Sep 12

Let’s face it, no one can be trusted to update our computers

The problem with automatic updates is mostly known in Windows based systems when updates go bad and cause troubles, that can go from ad nauseam offerings of the same updates, no matter how many times you try to install them, to having your computer rendered unbootable.

Software manufacturers, though, seem to love them. Google is nice enough to install about 32723 versions of Google Update, purportedly to update whatever Google software you were not so wise to install. For some time now, Google Chrome started updating itself automatically, which obviously brings some unexpected surprises, at times. I have had to cleanup after Google’s updates, that rendered Chrome unusable, at least twice.

The recent problematic newcomer to the automatic update troublemakers list is Cubby. I must say I like Cubby. It allows me to keep my work files synchronized between my computers without me having to worry about it. It just works. Additionally, it keeps a copy of the files on Cubby’s servers, meaning I have a copy of my most valuable files off premises. This is a safety measure that anyone that cares about its files should implement.

Liking Cubby does not meant that I like the fact that cubby updates itself automatically because, well, things can go wrong. Today things went badly wrong with Cubby. Both my computers showed Cubby restarting itself early in the morning and a simple check allowed me to see, to my despair, that all my cubbies (all the folders that I use Cubby to keep synchronized) were syncing. They have been syncing all day (50 GB of files in each computer), taking 25% of my CPU time and wasting valuable bandwidth, while some files that actually needed immediate syncing, are just queued due to the huge overload of Cubby checking and syncing every single file.

The Cubby episode today closed the deal for me. I no longer want software that updates itself automatically. If Cubby does not provide an option to disable automatic updates, I will not renew Cubby, when my subscription is up for renewal next December. My time is too precious to be left to the mercy of any software manufacturer’s poor testing practices. I know software can have issues, but thorough testing is supposed to avoid scenarios such as the one I experienced today.

No one seems to be deserving confidence when providing automatic updates to your software. At the very least, you should be offered the option to accept an update and provided with the choice to go back to a working version, when the latest update fails, usually miserably. It’s just not acceptable that you have to waste precious time because someone who provides you with software, cannot test it properly.

I have Windows Update set not to install updates automatically. This allows me to backup before updating and to update only when I have the time to do it. I will get SysInternals autoruns and disable GoogleUpdate. As to Cubby, well, it’s decided, either the option to avoid automatic updates is added, or Cubby will be gone from my systems in December.