Friday, April 30, 2004

Buggy updates.

Have you noticed how the more frequent updates a piece of software has, the buggier it gets?

Steam is a piece of software to allow a game publisher to push the latest and greatest updates out to their customers. Marvellous. It sounds wonderful. It's also extremely buggy. I find that if something has more and more updates pushed out (not in terms of volume, things obviously get better over time, I'm talking frequency), it gets buggier and buggier.

Steam has had problems with it's anti-cheat system banning innocent people, so they had to roll that update back. I find that most programs with an Auto-update feature suffer the same sort of fate at some point in their lives. AIDA32 was a wonderful program I used to use to find out what hardware and software was in PC's. It had an auto-update feature that one time updated to a version that crashed every time I loaded it.

I'm assuming that it is because of the lack of testing that comes with frequent updates but I find it strange that an idea that is supposed to help the average user actually puts them in bigger trouble that letting them get on with their old versions.

Steam supposedly once announced that it would release an update every Wednesday. That was an oversight too... lets update one million clients all at the same time every week? Marvellous. And the bloody things tries to run at computer startup unless you stop it (I use StartupMonitor and StartupControlPanel from Mike Lin, personally).

Now, Windows Update isn't a bad idea. I'm not sure at all about it being automatically running on every new operating system and downloading every update in the background as soon as it can. First, it means that Windows Update gets slogged on every update, sometimes it's even been taken down by sheer volume of traffic. Second, it means that any buggy update will automatically be installed. I like to have control over things like that, especially with things like the Windows Media Player 9 EULA. If I'd have left Windows Update to automatically get updates, I'd have all sort of rubbish like 200 megs of .NET Framework cluttering up my Windows 98 machine. I don't want them and don't run anything that needs them.

I'm also thinking... what if someone can propogate a rogue update? I'm assuming things like Windows Update and my software's Auto-update features have some sort of identity-based security on them, otherwise it's quite hideous to think of someone sending me a skillfully crafted update which could compromise my machine. A little DNS-spoofing here-and-there...

eBay have a program called Turbo Lister to help you create lots of eBay auctions quickly. My girlfriend uses it for every auction she makes and it's very quick compared to any other method. However, before you can upload any created auction, it insists on updating itself first. This program is also as buggy as a dead carcass that's been in the sun for a week. Also, the updates do things like change the categories as eBay shifts them around. That auction you place under Books\Computing now belongs under Books\Non-fiction\Information Technology or whatever. In doing this, the auction fails to upload until YOU fix it. Why can't the update know what it changes and do it for you, obviously with some sort of confirmation?

I'd just like to make it clear, I'm not talking about anti-virus software updates here. I don't think I've ever heard of them doing any damage, or updates to programs like Ad-Aware... updating a database that a program uses is a lot different to updating the program itself. In those cases, I don't mind frequent updates, I even praise them but it seems to be the case that the harder you try to push updated software out quicker, the more problems the update will make.

It a "hare and the tortoise" situation, clearly.

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