17 March 2005

RSS software distribution

What's something that every computer person needs to stay up to date with? That's right, security vulnerabilities. Luckily there's many vendors who provide this information, and a lot of them (such as Secunia) provide free RSS feeds.

Most operating systems have a packaging system that lets you automatically download and install new versions of software, mostly as a security measure. Window has this feature in Windows Update. Linux has rpm, apt-get, and a variety of others.

Wouldn't it be great if you could get a list of the latest patches available, to decide whether it's worth running an update on all your applications? Wouldn't it be great if you could get this information in your newsreader? You could, if vendors published this information in an RSS feed.

Once we're using RSS to provide a list of patches available, it's not a giant leap to utilise this feed in the update applications themselves. All they have to do it poll the feed, allow the user to select which updates are needed, and retrieve the enclosures to download and install them.

It seems like a neat and simple idea to me, and one that would standardise the method of distributing software updates. Not only that, but rather than relying on Windows Update to download and install your updates, you could write a custom application that ran when you wanted it to, downloaded updates that matched certain criteria, and so on.

Does anyone else think this is a good idea?

(I was inspired by this completely unrelated article on package tracking with RSS, which made me think of software package distribution.)