In conjunction with the Safari 3.1.1 security release, Apple has also released a new version of Apple Software Update for Windows. With version 2.1, they’ve taken the opportunity to fix one of the problems that caused so much criticism last month.

It now shows two lists: one for updates, and one for new software. This takes care of one of the three easy steps that I culled from discussions back in March:

  1. Separate updates from new software and label them clearly. Done.
  2. Leave the new stuff unchecked by default. Bzzzt! Try again!
  3. When run automatically, don’t pop up a notice more than once for each piece of not-installed software. [Edit:] Done.

Unfortunately the new software is still checked by default, but one hopes that the separate list would be enough to make people stop, look, and make a conscious choice as to whether or not to install it.

I don’t know yet how it handles new software when run automatically, or whether they’ve made the ignore option apply to an entire piece of software rather than a specific installer. I’ve taken iTunes off the ignore list and set it to check daily so that I can find out. [Edit:] I haven’t seen it pop up in the last 24 hours, and according to eWeek, “Apple will now only prompt the user if there are critical security updates available.”

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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.

Well, I’ve updated the site to WordPress 2.3. Let me know if anything’s broken.

The closest thing to a problem was just that I didn’t know I had to run the tag importer manually. I assumed it would be run during the upgrade. No biggie, I went to Manage/Import, ran the importer for Bunny’s Technorati Tags, and waited a few seconds. (I already knew I’d have to adjust the theme.)

I guess fewer things can go wrong if it waits for you to tell it which tag format to import, the one time you actually need it to, instead of having the updater try to guess between 5+ structures (and no structure!) every single time you update for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, I’ll probably be trying out some new themes over the next few days, so don’t be surprised if the site changes appearance wildly. It seems about time for a change.

Theme Testing:

  • Blue Box, with a custom logo & splash image (one of our photos from Waikoloa) & some minor tweaks. (Sep. 24)
  • Still tweaking Blue Box. Trying to condense the extraneous splash image with the title bar. (Sep. 25)
  • I think I’m going to stick with this theme for now. I’ve added some workarounds for IE6 to (mostly) handle the changes I made. (Sep. 26)

To do: small-screen compat, put recent links back in the sidebar, fix the duplicate IDs in the Links widget. Maybe clean up the 60-item list of monthly archives. (Sep. 27)

  • Cleaned up the giant archive list via Flexo Archive Widget. Unlike others I’ve tried, this one won’t hide all the links if JavaScript is disabled. (Sep. 29)

I suppose it’s best to release the security fixes when they’re ready, because any time you pick is going to be inconvenient for someone, but lately it seems like Friday is suddenly in style.

Last Friday saw the release of PHP 5.2.4, on the Friday before—in the US, anyway—a 3-day weekend. This morning Apache released security updates for all three supported branches of their webserver. And this evening—yes, Friday evening—WordPress 2.2.3 came out.

Which reminds me, I’m going to have to start looking at the betas for WordPress 2.3. I think it’ll be a good time for a redesign. Maybe pick a new theme and tweak that one, maybe try my hand at actually designing one. I wonder if the new tagging system can import Bunny’s Technorati Tags.

Just some thoughts on the top 3 most intrusive pieces of computer hardware to upgrade or replace:

  1. Case: You have to take everything out, completely disassembling the machine.
  2. Motherboard: Disconnect every data cable, pull out every card, and sometimes even move the spacers that connect it to the case.
  3. Power Supply: Disconnect power from every drive and from the motherboard, and possibly move stuff out of the way so you can get at the power supply.

Then, of course, you need to do the whole thing in reverse.

One reason I haven’t upgraded my processor lately (a simple procedure by itself) is that whenever I do, it seems to need a new socket, which means getting a new motherboard. Which also needs new memory…