What do smartphones, laptops, blu-ray players and coffee makers have in common?

They all run software that can be updated to add new features, fix software bugs, or patch security holes. But updates are annoying. Typically, after you install the update and reboot, you’re hit with more updates for the same software or for other software; it’s a vicious circle. So why do we need to update anyway? Why can’t we just keep things the way they are?

Most consumers like things that are shiny and new. By putting out updates that contain new features, it gives the consumer a feeling of living on the “digital edge” of the high tech world. If a company can keep consumers feeling this way, those consumers will be more likely to buy the next iteration of said company’s products.

Most consumers also like their software to work the way it’s supposed to work. Updates allow companies to fix problems, called bugs, in their software so that consumers stay happy and buy the next round of new products. As you can see, there’s a pattern here.

Consumers generally don’t want their devices affected by viruses, root-kits, trojan horses, or have their identity stolen because of security holes in a software product. Companies would also prefer that this not happen as it creates a PR nightmare for them if enough people are affected. Continuing with our theme, unhappy-virus-ridden-identity-stolen customers will find another company to put their trust in.

So what should you update? You should update those applications that would be the pathway into your system. This includes the operating system—such as Windows or Mac OS—Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, and anti-virus software. Your anti-virus can’t find or protect against new threats that it doesn’t know about if its database hasn’t been updated in two years.

Is updating a pain? Absolutely. Is it inconvenient, annoying, frustrating, and time consuming? Of course it is. But it’s a necessary evil that will protect you and the technology that you own.

The process can also be streamlined using software, which will significantly reduce the time updating takes. We’ll have a look at that in the next issue!

This article first appeared in Memorial University’s student newspaper: The Muse http://themuse.ca/2012/09/26/col-tech-bytes/

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