Auto updating software
There is a recent trend for software to auto-update, and if you are logged in as administrator then it works pretty well, and hopefully with Longhorn and ClickOnce the experience will be good for non-administrators as well. What’s surprising is that its taken so long for the auto-update model to become popular.
About 13 years ago I developed my first distributed system on PC’s that was going to be widely deployed within an enterprise. The first thing I did (initialy just to make testing easier) was to write a stub that checked the currently installed version of the program, against the manifest file version on the server defined in the last version of the manifest. If the version was different, the stub downloaded the installer programme defined in the updated manifest and ran it, otherwise it started the application. The stub was so simple that we hoped it could cope with any update scenario and of course the stub could be updated anyway. Using this system we were able to keep thousands of PC’s up-to date without any manual intervention, other than publishing a new manifest and associated updates to the distribution points. Of course there is nothing clever in this at all, the only clever bit was doing it 12 years before it became standard practice!
I look forward to the time when the experience of locally installed software is nearly as slick as browsing the web, with administrative priv its close already, the major thing we lack right now being background downloading and security, both features of ClickOnce. It will be interesting too see how popular it becomes for classes of applications that have migrated to the web because of the upgrade and installation complexities that Microsoft has made us suffer with for way too long.