Arcane Thoughts – Firefox Got It Right

We had a nerd lunch today, 5 developers at the round table of my favorite restaurant, Richards BBQ & Grill. We talked about a lot of different things, and spent a while ranting on what I can only describe as the narcissism of companies taking over our system trays with their stupid applications.

I’m not saying nothing should ever go in the tray. Software that needs to run 100% of the time to wait for my command, like SlickRun or TouchCursor, should have an easy interface and the tray makes sense. But there’s a lot of software that runs, but doesn’t need to.

Why, for example, does Adobe Reader need to install it’s applet into the system tray? What value does it add? Checking for updates? Yeesh, why do you have to run 100% of the time on the off chance an update might come out?

How about all the hardware makers who want to install interfaces to their hardware? Why do I need another program running all the time on the off chance I might perhaps possibly maybe want to tweak a setting? Isn’t that what Control Panel is for?

Firefox, on the other hand, got it right. When you launch the application, it quietly checks for updates in the background. When it’s downloaded them and has them ready to install, a little dialog pops up and asks if you’d like to restart Firefox to take advantage of the new updates. If no, it just says “Okey Dokey, I’ll install them the next time you run Firefox”. And that’s it, no harassment; it only runs when I run the app! No annoying system tray icon for Firefox.

There’s no reason why other tools couldn’t follow the same model. Adobe Reader for example, when I launch the reader, at that time and only at that time, it should head off in the background and see if there’s an update. Let me know if there is, and away we go. But if it’s six months between the time I run the program, then just lie dormant on my hard drive, don’t suck up my valuable CPU and RAM with your app that adds no real value to my system.

Well, at least there’s one company out there who knows how to handle updates correctly. I’d love to hear your examples of good software. Software that handles updates correctly and respects your system resources. Let’s give these makers an “atta-boy”.

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