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Win98 SP1 now out for download – in parts

Are the morlocks having trouble integrating it into one big pile, then?

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Microsoft's service pack 1 for Windows 98 seems to be out at last - but only sort of. Microsoft produced Win98 Second Edition and SP1 in tandem, and frankly they're dashed similar, but although it's been offering both on CD from its Web site, a downloadable version of SP1 has yet to break cover. More recently Microsoft UK confused the issue by giving away an SE upgrade to existing users, while the US is still charging for it. (MS gives away free SE update) But now components of SP1 have started to pop up on the corporate download section of Microsoft's Windows Update site area. (Corporate Download site) Shall we tell you why this is, friends? Microsoft has a long-term cunning plan to supply updates and upgrades directly to individual users, but at the moment it's not working terribly well. It has to be policed properly, which means tightening up on registration and ultimately making registration compulsory, and it also requires a lot more bandwidth than users have actually got. Failure to hit the spot on both of these has led to Microsoft shipping the stuff on CDs instead, and collecting till receipts as proof of purchase rather than being able to rely on valid registrations. In deciding to give away SE updates, Microsoft UK probably made a pretty rational judgement that it wouldn't be likely to sell many, and that the exercise would be justified to some extent because it would get SP1 (SE is effectively SP1+) out there. But there's another serious problem with the Web-based Windows Update approach. Windows Update is designed to make it easy for users to keep Windows 98 PCs up to date, by integrating the local machine with the Web site. Legal issues aside, this actually isn't a bad idea - it has a certain amount in common with the automated update systems corporate networks would at least like to run, so we shouldn't sneer at it just because it's MS that's running it. But the Windows Update approach actually screws up corporates big-time. The system presupposes an individual machine with an individual profile logging on to the site and then being individually updated. This doesn't result in your being left with installation files locally, so if you've got two machines to update, or 200, you've got a problem, because you have to keep doing it, machine by machine. Howls of pain from corporate customers. So the corporate download section was instituted pretty rapidly after the introduction of Windows Update in order to allow people to get hold of installation files. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, because it's arguably of greatest importance to small shops with multiple machines, but without the kind of central console network management structure that allows them to distribute updates more easily. Now, a stash of files labeled "This is a component of the Windows 98 Service Pack 1" has appeared on the site. They're not bundled together into the mysterious SP1, but they address various issues that corporate customers will have been bitching at Microsoft about. Corporate customers aren't going to be interested in upgrading all their machines to SE (not even if they can get it free from MS UK), but they want the bug fixes, and they want them now. Of course, if MS makes stuff available in the corporate download area, it can't use that stuff to leverage registrations in the way it can with Windows Update, or indeed with Office Update. So it's worth noting what you can't get as a locally installable file at corporate download, and wondering why. IE 5, for example? Trouble is, even if one part of MS has a valid reason for not shipping a file with one thing, somebody else will probably have a valid one for shipping it with something else. Result = total confusion. The rational fix would of course be to bundle the stuff up into big piles and make it available at the corporate download site, which is more or less how we used to do things. Could happen... ®

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