The Squeaky Wheel of Windows 10 Redux

This past Wednesday, I wrote a quick post about an issue with a Windows 10 update removing user software. I kept it fairly formal in the hopes of making it understandable. This post however will be my own less formal thoughts on the matter.

In a few words, it has me worried.

Don’t get me wrong, I see a lot of potential in Windows 10 and Microsoft has done some praiseworthy things with it. Even so, there is enough things about it that have me worried that I have not put it on my own systems. The biggest one of these is Microsoft’s handling of updates as it makes me worry about how Microsoft is starting to view its user and customers.

One of the biggest things removed from Windows 10 that has received (in my opinion) too little media attention is the ability to disable automatic updates or disallow specific updates. Microsoft claims this is to make users safer by making sure they get security updates. To me, this is trading one known danger for another potentially more insidious one.

The most obvious problem with not being able to say no to an update is that mistakes happen. Updates are ultimately just lines of code like anything else in a computer and can have errors in them that cause problems. In previous versions of Windows the solution was to simply uninstall and disallow the update in question until Microsoft could fix the issue. This is no longer an option with consumer versions of Windows 10 as even if you uninstall and update, Windows will just re download and install it.

It’s not a small problem either. Since Windows 10’s release in July 2015, there has been no shortage of updates causing problems.  To name a few:

  • KB 3132372 broke Skype, the HP solutions center, and the ability to print with HP printers manufactured prior to 2011.
  • KB 3074681 would sometimes cause Windows Explorer to crash
  • KB 3097877 would cause outlook to crash when loading image heavy emails.

Those are just a few of the mistakes, to say nothing of Microsoft’s recent update removing certain programs without user notification or consent, which was presumably very much on purpose. Why presumably? Because Microsoft has stopped providing patch notes with each update instead bundling them into “cumulative updates”, which makes it hard to know what the actual intent of a patch is beyond observation based inference.

It’s this paternalistic “We know what’s best” approach that has me worried. It’s rarely a good sign when a company feels as though it can shove things down its customer’s throats with impunity or when it tries to hide previously innocuous information.   I’m worried about what this may herald.   Here’s where I don my tinfoil hat.

Perhaps Microsoft has stopped considering us “customers” at all, and is considering pushing advertisements to people’s desktops.   In a sense they already have with the “recommended apps” line on the new start menu (which thankfully you can still disable… for now).

Perhaps they plan on selling analytics data to advertisers. It would explain why the default privacy settings send as much data to Microsoft as they do, and why even with everything set to full privacy some telemetric data (which Microsoft has remained vague on the purpose of) is still sent back to them.

To me, a computer should serve its users interests above and to the exclusion of all else. The idea that Microsoft seems to think otherwise or refuses to see how these things might not be in their users interests worries me greatly.