With the still only partial return to offices, I expect lots of people are running into an unpleseant side of modern computing. Frequent software updates, logins and operating system patches will interrupt your work or at best, restart your computer between work sessions, potentially leaving you some wreckage with your morning coffee.

If you only go into the office once a week you’re practically certain to hit some speed bumps like re-authentication and Windows updates. Then, soon after your big update, a new download begins just as you’re finally up and running. Add on to that 2FA that has to re-authenticate every day, week or two weeks and you’re logging in all over the place.

On top of the operating system updates, we have logins like: Email, VPN, chat (Slack) Calendar, Zoom (and a couple others I forget.) Oh right, then all the other software updates: VS Code every month at least, Rust updates, my favorite text editor too. Oh, and the web browser. Slack seems to update about once a month – fairly invisible except when it breaks a feature you like. Sure most of these can be deferred, but eventually you’ll have to schedule a long miserable update session which just feels wrong. Slack is involuntary if you restart your system.

The less you use your computer, the more pain you feel every time you do.

I wonder if there’s a minimum useful weekly activity time (MUWAT) that’s ever increasing? (Everything needs a new term) Anyhow, I’d put it at three hours a week currently. That’s the minimum time on a system that is clearly worth doing in spite of the updates and authentications needed to keep it operating. You could think instead of a minimum time to maintain a ratio of useful time to administration time, something like 3:1.

What if that minimum time goes to five hours? What’s an intolerable MUWAT? I guess as long as everyone’s phones aren’t as bogged down as their PCs, nobody will revolt. For now, if you don’t switch systems frequently, it’s not a huge problem but I predict companies will double down on the updates until the pain is too much to bear for any normal person.

I don’t actually mind all that much. The notion that update times could go up and up until users spend more time waiting for updates than actually using their systems amuses me and I don’t think it’s too unlikely. In reality I think the fix will be to make updates less and less visible and obtrusive, not to reduce their frequency.