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the sorry state of updating on Windows

Bill Dog (726542) writes | more than 5 years ago

Microsoft 5

I started typing a reply to a post, but it's all off-topic there anyways so I'm putting it in my journal instead:

And the google updater (alongside the apple updater, adobe updated, and whatever else updater) you have running only exist to get around a flaw in windows - the lack of a consistent package management system such as apt.

I started typing a reply to a post, but it's all off-topic there anyways so I'm putting it in my journal instead:

And the google updater (alongside the apple updater, adobe updated, and whatever else updater) you have running only exist to get around a flaw in windows - the lack of a consistent package management system such as apt.

It is indeed a puzzle that MS hasn't made a unified updater mechanism for Windows. For example for installation they (finally) made an engine and infrastructure built in to Windows for everyone to use -- MS as well as third parties. But that took them a while to get around to adding. Windows Update has been around for a while, seems like they could put out for third party use an API and toolkit(s) for a version of that as well.

If you install enough apps with updaters on windows they will eventually bog your system down real badly, and start using your bandwidth when you least expect it.

MS should also solve the problem of non-staggered phone-home'ings. The first part of it is that every fucking idiot developer of these updaters implements them as a startup item. Duh, hello, there's been Scheduled Tasks functionality in Windows for forever, if you want your stupid updater to check for updates every two weeks, create a task. Then it only runs once every two weeks. But that would be a sign of intelligence, so instead everyone and their brothers' updaters run when you boot, calculating "is it time yet?". Or worse, just going ahead and checking for updates every time. Some fuckers even leave their trash programs running after their job is done.

Yes I'm a little testy about this. I guard my Win2K system at home jealously, from all sorts of muck, but the WinXP system at my old job I didn't have a choice, I had to have certain software packages, and the damn thing took forever to be ready to be used after I turned it on in the morning. I don't drink coffee, I'm not ready for a break yet then, when I'm employed I come in to work and I'm immediately ready to work. I don't want to sit around picking my nose because some retard programmers are retards. I was about ready to write a program that took all that shit out of the startup and packaged it where I could launch it all on the way out for lunch, but I got booted before I got around to it. Prolly next job (if I do ever get another job -- seems like employment was but a dream, of a time long, long ago -- California's unemployment rate is up to 11.2% (vs. the 8.5% national average), the highest level since 1941, a rate outdone currently only by South Carolina, Oregon and Michigan, whoohoo).

Anyways, to continue, I was thinking prolly network usage should be disallowed by the operating system when it's running all the startup programs. Except maybe things in the user's own Startup folder off the Start menu, where they might have placed something there to do just that. But nothing that's run from the registry. Including services (at startup). And/or it's prolly not a bad idea to pop up an alert, I imagine like Vista does when something wants to access the system, every time a program wants to access the network. Like one of those consumer-level software firewalls that's still learning your usages and preferences. So you could tell it ya ya I want *this* particular program to access the network without bothering me. But at least then it would be evident who's phoning home and how often. And how inconvenient it is when the average imbecile vendor sets it up for these things to take place and that that's why your modern multi-core, multi-GHz machine is so bogged down.

While MS is at it, create a certification program for such crapware like they do drivers. I remember InstallShield's updater pitiful progie was so lame, when their server was down (quite often -- they exude lameness from multiple orifices), it wouldn't draw completely, and would just sit there doing nothing. Furthermore, if you then launched the IDE, well the geniuses programmed that to phone home too, but using the same mechanism. But the updater engine wasn't reentrant, so then it would then fuck up on which things it had already downloaded and applied and which it didn't. You had to uninstall and reinstall to reset it. Absolute worthless garbage code (and coders) that should've flunked miserably a basic competency test.

Finally, without all this crap running every time on startup, there is the danger that the user seldom has their computer on during the time something's scheduled to run and check for updates. In that case, part of some new MS updating engine could be to display a graphical timeline to the user and prompt them to reschedule, once or from then on, that phoning home. And also a way to trigger one on demand (via script as well as GUI). And provide to third parties the option (overridable by the user of course) that MS gives itself, of scheduling updates upon system shutdown.

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5 comments

Update fail (1)

Cyberdyne (104305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634419)

There's certainly room for improvement - but even moving from Windows Update to Microsoft Update took them a while, and that was just a case of extending support to another of their own products! I never cease to be amazed by just how resource-intensive the update check is, either: check for updates on a machine with "only" half a gigabyte of RAM and be prepared for many minutes of disk thrashing as the process responsible blasts through the hundred Mb barrier; at one point last year, I tried a little race, Debian 'apt-get update/apt-get dist-upgrade' against MS Update. In the time it took the Microsoft offering to download and display the list of applicable updates, apt-get had checked and updated not one but three separate machines, all less powerful than the Windows machine - even though the Debian tool covered every application installed.

I'm not sure the current Microsoft Update could realistically be extended much further - it struggles badly enough under the current limited workload. I agree about the InstallShield abomination, too: my heart sinks whenever I find myself having to install and support an application which has been mangled that way.

Rather than extend the existing MS system, though, I think the best route might be an open third-party update mechanism, preferably with central administration facilities and policy support. Having helped support labs totalling a few hundred PCs in the past, I'd love to be able to see that Firefox, Thunderbird, AutoCAD and Virusscan are all patched up to date, or indeed to be told that those three PCs in the corner are behind on patches and need investigation. As it stands, half our applications will tell users (who don't have the necessary account privileges to update anything) that they need updating, irritating users and making us look out of date - the other half silenty wait for an admin user to run them, which may not happen for weeks.

Sure, I could try to shoe-horn every application into some third-party application management setup - but that's a whole new world of pain, expense and overhead. Why can't I just approve and install Firefox, then have a privileged service automatically update to new versions without needing local intervention? I can't go round 200 machines, logging on locally just to update the web browser every other week!

PITA=$ (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636573)

Yes, that is probably a hard nut to crack, but the first software vendor that can offer a product that manages your other software installed and correctly automates the updates might make a buck or two...

Frankly, I am surprised this doesn't exist in the window-0-sphere. It might, I don't run MS stuff, but seems to be a winner idea as long as the program works well and isn't price gouging. APT and RPM/Yum whatever are open source...might be a place to start. A lot of windows folks are just never going to switch OS, but they will run anything that works, open source or not, and as long as it is shrinkwrapped on the counter at software-b-us, they might buy it. In other words, seems like a business plan to me. Not a dev, I am a farmer, but I can see the attraction, going by what I have seen on the windows side of things before.

Re:Update fail (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27655385)

The disk thrashing on your 512 MB machines may have been due to large registries. (Based on how Windows/Microsoft Update (lamely) works, at least last I looked into it.)

But it sounds like you may be/have been responsible for keeping multiple machines up-to-date, and I believe MS has something to do that, albeit then not open source of course. This is how it should be done (IMIgnorantO) in the enterprise anyways -- IT applies the latest round of patches to a guinea pig machine, and if okay, puts them up on a central internal server. And then everything should be programmed to download their updates from a configurable IP that's set up to support some kind of open API for such. Vendors would then set their updaters to default to their servers, but they could be re-pointed a box running MS's or a third-party implementation of this updating API. (Or to none at all!)

OK (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27678725)

OK. Yes, this could be better. There are things in Windows that help, like the diff/patch functionality in the Windows
Installer (we build these with Wix and push out updates to some of our apps to all servers simultaneously, for example).
Desktop apps are something else though, and I agree that some do it well and most don't.

But the certification thing is a slippery slope at best. As it is, when an app fails to update on Windows for whatever
reason it's usually "OMG LOLOLOL M$ SUX" - imagine if something was signed off as working by the company and fail to
work because of something out of their control? The driver certification madness is bad enough. Perhaps necessary, but
bad enough.

Re:OK (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27681203)

I'm taking a class right now that's an overview of .NET, and the guy's talked about "xcopy deployment" for .NET apps, which sounds pretty sweet. MSI supports a lot of neat features, but it's uber-complex and despairingly non-performant.

I'm not privy to any of the other problems with certification of drivers or other, but I tend to think that, like with Global Warming belief, MS bashing was a fad that has alreadly peaked and is now waning and winding back down to the hard-core group that has always upheld such/and related causes. I don't run Vista (yet), but its bashing seemed like such a vacuous bandwagon movement, I think it was more of being that that meme wave happened to peak then, than being about the OS itself. There were certainly significant adjusting pains going from XP SP1 to SP2, for example, but the negativity trend hadn't swept as wide yet then as it ultimately would. And now with the way people are talking, they seem like they might be about as irrationally positive about Windows 7 as they were irrationally negative about Windows Vista.

So I think the "OMG LOLOLOL M$ SUX" issue will grow less of an angle/roadblock. And MS properly and historically has shown an interest in addressing significant problems with the user experience, such as drivers causing system instability. I just happen to think that time-to-usability is likewise this major of an issue (it's even worse on my folks' machine, with a bunch of AOL crap on it that does all kinds of god-knows-what at startup), that MS should address somehow. Besides these two, the only other thing I can think of that's major (re: the user experience) is security.

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