Ubuntu update manager is better than Windows update manager - Adventures in Switching to Linux

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ubuntu update manager is better than Windows update manager

Updating your operating system these days is just a fact of life. There are always bugs to fix, security holes to patch and little new features (and sometimes big features, think XP SP2) to push down to users. Both Windows and Ubuntu have update mechanisms in place so users don't have to periodically check and install updates manually. I think if automatic updates didn't exist, most users would never update their systems.

Before Windows had good updates they also had the Code Red worm that affected IIS in July 2001 and Linux had the OpenSSL Slapper worm in September 2002. My home Linux web server got hit by Slapper. The system did have an update feature (the Red Hat Network!) but it was not setup to be automatic. I am not sure why I even had SSL running and open to the world since I didn't use it but that is another story. (If you want to know a little more history about major computer viruses and worms, this Wikipedia page is interesting and helpful: Timeline of notable computer viruses and worms.)

Back to my point - Ubuntu's update manager works well and is not annoying but Windows update makes me want to punch a hole in the wall. I have both Ubuntu and Windows configured to check for updates periodically. Windows checks on whatever schedule Microsoft decided was good and my Ubuntu boxes check daily as I decided was good. I have both configured to go ahead and download updates and let me know when they are ready to be applied.

Ubuntu Update Manager Notification
I don't remember the default behavior of Windows update but I know a lot of people have it setup to install updates automatically. Ubuntu will allow this too and I don't remember its default setting either. Installing the updates automatically sounds great for the novice but I always want to see what is getting updated before I apply any patches to my system. That way if something goes wrong after the updates, I will have an idea what updates caused it and where to start to fix it.

Now we get to the real annoying part. Most of the time Windows updates require a system restart! Why? The only time Ubuntu has ever wanted to restart after installing updates was when a new kernel was installed. What is worse is if you have Windows update configured to automatically install updates it will also automatically restart your system! I don't know about you but I leave a ton of applications up and running all the time. I don't want to come to my computer in the morning and find it freshly restarted with all my applications closed and data lost.

If Windows is configured like mine to ask you to install updates, it will add a little yellow shield in the system tray and occasionally give you a pop up. This is the same way users are notified about updates on Ubuntu.

Windows Updates Notification
But after installing the updates the dreaded "Restart Now" dialog kicks in. I feel like this dialog comes up every 15 minutes or so! It is so annoying. And what is worse is I have occasionally accidentally clicked on "Restart Now" instead of the "Restart Later" button when attempting to keep working instead of being interrupted by this annoying dialog.

NO! I do NOT want to restart now Windows!
If Ubuntu needs to restart, it kindly adds an icon to the system tray. There are no pop ups every 15 minutes that are all to easy to click the wrong button causing your system to just restart right then and there. Windows doesn't even care about anything you may be working on that is unsaved. If you say "Restart Now" it will just start killing applications. Ubuntu updates will occasionally also have a little light bulb letting me know I need to restart some program for the updates to take effect ("some program" has always been Firefox so far). Again, they let me know but they don't annoy me or allow me to screw up something by trying to ignore a dialog.

Ubuntu Restart Required (image thanks to HowtoForge)

To get around the hated "Restart Now" dialog in Windows, I just wait to update when I am about to restart for some other reason. This means updates on my system take longer before they get installed making my system more insecure. It is also getting me in a bad habit and I find that I don't always update Linux when I see that there are new updates.

One final point. Ubuntu also has a great advantage of being able to update your applications as well as the operating system. In Windows, updates don't exist for all those 3rd party applications you installed. You have to manually go out and download an update for each an every program. That assumes you know there are security or bug fix updates to be installed. With Ubuntu, update manager knows about all your applications and updates them along with the OS. Nice!

1 comment:

Ian said...

Nice comparision! Good work :)

I've been using Ubuntu 8.04 for exactly 5 days now and it's pretty cool.

I'm a little skeptical of the "Restart required" message though as I don't think it's really always necessary.

When I first installed the NVidia restricted graphics driver it said I need a restart. I know for a fact this is not required if you install this driver manually. All you need to do is restart X.

[I've installed the NVidia driver manually from the sh package many times.]

In any case, besides a kernel update, I'm quite sure something like this would do the trick:
$ init 3
$ init 5

That's a lot quicker than rebooting, and is more true to the stability and power of Linux imho.

Of course, switching runlevels won't always be adequate, as is the case with kernel updates.

Okay, so I'm no newbie when it comes to Linux and that's probably why the "Restart required" message doesn't fool me.

Once again, though, great post!

Any comments?