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BIOS is certainly less complex then set-top box :-)
Posted Oct 31, 2011 20:50 UTC (Mon) by khim (subscriber, #9252)
Sure, BIOS updates sometimes fail - but that just means they were not designed to be constantly updated. Aforementioned set-top boxes are significantly more complex then BIOSes - yet they are routinely upgraded with no ill effects.
Actually another example fits as well: PS3 upgrades may be annoying because they routinely remove features, but situation when they break something they are not designed to break are exceedingly rare.
It's not hard or impossible to develop thing which can be safely auto-updated, that just means that you must severely restrict it. Complexity has nothing to do with the ability to reliably upgrade something. Diversity is the killer.
Posted Nov 1, 2011 14:22 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
I do wonder, though, how much of the set-top boxes' firmware is actually upgraded by an update. If the components necessary to boot and do an update don't change, then that might reduce the likelihood of failure -- though the fact that we rarely see them fail in any way suggests that this is not the problem.
So... continuous upgrading works for stuff (even complex stuff) that runs in simple or consistent environments or that is not itself necessary to run the upgrade process. That's probably enough for embedded stuff, since their environments are normally nailed down by the vendor and all variations known. Just look out for embedded systems that run as part of larger systems, and whose upgrading is controlled by the upstream vendor: those may not have been tested in the environment they're being upgraded in. (This, too, is probably rare: the integrator would probably want to control the upgrade stream in such a case, since it's them on the line if things go wrong.)
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