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MS gears up for public WinXP beta with interim external build

Apparently still doesn't quite know how to Whistle, Steve...

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Microsoft has released another pre-beta 2 interim build of XP to external testers, but although this might be interpreted as meaning we're still not there yet, some of the mods in the code are largely added in preparation for the impending widespread beta. But anybody holding their breath waiting for the full poop on Product Activation will have to turn a little bluer - it turns out that when Redmond said 'read my lips - no more registry hacks' after build 2428 it didn't really mean it.

The latest build, 2446, doesn't seem to add a great deal to the last external one, and judging by the number must be a fair bit behind the builds Microsoft is working on internally. According to the release notes it's "an 'external test release interim build' provided primarily for hardware and software developers to use in lab test environments to verify recent code fixes and application and device compatibility with the upcoming Beta 2 release," which means it's supposed to let people check that the fixes really got fixed, and that there's no further movement on the allegedly great new user interface.

The company has however upgraded "most of the artwork" in preparation for beta 2 (but it's still not beta 2, natch), and has modified the EULA (End User Licence Agreement) in preparation for the code getting into the hands of the great unwashed. External testers are allowed to install the code on multiple machines, but beta 2 preview programme members will be allowed single machine installations only.

In order to police this, and no doubt much else, when it ships the code Microsoft will have to have implemented the Product Activation 'big surprise' that will force online or telephone activation, and that won't be crackable. It will also need to have call centres to take telephone activation requests throughout the world, but right now only the activation centre for the US and Canada is live. The release notes from this build recommend that international testers only install it on machines connected to the Internet, and activate that way, but as the registry entry for product activation is still present and flagged in the notes, it can obviously still be switched off.

No word on 2446 escaping into the wild as yet, but we understand the usual suspects are looking for it, so it's probably only a matter of (a fairly short) time... ®

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