Software Patch comment by Mr. Mike

Mr. Mike, a long time professional friend, has submitted the following message:

“In your blog, you had an article about why to never use software
patches.  That is probably good advice, but what about your “silent
partners”?  In Oracle, you might hit a bug which brings your production
database down, and there is a patch which fixes the issue.  Microsoft of
course has patch Tuesday and if you haven’t applied the latest one, your
server works exactly as before, its just under new management.

How do those realities relate to the “no patch” ideal?”

The concept of a patch falls into two categories: one of which is associated with
a management directive to render a project deliverable and the other is associated
with maintaining proper operation of an application using a “silent partner” product.

A programmer should avoid using a “patch” directed by management to render a product
immediately deliverable. This management directive will usually be followed by the
very dangerous phrase “all you have to do is…”.  The problem that the patch was
supposed to solve will probably come back and the programmer may even be blamed for
its occurrence.

On the other hand, a programmer responsible for the maintenance of a major application
is very vulnerable to the quality of the operating system and the required programs
such as Oracle.  There will always be the questions “should I download the current
upgrade”.  The “silent partner” may be correcting a patch of the first kind with
another one. Also, an error in the product of the “silent Partner” may be discovered
and need to be corrected to keep the application running.  A very creative “patch”
in the application may be required to solve the problem.

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