3 Dec 2008

The Upgrade-via-Update Dilemma

There is something about modern software apps that I don't appreciate much. In fact the problem starts right at the OS-level. Switch on the machine (its running the latest eye-candy called MS Vista - yeah I do like that OS) and there is a crowd of applications that want to connect to the net and get the latest updates.

It was okay till the time I had an active net connection. Back then I appreciated the feature. Each application trying to update itself to the latest gizmo features added to it. And the OS trying to defend itself from the large community of hackers who are trying to find yet another way to prove what they do best. However ever since I've been devoid of net connectivity, I've realized the problem & pain a badly implemented update mechanism can cause.

Now - let me clarify. Not all applications behave alike. At the OS-level, Vista is good & graceful in the way it handles updates. If you don't wanna update - so be it. It you want the update to be silent - that's welcome too. It provides these as easily configurable options.

However take the case of say "CCleaner". Again, I like this application. It does a damn good job of swiping your PC clean of history. But the update process - it opens up a browser window and you have to explicitly install the new version. That isn't the way modern age apps are supposed to behave. It's also okay if some apps open up a dialog box and displays the update process - as long as they don't force you to interact with it. That is the way "AVG" does it. Pretty slick I must say.

So my rule of thumb for a good behaving app is
1) The update process should be configurable with options
-> update silently
-> update with a silent momentary notification
-> notify but don't update
-> don't update at all

2) As much as possible - the application should avoid pressing for a restart

3) Don't keep popping up fancy colored boxes notifying of pressing updates (its okay for Vista or an AV). Better solution - change the application icon to reflect it.
And finally - Someone should also measure the bandwidth these apps take up for update checks and downloading the updates. That is definitely something I'm gonna figure away before I book my net connection.

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