HP, AMD, and XP SP3 -- three things that don't go well together

Does Intel have friends deep within HP's manufacturing line?

Microsoft finally released XP's Service Pack 3 to the masses last week, which is a bit like telling someone on death row you finally got around to fixing their car. Then it turns out your car may not really run, and if you have the wrong model you'll never get out of Park.

That's the case for some unlucky Cringesters who are stuck in an endless reboot cycle. Apparently the snafu primarily affects owners of HP desktops with AMD inside, which were mistakenly imaged with an Intel-specific build of the OS that doesn't play nicely with the update. (The paranoid conspiracy theorist inside me wonders, does Intel have friends deep within HP's manufacturing line?)

HP has told customers with AMD machines to avoid installing Service Pack 3 until it comes out with a fix for the problem. Of course, if your machine is set to automatically update, or you're a Windows Live subscriber and you can't turn automatic updates off, you're screwed. (Though there are ways to escape Endless Reboot Hell.)

Microsoft says a) the problem is not its fault, though the same thing happened four years ago when the company released SP2 (so you think maybe they might have been prepared for it), and ii) it is also working on a fix.

Somehow, that notion gives me cold comfort. Cringester D.C. reports that, when comes to SP3, Microsoft can't seem to get its FAQs straight. He downloaded the update from Microsoft's site and burned it to a CD, then decided to read the FAQ before installing. He reports:

The page is entitled "More information about installing Service Pack 2." (emphasis mine) It tells me how long it will take to install SP2 and about the new security features of SP2. It doesn't mention SP3 at all. Is this QC problem or does that mean SP3 is really just a rehash of SP2? At least it appears to have worked and the PC doesn't go into a continuous reboot cycle. I guess the QC guys were too busy watching/ducking furniture flying around Ballmer's office.

On the other hand, it's only been about four years since SP2 came out; I understand that under its new accelerated software dev program Microsoft requires at least five years to update its FAQs.

I have some good news to report, however. Cringester E.H., who's been waiting since late March for HP to deliver on its promise of a "three-day turnaround" for fixing his son's laptop (see "HP: Bad motherboards, broken support, and the black arts"), is no longer waiting. Last week HP finally did turn around and shipped him a brand new laptop with more or less the same configuration as his son's 2-year-old model. E. H. says he's happy with it, though he didn't say what he'd do with the new machine, as he already bought another one for his son. Let's hope it doesn't have an AMD chip on it.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
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