Auto Update Strikes Again

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Some time ago I wrote a blog about auto updates having just fell victim to an inopportune re-boot when I briefly left my desk to make a coffee…

Well, I am now a “Mac” owner and have recently fell victim of “Software Update”, a subtle alternative to Windows sneaky “he won’t notice that we’ve just fixed a problem he didn’t think he had whilst he’s nipping to the loo” approach.

The Mac OS tries to put the decision process “slightly more” in your hands by making things a little less automated however the updates that end up on your machine still have the potential to explode at the most inopportune moment possible.

Although my team has been working on a new software release, I have made sure not to take any interim version because I need to have a stable environment to demonstrate to potential clients.

In a moment of weakness, I upgraded my browser version (Safari) as I didn’t see that this would be a problem. To make things even more entertaining, I upgraded my backup browser too (Firefox). What harm could it do?

Last week I had the most disastrous demo for years. The browser locked up, the machine locked up, the fan turned on, images didn’t refresh properly, popup menus occasionally stopped working. Switching browsers mid-demo, images stopped animating, windows stopped refreshing properly…


I should have taken note of “Safari has been re-engineered for improved stability and responsiveness.”

Re-engineered for goodness sake, that’s not a patch it’s a re-write!

I failed to read what I was taking on with the Firefox upgrade but I am sure it would have been something harmless like “Firefox has just been updated by our latest developer who is a lead architect at Microsoft” or something like that…

When will I learn? As the old adage goes… If it’s not broken don’t fix it! For the benefit of a new spangly button, a bit more speed…

In the world of Corporate IT, software upgrades are scheduled. For systems that are key to the business, it would be folly not to arrange for the upgrade to happen out of core office hours and make sure everything is backed up just in case something goes wrong.

There are still companies out there using legacy software. Financial and Insurance system, running on old main frames and keeping the COBOL developer industry ticking along into another decade with bespoke development and application support.

When you invest big bucks on an IT system and it forms part of your core business, the last thing you want is for an auto update to kick in and introduce a bug that costs you down time, lost business and a big support headache.

Locking systems down is critical because if you don’t you are at the mercy of armies of developers who are rolling out fixes and patches like there’s no tomorrow to cover up for the fact that systems are now so complex that producing bug free code is virtually impossible.

Just because my laptop didn’t cost a fortune, I use it to run my business and use it to show off our latest technologies so I need to be more careful about what gets installed on it and by who (or what in the case of auto updates).

From now on, I will be treating all updates on my laptop with increased suspicion. Software updates are dangerous and should come with a health warning.

… just say no to software updates!

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