Storms on the Computer Horizon

Some of you won’t care about this, so you can skip the computer chatter.

Those of us who provide technical support for Windows users have been watching this for a long time. Microsoft steadily seizes more and more control from the user as the price for offering their near-monopoly OS. Among the many really ogreish policies that came out with Win10 was that the vast majority of users have zero control over the update process. It’s totally binary: You either accept the black box or you don’t get any security fixes.

Up to that point, with every version of Windows starting somewhere late in the life of Windows 95, technicians with the know-how would provide an alternate system of guidance of what you should update and what fixes weren’t really useful. Eventually they began playing middle-man for the fixes themselves, providing the recommended updates from their own servers, after pulling them directly from Microsoft. A whole parallel ecosystem developed, with several different projects at one time. But Microsoft nixed that second-hand provision, requiring that all fixes be downloaded directly from them. Recently, it’s down to two projects that matter for much: Autopatcher and Windows Offline Update.

You have to invest time reading their documentation to understand how their different projects work as the price for keeping some measure of control in your hands. But with Win10, that has slipped away completely. These projects simply cannot offer any advantage in terms of control; it’s just a convenient way to pull down the updates on one computer, have them staged on something like a jump drive, and take them to another system with no Internet connection. But the business of guiding you to dropping questionable “fixes” has mostly gone away.

So now comes news that, as of October this year, that same system will be applied backwards to Win7 and Win8. From that time forward, Microsoft will begin offering all updates as a single cumulative black box, including scooping up all the previous updates you might have refused. There will be a decreasing distinction between security updates and just whatever else Microsoft wants you to have.

I’m confident they cannot pull this off without some third party at least trying to peel back the layers of bundling to see if this system can’t be circumvented. There is a growing vested interest in circumvention of these Borg-like efforts to make decisions for us. Granted, I run Win7 on my “newish” laptop right now because it seems Linux developers haven’t quite got the drivers for it. Too many elements of the hardware don’t work with Linux that do work just fine under Windows. Yes, some things are broken under Windows, too, but the trade-off favors Windows right now. I’m not nervous about this change just yet. I’m waiting to see if I care when the time comes.

In two months an awful lot can happen.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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