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Why automatic updates are bad

Back in 1998, the Windows Update appeared because Microsoft needed to distribute fixes for Windows and notably for Internet Explorer 5. It seems that the phenomena that we got so used to in this new era of internet-enabled applications, the automatic updates has started to generate more problems than it solves.
In my opinion automatic updates are bad for several reasons:
1. They fix the effect and not the problem

Microsoft introduced this Windows Update Service in order to patch the giant holes that the application had before anyone noticed. But people did notice and started playing with the poor Microsoft customers. Somehow everyone believes that this is not by any means Microsoft’s fault. The general idea is that there are some unscrupulous hackers that would crack your computer anyway. I believe they did it because the keyhole was too big and tempting. The software should be written correctly in the first place.

2. Too much complexity.

There is a law in software estimates theory: You have 0.5 Bugs per KLoc. [SteveMc] There are actually 10-20 bugs but you do all sorts for test phases and use various high-volume beta programs to get it down to some 85% defect removal efficiency. (and this is the highest figure that is anyone managed to achieve).

Windows Vista has about 50 million lines of code this means that we have about 25,000 bugs. Of course we need to stuff all those patches in the user’s computer somehow.

Thus I believe we have way to much unneeded complexity.

3. The majority of bugs are invisible to the untrained eye.

Some bugs are annoying some are not visible at all. Remember winamp? How many of you could tell what they were fixing with those updates? I’m pretty sure everyone updates and still updates their winamp for practically nothing. I never wanted to support the latest version of mp4 on my winamp. I never had any.

4. Updates should not be more important than the user’s time.

The users must use the computers not vice-versa. Humans must not be a tool that enables the programs to run properly. I don’t want to restart my computer each time he thinks it’s needed, and no I don’t want to upgrade to the latest version of itunes. I just want to play a song like I always do.

Somehow the application developers consider their application to be the only one running on a user’s computer. It’s an ideal case, that never happens.

I want to update when there is a feature I miss, or something is broken. I don’t want my computer to decide when I have time and when I don’t. I want to live with my pc not for it.

Alexandru Bordei
Advanced Technologies Specialist
Romaina Hostway R&D


[SteveMc] Steve McConnel : Software estimation