When Should You Update Software?

Software updates are one of the things that can cause pain for server and network administrators.  They do not have the luxury to just click an “upgrade to next version” button like you would see on a WordPress website.  There is usually more involved when updating software.

When you have a new software (or operating system) you can upgrade to, there are a few things to check out first.

(Not an exhaustive list)

  1. Does it have any features that are beneficial to my daily work?
  2. Does it have any features that have been removed?
  3. Will the currently running software work with the new OS, or have people complained about the software not working correctly?
  4. Will your hardware work with the new software?
  5. How much downtime will an upgrade incur?
  6. If a lot of downtime will occur, is there a way to minimize the downtime?

Whenever you want to use a newer OS, you should always perform a fresh install on the computer. Never just do an in-place upgrade.  This is a very good way to mess things up on the computer.  Even if the in-place upgrade (not a fresh install) seems to work fine, there may be small issues that will pop-up later that you are not aware of.  Then you will wish you had done a fresh install in the first place. 🙂

Also, whenever you want to update a piece of software, always make sure you are using a “stable” release of the software.  Never run Beta, RC, Alpha, or any “not finished” software in production.  This can cause you grief that you could have avoided.

Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems, Programming, Software

Always Check Your System for Memory Problems

Have you ever tested your computer’s memory (RAM) before for errors? If not, it would be a good idea to. Why? I’ll explain.

System memory stores temporary information for programs to quickly access. System memory is 100+ times faster than conventional hard drives, and thus minimizes delays in programs that you are running.

Programs depend upon the memory to be reliable, otherwise program malfunctions may occur (sometimes serious malfunctions).

For instance, say one of your memory sticks is bad, and this memory stick happens to be storing information containing an online order you are submitting to an online retailer. Now since this memory stick is bad, the debit card # you entered (e.g., 1111 2222 3333 4444) ends up being (e.g., 1111 2222 3333 4445)!

You see what happened? The last digit [ 4 ] became a [ 5 ]!  This would obviously cause a problem with your order. This is just one example of many potential problems you may have when dealing with bad system memory.

Other symptoms of bad memory are:  Blue Screen of Death (or Kernel Panic on Linux), outright programs crashes, and corrupt files.

So what can you use to test your system memory? Well a couple of programs I have used are MemTest86+  or  PassMark’s MemTest V7.1. These programs do not run in Windows. These programs require to be run by CD, USB drive, or any other bootable device.  You can Google these programs to find the downloads.

In my opinion, you need to run these tests for at least 3 complete passes* (with no errors) before considering your system memory to be reliable.

* A “pass”  =  a complete system memory test; so 3 “passes” means 3 complete tests

Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems, Software

Gone Full-SSL Encryption on My Blog

I have finally gone full-SSL encryption on my blog. You should notice the lock symbol to the left (maybe right…depends upon the web browser you are using) of the URL in your browser.

What this means is that all your communication to my server is encrypted and the chance of someone decrypting your communication to my server is small.

More and more the World Wide Web is going SSL-only (encryption) for communications, regardless of the actual confidentiality of the information being transmitted.

Since there are people and organizations out there trying their hardest to invade people’s privacy, SSL encryption all the more has become necessary.

Posted in Computers, General, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems, Software

5 Myths People Believe About Microsoft Windows

This is a list of things I can think of that people I have encountered (or have read online) said that they believe about Microsoft Windows. There are a lot of myths floating around out there, and I am going to try to debunk a few.

  1. It is always best to manually install Windows Updates, since having Windows Update automatically install updates for you can break your system with a bad update.

True…a bad Windows update can render the operating system install useless. However, where the myth comes in is the idea that it is always bad to have Windows automatically do updates for you.

Windows updates contains fixes which include security fixes. Without these security fixes, your computer is vulnerable to many “nasties” out there that may exploit a security vulnerability that was found.

I would say most computer users would never (I repeat…never) install updates on their own, unless the operating system did it for them. Why? Simple. Many computer users do not have a good understanding of computer security and they would not want to be bothered with manually installing system updates.

I alone manage 20+ Windows systems (not counting several Linux boxes). I absolutely do not have the time to go through each and every system, to manually install system updates. Having the operating system do automatic updates for me saves a lot of time.

  1. The User Account Control (UAC) that was introduced with Windows Vista does not really help stop malware, and in fact gets in the way.

To be fair, UAC can potentially “get in the way” so to speak, but what I suspect many computer users do not know (or at least understand) is that UAC makes it easy to be a system administrator and a limited system user at the same time.

In short, UAC assists a system administrator with his or her job by allowing the administrator to perform administrative tasks while still being secure running under his or her own limited user account by default.

Also, if you click “no” to a UAC prompt, and the program it prevents from running due to you clicking “no” contains malware, then UAC did technically stop the malware from running with administrator privileges in the first place. So anyone who says that UAC is not a security feature is technically incorrect.

  1. Windows is insecure no matter how many times it gets updated.

Windows is not “inherently insecure”. Windows supports many different security features like: Access Control Lists, Mandatory Access Control, Disable Memory Execution, Address Space Layout Randomization, integrated firewall (Windows Firewall), etc.

Not to mention Windows NT was designed from the beginning to be a multi-user, networking capable operating system, for small and large businesses alike to use. This was before the consumer NT versions came out onto the market (e.g., Windows XP).

  1. Windows has a fragmentation problem with the NTFS file-system. Where Linux and UNIX file-systems do not have this problem.

Fragmentation happens on any file-system. It is a classic ordering problem. When you delete files on NTFS, ext4, ext3, UFS, FAT16, FAT32, XFS, ReFS, ZFS, etc., you leave gaps in the file-system.

These gaps will be filled with other files, but you will also have files before and after the new file. So when the computer goes to access the data, it has to sift through all of the data to find the bits and pieces it needs to complete the task.

Saying that Linux file-systems (e.g., ext4 or XFS) do not get fragmentation, while Windows file-systems (e.g., NTFS or ReFS) do, is just plain wrong.

  1. Windows is not stable. It will crash on you at any given moment for no apparent reason. Windows is just unstable.

You will find that in 98%+ of these cases, this is due to bad hardware and/or drivers. This goes for any mature operating system out there not just Windows.

Also, here is a little bit of proof that Windows is not “unstable” as many people (usually Linux users) like to claim.

High Windows Uptime

High Windows Uptime

Notice in the picture, the Windows system uptime is over 100 days straight. This is a Windows 7 media system continuously playing video using the VLC Player.

Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems