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back to article Every single Internet Explorer at risk of drive-by hacks until Patch Tuesday

Microsoft has lined up a bumper Patch Tuesday this month to snap shut a backbreaking 57 security vulnerabilities in its products. Five of the 12 software updates addressing the gaping holes will tackle critical flaws that allow miscreants to execute code remotely on vulnerable systems. In all, the soon-to-be-patched …

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Linux

Re: Move along linux users

But I just....can't...look...away....

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Stop

Re: Move along linux users

But, some of us actually enjoy watching those WindblowZE (l)users suffer when their chosen platform has another security hole revealed. I almost consider it sport.

Case in point, a receptionist at one of my doctor's office did some web browsing with Internet ExploDer, and got nailed with a 'drive-by'. She may have been less likely to have been 'pwned' if she was using Firefox. For certain, she would NOT have been had if she was browsing the net with Linux.

I have said this before, and it bears repeating, WindblowZE is like a billboard compared to Linux which is more like a STOP sign. If you are trying to hit a target, which one would be easier to hit, the bill board, or the stop sign.

I rest my case. On the sole count of inadequately protecting its users from the nasties, Windows is GUILTY AS CHARGED!

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Note to Microsoft

For Windows 9, make the browser (which won't be called Internet Explorer no doubt) and application and not parasitically linked to the operating system, like it should have been since the end of Windows 98 a few years ago. Give the users a real choice, that is if you opt to not have it, none of its elements remain even in the registry.

Whereas open source browsers do have security issues, I would contend they are sorted out more efficiently ie quicker. Just remember that IE is just a piece of free bundled software with support from its vendor related to what you paid for it.

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Re: Note to Microsoft

I should start off by saying I completely agree with you.

However, MS have chosen to render some stuff as HTML/XML etc even for "non internet" stuff, so they've got the engine down in the OS as it is, even if you don't use IE as a browser. So while I advocate the complete and utter removal of IE as well, I can - almost - sympathise with MS for not removing it completely for technical reasons.

However, given the MS programming base, the complete removal of the IE engine should not be a difficult task, FFS. Afterall, they built in in there didn't they, so in classic Haynes process "Removal is the reverse of installation" should be a simple procedure.

"But that will leave you without any web browser!" some shills may scream...err, yes, that would generally be the idea. When your engine is full of holes, I want it's complete and utter destruction when I remove it ta v. much.

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@Silverburn

"MS have chosen to render some stuff as HTML/XML etc even for "non internet" stuff"

That's just the tip of the iceberg. MSHTML has a published API and squillions of third party apps have depended upon it for at least a decade. Microsoft own use of the library is probably less than 1% of that. MS simply don't have the option of removing it, any more than you could decide to remove the C runtime library from Linux and recode the kernel to use a replacement of your own design.

That's not to let Microsoft off the hook though. Having decided to offer a standard HTML engine, they have to code it to deal with untrusted content in a secure fashion. At least 99% of HTML is from untrusted sources (web pages), so if the engine isn't utterly paranoid then it isn't fit for purpose.

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Meh

@Eadon Re: Note to Microsoft

"you don't need a whole browser to render the HTML - that's just a library"

But how many gaping security holes in IE have been down to the chrome rather than the engine?

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Re: Note to Microsoft

I'm guessing most of the coders at MS would agree. Unfortunately, the legal eagles won't agree. See, decades ago MS insisted in an anti-trust case that IE wasn't an App, it was a critical part of the OS. And the court bought that fraudulent argument and left them off the anti-trust hook. But now, if they EVER admit it IS an app... Well, let's just say there aren't many things that would bankrupt both MS and Bill Gates, but that's one of them that could.

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Re: MSHTML has a published API

Rewrite the API to call browser functions instead of specific code, then allow the API to point to whatever browser. If you can't reliably write that, you should never have made such a hash of things in the first place.

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Re: MSHTML has a published API

Already been done here http://wiki.winehq.org/MsHtml.

Admittedly not by Microsoft.

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Happy

Re: Note to Microsoft

" Well, let's just say there aren't many things that would bankrupt both MS and Bill Gates, but that's one of them that could."

One can hope.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Silverburn

I'll show my ignorance, but I have to ask, what about MS Server? Didn't they remove a lot of surperfluous stuff, include IE? If they did that for Server whay can't they do it for Desktop?

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Sorry, I had fallen asleep for a while...

...and I was awoken by the news that IE was insecure.

Well, nothing's changed, so I'll go back to sleep.

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DJV
Meh

57 patches?

Wow, this must be the Heinz special soup edition!

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JDX
Gold badge

A question

MS manage to patch the OS, IE, Office and other software using one mechanism, which is handy. Every other application I use on Windows seems to have its own update checking mechanism.. and the same appears to be true on OSX (unless you buy through appstore).

How do you (generally) speaking get updates on Linux systems? Does your package manager do it, or do apps monitor themselves or is it all down to the administrator to keep on to of these things?

This is assuming you get OS patches and updates in the same way as Windows/OSX, which seems pretty likely... even Linux has bugs!

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Re: A question

I haven't yet met a distro of Linux that doesn't include a command that will automatically update EVERYTHING to the latest stable version. Even Slackware has slackpkg now (and that was THE FIRST Linux distro ever and is generally regarded as being only slightly behind Debian in terms of using up-to-date software). And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING from firefox to plugins to libraries to kernels to drivers. That's the beauty of aptitude and similar systems - it is literally that easy and if you want, they'll do it on a schedule for you. And it won't trash your OS or make it so you can't revert back easily (Windows Restore you say? Good luck doing that from unbootable computers like I've sometimes struggled to do, and even in the command-line environment of a rescue boot, you still aren't guaranteed to get back where you were).

And I've not YET had a single stable Linux update that broke something I used, even when I have some horrendously complex configurations and interdependencies (I'm sure they did somewhere, but I've never seen one), but I've had Windows Updates disabled on many machines because they would just blue-screen X% of the computers at random and require a rebuild if you just let them apply everything they want.

And, as you point out, Windows doesn't update Firefox and all the other programs and NOR DOES WINDOWS PROVIDE THAT FUNCTIONALITY. If the OS doesn't have a package management paradigm in it, then of course each app will end up bundling its own. But on Ubuntu, say, or Slackware, or Fedora, do you think that Flash installs its own cron job to check updates and bug you like mad if they are 0.0.1 versions out of date? No. Because it provides functionality to do that in a proper, centrally-configured way, and such junk wouldn't be allowed in.

Linux updating, and aptitude especially, is one of the things that Linux gets SO right that it's really hard to argue against it. Hell, I logged onto a 4-year-old netbook today to install a program I'd written for demonstrating at an open day. The program needed SDL and about 10 other libraries installed in order to run and the netbook was running Karmic Koala (which is technically obsolete now). A couple of clicks in the package manager, it ran off and downloaded 100Mb of necessary dependencies and libraries, and then it all "just worked". Those machines were basically bare-metal and it just discovered and installed 100Mb of random software that was necessary, downloaded it (with appropriate permission), installed it all in the right places, and did so in about five minutes.

Yet, on Windows, I still have games that take 20+ minutes to install .NET Framework, DirectX etc. libraries that ALREADY EXIST ON THAT MACHINE, in identical versions, but it just takes that long to check and find out, and usually involves downloading a pseudo-installer that downloads a real installer, that runs an MSI, that manually checks dependencies by trawling through filesystems, then downloads missing parts, and THEN starts all over again for the next bit of software. And, in the end, you still aren't guaranteed that you installed hotfix X needed to make it work properly (just had a piece of large, expensive Windows MIS software that needed a particular Windows hotfix installed, a particular version of NET Framework 1, and a particular version of NET Framework 2, etc. and at no point provided any hint that that was what was missing or where to get it from!).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

@Lee Dowling - I've had two things broken by Linux updates (Centos/Fedora based linuxes)

Arduino development environment was broken by an update to GCC, it took ages for the Arduino guys to persuade the GCC guys that the problem was with their update and they should fix it. It then took a further ages for the fix to make it from unstables to stables to part of the OS. Happy, I was not.

Pound proxy was killed by modifications to some libraries removing functionality that was required by Pound, I don't know if it's working again.

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Megaphone

Re: A question

I just dipped my toes in the Linux water a few months ago (Mint 12 running as a Hyper-V VM)

- Installed NoMachine NX free client to get the full-screen experience. Had to do some config file editing, but that's OK, it taught me some rudiments

- Upgrade to Mint 14 broke it.

- Trawled around for a fix and eventually got one (manually downgrade some component called Cairo)

- Next maintenance update to Mint 14 broke it again.

I kinda like Mint, impressed with the user-friendliness, installation ease, seems like a big step forward from a couple of years back. As for the update-breaks, maybe I was just really really unlucky.....

....but claims that Linux updates just work, and never break anything year on year strike me as "evangelist at work".

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Linux

Linux updates just work?

"....but claims that Linux updates just work, and never break anything year on year strike me as "evangelist at work".

Never assume that updates will ever work, always make a full system backup before upgrading, this applies to any OS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux updates just work?

@dgharmon - I totally agree, and I'd add - don't even bother doing inplace upgrades between versions of any OS, I've had Windows and Linux (Ubuntu) machines break when doing this. The good thing with a clean install is that you demonstrate you know how to migrate a service from one OS install to another, which is more than half way towards a DR type recovery.

I do quite like the MS VSS snaps which allow you to rollback driver installs and OS updates, should you require. (Other snapshots are available)

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@JDX

That is a perfectly good question for any non-Linux user and it is disappointing to see that someone down-voted you for it.

As a general rule, you have two options for installing software on a Linux box:

1) Use the supplied package manager such as aptitude to get it from one of the original repositories, or from one that you have added.

2) Install directly from a file such as the .deb ones used for Debian-based systems (such as Ubuntu).

In the first case you are limited to what is officially offered for your system, but it will automatically handle any updates and their dependencies. You can configure what it will do, and for my own machine I choose to be notified and install manually, for my friends/family I chose to update security stuff automatically.

In the second case you can install ANYTHING and of course that needs the usual (and often missing) sense of what is safe or otherwise to install. Unless said .deb file adds a repository automatically (as Opera do), it is up to you to manage updates.

In general it is a good system, not perfect, but an order of magnitude better than Windows where critical updates such as Adobe stuff can't use MS' own update system and so pollute the machine with updaters, all gobbling resources and giving non-technical users gibberish messages that they either accept blindly (good for malware writers) or ignore (also good for malware writers!).

MS' market place system should avoid that, but has all sorts of dubious side-effects where money and freedom are related (as iOS also has).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @JDX

As a general rule, you have two options for installing software on a Linux box:

There is a middle way between these two extreems.

If the package already exists, but is not yet available at the most up-to-date upstream release level you can (for example with debian packaging) 'apt-get source' and update the upstream component and debian/control + debian/changelog files and build you own .deb package that integrates perfectly with the systems packaging mechanism.

Less trivially, you can build your own from scratch with debhelper and freinds.

Installing raw upstream stuff is just insane ... but thats what VMs are for.

The best thing about Windows Update is Stuxnet's PoC.

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The key's in the name

Berkeley Software Distribution. Had separate ways to update the OS and applications pretty much from the word go, though they have changed over time.

Typical system upgrades might look a bit like this:

1) sign up to the relevant mailing lists, e.g BSD security

2) have a backup strategy and only update when you have to

3) freebsd-update fetch install

Depending upon your environment you can also run this in jail to see whether your system will be adversely affected - this rarely happens with system updates but applications can and so step on each other's toes.

Applications are managed separately from the OS and updates can be run much more frequently:

1) portsnap fetch update

2) portmaster -ad <- this will compile from source but also allow you to create packages for distribution if you have several machines

Separating the OS from applications might explain why applications on BSD are not frozen in lockstep with a version of the OS as they are on RedHat and Linux. Though to be fair that has something to do with the attitude of the package maintainers on Linux systems. BSD's ports are only metafiles which will allow apps to build but you are responsible for them running properly. Nobody's managed to explain to me why this means RedHat still ships with Python 2.4 (or at least it did the last time I was on a RedHat system), a version that has not been maintained by the PSF for over 5 years.

This might explain why BSD systems have notoriously long uptimes.

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Re: Linux updates just work?

Using FreeBSD, I build everything from source. I can easily download the latest STABLE branch, compile the userland and the kernel at 'idle priority', and install them, whilst the machine is live. A simple reboot then reboots the machine into its new OS.

Occasionally you might get some shared library version missing during the install phase, but from install to reboot only takes a few minutes anyway, so I generally get away with it.

Remember when multi core processors were first introduced? All the PR spin went on about how you could look at a website whilst burning a cd (etc.)....

Hello? On an OS with a *proper* scheduling system, this was possible already.

As for updating third party ports, you usually use "port_upgrade" or similar that keeps track of all changes to over 11,000 third party software packages.

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Re: Linux updates just work?

I do quite like the MS VSS snaps which allow you to rollback driver installs and OS updates, should you require.

On Linux this is not necessary, you got one kernel. When a kernel gets updated, the old one is not discarded, so if it appears to be broken reboot to the latest stable kernel.

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Linux

Re: The key's in the name

Nobody's managed to explain to me why this means RedHat still ships with Python 2.4

So why did FreeBSD manage to remain with gcc 4.3.1 (2007) up to now?

As far as the FreeBSD update mechanism is concerned, , it's not that great. Although I did like the "make install" in from option, in my experience, a few times a package might not build. Say, gnome 3.24, open office did not build properly as I remember on 7.1 (by some reason binary pkg OO was not available for x32 version).

This might explain why BSD systems have notoriously long uptimes.

How much notoriously is it longer than Linux Servers? Is this known to yandex and rambler mail, major Russian Internet companies? (BTW, nginx was born while Igor Sysoev worked for rambler) They have recently switched to Debian and Ubuntu, resp. (mail.ru migrated even earlier) , for many reasons, including, package management and updating issues and more In case if either your Russian or googole translate are helpful.

And BTW, who is the main sponsor of FreeBSD? Isn't it that company that invented rectangles with rounded corners?

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Linux

How do you get updates on Linux systems?

> How do you (generally) speaking get updates on Linux systems?..

There's a "Software Updater" app that can be configured to prompt you daily, every two days, weekly or every fortnight. But I find it best to not update a fully working system, until at least version 2.xx comes out. If I do update then I take a full system backup, currently only 7GB ...

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Windows

@JDX

"How do you (generally) speaking get updates on Linux systems?"

People downvoting you for asking questions, doh.

Others have already explained some of the technical aspects; you get them either through the software repositories of the OS (distribution) itself or you start patching manually (whenever you installed something manually).

But here's another very important aspect: generally speaking you're basically installing a new version, not an update perse. It wouldn't be the first time where a program had some specific changes in the way it worked or behaved. Sometimes for the good, but also sometimes for the worst.

The main problem is basically that a lot of people maintain a lot of products and they all apply their own policies. Sure; to some end the same applies to Windows; you have your core OS and several programs you use on top of it. But the core environment will remain the same while still getting updates, and that's what I personally like.

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Devil

Re: The key's in the name

who is the main sponsor of FreeBSD? Isn't it that company that invented rectangles with rounded corners?"

No.Because the BSD licence basically says, "do as you will with the code except claim it as your own creation and credit the author. Companies such as Apple have used fairly large chunks of the code. They've even donated code back to BSD.

So no, I'd not call Apple a sponsor, and defiantly not the main sponsor.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux updates just work?

Well, my experience as a simple user over many years is that it does work. I have mostly used Debian and have regularly clicked on 'System, Administration, Update Manager' to keep the system up to date (well, actually to have an excuse for doing nothing for a couple of minutes). Can't remember any trouble.

Mind you, I also use Win XP a bit and regularly update that (same reason and same result). So keep up the good work of expertly moaning about details, it all improves the user experience for us ignorant plebs.

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Re: The key's in the name

> So why did FreeBSD manage to remain with gcc 4.3.1 (2007) up to now?

The FreeBSD project were not happy with the license change for later versions of gcc ,and did not want to include it in the base distribution. You can still install gcc4.4, 4.6, 4.7, and 4.8 easily enough from the 'ports' system.

FreeBSD 10 will be built by clang instead of gcc.

From here :

FreeBSD and the GPL v3: The GPL v3 explicitly forbids the so-called Tivoisation of code, a loophole in the GPL v2 which enabled hardware restrictions to disallow otherwise legal software modifications by users. Closing this loophole was an unacceptable step for many in the FreeBSD community:

Appliance vendors in particular have the most to lose if the large body of software currently licensed under GPLv2 today migrates to the new license. They will no longer have the freedom to use GPLv3 software and restrict modification of the software installed on their hardware... In short, there is a large base of OpenSource consumers that are suddenly very interested in understanding alternatives to GPL licensed software.

Because of GCC's move to the GPL v3, FreeBSD was forced to remain using GCC 4.2.1 (GPL v2), which was released way back in 2007, and is now significantly outdated. The fact that FreeBSD did not move to use more modern versions of GCC, even with the additional maintenance headaches of running an old compiler and backporting fixes, gives some idea of the strength of the requirement to avoid the GPL v3. The C compiler is a major component of the FreeBSD base, and "one of the (tentative) goals for FreeBSD 10 is a GPL-free base system".

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The FreeBSD controversy

The reason FreeBSD is so adamant against gpl'd 3 version of gcc was purely political and ... yes strange. 3d version of gpl does not impose any restrictions on the compiled code. You can still license the resulting binary with any version you want. However, they do admit that "it would be bad for our sponsors" going even further to suggest who htat sponsor is. If this is about the values, than tell us please how much less of BSD values do DragonflyBSD guys have?

Now with clang being on par with the outdated gcc 4.2 in the compiled code performance, one one would question FreeBSD performance in general. The latter is well known to be inferior to GNU/Linux in most aspects. While, IMHO, other BSD siblings have historically something unique to offer:

- OpenBSD -> security

- NetBSD -> portability (even higher than Linux)

- DragonflyBSD -> peculiar kernel architecture

And BTW, their sponsor do not reek as much as one of the FreeBSD's famous and infamous one.

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Apple friends

goals for FreeBSD 10 is a GPL-free base system

I guess that, yet the ultimate goal is to get FreeBSD a common-sense-free system.

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Re: @JDX

Please, stop automatic downvoting.

Eadon, JDX and SheLluser, my apologies for those people

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Re: Linux updates just work?

Of course on VMS we didn't even need to reboot to update the OS

On a VaxCluster you could replace the entire machine without the users noticing

But that's a cute little unix toy you have there ....

now you kids get off my lawn.

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@Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

You might have heard about ksplice, I suppose. Anyways,

But that's a cute little unix toy you have there ....

Sic:

The OpenVMS.org websites are for system administrators, developers, database administrators and technical managers, offering recent industry news, events, links, etc. related to HP's OpenVMS operating system running on the VAX, AlphaServer and Integrity platforms.

From the http header of http://openvms.org/

Apache/2.2.9 (Debian) PHP/5.2.6-1+lenny4 with Suhosin-Patch

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Re: A question

"And, as you point out, Windows doesn't update Firefox and all the other programs and NOR DOES WINDOWS PROVIDE THAT FUNCTIONALITY."

That was my big concern.

Windows is history for me. My next box is Linux.

Thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

I've just updated my entire Linux Mint distro from 13 to 14 using the commandline. Got the info from a website and didn't lose a file or any functionality. the whole process to about 2 hours. Oh, the wonders of FTTH and a good Linux distro.

The website provided below is where I got the info. Worked great for me, but to protect my butt I must say I can't guaratee it'll work for you. Just like the website advises. Before people start jumping on that I would suspect that people paying for a distro with support would be have those guarantees.

http://www.scottalanmiller.com/linux/2012/11/21/upgrading-from-linux-mint-13-to-linux-mint-14/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux updates just work?

@eulampios - you don't know what vss and therefore, presumably, what filesystem snapshots are or what they do, do you?

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Re: In the first case you are limited to what is officially offered for your system

That's incorrect - you can add third party repositories to your package manager, which will then allow you to install and update the unsupported software as if it were included in the distribution.

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Trollface

Re: Linux updates just work?

and versioning in the file system...

I wonder if we could get linux running under a vm on vms?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

Make that three things: I've just spent over an hour working out why updating my Mythbuntu frontend workstation and backend server has prevented the frontend working. It turns out that the update to mysql on the backend changed the binding of the database service to localhost.

Grr...

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@AC

I don't use snapshotting, my anonymous friend, I don't need to. However, LVM logical volume management) offers even more than that.

That is not what you need when encounter a buggy driver. All of them are contained in the kernel or associated with it. So it's much more simple just to rollback to the latest stable kernel, I know this is not feasible for a proprietary system and a rocket science really.

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Linux

@CreosoteChris Re: A question

....but claims that Linux updates just work, and never break anything year on year strike me as "evangelist at work".

Linux Evangelist here. Microsoft should suffer slow horrible death yadda yadda yadda...

Anyways, most of the time IME Linux updates work without fuss. Sometimes, they make such a mess of things that a full reinstall is necessary.

I have an Ubuntu install that's been through 3-4 laptops and a couple of desktops (IE I just copy my current install when I want a new one, or I swap the drive into a new machine - no "must reactivate", very seldom any driver issues (none that last more than a few minutes), that I've been using since IIRC 2007 without a single reinstall. No problems with updates or anything. I have Mint 14 KDE and Cinamon installs for testing (now favouring KDE for look and feel that is more suited to MY tastes), also no problems.

But I do have a couple of machines that've been knocked about enough to require reinstalls, and a couple (specifically an older (~5yrs) Acer desktop) where some hardware is not supported very well by most distributions. And some even older Toshiba laptops where hardware support is either a dream or an absolute PITA depending on which distro you try to use.

HTH

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC

@Eulampios - So basically you don't do enterprise IT or any form of highly available IT, it's always good to know where other commentators stand in the industry.

I've worked in storage/backup for about 15 years, since snapshots have been available to any system I've worked on, they've been used, be those systems UNIX, Linux or Windows, be those snapshots hardware or software driven. If you'd looked up a little, you'd see that I had just posted a comment about updating a Linux box (mythbuntu) and that the MySQL server was unbound from the external IP address and re-bound to loopback. Not a particularly big problem for me to solve, but time consuming and annoying. However, if this machine had been running a production service, I would have used some sort of snapshot, probably hardware based as there isn't anything native. Reverting to the snapshot would have resolved the problem much more quickly.

Updates of software or to database schemas etc have a habit of going wrong, not all the time, but usually when you need them most, saying that you don't need snapshots because Linux doesn't go wrong, invites serious consequences when it inevitably does go wrong.

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@AC

You tell me how to upgrade databases. Snapshotting is possible on Linux as I told through, for example, LVM. There is also an emerging fs -- btrfs. You can even go with zfs but not in the kernel. I do regular backups of most important things. Say, dumping databases.

As far as your MySQL update issue was concerned, you apply your Windows logic, mon ami, despite all your regalia. All you needed was config files. Just like in the discussed case, if you ever tell any Linux, *BSD admin that you use snapshots in case a driver update gets awry, he or she 'll take it as a joke.

With databases, you do it with special tools (mine is PostgreSQL with pg_upgradecluster etc) or/and by dumping and restoring entire databases.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

Sounds just like my experience of trying to use Erlang dependent software on Centos 6 that worked just fine on Centos 5. Except that didn't fix itself. And you couldn't just do an OS upgrade install like you could if it was Windows - you had to wipe the system and start from scratch.

Installing stuff on Linux sucks a million times more than on Windows. Just try the Office 2013 preview for instance - it starts installing in the background, and starts running while still streaming code in the background as required - and is absolutely amazingly fast at doing this.

Windows updates everything that ships on the DVD, and a lot more besides. Linux only updates software that was installed from a defined repository - which is by no means everything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux updates just work?

That's not exactly true though is it - you also have to have the right version of the kernel on the boot loader filesystem. And if something goes wrong, its a lot of painful text editing and commands to go restore your old version.

Whereas on windows, you just select Last Known Good Configuration, or boot into System Restore mode and roll back to the last snapshot - a lot more user friendly and faster - with no having to look up commands how to fix it like on Linux - which can be a bit tricky with a machine that doesn't boot....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In the first case you are limited to what is officially offered for your system

Yes - but you have to go do that - and trawl out a long URL - and make sure the cert is trusted, etc, etc. Not exactly automatic.

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