install updates now? (y/n)

A perspective on OS update tools

I just updated my Windows XP box at home. It gives me a little icon when there are updates, I push the button when I'm ready. Sometimes I have to reboot, sometimes I don't. Now, why are dynamic updates important to me? Is it because I have all the very latest security fixes? Not really. I don't ever use Outlook or IE. I have a firewall router, I have NAV installed. So security fixes are not a big deal for me.

What I have is a warm fuzzy feeling that I'm running the exact same bit-for-bit version of Windows XP that 95% of all users are running. When I read a website sometimes it says: "I had this problem on Windows XP and here's what I did to work around it." or maybe it says "This application will run on Windows XP". When I read those statements, I am confident that if it was true for that user then there is a 95% chance that it's also true for me.

I don't have to worry about what update they are running or what minor release of Windows XP. When a new feature is ready, it rolls out to the update servers, and almost everybody downloads and installs it by pushing a button.

Solaris
  major OS update once every 20 years : breaks 95% of programs
  desktop GUI update every 3-5 years : uglifies 100% of all GUI programs
  minor update every 1-2 years : breaks .5% of programs

Windows
  major update once every 4 years : breaks 30% of programs
  mostly seamless incremental updates every week or so : breaks .5% of programs

Note that a Linux system with Red Carpet installed is much closer to the windows model.

I believe that the GUI problem is going to get better now that Sun has teamed up with Linux. But it'll take a long time before I forget about the desktop-of-the-month problem with SunView, XView, OpenLook (Sun OL versus AT&T OL), Motif/CDE, Gnome.

IMHO The Solaris update model is best for servers, and the windows model is best for desktops (big surprise, I suppose). This seems perfectly natural, since that's the emphasis of the two companies.

I keep hearing that PatchPro (an automatic patching tool) is going to change the world, but I wonder which world it's intended to change. On Solaris, I don't suppose I'll ever be able to push an "update OS" button without typing in my root password, but I wish I could. Remember, desktop usually means single user. I have never really found the lack of a root password to be a problem on Windows.

--chris

Comments:

I hope you mean "breaks .5% of applications overall". Windows breaks .5% of programs every week? That then adds up to "Breaks 13% of programs/year" and almost 40% over three years :) Also, isn't the server model perfectly appropriate for the corporate desktop? IMHO the Solaris model is appropriate for large scale deployments and the Windows model is appropriate for small deployments.

Posted by John Clingan on July 18, 2004 at 05:59 AM PDT #

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