Windows Update Can Ruin Your Day, Maybe Your Computer

Our desktop support folks couldn’t do anything with it. When I told them my story about what happened (at least I’m honest) they realized it would be easier to re-install the machine with a fresh image of Windows Vista.

Read this sad but unsurprising tale of woe at Linux in Exile. And find out how Windows Update and system management in Linux are different. Also, you Linux users, please do visit Exile and check out the comments. It appears to me that numerous Microsoft Symps are trying to take over. Go kick some ass.

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0 thoughts on “Windows Update Can Ruin Your Day, Maybe Your Computer

  1. I’m partway through a software upgrade on my Debian machine. At the moment the machine is close-to-hosed. I made sure it can boot and that I can use vital tools, but at the moment I have no GUI and it will probably take me a few hours to sort out all the issues. So – if someone who didn’t know UNIX inside out had a Linux installation that sat disconnected from the world for about a year and attempted a software upgrade they’d probably be in a similar fix as the WinDuhs folks. The only consolation is that the system might work well enough to get things going without a reinstall if you know what you’re doing.

  2. Dude, I was in the middle of apt-get dist-upgrade on my Dapper Drake machine and my power supply bit it. I could only get a command prompt, and apt (and just about everything else) quit working. I had to reinstall.

    Sorry, but I have little sympathy for some dumb fuck who, when faced with a screen that says, “Do not turn off or unplug your computer,” does exactly that. And if they blame Microsoft for it, they’re double dumb fucks. If you’re in the middle of writing a critical system file to the hard drive, and you shut off the machine, you’re not going to have a working system, I don’t care what you’re using.

  3. Egaeus, or, shall I call you by your real name, Bill Gates? … it is YOU who are the dumb fuck. You had a bad experience with apt-get when power died. I’m sorry for you that this happened, but apt and it’s analogs in other distros are explicitly and purposefully designed to be interrupted and resume, because interruptions happen. Windows, in contrast, appears to not be so designed.

    You don’t know the person whom you call a “dumb fuck.” He is anonomyous. But I know who he is. This an individual with vast experience, excellent training and of, as it turns out, rather remarkable fame. If I said his name you’d know it instantly.

    In short, you would be rather embarassed to know who you just called a dumb fuck. Hopefully you will never be looking for a job in this field!!!!

  4. I don’t care if you’re Linus Torvalds, Andrew Tannenbaum, RMS, ESR, or Bill Gates. If you unplug your computer when it explicitly says not to do so, then you’ve just done something monumentally stupid. Smart people do stupid shit all the time, so intelligence isn’t really a factor.

    It doesn’t matter what you think about the relative merits of the update programs of your favorite OS/distro, and from your protestations of “Imanoob” when talking about linux I know that you’re no more (or less) qualified to evaluate them than I am. When faced with a screen that says, “Do not turn off or unplug your computer…” you shouldn’t do that. Those guys at MS, despite what you might think, had a good reason to put that there, well-designed or not. Assuming you know better than them is the definition of hubris, as your super-famous super-smart acquaintance found out the hard way.

  5. Egaeus, if you actually read the post, smart or stupid had very little to do with the shutdown. It was an ugly installation process that left Mr. Exile without a choice. That’s where the question of differential design comes in.

  6. I read it. He had a choice, he just chose to leave, taking the computer that didn’t have a battery in it out of the docking station. Here are his other choices:

    1. Leave the computer, risking the small chance of theft. If theft was really such a problem that he absolutely couldn’t leave it, then don’t you think his workplace have implemented better security measures to prevent such monumental financial loss?

    2. Called his wife downstairs and told her that due to Microsoft’s horrible, terrible, disgusting design, he would have to babysit his computer until it was done updating.

    Or, maybe before the end of the day he should have:

    3. Kept the battery in the laptop. If it overheats, then it has a hardware design flaw or defect and should be returned. If it’s just uncomfortably warm, then who cares? It’s in the docking station, not his lap.

    4. Reached a reasonable stopping point, saved his work and rebooted his computer when it said it needed to be rebooted. I’m sure that even Jim Hall can stop work for a few minutes, if nothing else to prevent that stupid reminder from popping up every 15 minutes.

    FYI Greg, I didn’t know his name offhand, though I am familiar with his work, and still play the occasional game of GNU robots. Not that I, being Bill Gates and all, would ever use Linux.

    And Jim, you’re not really a dumb fuck, but I stand by the “monumentally stupid move” observation.

  7. No install should be non-recoverable on powerloss
    I bought a HP laptop, the power failed during Vistys install (install actually was some kind of unpack from HD, not CD)
    .result -permanent lockup.
    I had to install a bootleg vista. HP helpline were abusive “you have an illegal copy…click…”
    So I try Ubuntu but it doesnt do NTFS, to see my drives I have to get some extra software… forums differ whether this is safe.
    I have worked with Linux and Windows2000. At least win2000 never asked me to recompile the kernal… ( which has _never_ been successful on several distros)
    Sadly, I suggest sticking with Windows, but beware HP – no support..

  8. ps: Something destroyed my Vista recently… I suspect (but cant prove) it was automatic Java updates…
    I recommend disabling ALL automatic updates in Vista.
    Who needs Java updates twice a week? I blame Larry.
    How I hate Vista’s refusal to format its old partitions. Enough pain and I will format the entire drive and go Ubuntu… but not yet.

  9. @g bruno: what version of Ubuntu? Linux has had excellent NTFS support for the past 2 years. For Ubuntu 8.x and later I would expect that I only have to load the ntfs-3g driver (which requires the FUSE driver) for full read/write support. You can always suggest that Ubuntu provide that NTFS support by default and without user intervention; after all many people need to access their NTFS partitions.

    All my current laptops are HP; I’ve never had problems with software on them (the screen dims and is useless after about only a year’s work though). Admittedly I only run WinDuhs under VirtualBox (for development work for a client who prefers WinDuhs – yuck). I grew up in the bad old days though and never rely on support from the vendors – if I can’t fix it, it’s time to throw it out.

    If you can’t build Linux under some distribution you need to read the documentation – all the information is available on all the major distributions including RedHat/Fedora, Debian, Suse. I know many people who know nothing about programming yet they can build a kernel.

  10. But Ubuntu does provide NTFS support “out of the box”, you can read and write on a NTFS partition afterbooting form a standard CD. What version are you trying?

    I used Ubuntu a few times as a recovery CD to salvage some files form a partition that will be formated, or to erase a few files after the users filled the C:/ drive and windows can’t start anymore.

  11. Egaeus,
    I’m not denying that turning off the laptop during an install was a dumb move. I admit that in my post:

    >> The patches installed at a rate of about 2% per minute. I thought, “I can’t wait for this – my wife is downstairs right now, it’s time to go, I can’t wait almost an hour for this thing to finish.” And I didn’t have an option to close my office and leave it, since we’ve had thefts inside the building. So I did the unthinkable, and unplugged the power. (I rarely keep the battery in the laptop when it’s plugged into the dock – otherwise, the system gets really hot.)

    If you go back and read the Linux in Exile post, my complaint isn’t that Windows barfed when I pulled the plug (although I note that I’ve had to do something similar during a Linux update, and it survived that fine.) My complaint is that Windows Update wasn’t done updating the system after installing the patches. That’s just dumb design to me.

    >> So thank you, Microsoft. Your “awesome” Windows Update process needs some work. Why is System Update not really done installing patches until you shut down? This doesn’t make sense to me. It should have installed those other patches while the system was up, then let them take effect after reboot. I’m most shocked that System Update had to “own” my machine when I was trying to shut down.

    The way Linux manages updates, you install the updates, and you’re done. Pretty much, only kernel updates require a reboot to take effect – because it’s the kernel, and the kernel is only loaded at boot-time. Yet on Linux, when you reboot or shutdown, you actually reboot or shutdown. None of this “let me install a few updates before you really get to shut down your system.”

    >> In stark contrast, when I ran Linux at work, I could install updates while using the system. If the system update tool wanted to reboot afterward, it was usually because I’d received a kernel update, and you do need to reboot for the new kernel to take effect. But on Linux, you can keep using the old kernel until you’re ready to shutdown/reboot. And I always had the option to shutdown or reboot later, when I was ready to.

  12. Egaeus’s “options” kind of show he skipped through the Linux in Exile post, rather than reading it.

    1. Leave the computer, risking theft [and workplace should implement better security].

    We have beefed up security. But the fact that we have thefts still suggests I shouldn’t leave the laptop overnight anyway.

    If the laptop is missing the next morning, I don’t want to be the one to talk to building security about the theft, and to data security to go through the endless procedures to declare there was no sensitive data on the laptop. That can kill half a workday right there. I lost less time having the desktop support guys replace my laptop for me.

    2. Called the wife, tell her to wait.

    I don’t think calling my wife and asking her to wait an hour in the car would have gone down very well. Here’s the bit you missed in my post:

    “The day rolls by, and eventually it’s 6:00 PM. My wife was there to pick me up so we could go out to dinner. As usual, I worked right up until it was time to go, then shut down my laptop. […] The patches installed at a rate of about 2% per minute. I thought, ‘I can’t wait for this – my wife is downstairs right now, it’s time to go, I can’t wait almost an hour for this thing to finish.'”

    I think you are proving my maxim: “Nobody reads anymore – they skim!” This annoys my writer friends no end, but people like Egaeus keep demonstrating it for me.

    3. Kept the battery in the laptop.

    I don’t do this due to a design problem with this D430 laptop. I blame Dell for that, BTW. The cool air intake is on bottom. When you put the laptop is the MediaBase dock like it’s designed to do, the cool air intake is very effectively blocked … completely.

    I’ve pointed out in an earlier post that these days, laptop batteries are ok to leave charged all the time. Older batteries would eventually fail to hold a charge if you did that. Today, batteries will fail to hold a charge if they get hot, and stay hot.

    So, I don’t keep the battery in the laptop when it’s being charged at work. This keeps the battery cool, and allows lots of cool air to enter the laptop.

    4. Rebooted when Windows said to reboot.

    Again, I don’t think you read my post. You skimmed. I talked about this:

    “Normally, I apply Windows updates only when I’ll be away from my office for several hours, like for those mid-afternoon strategy meetings. That way, Windows can apply the update, and I don’t have to wait for it. But since others have reassured me that I can install updates while using the Windows system, this time I went ahead and let Windows Update do its thing. […] After Windows Update was done, I got another message advising me to reboot so the changes could take effect. I figured this was just Windows covering for itself, especially since Evan claimed that ‘patches you’ll get from Windows update don’t require rebooting’. So I dismissed the alert, and went back to work.”

    Like you, Evan is a very pro-Microsoft guy, and he posts comments to my blog a lot. Responding to an earlier post about installing Vista, Evan insisted Windows doesn’t need to be rebooted after patches get installed. This time, I believed him. That was a big mistake – Windows really does need to be rebooted.

    But if you go back and read the Linux in Exile post, my main issue wasn’t that Windows needed to be rebooted after installing updates. The problem was that Windows Update wasn’t done updating the system after installing the patches. That’s just dumb design to me.

  13. The cool air intake is on bottom.

    I see Dell has joined the ranks of companies who have used M. C. Escher as a design consultant. How do they expect you to use this laptop with a battery installed and not have something (quite possibly your skin) overheat?

    I also agree on the bad Microsoft design here. Requiring an immediate reboot, while still annoying, would have been better than letting you think the update was done when it wasn’t.

  14. Jim: pretty much, only kernel updates require a reboot to take effect – because it’s the kernel, and the kernel is only loaded at boot-time.

    Not any more if you have Ksplice! You’d never have to book with Ksplice, although you can boot if you want.

  15. Microsoft’s tendency to cover bad design by calling it a “feature” or claiming that there’s no other way to do it even when their competition employs better options, is part of why I don’t use any of their products. Eating my Graduate thesis also factors in to the equation.

    I’ve run Linux for nine years, and I love it. In my world, updates run in the background, don’t continue to install after they claim to be done, let me reboot on my schedule, and don’t brick my laptop it they are unexpectedly interrupted. That’s why I run Linux.

    Oh and Egaeus, I find that people who resort to ad hominem attacks usually do so because their other arguments don’t have a leg to stand on…

  16. Mr. and Mrs. Linux in Exile,

    I am not pro-MS, although I do like Office’s interface better than Open Office, and Visio had no equal on Linux the last time I looked. However, I use Debian/Gnome, so I haven’t looked at Kivio recently. Honestly, the way that MS is going, I don’t foresee ever buying another MS OS.

    There’s a big difference between being pro-MS and thinking that unplugging the laptop when it’s updating is stupid. I don’t use Vista, but I’ve had similar “we didn’t really finish updating when we told you to reboot” situations in XP. It’s annoying, but I’m sure there’s a reason for it, even if it’s not a particularly good one.

    I did get all of those points that you claim I skimmed through.

    For option 1, I did say that you risked the theft. However, while you worried about the possibility of theft, my point was the probability of theft vs. your other options.

    For option 2, I can’t answer for your wife, but seeing as she’s a Linux user I think she’d have been miffed, but she’d have understood. If “honey, I screwed up and overestimated MS” couldn’t have gotten you a pass, then there’s something more there than a one-off screw up.

    For option 3, I can’t comment on the D430’s specifically, as we use the D8X0 series at my workplace. I believe the setup is similar, and have not experienced any noticable adverse effects on battery life. I agree that heat is no friend of batteries, but is the bit of extra life worth it? A battery is what, $80? How much was lost with your downtime?

    For option 4, I agree with evaned on your blog. You are being disingenuous when quoting Evan. See, I even read the comments, though I did have to look up the commenter’s name. He said that occasional patches don’t require reboots, and in leaving out the word occasional, you make it out like he said something that he didn’t.

    To you and Mrs. LiE, I apologize for the dumb fuck comment. It was not meant seriously, but being text and not spoken, there is no nuance. I should have chosen less harsh words to make the point of it being a seriously dumb thing to do.

    However, it was not an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem fallacy has a very specific definition. “You’re a dunderhead!” is ad hominem. “You’re a dunderhead because you can’t follow simple instructions x, y, and z.” is not. If you want to refute the latter, you still have to address how not following instructions x, y, and z was a reasonable course of action. You can’t just cry “ad hominem!” when there’s an argument to be refuted, no matter how tersely or offensively it was presented.

    Like I said before, I can’t comment on the relative merits of the update software of different OS’s/distros, but this is not about that. It’s about shutting off a computer abruptly when explicitly being told not to do so.

    However, I know that apt is not as infallible as you make it out to be from personal experience. There were no other hardware problems once my PS was replaced. Fsck cleaned up the HD, but the installation was hosed. From what I could tell, the half-installation screwed up my dependencies. I could have spent an indefinite amount of time fixing it to the point where apt would work again, but a reinstall was my fastest option. I luckily still had ssh, so I logged into a remote machine, put the files I wanted to save there, and installed Lenny. I don’t know whether interrupting the power during an os update at random times would hose Windows or Linux more often, but if you’re writing a critical file to the HD when you do it, I don’t think either OS will take it well.

  17. The main issue wasn’t that Windows needed to be rebooted after installing updates. The problem was that Windows Update wasn’t done updating the system after installing the patches.

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