The other day, my Windows Vista system got messed up. Really messed up. Let me tell you how:
During the day, I got one of those little "system tray" messages from Windows, telling me that updates were available for my system. 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. I happily continued working.
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.
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.
I was dismayed to see that Windows meant it, and really did need to reboot for those changes to take effect. Except Windows wanted to install a bunch more updates before it would let me shut down. No option to skip this step, no option to do it later. Windows Update wanted to install these patches right then, so it effectively owned my machine.
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.)
The next morning, my laptop won't reboot. Got to the graphical boot screen, then powered off.
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.
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.
And that claim that Windows doesn't need to reboot for changes to take effect? Total lie.
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.
And in 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." Reboot means "reboot", and shutdown means "shutdown".
I guess I got spoiled for how cleanly Linux systems apply updates. Microsoft sure could take a lesson from that.