Operating systems and updates

by Neil Rickert
stickycomics cartoon on updates

An update is available

I don’t have experience with Macs, but I thought this cartoon said it very well for Windows vs. linux.

On windows, I find updates annoying.  I normally use Windows as a limited user.  But I have to be an Administrator in order to update.  Having to login as an Administrative user is already somewhat disruptive.  Windows 7 does fix that problem – you can set it to do updating even when logged in as an ordinary user.

It’s not just the administrator issue.  I install an update, and then I find that I have to reboot.  Soon after that, I am told that there’s an Adobe Acrobat reader update.  And sometimes I have to reboot after that.  And then I’m told that there’s a java update, though I usually don’t have to reboot for that.  I sometimes think I spend more time updating the system than actually using Windows.

I mainly use linux (currently openSuSE 11.3).  And with linux, updates are not seriously disruptive.  I am notified of an update.  I click the install button, and enter the administrative password as prompted.  And then the update process quietly does its thing without further interrupting me.  Adobe and jave updates are all included – any software installed from the distro repository is updated this way.  Reboot is rarely required.  And even when reboot is required (as for kernel updates), it is less of a concern.  The update is fully installed without the reboot.  It isn’t necessary to reboot to complete the install.  The reboot is only needed so that I will start using the updated version rather than the previous version.

The cartoon is from Sticky Comics.

4 Comments to “Operating systems and updates”

  1. I don’t have much experience with Linux, but I don’t understand why Windows keeps insisting that a reboot is necessary 99% of the time when an update needs to be applied.

    That would be like a human using a defribilator instead of an alarm clock every morning. 🙂


    • The basic problem, is that you cannot update an open file without the risk of causing problems for the process that uses the file.

      For linux/unix this isn’t a problem, because the system keeps track of files in a different way. The directory entry points to an inode, and the inode keeps track of the file. So you can replace a file in linux, but simply having the directory point to the inode for the replacement file. The next user of that file will get the new version. Processes that are still using the old file will continue to use the old version. And the old version will automatically disappear once there is nothing using it.

      With Windows, the directory entry keeps track of the file. So while the file is open, you cannot change the directory so you cannot replace the file. It is really a file system design problem.


  2. Having used all three I’d say the comics is unfair to Apple – upgrades are much closer to $50 than $100


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