Some Thoughts on “Forced Upgrades”

I have for a while been mulling over an expression mentioned by a friend, put into context of how some Operating Systems are more immune to this particular problem than others.  However, “forced upgrades” can apply to more than just operating systems.

I can see several different circumstances, stemming from the following sentence:

I can no longer use X (properly) without having to upgrade Y.

X and Y can be made up of anything falling the following four categories:

  • Hardware
    • Usually PC’s but can also extend to other devices like tablets and phones
  • Operating Systems
    • Examples include Windows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS
  • Software
    • Based on above, can be applications (Mozilla Firefox), mobile apps (Snapchat), or games.
  • Services
    • Web provided, such as Facebook, Google Mail, Dropbox, et cetera

I can think of a few examples of this:

  1. My friend was faced with having to upgrade his browser to get a reasonable Facebook experience.  But due to an older version of Ubuntu with a difficult upgrade path, on a laptop that cannot do much newer anyway (nor did he want to disturb the other side of what can be a tricky dual-boot setup), he ended up buying a newer laptop.  This is a case where the categories can cause a chain reaction.
  2. A long time ago, a coworker from a previous job gave me the complete branded package of Corel Linux.  I probably threw out the install CD promptly since I had tried Corel Linux before and it brought back the bad memories I had with Mandrake.  Not that long later I regretted the decision.  The branded CD would have come with WordPerfect 8 that may have been packaged better (Debian package essentially) than the originally released tarball, with UI enhancements like Qt support.  Why does this matter?  The original tarball relies on libc5 support and Linux has long since moved onto libc6.  Besides ELF binaries this may be the biggest caveat with GNU/Linux, that you are sometimes forced to use a newer version of software (that does not even exist – RIP WordPerfect).
  3. Also in the Corel Linux package was a game – Civilization: Call to Power.  I did not have high hopes of it working after 18 years – even the installer balked with a non-descript message.  But there were manual install instructions, and after installing osspd (a proxy daemon), I got the game fully functional.  Which can show how immune Linux can be in contrast to the point I made above, compared to say, Windows when applications or games can break at any new release.
  4. I would be remiss if I avoided the mobile market.  There are many apps that won’t work on older versions of Android (anything “Material Design” is a sure bet not to work on KitKat 4.4 or older), or the opposite can happen – an app (like the Xposed Framework) cannot work on the latest and greatest.  Then there is the constant obsolescence of devices (beyond Android for that matter as well) too old to receive OS upgrades, or even updates (the latter would be a better option for many users as upgrades often result in worse performance and/or battery life).

Not sure where I am going to end with this one.  The expression my friend used, was put in the context of DOS – for all the years he used it (which includes even today), there was “never a forced upgrade”.  Although it is interesting to note that at some point he had to give up using DOS exclusively in order to do everything needed in life.  In this case GNU/Linux was the addition, although the vast majority of screen time is still done under DOS.

I think in some little way, that forced upgrade happened long ago without fully realizing.

Some Thoughts on “Forced Upgrades”

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