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Lend your support to a generic updater tool

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#1
PaulOBrien

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I have a dream! OK, so it's not quite as ground breaking as some other dreams of our time, but it's a dream none the less. ;) It goes something like this...
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I have a whole bunch of software on my device. Probably 15 apps at least. I also write software, which is downloaded by a fair few people, both commercial and free. I like to ensure that my software on my device is up to date with the latest versions, and it's a right pain in the ****. Not only that, I'd like my end users to have the latest versions installed to get the best possible experience... and to facilitate that I have to write a custom update checker into each of my applications. Fine for big apps, not great for quickly rustled up apps or tweaks.

But there could be another way.

What if you could have an application that lived on the device, that wasn't tied to any one application or vendor, that could check for updates for everything installed on your device? IMHO, that would be awesome. A dream. :wub: For such an approach to work, you'd need a few things...
  • Someone to write the update application, and to develop it. A community project perhaps?
  • The update application MUST be FREE for end users and developers
  • The update application MUST be easy for developers to plug in to
  • The application needs to be used by end users!
  • Freeware developers need to use the application!
  • Commercial developers need to use the application!
Now here comes the audience participation part - if you are a user, would you like to see such an application? If you are a developer - either freeware or commercial - would you like - and would you use - such an application? Make your voice heard here, and if there's an appetite for this, let's make it happen! I'll be updating this topic to list developers who would like to be involved.

Oh, I forgot to mention... I've basically written the update application! It's simple, has plenty of scope for future development, can update itself (of course) and in order to be used by a 3rd party, just needs an XML file dropped into the updater directory from your install CAB, and a current version XML on your server!

Beautiful! The response to this topic will determine how much time I spend on getting it production ready :D

P

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#2
nickcornaglia

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Superb idea! Except participation is needed from developers! This should be a mandetory application! How do you get everyone on board to make it a Windows mobile, standard app!

EDIT: Damn windows mobile naming conventions! Rather...how do you get everyone on board to make it standard for WIndows Mobile?

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-Nick

#3
tasman

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That sounds like a really good idea. I would use that. The alternative is watching these forums for news of an update, and to be fair the smaller apps sometimes get released pretty much unnoticed. Getting the developers to sign up would be great.

I've previously thought that a centralised service (a website), where you could register the apps you use and the devices/platforms (PPC, PC, Mac etc etc) you use them would be a good way to go. Then the site would scour those vendors/suppliers and notify you when you have updates (or like your idea get vendors to sign up to register updates). Ok there are personal data issues, but no more than signing up to a forum.

It would still require a manual update on your part to perform the update, but at least you know when they are around.

I think I saw a similar idea the other day (maybe on betanews.com), but it relied on it's community telling the site that they had seen an update. 

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#4
simon211175

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sounds like a great app. I want it. Please.

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#5
PaulOBrien

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S-K-Tools, developers of one of my must have apps, have been in touch to express their support! Yay!

P

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#6
GordonTGopher

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Paul,
Great idea! Look forward to seeing the production version ;)

Gordon

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#7
pmk24

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I will be keeping a keen eye on the progress of this thread and application ;) nice work Paul

Paul Klosowski
QA Lead
Astraware Limited

www.astraware.com - play anywhere™

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#8
PaulOBrien

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Developer One have said they will be willing to include the updater files in their products.

Woohoo! ;)

P

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#9
Kieren

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Hi all,

As the guy here at Astraware who builds all our installers and CABs, I also wanted to add my own thoughts to Paul Klosowski's - I think this is an awesome idea and a great start! I'm already discussing with Paul on integrating this into our future releases, so that the support for it is present in our games.

Kieren Smith
Producer
Astraware Limited

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#10
M@rkC

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What a fantastic idea Paul - that'll save me having to open truckloads (currently 22) browser windows each day :D to see if the various apps that I use on my M3100 have been updated!!!

BTW, would you mind if I leeched your post and posted on XDA-Devs and 4WinMobile?? There's a heck of a lot of development work goes on in both those places......or would you rather be selective as to who got involved with the project (given MoDaCo's position on "dodgy gear" ;) )???

I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops - your "NoData" program is very well received by people with minimal data packages who want to restrict their browsing to WiFi only - hopefully "MoDaCo Updater" (we must have a poll for a snappy name for it :wub: ) will go the same way.

Cheers,

Mark.

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#11
PaulOBrien

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M@rkC - Spread the word. The more the merrier! :D

I was thinking of calling it 'AppToDate' ;)

P

PS If someone goes off an registers that domain before me, it WON'T be called that :wub:

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#12
nickcornaglia

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I get it now....AppToDate = Up To Date? ;)

(wouldn't mind hearing other names! :wub: )

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-Nick

#13
PaulOBrien

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EXACTLY Nick! (/me smacks head)

P

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#14
J273

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Great idea...Its just like the windows app i use for file hippo?

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#15
M@rkC

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Paul,

Posted over at XDA-Devs (http://forum.xda-dev...d.php?p=1484255) and waiting for approval from Daron & co. at 4WinMobile.

Here's hoping you get a good level of interest - I for one would love to use something like this on my device ;)

EDIT: News item approved by the mods at 4WinMobile - post at http://www.4winmobil...k-app2date.html


Cheers,

Mark.

Edited by M@rkC, 04 September 2007 - 02:57 PM.

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#16
Swampie

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So it works that when an app gets installed, it drops an XML file into your AppToDate application's folder. AppToDate then processes these XML files, which will contain a.) the current version installed, and b.) a URL to to go check what the latest version it. AppToDate then compares the version obtained from the URL with the installed version and informs you if anything is out of date.

That seems nice and straightforward.

What I think would be most useful though is for it to (optionally - for those who are GPRS poor!) allow downloading of the new version directly. I rarely update apps on my device simply because it's too much of a pain - usually I forget whilst I'm at a PC. Being able to, for example, download the CAB file directly would be ideal.

However, if it could download and run updates this would introduce a potential security risk. What's to stop another app or something modifying the XML file on the PDA such that the URL to check the version against was to a malware infested URL? You'd think you were installing MyLatestApp v2.0 when you're actually getting MyLatestHack v2.0.

As it stands, I think your method is fine - the user still has to manually go to the site, download the latest version etc. But as I said, it's still a pain to actually update manually.

I'm sure there's a way with PKI etc that things can be made more secure - but would make it more difficult for vendors etc to get behind it. You want it simple.

Not sure of the solution though.

Edited by Swampie, 04 September 2007 - 02:16 PM.

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#17
chucky.egg

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Very interested, but it needs to allow you to NOT update an app - sometimes you hear horror stories of apps getting crippled by the latest "advances".

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#18
PaulOBrien

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I should have made that clear - the application downloads the CAB(s) for you and then sparks a normal installation. The whole idea is you can update on the go ;) It will of course be option, you only update what you want to!

With regards to an application 'tainting' another applications update, there's not a huge amount that can be done about that. It would be particularly malicious to redirect to another CAB, which would need to have name / version etc. to match (or you'd notice as you went thru the install).

I guess the app could say 'about to download update CAB from astraware.com' or whatever, then you'd know where your app was coming from!

P

So it works that when an app gets installed, it drops an XML file into your AppToDate application's folder. AppToDate then processes these XML files, which will contain a.) the current version installed, and b.) a URL to to go check what the latest version it. AppToDate then compares the version obtained from the URL with the installed version and informs you if anything is out of date.

That seems nice and straightforward.

What I think would be most useful though is for it to (optionally - for those who are GPRS poor!) allow downloading of the new version directly. I rarely update apps on my device simply because it's too much of a pain - usually I forget whilst I'm at a PC. Being able to, for example, download the CAB file directly would be ideal.

However, if it could download and run updates this would introduce a potential security risk. What's to stop another app or something modifying the XML file on the PDA such that the URL to check the version against was to a malware infested URL? You'd think you were installing MyLatestApp v2.0 when you're actually getting MyLatestHack v2.0.

As it stands, I think your method is fine - the user still has to manually go to the site, download the latest version etc. But as I said, it's still a pain to actually update manually.

I'm sure there's a way with PKI etc that things can be made more secure - but would make it more difficult for vendors etc to get behind it. You want it simple.

Not sure of the solution though.


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#19
pugzi

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I'm with you all the way on this, I have 12 extra programs on my M700. While your at it, could you do one for my PC please, with a 102 applications, it's a little hard to track the updates. ;)
My only comment would be that the "Apptodate" (clever, by the way) would obviously be having conversations with other apps, and the web, therefore, potential slowing of device speed and excessive data charges/gprs switching on and off etc. The amount of time windows and other updater's talk to the tinternet can be a hell of a pain in the proverbial.. Anyone with "AnyDVD" or even "Mmetrics" knows what I mean.

Pugs

Edited by pugzi, 04 September 2007 - 02:41 PM.

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#20
gzub

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Great Idea

How about allowing the end-users to submit "unverified" updates, so for example if the latest published version of PocketCM is .10 and I found version .12 had been posted, allow me to send the information back to a central server which allows other users to see that there is an un-verified version available.

If we could also have an option to choose beta vs. release software that would be cool too...

Geoff

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