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Sunbelt W2Knews™ Electronic Newsletter
The secret of those "who always seem to know" - Over 500,000 Readers!
Mon, Oct 19, 1998
Finally A Tool To Escape HotFix Hell!
  This issue of W2Knews™ contains:
NTools E-NewsFlash: Finally A Tool To Escape HotFix Hell! 

Great News: Introducing SPQuery, brand new Service Pack and HotFix 
management tool, available On-Line for only $129.95. Instant elec-
tronic Delivery: http://www.sunbelt-software.com/spquery.htm

WinNT Service Pack 4 is _almost_ here! It is expected any moment
now and once it's there you'll be able to find it over here at:
At the time I'm sending this, it ain't there yet (Nov 19, 7pm EST)

Now is a great time to get a tool implemented to handle the 
rash of hotfixes that will come right after SP4. It's a BIG
Service pack with all kinds of stuff in it. You can expect
a bunch of fixes to come out rapidly, and you need to install
these and keep track of them. Sometimes on dozens or even
hundreds of systems.

The September 1998 Survey that Sunbelt just did showed a large
group of you complaining about the Hotfix Hell. New hotfixes
coming out weekly, and you spending many nights to apply them
to your critical servers to make sure hackers cannot break in
and compromise your company security.

You also said it was practically impossible to know which hotfix 
had been applied to what server, and a host of other related 
problems, like the sequence in which they need to be applied. 
Furthermore, rebuilding NT on a machine or reinstalling SP3 
forces a reinstall all the HotFixes. In short, Service Packs 
and Hotfixes are a 'Fine Mess'. 

And now, since SP4 is coming soon with the inevitable rash of 
HotFixes following immediately after, there is no better time to 
_do_ something about it.

After a major NT headache is voiced by you, Sunbelt's next step 
is go out and find the best solution. We found one and requested 
the software to automatically work DOMAIN WIDE because we know 
you would ask for that right away. 

This is why I'm thrilled to announce a brand new version of an
Award Winning product that will make managing Service Packs and 
HotFixes a breeze for any amount of machines. It's called SPQuery
and Version 2.0 is now ready for you.

The good news is that this puppy is available from the Sunbelt
On-Line shop for only $129.95 with immediate electronic delivery.
And as always you get our unconditional 30-day money back quarantee.
Pick it up here: http://www.sunbelt-software.com/spquery.htm


You can do a query of all of the machines in your domain and generate 
a full report. As an administrator you can use this info to keep 
track of all the networked machines configuration data. 

Not only does SPQuery determine which hotfix has been applied but 
it will also inform you of the hotfixes that are _not_ installed. 
Many times system administrators do not know that a hotfix is 
available to solve a specific problem or to close a big security 


A unique feature of SPQuery is the ability to download the necessary 
fixes automatically from the Microsoft Web site. It includes the 
ability to view the service pack and HotFix information for all of 
the NT machines in the domain, allows you to install hotfixes, export 
the report into a comma or tab delimited file, and the data can be 
imported to for instance Microsoft's System Management Server.


As you know, Service Pack 1 usually gets released three months after 
a major release of NT ships. This SP1 gets you the last-minute fixes 
that didn't make it onto the first CD. Right after, Microsoft starts
releasing Hotfixes for problems that have surfaced in the original
code but also bugs introduced in the Service Pack.

Normally a few months later, one sees SP2, that adds new features. 
For example, NT 4.0's SP2 included Internet Explorer 4.0. Our friends
in Redmond release following Service Packs when needed, combining bug 
fixes and patches. A later SP (apart from a slew of new fixes) also 
usually patches bugs introduced by an earlier one. This means it's a 
good idea to TEST the SP's on a non-production system!

It would be a much better idea to have SERVICE PACKS just for bugfixes
and OPTION PACKS for additional features and it looks like MS is indeed
moving that way, but NOT with SP4 unfortunately...

If you want to find the most recent NT Service Pack, you should check
out http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/ then select NT as the 
product, and as the category Service Packs and Updates. You'll find
NT 4.0 SP3 right there and the page also explains how you can get a 
copy via download or by calling 800-370-8758 or fax 716-873-0906.

Getting one of these SP's is easy. Now comes the rough part, during
installation. Always check README.TXT and ALWAYS choose the uninstall
option and make sure you have enough disk space to do so.

In the README.TXT are the bugs fixed and new features. But the most 
important thing is it will give you a list of things to do _before_ 
installing it. Make sure you do a full system backup, including the 
NT Registry files, and update your Emergency Repair Disk!

As you see, this is not trivial. It can break NT if it gets screwed up.
During SP installation, the SP takes control of your system and crucial 
parts of NT get replaced. More over it directly controls the Registry 
and other system components that normal apps normally cannot even touch.

In most cases the installation goes well, and you boot with the new
SP installed. You want to do two things right away:
1) RDISK, to create a new emergency disk what will restore your system
including the SP.
2) Back up the SP itself, (write it to a CD or something) and file it 
safely. You will need it again  every time you rebuild your 
system. Then you need to reinstall the hotfixes as well...


Check out how bad it is at ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/winnt/winnt-

That is the directory that lists the bug fixes after SP3 was released.
Before you download any, make sure to read the POSTSP3.TXT! It lists 
all the files included with each patch and gives the order in which 
you should apply them. Yup! You have to apply the hotfixes in the
right order. That is where SPQuery comes in extremely handy.

If you want to know what a specific HotFix does, go to that directory. 
Always check README.TXT first, as you need the right version (Alpha or
Intel) of each executable. Then, check out the other TXT files as
they explain what the fixes actually repair. Go to to the Y2K-FIX
directory and you will find exactly what problems there are with NT.

Now, all these hotfixes will be integrated in SP4, but like we said
before, there will be a host of new bugs in SP4 that will need fixing.
I have talked with people running the SP4 Release Candidate 1 so it
cannot take much longer before it appears. Even the best programmers
make 3 errors in 100 lines of code, so you'd better start looking for
a HOTFIXES-POSTSP4 directory. There will be a LOT of stuff there.
SPquery will support that directory and download fixes immediately.


First of all, it's enormous: Different sizes are mentioned varying
from 32 to over 80Meg! Paying 15 bucks for the CD sounds like a good 
idea. A large part of what SP4 will get you is preparations for and 
compatibility with NT 5.0 stuff. As you know, some parts of 4.0 and 
5.0 are not compatible, NTFS is a good example, 5.0 has modified NTFS 
data structures compared to 4.0. SP4 has a new version of NTFS.SYS 
that lets NT 4.0 read the 5.0 NTFS partition format. 

It does not get you all the new features like encryption or limited 
quotas though. Warning: low-level disk structures change on 5.0 so 
4.0 tools that directly address these won't work, e.g CHKDSK. We will 
keep you up to date if you need new versions of tools for 5.0.


NT 5.0 that for 90% of you will not be in real production environments 
until about 2 years from now, will get rid of most of 4.0's problems 
and that includes SP's. John Ruley reports in Windows Magazine Oct 98
(excellent column by the way) that MS will release interim builds of 
NT-rather than an 80 MB update on a CD. You will get a new CD with a 
whole new version of NT including the SP's. That will make life easier 
for sure. But NT 5.0 will STILL USE HOTFIXES...


The answer is obvious. Finally Escape from HotFix Hell. Whip out that
credit card and get your copy of SPQuery via the On-Line Shop for only 
$129.95. This is a single machine license that works multi-domain wide. 
If you'd rather prefer a site (campus) license that you can run on as
many machines as you want, the price is $495 but you should call your 
reseller or your Sunbelt Account rep for those. 

If you buy the single machine license first, and want to upgrade to the 
Site license later, we credit 100% of your initial purchase to the site 
license. Meaning your Site license will be only $365.05 in that case.

In short, to make your NT machines more stable and secure, be prepared
for the SP4 wave of Hotfixes and be home early for a change, get your 
copy of the Award Winning SPQuery V2.0 with immediate electronic 
delivery and an unconditional "no questions asked" 30-day money back 
quarantee right now:


You'll like it!

Warm regards,

Stu Sjouwerman

(email me with feedback: [email protected])