Testers get SP2 Release Candidate for Vista and Server 2008

Windows Vista logoMicrosoft has released the Release Candidate build of Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 to its testers. The build is slightly newer than the RC-Escrow build and contains 691 hotfixes.

Microsoft today released the Release Candidate build of Service Pack 2 (6002.16670.090130) for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 to Microsoft Connect testers. The company is letting testers grab it via Windows Update (in 48 hours, all languages), as a standalone installer package, or as a slipstreamed version in English, Spanish, German, French, Japanese. The public beta release is not yet available Microsoft is recommending for the average customer to "wait until the final release prior to installing this service pack" and for testers to remember that "a Service Pack is not a feature release—we are not looking for new feature suggestions, only SP2 regressions, Crashes, and confirmation of fixes we've made will be considered for this milestone."

As with previous service packs, SP2 will include all previous updates and patches for the operating system (for example, SP2 marks the inclusion of Hyper-V into Windows Server 2008 natively). SP2 RC contains 691 hotfixes alone (full list below). There are also reports of significant performance improvements (on top of those in SP1).

So beyond hotfixes and bug fixes, what does SP2 add for Windows Vista and Window Server 2008? In addition to a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe) which helps recover hard disk space by permanently deleting previous versions of files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2, there are improvements in various areas:

    Hardware ecosystem support and enhancements

  • SP2 adds support for the 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies, which adds the ID and vendor strings for the new VIA 64-bit CPU.
  • SP2 integrates the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless, which contains support for Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration. Bluetooth v2.1 is the most recent specification for Bluetooth wireless technology.
  • SP2 improves performance for Wi-Fi connections after resuming from sleep mode.
  • SP2 includes updates to the RSS feeds sidebar for improved performance and responsiveness.
  • SP2 includes the ability to record data to Blu-Ray Disc media.
  • Operating system experience updates

  • SP2 includes Windows Search 4.0, which builds on Microsoft’s search technology with improved indexing and search relevance. It also helps find and preview documents, e-mail (including signed email messages), music files, photos, and other items on the computer. The search engine in Windows Search 4.0 is a Microsoft Windows® service that is also used by programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. Autotuning Diagnostics in SP2 now interprets current network conditions when implementing Windows scaling. This feature includes full netsh support.
  • SP2 improves Windows Media Center (WMC) in the area of content protection for TV.
  • SP2 adds a registry key that enables modification of the maximum number of open
  • TCP connections to increase application compatibility.
  • Enterprise improvements

  • SP2 provides the Hyper-V virtualization environment as a fully integrated feature of Windows Server 2008, including one free daughter OS with Windows Server 2008 Standard, four free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, and an unlimited number of free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.
  • SP2 increases the authentication options for WebDAV redirector, enabling Microsoft Office users greater flexibility when authenticating custom applications using the WebDAV redirector.
  • SP2 provides an improved power management both on the server and the desktop, which includes the ability to manage these settings via Group Policy.
  • SP2 improves backwards compatibility for Terminal Server license keys. Windows Server 2008 changed the licensing key from 512 bytes to 2,048 bytes which caused clients using older Terminal Server versions to fail. SP2 allows legacy license keys on Citrix applications to work with Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server.
  • Setup and deployment improvements, The SP2 standalone installer:

  • provides a single installer for both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008
  • includes the ability to detect an incompatible driver and either block Service Pack installation or warn users of any potential loss of functionality
  • provides better error handling and descriptive error messages where possible
  • improves manageability through logging in the system event log
  • provides a secure install experience
  • includes the ability to service the installer post-release

Microsoft has also told testers of the following known issues:

    Application compatibility:

  • The operating system security settings will incorrectly show some versions of certain antivirus applications as inactive when they are not. Two applications known to be affected are all versions of Avira AntiVir prior to and including and all versions of Trend Micro Internet Security prior to version 17. There is no workaround at this time for those application versions. More recent versions of these applications are not affected.
  • Security Innovation Holodeck 2.8.0 (enterprise edition) may unexpectedly quit. There is no workaround at this time. Internet Information Services: If a Web application or service attempts to access Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI) remotely using an Internet Information Services 7.0 process that runs under the application pool identity, the access will fail. To avoid this, run the process under a different identity, such as Network Service.
  • SQL Server 2008: This issue affects Windows Server 2008 Standard, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, and Windows Server 2008 Datacenter. If you attempt to install SQL Server 2008 on a failover cluster, the installation will fail. If you are affected by this, have a look at the details and workaround.

Late last month, Microsoft gave testers an RC-Escrow build (6002.16659.090114-1728) which included 656 individual hotfixes. An escrow build is only released when code development has ceased for developers and beta testers to hunt for "recall class" (showstopper) bugs. The release today signifies that if there were any showstopper bugs, they have been squashed, and Microsoft is on its way to an RTW (Release to Web) for SP2.

Now that the Release Candidate build is available, the only thing Microsoft has left to release is the final build, if the company sticks to the plan it revealed in October 2008, when the first beta build was sent out to testers. A public beta of SP2 was released in December 2008. I'd like to remind both public and private testers that they must uninstall any previous build before they can update to this one.

SP2's main requirement (assuming no incompatible drivers detected) is that SP1 is already installed. Some have said that this is because SP2 is currently in beta, but it has been confirmed that the final version of SP2 will still have SP1 as a prerequisite. The reason for this is size. Microsoft wants the size of SP2 to be smaller (if SP2 was cumulative, it would make for a huge download). Server 2008 shipped with SP1 already installed, including the contents of the SP1 client code, which would make the Server deployments even bigger.

SP2 applies to both the client and server versions of Windows because Microsoft adopted a single serviceability model to minimize deployment and testing complexity. By releasing one single service pack, Microsoft has less testing to do, since Vista and Server 2008 have the same binaries for all common files, making for a quicker release.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Microsoft, Windows Vista

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