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"Immediately"? Not So Fast...

Back in May, I wrote a post here about the annoyance of updating Sun Microsystems's Java software. It's smart enough to download and install new versions automatically, but it's too dense to remove old releases afterwards.

At the time, a company spokeswoman assured me that this glitch would be fixed, passing along a statement by Sun software CTO Bob Brewin: "This is a known problem and we are going to be immediately addressing such issues," he said.

Well, now it's August, I've seen a couple of Java updates come along, and I'm still required to clean up after them -- lest I have older, less-secure versions of this software, at 100 megabytes each, cluttering up my Windows PCs' hard drives. (Apple's Java implementation has been free of this defect.)

I e-mailed Sun spokeswoman Terri Molini yesterday morning asking for comment but she has not yet replied. So I can only guess what the real story is.

Look, I know it can take time to finish and debug a new release, especially one that has to function on just about every variety of Windows system in use today. But that's why the English language has words and phrases you can use instead of "immediately," "with all deliberate speed," "by the end of August," "in our 7.0 release," "when we feel like it," "if we actually make a profit this quarter" and so on. Which one applies here, Sun?

(I'm beating up on just one company here, but the software industry in general has a bad habit of making promises to fix one feature or another, then never fulfilling those pledges or taking far longer to do so than any reasonable observer would expect. I'd be a lot more understanding if developers, instead of tossing out bland assurances of future improvements, would just say "we're not going to do that" and offer a coherent explanation for their decision.)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 7, 2007; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  Gripes  
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Rob - It is the "coherent explanation" part that frightens the developers.

Posted by: DLD | August 7, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Speaking as a Professional Developer (C, C++, C#, assembly), I agree with DLD.

Posted by: wiredog | August 7, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Adobe is the same way. Reader, and now Flash have versions that linger, causing Secunia Software Inspector to fuss at me.

Rob, would you mind unloading on the Adobe people? I've uninstalled Reader completely, and now I just use PDF X-Change Viewer on my laptop, or Foxit Reader for my portable apps USB drive. If I could find a decent alternative to Flash, I'd ditch that in a minute.

Posted by: Cate | August 7, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Not only does it not remove old versions, it plays nilly-willy with where it installs. Our software's Java installation is in a customized directory (C:\mycompany'sname\java\) for easy backup purposes, but Sun wants to upgrade Java to the default directory.

Posted by: MAW | August 7, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Have you noticed also with recent editions of Firefox, that when you get the notification of a point update, that it loses some of your old settings after the program restarts.
To wit:
1. all your home tabs are gone
2. the option to restart with previous pages is reset
3. the download destination is reset to Desktop
4. Some others I may not have noticed...

Also, with the major releases it notices I have British English Firefox, and suggests I download the British English spell-checker. However the download link it supplies is actually to the US English spell-checker (not obvious unless you look carefully at the URL in the status bar).

Posted by: Mike | August 7, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Updating Java is still too much of a pain in the butt! That's why most people have older versions still installed. It was almost too hard to find the correct version, then I had to wait for~ever for it to install. I realize Java is more for developers than the basic user, but if there was an alternative... boy, that would be the day! Then, leaving the older versions installed, forcing me to manually remove them - well, that's just the worst kicker.

Posted by: umm.huh | August 7, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Cate - I unloaded on Adobe back in January! Here's the rant you're looking for.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | August 7, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Cate: If you're a Tablet PC user, try Grahl's PDF Annotator as an alternative to Adobe Reader. It allows you to make ink annotations to PDFs (eg signatures or highlighter markeup) and save them back into the PDF. It also loads much faster than Reader and has a cleaner interface.

Someone should remind Adobe that "supporting" Tablet PC should run to more than simply "installing like on any other flavour of Windows XP".

Posted by: Mike | August 7, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

How does one remove all of the old versions of Java? With Add/ Remove programs? Using the golden rule of Windows (if it is running, don't do anything you don't have to), I try not to mess with A/ R programs.

Is there really any jeopardy to leaving the old versions installed? My hard drive is huge and my Windows boots fast.

Posted by: Mark R | August 7, 2007 10:16 PM | Report abuse

as a developer, I'd always answer deliverable inquiries with 'Real Soon Now'. ;-p

Posted by: TTP | August 8, 2007 12:40 AM | Report abuse

RE: Removing old versions of Sun Java.
Mark R., Yes Add/Remove Programs is the correct course. Depending on how long your computer has been running on the same Windows install, you may reclaim upwards of 500MB of disk space. I have no information on whether the bad guys can tap into the older versions but 1)Why take the chance? and, 2)Why not reclaim the disk space?
Now can someone tell me why all the old MS .Net versions stick around and if they can be removed safely. Does .Net V3.0 really rely on V1.0, 1.1, 1.1 update, 2.0, and on and on and ......

Posted by: DLD | August 8, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Re: .net - the newer versions don't interact with the older versions, but some programs only work with one specific version. It is ok, and sometimes necessary, to have 1.1 and 2.0 running at the same time

Posted by: DSL | August 8, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Rob; somehow I missed that January rant. You go, guy!

Mike - I *wish* I had a tablet PC, but thanks for the recommendation. I'll put that on my Christmas list, along with the tablet PC!

Posted by: Cate | August 8, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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