I appreciate the fact that Apple provides a single updater for all their Windows software. It’s nice to consolidate things a bit with the profusion of updaters for what seems like each and every application (sort of like how every mobile device seems to need its own charger). But it has its flaws. I’ve mentioned some broken UI design, but the most annoying thing is that it tries to install new software instead of just updating what you have.

At work, I have QuickTime and Safari for development purposes. I don’t have iTunes. I don’t need it. I don’t even have speakers hooked up to the computer. But every time a new version gets released, it shows up in the Apple Software Update list, and I have to tell it to ignore it until the next time they update iTunes.

Now that Safari for Windows is out of beta, it’s doing the same with Safari*. And people are complaining. People like John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla, who sees it as an anti-competitive measure that dilutes users’ trust in software updaters.

Personally, I think there is a problem, but I hardly expected it to turn into the firestorm it has, with Asa Dotzler, c|net, digg, Techmeme, [edit] and now Slashdot, [edit 2] Daring Fireball and Wired (it just keeps going!), and dozens hundreds of commenters entering the fray.

There’s a simple solution, and it’s one of those rare cases where Microsoft gets something right in their software that Apple gets wrong.

  1. Create a separate section for software that isn’t already installed, and label it clearly. It can be in the same list, as long as there’s a separation and a heading.
  2. Leave the new stuff unchecked by default.
  3. Added: If set to check automatically, don’t pop up a notice more than once for each piece of not-installed software.

That’s it. Done. Apple still gets to leverage their installer to make people aware of their other apps, but there’s no chance of someone accidentally installing Safari (or iTunes) by accident because they didn’t read the list too closely. Take a look at Microsoft Update and how they (currently) offer Silverlight. It’s in a list of optional software, and it’s not checked until you choose it.

That’s all this really comes down to: sensible defaults and proper labeling.

Update: Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

*I have to admit getting a kick out of the title, “Apple pushes Safari on Windows via iTunes updater,” because my problem is that they’re pushing iTunes on Windows via their Safari updater. It’s a matter of perspective.

Acid2 reference image.After looking at how Safari 3.1 handles the Acid2 test, and finding that under some circumstances/platforms it fails the test, I realized: that one line, with the eyes, has been the cause of most regressions in browsers that previously passed the test.

Rows 4-5 test fallback behavior for objects. The idea is that if a page tries to load an external resource, but can’t—the file is missing, the server’s down, the network’s slow, the browser doesn’t have the right plugin, etc.—the page can provide alternate content. And it can be nested, so you can try, say, a video clip that falls back to an SVG image that falls back to a PNG that falls back to text. Continue reading

Safari LogoGrabbed the new Safari 3.1 this morning, both at work (WinXP) and on the laptop at home (Leopard). Noticed that the website no longer says “Beta” for the Windows version.

Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be much chatter from the browser community about it, at least not on sites I follow from work. There may be 25 posts on my RSS reader at home, for all I know.

I wish Apple would make the release notes easier to find. I clicked on the “more info” link in Software Update at home, but didn’t have time to really read it. I wanted to check the list at work, but there’s no menu item, it’s not visible on Apple’s website, and their search engine hasn’t indexed it yet. I had to search Google, and found it from some random person’s Twitter post. (Oh, and Apple? As long as I’m giving you advice, you’re running your site on Apache. Apache has a feature called mod_speling [sic] that will automatically correct a single-error typo when someone hits your site. I highly recommend that you look into it instead of handing out a 404 error whenever someone’s finger slips.)

User interface seems mostly the same as 3.0.

Not sure if it’s new or I just never noticed it, but the history menu has an option to reopen all windows from the previous session. It isn’t the automatic recovery offered by Firefox or Opera, but it’s the next best thing—and quite handy for cases when, for instance, Norton Antivirus has just updated itself and popped up a “will reboot in X seconds” warning, which you didn’t see because you had too many windows open. *ahem*

I believe this is the first browser released that supports embedding TrueType fonts. (IE has been able to embed fonts for years, but you had to convert them first, which may be why you don’t see too many these days.) When WebKit first added the feature last fall, I tested it out on my Les Mis page.

I really like the new developer tools (Prefs→Advanced→Show Develop menu), especially the network timeline. This, combined with YSlow on Firefox (itself an extension to Firebug), will be extremely useful for optimizing site performance.

It gets 77/100 on the Acid3 test, much better than Safari 3.0, which only scored 39/100. WebKit looks like it’s on track to be the first engine to pass again, having hit 93/100 yesterday. Oddly enough, the Acid2 regression is still present on XP (need to compare to the Mac version it displays correctly on the Mac), with an orange band covering the eyes and the border to the right of that band red instead of black.

Another odd thing: when it’s really busy, it seems to revert to a standard window frame instead of its own skin.

Who wants to bet that .Mac will be one of the first webapps to really make use of offline storage?

SafariIn honor of the release* of Safari 3, here’s a little something we found at Trader Joe’s.

Mozilla Coffee, Safari Coffee

The mug is from the short-lived Mozilla Coffee. It seemed appropriate. Now if I can just track down some Opera Coffee, or Explorer Coffee…

*Safari 3 was included in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, released 2½ weeks ago. And it’s included in the 10.4.11 update for Tiger, released today. An updated version of Safari was released today for Windows, but it’s still a beta, according to Apple’s website and the license (even though the about box just says it’s Safari 3.0.4—the same version that’s in Leopard). I’d been planning to hold this until all 3 releases were out, but clearly they don’t feel that the Windows version is quite release-quality yet. So, on the premise that two out of three ain’t bad, I’m posting.

Taking a break from the fire commentary:

Mac OS X LeopardApple: Finally pre-ordered Mac OS X Leopard, removing the temptation to run out to an Apple store or Fry’s this weekend (though I’ve been meaning to put some more RAM in the Windows box). Saved a few bucks by ordering from Amazon ($10 off the family pack, would’ve been $20 off the standard box), and picked the free shipping so that I won’t be tempted to install it until there’ve been a few days’ worth of bug reports.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering when Safari 3 comes out for Windows and Tiger. Tonight at 6:00? Monday? I’m looking forward to this putting some of the new CSS3 capabilities into the hands of potentially 5% of the web audience.

[Opera Logo]Opera: Speaking of web browsers, Opera 9.5 beta came out yesterday. In addition to lots of work on rendering & site compatibility (as seen through the last few weeks’ worth of alpha releases), they’ve launched a new service called Opera Link. It’s primarily a bookmarks sync service, plus a web-accessible interface. So you can automatically sync multiple copies of Opera—including Opera Mini—and also be able to access those bookmarks from Firefox, IE, or a computer where you’re a guest (friend, computer lab, cafe, etc.). I think the biggest impact here is going to be syncing between the desktop and phone, like Safari on the desktop and the iPhone.

On the other hand, imagine adding a bookmarklet or Firefox extension to more easily update from—or even fully sync with—other browsers. Or better yet, a way to synchronize Opera Link with, say, del.icio.us, which can integrate fully with both Firefox (via an extension) and Flock.

Spam: I’m astonished that, with the amount of comment spam that hits this blog (many thanks to Bad Behavior and Spam Karma for helping stem the tide!), I’ve only netted 7 comment spammers for Project Honeypot since they started tracking comment spam 6 months ago. I guess the software is smart enough to only hit the real forms?

WordPress: Just released version 2.3.1 with a bunch of bugfixes and (of course) a security fix. Updated.