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Another Windows XP rant


Some schools and businesses like to keep a uniform standard with letterheads and stationery, and this includes computers as well. A wallpaper with the school/business logo on all computers can look professional and smart, definitely better than what a lot of users chose as background pictures. We also wanted to prevent users from changing this wallpaper or setting another one.

We recently tried setting this up in our computer labs, and as usual used the magic of Group Policy to do so. We succeeded, but ran into an interesting problem: the icons on the desktop were being surrounded by a block of colour, depending on what the original background colour was. My colleague and I tried every tweak, using a bitmap file instead of JPEG, tweaked settings etc, all to no avail.

A search on the internet revealed that this is a known problem with Windows XP. For whatever reason, setting the desktop though Group Policy causes the picture to be displayed, but does so by using the horrible Active Desktop feature, a horrendous piece of leftover technology from Windows 98.

It’s hard to believe that this problem was never corrected in a service pack for XP, and now it never will be. We’ve yet to try and use this feature on Windows 7 based computers, but I have heard that 7 also has some issues when wallpapers are assigned through Group Policy.

We’ve left the settings in place, but I am not impressed by the fact that it looks so messy. Yet another reason in my view to ditch Windows XP and move on.

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