Panther: Fast user switching and software installers

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 25th, 2004 • 1:17 am

Yesterday, I wanted to install Safari 1.2 on my PowerBook G4, which was still running version 1.1.1. I was careful to quit the current version before running the installer for the new version.

I launched the installer, and it told me that Safari 1.2 couldn’t be installed because Safari was still running.

I double-checked and made sure Safari was indeed not running and tried again. Same error message. I thought that maybe it was some weird bug that led Mac OS X to believe that Safari was still running when it wasn’t. After all, Mac OS X is not always above this kind of weirdness.

Then I realized that, while Safari was indeed not running in my user environment, it was still running in my wife’s user environment. My wife was still logged on, even though she wasn’t using the laptop at the same, simply because fast user switching has made it easier to leave one environment running and switch to another (although it is a hard drive-intensive process and tends to take the wind out of the “fast” in “fast user switching” on this particular 3-year-old laptop).

I switched to my wife’s environment, quit Safari, switched back to my environment, and was then able to install Safari 1.2 smoothly. (I am not sure what the install required a machine restart, though. It’s just a browser!)

The bottom-line here is that the error message that the installer was giving me is definitely not appropriate. While it was true that Safari was still running, the installer should have told me that it was still running in another user environment!

It’s a small thing, a detail, but it’s not insignificant. The software installer needs to be made “multi-user aware” and use the appropriate warnings.

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