One of the things that my IT Support clients find more frustrating than almost anything else with their IT is “updates”

Updates - groan

… another update installing

In fact, I think the only thing I hear complained of more than updates is passwords.

“Why do they have to keep changing things?”, “why can’t I just keep what I’ve got. It does what I need?”, and so on.

Yesterday morning, a client said to me Updates are just a way of keeping geeks in work“.

I can think of several reasons why updates are an inevitable part of our digital lives:

  • A huge part of the world’s criminal fraternity is turning to the internet to make a dishonest living. It can be very lucrative and the chances of being brought to justice seem to be very low. Therefore, there is a constant battle going on between criminals trying to find weaknesses and the good guys trying to thwart them. Everyone would soon complain if vulnerabilities, once discovered, weren’t addressed (and that means updates).
  • For better or worse, most of our computing is done in a capitalist framework with capitalist organisations seeking to make a profit. How is capitalism going to work if investors can’t get a return on their investment? The product HAS to keep changing (improving) as there would otherwise be no incentive for consumers to buy again or remain with a particular service. This is true for everything, not just computers. Maybe we just notice it more with computers as the interruptions caused by updates seem more annoying because sometimes we can’t get on with what we want to do until the updates are taken care of.
  • There are thousands of different organisations making hardware and software. This stuff all has to talk to other stuff. When a change is made to one piece of stuff, it might have effects on the stuff it has to interact with. To my mind, it’s not a surprise that many things have to be tweaked (updated) frequently to keep everything working with everything else.

Zeroes and ones

In computing, everything is ultimately expressed in just zeroes and ones.

As far as I am concerned, the surprise is that all of this technology works as well as it does. Think of this – all of the communication of anything in the world of computing takes place in just zeroes and ones (or, if you prefer, “yeses” and “nos” or “ons and offs”). Billions upon billions of zeroes and ones criss-crossing the planet all the time, being sent and received via all kinds of hardware, software, and firmware made by different organisations, on different continents, with different cultures, speaking different languages. All it takes is for a single one of those zeroes or ones to get messed up and the task that’s involved might not work. To my mind, this stuff is a mind-boggling achievement, and a bit of housework installing updates is an acceptable price to pay.

Maybe in 50 years the developments won’t be coming so quickly and all this tech may one day reach a maturity where there are fewer updates and /or where updates take care of themselves. We are certainly not there yet. Another way of looking at it is to just stand back a bit and try and appreciate the spectacular achievements of IT, and accept that tweaks, corrections, and updates are an inevitable part of that achievement.

Windows - install updates

You can now shut down or restart Windows without installing pending updates

So, how should we approach updates? My own philosophy is that they should be installed reasonably quickly after we know they are available. I definitely agree that we should be given the option to delay dealing with them for a day or two so that we can take care of urgent things first. To that end, I am really glad that Microsoft have at last given us the option of restarting a Windows 10 computer with pending updates without installing those update just yet. The amount of time (my clients’ time, that is) that I have been forced to waste because I want/need to reboot their computer, but don’t want to install updates just yet, must run to hundreds of hours.

And here’s an irony: if you aren’t running the latest updates to Windows then you can’t take advantage of the option to delay installing updates if you turn off or reboot your computer.

I can, of course, hearing mutterings of “he would be in favour of updates, wouldn’t he? He’s one of the geeks keeping in work”. To which I would reply “(a) the term “geek” doesn’t apply to me. I’m just someone who knows a bit more about this stuff than you might know, and (b) although it’s true that updates can be inconvenient, can sometimes seem just cosmetic, and can sometimes break things, they are a sign that all this stuff is still advancing, getting faster, getting better. “

With Windows 10 we can no longer choose if we want Windows updates, let alone which ones we want

Windows10 - another logoThe option in the Windows control panel that used to allow us to choose how to receive Windows updates isn’t present in Windows 10. And that’s because we don’t really have a choice any more. Updates will be delivered to us more-or-less as and when Microsoft decide. What’s more, we can’t choose whether to accept updates for, say, Windows Defender but not for driver updates. We are just going to have to suck it up and accept whatever Microsoft give us (and don’t get me started on the rumours that Microsoft may soon start to include advertising in Windows – see this link on advertising in Windows, for instance).

Windows 10 - Setting a Metered Connection

Slide the switch to the right to turn off updating, but remember that this only applies to the wifi network to which you are currently connected

There is only one way to stop the updates and there is no flexibility in it: you either accept all the updates that Microsoft want to install on your computer or you accept none of them. If you accept none of them then you have to keep it that way. You can’t just turn the updates on so that you can get your hands on that one driver update that will allow you play that mega good addictive game again that suddenly broke a while back. If you turn the updates on for that one driver then ALL updates will be installed. True enough that you can turn the updates off again, but that only stops future updates. There’s no way to selective install or ignore updates that are currently available.

OK, so let’s assume for one moment that you are one of that allegedly large band of people who are so upset at this state of affairs that they will happily cut their noses off to spite their faces. How do you go about sticking your finger in the dyke that is Windows Updates? You have to configure Windows so that it thinks you are on a metered internet connection.

Before I list the steps involved in this, let’s be clear about the shortcomings:

  • You have to tell Windows every time that you connect to a new wifi network that this is a metered connection (but, thereafter, it is meant to remember for all time that that connection is metered).
  • It only applies to wifi connections. If you connect to your router via an ethernet cable then there’s no way of turning off the updates. I wonder how far up the Microsoft food chain someone decided “never mind those people who have data caps on their internet connection, our updates will come out of their data allowance whether they like it or not”?

There is one small (and it is small, really) exception to this if you have one of the enterprise or “professional” versions of Windows 10. In those versions, there is an option to delay the installation of updates. I’ve been unable to find out how long the delay is for, but I have read that it is “several months”. Clearly, the aim of this is to make us poor suckers with “home” versions of Windows 10 do all the road testing on updates before poor, under-resourced, enterprises have to contend with them.

OK, that said, this is how you go about telling Windows 10 that your wifi connection is metered:

  • Make sure that you are connected to your wifi network
  • Click on the Start Menu
  • Click on Settings
  • Click on Network & Internet
  • Click on Wi-FI
  • Scroll down below the list of available wifi networks and click on Advanced Options
  • Slide the switch below “Set as metered connection” to the right
  • Close the Settings window

Remember, though, that you need to repeat this for every new wireless network that you connect to.

Satya Nadella - CEO of Microsoft

Satya Nadella – CEO of Microsoft. Bully? Moi?

Am I the only one who gets an increasing sense that we are losing control of our own computers?

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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