More time “in the ring”, more machine learning…
Microsoft has promised “significantly expanded” interaction with original equipment makers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) ahead of major Windows updates in future, after a botched and much-delayed roll-out of Windows 10 1809.
This improved collaboration with the company’s “ecosystem partners” should help “improve initial quality across a variety of devices, hardware and software configurations” Mike Fortin Corporate VP at Windows wrote late last week.
The comments came after Version 1809, which debuted in October last year, exhibited severe bugs and subsequently became the first major Windows update to face a recall for quality reasons. Among its gremlins: unceremoniously deleting user data.
The company also promised robust internal deployment – effectively testing it on its own users – prior to the release of a major May 2019 update. (1809 has only just been designated ready for broad deployment, a full five months after its initial launch).
“By carefully studying data from this expanded population and for this additional time, we will gain increased confidence in Windows quality before offering it to a broader audience later in May,” Fortin wrote.
The move comes as Microsoft has cut software testing roles over the years, relying instead increasingly on early adopters; so-called “insiders” who want to tinker with the latest release prior to broader roll-out.
That’s a decision that has attracted sustained criticism: as the Register’s Andrew Orlowski puts it, the haste to push out updates and lack of dedicated testers has resulted in “dysfunctional software processes”; a view that’s not in a minority.
Windows Updates: More Control for Users
Microsoft wants to make it clear that it has heard user feedback and has rolled out a range of new features to address customer concerns. Starting in May this year users will have more control over when their system initiates the latest Microsoft update.
Up to now the practice has been for Windows 10 to start the update process automatically on devices; often disruptively.
(For some the bugs in 1809 were experienced when they tried to wake a device from sleep mode, only to find the screen go black or in some cases flash, after an auto-update. It also prevent some users from being able to access the Help window via the F1 button.)
Microsoft have acknowledge the array of issues in a blog support post and since January have been quickly trying to patch in fixes. When a user checks for updates on their device Microsoft will now inform them that an update is available, but will then give them the option to choose when to update.
Users will be able to ‘pause’ the update to a maximum of 35 days.
Many of the issues from the January update have been patched or worked around, but some have not. Currently Microsoft is try to find a resolution for this issue, for example: “MSXML6 causes applications to stop responding if an exception was thrown during node operations, such as appendChild(), insertBefore(), and moveNode().”
“The Group Policy editor may stop responding when editing a Group Policy Object (GPO) that contains Group Policy Preferences (GPP) for Internet Explorer 10 settings.”
Windows Updates: More Time in the Ring
Forthcoming updates will spend increased time in the “Release Preview Ring of the Windows Insider Program” as a result of the issues.
Fortin said: “We will increase the amount of time that the May 2019 Update spends in the Release Preview phase, and we will work closely with ecosystem partners during this phase to proactively obtain more early feedback about this release. This will give us additional signals to detect issues before broader deployment.”
As for new software testers (the hope of some observers)? It looks unlikely.
“We are also continuing to make significant new investments in machine learning (ML) technology to both detect high-impact issues efficiently at scale and further evolve how we intelligently select devices that will have a smooth update experience.”