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Windows broken by Intel Centrino

Can't handle certain VPN clients

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When it launched its Centrino mobile platform, Intel said it was targeting corporate customers. The trouble is, corporates like to use Virtual Private Network (VPN) software to allow remote workers to access the company LAN, and it has emerged that Centrino isn't very VPN-friendly.

A number of widely used VPN clients have been found to crash Centrino-based notebooks running Windows XP, invoking the OS' notorious blue screen of death.

The problem appears to be a conflict between the Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) within Intel's ProSet software - which manages many of the Centrino platform's key features, such as energy saving and wireless device profiles - and the VPN client. So says Nortel, which found that its Contivity VPN client is one of those that ProSet's not keen on. Some 50 million Contivity VPN clients have shipped since 1997, says Nortel.

Nortel sent an advisory notice to users of its software on 14 May, detailing the problem and providing a work-around which essentially disables the extra features enabled by the ProSet software and drivers but leaves the wireless card working. Customers can then use XP to manage the notebook's network adaptors rather than ProSet, Nortel said.

The trouble is, disabling ProSet disables many of the features that user choose Centrino for, such as its power conservation capabilities and smart network adaptor switching - both important features for corporate IT guys, alongside VPN support. Plus the consensus appears to be that ProSet provides better device management tools than XP.

Intel's web site publishes a warning that ProSet Adapter Switching should be disabled before using a variety of VPN clients, including code from Cisco, Checkpoint, Microsoft and... er... Intel.

According to PC World, that warning was published on 26 February, a few weeks before Centrino was launched.

Intel has said it is aware of the problem and is investigating a solution. ®

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