Windows patch gets its own rumor site

Windows enthusiasts tend to focus on major releases, but Ethan Allen thinks big about a secondary issue--the fixes for the major releases.

While there are no shortage of enthusiast sites that trade in rumors on the latest version of Windows, they usually focus their attention on the big-bang releases.

But Ethan Allen sets his sights on the more mundane. While other Microsoft fan sites scramble to cover the latest news on the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system, Allen has his eye on Windows XP Service Pack 3.

The service pack is expected to be relatively minor and has received scant mention, even among sites devoted to all things Windows. But Allen has a whole Web site on SP3.

"I'm always interested in fixes to an OS," the Bellevue, Wash., native said in a telephone interview. "The thing that bothered me the most is there was never an easy go-to place to get a list of fixes that were in that service pack."

Although he has a list of minor tweaks that he believes are earmarked for the service pack, Allen admits he doesn't really know what big things might find their way into SP3. Internet Explorer 7 is one option, as are updates to the Windows Media Player and the Media Center operating system.

Microsoft executives have in the past said there will be a third service pack for Windows XP, but they have not said what will be in the update nor when it might arrive. As for Internet Explorer 7, the company has said it will make a version of the new browser for Windows XP machines, but has not said how that will be delivered to customers.

In a statement on Monday, a company representative said the company is evaluating feedback from SP2 and "is still evaluating timing and alternatives for the next Windows XP servicing release."

But for Allen, even such a "servicing release" is worthy of attention. After all, it is the patches that help fix the nagging kind of problems that can really slow down or crash a system.

Part of Allen's interest in patches stems from his job, doing software quality assurance work. For a few years, Allen did that work for Microsoft, doing testing for networking as well as for the Media Center edition of Windows XP. These days, Allen's day job is for another software maker.

But his interest in Windows still runs deep.

Allen ran a similar site for Windows XP Service Pack 2, which carved out a niche for itself among those looking to know exactly what was in the update, which ended up being Microsoft's largest-ever free update to Windows.

"It was just as popular," Allen said.

Microsoft, for its part, is leaving plenty of room for Allen's site. The company won't even officially confirm that there will be a Service Pack 3, saying the next update could be a collection of already released patches, known as an Update Rollup, similar to what the company did with Windows 2000. Despite that stance, though, many patches posted on Microsoft's Web site do note that they're slated to be part of Service Pack 3.
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