Microsoft today announced that a beta of Service Pack 3 (SP3) for Windows XP will be made available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers in mid-September. The content is as expected – a roll-up of previously released fixes, although there will be “a small number of new updates.” Availability is still 1H2008 which is roughly 4.5 years since SP2 was released. Then as if the pace wasn’t languorous enough, Microsoft lawyers stomped out AutoPatcher, the third party patch roll-up effort which tries to make up for Microsoft’s sloth.
Microsoft loves the mantra that service packs are superfluous due to the joys of Windows Update which misses the point that installing new systems is a huge pain due to all the separate patches that have to be downloaded and applied, which at this point for Windows XP is four years worth since SP2 was released. That’s why Windows enthusiasts had developed AutoPatcher which combined all of the available fixes for easy application in the same way as a roll-up service pack like SP3. Now the Microsoft lawyers have gotten involved and stopped that:
Microsoft Legal defies logic today by forcibly removing a free and trustworthy software package which makes updating Windows more convenient and accessible.
AutoPatcher, for those who don’t know, was an impressive Windows community project that combined publicly available Windows hotfixes and security updates each month to form a single package that could either be installed in a batch or burned on to an CD. To those who regularly format their computers or fix other people’s computers (for which I share your pain), AutoPatcher not only saves bandwidth but precious time downloading each individual update from Windows Update.
It is not hard to imagine AutoPatcher violated some clause in some terms of service somewhere, but why Microsoft would act on it, and act on it now is unbelievable. If AutoPatcher could be as “malicious” as Microsoft suggests, then why haven’t they acted on it sooner?
AutoPatcher has been an extremely active project since 2003, distributed somewhat 40,000 copies monthly over just the official download mirrors, not counting other popular sources such as Bittorent and even leading PC magazines worldwide. I might even go as far as to say some people depend on it.
Swell, wait over 4 years between service packs and stop what are obviously friends of Microsoft from taking up the slack. I’m sure it makes sense to some Microsoft bureaucrat.