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§ Does everything need to auto-update?

Anyone else getting a bit annoyed with auto-updates?

For some reason yesterday I had the urge to play Little Big Planet on my PS3, only to find out that I had to download 12 updates for it since I hadn't played it in a long time. I then got so bored waiting for the updates to download and install that I started up the Xbox 360 and earned an achievement in Sam and Max, then started building a railroad in OpenTTD on my laptop before the update finally finished. I suppose it could have been worse and I could have gotten a browser update while going to look up a walkthrough and then asked to install a plugin update, a language update (sans unwanted browser toolbar and caffinated beverage Quick Start), and then forced to leave the laptop on for a bunch of queued updates when I tried to shut down.

The reason for updates is understandable, particularly when network services are involved or when security vulnerabilities are patched. However, it seems like the amount of updating that occurs now is overwhelming. It's getting to the point that you never know when you'll have to postpone what you had planned for an update, but it's almost inevitable that something will do so. Link speed plays a part too... it's OK when the network link is fast, but if it's slow for any reason that 100MB patch suddenly takes an awfully long time to download. And, of course, there's always the risk that you're the one special person who gets broken by the update and has to somehow resurrect the system or program involved. I feel like updates are also sometimes abused in a not-so-subtle way to try to periodically force a program back into the user's view, which doesn't do anything for the average user's perception of a computer as a snarling, angry beast.


Comments posted:

I totally agree. The solution is to cut back on programmers' caffene levels!

JayGrah - 30 10 10 - 12:56

There's something worse than automatic updates: automatic updates that don't ask.

I have Chrome installed in a VM for testing--I don't use it normally--and I loaded up the VM after a few weeks to try something.

It popped up a dialog, informing me that Chrome had been updated, and--in just about as many words--telling me that if I don't like it, I can uninstall Chrome. It didn't just not ask permission to download the update; it didn't even ask permission to install it. The dialog popped up to tell me that it had already finished. In fact, there was no option to disable automatic updates *whatsoever*, short of disabling a service or something.

Certain words come to mind for software that downloads and installs code without permission--"virus" and "malware".

Glenn - 30 10 10 - 13:02

Well, at least it looks like Google has put some effort into keeping their updates small by using specialized delta compression. A lot of updaters I see just redownload an entire installer.

The main problem I see with web browsers is that so many hugely complex technologies are involved in things as simple as a mouse-over button, which then provides for a much bigger surface for bugs and therefore vulnerabilties. I once spent a day just experimenting with new layouts in CSS and after getting stuck in a morass of IE6 bugs and negative margins I gained a new appreciation for the daily torture of a web site designer.

Phaeron - 30 10 10 - 13:37

Does that mean you promise you'll never incorporate autoupdate function in VirtualDub? :)

GrofLuigi - 30 10 10 - 14:00

Google treats Chrome the same way that it treats its web sites. Subject to change without notice, at any time of their choosing.

Tom - 30 10 10 - 18:52

That's the way I like Linux. From time to time I start synaptic and update everything - if I have time. No automatic updates enabled.

Mike - 31 10 10 - 06:37

Actually Chrome is an example of autoupdates *done right* IMO. First of all the autoupdate itself assures that you do not have to deal with legacy maintenance - no more worries about outdated browsers - you only test the latest version, because that is what everybody have.

You should of course have proper QA, so you are sure that there isn't ant regressions between versions, but assuming that is handled you should be fine.

IMO Linux is just as annoying as Windows - the only difference is that all updates are handled in one app, instead of several apps. Other than that I'm very annoyed that automatic updates on Linux break my Wubi installation with surprisingly regularity.

Klaus Post (link) - 01 11 10 - 01:04

Klaus Post: "the only difference is that all updates are handled in one app" - this is the one and only and great difference - you can disable auto updates at all for all.

Mike - 01 11 10 - 19:33

@Klaus Post: No,Google autoupdates are one of major reasons I won't consider Chrome and recomendation against. Autoupdates are wrong unless you can turn them off. They tend to get in way. Not to mention I have all the time browser opened with dozens of tabs. With updates I have to behave as company - scheduling to minimise problems...

Note:Post written at IE9 beta 1.

Klimax - 01 11 10 - 20:35

The worst offender, IMHO, is Adobe Reader. I installed it on my hackintosh to read a password protected pdf and now it constantly nags me to update. On my work pc running Windows it nags me every day or so. Really annoying.

mikesum32 - 02 11 10 - 16:43

Considering the severity of Adobe Reader security vulnerabilities lately, you probably either want to let that run or perform a adobereaderectomy on your system.

Phaeron - 02 11 10 - 16:47

Hello, have you been receiving my emails? I have not heard back from you and just want to make sure they did make there way in to your Inbox. It's been a few days since I last sent one. I've sent 3 emails iirc.

Franpa - 02 11 10 - 17:34

Windows 7 is the best for updates, it randomly decides to download updates and reboots.
Google Chrome cracks me up, it just came out and they are up to version 50 with 5000 revisions inbetween lol.
But the trophy goes to Adobe for updates which can go up to a gig in size per update.
Software engineers today have learned that releasing alpha software to users who pay for support will provide all the glitches reports while they get paid at the same time.
Then they might decide and release a new version of the software with all the patches included as beta.
After 10 years you end up with something which has release candidate quality like xp and then you cancel all the updates/support and start all over.
Flaming complete.

evropej - 03 11 10 - 09:45

@Franpa: Yeah, I checked and I've received your email. I tend to go through my email in batches since I get a lot of junk and it's a pain to go through.

Agree and disagree... software is getting shipped with bugs, but that's partly because that's what is being demanded. People aren't willing to pay for the kind of development that produces more robust software. It also doesn't help when the API foundations themselves are shaky -- it's hard to create a rock-solid app when the APIs you depend on don't always have fully (or correctly) specified behavior.

I actually disagree on Windows XP. It wasn't quite as good as Windows 2000 was IMO, but I think it compares favorably to Windows 95, NT4.0, and Vista with regard to state at launch, and it had the important goal of filling in enough of the missing holes in the NT line to finally obsolete the hated Win9x lineage.

Phaeron - 03 11 10 - 10:33

Chrome shedules updates in win scheduler, and it doesn't allow to disable or uninstall googleupdates which is used for all google products. Old Chrome version isn't deleted from HD. Cache Size is huge and it doesn't allow to establish a path or size...

isidro - 06 11 10 - 18:12

I agree with Klaus, Google's updates are unobtrusive (far less obtrusive than Firefox's) and valuable for keeping people on the same page with security and features. If my dad ever gets a new computer I'll most likely be installing Chrome on it instead of FF since he doesn't use any extensions anyway.

Regarding games if it's a multi-player game then auto-update is unfortunately necessary, single-player games it's not really necessary.

And as for Windows, well you can turn off auto-updates easily enough, and shipping with them enabled is important, if it wasn't for the fact that I pay attention and take care of it my family's computers would not have been updated since they were installed. My grandparents were running a largely unpatched Windows ME until their laptop died and they got a new one with 7.

fredgiblet - 07 11 10 - 07:05

I usually set Windows systems to "download and ask to install" -- it's a pretty good compromise and gives enough leeway to delay the updates when I need to.

Phaeron - 07 11 10 - 07:11

Welcome to the administrator world, constantly dealing with updates, updates, and more updates. The worst offender should be Quicktime or iTune! It seem like they are not using delta compression to reduce the download size. The worst part? If you happen to run other installation at the same time, it will cut off the Apple update installation with no retry option. Better yet, you need to download the WHOLE update files again! The best part, even if you have QuickTime installed, the iTune update tend to download iTune + Quicktime as a whole package...

Compare to Windows update, at least you can fine tune some settings from registry/GroupPolicy. (No auto restart, re-prompt for restart duration, etc.)

The Adobe reader you can (and you should) set it to automatically install updates due to all the security issues. The amazing part is why they never automatically update Flash player/Shockwave player but required you to go through the horrible Adobe download manager...

AnonyCow - 08 11 10 - 12:50

Flash player opens an "update is available" window when I log on sometimes, though I never know if it's an update for the IE or Firefox/Opera/Chrome plug-in.

Worst offender when it comes to updates IMHO is VMWare Workstation - always needs 2 reboots to update itself, even for .0.1 updates (first uninstall the old version, reboot, install the new version, reboot again)... And to add an insult to the injury, their install wizard hardcodes gray background while using Windows' text colour, resulting in invisible text in my colour scheme.

ender - 08 11 10 - 21:05

Auto-updating is a pet peeve of mine as well. As for that Adobe DLM for Flash, that *serisouly* irritates the heck out of me. I got rid of the bloatware that was Adobe Reader ages ago, but flash is pretty much a necessity. I always manually download the standalone installers for IE and FF though instead of allowing that DLM anywhere near my machine.

Windows of course I set to notify but not download/install anything - not until I can check the KB article first!

Broken updates, 'uninstallers' that do anything but (their programmers should be shot IMO)... Sigh!

James - 09 11 10 - 02:45


James - 09 11 10 - 02:50

Personally I don't have problems with online game updates, they are usually getting a lot of content introduced regularly (weekly) and they patch more or less automatically once you launch them so I just have to wait for the game to start. The two that annoy me most are Miranda and Adobe. Miranda because it asks me for manual update every two weeks or so and Adobe because it pops up with updating request more often than I am actually using it.

Kasuha - 09 11 10 - 19:46

The worst part in my opinion is the "after the fact" notification of "What's new" which is being abused so much lately.

For example, what's the point in Firefox bragging about changes AFTER the update has been installed? I should see those beforehand so I can decide whether I want the update or not! Moreover, opening a browser window (or a tab) to show me "Blah Blah has updated to Blah Blah, now you can Blah Blah but you cannot Blah Blah" is totally useless and annoying.

Now when I think of it, I also hate bundled updates -- I update Firefox and it tells me "You should update your Flash Player RIGHT F*CKING NOW!!!" in such an imperative tone that it instantly makes me want to uninstall it together with Flash, Java, and Silverlight, and go back to using Links for surfing.

Regarding game updates, you are right, few days ago I wanted to play Left 4 Dead on my PC and Steam decided to download an update which made both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 unplayable. Luckily it didn't take long for Valve to fix the screwup but I couldn't play when I wanted and later didn't have time for it.

Somehow worst thing is when an application does not allow you to do *anything* until you update, and it usually happens when you have something important to finish quickly.

Oh, and the ultimate evil is when the update is automatic and requires restarting and you are typing in another window when it pops up and you hit a hotkey thus losing all your unsaved work!

Igor Levicki (link) - 09 11 10 - 22:36

Oh, Software Developers... It seems that each your product in itself is just... random. It's far different from Physicists, Chemists, Historians etc... if they don't get something right, it's all done for. But Software Developers... invent the wheel each time. And it manages to work!

Goddamn programming artists.

Ed - 25 11 10 - 03:20

Automated updates have worsened in the months since you posted your comment--in browsers especially, but also in browser extensions such as Zotero. Updates too often delay real work.

Steve Johnson - 26 11 10 - 07:25

Um, why people use Adobe Reader when there's Foxit Reader, that starts 10 times faster, is totally free (Adobe Reader constantly offers you to "upgrade" to payware Adobe Acrobat), doesn't annoys with updates and has way less security vulns (almost none, to be exact)?!

Vitali N/ - 28 11 10 - 23:02

We-e-ell, I survived on W98FE for 6 or 7 years, then W98SE for 3 more, now I'm on W2KPro and no discernible reason to update (W2K SP4 rollup 1 is so-o-o-o nice!) I have not found any software I absolutely need and cannot run. I don't even have Micro$oft's security updates... Every app I have has had the auto-update switched OFF, and now I update only when a file cannot be played -- about once every two years or so.

gordon451 - 10 12 10 - 10:43

Google Chrome's updates are extremely obtrusive, it install a useless service that is always active also when the browser is closed.
Also disabling the service broke the manual update.
I usually prefer to download the full installer, I absolutely hate download a small file that download other shit (often leaving files behind in the temp folder) and extract 2 or 3 times like a "matryoshka"

Also noone consider the downside of an exagerated compression, it require three times the size of the file to extract and install; bad things for me that I'm always low on free space.

ale5000 - 13 12 10 - 05:32

Yes, a lot of programs SUCK in how they do this, but can we please not hate auto-updates per se just because _some_ do them wrong?

Let's see... CrashPlan: you install it and that's it. Just like a normal program that has no auto-updates. But it actually performs the updates when they're available. Neat! Fire-and-forget. Just what I want, especially given that it's installed on FOUR PCs.

Ten other programs I have: ask me to update from time to time. Annoying, but I can update them in 10 seconds each, and they invariably offer a "never again" option for those I don't want to update. I do wish I could pick "can you please just do your updates without ever bugging me again" option.

Ninety other programs I have: never bug me about this. Fine, but if I want to keep up with the progress, the new features, the bugfixes and most importantly security hole plugs, I have to spend on the order of 5 minutes per program to upgrade it. These are the worst. Multiplied by 4 PCs.

It's harder for a portable (movable) program like VirtualDub, but I bet you that a reliably working menu to "Check for updates" (and optionally self-update afterwards) in the Help menu would not annoy a single soul on the planet, but would save me a couple of minutes every time I go back to video editing.

(Admittedly it's not worth spending Phaeron's limited time on a feature like this, but an open-source project that would let such updates be built-in with minimal time investment wouldn't be the worst idea.)

Roman - 29 01 11 - 22:46

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