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Windows XP SP2 Technical Preview

Windows XP SP2 should only be a few months away from public release. The more I use it the more I like it! On top of what I've found just by using it I read a lot of Microsoft's 200 page document and found some additional goodies that will kick in in the future. The only reason why I'm writing this today is because it seems like 100% of the coverage on this has been about the security center. Yes this is an important step for Microsoft, but I want to show you guys some of the extra stuff nobodies talked about yet.

This was not made to be your only stop for checking out the new stuff in SP2. To go on top of the obvious stuff that the other sites have covered I'll try to give you some extra info. This may have some pieces that are more technical than you want to read.

I've Posted the rest of my preview right here.

Builds 2126 and above will be using DX 9.0C. For a bit of extra information on this please go here.

Tablet PC Enhancements (AKA Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005)

  1. A new design for Tablet PC Input Panel, which opens and floats near where you are entering text.
  2. A redesigned Input Panel correction experience.
  3. Context-sensitive handwriting recognition (for example, URL and e-mail addresses).
  4. Improved handwriting recognition engines for all languages ? most notably the East Asian languages.
  5. A new lined input experience in the East Asian Input Panel

Service Pack 2 IS going to be the next release version of the windows tablet PC OS. Read here for more information.

Bluetooth support

Previously third party applications brought bluetooth support. Now Microsoft is offering it from them.

Windows Movie Maker 2.1

When you install SP2, Windows Movie Maker 2.1 is also installed on your computer. This version of Windows Movie Maker contains updates to Group Policy (for system administrators). It also includes fixes that help to improve the security of your system.

A New Power-Management Option

You will now have access to even more power related options! You can display or select the processor throttling policy as well as plenty of other items ;)

Hit start --> Run and type for some all available options. powercfg.exe /?

Increased National Language Support

When your computer is running Windows XP with SP2, the following locales and regions are supported that were not previously supported in Windows operating systems:

? Bengali (India)
? Croatian (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
? Bosnian (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
? Serbian (Latin: Bosnia and Herzegovina)
? Serbian (Cyrillic: Bosnia and Herzegovina)
? Malayalam (India)
? Maori (New Zealand)
? Maltese (Malta)
? Quechua (Bolivia)
? Quechua (Ecuador)
? Quechua (Peru)
? Setswana / Tswana (South Africa)
? isiXhosa / Xhosa (South Africa)
? Sami, Inari (Finland)
? Sami, Lule (Norway)
? Sami, Lule (Sweden)
? Sami, Northern (Finland)
? Sami, Northern (Norway)
? Sami, Northern (Sweden)
? Sami, Skolt (Finland)
? Sami, Southern (Norway)
? Sami, Southern (Sweden)
? Welsh (United Kingdom)

Windows Installer 3.0

"Windows Installer 3.0 provides the underlying infrastructure for software distribution systems to target and install updates to Windows Installer-based applications. Enhanced inventory functions make it possible for administrators to detect products, features, components and patches across user and installation contexts. Three new functions are provided to determine if a patch is necessary prior to downloading the complete patch payload to the target computer."

Basically MS is setting things up for automatic updating of all the applications on your system. Not only that, but it'll only grab the updates that YOU need. MS also thinks this will deliver smaller and more reliable patches.

Setup authors can use Windows Installer 3.0 to create patch packages (which have the .msp file name extension) that use Microsoft's delta compression technology. Delta compression uses binary file differences instead of using the full file, which significantly reduces the patch payload.

You will also now be able to remove a patch. In the past I've seen patches make a game quit working properly for me and I couldn't just uninstall the patch. I had to uninstall the entire game! With WI3 you're supposed to be able to uninstall the patches.

Under add/remove programs I see a check box at the top that says show updates. Currently the only thing that does is show me the various SP2 updates I've installed. As more programs use WI3 we'll see what all this does.

It is also supposed to create non interactive installers so all people will do is open the installer and it installs! No more clicking next, OK etc several times. I'm interested in seeing this in action.

Security Related

With the firewall you will have to have administrator access to be able to tell the firewall to allow something to access the internet. Now your kids will have to ASK before they can start using some crappy chat application.

Alerter and Messenger Services Disabled

In previous versions of Windows, the Messenger service is set to start automatically and the Alerter service is set to manual start. In Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, both of these services are set to Disabled. If you want to use these services go in and turn them on.

Ports blocked

If you run into problems with this here's how to fix;
At the command prompt, type netsh firewall set portopening TCP 445 ENABLE and then press ENTER.

Here are some other blocked ports 445 is the only one that you might want to open. These are used in file and printer sharing.
UDP port 137
UDP port 138
TCP port 139

Boot time security

In earlier versions of Windows, there is a window of time between when the network stack was running and when Windows Firewall provides protection. This results in the ability for a packet to be received and delivered to a service without Windows Firewall filtering and potentially exposes the computer to vulnerabilities. This was due to the firewall driver not starting to filter until the firewall service was loaded and had applied appropriate policy.

IE's Addon manager

To the right it even tells you how many times the addon has been used and how many times IE stopped it from being used. It's nice to know what plugins were installed for IE.

There's also supposed to be something called crash detection, but I haven't been able to trigger it so I'm not exactly sure what it'll do.

Disable Crash Detection

HKCU{LM}SoftwarePolicies MicrosoftInternet Explorer Restrictions

NoCrashDetection : DWORD

0

0 ? Off,

1 ? On

Outlook Express
New Plain Text mode!
This new option uses the rich edit control instead of the MSHTML control. There's quite a few possible security issues with using MSHTML that this patches up. A lot of that spam is actually malicious code in the form of HTML tags. Microsoft is finally building this safety into the free version of its mail client. (All other major mail clients have had this for a LONG time) Basically the MSHTML control automatically executes header scripts.

Don't download external HTML
This primarily blocks things like spam that constantly fill our email boxes with pornography. Another thing that spammers do is embedding special code that when you contact their server to grab the file you're also letting them know that your address is valid therefore making you get even MORE spam.

Another step in Antivirus protection?
"Outlook Express now integrates a new set of application programming interfaces (APIs), called the Attachment Execution Service (AES), to check e-mail attachments." I believe this is primarily for improved virus scanning and anything else you may have other applications scan your emails for.

FTP and gopher dropped

These protocols have been removed from the command prompt. If you want to use them install a third party program to do so. This is a security related fix that should have happened a long time ago.

WinHTTP now in use

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/winhttp/http/about_winhttp.asp

WinINet is the name of the old one. I won't pretend to know the differences other than the above services are no longer supported. Read the MSDN page if you want more info.

A wireless network setup wizard is brand new and looks very nice.

Outro

"Most of these features are designed to defend against malicious attacks on systems even when they do not have the latest patches installed. Microsoft understands that security technologies are only one aspect of a sound defense-in-depth security strategy. The security technologies outlined here are the next steps being taken in the Trustworthy Computing initiative to help to make customers? systems more resilient."

We should be seeing the official release of this sometime in the next couple of months. The release date still says mid 2004. Beta started sometime last year. The main focus of this service pack is security.

Microsoft has created an online training course that details the implications of installing SP2 on Windows XP machines. The course covers the impact on existing applications and includes code samples. (http://msdn.microsoft.com/security/productinfo/XPSP2/default.aspx)

Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net is will not be fully function with this SP. The developer tool's remote debugging feature won't work because of the Firewall. Another MS product that'll break is the .Net Framework. It'll only break in the Itanium and AMD64's with memory protection turned on.