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Listen.com no Panacea?

>>>You acknowledge that Listen may issue upgraded versions of the Application from time to time, and may automatically electronically upgrade the version of the Application that you are using on your computer.  You consent to such automatic upgrading, and agree that this Agreement (as amended from time to time) will govern all such upgraded versions.<<<

After reading Joel's article on Listen.com, I hopped right ovr and downloaded it. The above caught my eye -- do we really want our applications upgrading themselves without our consent?

Thomas Sanders
Sunday, July 21, 2002

My company does this.  The main reason is that backwards compat is no longer a problem, and usability is increased.  The downside is a shocking security hole.

This is incidentally why you should like the GPL.  You can inspect the code on your machine, or at least pay a trusted person to do it.

anon
Sunday, July 21, 2002

Would your "reason reason" be unachievable if you simply notified users when upgrades were occurring?

pb
Monday, July 22, 2002

"main reason"

pb
Monday, July 22, 2002

Sorry, I'm bleary right now.  I believe our software is polite enough to ask, even though it's a required upgrade and loses its point for certain users if it isn't upgraded.

As a design decision, Listen.com's plan is to remove an unnecessary and scary choice from the user...  sandboxing applets would be nice for this but applets aren't ready for primetime.  And I'm sure they want to slip in utils that detect if you're circumventing their DRM, so you can be banned without refund.

Users have to shout against this, and demand to know what each upgrade does.  They're paying for it, after all.  But users don't demand security until they're bitten.

anon
Monday, July 22, 2002

I would think that most users wouldn't care in the slightest about "pushed installations" or what problems the latest upgrade is expected to fix.

AOL has been doing this with their project for many years now.  Each time when I logout and it puts up a message window that it is downloading and installing some sort of fix, I have a fond wish that this time they will address some of their long time outstanding problems... but that never seems to happen.  I think most of their upgrades are for advertising enhancements these days.

And I also come from an IT department background, where this is quite common.  It would be impossible to maintain a business application with any stability of operation having to get everyone's permission to upgrade.  Backward compatibility is not always possible nor desireable.

Joe AA.
Monday, July 22, 2002

Exactly. All you have to do is notify the user.

pb
Monday, July 22, 2002

> Backward compatibility is not always possible nor desireable.

Actually, I'd argue that it IS always possible, but NOT always desireable from the POV of the company developing/distributing the software.

Every company wants it's users installing (and paying for) the latest and greatest version of it's product.  Typically for reasons of maintenance costs, upgrades break backward compatibility.  Sometimes, however, it's just done to force users to upgrade.

Marty Eichelman
Monday, July 22, 2002

>Backward compatibility is not always possible nor desireable.

marty, joe did say he was coming from the it departement backround. this has implications.

our company develops workflow applications for an insurance company. wenn a new version is released, this generally means there was a change in the workflow.

would you want your workers doing everything wrong, just because they havent the latest software (=procedure) installed?

Daren Thomas
Wednesday, July 24, 2002

> would you want your workers doing everything wrong, just because they havent the latest software (=procedure) installed?

Daren, obviously the answer to this question is no.  But just as you mention Joe's comments, in context he says:

> It would be impossible to maintain a business application with any stability of operation having to get everyone's permission to upgrade. Backward compatibility is not always possible nor desireable.

My argument is that this statement is way too generalized, thus making it false.  Business applications CAN and ARE developed with upgrades that 1. maintain stability of operation and 2. maintain backward compatibility.  It is once the cost of maintaining either 1 or 2 becomes more than the cost of losing clients not willing to upgrade that backward compatibility is broken.

Not every upgrade is a change in business logic.  How many ways can there be to check email (e.g. the AOL comment on upgrades)?

Marty Eichelman
Wednesday, July 24, 2002

I agree that automatic upgrades can be good for both parties -- so long as the update's contents can be inspected by the end-user.

What I'm afraid of is Kazaa-type additions that include software that you would (most likely) never want on your system.

Thomas Sanders
Saturday, July 27, 2002

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