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How stealthy patches could bring down all of Windows 10

Woody Leonhard | Aug. 28, 2015
Here's a simple scenario where the lack of patch information could severely limit Windows 10's acceptance.

Late last week, Simon Sharwood at The Register dropped a bombshell. Where many of us had been fretting and complaining about the complete lack of information about Windows 10's four cumulative updates, Sharwood prompted an official response about stealthy patches from Microsoft, the first I've ever seen. Here's what a Microsoft spokesperson said:

As we have done in the past, we post KB articles relevant to most updates which we'll deliver with Windows as a service. Depending on the significance of the update and if it is bringing new functionality to Windows customers, we may choose to do additional promotion of new features as we deploy them.

I've been waiting, patiently, hoping that Microsoft would either clarify or contradict that statement. (Actually, I was assuming that someone with a "We listen to customers" pin on their hoodie would take notice and start screaming.) Alas, at this point, that appears to be Microsoft's final say.

It's too bad, really. With the exception of unexplained monitoring (detailed meticulously by Peter Bright at Ars Technica) and the inability to block patches, Windows 10 seems to be evolving as a genuinely user-friendly product. While Win10 doesn't work right for everybody yet, and we'll undoubtedly see discarded mounds of Cumulative Updates before things stabilize, it's been obvious from the first Insider Preview that we're working with a new regime, and a newer, much more open environment.

Then we get a ringer like this new policy statement, tucked away in a Register blog.

I was reminded of a comment posted last week on my blog about the new face of Service Packs. RCW2345 writes:

Fact is we never know in detail what any update to an OS does and that goes for Windows, Linux, OSX ... you name it.  And it wouldn't be all that informative if the developers described in laborious detail exactly what code they changed and why. For one thing you don't know the code before it was changed. It's proprietary so how would it help if you knew MS had tweaked the RV2 control block so that it stays aligned with TCB12? … But can the "tech" media admit their total ignorance in this area? No, they need to write something. So they skim the surface (it's all they can do) and come to conclusion based on whether the kernel was changed in some totally unknown fashion or what they authors called the update.

What RCW2345 writes is, in large part, true: It wouldn't be informative if the folks writing the Win10 patches told us they're "tweaking the RV2 control block so that it stays aligned with TCB12." (He's right about ignorance, too, at least in my case.) What we need is a simple, definitive statement as to what each Cumulative Update is doing -- or trying to do. That's what we've had in the past, in the Knowledge Base articles, give or take a standard deviation or two. Why will the descriptions disappear in Windows 10?


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