Auto updaters are great. They keep Windows secure, they save me having to manually install each time with Firefox, they're completely transparent with Chrome and on Linux, the whole system's updates are controlled through the one interface. Some are less ideal. Paint.NET prompts you to update on startup, usually when you've just turned it on for a quick edit (and you can't use it while it downloads the updates - apparently this is fixed in the newest version). It's still better than nothing however.
There are one class of updates that aren't quite so great however. These are the ones that decide they need to sit in your system, all running simultaneously. And when there is an update? It's so important that they need to pop up a window to alert you of this, even if you have no intention of going near said application for a week. Or maybe they are like Apple's. An update to iTunes includes Safari by default. Why?
The other day, I was two hours into a Supreme Commander LAN party. While I was about to start the final attack, what happens? The game minimizes, and a message pops up. New update for Adobe Reader. Last time I opened a PDF was a week ago (against my will). On my system, once you minimize any of these games:
- Supreme Commander
- Call of Duty 5
- Team Fortress 2
- Unreal Tournament III
They aren't coming back up again. Say goodbye to your progress if there isn't a recent save. I tried in vain to start the game again. Click the taskbar entry. Up pops another Window:
"Supreme Commander Application has stopped responding"
It closes. I end up disconnected from the LAN game. Up pops to the nearly defeated player "Macha has been defeated". All because some stupid cruddy app to open files created by those too lazy to make an actual web page decided it needed to update itself right now. (Yes, I am aware Adobe Reader and PDFs are useful to some people in some situations. I am not one of them).
While the Java updater was not the guilty culprit this time, it has been at other times, with behavior similar to that of Adobe's updater.
That is one clear advantage to console gaming. The nearest equivalent is the 360's forced update or be signed out of xbox live being applied to single player games as well, and that's not nearly as bad.
I can remove these applications from startup of course, but somehow they seem to always make their way back there.