Enhanced Software Updates for Windows

You may have read my previous post about managing Windows updates with WPKG. I’ve been using this system for over a year now, and it has saved me a huge amount of time and provided peace of mind that the applications on my various Windows machines are properly up-to-date.

Things have grown from those early days, and there are now 91 “packages” under management, including approximately 57 different applications, 3 sets of application configuration, and 20 plugins.

Here are a few tips / patterns that I have adopted to make life easier along the way. If you’re using Wpkg and are interested in a chat, or any of my package files, then do feel free to get in touch on LinkedIn or by email.

WPKG-GP

WPKG-GP is a Group Policy Extension for Windows Vista/7 integration, and effectively hooks your application checks, installations, and upgrades into the pre-login screen where progress of MS Windows updates are displayed.

The other advantange of this way of doing things is that it uses a user-space network connection to the fileshare where your Wpkg source files are held, thus avoiding some hiccups in Wpkg where the System user can’t establish the network connection required to update in the background.

The reliability and visiblity of updates shot up when I installed this.

Package Templates

I have now built a set of template package files for each of the main installer types – MSI, InstallShield (Basic, MSI, Web MSI, etc), NSIS, and InnoSetup. The contain my favourite basic models for installing these types of package, including the relevant silent install switches.

Each of my packages now has a header section providing key information for upgrades and a version history, e.g.:

<!--
 VERSION HISTORY

 2.2.4 (2014-07-08)
 - New upstream release 2.2.4

 2.2.2 (2014-04-13)
 - Original package, based on upstream 2.2.2
-->
<!--
 Download URL : http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfsam/files/pdfsam/
 Notification : SourceForge update subscription
 Package type : MSI
-->

These templates have improved consistency over the package files, and made it quite a bit quicker to write a new package for a new application.

Spotting Updates

That Notification line above is handy – it reminds me how I find out about updates. The most common options are:

  1. Subscription to a maillist or sourceforge update service;
  2. Built-in application checks (“hey a new version is ready!”); and
  3. urlwatch – a Linux tool that does a nightly check of specified webpages to look for changes (in the stated version number).

Applications Now Under Wpkg

I guess someone might be interested in knowing which applications I’ve got set up. Here’s a sample of the more interesting ones:

  • Productivity: LibreOffice; BizAgi; Open Workbench; XMind;
  • PDF Tools: PDF Split and Merge; PDF eXchange; SumatraPDF
  • Graphics: Dia; GIMP; InkScape; IrfanView,
  • Browsers & plugins: Firefox; Adobe Flashplayer Plugins; WebEx
  • Email & plugins: Thunderbird
  • Media: Audacity; iTunes; MediaMonkey; Stream What You Hear; VLC Player; XBMC
  • Utilities: 7-Zip; CCleaner; CutePDF; Infrarecorder; Inssider; MalwareBytes AM; Notepad++;WinMerge;
  • File Transfer: FastStone; HTC Sync Manager
  • Libraries: .Net; Java JRE; Silverlight
  • Network: Citrix ICA Client; Kerberos for Windows; OpenAFS; PuTTY; Citrix AnyConnect VPN; WireShark
  • Other: TortoiseSVN
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s