Open Letter to Microsoft—An Update
About 6 weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to Microsoft to request a Web site that we can access to download OS-specific updates. I asked you to email me directly to support or comment about the issues I raised, and, happily, I received more than 300 responses from around the world. Last week, I had a long, productive discussion with the person who manages the Web site for Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS), which includes the Microsoft Support search page we all use regularly. We discussed the issues I raised in the Open Letter and brainstormed about how Microsoft might set up a site from which we could download updates without suffering through the telephone-call, Help-desk, credit-card loop. I don’t yet have specific results, but I wanted to let you know that I forwarded all your feedback to Microsoft and that the PSS folks are now in the loop, seriously considering our needs. If you haven’t yet read the open letter and want to offer an opinion, click here. You can also read my follow-up letter, which summarizes some of your feedback, here.

A New Win2K Post-SP2 Bug List
Microsoft has already responded to one of the requests I raised in my open letter, specifically the plea for a list of all Windows 2000 post-Service Pack 2 (SP2) updates on one page. Interestingly, the Product Support Services (PSS) person I spoke to about the open letter had no idea that this new site existed. Regardless, you can now read through a list of every post-SP2 code update Microsoft has released at the Microsoft Web site (thanks to reader Chenoa Moss for forwarding the link).

If you’re evaluating SP2, this site might prompt you to include a few other updates in your new workstation and server images. When I last checked, the list contained 209 entries, the most recent of which Microsoft released June 1. Be aware that this list doesn’t include security hotfixes—just all published post-SP2 Win2K fixes.

To ensure that this page sticks around and remains up to date, we must tell Microsoft how valuable it is. If we support this list, perhaps Microsoft will publish equivalent lists for the post-SP6a fixes in Windows NT 4.0, and for other heavily used products, such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Office 2000. And, of course, we'll need such a list for Windows XP and all future Windows products. If you think this service is a good idea, stop by the page and voice your enthusiasm by clicking the envelope icon labeled "Send us your feedback." Hooray!

Does IE 5.x Take Forever to Start?
I run the most current version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0, with relevant IE 5.0 updates and Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 (SP2), on my Win2K systems. On one system, the browser runs just fine. On another, IE takes upwards of a minute to load the first URL when I launch the browser. While I’m tapping my foot and waiting for the page to load, the LAN and WAN network adapter transmit and receive icons blink repeatedly and then go dark. After months of this sluggishness, I was finally frustrated enough to research the behavior.

A Microsoft Support search turned up some answers. Microsoft article Q220902 offers two possible explanations for the delay, during which, according to the article, IE’s globe continues to spin and the status bar displays the message "Detecting proxy settings." The explanations apply to IE 5.0 through the public preview of IE 6.0:

  • When you use the Internet Connection Wizard (ICW) to configure an Internet connection, the wizard automatically enables the "Automatically detect settings" option. When this option is enabled, IE spends a great deal of time looking for a proxy server, even if you have no proxy server on your network.
  • If the network has a DHCP server that doesn’t include Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (WPAD) in the DHCP packets, IE might not be able to locate a proxy server.

The article indicates that you can eliminate the problem by disabling WPAD. In IE, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, click the Connections tab, and then click LAN settings. Clear the "Automatically detect settings" check box, and restart the browser. If you’re lucky, these steps will correct IE’s sluggish response at startup.

Unfortunately, my browser’s status bar doesn’t display the "detecting proxy server" message, but does consistently take more than 30 seconds to locate and display the first Web site. The other reproducible symptom is that IE pauses for almost 45 seconds every time I click the Connections tab in Internet Options.

After reading about the "proxy discover" problem, I reran the ICW. When the Wizard prompted me, I cleared the "Automatically detect settings" option. Doing so temporarily corrected my sluggish browser, but I’m not sure why or how. Nothing at the Microsoft Support site describes my symptoms or a solution. If you have encountered and solved this problem, let me know so I can try your solution and share your experience with the rest of our community