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patch-system hacking

I had a theory that there could be a "patch-status" network server that
could be used to find out cheaply and robustly whether there were patches
to be loaded, or if the system status had changed.  When booted the machine
would try to connect to this server on the sys host, but wouldn't barf if
it failed.  Another theory is to associate this with login somehow.  The
main goal is (a) to avoid making it impossible to boot the machine if the
file server or the network is down, (b) to avoid making booting
substantially slower, (c) to avoid having one file connection to the sys
host and another to the machine you logged in to permanently sitting around.
I never really liked any of these schemes, but maybe something can be done
along these lines.