Adobe CS4 Updates: As atrocious as ever

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 3rd, 2009 • 11:33 am

Adobe recently released a slew of updates for the latest version of its Creative Suite, i.e. the CS4 applications.

Given Adobe’s recent history with software installers and software updaters, I bet you will not be surprised to hear that the user experience with the CS4 updates is as atrocious as it has ever been with Adobe’s software.

As I reported in a previous blog post, I normally prefer stand-alone updaters that I can run at my own convenience, but I have given up on trying to keep track of Adobe’s multiple updaters myself, and for Adobe’s software, I feel that I have no choice but to rely on the automatic update checking and update installation process that is triggered whenever you launch an Adobe application.

So yesterday, when I launched Photoshop CS4, I was greeted by the usual “Adobe Updater” modal dialog telling me that there were about a dozen updates available and asking me if I wanted to download and install the updates. I said yes, and went to bed. (The total size of the updates was over 400 MB.)

This morning, I checked to see what had happened and I was greeted with a modal dialog asking for my admin password. I gave the password, and Adobe Updater proceeded to launch its endless parade of Dock icons dancing and of multiple disk images mounting in the Finder with impenetrable hexadecimal disk names (without unmounting properly when Adobe Updater is done, of course).

Amazingly enough, the updater did not ask me for my admin password more than once. I was seriously expecting to be asked for it at least half a dozen times. I guess we have to be grateful for that particular improvement.

Unfortunately, the rest of the process is as user-hostile as ever. Like I said, while Adobe Updater runs the various updaters apparently required, you get a very noticeable dance of application icons in the Dock that you cannot do anything about. Most worryingly, some of the icons in there bounce for such a long time that, eventually, Mac OS X just gives up on them and leaves them there in the Dock, but without the dot underneath them indicating that the applications are now running.

This particular behaviour reminds me of the buggy old days when Mac OS X would indeed sometimes have trouble launching applications, and you would get into this weird state where, after bouncing for several minutes, the application icon stayed in the Dock, but the application would never actually start running properly.

Today, Mac OS X is a fairly mature OS, and we don’t get that particular buggy behaviour anymore. (At least I don’t.) But thanks to Adobe, we get it again each time Adobe Updater feels the need to run its software updating process.

Does it mean that the updating process is failing? Apparently not. Even though the Dock icons never get their dot indicating that they are running properly, something still happens and eventually the icons disappear altogether and the updating process continues.

I suppose we are expected to treat this as perfectly normal—just as we are expected to treat as perfectly normal the fact that Adobe applications constantly throw the Spinning Beach Ball of Death in our faces while they are busy doing their thing, with no way for the user to determine whether the application is frozen or is actually in the process of doing something useful. (You are just supposed to wait and see what happens.)

And of course, we are also supposed to treat as perfectly the normal the fact that, yet again, some of these Adobe updates ask us to quit not only Adobe applications, but also Safari—which occurred again in my case when Adobe Updater got to an update for something called AIR, which I never use.

And so I went through a few cycles of multiple Dock icons bouncing endlessly, then eventually disappearing, and I started to think that maybe this was my lucky day and that the whole updating process would actually manage to reach completion without self-destructing.

That was before Adobe Updater got to the InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update.

At that stage, it mounted yet another disk image (this one, amazingly enough, with the fairly informative “InDesign CS4 6.0.1 Update” name, rather than, say, “A8DF345234BD23BE4E”), and it proceeded to launch yet another Dock icon that started bouncing endlessly. So far so good—so to speak.

And then I got an error message telling me that the installation of a particular component of the InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update had failed. Why? No idea. It just failed. And the options that Adobe Updater gave me were the following: either stop the software update process altogether now and “resume later” (whatever that means) or skip that particular update and proceed to install the rest.

In other words, there was no option to try the InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update again, even though this was supposed to be an automatic update and not an update run from a stand-alone updater that the user can try to run again manually himself.

Faced with these two options, I just thought I would quit the process and launch it again. Ah, how foolish of me. I told Adobe Updater to stop the process. It quit. Then I tried to launch the Adobe Updater application again. It failed. The icon just bounced once in the Dock and disappeared. I tried to launch Photoshop CS4 (whose update had been properly completed, at least according to the Adobe Updater progress report). It failed. The icon just bounced once in the Dock and disappeared.

In other words, I had no choice but to reboot my entire system, and hope that that would somehow fix whatever problem Adobe’s applications were having now. So I did. And indeed after rebooting, I was able to launch the Adobe Updater application again. It went to check for available updates, and came back to tell me that there were two updates available only, for a total size of a little over 100 MB, and asking me if I wanted to download and install them.

Did I really have to download the updates again? Apparently so. I clicked on the “Show Details” link (it’s a web-style blue underlined link and not a proper button—don’t ask why) to see what the two updates were. And guess what? Neither of them was the InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update!

In other words, according to Adobe Updater, the InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update had failed, but now Adobe Updater was telling me that I no longer needed that InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update!

I went to check the version number of the InDesign CS4 application on my hard drive, and it was… “” No sign of a successful 6.0.1 update here.

So now I had a possibly partially updated InDesign CS4 6.0.1 that Adobe Updater didn’t know had not been updated properly. Great.

I proceeded to do two things. The first thing was that I told Adobe Updater to proceed with the downloading and installation of the two remaining updates. To my relief, Adobe Updater didn’t actually need to download the updates again after all. It obviously found them somewhere on my hard drive, where it had left them after the updating process had been interrupted before the reboot, and jumped directly to the installation phase, which was completed without further problems (just a couple more icon dances).

And then I went to the Adobe web site to download the stand-alone InDesign CS4 6.0.1 update, a 32.6 MB download. I launched it, got the usual double Dock icon dance, and then this:

Can't update

Terrific. So now I have an update that, according to Adobe Updater itself, has failed, but I am completely unable to run it again. I have a version of InDesign CS4 6.0 that might be InDesign CS4 6.0.0 or InDesign CS4 6.0.1 or anything in between, and I have no way to change it, except if I elect to uninstall CS4 altogether and reinstall it from the DVD and then install the 400 MB worth of updates again.

Out of curiosity, I launched the InDesign CS4 application itself and indeed, even though the version number of the application itself is “,” the splash screen said that I was running version 6.0.1.

I am getting really tired of all this crap. I know that my previous post on the crappy CS4 installation process got a significant amount of attention, including from people at Adobe, and that might lead to improvements in future versions of the software (although there has been zero follow-up, contrary to what was initially promised, so I am less and less hopeful).

But clearly there is absolutely no hope of any improvements with the current version of the product, and I am afraid Adobe’s software will continue to waste the precious time of Mac users, administrators and troubleshooters everywhere. (I don’t know how bad the situation is on the Windows side, but I suspect it’s not much better.)

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