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Downloads, Downloads Everywhere

Friday, June 30, 2006

A real programmer on the Win-OT list has been waxing eloquently about apt-get. He does have a point.

apt-get is one of the command line tools that can administer software packages on Linux distros. apt-get manages all the gnarled dependencies and makes installing new software on Linux mostly a breeze. Throw on one of the GUI front ends for apt-get, and new software is only a few clicks away. Want to program in Ruby? Click - click. Want a web server? Click - click. It's cool (and by cool I mean totally sweet).

The equivalent to apt-get on a Windows desktop is, I guess, a combination of "Add / Remove Programs" and "Windows Update". Sorry … "Microsoft Update". I have both of these icons on my Start menu and I forgot what the difference is, really, but the Microsoft Update icon is the prettiest of the two, so it must be better. I'm shallow that way.

"Add Remove Programs" doesn't really add any software to a machine, unless the software is an operating system component and you have the CD. I mean, you really have the CD close enough to insert into the CD drive. Heaven help you if it's 1 AM at the hotel room in Dog Lick, Kentucky and you need to install MSMQ onto your genuine, activated copy of Windows. Thank goodness for ISO images.

I've never seen anything interesting appear on Microsoft update. Stuff like the Consolas font or Power Toys. On Tuesday, however, two of my machines installed a critical update to remove unacceptable symbols from a font. I thought I'd sleep better that night knowing these foul symbols were gone, but I had strange dreams about super-intelligent aliens covertly landing on earth, graduating from the finest law schools, and then enslaving the planet using a loophole in international maritime laws. Related? Yes.

It's painful to move to a new machine that doesn't have the software I need. Search Microsoft.com, page through results, download, save, open, click-click-click-click, and install. Why aren't the pastel sunsets of the Nature Theme not available through Microsoft Update? Why doesn't the Web Application Project add-on appear? Will I forever need to download and install PowerShell manually?

I've been kicking around the idea of building an app or script to download and install the common software I use, but some of this software requires registration, and other software requires passing the Windows Genuine Advantage test. It might be an interesting challenge. If Microsoft provided a tool that could pick from the smorgasbord of add-ons, utilities, and applications spread across the Microsoft.com domain, it would be cool (and by cool, I mean totally sweet).

Downloads, downloads every where, 
    and I can't find the links;
Downloads, downloads every where,
    I just want machines in synch.

Apologies to Samuel T.