Latest Mac Update, Thoughts on Mac vs. Windows

So I saw a note about a 10.3.3 update for MacOS X over at neurobashing and decided to check it out. My daily software update check hadn’t run yet, so I ran it manually and saw that yes, indeed there was a OS update available. Reading the notes on what was changed and new, I realized why (well, another reason why anyway) Microsofts updates are greeted with fear rather than joy, while the opposite is true for Apple (IMHO anyway). Read on for more, and a bit of ranting as well.

First of all, you have to love Microsoft. When I did a quick search for news on this update, one of the first pages that I hit was this one on infoworld. The top of the page is dominated by a big ass ugly flash add showing that Linux on a mainframe is “10x more expensive” than Windows Server 2003. The add popped you over to this page on the Microsoft site where you can get “the facts you need to make the choice between Windows and Linux.” Oh, and it’s completely unbiased as well. Uh huh. The report in question was one from the Meta Group, which happens to be hosted on a linux box. Kinda interesting.

Anyway, the main point. Lets look at the latest OS update details for both Apple and Microsoft. First of all, Apple:

Apple Update 10.3.3

(Sorry, I didn’t think to get the exact text from the update software… someone want to email it to me?) I’ve highlighted “bugs fixed” with a “*” and “enhancements” (new features) with a “+”. Some may fall into both categories, or the other, but this is my (the users) interpretation. This isn’t a complete list of course, just what’s on the Apple webiste, and it has Apple spin on what it’s doing, but it’s what people see when they click on the software update to see why it’s a recommended install.

  • + network volumes are now available in the Finder sidebar and Desktop for convenient access
  • * improved file sharing and directory services for Mac (AFP), UNIX (NFS) and PC (SMB/CIFS) networks
  • improved PostScript and USB printing
  • + updated Disk Utility, DVD Player, Image Capture, Mail and Safari applications
  • + additional support for FireWire and USB devices
  • * improved compatibility for third party applications
  • * previous standalone security updates and Bluetooth Update 1.5

So it looks like you get a 50/50 mix of “stuff fixed” and “stuff added” based on the press release. Some other bug fixes are no doubt hidden in there, but you get some nice new features as well.

Now lets look at the latest of this month’s security updates from Microsoft.

Security update 832359

“A vulnerability exists because of the way that Windows Media Station Service and Windows Media Monitor Service, components of Windows Media Services, handle TCP/IP connections. If a remote user were to send a specially-crafted sequence of TCP/IP packets to the listening port of either of these services, the service could stop responding to requests and no additional connections could be made. The service must be restarted to regain its functionality.”

This is followed by a long and boring technical explanation of how Media Player can be convinced to disclose your banking information and sell your daughter out from under you. I chose this one originally because it was an “OS update”, yet it’s for the Media Player.

Looking at the last update before that which affects Windows XP is update 828028, which has this to say:

“A security vulnerability exists in the Microsoft ASN.1 Library that could allow code execution on an affected system. The vulnerability is caused by an unchecked buffer in the Microsoft ASN.1 Library, which could result in a buffer overflow.”

After you drill down into the technical details of course. Anyway, yet another occurance of that magical phrase ” execute code with system privileges on an affected system”.

I’ve talked about some of the differences between the two companies before. I suppose one could argue that MS only puts out “important” updates, while Apple hides bugs and security fixes inside a few fluff updates, but that depends on how much kool-aid you drink. I’d comment on Linux (I know there have been some kernel updates lately that allow local root exploits, but I don’t run a “desktop distro” which has a nice pretty updater, so I don’t know how Mandrake or Suse or whoever presents their latest updates.

One Comment on “Latest Mac Update, Thoughts on Mac vs. Windows”

  1. Usually Apple has rolled major security flaws (i.e. ones that give you root access) into their own security updates. 10.x.y updates are mostly bug fixes when people bitch that some feature isn’t working on their weird-ass systems.
    The “previous standalone security updates” section is for people that haven’t already downloaded that patch, just in case you don’t have it already.
    I basically like the way has done updates. The interface needs a few more features for enterprise/power users, like rollback, etc., but in general it works pretty well.