I've since written a Preview for RC2 which was released! You can read the updated article HERE
Windows XP SP2 should only be a monthor two away from public release. The first release candidate was released on March 17, nearly a month after the previous build. The current build is 2096 which I am using today (AKA RC1).
I have noticed that MS has posted the full network installer for RC1. If you don't want to download that one I have uploaded the Express installer that weighs in at only 991Kb and will only download the updates that you need. Also to answer several questions I previously had build 2082 installed on this system and it uninstalled just fine. After uninstalling the old version I WAS able to install this newer one.
Please link to this page and not directly to the file. This is hosted on a box that I do have to pay for bandwidth on. If it's abused I may have to take it down. So please be kind and link to this page instead of the file HERE.
Alot of little things have changed. Most of the people around this site that I've talked to simply say I don't like it and uninstall it rather quickly. This is something that you most likely won't like at first, but it grows on ya over time. The more I use it the more I like it! On top of what I've found just by using it I read alot of Microsoft's 200 page document and gave a report here. You'll want to read that article after you've read this one.
Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on everything now that it's reached a release candidate stage. I'm writing this preview because all of the other previews out there have become rather dated from Microsoft working on things for several months. The features covered here are alot closer to the final product.
Immediately after installing you're brought to a screen that asks you if you want to enable automatic updates. There is no way to exit this screen without giving either a yes or no answer. This is GREAT. Now most of the normal users will stay up to date with security fixes. It downloads all of the latest security patches for me before I even realize another patch is needed! Previous versions just floated a little window suggesting you turn automatic updates on. I said yes to this. Right away it started downloading the updates it found. The last of these images is a look at the new windows update site since it's changed quite a bit from previous versions. Things like hiding updates are now available if you're sick of seeing an update that you KNOW you don't want to install (*cough* .net framework *cough*) IE's smart downloading with resume support will also work for updates.
I'm not sure exactly how the automatic updates handle the driver updates, but I don't want it to every touch my drivers so I did some looking around and found in system properties --> hardware a box that says windows update. It was defaulted to ask, but I just completely turned it off!