Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No unified software update?

I promised I would come back to this topic, so here it is. Fortunately, I don't have much installed on my Windows system. It's basically a platform that I use when I attend an online meeting that requires Silverlight or some similar Windows-only plugin. (These are rare, but they do happen...) As a result, essentially, I only have web browsers installed.

When I check for updates on Windows, I have to do so in a number of places:
  1. Windows Update
  2. Mozilla Firefox
  3. Google Chrome
  4. Adobe Reader (PDF)
  5. Adobe Flash
It's a problem that I have to check each software package individually to see if there are updates. Why a manual process? What if I forgot to check one of these applications for new versions? My system would be left vulnerable.

Yes, a few Windows applications are "well behaved" and look for updates on their own. But that's just a "band-aid" fix to a larger problem. What a hassle.

I know these are third-party applications, and I know it's odd to suggest that these get folded into some kind of "system-wide" patch process. But that's what Windows really needs.

Linux has a unified software update. On Linux, software packages can include an instruction that adds itself to the software update list. In technical terms, it adds an entry for the "software repository" so that the system-wide software update knows to check that location for new versions.

For example, when I installed Google Chrome on Linux, I did so by downloading the "RPM" file - the software "package" file. Installing the RPM was as simple as clicking on it, entering my password, and letting the software installer do the rest. Automatically, this process created an entry under /etc/yum.repos.d for Google Chrome's software repository.

Now, when Linux checks for patches, the unified software update also looks for new versions of Google Chrome, and downloads and installs them with everything else. It's easy!

Why can't it be that easy on Windows?


  1. What's sad is that Apple is building a similar thing for Mac OS X and is claiming that such a model was originally its own (of course blatantly disregarding APT, RPM, et cetera).
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  2. There IS a step in the direction of managing all Windows updates in one place. The security company Secunia has a utility called the "Personal Software Inspector" (PSI). The new version of PSI can scan your system for end-of-life or insecure software, then either update it automatically or provide a download link to the newest version. It is slightly more cumbersome than a Linux update, but it's MUCH better than doing it all manually--and it works well.


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