computer will speed up … that may have been the problem — norton 2003 conflicting with the SP3 install, perhaps?

    For a free antivirus which seems to do the job AVG
    For a free firewall (I don’t trust the antivirus on comodo yet):
    Comodo and then a free program to clean the registry: Ccleaner.

    Also to avoid computer mishaps in the future, I’ve found a $50 program called Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2008 suite, which fully backs-up (and partitions) my HD and fully restores from a bootup CD (created from an iso image which is separate from the install program) and I made sure by putting in a test HD and doing a full restore (and it works on HP unlike Acronis which crashed my 3 HPs when restoring to a test HD). This will save you a lot of time and hassle in the future and guess what — no activation or registration required for this unlike other programs, so it’s well worth the $50.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Thanks, a lot of good info there. You’re not the first (and surely won’t be the last) person I know to call Vista “ME redux.” I plan on avoiding it at least till Win7 comes out, as you suggested.

    I use VMWare on my computers to host virtual machines, and I really need to start using those safe test environments more than I already do. My understanding is that if I install AVG to test in a VM and deliberately give it a virus to see if it’ll catch and dispose of it, the host system should remain unaffected by the infection within the VM. Any inklings as to the factuality behind that?

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Mark the difference seems to be I’m using a desktop tower (e-machines) that I bought in 2003 and you’re using a laptop.

    I don’t know if laptops need different software or not, I’ve never owned one.

    I think in the last five years it only crashed once, but recovered nicely.

    A suggestion, use the XP compatibility wizard to check on any software you might be having trouble with. Believe or not, I’m using a 1995 version of ClarisWorks for my financial spreadsheet that was giving me fits until I used the compatibility wizard on it. Now that it running in Compatiblity Mode, I’ve no trouble at all.

    You click, it asks what versios of Windows software it ran on, I clicked win95, it confirmed it and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

  • http://www.esnips.com/web/TheImprovExperiment/ Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Jet,

    Just an FYI – Modern Laptops & Desktops can run the same software & operating systems.Unless one OS is Linux and the other is Windows, but, that’s becoming less of an issue from what I hear. Brand has nothing to do with it…

    Personally, SP3 is a waste of time except,supposedly, for IT people & home netwokers.
    I’m still using XP SP2 and don’t see a need to upgrade. When I do upgrade it won’t be to Windows 7, more likely Linux. I’m sick of Microsoft and their over-priced, buggy craptastic software.

  • http://www.esnips.com/web/TheImprovExperiment/ Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *Heads Up*

    Microsoft will be offering freeConsumer Security Suite:

    The Redmond, Wash., company said it plans to introduce its security software, code-named Morro, during the second half of next year in an effort to persuade more users to secure their PCs against spyware, viruses and other forms of “malware.”

  • Steve

    What a great group, I have a Medion P4 running XP and recently went through the fun and pleasure of installing ‘SP3′ getting the ‘could not complete install etc’ went online and found how to fix it and with the help of my Computer Expert Brother In Law was able to get the beast to work. Great, one happy little vegiemit, but then the beast attacked, my home network would not see any other PC, then it would, then not. Then I thought it’s about time to back up things to my USB drive “My Book” – wrong Steve – I get “USB Device Not Recognized, one of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and windows does not recognize it” msg, so I try a USB stick and the same error msg. I checked the devices on my wifes Dell running XP & SP3 no problems. I’ve uninstalled the USB drives and let xp find and reinstall them on boot up but still the same error. I’m at the stage of getting out the original XP cd and SP2 cd and doing a fresh install and to hell with SP3. “B-I-L” has suggested uninstalling any updates since SP3 then uninstall SP3, anybody else tried this or had this USB problem.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Hi Steve. Can’t say I’ve had the USB problems, as I was never able to get SP3 to fully take. I’ve heard of a number of potential causes for it not to install, from having an AMD processor to not disabling all your security software prior to running the SP3 installer.

    As an aside, isn’t it pathetic that viruses and trojans can get system-level access to lock you out of the programs designed to prevent them? What’s the point of said security software if the malware can burrow right past it, and the programs designed to protect you are stuck sitting there twiddling their thumbs, unable to stop anything? /end rant

    If I ever mess with SP3 again, it’ll be with a version of XP with it already on it; no more of this patching/updating nonsense that breaks a machine. There are all sorts of versions of XP floating around out there on the internet, with service packs pre-installed and other bloatware stripped out. Since Microsoft doesn’t want to support XP anymore, the users have taken the reins and done it for them…not unlike how Linux is all user-supported. Hmm, interesting.

  • Steve

    Mark, problem solved, 3 Simple Steps.
    1. Unplug the power cord from PC.
    2. Push on button on PC for about 30 sec’s, to drain any residue power on Motherboard.
    3. Wait 15 min’s and power up again.

    Yippeeeeee, all my USB ports work again.
    I actually found the way to repair it when reinstalling XP & the SP’s. One moment my ports were there then gone, except on one of the many reboots you have to do I noticed a comment come up saying “installing USB host” or words like that so I went into Device Manager and noticed I now had “SIS PCI to USB Enhanced Host Controller” which I had not noticed before so I disabled it and when I plugged in the USB Stick it worked but only at USB 1 speed. I did a search on Google on my old PC for the SIS etc and found a blog site where the gentleman had the same problem and he was told to do the above by Microsoft Help people. Sounds silly but it has worked, only wished I had found the site before I started to reinstall XP and all my software. At least it is keeping me out from under my wifes’ feet and out of the rain.

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Jet

    I’d do a disc clean up before proceeding with that, you’ll get better results…

  • http://blogcritics.org/scitech/ Mark Buckingham

    Steve, I might have to try that for another reason. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an “Unknown Device” showing up under my connected USB devices, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is. I can ID everything individually, and everything I know of shows up, so I’m puzzled.

    I also had a problem where my tower’s front USB ports had this magical ability to render perfectly working gizmos to “Unknown Device” status, though they worked perfectly fine before plugging them into that, and wouldn’t work at all in other ports after being plugged into those. Needless to say, I disconnected those ports from the mobo and called it good. No sense fragging anymore of my peripherals over a couple defective ports.

  • ted in pdx

    I’ve been enduring Microsoft for about 30 years now. First let me tell you, while I understand the sarcasm, it’s only about stage-2 in the acquiring the discipline necessary to survive and thrive in spite of this pernicious monopoly of desktop computing. (Stage-1 is the belief that if you provide sufficient documentation and insight into the nature of a problem, they’ll respect you for it, and try to help.) That said, I will confess, that from time to time I still succumb to the temptation to get angry and sarcastic, just as I did about 5 minutes ago when I agreed to send them an e-mail support request using their latest service predicated on the notion that their customers should not only tolerate their defective software, they should pay for the privilege of having the defects explained to them, in the hope that some cybernetic humanoid in either Redmond or Mumbai will provide a work-around. (Of course an actual fix would be out of the question.)

    The bad news is this: Back in 1996, after failing to meet their target release date for Windows 95, Microsoft learned that their customers would tolerate and install any new release of their software which fixed critical problems in the previous version, even if the new version introduced an entirely new cast of defects. They also learned that by treating new releases as elective upgrades to a ‘BETA’ version (meaning, we know this has bugs, but if you really want to try it out, we’ll send it to you…), they could obviate the traditional notion that the manufacturer of a product had an obligation, at least, to repair obvious defects in something resembling a timely matter.

    In the last 10 years or so, they dropped the charade of calling their new releases ‘BETA’, and just adopted a general policy of releasing whatever they want, and fixing whatever problems they want, or just ignoring the problems entirely.

    This is, in fact, their deliberate strategy. By leaving defects rather than fixing them, they create a development environment which his hostile to competitors, and creates dependency amongst their ‘customer base’. Of course their customers are really not customers at all, we are incidental beneficiaries of the monopoly Microsoft holds over hardware manufacturers, who are required to “make standard” whatever version upgrade or new OS product release Microsoft chooses to offer.

    The good news? With Windows Vista, they may have overplayed their hand. Two major forces are working inexorably to dismantle Microsoft’s hegemony over desktop computing: network based interoperability (using open-source applications) has made it practical for non-Windows based desktops to collaborate reasonably well with Microsoft’s relentless (but mostly unsuccessful) attempts to establish new proprietary desktop applications. Second, virtual computing based on hardware optimized virtual containers all but guarantees the demise of Microsoft’s proprietary and predatory business model.

    I try to remember that whenever I find steam coming out of my ears over the latest inexcusable defect, or deliberate manipulation of ‘their standard desktop’. And I thoroughly enjoy watching Google kick them around as well. We live in a world where we still have to tolerate Microsoft for the moment, but we no longer have to rely upon them for anything. That is great progress.

  • http://blogcritics.org/scitech/ Mark Buckingham

    Thanks Ted, and you make some good points. Microsoft’s products did serve as a sort of pre-school where many developers learned what they wanted and what not to do, and provided tools that got them to the point where they could make their own better version (and usually make a free or open-source version of it). I can’t say I’m going to miss Microsoft when they inevitably fail (Vista didn’t help, and gave competitors room to grow with its ineptitude), and if Linux already had some kind of native DirectX support — or if game developers would switch to something non-platform-specific — I’d already be using Ubuntu or something else for most things. Still, the way the community has taken XP and started basically making customized distros of it for everyone to use (usually with the bugs fixed or removed…ones MS said couldn’t be dealt with) makes me think XP has sort of become open source on its own, whether MS likes it or not.

  • http://www.letmefixyourpc.com jim east

    I have a client we scubbed 15 workstation reloaded windows sp1 upgraded to sp3 xp pro. Exactly 90 days after doing this 12 services were being shutdown multiple times during the day on all 15 workstations which took them off the network. Tried everything then removed sp3 and all works fine now.

    Looks like MS put some timer that disable the system if it doesn’t meet there requirements. Also found out that SP1 keys don’t pass the WGA test.

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Jet

    I’m running a 6-year-old e-machines computer with XP and SP3 and haven’t had a single problem with it. Maybe it’s the version of XP you have like “office” or “pro”.

    I’ve got the home version that came with the machine and it just trucks along as happy as a lark.

    About the only disappointment I had was that SP3 apparently didn’t come with any games, but Windows Defender software was completely worth it.