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Bill Dog's Journal: the sorry state of updating on Windows 5

Journal by Bill Dog

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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the sorry state of updating on Windows

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  • 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,

    • by zogger (617870)

      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 swi

    • by Bill Dog (726542)

      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

  • by dedazo (737510)

    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

    • by Bill Dog (726542)

      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 su

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