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September 2015The monthly newsletter by Felgall Pty Ltd

My Word

Should You Update?

If you are the sort of person who must always have the latest and (supposedly) greatest of everything then stop reading now as this article is not for you. For everyone else this article is going to consider whether or not you should upgrade when a new version of the software you are using on your computer is released.

Note that this discussion is not about whether or not you should install software patches. Patches are provided either to patch a security hole in the software or to fix something that a prior patch broke. As such you should always install patches as they are made available or your software will be vulnerable to attack.

The big question is whether or not to upgrade when the upgrade is more than just a patch. It is here that you have a situation where you actually can choose whether or not to upgrade and also whether to upgrade early or late.

One of the biggest factors in making a decision about upgrading is whether or not the supplier is charging for the upgrade. If you have to pay for the upgrade then you will want reasons for upgrading that will make it worth paying for what the upgrade costs. The new version will either need to introduce new features that you have been waiting for and actually need or you need a new copy of the software anyway and may as well purchase the latest version (possibly because the version you already have is no longer available to buy). As you actually have to hand over some money you are not going to do so unless you have a good reason to do so.

Since operating systems usually cost money and are also not the easiest of software to install most people do not upgrade the operating system they have on a working computer - they wait until they upgrade to a new computer and then generally buy all new software already installed for them by the store they bought the computer from. This is the way in which most people upgrade to the latest version of the software they have to pay for.

There are some types of software that you always need to keep up to date and where the supplier usually wants to charge for the software. Security software is usually sold using a subscription model where you pay for its use as a regular subscription and you then get all the upgrades installed automatically as they become available. If the security software providers didn't disable their software completely when you don't renew your subscription then many people would be tempted to simply continue with the last version they had in the mistaken believe that it actually was still protecting their computer.

Unfortunately because it provides a regular income, other software providers are also attempting to swap to a subscription model. Where an office suite that you can buy a perpetual licence for does everything that you want it to do then why would you want to upgrade to a version where you have to regularly renew the licence? The subscription model in this case provides two big benefits to the software provider at a cost to those who are paying for the subscription. It means that they have a more regular income and it reduces the number of versions they need to provide security patches for since everyone on the subscription can be automatically updated to the latest version all the time.

When the software upgrade is free it makes it far easier for people to decide to upgrade and far more likely that they will do so sooner rather than later. This is part of the logic that Microsoft is applying in offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade for the first 12 months. People are far more likely to upgrade their operating system if the upgrade is free. They are more likely to upgrade sooner rather than putting it off until later when the free offer is time limited.

Ideally the decision of whether to install a free update such as Windows 10 should come down to whether it can do everything for you that your current operating system can do. Obviously both Windows 7 and Windows 8 will most likely reach the end of their support life long before Windows 10 does and so the opportunity to update free gives you the benefit of extended support. If everything else is equivalent then that benefit alone would make it worth applying the update while it is free. Of course the new operating system does do some things a bit differently than the prior operating system does so there will be a cost in terms of learning how to use the new software but as the same system can be run across a range of device types there is the opportunity to minimise the learning cost by using the same operating system across all your mobile devices as well (which is again what Microsoft hope will happen). Of course if you prefer to stick with your existing android or apple operating system on those devices then that learning cost becomes much higher and the update less attractive.

Now that is the ideal situation with the update running perfectly and everything that worked before the update working at least as well after the update. Of course this is not the case as Windows 10 like with any new software contains bugs that result in things not working that were working fine before you updated. This definitely makes updating far less attractive. Just as a couple of examples relating specifically to Windows 10 - the new Edge browser that is set as your new default browser unless you specifically change it contains a faulty PDF reader that is only able to read some PDFs, also the update does not automatically update the security software you are using to a version compatible with the new operating system. Flaws such as these mean that delaying the application of the update until toward the end of the free period in the hope that these problems will be fixed by then becomes more attractive.

My first attempt at updating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was a complete disaster. The update process itself ran okay except for deleting virtual PC but what I got when the update finished was almost unusable. For some reason I have not been able to explain, the Windows 10 desktop, task bar and start button refused to load other than in safe mode (where I could reset the screen resolution back to the default for my screen. Outside of safe mode the only way to run anything was to start up the task manager and run it from there. Also the opinion provided for reverting back within the first month didn't work as the computer just went into an infinite loop of rebooting. When something like this happens it is enough to put some people off ever wanting to update any of their software ever again. Fortunately I was running the test using a dual boot system so I could get out of the infinite loop simply by deleting the Windows 10 partition and switching back to the copy of Windows 7 that I had not tried to convert but few people would attempt the update this way. Because something like this can happen to anyone I recommend that you definitely take a complete backup of your entire system using decent backup software before attempting an update such as Windows 10. Of course this software will again cost money perhaps discouraging you from updating at all.

Of course everything I have said about Windows 10 also applies to any other software on your computer (although the other software is far less likely to make the computer completely unusable if something goes wrong). You can update sooner and risk bugs in the software giving you problems. You can update later when the bugs are fixed. You can put off updating completely until you need a new computer. The decision is yours.

On Site

A variety of pages this month including a couple more about payment processors as mentioned last month. Turned out I couldn't use the payment processor the way I wanted to even though it was technically possible. I am still trying to get a working Windows 10 system so there might be more about that in coming weeks. One of my scripts got updated as a direct result of user feedback. If you want to use one of my JavaScripts but it doesn't quite do what you want pleas let me know as I can likely fix it so that it does.

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