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Ten Minute Tech

Firmware Updates: A Necessary Evil

Despite occasional bugs there are several reasons to stay current with your devices

My father used to have a saying "if it's not broke don't fix it".  That is certainly not the case when it comes to the displays and devices used in precision agriculture. 

The companies that produce these high tech units are continuously trying to improve their functionality by producing new software.  Although these software packages undergo testing before release, they often create as many problems as they fix.  The testing can never be comprehensive enough to replicate every real world scenario. 

Unfortunately, it is the operator or technology service provider who ends up an unsuspecting victim. Yes, you're the one who usually discovers the bugs in the firmware releases. A great deal of time can be spent upgrading and downgrading systems to get the right combination of versions.  This often takes several calls to tech support and just plain old trial and error.

So one might ask themselves, if it is not broken why fix it?  There are several reasons. For instance, there may be enhanced functionality in the new package.  Or there may be a compatibility advantage that can only be gained by upgrading. The advantage may be between the office computer and the display or between field displays.

 The most compelling reason for upgrading is probably the companies that produce these tools. 

When you make a call for support, you will likely be asked what version is on your device.  Most times if you relate that you are on an older version you get the standard response that your problem is a result of the outdated software. 

Although this might be the case, I am often left wondering: why has everything worked up to this point?

 Suddenly it has developed a problem that can only be solved with a new software package! 

I agree that if you have changed a component that has newer software than your existing devices, problems can be resolved with an upgrade. However, this response often feels like a cop out and can frustrate even the most dedicated field technician or farmer.

So ultimately, when should you upgrade?  I guess I learned a lot from my father - if everything is running okay, you are able to get your maps to your office computer and you don't need the latest gadget, then run with what you have.  However, when you have a problem and need support from the manufacturer, they are going to want you to upgrade.   

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