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The Trouble With Software Upgrades 356

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the upgrades-just-introduce-new-bugs dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "When software makers urge upgrades, it isn't always in users' best interest, the Wall Street Journal reports. Many upgrades bring advertising or other unwanted features; some iTunes users felt this way about a recent upgrade. But for many programs, downgrading can be a headache--Yahoo generally doesn't link to old versions of software, and Apple says iTunes can't be downgraded. Some websites can help with the problem. OldVersion.com, for instance, offers more than 600 versions of about 65 different programs. The site's 16-year-old administrator says, 'Companies make a lot of new versions. They're not always better for the consumer.'"
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The Trouble With Software Upgrades

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:14PM (#14868060) Homepage Journal

    Here is a problem for most software companies, and one reason I would never invest in a publicly traded software company. It is also the prime reason that I sold off my portion of a private software company I had owned.

    The problem? Obsolescence.

    Software seems to be obsolete almost immediately after it is released. If a better product doesn't replace it, the product itself contains bugs that require a new release or at least a patch. The difficulty in pricing software is figuring out what percentage of the sale profit needs to be held back to cover long term support (updates and customer service).

    One way developers are recouping the expense of upgrades is by offering yearly support subscriptions, but these are better suited for corporations who desire a fixed budget. For the home user, I'm betting most prefer to buy a program once and desire a lifetime of upgrades. Recently I complained (to myself) about needing to rebuy a program that had been updated -- until I realized I hadn't bought a version from the company for 4 years!

    The end result is for the company to find others willing to pay for the upgrades. Users who desire something at a discount should be willing to at least admit that they're also part of the problem -- they tell the developers that they'll buy a product at a certain price, and they give the developers reason for finding ways to pay for that product in the long haul.

    In all the software I use (a ton of it between my businesses, my home, my side projects, my church congregation tech junk, and my family needs), very rarely does an upgrade work against me. In fact, I'd say 95% of upgrades I've performed in the past 10 years made me more efficient, even if they incorporated certain things I didn't like.

    If software wants to do something you don't want it to do, block it with your firewall. For me, that's the only necessary step.

    The final part of the quote: "They're not always better for the consumer" needs to be looked at differently. Updates that allow the developer to continue updating and supporting the software ARE good for the consumer, just maybe not in the "now" but in the long run. The time preference of the developer might be different than the consumer, but they have to be similar or the developer won't last.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:25PM (#14868177) Homepage
      I'm betting most prefer to buy a program once and desire a lifetime of upgrades.

      no they prefre to see that program simply work for as long as they need it.

      Problem is that most "upgrades" are not that but bug fixes the software company decided to charge for. windows 98 for example was a windows 95 bugfix.

      Good software (Calendar creator for example) get a insane following behind it. Because it works and does not break at every turn and version 2.0 works just fine compared to version 5.8 so the customer is not interested in upgrading. Give th ecustomer a reason to upgrade and they typically do.

      But consumers look at their software like their camera. if it still takes pictures, why do I need to buy a new one?
      • by mellon (7048) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:50PM (#14868475) Homepage
        It does cost money to fix bugs, you know. You can argue that they ought not to have released the software with bugs, but it's just part of the cost equation - do I release now, with potential bugs, or release later, with no bugs? Do you want the software now, or later, or maybe not at all, because my company folded due to no revenue? Okay, so now you have the software, and it turns out not to be perfect. Do you want my company to stay in business so I can fix your problems, or go under?

        "Should" is a fairly useless word when it comes to commerce. "Works" is a better word.

        Anyway, if you don't like the process of using commercial software, there's a cure - go open source. :')
        • by srmalloy (263556) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:36PM (#14868953) Homepage
          However, if you buy a program with the expectation, based on the advertising, box description, and manuals stating that the program will do [insert desired function here], and the program does the wrong thing when you use that function -- i.e., when you sum a column of numbers in a spreadsheet, the total is wrong, or the contents of a cut-and-paste change between cut and paste in a word-processing or graphics program -- then you should have a reasonable expectation that the software company is obligated to release a patch that fixes the problem, because the product that you have purchased is not the product that was described.
        • by PhYrE2k2 (806396) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:31PM (#14869437)
          Why do you accept that? That'd be my question!

          If I got a car that failed to start 5 mornings of the year, I'd be pretty pissed off. If I got a TV that wasn't compatible with channel three or seven, I'd be rather annoyed. If my car's doors unlocked randomly on the third Tuesday of the month, I'd be frustrated. If I got a VCR that couldn't timer record at 58 minutes after the hour, I'd be pretty pissed off too!

          So why do we let our computer programs have these problems? Why do programs need to be killed or the computer restarted at random (freezing during startup isn't as common since win2k). Why do we accept a computer program that doesn't seem to handle the formats established at the time with ease (think Windows XP destroying exif information on jpgs)? Why do we accept holes in our software that lets crooks in along with their bots, spyware, and adware? Why Why why?!?

          I've always been a fan of a certain car maker (and still am), but when I got a 2004 sport sedan and a few weeks later had my dash light up brighter than a christmas tree, the dealer tells me that their software/flash upgrade to the car should fix the issue. Sure enough, it did, and by the forums, it wasn't an uncommon problem with early production of the model. But this is stemming into other areas. An audio system I got in 2000 couldn't read any CD-Rs- obviously it didn't spend enough time in testing, as this should have come up. My car had bugs! The EPROM on my new furnace needed to be replaced. This is getting silly!

          Sure bugs are bound to get through, but it is the programmer's responsibility to properly test their program. I'd rather Windows 2000 be released today and have it stable as anything and a solid performer. This isn't how things work. Microsoft spends more time making Spider Solitaire for Vista then they do testing the OS itself.

          Updates aren't always better. Sometimes they add functionality, like additional CD Recorder capability, updated roster information for a sports game, security fixes, etc. Other times they add bloat and problems.

          Anyone remember ICQ 99b and the 98's? Memory footprint of about 1MB, fast as anything, fixed the data corruption issues of previous versions. Good upgrade. Then recall late 99 versions and 2000+, where the memory footprint was about 80MB, the thing took a good minute to start up. It was buggy, and an ad-city. Then they wonder why it died a horrible death to the favour of MSN? Pack hundreds of features in there and make it slow as anything and nobody will go back. Wait... That's a good description of Windows.

          -M
      • Problem is that most "upgrades" are not that but bug fixes the software company decided to charge for. windows 98 for example was a windows 95 bugfix.

        I'm not even a Microsoft user or customer, and even I know that is not true. Win98 had real features beyond Win95. Win98 SE2 was a bugfix of previous Win98 releases. I don't know the details, but 98 over 95 added things like USB (although it never worked right) and CD burning and other new stuff that was not common in August of 1995 when Win95 was released.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If software wants to do something you don't want it to do, block it with your firewall. For me, that's the only necessary step.

      What about when it does LESS than the previous version?

      My box got infested with the Sony malware, thanks to my daughter. I'd stupidly lost the driver disks for my video card and audio chip, and there were no versions on the internet I could find that worked with 98; all were for XP.

      I've found absolutely zero increased functionality with XP over 98. None whatever. (If one of you kind
      • by RandoX (828285) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:49PM (#14868468)
        The advantage of XP over 98, IMHO, is the stability. My XP machine almost never has any stability problems. In contrast, 98 had a lot of them. That alone is worth the upgrade for me.

        I know, I know... try a BSD or Linux for stability. If the apps were equally available (games, especially) I'd be with you.
        • Not to mention, 98 has no support for multiple users or even a meaningful password lock system. And it is a complete nightmare in a networked environment. 98 might be fine for home users that don't do anything serious, but it will not (definitely should not) be found in a corporate environment.
      • Thats just silly. XP is not even related to 98, it is an NT based O/S that is lightyears ahead of Windows 9x operating systems. Windows 98 is running on DOS for christs sake.
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:39PM (#14868354) Homepage Journal

      If software wants to do something you don't want it to do, block it with your firewall.

      What if the new version won't run until it phones home? Half-Life 2 retail anyone?

    • by Baseball_Fan (959550) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:44PM (#14868420)
      The end result is for the company to find others willing to pay for the upgrades. Users who desire something at a discount should be willing to at least admit that they're also part of the problem -- they tell the developers that they'll buy a product at a certain price, and they give the developers reason for finding ways to pay for that product in the long haul.

      I could not disagree more strongly.

      What if the market place decided that cars will sell best at $10,000? But auto makers want to make $15,000. Would it be okay to make the car with a non-functioning radio, and then tell the consumers "We have an upgrade, it's better", but the new upgrade is a radio you can't turn off, filled with advertising. Or they tell you "we have an upgrade for your engine", but it is a GPS that collects data about where you go, so they can tell if you prefer Best Buy or Circuit City?

      If I want to spend $50 for software, then either there is software I can buy, or there is not. It is deceptive to sell software for $50, then turn around and hide spyware in it, invade my privacy, or find some other way to milk me for more money. If there is a security patch, or performance patch which corrects a programming mistake, then let me download the patch without any unwanted code.

      One other thing I hate is when there is an upgrade, and the end user can't stop it. For example, use AOL. It will download "upgrades" in the background. Even if you try and exit AOL, the upgrade will continue to download unless you unplug the phone line.

      There should be truth in advertising. And don't tell me there is an urgent security bug fix, but force me to accept a new EULA or take on new software. Just sell the software so it works. Stop double dipping.

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:15PM (#14868071) Homepage Journal

    • Retraining
    • Initial loss in productivity
    • Data/Project Conversion
    • New Bugs
    • Cost (and Cost-to-Benefit of new features)
    • Potential Hardware / OS upgrades necessary
    • Bonus: The Murphy Factor - Is there something lurking in there which will make you very, very sorry at the worse possible time?

    I seriously hate it when someone says, "Here's the new release, it's going in right away!" That's where the term "Bleeding Edge" comes in.

    I typically upgrade when I feel I need to, i.e. there's some new feature which really is great or required for the work you do.

    Lastly, this guy is 16? Props!

    • by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:24PM (#14868172) Homepage Journal
      I 100% agree. But yet recently I was forced to upgrade our accounting system through two versions in a weekend. Why? Well a new manager came along and said "We're using an unsupported version? We must upgrade now!".

      We, like you, did not rush to upgrade because we didn't feel the need. Our users were happy and used to the system. We'd worked out some bugs over the years and everything was pretty stable, very routine. But our support contract (which we never used) stated that once a new version came out support for the old was very limited and eventually was per incedent, $mega/hour support only.

      While I understand the nature of a support contract as insurance it is a bit frustrating that my company pays a huge annual amount for this, we hardly (actually never while I was here) use it and if we want to keep it we have to run our business on their schedule, not ours.

      • While I understand the nature of a support contract as insurance it is a bit frustrating that my company pays a huge annual amount for this, we hardly (actually never while I was here) use it and if we want to keep it we have to run our business on their schedule, not ours.

        It's like a security blanket, I expect. If your vendor has really bad software (not likely support is going to be any better, is it?) people far removed from the realities will feel some sense of comfort that it's there.

      • I 100% agree. But yet recently I was forced to upgrade our accounting system through two versions in a weekend. Why? Well a new manager came along and said "We're using an unsupported version? We must upgrade now!".

        "Who is more foolish? The fool or the fool that follows him?"

        -- Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Why is it that these middle management fucks make half informed decisions and then the professionals that know better just go along and everybody, including the middle management fuck, suffers?
    • "Bonus: The Murphy Factor - Is there something lurking in there which will make you very, very sorry at the worse possible time?"

      Don't forget to apply the Murphy factor to the actual upgrading and conversion...
      • Don't forget to apply the Murphy factor to the actual upgrading and conversion...

        Oh, that has happened.

        One of the worst experiences I've ever been through was getting part of the way through an upgrade and realizing it wasn't going to work and having to go back to the prior version.

        There are software vendors out that who Beta on their own users. I used to work in a shop that did US$1B payroll annually. The vendors, I kid you not, made a change to the code and installed it, just before a run. It broke

    • Lastly, this guy is 16? Props!

      i was shocked when i saw that. the site's been around for close to 2 years now. was he 14 when he started it?

      it's a great site regardless...
    • Yep. oldversion.com rocks. I recently got Sygate Personal Firewall onto that website by working with the site owner. Sygate Personal Firewall is a really nice free personal firewall for Windows that Symantec pulled from the market when they scarfed up Sygate.
    • 16... I used that site years ago to download... what... I don't even remember what program. Stumbled over it a couple of times since that time too. Same guy running it then? In that case he was pretty young when he started it. Archive.org's oldest copy is from 2001. http://web.archive.org/web/20010709021341/http://w ww.oldversion.com/ [archive.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First, the article is pointless. So yeah, so updates suck. Sometimes they remove features you liked/needed, sometimes the update is buggier than the older version. Welcome to computer software, this hasen't changed since the begining of time (relative to software that is). So what new insights did this have to offer, er, none.

    Now, one to the more "interesting" aspect of this posting. I took a quick gander over at oldversion.com, I assume they have checked into the legality of carrying and distributin
  • Upgrade != Better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:19PM (#14868123) Journal
    Upgragde does not mean better. WindowsME was supposed to be an upgrade to 98SE. Trust me, it wasn't.

    The company I work for writes software. Trust me, I would not recommend anyone to buy the first release of any upgrade we offer. Wait until it gets about 30 or 40 builds and becomes stable.

    I guess you could say that the reliability of software is like a wave: It goes up until a major release, then it drops down to the bottom and starts working it's way back up again. When the software becomes perfectly reliable and feature complete, it's time to release a new version, and down we go again.

    • 30 or 40 builds, eh? What software company do you work for again? ;)
      • Re:Upgrade != Better (Score:2, Informative)

        by ArcherB (796902)
        30 or 40 builds, eh? What software company do you work for again? ;)

        Yeah, I'm gonna tell you that!
        When I say builds, I don't necessarily mean releases. Our official 4.0 release was actually 4.0.1.10. We are currenlty on 4.0.3.45 and things are finally more or less stable. There are just some things that can not be tested in house and don't show up until they get beat on by a customer. As soon as we find what these bugs are, we fix them, but the same customer may find 3 or 4 different bugs over the cours
    • by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedata . n e t .eg> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:53PM (#14868511) Journal
      I'm busy applying for some free Windows product licenses for some donated computers to our school. We have the option of putting one of two operating systems on it:

      • Windows 98 SE
      • Windows 2000

      I find it interesting that even Microsoft doesn't have faith in their own "next version" (Windows ME). Ouch.

    • I guess you could say that the reliability of software is like a wave: It goes up until a major release, then it drops down to the bottom and starts working it's way back up again.

      The software company *I* work for actually manages to release damn good software for every stable release, even in the presence of major feature additions or changes. We do patch releases, but very few and largely for minor issues. Nor do we have a very long development cycle time. That "wave", while present, is barely big enou
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:19PM (#14868125)
    > When software makers urge upgrades, it isn't always in users' best interest, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    They've got a bunch of geniuses over at the WSJ, haven't they.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:20PM (#14868131)
    Try the new version, its ads are bigger and the privacy intrusions are twice as invasive!

    Just don't try to go retro, or we will disable your account and report you to the internet police.

    (sarcasm off)
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) *
    Apple says iTunes can't be downgraded.

    Yes it can! It's easy! Just move the new version to the trash, then put the old version in its place. Voila! You're now running an old version.

    [...]

    What's that? You say that they're talking about Windows? Pfff. Who uses Windows? I mean, do users have any clue how hard it is to uninstall... Oh.

    (Yes, my tongue is again located in the cheek area.) :-P
    • by FyRE666 (263011) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:32PM (#14868270) Homepage
      What's that? You say that they're talking about Windows? Pfff. Who uses Windows? I mean, do users have any clue how hard it is to uninstall... Oh.

      (Yes, my tongue is again located in the cheek area.) :-P

      Yes, between Steve Jobs' cheeks it would seem...
    • Yes it can! It's easy! Just move the new version to the trash, then put the old version in its place. Voila! You're now running an old version.

      Where does OS X keep the old version pray tell?

      Or has it not been over writing my older version the entire time I've been going through upgrades.
      • Where does OS X keep the old version pray tell?

        1. Not my problem. TFA says that you can't downgrade iTunes. I'm (jokingly) pointing out that you can.

        2. It's definitely not my problem that you are unable to look at the post above yours in this thread for a response that gives a location for older versions.

        3. Even worse, it's not my problem that your humor sensor is busted. I might suggest getting that fixed.

        Or has it not been over writing my older version the entire time I've been going through upgrades.

        Oh,
    • Windows instructions: Select Add/Remove programs from the control panel. Select iTunes and click remove. Not exactly rocket science. But I know, windows sucks so it doesn't matter...
      • Windows instructions: Select Add/Remove programs from the control panel. Select iTunes and click remove.

        Two reboots later, you HOPE that all the DLLs and Services that iTunes installed are gone. And don't forget to remove Quicktime. You might need the versions to match. Another two reboots later...
    • I was suckered into the iTunes upgrade, not knowing that Apple (a) screwed with QuickTime to disable jHymn, and (b) screwed with my iTunes Music Store account so I couldn't downgrade iTunes again without losing access to the store.

      Still, it's been their loss. There were a couple of albums I was going to buy, but I'm not going to until jHymn is working again.
  • I'm happily running Photoshop 7 still, following my usual policy of ignoring even-numbered PS versions. Hell, there's nothing compelling me to get CS2, so I guess I'll run it until it stops working properly.

    Adobe is the worst, though, since they CONSTANTLY change the goddamn key shortcuts to the tools. Gee, thanks, Adobe!
  • Upgradeitis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ROOK*CA (703602) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:29PM (#14868228)
    Unfortunately most non-technical users have "Upgradeitis", which means that all it takes to get them to upgrade a piece of software is to tell them in straight forward language "An upgrade to XYZ software is available" and make the upgrade process painless. The average user (in most cases I think) doesn't stop and ask themselves, do I really need this? Is the software I have now doing what I want it to do? What's in this upgrade that I really want/need? How will this upgrade affect my data and/or other applications?

    Seems to me that they've become almost programmed to think of anything new as necessarily "better" and thus desirable without ever thinking of the old addage "If it ain't broke don't fix it", couple this with the propensity of many users to load up on drive by download software that they'll probably only ever use once and you end up with a pay per incident support providers wet dream.

    • Re:Upgradeitis (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zerbs (898056) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:59PM (#14868558)
      I think part of that comes from the constant news about how we need to update our software because of virus X or worm Y or some other vulnerability Z. People have been conditioned to believe for example that weekly updates to Microsoft Windows is a normal and good thing.
      There are people who do fall too easily to the marketing hype of a "new and improved" version though. Part of the marketing strategy of using the year in the name of a product is to make it feel old to a user, even if it hasn't necessarily outlived its usefullness.
      • Re:Upgradeitis (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ROOK*CA (703602) *
        I think part of that comes from the constant news about how we need to update our software because of virus X or worm Y or some other vulnerability Z. People have been conditioned to believe for example that weekly updates to Microsoft Windows is a normal and good thing.

        I think you hit the nail right on the head here, Microsoft has do a great deal to condition the response from users. For any of us that provide informal "tech support" to our friends & family (or as a full time job) know that it can
  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:29PM (#14868233) Journal
    There's a part of the movie when Elliot Carver is having a teleconference with his underlings, and one of the questions he asks is:

    Elliot Carver: "How about our new software?"
    Underling: "We are releasing on schedule. As requested, it is full of bugs, and users will be forced to keep upgrading for years."

    I wonder how valid that statement actually is.
    • by Reziac (43301) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:44PM (#14869023) Homepage Journal
      It may not be so far off.

      I know a guy who was part of the core devteam for MacOS7. He told me that they were actually FORBIDDEN to create a patch to fix a critical hardware bug, which rendered the system unusable for the very multimedia use for which it was being marketed. Why? Because the bug was fixed in the next incarnation of the hardware... and if you wanted your multimedia stuff to work, you had to upgrade the whole damn monkey!!

  • Case in point: (Score:5, Informative)

    by a_nonamiss (743253) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:29PM (#14868238)
    Perfect case in point: I have a 4 year old laptop that I keep in my kitchen. It's running Windows XP (barely) but it's really low on memory. (192MB minus video memory) I like to listen to music on it, since it's in my kitchen and readily accessible. I recently installed the only downloadable version of WinAMP on it, and it uses almost 80-100MB of RAM while it's running. Now, when I used to run WinAMP on my old 233MHz Pentium with 32MB of memory, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't using 80MB of RAM while running. I don't need visual effects. I don't need an integrated web browser. I don't need a catalog of my 200GB music collection. I just want to listen to music... And it's not like iTunes or Windows Media Player are any better. They're hogs, too. I tried Foobar2000, but it hates my sound card and uses a lot of CPU. So I'm stuck. Whenever I start WinAMP, it takes 5 minutes to load, and when I quit, it takes 5 minutes to unload from memory.

    I can't wait to get home and install WinAMP 2.0!
  • by lohphat (521572) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:30PM (#14868247)
    ...when you call the outsourced, scripted tech-cupport center.

    "Are you running the latest version?"

    "No."

    "Well, we need you to install it so we can diagnose your problem."

    ---

    More often than not the upgrade is better, it's the 5% of times when it's a pain. Due to software development and support being a resource hog, vendors are quick to abandon older versions instead of developting patch trains for multiple releases.
    • On the other hand, how long should a vendor have to provide support for a piece of software? Should Broderbund still have to provide phone support for The Print Shop v2.0 (1994)?

      If software companies can't end-of-life products, and have to support them indefinitely, the cost of vendor support becomes insanely high.

      In the US auto industry, car manufacturers are required to produce replacement parts for a model for seven years.* Perhaps a regulation of that kind would be good for software/hardware vendors, too.

      *Except Yugo, what with the giant war and everything.
  • wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kevin.fowler (915964)
    Considering how long I feel like I've been using Oldversions to stay with my favorite/most stable builds of programs... was this kid a fetus when he started it?

    In all seriousness, that place saved my life when I was stuck with WinME for a year in college and the school mail program conflicted with everything. The no ad and non-resource hog (I'm looking at you, Winamp and iTunes) versions of programs are the way to go.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:32PM (#14868267)
    not necessarily good for the customer.

    Why do companies make new version?

    1. To fix bugs
    2. To introduce new features
    3. To fix hacks.

    Now, a bugfix is usually a good thing. If the bug applies to you (like, when your certain combination of graphics card, CPU and mainboard doesn't enjoy having unmutex'ed multithreading that works allright on the test setup... don't laugh). If not, the bugfix is nice but unnecessary.

    A feature add on is usually pointless. If you buy some software, you buy it for the features it has, not for the features it might have somewhere in the future. I stopped buying software on promises, I buy it on tests and reviews. If it has what I want, I buy. If it does not, I don't. Simple binary logic. So when a new version has a new feature, most of the time I don't need it.

    So what remains is the big reason that has NO benefit for the customer and ONLY benefits for the seller. To close holes that allowed you to do with the thing what its manufacturer didn't want you to do. This can be anything from a "crack" (yeah, like the new version can't be cracked... but that's not the point) to actual firmware upgrades of certain well known companies that also distribute rootkits that should make sure that you use ONLY games that they deem appropriate for the area you're in. We're not even talking illegal copies here, we're talking region protection.

    So much for the global market.

    So who benefits from version updates? You? Or the manufacturer?
  • Several releases of Itunes have taken away useful features from users while introducing features that users may not need.

    Then again Apple isn't the only one doing this and its been SOP in the software industry for many years now. Kind of an odd article when you think about it, they might as well be reporting that spam is now a problem on the Internet. Well Duh.
    • iTunes is highly problematic. Aside from my (now old) Powerbook G4, my family's computers are all older Macs, and they can't all run the latest and greatest version. For instance, my wife uses a 400 MHz iMac, running OS X 10.3.9., and my stepdaughter's 233 MHz iMac is running OS 9.2. We got her an iPod Shuffle for her birthday, and she still can only use it on her Mom's computer. We're going to boost the RAM on the old bondi iMac and upgrade to OS X 10.3.9, but the oldest version of iTunes that her machine
  • ...was that they changed the cat emoticon on msn messenger, back in the day typing in (@) would make a nice old school looking cat which had a good retro feel, now (@) looks all "new" and crap... I tried to use an older version but it said that it could no longer be used... d'oh, forced upgrades...
  • Winamp.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xtal (49134) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:37PM (#14868323)
    Winamp version 5.old users, unite!

    I vowed never to upgrade after I found out that they took measures to discourage ripping of broadcasted mp3s.. ala streamripper. Nevermind I don't need ads, and the existing version works just great for my purposes. That was what, in 2000 or something.. I forget the exact details now.

    Computers are about performing tasks, not running software. If it doesn't do new tasks, or old tasks (much better), why upgrade?
    • Are you referring to that non-nullsoft made Winamp 3?(think that was the one) Oh wow did I love that user experience. You exit & go back in, and the last song you were on was deselected in favor of the first song. And the list went on and on. It was quite possibly the sorriest version of Winamp ever made.
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) <teamhasnoi&yahoo,com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:37PM (#14868324) Homepage Journal
    Anyone recall the removal of the abillity to stream your library over the net? Made it a real pain in the ass to listen to stuff from home on your work computer. (I'm the admin, so I yell at myself daily for doing it, thanks.)

    Of course, 3rd party stuff that replaced the functionality quickly surfaced, but it all feels very hacky.

    On the other side of the coin, there's the dreaded feature bloat. Take Adobe's Acrobat for instance - every new version has come with extra features, and exponentially longer start times. Ugh.

    So many reasons not to upgrade. If you have a computer used for recording, you quickly learn to never fix what ain't broke. I am one of the few using SP2 successfully with my audio hardware, which is no longer being made. Of course, Windows doesn't make things any easier to back out of an upgrade.

    Mac = rename old version, test new, toss new. Windows = huh? Some files could not be removed? Why doesn't this work anymore? I uninstalled it. Aw, hell. System restore...damnit! Time to nuke, and reinstall. Repeat. Oh, no...

  • AOL is guilty of this. I don't know if they're still doing it but the last time I went to install the latest version of AIM for a new machine the only thing they offered was the AIM Triton beta (which they did not identify as such on the download page). WTF? If want to be a beta tester I'll ask to be a beta tester. Oldversion.com to the rescue!
  • by SyncNine (532248) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:38PM (#14868336)
    Will agree with you wholeheartedly.

    The company I work for uses QuickBooks Enterprise. We started on Version 5 (Quickbooks 2005). It worked pretty well. There were a few very small hiccups, but mostly it did what we needed it to do. We had purchased upgrade protection because we knew a new version would be coming out shortly. About the 5th of December or so we received the 2006 Update.

    Now, being skeptical to begin with, I was NOT going to install this right out of the box. It's one thing to upgrade WinZip or WinAmp to the next version, another thing entirely to take the company's accounting server down for an upgrade that hasn't been proven in the wild for more than 5 days.

    Skip forward to the beginning of February. Two months have passed and the support forums on the QB2006 site are relatively quiet. There is no patch released yet, and no notification that they are working on a patch.

    We decide to do the install.

    WORST DECISION EVER

    The system is completely unstable. It crashes repeatedly. We lose transaction data. It's not possible to 'downgrade' without completely knocking the server offline for baseline rebuild from ghost. The amount of data on the server would take about 8 hours to rebuild, and the server is being accessed about 18-20 hours a day by different shifts. We finally orchestrate a weekend rebuild about 7 days later, and then spend about 30 hours taking the data out of the new version and putting it into the old version.

    I might add, when we called Intuit to tell them about our issues, here was their response: "Well, there's nothing we can tell you. It's a known issue. You'll have to downgrade to v5. We know the uninstall funcationality is broken, you'll need to restore from a previous backup. No, there's no ETA for when the patch is coming out."

    To make matters worse, the version 6 update was a crock anyways. We've since installed it with the latest patch and it 'works', but it's slow as molasses, buggy as hell, and still notoriously unstable. If the Accounting department didn't habitually use two of its new features, I'd push us back to QB2005 just to stop having the issues.
  • Swat 4 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sporkinum (655143) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:40PM (#14868363)
    I have never updated Swat4 to 1.1 due to their patch adding in game advertising.
    http://www.massiveincorporated.com/ [massiveincorporated.com]
    "SWAT4 fans have been on the offensive, following news that the new 1.1 patch contains a feature adding advertising to the game and collecting players' data, including IP address and how long they play for. The new patch implements Massive streaming ad support, which changes some of the in-game textures to adverts for real products. It also gathers information about players, detailed in their privacy policy."
  • I do not understand why users feel the need to upgrade if the software at hand is doing the job and not posing any threat to the system's functions. I understand there being the issue of support but it seems that all too often people jump for the latest version only to find out it just doesn't work as well or that some "features" have been locked down once the developer realizes that there is potential profit.

    Read the release notes first on an upgrade, it's insane not to.
    • Overall, I don't upgrade software, just because there happens to be a new version out. Unless there's a feature we need, we usually leave it alone if it isn't broke.

      But I almost always install Windows OS upgrades. The critical one, anyway. I don't have the time to check to make sure our particular company falls under a certain OS vulnerability. Trusting Microsoft makes me nervous. But the prospect of getting a call in the middle of the afternoon because some building's PCs are ate up with something, and hav
    • I do not understand why users feel the need to upgrade if the software at hand

      1) You never used Windows.
      2) It's called "reinstall", not "upgrade".
  • Software is a tool; it's only value is in helping you achieve something.

    Know what you want to achieve, and then you can evaluate upgrades: Does it help you acheive your business (or personal or whatever) objectives? If so, is it worth the money and time?

    Just because the vendor is selling something, it doesn't mean it's worth anything to you.
  • .. the newer versions arent compatible and might clash with other s/w installed.. good that sourceforge (and freshmeat) keep older versions too.
  • I hate upgrades. They are never clearly described. In particularly, you can sometimes go from N to N+1 to N+2 with no problems whatsoever, only to discover whereas all of these ran fine in the system you have, N+3 may, without warning, suddenly up the ante on system requirements and may run glacially slow or require a RAM upgrade for decent performance.

    What I hate worse--is that many vendors make it difficult or impossible to run old and new versions in parallel. It's not even unusual for a new software ins
  • I think that with security being what it is today, it's critical to stay up to date. It's possible that companies will take (are taking?) advantage of this new reality to force updatest that aren't consumer friendly.

    To wit: Acrobat Reader. Blech.

          --- JRJ
  • Start the conspiracy theories!

    http://www.oldversion.com/program.php?n=itunes [oldversion.com]
    iTunes is currently unavailable.

    I think I'm still running 6.0.1 at home on my iBook...
  • A big problem with software versions is compatibility with other software. These days, most software has to interoperate with other software, whether operating systems, libraries, or other applications in a "toolchain" or "suite". But it's hard to know whether a program compatible with other software will remain compatible when any of the programs change version.

    A big help lies in "object oriented" practices. Which boils down to "I don't care about how it works privately inside, as long as I can rely on wha
  • That's what we really need in the USA -- a software lemon law. For too many years, software customers have been getting cheated with faulty "products" and no legal remedy available to them. Yes it would make software more expensive, but so be it. In the long run, the quality of software and information technology in general would improve greatly. Right now the industry is analogous to that of the state where the pharmaceutical "industry" was back before the Food and Drug acts of 1906 and 1938 were passed an
  • Donkey rollback (Score:3, Informative)

    by spyrochaete (707033) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:34PM (#14868931) Homepage Journal
    Edonkey has actually saved my butt a few times when new software versions fuddled or broke a service. There's a great catalogue of retired legacy versions of popular (and unpopular) apps on the ED2k networks. It ain't stealing if you bought it, right?
  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:23PM (#14869372) Homepage
    Features and bugs = carrot and stick. Every version is to give you enough new buggy features to make you want to upgrade to the next version after that. If you haven't figured that out by now, you really shouldn't be in IT or sales in general.
  • I used to love my Quickbooks. That was 10 years ago. Now, every new version adds more advertising built in then the last, puts more stuff in web browser style (or actual in some cases) interfaces, and starts costing more money.

    Worse, they don't support common file interchanges and actually make it as hard as possible to use them, instead forcing me to pay THEM for the privilidge of connecting to my back. They also charge my bank, or charges me too! All this, for what should be free.

    What stinks, is that MS Money small business is unusable (and talks to me -- which is even worse) and the other products out there are insanely expensive.

    I've looked for one that runs in linux natively, but not found anything workable yet (I'd still love one that did).

    Grrrrr. I've gone form loving to hating Intuit in just 3 years. What a shame.
  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @08:49AM (#14874090) Homepage Journal
    One major software title I used to use a lot had this problem. I hopped on board at about version 2. This company had a very active beta program, and it was not uncommon to see a new version once a week. Unfortunately, they spent such an unbalanced amount of time on new development as opposed to bug fixing, that the new builds were very often worse than the old ones. You might argue that this was beta and so I cannot expect a polished product, and I agree. However, there was essentially no difference between the betas and the releases. It was widely believed that the week of the next planned release or paid upgrade, they'd take the best beta of the last few weeks and call it a release. (I don't think they ever did a "feature freeze")

    It was very common among the developers that used the betas, to keep ALL previous betas. Many users were stuck several versions back because a critical feature they required had been broken several builds ago and had not been fixed yet. It was a very aggrivating tradeoff, to be dealing with a month-old build because you needed feature ABC to work, but then to see them fix (or add) three other things you really had been waiting for but that you can only drool at because you simply cannot upgrade until they fix your issue.

    Sometimes you'd upgrade and then a week later get flooded with bug reports. Track down the problem and find it's the compiler itself that is causing the problem, and back you go, to last month's build. I was running several months behind on several occasions, using versions that were betas published prior to the most current release, which was already in a new beta cycle. In that case there simply was no release that ran acceptably.

    All in all a very frustrating experience. I made my last paid upgrade at v4.5, it's now around version 7 I think, I've stopped keeping track of it since about 5.5. There are a lot of others in my same situation, agreeing that 4.52 is the best version that was ever released, from a stability standpoint.

    What's really going to bite is when more companies go to a subscription model, and require a periodic payment to keep the program you already have running. When those companies go out of business or stop supporting an older version, you're just plain screwed. You'l be foreced to upgrade and suffer the consequences, or go through the torture that is changing products after you're already established with one.

    Somewhat on topic... what's the current legal interpretation of software made by a company that is out of business? Is it considered public domain at that point? Or does the (defunct) author have to release it into the public domain? Or does it expire after a certain timespan or after termination of support?

I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them. -- Isaac Asimov

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