A few months ago, Steve Ballmer publicly noted that Windows Vista was “a work in progress.” That inspired a predictable outpouring of Vista-bashing.
After all, look how many updates Windows Vista has had since it was first released. Obviously, it was a disaster, or there would have been no need for that many updates, right? Why couldn’t Microsoft get it right the first time?
The reality? All modern operating systems used as mainstream business and consumer platforms are “works in progress” and require frequent updates to fix bugs and resolve security issues (and occasionally to add features). Many of those bugs and security issues don’t surface until the code gets deployed widely, and even then it sometimes takes detective work to figure out where the actual problem is. Presumably, the big issues get worked out within a few months, and the pace of updates drops off (but not to zero).
I thought about this over the weekend when I opened up a Hyper-V virtual machine running Ubuntu Linux 8.04. This was a plain-vanilla install of Ubuntu, with no additional software except what is included with the downloaded distro.
I had last used this VM 51 days earlier, at which point the OS release was about a month old. At that time, it was completely current with patches and updates, and I hadn’t reopened it since. (A side note: My Ubuntu and OpenSUSE 11 installations on this Hyper-V server were exceptionally easy and performance is excellent. I’ll be migrating my Fedora installation from Virtual PC 2007 to Hyper-V and adding an OpenBSD machine on this platform as well.)
I expected that I would have to install a few updates. But I was surprised to see how many.
When the system finished resuming from its saved state and landed at the desktop, I clicked the Update button and was greeted with this dialog box: