Sunday, 1 November 2015

The software updating process

Hey folks! Recently updated your <putYourFavouriteDeviceHere>? One should think that this process of updating a "self-contained" device (I mean something that is usually used without being connected to some other device such as a PC) is a completely solved problem. Just take a decent up-to-date smart phone. At some point in time it will simply notify the user that a firmware update is available. One button click later, the update is being downloaded and installed upon the next device reboot. Easy as pie.
Even older, dumber devices, for instance, my 8 year old music player, have reasonable update procedures: I simply copy a firmware image into the root folder of the device (which mimics as USB mass storage device), and it will install the update upon the next device reboot / power cycle. Again, easy as pie.
And now try to update the firmware of a Sony mirrorless APS-C camera, manufactured in 2014:
  • Of course it features WiFi, which would make over-the-air updates (like smartphones, see above) totally feasible; except Sony does not want to do that.
  • Then it features USB (the camera can do various USB modes, including USB mass storage) which would make the "older, dumber" (see above) way of upgrading the firmware totally feasible; except Sony does not want to do that as well.
  • Then it features an SD card slot, which would allow for another variant of the "older, dumber" way: The user could just copy the firmware onto the SD card, put it in, turn the camera on, and it updates the firmware; except Sony does not want to do that either.
Instead the canonical way Sony wants us to upgrade those devices is:
  • Download an almost 200 MiB exe or dmg file. Of course, besides Mac OS and Windows there are no other operating systems for PCs in existence. Thanks for reminding me of that.
  • Set the camera to USB mass storage mode (so, somehow it does use a standard transfer mode for files that should be available on any OS).
  • Connect USB cable, run the downloaded installer. On Mac OS, this requires root because the installer wants to install a kernel driver (to transfer files??? what-the-f***... seriously Sony, were you thinking???).
  • Navigate thyself through the awesome installer UI until the upgrade it complete.
Seriously Sony, this is really an antiquated and terrible way to do it. Please consider one of the three described options above which are ALL easier and more straightforward for the customer than this horrible installer thing.

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