Some chap at MS wants to bring the package managers to Windows:
Now, I don’t care. But, here is an interesting history lesson:
Actually, contrary to what you hear from the Linux Youth, something that resembles the modern notion of “package managers” existed for Windows just as long as for Linux.
Already in 1996 a company called Cybermedia (bought by McAfee in 1997/98) released “Oil Change”. It scanned your Windows computer for outdated software products, and then connected to a repository on Cybermedia’s own server, where it received further information about where to download the updates for the software on your PC.
The download and updating were automatic processes. It even had features of today’s Linux package managers, like uninstalling (undo functions). Oil change is long gone, but the website still exists, let me quote from it:
What Oil Change Does
The software consists of an application that scans a subscriber’s PC to determine which versions of what software and hardware are installed. It then updates the software by connecting over the Internet with CyberMedia’s continually-updated database of the latest updates for applications, “drivers”, plug-ins”, Windows 95 system software, modem drivers and more.
1. Notifies subscribers when new software updates are available.
Subscribers periodically run Oil Change to determine what new updates are available for their software.
2. Explains the importance of each update.
Not all updates are appropriate for all users–for example, a home user need not worry about network enhancements to a word processor. Oil Change provides a capsule review of each new software update so users can make an informed decision. That way they don’t waste valuable time or disk space downloading software they won’t use.
3. Delivers the latest software updates.
Oil Change automatically downloads the latest updates directly from the original manufacturer’s Web site. This means users don’t have to worry about tracking version numbers, locating the individual Web site for each application, or following download and installation instructions.
4. Installs the update for you.
Once Oil Change downloads a piece of software, it automatically installs it in the appropriate directory whenever possible. For the rest, the user saves the piece of software on their hard disk and then follows the installation instructions supplied by the software’s manufacturer.
5. Gives you a chance to go back to your previous system configuration.
The latest is not always the greatest, so during autoinstalls Oil Change always compresses and stores the original software version on the hard disk prior to updating. That way users always have the option of going back and restoring their system simply by clicking on the UNDO button. (Note: This Undo feature works only for updates installed with Oil Change’s autoinstall.)
6. Updates itself automatically.
Each time Oil Change runs, it automatically checks to make sure you have the latest Oil Change version. If you don’t, it gives itself a digital “oil change” to update itself automatically.
Products that Oil Change Updates
Oil Change provides the incremental updates software publishers distribute to users free of charge, not software upgrades. Upgrades aremajor software releases that have to be purchased from the manufacturers directly.
Applications: Products from Adobe, America Online, Borland, Corel, Goldmine, Intuit, Lotus, Microsoft, Netscape, Nico Mak, Novell, Peachtree, Pixar, Quarterdeck, Software Publishing Corp., Starfish, Vertisoft, Visio, Wordperfect and others. It also supports games and applications from Acclaim, Activision, Broderbund, Berkeley Systems, Aldus, Claris, CompuServe, DataStorm, Davidson, Delrina, Prodigy, Knowledge Adventure, Macromedia, Maxis, McAfee, Micrografx, Paramount, Quark, Que, Softkey, Softquad, Spinnaker, Spry, Stac, Symantec, Touchstone, Viacom, Virgin and many more.
Modems: Drivers for modems from 3Com, Cardinal, Creative Labs, IBM, Practical Peripherals, Quantum, Rockwell, Simple, Supra, Telindus, US Robotics and more.
Printers: Drivers for Brother, Canon, Fargo, Hewlett Packard, IBM Corp., Epson, Kodak, Kyocera, Lexmark, Matsushita, Textronix, Texas Instruments and more.
Plug-ins: These are small software applications that add significant capabilities to larger software applications. Available: Adobe Acrobat Amber Reader, Argus Map Viewer, Corel CMX Viewer, EcoSpeech Plug-in, Infinop Lightning Strike, Iterated Systems Cool Fusion, MDL Chemscape Chime, SmartBrowser History Tree, SoftSource DWG/DFX Viewer, Tumbleweed Envoy, Visual Components Formula One/NET.
Video Display: Oil Change provides drivers for video cards and chips from #9 Technologies, ATI, Avance Logic, Diamond Multimedia, Hercules, Trident Microsystems, ARK, Chips and Technologies, Matrox, Microsoft, Weitek and others.
CD-ROM Drives: Creative Labs, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony and others are supported.
Sound Cards and Audio Chips: Ad Lib, Aztech Labs, Creative Technology, DSP Solutions, ENSONIQ, ESS Technology, Mediatrix, miro, Oak, and Turtle Beach are supported.
Automatic Access and Optional Installation/Undo
Once the download is approved, Oil Change automatically connects to the proper Web site or online service and fetches the appropriate software, instructions and technical information. Then, if the user desires, it will automatically install the new software on the user’s machine, correctly configuring the computer. This feature is particularly valuable to novices will who no longer need to be intimidated about making software changes.
If the user decides they don’t want the update after all, an optional automatic “undo” procedure can be activated. This process not only removes the update, but replaces the original version of the software just as it was before. No longer do users have to undertake a lengthy installation process for software they previously had on their machines.
Automatic Security Checks
Prior to downloading, Oil Change verifies all software, ensuring authenticity. The product supports Internet security standards, including PKCS#7 Digital signatures and X.509 Certificates. Oil Change also pre-scans all software for viruses, providing users and vendors an added measure of protection.
Sounds almost like modern linux package manager (except that it was a update only program, it didn’t install new programs), and this is from 1996.
The Linux equivalent of the time was Debian’s hideous dselect. In fact, modern Linux package managers resemble more Oil Change than dselect:
Oil Change from 1996
Suse in 2008
And today, Oil Change, the pioneer in this field, is all but forgotten. Not even a wikipedia entry exists! And the Linux Youth are still thinking that automatic updates of your complete software stock was unheard of before apt.
And no one is correcting them. Talk about selective history.
Another forgotten fact is that already in 1997, Cybermedia, Microsoft, Installshield and others wanted to establish a common standard for what today is called “software repositories”:
CyberMedia, Inc today announced its support of a new Internet software standard, proposed yesterday by Microsoft Corporation and Marimba.
Called the Open Software Description Standard, it is the first open industry specification that will help automate software distribution over the Internet and thus reduce the total cost of PC ownership for corporations. CyberMedia, InstallShield, LANovation, Lotus and Netscape also endorsed the standard today.
OSD gives software developers a data format, or vocabulary, to describe software components, their version, their underlying structure and their relationships to other components, thus creating a common specification that will make it easier to distribute, install and maintain software on the Internet.
“As the industry comes together around OSD and other XML-based specifications, Cybermedia’s experience with their Oil Change automatic software update technology will be a great asset,” said Cornelius Willis, Director of Platform Marketing, Microsoft Corporation. “XML provides the universal language for data on the Internet; the support of Cybermedia and others ensures that the industry will quickly get the details of OSD right.”
“We are pleased that Microsoft and Marimba are submitting the OSD standard,” said Brad Kingsbury, Chief Technology Officer for CyberMedia. “OSD complements CyberMedia’s Oil Change automatic update technology by giving us a single standard by which software installations can be defined, so we can provide an even greater number of patches, drivers and software updates. We look forward to continuing to work with Microsoft and Marimba to help them define this specification, and we intend to fully support it in all of our self-updating software products.”
In May 1996, CyberMedia pioneered automatic software updates and installation with it’s Oil Change™ automatic software updating service, which makes it simple for Microsoft Windows® 95 users to automatically update their software applications and hardware drivers via the Internet. Oil Change is America’s best-selling automatic update product, and is also available pre-installed on PCs from leading makers.
Well, “America’s best-selling automatic update product”, is missleading, since it was basically the only one. Oil Change flopped commercially, mostly due the slow internet connections of the time. The OSD project was cancelled once Cybermedia was bankrupt and got integrated into McAfee. I think the .msi package format was developed out of OSD.