Thursday, May 21, 2015

Windows 10, A Mandatory update?

So if you're reading this there's a good chance you've already read my rant about Microsoft's clandestine little plan to shove Windows 10 down your throat whether you want it or not. 

It came in the form of an "Important" patch (KB3035583) with a fairly innocuous description that gives no indication of its true intent.

"Update enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications..."

Now some of you out there think I'm making much ado about nothing.  I'm told, " People want it, it's no big deal. "

Hey, I want it too but when I get a patch that that tries to automatically install itself and gives no indication as to its true intent, I get suspicious.

Maybe I've just been around this business too long but if there's anything I've learned in 20+ years of being a server jockey it's that you never take anything Microsoft says on face value.

It's a company that's built their business on ambiguity and misdirection.

I've said for years that Microsoft wants your toaster and with Windows 10 they may finally get it. 

That's fine, so long as you know what you're buying into and right now we most undeniably don't.

Which is why I have a new rant directed simultaneously at Microsoft and a certain Windows podcast produced Weekly on a network named after a gentrified term for a moron (TWIT).

This week said podcast (Windows Weekly) was primarily focused on the impending release of Windows 10.  In it we found that Microsoft had for the most part reiterated the obvious and essentially told us nothing new.


We found out that whether you're a business customer or a lowly consumer, Windows 10 was going to update itself whether you liked it or not.

With Windows 10 Microsoft seeks to put the days of a la' carte updates behind them.  Meaning if Microsoft wants to force a nag screen onto your desktop to promote the latest version of Office or Skype, you are, in the words of Mary Jo Foley, "Going to take it and like it.

Now I've noticed that Skype keeps showing up as an "Important" update over the past 3 months on all my Windows 7 machines. 

Thing is, I only use Skype on one of them and then it's very sparingly.  I don't like Skype, I don't like its constant nagging and I sure as hell don't like Microsoft goading me into installing it when I don't want it!

With Microsoft's new update directives, however, Skype would be considered a new "feature."

That goes for enterprise customers too by the way.  It's just like it sounds guys.  Microsoft has seen fit to take the burden of desktop management off your hands.  I wonder if they'll take the support calls too...

You enterprise guys do get some reprieve, however.  You can choose to "delay" updates for short period of time but if you don't allow those "feature updates" to deploy you run the risk of losing security updates for your entire business.

In their grand plan, to paraphrase Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is seeking to eliminate third party desktop management and essentially control the desktop build regardless of the needs of your enterprise.

Like Manage Engine instead of System Management Server?  Too bad, it's all or nothing baby...

If you're not quite an "Enterprise" customer then Microsoft lumps you in with all those other "consumers"  Meaning you don't get the option to delay your updates.  No a la' carte either.

It also means that if Microsoft happens to roll out an update that blue screens half the Windows PC's on the planet you have no recourse. 

I'm thinking there's going to be a whole lot of business continuation insurance policies sold in the next year.

Am I blowing things out of proportion?  I don't think so for two reasons. 

    1. It's happened before.  Actually it's a fairly regular occurrence but the smart IT pro knows better than to just blindly allow updates to install without at least reviewing the descriptions.  That option disappears for consumer versions of Windows 10 (and largely for Enterprise as well)                                                            
    2. This could be disastrous for small businesses who rely on applications that may not be 100% compatible with a given update.  I don't want to hear about how stupid people keep using old software either.  It's not always their choice and it shouldn't be Microsoft's either.

Mary Jo Foley attempted to explain the new update strategy by claiming that some security updates could be dependent on other non-security updates.  Potentially causing issues if the current update model was allowed to continue.

This is where my rant about Windows Weekly starts...

By what stretch of the imagination should a SECURITY  update ever be tied to a FEATURE update?  By their very nature security updates are meant to address an existing security vulnerability not support new features or deal with compatibility issues. 

That's why even Microsoft classifies them.   You see, it's done that way because all those silly IT managers have this bad habit of wanting to know what the hell an update is going to do to their user base BEFORE it gets deployed. 

It's an example of Microsoft marketing speak.  It comes from the same people who describe an update that adds a  nag screen and background downloader as "additional update capabilities."

I have to wonder what color the sky is in a tech journalist's world...

It is this fundamental disconnect with the way that IT works that's put me at odds with tech journalists like Paul Thurrott (who still thinks Windows Vista was ok) and Mary Jo Foley.

For god's sake, the woman covers enterprise computing!  Is she just reading the sales brochures??  How could she not understand that taking away control of update deployments from IT departments is a VERY real problem.

Look, I get it.

Until recently, Thurrott and Foley were on the outs with Microsoft.  A condition that only recently changed around the time of Satjay Nadella taking the helm.

Since then I've noticed a far less critical point of view on Windows Weekly.  It's understandable if they don't want to jeopardize their newfound access but really now.

If you can't be objective then don't cover the topic.  That's what good journalists do.  Further, I don't want to hear anybody's ruminations on how enterprise IT works who's never had to do it for a living.  Report what you find but keep your admonitions to yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I believe Windows 10 will be a better Windows OS but to ignore the price it's going to exact is just naive. 

Ignore me if you want, just don't come crying if Microsoft decides that your 5000 seat enterprise should be using Lync for all its messaging some sad Monday morning.

Eyes open kids...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

KB3035583 and Windows 10, why you shouldn't install it

No, No, No a thousand times NO!

They're at it again...

In case you didn't notice, an "Important" patch (KB3035583) showed up today or should I say showed up again.  Originally hidden in a batch of updates last April, Microsoft was planning on installing "nag screens" on every copy of Windows from version 7 and above to promote the upcoming release of Windows 10.  Nag screens are bad enough but some clever engineer discovered there was more than just the suggestion to upgrade.   

Of course the description of KB3035583 is dripping with ambiguity meaning most people will just blithely install this latest "important" update without a thought.  

That's a bad thing...

The patch includes not only a series of marketing nag screens but code to install Windows 10 as well.  That's a problem due to the fact that by default many Windows PC's are set to automatically install updates deemed "important" of which KB3035583 is one.  Reportedly, Windows 10 will be distributed similar to the 2014 Windows 8.1 update meaning unless you turn off automatic updates, the upgrade could begin without your knowledge.

But this is all just supposition right? Surely nothing can go wrong with a description like...

" This update enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user..."

It's wise practice to question what Microsoft deems "important" and what exactly is meant by "additional capabilities"  especially when those capabilities have the potential to become a pain in the posterior.

Which is why I'm disappointed.  I had hoped that the "New" Microsoft under Nadella would have done away with Ballmer era subterfuge.  Surely the days of clandestine updates that killed off email attachments and upgrade nag screens were over or so I thought.

This latest update lays the foundation for the upcoming Windows 10 rollout.  Yes this latest and reportedly last version of Windows may finally cure the evils of its predecessor but there are still far more questions than answers. 

Questions like, is Windows 10 really free or am I going to get a bill for it in a year.  If I don't want to upgrade immediately what will the "retail" versions cost?  Worse, what happens if I have to reinstall the operating system when it inevitably blows up after the "free" period expires.

For now I suggest that you hide this update.  It's not Microsoft's decision whether or not you upgrade to Windows 10 and you sure as hell don't need to conform to their timeline.

For the next few months keep a close eye on those "Important" Windows updates and if KB3035583 is already installed, remove it.