If I had a "WTF?!" category for posts around here, this would be in it (* mental note to self... *). Apparently we may be in yet another scandal-ridden episode from the As the Tablet Turns soap opera. I'm certainly crossing my fingers. Two days ago, Microsoft pretty quietly "updated" KB895953 - Memory leak in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and made available a downloadable fix. This is slowly being noticed now by the level-minded tablet folks like Larry, Scott, and so forth. The big Tablet PC Buzz community conveniently suffered yet another of its inexplicable server hardware failures and went offline just as initial reports began trickling in. (Seriously, what with Microsoft bankrolling the place, is it really that hard to find a hosting provider that doesn't have hard drive components go dead every 37 minutes? Sheesh! The place is now definitely on track to join the Pocket PC Passion club.)
The problem this patch addresses is officially described as follows:
"A memory leak in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 causes a gradual decrease in available system memory. This loss in available memory causes degradation in system performance. When this behavior occurs, the user must restart the computer. This problem is caused by a memory leak in the tcserver.exe service."
In lay terms it means this:
"When Microsoft foisted the half-baked TPC Edition 2005 upgrade on tablet users, they also made that Windows XP edition the least stable of them all by including a massive memory leak which leads to lockups, crashes, slowdowns, and otherwise undermines the general public image of Windows XP being a stable operating system."
This is the problem Redmond was still "working overtime" to fix in February, the one that The Register highlighted in January, the one Robert Scoble avoided by rebooting every day anyway, which led to the hysterical "Reboot daily, Tablet users advised" headline. This is the same problem that tablet users have had to suffer through since way back in 2004, "fixed" themselves by developing a batch file to restart a couple of processes to free up the leaky memory. Pretty sad that common folk have to write batch files to fix a year-old coding problem. But apparently the press got bad, a big military customer saw the fuss and complained, or something or other, and some temps from Bangalore were flown in to fix the problem in two hours flat after a year of lots of empty Starbucks containers and denying the problem to the public.
Anyway, the fix is out, Jonathan Hardwick has a cute list of celebratory exclamations, and everything is alright with the world again, right? (Well, not really. Let's all take a minute to reflect on the tragic news from London. A stupid memory leak really pales in comparison to such devastation.)
But back to the leaky ink. Joe Wilcox is already intelligently pointing out that the fix shouldn't have been made available under Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program:
"I'm somewhat surprised that Tablet PC users would have to validate to get a functional operating system update (right now, during WGA testing, validation is recommended, not required). Microsoft has indicated that users would still be able to get security updates once Windows Genuine Advantage validation is required. Apparently, Microsoft will make a distinction between security and other updates."
Really, isn't this the sort of thing that should have come down as a Windows/Microsoft Update selection instead of a manual download where you have to navigate an extra section just to skip validation? Will just the good guys be protected from memory leaks in the future? Preposterous!
But the scary part comes from so far unconfirmed reports that the fix, ahem, allegedly causes pretty serious problems on what I still consider the original Tablet PC - the Compaq TC1000. Before TPCBuzz went down last night I seem to vaguely remember one person mentioning something about crashes happening after the fix, but who knows what that was, and what was going on in the HP forums. However, there are some rumors that the fix pretty much kills TC1000s - mind you, just many, not all of them. Supposedly, the "fix" causes some sort of massive memory leak/loop, making the tablet to lock up, and causing some boot up problems. Not all TC1000s are affected, and the pattern apparently isn't quite clear yet.
Since the fix does seem to be working on other models, the trouble may be linked to the Transmeta processors on the TC1000, since it's the only commonly sold Tablet PC using that technology. However, Transmeta is pretty much sleeping with the fishes, so Redmond may be having problems getting somebody to answer the phone and come over to help. The mounting public pressure was apparently so stifling that Microsoft decided to write off the poor old first-gen Compaqs just to help the rest of the bloggers with their snazzy new Toshibas. After all, all those poor kids in all those "tablets in education" pilot projects - all the many ones that went with the TC1000 - won't raise too much of a ruckus, right?
I would gladly donate Monica's TC1000 to science and test, but alas - it's in a box, waiting to be shipped to HP for some unrelated repairs. Lately I feel like I'm sending something to or getting something from HP every week, but more on that later. My own M200 seems fine after the patch, but that was to be expected. And of course, this could all turn out to be a bunch of reports from the "unlucky 1%" that get shafted after many updates, but I'll definitely keep an eye on it. Did Hilton even have any TC1000s or does he test with just the newer models these days?
Anybody out there with TC1000 patching horror stories?