Updating Software Update

by Andrew Anderson

"Software Update" is one of my favorite features of OS X. Instead of having to search for and then download OS updates, every day in the background the updates are downloaded and installed for me.

Unfortunately it is one of the features, at least so far as I can tell, that Apple has not opened up to outsiders. So just about every new application out there has its own "Check For Updates" feature built into it. For the most part this is not much of a hassle, but there are any number of applications on my laptop that I run infrequently or mainly when I am not connected to the Internet.

My brother, a film editor, has it worse. He does not have connectivity at home and therefore does not connect his main work machine, a G5 desktop, to the internet very often. This may sound odd, but being connected to the internet does not add any value to the work of a film editor. Plus the natural waiting involved in editing coupled with the endless ability to waste time on the internet is a dangerous combination.

The other day he called because he was unable to get some video to work in one of his editing applications. It took a while to debug, but finally we figured out that he was missing a CODEC that was in an update that he didn't have installed. Eventually he was able to download it to his laptop and install it on his desktop machine. The process of getting the update was a bit like the old days though.

Is there any better way to get updates, either batched for users who are often offline or a system where all applications can register themselves, where to look for their updates and how often to check ?

Any other features you'd like to see in a future version of "Software Update" ?


2005-10-11 14:24:23
I use VersionTracker Pro. It does a pretty good job with third-party apps, and sometimes gets me the Apple apps before Software Update does. I used to use the free .Mac service, but paying for this let me track apps on my laptop and my work G5. And turn off all the ads on versiontracker.com...


2005-10-11 14:43:40
I have tried Version Tracker, but to me it solves the problem backwards, ie/ instead of having an OS resource that handles the updates, that is easy to sign for applications to interact with and virtually automatic for the user, VersionTracker has to actively search out the software that you are running and look up and compare the versions for you. Plus as updates or new applications get released, the developer needs to actively go to Version Tracker and list the update.

Don't get me wrong, VersionTracker is much better than the alternatives and a great marketing tool, it is just no as elegant as OS X is supposed to be.

2005-10-11 15:39:19
Effectively, Software Update is a useful utility but with some flaws. I would like that the software remember that I want to keep a copy of each packages downloaded, so I can install it on multiple machines. But I must set this option each time I run it (Update->Install and Keep package).

For your problem, maybe you can do some scripting to keep each computer up to date. There's a command-line version of Software Update ("man softwareupdate" for more info). The book Essential Mac OS X Panther Server Administration (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/macxserver/) also discuss this issue (look on p. 733). The command-line works on any Mac OS X version, not only Server Edition. Not the easiest solution, but the best I know.

2005-10-11 16:16:54
There's an odd server software package in Mac OS X Server 10.4 (Tiger Server) that supposedly lets you to turn Mac OS X Server into a local reflected copy of software update. This would be great for large installations where a 40 MB update can be transferred once over the Internet and then distributed over 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps internal LANs. I spent a little time with it months ago and couldn't get figure out how to configure clients to talk to the OS X Server package--but it's an interesting option if you're in a larger installation.
2005-10-11 18:38:21
has it's own -> has its own
2005-10-12 02:46:55
"I spent a little time with it months ago and couldn't get figure out how to configure clients to talk to the OS X Server package"

options are,

1. Set up "Open Directory Master"- DNS/DHCP on the server
2. Software Update Enabler 1.0.3 (FREE)http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/18059

2005-10-12 02:48:20
You can do either of options 1. OR 2.

Both work.

FreeBSD & OS X
2006-03-03 13:04:12
Here's a different scenario: I have a small network of OS 10.3/10.4 machines and am running Netatalk on a FreeBSD file server. I would like to automatically download the updates to the FreeBSD server and configure the clients to look at the FreeBSD server for updates. Is this possible? Thanks in advance.