From time to time Apple issues updates to its Macintosh system software. These updates are either fixes to bugs that have been discovered or versions that introduce some new capability. Distributing new or replacement parts of the Macintosh system software in this way saves Apple the time and expense that would otherwise be taken if they were to engineer a complete new release every time they wanted to fix a bug or provide new functionality.
Some updates are packaged in the form of a disk image with an installer that can determine which parts of the kit are needed on the specific machine you're installing on. These updates often require Apple's DiskCopy utility to copy the disk image to a floppy disk before installing:
Other updates take the form of individual software and documentation files. When Apple provides an installer as a part of an update package, we strongly recommend that you use it and do not try to install the updates manually, since the installer may customize the installed software for your specific Macintosh.
Apple has no coherent architecture for the documentation and packaging of system updates. This, combined with the relentlessly increasing sophistication of the Macintosh system software, makes the technical support job increasingly difficult in organisations with large numbers of machines. This gripe should probably be the subject of a separate article. However, one particular problem that deserves mention is that Apple seldom provides precise descriptions of the problems that are fixed by its updates. Because of this, it is often difficult to tell in advance whether applying an update will indeed fix a particular problem that you might be experiencing.
Where -- All updates except those only for Performas are available on AppleLink. Some are available for collection by anonymous FTP from <ftp.apple.com> or <aux.support.apple.com>. You can find updates for networking and communications products from <ftp.support.apple.com>. Note that <ftp.apple.com> has not always carried the full set of updates available on AppleLink, nor have the updates on <ftp.apple.com> always been current. Your dealer should also be able to obtain software updates for you, should you not have access to AppleLink, although there may be a small charge for the time and labor.
The Important Upgrades -- If you run System 7.0 or System 7.0.1, you should certainly have version 1.1.1 of the update named "System 7 Tune-up" installed on your computer. If you run System 7.1 or System 7 Pro, System Update 2.0.1 may well make your computer work better. These updates may have been pre-installed on your hard disk with the rest of the system software when your Mac arrived, or you may have received an update disk with your computer.
You can check for the presence of these two important system updates on your computer by looking for either the System 7 Tuner or Hardware System Update icon in the Extensions folder inside your System Folder. Use the Finder's Get Info command to make sure that you have the most recent version of the update. On computers running System 7.0 or 7.0.1, the Finder's About This Macintosh window displays a bullet character after the System Software version if any version of System 7 Tune-up was installed at start-up time.
Our Solution -- The number of these software updates is growing rapidly. For example, one update that fixes a problem on 68040-based Macs that can make the computer freeze or some programs quit unexpectedly when you open applications that reside on an AppleShare server. Other updates available include one to solve battery charging problems on some PowerBook Duo models and another that makes improvements to the way MacTCP works.
We have compiled a list of many (157 at last count) of Apple's software updates. The master version of the list comes in the form of a ClarisWorks database, but we have also uploaded versions in straight tab-delimited text for those who wish to import it into FileMaker, HyperCard, or any other database. Perhaps the most immediately useful version of the database is in setext format, though, and is formatted specifically to be browsed and searched with Easy View 2.44.
The database attempts to cover all recent updates, starting with System 6.0.7, and unlike many such lists, ours retains information about old updates, making it easier to figure out what SuperUpdate 1.1.1 might fix when its documentation says, "Includes all the bug fixes in SuperUpdate 1.1 and fixes the new bug that crashes all Macs on startup." Some of the fields in the database include useful pieces of information such as Name, Version, Description, Applies to, Date Released, Supersedes, Superseded by, Fixes, New Functions, Components, Availability, and Media.
Here's a sample record from the setext version of the database to give you a better idea of the information we've included. Many of the records are even larger when there are more fixes or new functions.
PowerBook Duo Enabler - 1.0 Description: System Software Update Applies to: All Macintosh PowerBook Duos [PB] Supersedes: System Enabler 201 1.x Superseded by: Fixes: None. New Function: Supports Macintosh PowerBook Duo 250 and 270c. Components: PowerBook Duo Enabler 1.0 Distribution: AppleLink, ftp.apple.com Media: File(s) Record created: Tue, Mar 1, 1994 Record modified: Wed, Mar 9, 1994 Release date: Sep-93
We will try to keep the list up to date in future, and as you'll see, the database can still use a fair amount of work. Frankly, we can use your help. If you see errors or omissions in the database, please let us know at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Don't worry about reporting typos - we plan to do an editing run through when we get some time.
You can get the various versions of the database from America Online in the Macintosh Hardware New Files library, AppleLink in the TidBITS folder, ZiffNet/Mac in the ZMC:DOWNTECH #0 library, and CompuServe in the MACDVEN #5 library (assuming no one moves them in any of these places). On the Internet, check out these two sets of URLs: