Needlessly abject

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Automated Update Behaviour

Over on the flow|state blog, Jan Miksovsky is talking about automated update behaviour in his post Oh app, for crying out loud, go update yourself. This is, of course, a subject near and dear to my heart.

Frequent updates, to me, are a sign of probable poor software engineering practices on the part of a software manufacturer. This is cemented in my head when I contact a manufacturer's technical support and am immediately asked "have you downloaded all the current updates" w/o so much as being allowed to describe my issue? This tells me, in no uncertain terms, that the manufacturer is deploying code with the underlying strategy of "if we ship bad code we'll just push out a patch later-- why bother testing?"

Most of the discussion in Jan's blog is about end-user interaction with updates. As a contract IT administrator for several companies, my biggest beef with update systems is the lack of attention paid to centralized control and deployment of updates. My end users shouldn't be bothered by update notifications because (a) it's not their job to perform updates, (b) they aren't qualified to select what updates they should/should not receive, and (c) they don't have the necessary rights on their PC to perform updates (and, if they do, there's something mal-configured). I don't need 2,000 PC's downloading the same update from the Internet independently, either.

In the Windows world, it would've been helpful if Microsoft had plumbed the "Microsoft Update" infrastructure on clients to be extensible for third parties. I'd love to have been able to deploy updates for a large portion of the software that I administer on my servers and manage those updates the same way I manage operating system updates. A managable patch deployment system seems, to me, to be as much an "operating system" feature as, say, an integrated web browser.

I am continually peeved at software infrastructues being designed for end-users then marketed toward business environments. Almost every time I deploy a new product, I undertake a search to determine how to neuter the "automated update" behaviour in the product, and end up writing scripts, Group Policy administrative templates, or hacking DNS to prevent the product from rolling out updates w/o my express consent.

If I wasn't this much of a hard-ass, my Customers' networks would be unmanagable swamps of crap. Fortunately, we can "sell" this pretty well, and show a clear ROI on our hard-assedness.

Guys in the software industry: We've been doing this _how_ many years now? Surely you could be learning something... *sigh* I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

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