back to article Patch Management: Should it even exist?

From the outside in, it’s easy to question the need for software patching. “Surely,” some might ask, “If software was written properly we wouldn’t need the IT department to spend time patching it?” The even more cynical might suggest that the whole thing is a money-making ruse – without the need for patching, we wouldn't have …


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  1. Rob 101

    Dead link!

    Either Shavlik have not been supporting the fully free one for some time or have been scared into removing it for fear of traffic overload due to the article. In any event it is no longer there and there seems no route to it from the main website.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No it shouldn't

    I realise this is probably massively unfair of me to say as I'm not a developer, but: software is crap. Really. I think it's a product of capitalism, products are rushed out to compete in the market

    A good example is the current trend towards virtualised desktops and applications. We're moving towards this environment at my workplace, and it sometimes boggles my mind. I dont' mean that there's anything wrong with the technology. Virtualisation has always impressed me. I can run three OSes at the same time on my desktop PC? Cool! It is the concept though that makes me wonder. I'm running a complete OS and tricking it into thinking it's running on a real PC? Or perhaps I'm running an App and tricking it into thinking it's running on a different sort of system. Either way the only explanation I can come up with is that something somewhere has gone horribly wrong.

    And that thing is software. Why do we need to go through these elaborate routines of virtualising things? Why not just make software that works! I know of course that there are many other reasons for virtualisation: resource efficiency, administrative benefits, the 'Green IT' agenda etc. It just always makes me think that it's just a way of compensating for bad software.

    Windows is a mess. It's such a complex and lumbering beast now that it's no wonder it has so many security updates to plug the holes. I've often thought that a good approach Microsoft could take would be to set up a whole new business unit to design a replacement OS. The problem they have with Windows is having to maintain a measure of compatibility. They can't to anything too drastic to the architecture or no-one will buy it because their apps won't work. Surely though a lesson they've learned from developing Windows7 is that involving the user community while developing is a good thing. The W7 beta programme was successful and generated a lot of interest in the product. I'd propose that they adopt this approach with the aforementioned replacement OS. They could start literally from the ground up, ignoring everything Windows did, and build an OS that works. An OS that can't be broken by third party apps and drivers. An OS that won't need a tonne of extra security software running. Microsoft has the means to do this, and if done correctly and in an open manner sufficient interest could be raised that it will be recognised for the superior product it is, and eventually other companies will rewite their apps to fit it.

    Just my little pipe dream there.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      The problem is...

      I fully agree, look at how we're still lumbered with a massively powerful processor that boots up thinking it's some sort of 8088. :-)

      The problem is, as soon as you'd start to talk about a new OS, you'd have wallies on one side wanting to embrace the 3D hardware, and wallies on the other side telling you to just use Linux. But as Windows grew from a hacky GUI on top of DOS, Ubuntu is a long way down the same road as an OS that actually predates Windows. Both have a long heritage, and both suffer from throwbacks to the past.

      What we need is a system that breaks with convention and addresses the issues that an OS needs to deal with today. I'd begin coding it myself, but while I know the world is crying out for something better... I don't know what.

      Oh well.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        OpenVMS then.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          that did so well the last time around didn't it?

    2. Anonymous Coward


      "Why not just make software that works!"

      Because YOU are not prepared to pay the price for it, that's why. If you and other customers would actually pay the real price for writing and testing software to perfection we could do it. But I dare you - say yes and I'll charge you £50.000 now for delivery of a word processor that's perfect down to the last byte in a year. It'll take me and a couple of mates all that time to get it absolutely, perfectly right for just your computer with the software you have on it now (don't change anything or the money's wasted). Or you can download Open Office and have something that mostly works now, for free, and deal with the patches as the warts become too annoying. Your choice.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Software that works?

      TOPS-10 and -20 were about as close as anything I've ever used, at least in a corporate environment. Spendy, though. And for a reason. IBM mainframe stuff is a close second.

      On topic ... For PCs, I'm happy with Slackware desktops and BSD servers. crond notifies me of updates via email, and I apply patches as I deem appropriate. It has probably averaged out to around 5 minutes a month in maintenance over the last 8 or 10 years. I can live with that.

  3. adrian sietsma

    I blame the Net - no, seriously!

    Back in the day, before bulletin boards (remember them?) and the net, we had to get it right before shipping. Fixing a bug involved not only building a patch, but mailing out a disk to _every_ customer, with a follow-up phone call to explain why and how they had to fix something they had already paid for. Much embarrasment and expense to the s/w developer, and a time-consuming process that we avoided at all costs.

    I still recall my disbelief / disgust when I bought my first app that needed patching from new. Now that we have conned the customer into taking patches for granted, developers/management can rush unfinished product out the door, and let the customer do the final (unpaid) testing.

    Can you imagine MS, or anyone else, mailing out patches (on floppy disks with a 2% chance of failure) to every windows user ?


    1. heyrick Silver badge


      If there were bugs, there were bugs. Fixes, getting stuff right, could be pushed off to version 2. Or was (pre-Microsoft) FoxPro and XYWrite totally bug free? Did you never see a General Protection Failure in Windows 3.x? Did you know you can crash Windows 3.x simply by opening and closing an application lots of times?

      For sure, the Internet has made programmers lazier, because the "update" mechanism exists. But, on the other hand, an update mechanism exists so things that get fixed can often be updated "for free" on my computer, many times the application updating itself, as Thunderbird has just done.

      Oh, and don't forget, pre-Internet, the patch process was often covered as an "update" which frequently included additional functionality. This is important, as then the companies could get away with charging for the update. Mailing floppies to everybody? Hell no, you mail your own with an SAE and maybe a couple of small Postal Orders...

  4. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    What I really want...

    Is a patch system that patches blogs so they make sense.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Dr Patrick J R Harkin

      Use your wetware ... ignore blogs. Works for me.

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