March 18, 2004, 12:00 AM — Backward compatibility is a good thing. It keeps users happy and ensures
that files they've created in a particular application will still work
with a future generation of that application. I have a PowerPoint
presentation from close to 10 years ago that I haven't opened in, well,
nearly 10 years. But it's good to know that PowerPoint 97, 2000, XP, and
2003 can all open those files.
Windows itself had the old DOS Compatibility Box. It didn't work very
well, and who knows, may have even been designed to get people so riled
up, they'd upgrade, purely out of disgust.
It may be time to get disgusted again.
The Service Pack 2 release for Windows XP is coming. Geared mainly
toward enhancing Windows' meager security capabilities, some of these
fortifications are probably going to cause headaches for older
applications. In other words, they won't work.
This is a big deal and Microsoft knows it. The company has developed an
online training course dealing with SP2. It examines the impact on
existing applications and even includes code samples.
Here's how Microsoft sees it: "With Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2),
Microsoft is introducing a set of security technologies that will help
improve Windows XP-based computers' ability to withstand malicious
attacks from viruses and worms." The technologies include network
protection, memory protection, improved e-mail security, and safer
"Together, these security technologies will help make it more difficult
to attack Windows XP, even if the latest patches or updates aren't
applied. These security technologies together are particularly useful
mitigation against worms and viruses. To developers these technologies
will have impacts on the applications that they create and the tools
Here are just three of the many things you need to know.
The Alerter and Messenger service components of Windows are going to be
disabled by default. Any application or service that uses the Alerter or
Messenger services to communicate with a user will not be successful. In
other words, they won't work.
These services allow simple messages to be communicated between
computers on a network. The Messenger service relays messages from
different applications and services and the Alerter service is intended
specifically for administrative alerts.
Currently, the Messenger service is configured to start automatically
and the Alerter service is set to manual start. In Service Pack 2 for
Windows XP, both of these services are going to be set to Disabled. No
other changes are made to these services. They'll still be there and
So what do you do if you have an app that relies on these services?
According to Microsoft, two avenues of resolution exist. The recommended
technique is to revise the software to use another method to communicate
with the user.