OneCare - Automatic Updates requirement must be fixed RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • There are people at Microsoft who understand what is NECESSARY when it comes to PC maintenance.  Those are the people who understood that Windows Update and Microsoft Update required setting options of "download but ask me before applying the updates".  The OneCare team needs to recognize that there was wisdom and real reasons behind why Windows Update and Microsoft Update have those options.  There really really IS wisdom there.


    Aircraft systems have warning lights and buzzers to tell the pilot that something *may* be wrong.  A very critical aspect of those warning systems is that you can punch a button to tell the system "ya, I got it, clear the warning".  Why is being able to clear the warnign signal absolutely critical?  Not for the "convenience" of the pilot (although the buzzing can get distracting.)  The *real* reason is that it allows the system to turn the lights and buzzers on *again* if something *else* also needs the pilot's attention.  Without the pilot being able to clear the first warning signals, the pilot would start to ignore the warning signal and would very likely never find out about the second warning.


    Following the most recent OneCare update, OneCare is now staying red on my XP systems because my updates are set for "download but ask me before applying".  Since I cannot clear this warning status, this means that OneCare is now highly dysfunctional and increasingly useless to me.  Having OneCare provide a clearable signal that an update is pending IS correct.  Having OneCare sit constantly in the red condition because you have not left your computer open to being silently crashed in the background by an errant update is NOT "safety".


    If you're a user who does not understand the details of PC maintenance, then having OneCare tell you to enable automatic updates is fine.  If you're a user who does understand the details of PC maintenance, then it would actually be "safer" if OneCare warned you that automatic updates were enabled on the computer.  Completely automatic updates without the potential side effects of the updates having been first reviewed is completely wrong -- provided the user has the ability to understand the details behind the update.


    I completely respect that Microsoft wants to emphasize keeping systems updated.  After all, Microsoft's the big target that takes the beating from things like viruses and defective third party drivers.  The perception that Mac OS and Linux are more reliable than Windows only results from those platforms being significantly less abundant than Windows, and that there is significantly fewer (potentially defective) third party drivers and other applications on those systems that have their own bugs.  We all know that if Mac OS or Linux were the dominant operating system in use everywhere, those systems would be the ones getting all the news as having issues.


    The XP SP3 update has unanticipated fatal side effects that can cause serious loss of user productivity.  The XP SP2 update has similar issues, but at least they weren't (generally) fatal problems.  Problems like these do occur, and are the primary reason why, when computers are needed for real productivity, a slight pause before applying updates is very very important.  I earn a living using my computers.  I must be careful about keeping them up and running.


    I have computers for the purpose of being productive.  Contrary to what it seems like at times with all the various applications, I actually don't have computers so I can enjoy spending all my time updating this or that piece of software.  When an update can be applied quickly, will function properly, and will not stop me from using my computers for the reasons I purchased them -- to be productive -- then everything moves along smoothly.  When any update threatens to disable my computers and thereby eliminate a week's worth of productivity while I attempt to bring them back online, then such an update needs to wait until I can afford to be unproductive for a week -- if there ever really is such a time.


    OneCare needs to adopt the pop-up message concept used by Windows Update, Microsoft Update, and Outlook (for arriving emails).  This approach is actually MORE functional than OneCare getting stuck in a red condition that simply means that anything else OneCare might want to warn about will be ignored.  Pop-up a periodic "updates need performing" message that the user can clear until after some time period expires.  Add Outlook's "remind me again in XXX amount of time" feature that is used for reminders.  Include in the reminder message how long the condition has been pending.  For example, "Critical Windows updates have not be applied for 4 days."  Limit the "remind me again in XXX amount of time" to only 24 hours (per reminder, not total) if OneCare really wants to keep the user reminded.


    This reminder pop-up approach will be far more effective than having OneCare just sit there in a red condition.  First, it'll allow OneCare to more easily notify the user of other conditions.  Second, to be honest I simply get into the habit of delaying all the tasks I need to do (like Ghosting) before I can *safely* perform the SP3 update.  What then happens is that days go by without my really realizing it.  If OneCare kept doing daily pop-up reminders and, in particular, told me how long it has been that I've been ignoring the situation, it would be *way way* more functional.


    I have downloaded the SP3 ISO image and burned it since I understand that the major AMD/Intel HAL issue with SP3 does not occur when the update is applied from a CD image.  However (and this is important to realize), knowing about using a CD image instead of just using Windows Update only occurred because my system does *not* automatically apply updates.  If my system had been configured to automatically apply updates, then I *might* have simply booted up one morning to a dead PC without any clue what had happened.  I very likely would not have even known the problem was update related since the update would have happened quietly in the background.  I would have had very little clue where to even start researching the problem.  My first guess probably would have been a virus or a hard drive glitch.  So the approach of delaying updates did prove to be the right approach in this case.


    I would also like to recommend the concept of the OneCare icon having three bands of colors on the master PC -- one band for each PC being managed.  I realize this leads into problems if a lot more than three PCs are being managed.  So if a lot of PCs are being managed, then at some point OneCare would probably have to give up on this feature.  But I'm sure the (by far) vast majority of users have three or fewer PCs, and there are probably only a trivial number that have more than six.  Color bands for up to six PCs seems like they would still be readable by the user.  It's only up to about six or seven that the user is going to be able to easily remember which color band goes with which PC, anyway.  With above six PCs, the option would probably just be two color bands for "this PC" and "other PCs".

    Thursday, June 12, 2008 2:28 PM

All replies

  • As you can see, I've moved your post to the Tune-up topic folder from the Updates folder, since your topic is specifically the Automatic Updates setting requirement, which kicks in with Tune-up. Well, except for your last suggestion, which is specific to the Circle/Hub function and the fact that a Hub PC will go red for an issue on a monitored PC.


    Thanks for your comments and I'm sure that many will agree. I'll paste the text below that I've used to reply to similar complaints about the way OneCare handles this.


    "I agree with your assessment that forcing the setting to automatically install is bad for me (and you). However, I can tell you from personal experience that there are many, many people who happily ignore Windows Updates - even when they are set to notify - and end up with severely compromised systems. I have personally repaired dozens of systems where the AU icon was alerting the user about updates to be applied and based on the number of updates available, that icon was alerting them for months and sometimes years!


    What I would prefer is that OneCare required that Automatic Updates was *on* for any settings desired in order to be green. Since OneCare already does a check of Windows Update for updates not yet offered and installed by Automatic Updates when a Tune-up is performed, I think OneCare should perform that check daily and/or check for the state of AU in that when an update is offered as available, OneCare should change to yellow alert status. If the user then ignores the warning yellow status for 24 hours, OneCare should turn red. If another 24 hours elapses without action by the user, OneCare should switch on AU to automatically install the updates and provide a dialog to the customer that this action was taken and why.


    Since that functionality does not currently exist in OneCare, we need to live with the simplistic setting requirement that AU must be set to automatic download and install at a specified time of our choosing. Pick a time that is least likely to impact you. You cannot change the way OneCare warns you if you do not have AU configured this way."




    Thursday, June 12, 2008 2:59 PM
  • Thanks Steve.


    I *completely* agree with your assessment when it comes to users who do not really know how to manage their computers.  I too have extended family, friends, etc, who bug me to tech support and who I know need to have their OneCare set to "inexperienced" mode.  (Although their system crashing as a result of an automatic SP3 update would have been a thrill.  However that's the responsibility of the Windows team pushing out an update that didn't anticipate some incorrect configurations, and not really the OneCare team's issue.)  *And* I completely agree that OneCare's default configuration should be based on "inexperienced" users since such users are also not going to know/understand to change the OneCare settings.


    However, for users who do understand the details of keeping their computers maintained, OneCare needs to add options/functions that allow users to not have to completely ignore OneCare's warning indicators.  What is happening in reality is that OneCare is completely defeating its own objective when it comes to experienced users.  Since the objective should always be the goal, the way the objective is obtained needs to adapt in this circumstance.


    OneCare can keep nagging me that the updates need to be performed so long as it doesn't force that nagging to exceed once a day.  (Well okay, maybe twice a day if they really want to.)  In fact, I'd *like* OneCare to keep nagging me that the updates need to be performed.  In reality, a daily pop-up message that I keep having to click on to say "ya ya, I know I'm being bad and I need to attend to this" will do much more than just the icon sitting there in red.  The idea that it also tells me how much time has gone by since it first started nagging me would also serve as a nice additional reprimand that I need to get around to dealing with it.


    This nagging cannot occur simply because I have updates set to "ask me when to apply them".  That is a normal and *proper* configuration setting for users who understand how to maintain computers.  The nagging *should* occur only if the updates are available and haven't been applied yet.


    However, the *important* thing is that the icon status change back to green (once I've acknowledged the message), so that the icon has the option of changing back to red when a backup fails, etc, etc, etc.


    I currently have an *excellent* example of why this should be the case.  And it's only because I'm writing this reply that I'm reminded of this situation.


    Now that I'm writing this reply, I just remembered that OneCare had popped up a warning message earlier telling me that the backup failed.  I happen to know the (likely) reason in this case.  The destination hard drive is probably full, and I need to delete some old backups.


    So what actually happened?  I got into the mode of ignoring the OneCare status because it's complaining about my updates configuration setting.  As a result, I forgot about and am ignoring the backup issue.  If OneCare had only been complaining that the update hasn't been applied, and I had been able to clear that status for a day, then OneCare would have been more successful in reminding me that the backup failed.


    This example happens to be exactly the same as the aircraft warning system example I gave above.  Because I wasn't able to clear the warning indicator as a result of the first warning, I completely lost track of the second warning.  Luckily in this case we're not talking about my gear still being up while I'm just about to land!  That's really hard on the paint job.  :-)


    Thanks, Steve.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008 3:55 PM