The boon and bane of updates

Monday, January 15, 2018 11:00 PM UTC

I observe a phenomenon for several years. Software is getting more powerful, more feature-enriched but also more defective. It’s seems to be a natural thing that systems get screwed at some point the more complex they get.

Sometimes I wish vendors would keep a certain state of a software that runs nearly perfectly - and freeze it forever.

I’ll give you some examples:

Ubuntu Linux

Once a upon a time there was a Linux distro invented to provide an easy and fast way for the user to dive into the world of the IMHO most comprehensive and flexible operating system without the need to study tons of documentation. The idea was great though not completely worked out with the first throws back in 2004. It took about 2 years to get a stable and reliable system just with a few clicks during installation - awesome!

Then they decided to put everything useful and useless stuff into the default desktop installation they could find, changed the desktop managers and windows managers, the boot loader and of course the kernel. The latter is a natural thing due to security issues. But the times of hassle-free installation and even maintenance ended in 2012. 

Sure, you can install the latest iterations with ease on new systems but they won’t work properly on older computers. Even worse: the seamless update process is gone. If you ever try to upgrade from one of the version from the last 5 years to the next (or even the current one) you will end up in tears - if you are just a „user“ (without studying… see above).

At this time I proclaimed this term for the first time:

Developed to Death

Ubuntu is not the only product out there. I won’t mention Windows here, that would take to much text to explain my deep contempt on this pile of shit.

iOS / macOS

I have to mention something I really like to use and I just shortly discovered: iOS/macOS.

Frankly, I admit that I am a beta user. I have always the latest public betas in use on both systems. You say, „hey, don’t rant if you use unstable software“. I don’t, I just say that things that worked often are developed to an unstable state many updates later.

So is iOS and especially Homekit. Homekit is quite new within the iOS universe. It worked well but with the latest update (that fixes Spectre and Meltdown) everything got screwed up. No automation is working, syncing with Philips Hue does not work at all (the scenes are not available). I don’t know if also maybe the Philips Hue app got screwed, too, as it also received an update during the last days.

But this is the point: for the end user it does not matter WHAT was fixed, it matters that nothing works like before. I miss the transparency, the upgrade paths documented etc. 

As I am writing this I try to install macOS Sierra / High Sierra on an ld iMac 21“ which came with Lion (10.7.5) - a challenge! Apple dropped support for older versions, you cannot download them anymore via the app store. Besides that I had trouble with a brand new Apple ID trying to access the app store, the new filesystem APFS on High Sierra (that prevents downloading anything older than High Sierra - which is EVERYTHING before) to create an install medium (USB dongle).

You can see: it’s not always the best choice to have the latest crap. If it works for you, just try to keep it! I am aware of the fact that vendors aren’t making this an easy job for us „hobby admins“…





Latest comments to this post

Oliver Busse wrote on 25.01.2018, 02:02

Andrew, thanks for the hint. Since all my machines run High Sierra I am not able to download any OS prior - due to APFS. I have some in stock though and am able to create boot media USB sticks.

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Andrew Magerman wrote on 16.01.2018, 09:24

Hi Oliver,

I've found a good practice is making an USB bootable installer for every OS my Macs go on.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201372

Just buy a load of cheap USB sticks and reserve them for the OS Installers.

1. It's a lot faster than downloading from the internet

2. You can reinstall the OS pretty easily, especially if you've got a good Time Machine backup. 

Andrew

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