Windows, Bugs and Updates

While having breakfast at home this morning I noticed that my laptop was asking for a restart to complete Windows update. Since this machine was set up by my employer’s IT services, it has BitLocker installed which means I have to be present to type in a PIN every time it restarts. It is therefore not possible to schedule updates overnight, as a sensible system would allow. In fact I can’t adjust very much at all about the update policy. All of this explanation is meant as an excuse for why I made the rookie error of restarting it before going to work.

Three restarts later, at 10am, I finally decided to go into work. I should have waited until then before starting the updates because my desktop machine works on Linux and is immune from Windows update nonsense so I would have been able to get on with other stuff while my laptop was starting and restarting.

Anyway, when I did arrive in the office, the laptop wanted to do yet another restart. That’s four altogether (so far); the latest one having taken much longer than the others. Had I been at home and relying on my laptop I would have wasted an entire morning.

I did think that perhaps the updates manager on my laptop had gone berserk and this plethora of starts and restarts was some kind of bug. It turns out though that it wasn’t: since yesterday, Microsoft has been flooding the internet with huge updates and patches of various kinds, mainly to fix “vulnerabilities” of various kinds. There’s been quite a lot of comment on social media about this from people (including myself) fed up with the state of their computers.

One of the vulnerabilities I know about concerns the print spool Windows er, which apparently was in a state that allowed it to be easily hacked. The solution chosen by my employer’s IT Services team was to disable all printing by shutting down the print spooler on University machines. After sending an inquiry to the system support people they recommended that if I wanted to print something I should manually restart the spooler, print the document, then manually terminate the spooler again. If I wanted to print several documents I should do this for each one…

Yeah, right.

I have no idea how many person-hours are being wasted by these vulnerabilities nor how much bandwidth is being used up worldwide to fix these Windows bugs. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible for organizations to sue Microsoft for lost productivity…

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