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blog.gkaindl.com » App Update Revival

blog.gkaindl.com

nerd nouveau

App Update Revival

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More than a year ago, I’ve created and released a Dashboard widget called App Update that can automatically scan the folders where you keep your applications and check for updates to them at Apple, MacUpdate and VersionTracker. So far, I’ve uploaded it to DBW where it’s among the the top-downloaded widgets (and it won a “Best New Widget” contest in January 2006, too!).

However, there hasn’t been an update in a while since I’ve been quite busy with other things. But now that I have this blog going (and all 3 update sources have incidentally changed their layout), it’s time to bring it back in shape. You can get the update here and read the release notes here.

Its sister-widget, Widget Update, will receive a similar update in the next few days, too!

There are a few questions I often receive regarding App Update, and I want to answer them publicly now so that they don’t come up over and over again.

  • Will there be a non-widget version of it? No, I don’t intend to make one. For my style of using the Mac, the Dashboard is the perfect place for a piece of software like this: It’s running all the time, it doesn’t clutter up my desktop and it provides for very unobtrusive operation. In fact, I don’t like to have applications running (and thusly appearing in my Dock) that I’m not going to use in a while, so I’d have to manually start the update checker every day or so, wait until it’s finished and close it again. In the widget form, I get the updates in the morning when I’m checking Apple’s Weather widget, no extra fuss needed.
  • Why can’t it automatically download the updates? It doesn’t do this because the services that it queries for updates (well, at least MacUpdate and Version Tracker) generate revenue by having people visit their websites (and see the ads, for example). Circumventing their websites completely would be an evil thing to do. Right now, App Update can even generate traffic to their sites because users usually don’t check for updates manually every day, but only once in a while. With App Update, you get the advantage of not having to scour for updates by hand, and the update sources get you as a visitor. I think it’s a fair deal.
  • Why does it show wrong results for some applications? App Update relies on meta-information provided by the developers. If they use standard version numbers (You know, those x.y.z numbers) to be displayed to the user and use the actual name of their application when listing it at the update sites, it works perfectly. If you are a developer and need additional information on how to make your application compatible with App Update, look here. If either constraint is violated, App Update does some clever things to try to get the right information anyways, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. However, you can manually edit some information in the ‘Advanced’ view on the widget’s back (consult the built-in documentation) to make it work anyways.

It’s also interesting to note that App/Widget Update were initially conceptualized to be Perl scripts that I’d use myself, tied either to cron or launchd, but as MacOS 10.4 had just been released (Widget Update came out in the summer of 2005) and I realized that a lot of others might find this functionality useful as well, I decided to remodel them into widget. It is a good example of a technology becoming available at just the right time!

The reason why I wanted to have such an update tracker is that I’ve worked with a lot of Linux distributions before, but when I switched over to the Mac full-time a few years ago, I missed the package management systems (such as APT or RPM) really badly: Just typing a few commands to automatically pull software updates is great, and I wanted something similar on the Mac. Installing updates is a breeze in Apple-land (drag & drop installation is truly awesome), but actually knowning that updates have been released is difficult. I didn’t really want to constantly track some software RSS feeds, and the built-in update checkers often get in the way, at least for me (no, I started this software because I want to do something, not to download an update!). App Update satisfies this demand nicely for me.

3 Comments

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    Peter
    wrote on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:09

    I love the widget. Thanks. One quick idea. I find it would be great to make updates as to be ignored. I use some software that I know is out of date and that is fine. It would be great to be able to remove these apps from the list until another update occurs.

    Thanks for the great widget.

    p


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    georg
    wrote on Mar 27, 2007 at 7:45

    Peter, that’s already possible: Right-click an update in the list and select “Mark as installed” to ignore this update until the next one comes out, or click ‘Ignore app.’ to never check this app for updates again at all.


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    Alan
    wrote on Jul 31, 2007 at 8:11

    Georg: It would be nice to have something similar for plug-in updates — for example, Flash Player updates get little publicity even though sometimes they address important security vulnerabilities.

    For Flash Player, the current version one has installed is indicated here:

    http://www.adobe.com/products/flash/about/

    …which contains a link to the Player Downoad Center.

About

Hi, how are you? My name is Georg Kaindl, and I'm a twenty-something from Vienna, Austria. During the day, I'm a CS student at the Vienna University of Technology, but at night, I turn into an independent software developer for the Macintosh platform, social nerd, lazy entrepreneur and intuitive researcher.

I like to write about everything that matters to considerate technology enthusiasts, but humbly retain the right to go off-topic from time to time.

My posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Contact

You can reach me by email if you have something to say that's not related to a blog post or that you don't want to have publicly available as a comment to a post.

However, you'll have to prove that you are human! Even though I personally like robots very much, I'm less of fan of SPAM. It's just a simple riddle to solve, but a SPAM bot won't cut it!

To get my email address, take the word before the .com in my domain name first (Hint: The word you are looking for starts with a "g" and ends with an "l"). Next, simply attach @mac.com to this word.

Boom, there's my email address. Simple, isn't it?

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