Updating Windows

Attention: this is a rather technical and geeky narrative of my last interaction with Windows. If you don’t find that exciting feel free to skip it :-).

I need to run a program that only runs on Windows, so I install Windows XP on a virtual machine. (No need to Vista or 7 and no license for that either) I let it upgrade via the windows update thingie because security upgrades are good, right?

Oh my, there are so many ways why I want to run away from that machine right away (perhaps and hopefully things are smoother on Windows 7).

I start the "Windows update" through the control panel which opens Internet Explorer 6 with the URL http://update.microsoft.com which redirects to http://www.update.microsoft.com/windowsupdate/v6/default.aspx?ln=en-us
ARRG? That Url looks scarier than what mosts Nigerians send me. Microsoft I don’t care what you do internally, but if you must update my operating system in a horribly insecure webbrowser use at least URL rewriting to keep my URL simple. That looks geekier and more ameateurish than what all Linux communists, err, hobbyists ever produced (cough cough).

It downloads a few updates and after a reboot downloads a few more and after a reboot I open it again. It "Checks for available updates" about 20 minutes during which a small shield appears in my systray icon that tells me after 20 minutes "Downloading updates 5%". 5% of what? The webpage is still checking for available updates and what the heck has it done in these 20 minutes on an insanely fast Internetconnection. Playing Minesweeper?

After 20 Minutes I am presented with 76 critical high priority updates representing a download of 300-something MB (which on my linux box takes feeled 5 minutes to download). While it starts downloading update "1 of 76" in a dialog box, the shield at the bottom as already downloaded "Updates 10%"? Huh? There does not seem to be a possibility to get further information from that shield thingie. Those Windows high priority updates trickle in at a rate of perhaps 1 every 10 minutes now, again on an insanely fast University Internet connection. Where is the update.windows.com server hosted, on a server in Steve Ballmers closet? And why do I connect to http:// and not https:// all the time for critical updates, when every phishing 101 tutorial tells me not to trust these links. And that Windows update "application" looks very much like a regular webpage that could easily be spoofed with a faked DNS entry, man-in-the-middle attacks or what else. I assume Windows does check for the authenticity of downloaded packages, I really hope it does.

Funny, that dialog box has a progress bar that goes from 0 to 100 with "preparing for download" (preparing for download takes about 3 minutes, so it must be pretty exhausting) and often it immediately shows "verifying download". At other times, no preparation seems necessary and it just gets stuck "Downloading". All in all the progress bar flashes forth and back, being essentially useless. Apple got that one right.

After 3 hours of downloading it got 66% of my downloads, but hey, I need to leave office really soon now and I hit cancel. After another 20 minutes, the dialog box is still there but I really need to head home now, so I pull the plug. The next day it restarts with 66% download (and on all subsequent attempts as well), and it stays at 66%… for hours and hours. I tried 3 days and one day I gave it 6 hours in a row. "Downloading 66%". At that point I kill my virtual image and start afresh (fresh installs in a virtual images are only a file copy, luckily.)

A fresh install has been downloading 8 out of 76 updates successfully now (after about 1 hour download time) and I’ll keep you posted if it ever finishes. The app I need, has not yet been installed as it requires some updated Windows component. UUURG.

Admittedly, Win XP is obsolete and Win7 is presumably way…way better.