More snags in Windows XP Service Pack 2

The PC World Test Center staff have discovered two bugs involving Windows XP's Service Pack 2. One can reduce the write speed of many dual-layer DVD drives. The other can decrease the battery life on some Acer laptops by an hour.

Staffers were testing dual-layer DVD drives when they found that InCD4 DVD-burning software, by Nero AG (formerly Ahead Software AG), performed up to 40 percent slower than competing applications (such as Roxio Inc.'s Drag-to-Disc) on systems running SP2. InCD4 ships with many drives, including those from Lite-On Technology, Plextor, and Sony.

Nero developers say that the glitch is due to a cache problem in SP2 and affects InCD prior to release 4.3.7.3. To check your version, open the program and select About. If your app is affected, get the InCD Update-Package 3. The fix bypasses SP2's cache management problem.

Microsoft is working on a hotfix that wasn't yet available at press time.

Battery drain

The test center staff ran across another SP2-related problem while testing Acer Travelmate 3200 notebooks. The systems running XP SP1 provided up to nearly 4 hours of battery life, while laptops with SP2 ran about an hour less. (The lab didn't encounter this issue on models from other manufacturers.)

After swapping laptops and batteries, checking Acer Inc.'s power-management settings, and reloading SP2, the only common element our lab analysts could find was that the notebooks with SP2 were those with shorter battery life.

In Acer's own, different tests, the company's results didn't match PC World's findings. Microsoft says it has heard nothing about battery problems under SP2.

Stop Windows firewall data leaks

In December, I told you about a security flaw in SP2 that our sibling publication, PC Welt, had found. The problem involves the scope of what SP2's Windows Firewall considers safe territory when using a dial-up connection. That is, even though you have the firewall turned on by default, it may still be letting everything in as exceptions to the rules because of how the firewall is configured.

Microsoft has now released an update for SP2 that reconfigures the troublesome firewall settings and restores the safety of your files. However, the company has not publicized the update--it simply made the fix available on the Windows Update site without any formal announcement. For a problem that's potentially as important as this one, Microsoft's security team should make a lot of noise when it ships a patch. Many users don't blindly trust automatic updates. So if they don't know about a new one, chances are they won't get it.

SP2 patch for fireWire glitch

Microsoft has recently released a fix for the way Windows XP Service Pack 2 handles FireWire connections. The SP2 glitch could radically reduce the download speed of devices (such as digital video cameras) connected to a PC via FireWire. You can get the patch at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/885222.

Security fix for Opera browser

Bug hunter Andreas Sandblad recently found a security hole in the Opera browser that could let a malicious cracker disguise an attack program (say, an .exe file) under a fake, safe-sounding file name (using a .pdf extension for a purported Acrobat file, say) in the download dialog box, thus tricking victims into downloading it. Versions 7.54 and earlier are vulnerable. For more information and to download the updated Opera 7.54u1, go to http://www.opera.com/support/search/supsearch.dml?index=782.

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