Communication Breakdown

REDUNDANT MECHANISMS that fail to communicate with one another can make using Mac OS X Lion more confusing than it should be.

Consider the screenshot shown here. While Apple’s Software Update knows that I have downloaded the latest version of iPhoto (“Your software is up to date”), Apple’s App Store, pulling from a different database, does not know that I have already installed iPhoto. It only knows that a new version is available.

Because the App Store’s left hand doesn’t know what Software Update’s right hand has already downloaded and installed, the App Store flashes a red download alert badge, urging me to download 500MB of Apple software that Apple’s OS has already installed on my Apple machine.

Suppose I don’t bother to check Software Update and verify that the App Store’s “Update” tab is urging me to take a nonsensical action. Suppose I actually go ahead and click “UPDATE” in the App Store’s “Update” tab. What will happen?

The software, all 500 MB of it, will download again, and install itself again. That’s what will happen.

And the cream of the jest? After installing the software again, if I click into the “Purchases” tab of the App Store, the “Purchases” tab will inform me that an iPhoto update is available, and urge me to install it. And if I have been huffing nitrous all day and take Apple’s advice, the 500 MB package will download for a third time and install itself a third time.

And you thought Retina images were tough on bandwidth.


(A friend tells me that Mountain Lion resolves this clustercuss by removing Software Update from the equation. I suspect that those of us still using Lion are receiving unintended anal leakage from UI decisions that make sense in Mountain Lion but are idiotic in Lion. #imisssteve)

10 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown

  1. You’d just better hope that you don’t run out of nitrous…you’d never find your way around to go get more with Apple Maps.

  2. Are you sure this is a bug? If you purchased iPhoto through the App Store (or, adopted it from the App Store with a new machine), then it will receive updates through the App Store and not through Software Update (unless, it was both installed from disc AND adopted from the App Store, in which case you have entered into a realm in which I have no experience).

    Even though iPhoto comes pre-installed, on new Lion machines, it’s sitting in the App Store the first time you open it waiting for you to accept your complimentary license and tie to an Apple ID. Once you’ve done that, any available updates become available through the App Store. In order to get updates from Software Update, iLife must be installed via a .pkg installer or on a Mac that shipped with 10.6 or earlier.

  3. If you have somehow entered into a realm in which you both installed iPhoto via .pkg (or it came on your 10.6 machine) and tied it to an Apple ID and downloaded it, then you may want to remove the iPhoto receipt from the /Library/Receipts folder so that Software Update can no longer determine that iPhoto is installed, thus leaving the App Store to handle all future updates.

  4. Are you pretty sure you don’t have a second copy of iPhoto around from the store that needs updating (on any volume)? Presumably what you already updated was a copy that wasn’t from the store.

  5. What are the actual benefits of staying on Lion as a pose to Mountain Lion? Assuming your hardware can manage Mountain Lion, I thought that would be the obvious way to avoid problems like the one outlined in this article.

  6. Mountain Lion does indeed solve this problem, while presenting a hilarious new one at the same time: under the Apple Menu are SOFTWARE UPDATE and APP STORE. They both seem to do the exact same thing, which is to launch the App Store app. Great.

  7. I think a number of comments are missing the point. The point isn’t that you’re prevented from doing something that you must do, or forced to do something that you don’t wish to do. Life goes on, and there are “workarounds”. The point is that you shouldn’t have to work around an inelegance introduced by the vendor. Managing Apple-authored, Apple-signed, and Apple-installed applications is something entirely within Apple’s control.

    Speaking from a user-centric perspective (ignoring potential technical concerns for the moment), the ideal experience would be one integrated “App Store” or “App Manager” that transparently manages all sorts of “notifiable updates” in one place, and is smart enough to merge multiple instances of the same product into one scope of management. The fundamental problem is not that the two updaters aren’t talking to each other; rather, the fundamental problem is that there are two software update mechanisms in the first place.

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