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Are You Currently Living in Digital Update Hell?

Or are Companies Providing Updates Too Often Without Testing them?

By Hector Cisneros
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Have you noticed the huge increase in updates lately? Over the last three years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of monthly (sometimes weekly) updates for digital devices (i.e., computers, tablets and smartphones, etc.). If you’re exclusively an Apple or Linux user, you aren’t feeling the same pain as those who are using a Windows 10 or a Windows-Android mix. However, if you're using Apple products mixed with other platforms, you would have noticed the increase in the frequency of updates as well. The problem is growing, and the increase in update frequency is eating into employee productivity and increasing the cost due to mission-critical digital device downtime. Last week alone, my Windows 10 computer received an update that took four restarts to complete (about an hour of time). After the update was finally completed, I received several unexpected black screens when trying to post pictures to our blog while using Chrome. This is not an isolated event. These types of issues are being reported on an almost daily basis, and there is no end in sight to the increase in the frequency of updates that are likely to take place in the future. To make matters worse, each OS update causes a cascade of out of synch revisions where antimalware apps, browsers, applications, IoT systems and smartphone apps become unstable and begin to crash unexpectedly.  In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore the growing problem that the current state of update frequency is causing and will provide some guidelines to help mitigate the problem. So, break out your update scheduler and set your calendar as we learn how to tame update hell.

In the past, I’ve addressed the problems of the constant changing of search algorithms, (read: Google is Playing Musical Chairs with Ranking, and it will Cost Us Billions). I have also written about the constant changes to the social networks (check out: Why Do Social Media Giants Change Without Notice?) and recently the horrendous bombardment of emails for EULA updates caused by the GDPR policy (Will the New General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Give us More Privacy and Security?). Now I’m taking a closer look at why we have to update our operating systems, browsers, antimalware apps and smartphone apps and other smart devices so often. What prompted me to begin my investigation was the constant problem of lost productivity I was experiencing on my primary computer. Not only did I have to wait for the OS updates to take place (usually when I started my system in the morning), but these updates were also causing a cascade of updates to take place for applications on my primary computer system. To make things worse, at least once a month, some of these updates would cause a big problem (like system crashes, significant time spent troubleshooting, and unloading and reloading software). Last month I estimate that I lost 10 hours of productivity. Granted my computer system may be a little more complicated than some. I do have three antimalware apps engaged, a regular full backup and all applications set to auto update in the evening. In all, more than two dozen systems needs updates from time to time. Of these, the Windows 10 OS, my main browsers (Chrome and Firefox) my antimalware apps (TrendMicro, Malwarebytes and Advanced System Care) all need regular updates.

Courtesy of Flickr
Then there is my Android phone; it’s been receiving OS and security updates much more often than in the past. In the last year and a half, I have received two OS upgrades and over two dozen security patches. This causes a flurry of application updates starting with all of the Google apps followed by upgrades to the antimalware apps, then by the other two dozen apps I have installed on my phone (including MS office, Netflix, Amazon and many others).

I also have various other AI devices like my Amazon Echo and My Google Assistant, various Streaming devices like my Sony Blu-ray players, Roku devices and my Amazon fire sticks. Many IoT devices are showing an increasing need for updates, and now I am seeing a big jump in the number of hardware driver updates that are needed to plug hacker holes in hardware application operating code.

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the herculean effort the many hardware and software vendors are making as they attempt to bring balance, add innovation and update security issues as they are discovered. However, a priority needs to be given to updating security concerns first and stepping down the need to launch new and innovative features and value-adds to one or twice a year at most.

The current state of affairs should make any Windows or Android user envious of Apple owners. Apple has a much easier job of updating because of the greater uniformity of its hardware and OS. Apple doesn’t have to make its OS and App updates match hundreds of different manufacturers hardware. Apple’s almost homogeneous ecosystem allows them to have greater control over all application and hardware issues.

For example; when Microsoft announced Windows 10, it promised one platform to cover all devices, including home PC’s, enterprise hardware, tablets, and smartphones. They also said that this would make it easier to manage all your systems if you had all Windows 10 compatible devices. However, Windows 10 isn’t just one platform, even though their sales department pitches it as one. There are actually seven different versions of Windows 10. When you buy Windows, you actually choose one of seven versions. A Microsoft blog post lists them. Here is the list:

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Windows 10 Mobile for smartphones.
  • Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise 
  • Windows 10 Education
  • Windows 10 IoT Core

To make things worse, these OS’s are not being updated on the same schedule, and subservient applications like browsers, 3rd party antimalware, and application software are also out of synch. So, if you’re a system admin, this is one big headache for you. Now add some Android and other smart devices to the mix, and the picture becomes one of constant updates. I decided to look at how often Windows 10 was being updated since its launch in 2015 and discovered that the PC version had received seven upgrades and the mobile version four upgrades. It has also received dozens of bug fixes and security updates on top of the main OS feature updates. Android has seen a similar onslaught of upgrade changes. It has received five major updates (Lollipop, Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and P). It has also received many dozens of patches and security updates which are sometimes specific to the phone vendors' hardware and sometimes specific to patch a security issue that is tied to the version of the Android OS.

You can check, the update status of any hardware device by going to the setting menu and click on the status. Type in the following URL to read an article that discusses how to check your current Windows 10 updates. I would have made it a live link, but this URL doesn’t work that way. Copy and paste this link for the information.

Courtesy of SketchPort
It's Not Just a Windows or Android OS issue – With the World Wide Web is evolving, government, businesses, and users are forcing changes at an alarming rate. Take for example Facebook and Twitter’s recent overhaul of their security policies and how they affected a user’s ability to publish content and get content found! Recently Twitter stopped allowing users to post to several accounts simultaneously when they were announcing something to their followers and connections. Now they must post this content individually to each account separately without the use of aggregation software. This caused all applications that posted to twitter to issue and update.  Facebook has partially followed suit by not allowing aggerated posts to individual accounts (although they are allowing aggregated posts to business pages and groups. Similarly, LinkedIn banned aggregated posts to its user groups. This has increased the cost of message and content distribution many fold and will greatly increase the cost of businesses to engage in social media marketing. On top of this, businesses are having to update their EULA’s and websites because of the recent GDPR policies and the growing number of lawsuits being filed because of ADA WC3 compliance issues. And let’s not forget the widespread hacker crack exploit that was accidentally built into Wi-Fi and other hardware.

Many of these problems are self-inflicted issues that the vendors ushered in themselves. Windows 10 has had security issues since it was launched. A lot of hardware/software combinations are let loose on the market with very little testing, allowing the marketplace to be the debugging agent. Add to this the privacy issues that surfaced after the presidential election and the ongoing and ever-increasing security threats made very public by Equifax and other large data breaches, and you have a perfect storm.  My biggest fear is that the sheer number of updates will cause the public to stop updating their systems. This issue can cause people to become jaded and inclined to shirk their updates, which in turn makes them more vulnerable.

Courtesy of YouTube
It is my belief that this upgrade issue can be managed if a person uses common sense and some management software to handle applications and browser updates. I currently set all antimalware apps to auto-update. My OS system must prompt me before making the update. This way I can select the best time to deal with the downtime these updates often cause. I also make sure I make frequent restore points and system backups (both to local hardware and the cloud) in case something goes wrong during the update. Finally, I also have a spare system I can use that is upgraded on a different schedule in case my main system is adversely affected and becomes unusable.

If you want this update management problem to get better, complain to the vendors that are causing you the most angst. In these types of problems, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if you don’t let these vendors know that you think they are doing a poor job, nothing will get better. Ask Microsoft to release new feature updates once a year and to concentrate on security and privacy issues. Ask Google to require vendors to build their hardware to meet a uniform set of security and privacy standards and also make it so they will agree to push out security updates for any smartphone they make for at least three years. Managing technology used to be the privy of system engineers, programmers, and hardware designers. Today it's everybody’s job to manage very powerful computers of all sizes. This includes elementary school kids with Android and iPhones, moms, and dads using tablets and of course people and businesses using desktop computers. Anything that gives you power must be managed. The use of powerful instruments requires dedication, knowledge, skill, and respect. Owning and enjoying the power that comes with today’s high-tech digital devices requires a much higher level of responsibility than our forefathers had when they learned to use mechanical tools or drive cars. Take the time to learn how to manage your digital devices. Set up a schedule and stick to it. Always give security upgrades a priority and make changes and upgrades on your schedule, not theirs. If you do, life will seem easier, and you won't be calling it update hell anymore.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

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This article discusses the growing problem of constant updates and upgrades we are experiencing on all levels of digital devices (computers OS’s and applications). The number of upgrades and updates have been accelerating at a very fast pace caused by security and privacy concerns since the last election and because of the many data breaches that have made the headlines in recent months. This article also provides many links to resources that can provide the reader with methods and tips that will improve the management of their updates and upgrades while improving their digital security.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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