Tuesday, April 18, 2006

software: Where's the version number?

I'm still struggling with Norton Anti-Virus failing to auto-protect. Someone pointed me to a support document for installing the latest LiveUpdate. But nowhere does Symantec give the version of the latest LiveUpdate. I know I'm running v3.0.0.160, they provide a download link to lusetup.exe, but no indication of its version!

I blow some bandwidth downloading lusetup.exe, and right-click for its Properties. Damn, like almost every commercial blahsetup.exe on earth, it doesn't reveal its version. Why can't setup programs or the steps that create them propagate the program's version string to the setup binary's properties?!

Open Source programs generally do better. bitpim-0.8.08-setup.exe has a useless File Version, but the file name includes the version. firefox-3.0a1.en-US.win32.installer.exe has a Version, which isn't quite the browser UserAgent but is helpful.

If I double-click on this mystery lusetup.exe, a window flashes for less than a second listing a bunch of files being unpacked, but it vanishes and I get a dialog "This will install Symantec LiveUpdate on your computer. Do you wish to continue?" Still no indication what version number it's installing! The only way I can see what version I'm installing is to install over my current copy.

All installer executables should have complete file Properties matching what you would see in their program's Help > About. All installers should have an advanced mode where you can unpack them and inspect their contents. WinZip can inspect its self-extracting .EXE's, but with rudimentary ZIP capability in Windows XP, I haven't installed it on this machine. And I think most sophisticated installers use their own format.

I've got a uqm-0.4.0-win32-installer.exe in my Downloads folder with no Description, Company, or Version, I have no idea what it is short of running it or using strings -a | less on it.

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