Microsoft has responded to complaints that Windows XP sometimes has problems connecting to Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the response is: "Tough. Wait it out."
"This behavior is expected," says a terse article in Microsoft's Knowledge Base. "You must wait up to three minutes for the network configuration to complete."
There's no fix, no patch, no workaround. "The wireless network card driver may not respond immediately when Windows XP initializes the network components and associates the wireless network card driver," says the article. "When this behavior occurs, Windows XP appears to stop responding."
The Wi-Fi Networking News site spotted and highlighted the Microsoft article, which has otherwise had little fanfare.
The "announcement" is a blow for Microsoft which has made great marketing capital out of the Wi-Fi features built into its XP operating system. Zero configuration drivers are supposed to make it easier to use Wi-Fi, instead of effectively (if you're unlucky enough to hit the problem) preventing it.
Meanwhile, for those on Windows 2000, an outfit called Wireless Security Corporation has issued a utility which can give them one of the better Wi-Fi features that Microsoft bundles with XP, but doesn't provide for earlier Windows versions.
The WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) Assistant is a free download which allows Windows 2000 to operate securely with a pre-shared key, giving them the interim standard on the way to IEEE 802.11i.