Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
I'm writing about how Ubuntu handled an automatic update the week of March 5, 2007. These days the process of keeping your system up to date has evolved considerably so that it is very easy to stay current with fixes and security updates. Essentially your distribution runs a background process with an associated desktop applet that keeps tabs on any updates to your distribution, and alerts you when updates are available. You can then determine if you wish to install them or not. The most important reason for having this feature is security upgrades. Windows in particular has made the importance of this feature quite clear over the years.
Upgrading is not always straight forward. Again, Windows proves the point, most notably with XP SP2. Linux distributions have also had upgrade issues along the way. In Ubuntu's case there is the notable failure during an upgrade of xorg.core in Ubuntu 6.06 that broke the X desktop. Early last week Update Manager presented 17 new updates, three of them related to X11: x11-common, xorg, and xserver-xorg.