Forget that the folks at Microsoft were wrong about the “Start” button and the interface formally known as Metro. It seems they’re still convinced they know what’s best for their users. So much so that the new Windows, due to be released next week, will have users click off on an EULA that pretty much gives Redmond carte blanche to update the system at will, which will include updating apps as well as Windows itself, with no real way to opt out — except for users of the Enterprise edition.
We learned of this on Friday through Tim Anderson at The Register, who supplied these lines from the EULA:
- “The Software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you.
You may obtain updates only from Microsoft or authorized sources, and Microsoft may need to update your system to provide you with those updates.
- By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice.
In other words, users of Windows 10 will have their computers updated automatically, whether they want it or not.
At Forbes, Gordon Kelly opines that for most Windows users this is probably good. After all, Windows home users aren’t known for being necessarily technically astute, and if Redmond doesn’t keep their computers supplied with all the latest security and bug fixes, who will?
Trouble is, there are good reasons to not let Microsoft update machines running its operating system at will. Updates sometimes break things, which isn’t good for those who use their computers for more than surfing, email, and occasionally, some word processing.
When I was administering Windows systems, I routinely delayed installing Windows’ updates by a day or two, long enough for the news to get out if the updates were breaking systems. Evidently, this type of delaying tactic will still be possible with Windows 10, as users will have the option of joining a “Slow” or “Fast” track, with the later receiving updates immediately and the later getting updates up to a month later.
Indeed, the biggest problem with the new policy isn’t with the forced updates per se, but as Kelly points out, with the scope of what Redmond can do under this policy:
“Windows 10’s forced automatic updates don’t simply cover security patches, they cover anything and everything Microsoft wants to put on your PC as part of Windows 10. This can range from new software and services to changes to core features and functionality.
“For example: if Microsoft wants to build a new media player, RSS reader, mapping software, cookbook, boomerang or nuclear submarine into the core of Windows 10 it can and you have to install it. If an update also changes how a feature or service operates to a way you dislike (say a new user interface), then tough you have to accept that as well.”
But wait, there’s more. This EULA would also allow Redmond to install adware on all machines running Windows 10 if they want. Remember, Bing is essentially an advertising company, and much to Microsoft’s chagrin, it’s been playing catch-up with Google since forever. Having the ability to place ads on Windows machines at will could be quite valuable to Redmond — and scary for the rest of us.
Microsoft has also already set a precedent for using its infrastructure to place ads on Windows machines:
“…Microsoft pushed adware as an update to Windows 7 and Windows 8 which created a pop-up advising users to upgrade to Windows 10…. This irritated enough users that hacks appeared around the web explaining how to remove that particular update. That wouldn’t be possible in Windows 10.”
Even if hacks were developed, there would likely be consequences for using them. In April, senior Microsoft product marketing manager Helen Harmetz indicated that consumers who don’t have their systems updated “within the allotted time period of approximately eight months…will not be able to see and consume the next security update.”
Although Harmetz was speaking of a feature built-in to Windows 10 Professional — primarily targeted at business users — which will allow automatic updates to be deferred for a user specified amount of time, we’re probably safe in assuming that Redmond would apply this metric to lowly “Home” users who “illegally” hack their computers as well. The only version of Windows 10 that will be relatively free of forced automatic updates is Enterprise, which will evidently allow for opting out of everything but security updates.
All of this reminds me of the opening to a certain television show back in the mid-1960s:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.…”
Except for the references to “horizontal” and “vertical,” which might be a little arcane for younger readers, I think the quote paints a very clear picture…or blurry or whatever Microsoft wants it to be.
Anyway, I return control of your television set… er, computer, to you.
Help keep FOSS Force strong. If you like this article, become a subscriber.