The things that we take for granted
Last weekend i went and bought a new laptop (actually, this is my first laptop). So, as i plugged it in and connected to the net, Vista started downloading updates and installing them. And then i started thinking - what happens if one of these updates will simply crash the OS on the next boot?
The implicit assumption of any update to the operating system is that it at least boots (if everything is OK with the hardware). For the past 8 years that i've been using Windows (from 3.11 to NT, 98, XP, 2003 and Vista) i've seen the blue screen of death only once, and that was because of bad RAM sticks (after our IT department replaced them, it all went back to normal). So you kind of take it for granted that when you switch the power on, the OS will come alive and greet you with the full functioning desktop at your disposal. But just think about myriads of small things that can go wrong, including the boot, startup processes, login, drivers, mouse and keyboard, anti-virus, firewall etc. The operating system simply can't fail.
I don't know what's the testing process inside Microsoft for releasing the automated updates, but the end result is that it simply works. They are downloaded, installed, and on some occasions (which are far less frequent than they used to be) OS reboots. And then the magic happens - it all comes back to life. No exception stack traces to copy and send to the developer. No magic key sequence to bypass a faulted module. No praying that it won't crash. It just works.
And this is a technical feat worthy of praise. Such a gigantic multi-layered beast and zero tolerance for startup errors. Makes me think twice about asking people to send stack traces when something goes wrong...