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Friday Sweets: The Primitive, Intrusive Software Update Process

Automatic Updates 'Restart Required' in Window...

Automatic Updates ‘Restart Required’ in Windows XP SP1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The desktop personal computer is not dead, nor will it be anytime soon. By all measures in this country however, it has taken a back seat to the technology of the mobile set. The lone area of growth for the industry remains in markets outside the United States. This is not an area where new computer manufacturers will excel though. The personal computer in all its present and recent past editions already has all the power that developing nation users need–making the used computer market where the action is.

In the United States and particularly in academic settings, having the latest and greatest hardware and software has never been part of the equation; having computers available for students that need them is all that is strived for. In fairness to colleges and universities, that is really where their technological commitment to student users of on campus resources begins and ends.

Many of my current classmates do not have any computer access other than their smart phones. Some only have regular cell phones and desperately need computer lab resources that are available on campus. When I come to the school library (which has computers for student use) and I need a computer, I’ll bring in my laptop, use the Wi-Fi and save the precious, available workstations for students without mobile computer resources or desktops at home.

I often think about how useful older machines are, especially when I am being asked to download updates by any of my Windows 7 or Ubuntu machines. That is one of the things I like about running OS X Leopard on PowerPC Macs–I’m not going to get another single update prompt from Apple, and that is just fine. I can actually do work while my other machines are updating. The problem with updates is that they can sometimes go amiss and then you end up having to troubleshoot, wasting precious time.

I used to think getting regular updates and having my machine install them was pretty cool; nowadays not so much. The process of updates is still too obtrusive, invasive, even, if you will. That is something that bugs me. Why would I want to restart for an update? Why should I ever have to unless the machine locks up on me? Why should I have to wait for my Windows 7 laptop to install updates before I can shut down?

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Look at how far we have come technologically-speaking. Updates still take over our machines just like they did a couple of decades ago. This is true for smart phones, too. That is why a lot of people do not update, they could not be bothered to do so and I don’t blame them. The intrusiveness of the process has remained the same for a long, long time.

At school, I have had Windows 7 machines start installing updates upon my starting them up. Can you say annoying? Plus, they are running Internet Explorer 8 which is a complete dog. It reminds me of how irrelevant Firefox is compared to Google Chrome on Windows 7 PCs now, too. It’s ok as a browser for Ubuntu if you are running it stock. I went to check what version Firefox was up to on my Windows 7 HP Compaq and it was 20.0.1. But lo and behold, Firefox is downloading an update as we speak. Can you say annoying again? I know, I know. I should be happy I can get the latest browser updates where my Mac cannot.

But surprise. My old PowerPC G4 Sawtooth got an update recently to Roccat web browser. It is now at version 3.2 and dare I say it’s pretty fast, fun and works well. I also discovered the 2010 era Sunrise browser for the G4. Both of these browsers are delightful. I get a modern, up to date browser for my PowerPC machine with Roccat. With Sunrise on the Wi-Fi at home, it seems to be faster than Leopard WebKit, but WebKit has always suffered fits and starts on the G4. I do like being able to view .pdf’s in browser tabs on Leopard WebKit, though.

Colleges and universities need updates on their systems mostly in the name of security. Windows is a breach waiting to happen and I get that it needs constant patching. PowerPC machines on the other hand are relatively safe. They don’t get any system software updates anymore but they run Office 2008 just fine, still, and students or anyone who needs simple word processing and spreadsheet capability can still use these older Microsoft Office Suite versions–typically without issue, too.

The sweetest part of the whole thing about using an older machine is you don’t have to restart or shut down until you’re good and ready. Browser updates like Roccat and WebKit do not require a system restart like operating system updates do. So, I keep using my PowerPC warrior tower of power and it never barks anything about an OS update to me…ever.

OS X to the 10th power? System software updates are just wrong, too in our faces. They just need to happen seamlessly while we work. They need to not install while we are shutting down. If they need to happen at all they certainly should not ever nag me to restart.

Maybe Apple will announce “Perpetual iMac” at the WWDC–always on (except when it sleeps), never bothers you about software updates and intuitively knows you do not want to be bothered about any of them. They already made physically upgrading new Macs pretty difficult–almost as if you could not be bothered to ever upgrade them. Why can’t they settle for a similar philosophy regarding software updates? Update without taking over my machine or do not update at all.

Oh yeah, Firefox is up to version 21 now on my Windows 7 box. Version 21, really. Much like that Facebook status you’re getting ready to type…reconsider because it’s annoying to get a lot of updates–even if they’re coming from you.

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