Maintenance, Or Why Doesn’t Sun Uninstall Older Versions Of Java?

Friday, 2009-January-23 at 18:23 1 comment

Maintenance, Or Why Doesn’t Sun Uninstall Older Versions Of Java?

I am home right now, between assignments. So besides spending lots of time on Monster, Dice, and similar job sites (and fielding e-mail messages telling me that someone has read my resume and believes that a commission sales position with his company is an exact fit for me), I’m doing a little bit of system and network maintenance.

Today’s maintenance project is a Dell Inspiron laptop, about three years old. This computer, believe it or not, had about 95% of its drive space filled. It is using AVG Free as its antivirus, so there is the 8:00 AM daily full scan that uses up all the CPU for two or three hours. (We use AVG because it has proven to be a better product than Norton/Symantec. I often use AVG to clean up a mess that Norton or McAfee could not fix. However, the free version is designed to make sure you are not using it in a business by making your computer unusable at 8:00 AM, and thereafter each time a different user logs into the computer for the day.) After about 2 ½ hours of scanning, I finally stopped the scan, so I could get on with the work.

Once I logged in with administrator rights, everything on there started asking to update itself. Apple’s updater, Java, Windows, everything. I went ahead and let Java update, then opened “My Computer” and right-clicked on the “C:” drive and selected “Properties” from the context menu. That was when I found out the drive was 95% full. Naturally, I ran the Disk Cleanup Wizard, went in and found about 7GB of downloaded stuff, ranging from Garmin’s WebUpdate installation program to various versions of Opera, to various version of

The GPS navigation unit that the update software was designed for it too old for updates. I bought it on sale just before Christmas of 2007, and by July, it was trying to sell me a new version of its map data–for about as much as I paid for the original unit–so I knew I could uninstall it. Once I did that, I looked through the list in Add/Remove Programs and discovered about ten versions of Java were installed, ranging from version 1.4.2 SE through 1.5 (up to update 11), and on to 1.6 (also up to update 11). Each installation took up between 98MB and 120MB of space, with most being about 111MB in size. Once I did this, I found that disk space used was down to 67%.

There is still much to do. A good portion of that space consists of photos. I’ll have to discuss storage options with the person who uses the computer.

It really surprised me to find that there were so many versions of Java on that computer. During the upgrade process, it should leave the previous version intact and offer to remove older versions (use a checkbox list in case a version is there for compatibility reasons). Of course, the other thing is the toolbar offer, which is checked by default and needs to be unchecked instead. Who knows how many IT staffers (in workplaces) have to go around uninstalling toolbars because of this? Instead, they should make it plain why they think the offer is valuable, and let the user actively choose to install it.

Of course, I went ahead and defragmented the disk. It really needed it! I’ll have to list unused and rarely-used applications and uninstall those which I think aren’t being used. (It is a Dell, so I’ve already de-crap-ified it years ago.)

Apple Software Update–I did not update yet, because I need to talk to our family media consumer to see whether this is worthwhile.

Microsoft Update–I installed them, none were critical (they are generally automatically installed) except for an update to dot-net 3.0.

None of this explains why Sun cannot figure out a way to get rid of unused, space-gobbling older versions of Java as part of the update process. One hundred megabytes or more is a lot of space to waste. This is as annoying as Adobe Reader’s insistence on running in the background every time the computer starts and its insistence on littering the desktop with icons. Come on, Sun, come on, Adobe! You can do better than this.

Entry filed under: Software.

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1 Comment

  • 1. Rob  |  Sunday, 2009-January-25 at 17:35

    I’ve seen the same thing before with different versions of the Visual Basic and Visual C++ runtime DLL’s and different versions of .NET. In theory, proper management of dependency counts in the registry would allow an old unreferenced version to be uninstalled. But in practice they seem to just accumulate. This might be the right thing to do, since reference counting assumes that all applications follow the rules, and if one doesn’t, then you end up uninstalling code that is needed.

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