The Design of Software (CLOSED)

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Legal requriements of auto-updaters

I worked on an auto-updater for a popular consumer application that was recently released. I totally agree with Joel that it really needs to be a transparent process. The original design proposal was to simply show a notification of the update on the sign in screen with a link to more info (that few would click of course). But then legal, and policy, and privacy got involved. And because of that, we need to have one dialog that tells users we have a new auto-update feature with the choice to opt-out. And for those who do opt in, we need to show an install scree with the full EULA requiring that they agree.

It looks like the only software these days capable of a seamless auto-update are open source programs where the legal department is satisfied with showing the EULA only once, on initial install. Sigh.
Dave Cortright Send private email
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
Bull it needs to be a fully automatic process. Joel is irritated by pop-ups.  Sure, he doesn't care, until an update opens a security hole.  "Well, the vendor should be smart enough to keep that from happening."  Riiight.

It's funny when software developers start saying everybody else's stuff should be PERFECT all the time.  Even while they're still struggling to make their OWN stuff PERFECT, and falling short.

How do you maintain configuration control if anything can change at any time? 

Where I work, the IE7 upgrade would break the VPN connection we currently use.  If it had been 'auto-rolled-in', we'd be in deep trouble.  Those 'gate-keeper' functions -- having a PERSON in the loop to give a stamp of approval to a modification -- is a critically important role.
AllanL5
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
"Where I work, the IE7 upgrade would break the VPN connection we currently use."

I think the standard answer is "if you know what VPN is, you're not Joe User", hence Joel's rant does not apply to you.
Roman Werpachowski Send private email
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
"Bull it needs to be a fully automatic process. Joel is irritated by pop-ups.  Sure, he doesn't care, until an update opens a security hole.  'Well, the vendor should be smart enough to keep that from happening.'  Riiight."

Um...you're saying the vendor *shouldn't* be smart enough to prevent security holes?

If the update has a security hole, it's not ready to be pushed out yet.  If the vendor likes to push out beta updates, then there should be an opt-in process to do so; otherwise, give me the update when it's ready.  Being ready means it won't break anything, doesn't have security holes, and will work at least as well as the previous version.

The point still stands that "There's an update ready!" popups are an attempt by the vendor to absolve themselves of responsibility for the contents of the update.  "Gee whiz, we didn't *make* you install it; we just told you it was there."
Kyralessa Send private email
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
I support the idea of "the software's not there to be COOL, the software's there to achieve a purpose.  The User's Purpose."

I also support the idea of "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler."

You should be able to enable 'auto-update' without intervention, if that's the option you're comfortable with.  The problem with removing the gate-keeper function on an auto-update is that it addresses a critical part of the relationship between a user and the software.

That part is Trust.  Now, it seems that Joel trusts all those applications he has loaded (even though he's forgotten what half of them ARE) enough that he'd like them all to update themselves without intervention.  Fine, if his trust goes that far, he should have that option.

For me, having that gate-keeper function turned ON means that any time a program wants to change itself for an update, I get to be notified.  Because ANY update implies to me I may be dealing with a different version of the program after the update.  If it's been spoofed I might be dealing with a different application entirely. I want to know that.

So, who controls that trust relationship?  Are you saying Joe Sixpack doesn't care, and therefore TRUSTS everything?  That's a good way to get virused.

Joel apparently made the argument that he TRUSTS Adobe to always download trustable updates.  I pointed out an example where even Microsoft's update would have broken something on my computer.  So mere Trust doesn't keep you safe then, does it?
AllanL5
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
Um, Kyralessa, you're saying all delivered software so far has lacked security holes?  'Cause I don't think that's what reality shows.

Shoot, I just installed a patch from Microsoft to CLOSE a bunch of security holes.  Do I think they put them there intentionally?  No.  Do I think they even knew about them before last week?  No.  Were their products shipped with those holes?  Why yes, yes they were.
AllanL5
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 
When your computer is connected to the Internet, it is no longer you vs machine. It's you and machine vs the world trying to hack you. That, I think, will render it very difficult to automate and simplify everything to the point when software "just does what I want". No, because there are still security concerns which need to be addressed and they won't be addressed by anyone else than the user.
Roman Werpachowski Send private email
Friday, December 15, 2006
 
 

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