/ Technology

Why I’m sick of software updates

A computer update in progress

Software updates over the internet are fast, free… and not always necessary. Has the speed and opportunity to constantly release new versions made developers less inclined to get things right first time?

Let’s just look at a 24-hour period of my life last week.

I woke up to find my PC had automatically rebooted itself after a Windows System Update. It was Patch Tuesday (a ‘patch’ being the term given to fixing a bug or filling a gaping security hole) – when Microsoft rolls out its monthly fix for things that might leave your PC open to attack. Fine – once a month I can live with.

A whole day of updates

Arriving at work, there was a flashing icon in the bottom right hand corner of my screen telling me that updates to Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat and some applications I never use were ready and waiting.

I powered up Tweetdeck to respond to some of @WhichTech’s followers, to find that Tweetdeck (in its infinite wisdom) thought I’d benefit from upgrading from version 0.37.1 to 0.37.2.

Not only this, but Adobe Air, the platform that increasing amounts of software runs on, also claimed to be out of date and in need of an upgrade! That’s at least two valuable minutes of my life spent updating software to deliver features I didn’t know I needed.

Mobiles are just as bad

I tried to keep my eyes away from my mobile(s). Hardly a day goes by without my Android phone popping up an icon indicating that one of my many apps has been updated, probably to fix a compatibility issue with a specific handset I don’t even own.

And on my iPhone, there was a tantalising number next to the App Store icon showing just how horrendously I’m lagging behind in the ever-updated world of apps.

A new Valentine’s edition of Angry Birds? No thanks. An Amazon Kindle app which finally includes page numbers in my ebooks – now that sounds more tempting.

Too tempting to ignore

These software updates are getting to the same ‘un-ignorable’ stage as the ‘you have new email’ icon. In the same way that not clicking to read that new email message is unthinkable, not updating an app to a new and improved version makes me yesterday’s man.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s brilliant that software developers are constantly improving their products, tweaking things, adding new functionality, and making things better. No-one can possibly miss the days when updates were few and far between, arrived on a CD-Rom and took an age to install.

But haven’t we gone too far in the other direction? Updates are great, but let’s make sure that developers aren’t releasing products too early, knowing they can update with every little improvement.

Unless it’s a matter of life and death for internet security, once-a-month updates suit me fine.

Comments
Member

I totally agree!
There is nothing more infuriating than your computer forever installing new updates – once a month would be far more sensible. 🙂
I’ve also found that sometimes an update can seemingly surreptitiously change some settings so it means items you’ve used previously don’t work until you fathom it out and change them back! 🙁
Certainly not easy when you try to operate a computer with your paws!!!! 🙂 🙂

Member

I think it must depend on the software – I normally only get updates for XP and Adobe reader at around 1 month intervals – WordPerfect updates around every 6 months or more (the rest of the suite never needs updates) – FireFox and Thunderbird every 3 months. Similarly with Paint shop Pro.

Did have Agent (similar to Thunderbird) update to a version that was incompatible to the earlier version – so ditched it.

Daily use of computers and software for around 5 hours daily.

Member

Most modern apps on the Mac give you the option whether or not to check for updates when you start the app. Personally I like to have this set on, but I agree some people may find it annoying – at least we get the choice. Similarly Mac OSX itself gives you a choice of how often to check for updates to the OS itself – mine is set to weekly which seems to be a good balance.
I don’t know how things work in the iPhone and PC world but I would agree with the OP that multiple unsolicited update reminders every day would get annoying.

Member
James Harrison says:
15 February 2011

I’d like to see the ‘helpful’ window, which pops out to tell you that you don’t really need an update or in fact, a particular program, which you never have and never will use. Would you like to delete this now? Oh, yes please…… Hey, I invented it!.

Member
keith says:
15 February 2011

I’m very fed up with software updates that crash my system after installation and take ages to sort, safari and itunes seem to be the culprits, haven’t decided which one yet! I think it’s Safari that’s the problem.

I would use Firefox as a default except that it is now almost unusable due to settings and updates which make it incredibly secure! I now have to confirm every action and process, I know it’s my fault and I can fix it, just don’t have the time…..

Oh and for some reason my main software decided to change to Imperial inches after the last update, reset them…trash the prefs… still pops up and says metric is the invention of the devil..grrr

Member
Deepestbluetoo says:
15 February 2011

I was under the impression that one can chose to turn off the update notification facility.

Member

Get yourself a free tool that manages all/most of these updates without any interaction.
Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will track the software on your PC, perform weekly scans behind the scenes, and auto-update out of date software. The updates are driven by a security need, not by a whim of the software vendor. The whole aim of the tool is to keep your PC secure with no or minimal intervention. There are also settings if you still want to be in control.
I’ve been using this for some years and the most recent update (v 2.0) has the auto-updater feature. It is a set & forget tool.
http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/

Member

Nice suggestion kymp60! Although isn’t there a slight irony in having to install yet another piece of software, which itself needs to be kept updated, to take control of your software updates?

I’m going to give Secunia PSI a try, but having read some of the most recent user comments, my personal opinion is that it might be more trouble than it’s worth!

Member

Microsoft normally provides updates on the first Tuesday of every month – Update Tuesday. When it does send out out-of-band updates, it is to plug a serious security problem.

As Internet browsing is a prime time activity, Adobe (Flash), Java and other browser plug-in vendors try to release at the same time as Microsoft. But again, serious security patches may be released at any time.

As much as you like to complain about these updates, think how you would complain if you caught a nasty virus or had your details stolen through known but unpatched security breaches?

You can’t have it both ways. Perhaps your anger should be aimed at the police for not apprehending the criminals that exploit these vulnerabilities.

Keep moaning.