SP3 rollout snarled by Windows XP change

Gregg Keizer of Computerworld U.S. filed this report:

Microsoft confirmed Wednesday that it delayed the rollout of WindowsXP Service Pack 3 (SP3) because changes to the operating system cancorrupt data in the company’s retail point-of-sale and store managementsoftware.

The company has also suspended automatic distribution of Vista SP1as well as XP SP3. “Yes, we are temporarily holding any additionalautomatic distribution of Windows Vista SP1″ said a spokeswoman.

Tuesday, Microsoft postponed the expected release of XP SP3 becauseof what it called a “compatibility issue” between the OS and MicrosoftDynamics Retail Management System (RMS), point-of-sale and storemanagement software designed for small and midsize retailers. When itannounced the service pack’s delay, however, Microsoft did not spellout the specifics of the bug.

In fact, a Microsoft representative had outlined the problem in apost to the RMS support forum five days earlier, on April 24. “TheMicrosoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) Development team hasidentified problems when Windows Vista SP1 is installed,” said TomBerger, who identified himself as a Microsoft online support engineer.“Windows Vista SP1 may cause data loss and corruption in MicrosoftDynamics RMS databases.”

According to Berger, Windows Vista SP1 changed the way Microsoft SQLServer handles some database records, specifically those that includeinformation from multiple tables. “All users who have applied WindowsVista SP1 will be affected,” he added.

A Microsoft spokeswoman on Wednesday acknowledged that the same problems affected RMS users running XP SP3.

The company is also working on filters to block machines running RMSfrom being offered either Vista SP1 or XP SP3; it will resume automaticdelivery of Vista SP1 and add XP SP3 to Windows Update once thosefilters are in place.

In the meantime, Windows Vista users can upgrade to SP1 by manuallyselecting it from Windows Update — it hasn’t been removed, onlysuspended from automatic download and installation — or downloading astandalone installer from the Microsoft site.

Although Windows XP users have no similar official alternative, somehave uncovered a standalone installer for SP3 buried on Microsoft’sservers, and have been posting links on the TechNet support forum.Although the installer — available in several languages, includingEnglish, German and French — was vetted by numerous users who said itwas identical to the finished version released earlier to TechNet andMSDN subscribers, Microsoft would not confirm that the links led tosanctioned files.

“In this particular case, it’s possible that some third-partywebsites are linking to the Windows XP SP3 software that we havepublished for MSDN and TechNet subscribers,” a spokeswoman said in ane-mail. “Since we cannot confirm the source of every link thatthird-parties provide, our recommendation is that customers wait untilwe’ve published Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and the DownloadCenter.”

Microsoft’s record with Windows service packs has not beenimpressive. Vista SP1, for example, was held from most users for sixweeks because of balky device drivers, and the company initiallyblocked paying subscribers of its TechNet and Microsoft DeveloperNetwork (MSDN) from downloading either Vista SP1 or XP SP3.

Microsoft has not divulged a timetable for resuming Vista SP1 onWindows Update, or offering XP SP3 for the first time. It also has notset a schedule for delivering a fix for the RMS bug.

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