Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.
Re: Microsoft Will Transform into Services Firm
Author: Nicholas Riley Posted: 10/15/1999; 4:42:18 PM Topic: Microsoft Will Transform into Services Firm Msg #: 12084 (In response to 12083) Prev/Next: 12083 / 12085
Yeah, it's funny, that's the thing that grabs people about Debian. My first demo of Debian is always doing a "apt-get update; apt-get upgrade" and explaining what happens behind the scenes, because I've found it very successful in gaining many a convert.
Debian's auto-updating process has always worked seamlessly for me, and I am constantly impressed (being very much an outsider to the Debian Project) by the large number of people who work to make sure it does. It really is a sensible model to only declare an OS upgrade complete if ALL the software available for the OS (officially, at least) functions properly. But very open-source dependent, of course.
I think an Internet protocol for software updates, plus freely available implementations, embeddable into software for every platform, would be great. How about implementing it over XML-RPC? It'd probably be too inefficient to send the actual patches via XML-RPC, but a free system that would make it trivial to:
- automatically 'diff' files and directories, with the possibility of adding support for arbitrary data structures like Frontier's object databases
- post the diffs on a Web or FTP site for download
- publish the above information
- run a small daemon or CGI to answer XML-RPC requests that include the current version of the software the user is running, possibly some authentication information like a serial number, and to return the location of the patcher to get the user to the newest version
- download the patch, or pass the location to something like 'wget' on UNIX or URL Access on the Mac
- apply the patch, and have reasonable defaults if patching fails (like offering to get the full version of the program from the same site, or suggesting a reinstall first if it's commercial software)
- provide embeddable support for applications to do all this themselves, or a separate component/application that they can call on
- provide a system-wide UI for users to schedule update checking and retrieval
It'd be great to have such a facility as a system service, to avoid baking FTP/HTTP download code and checking facilities into every application. I could also imagine it'd cut down on network traffic - I know lots of people who post full versions upgrades of software upgrades because it's too difficult, too expensive, or too hard to support to create a patcher. On the Mac at least, it's worked for Internet Config as a third-party model that worked so well that it was eventually made a part of the system, why not this?
Something like Apple's online update model for QuickTime 4 and Mac OS 9 (using MindVision's technology) would be great. I'm sure Windows Update works similarly.
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