Windows 7 Feature Request: Unified Application Updates

I’m sick of the way software updates are handled in Windows, and I want a new unified application update center in Windows 7 to solve the problem. Apparently Microsoft is asking Windows 7 beta participants questions related to “a single place for finding and managing updates on my PC.” The survey seems to go beyond updating however, and covers installing, uninstalling, configuring, and even discovering new applications. I think they should keep it simple – make updating applications easy.

The problem today is that every new application ships with its own update mechanism, if it has the ability at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the Adobe Updater to screw off because it has started automatically downloading 500 MBs worth of updates in the background. At least Logitech asks me before it starts using my bandwidth. Why is it bad for each application to have its own updater?

  • Instead of one OS component running to perform updates, dozens of little apps or background processes may be running to support the various applications you have installed. Each one takes resources.
  • Every time I want to configure an updater, I have to start from scratch because they all have different interfaces and options. This wastes my time.
  • Related to the previous point, if I want to see if my applications are up-to-date, I have to check each one individually! Again, this wastes my time.

I’m not sure exactly how Microsoft would go about implementing this (do Adobe servers push notifications to Microsoft servers?) but I think it should be like Windows Update on steroids. Here’s what I want:

  • The ability to see all of my applications and whether or not they are up-to-date.
  • The ability to define a schedule for downloading and installing updates, preferably on a per-application basis.
  • The ability to see a complete history of application updates.
  • The ability to easily suspend all updating temporarily.
  • Options for notifications. I want to be notified about some application updates, and others I never want to hear about.
  • The ability to have a restore point set before each update.

I think having unified application updates would drastically improve the user experience on Windows. It would reduce user frustration and improve system performance and security. The survey is definitely encouraging – I hope this becomes a reality!

Just use OpenDNS

warning! Unless you frequent tech publications on the web, you’re probably not aware that a critical flaw in many DNS system implementations was found recently (DNS is what translates into an IP address – learn more at Wikipedia). On July 7th, news of the design flaw that researcher Dan Kaminsky discovered started to spread. The next day, many vendors (including Microsoft, which hosted the press conference) participated in a coordinated release of patches. A few days ago the first exploit code started to appear, making it even more critical that DNS systems are patched soon.

As of today, many major ISPs are not patched and remain vulnerable. You can see if your ISP is vulnerable by visiting Kaminsky’s site and clicking the “Check My DNS” button on the right side.

Or, you can just switch your DNS servers to OpenDNS and be done with it. I came across OpenDNS on the day it launched two years ago, and have used them on some machines ever since. Turns out that OpenDNS is one of the few that were unaffected by this flaw:

I’m very proud to announce that we are one of the only DNS vendor / service providers that was not vulnerable when this issue was first discovered by Dan. During Dan’s testing he confirmed (and we later confirmed) that our DNS implementation is not susceptible to the attack that was discovered. In other words, if you used OpenDNS then you were already protected long before this attack was even discovered.

Switching your DNS settings to OpenDNS is really simple and takes about two minutes. To get started, just visit and follow the instructions. Or if you know what you’re doing, then the nameservers you want are and

As always, make sure you have installed all of the latest patches for your computer (that would be Automatic Updates for Windows users).

Apple Software Update delivers Safari by default

apple safari For years, software manufacturers have been bundling applications together. Chances are if you download an instant messaging client from Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo, you’ll also be asked to install their toolbar and search engine. I would say that such behavior has come to be expected when you download something new. Including optional packages in updates however, is not something that is done regularly. Microsoft doesn’t include new applications in automatic updates, for instance. You can imagine the uproar there would be if they did – it was bad enough when they included IE7 (an update to existing software).

Apple recently started doing this with its Software Update service. Instead of including just updates for iTunes, the service now includes Safari by default. Mozilla CEO John Lilly explains:

Anyone who uses iTunes on Windows has Apple Software Update installed on their machines, which does just what I’ve described above: it checks for new patches available for Apple-produced software on your Windows machine, alerts the user to the availability, and allows updates to be installed. That’s great — wonderful, in fact. Makes everyone more likely to have current, patched versions of Apple’s software, and makes everyone safer.

The problem here is that it lists Safari for getting an update — and has the “Install” box checked by default — even if you haven’t ever installed Safari on your PC.

Lilly points out that this is wrong, because it “means that an update isn’t just an update” and that it “undermines the safety of users on the web”. I have to agree with him.

Tom Krazit at CNET says this isn’t a big issue:

If you don’t want Safari, don’t click “install.”

Normally I’d say he makes a good point, but this is different. Apple hasn’t made Safari an opt-in choice for users, they’ve checked it by default. Most users will just click install, meaning they’ll get Safari too.

Not cool, Apple.

Read: CNET, John Lilly

Microsoft releases a hotfix for Outlook 2007

Post ImageAll my posting about Outlook 2007 has come in handy! On Saturday, Kevin sent me this link, and today Justice sent me this one. Both point to a hotfix from Microsoft for Outlook 2007:

This update fixes a problem in which a calendar item that is marked as private is opened if it is found by using the Search Desktop feature. The update also fixes performance issues that occur when you work with items in a large .pst file or .ost file.

I have installed it on both my main computers, but haven’t really had a chance to test it yet. This thread at looks positive though. Here is the KB article, and the download page. Enjoy!

Read: Download Hotfix

Xbox 360 Dashboard Update

Post ImageMake sure you’ve got your 360 turned on tomorrow fellow Xboxers, because there’s a big update on the way. Here are some of the most interesting new features (via Engadget):

  • Xbox 360™ HD DVD Player support.
  • Set up automatic downloads of newly released Xbox Live Arcade trial games. (I am such an Arcade junkie…)
  • Support for upcoming release of XNA Game Studio Express. (w00t for developers!)
  • Stream music, pictures and video from a Zune device.

There’s a ton of other stuff coming too. Check out the full list of features here. The update will be available starting tomorrow morning.

Read: Xbox News