Working on the installer is neither exciting nor glamorous work, but it is inescapably important.  If the installer doesn’t do its job right, nothing else in X-Plane matters, because you can’t fly the sim until you have the sim.  This is particularly true since we push out regular patches during the life of the product.

X-Plane 10.04 will complete it’s beta cycle in the next week, and this update includes a new installer with a fairly major change: the DVD installer (which also adds and removes scenery) and the net updater are being merged.  (The demo installer remains separate.)  The rest of this post explains what’s going on and why.

The updater and DVD installer were originally separated a few years ago so that each update/install product could do exactly one thing.  We kept getting tech support calls where users tried to update and instead installed a demo copy.  By having each tool do one task and only one task, it helped users to do that one task without error.

Fast forward a few years.  People have faster broadband, we have more server bandwidth, and we’re using OpenStreetMap for our scenery; scenery updates are going to be part of the product.  (We have already patched 5 DSFs that had major defects when originally produced.)

So now when you go to add or remove scenery, running a net update may be a necessary step to finish the scenery.  That is, you need to get new scenery from you DVD, and then grab any newer patches off the web.  By merging the updater and installer, we can build an installer that provides updates immediately, eliminating a second step.  (This also means that when you first install the sim, we can update to latest before you run.)

The new installer/updater will also remove the “repair installation” option (which is now replaced with “update installation).  The old repair option restores an installation back to the DVD version, which is almost always older than the net version, and thus undoes bug fixes (which is hardly a “repair” at all). A net update should be more useful.

Update from the about box is still supported – when you update from the about box, the sim downloads the latest installer/updater and runs it, skipping the main menu and going directly into an update.

The new installer can be found here for Mac, Win, and Linux.  The demo installer is here.  Links to the updater now simply grab the installer.

About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.

32 comments on “Merging the Installer and Updater

  1. I don’t get it. When I follow the link for the new installer the page has DVD installers and a link to another page for the update installer. Seems like it’s always been?

  2. Makes perfect sense and I am glad you are making this change. I was wondering why I had to download a separate updater, so Im looking forward to seeing the two merged.

  3. Hi!
    I think it is a good idea to put the to separated programs together. Keep it up 🙂

    Btw. hoping you get the AMD/ATI thing managed soon. 😉

    1. If you use the “about box” to update X-Plane to beta 7 when it is released, X-Plane will just get the new installer automatically.

  4. Does that mean, there will be no way to update a demo installation of X-Plane (other than using the old updater – as long as it keeps working, anyways)?

    1. You will be able to update the demo patch from the “about box”, which will run the installer to update in a pure demo mode without a DVD requirement. But if you don’t own a DVD, you cannot stand-alone update the demo. This was a necessary UI concession to avoid a broken case where users could accidentally run demo-only updates (and not get scenery updates) by picking the wrong thing in the UI. In the end the demo is not meant to be X-Plane lite.

      To be clear: _if_ you own the DVD and have a demo install, you can update that demo install at any time…it’s just another copy of X-Plane.

      1. “In the end the demo is not meant to be X-Plane lite.”

        That’s right – more like a simulator-in-waiting 🙂 I like to check it from time to time, and see if/when the efforts you guys make at optimizing its performance make it useable on my laptop. Hence the question, and thanks for answering it.

  5. Hey Ben, removing the option to go back to a previous version sounds like a bad idea. If something worked for a user in 10.07 but not 10.08, I think he/she would rather have a working, older copy of XP rather than a new, patched, but unusable version. There’s a million different OS and hardware configurations out there, and you never know when some small update will end up breaking a user’s installation.

    1. There was _NEVER_ a real option to go back to a previous finished web update of X-Plane! I want to be absolutely clear about this because we get asked for it a lot. Before this change, there were always three accessible versions:
      – what is on the DVD (now you can get this via a re-install rather than a “repair”, but note that if you had net updated, the repair option would just freak out anyway).
      – the latest final
      – the latest beta
      So you can always go back to stable from beta but we have never maintained past archives of stable versions.

      1. And you should be, simply put. If a user updates and finds issues, one sure way of correcting it is to go back to their previous installation. All this means is that old executables and the files that have been changed to support them are copied to a backup directory so that they can be used to supercede the new version. It’s just not that hard of a project, Ben, especially if you’re spending time on the updater now rather than the main sim. Of course, that means strict version control of development work for each updated element. I just don’t understand why a development scheme as dynamic as X-Plane is fails to have this key ability. The number of times we read in the .org about people failing to keep a backup copy of the sim and are totally hosed by something in a newer version is….well, too high. How many times have you guys released something and realized you goofed? The rollback process gives everyone an out and you don’t have to scramble to release another version super quick and people don’t have to waste bandwidth downloading it. I know it’s not a cakewalk, but it just seems unreasonable to not recognize and meet the need.

        1. Let me rephrase this slightly. 🙂
          “Why don’t you guys spend development resources that could be used to fix bugs on a system to provide access to _all_ past versions of X-Plane, and then field support calls and bug reports against every single version of x-plane, including past ones with known bugs, while simultaneously encouraging a heterogeneous distribution of versions so that third party authors can’t rely on users having the latest platform features for their add-ons”?

          There are two legitimate cases where people want roll-back that I am aware of:
          1. The case where we screw up and obsolete hardware in an update.
          2. The case where we release a final build with a bug.
          In both cases, we need to fix our engineering process. We need to get the sim right, so I am going to push toward a better test process, not toward a more complex distribution process.

          Once you roll back, you lose the bug fixes of the new version. The only way this works out well is if we then provide branched bug fix patches on old versions.

          Maintaining old versions is the wrong solution to real problems in the test process.

          1. Geez, Ben, if you’re going to rephrase my prose, the least you could do is not make it one long run-on sentence! 😉

            Seriously, I hear ya, I feel yer pain. The tech support angle is legit, especially in a very small company.

            Here’s the compromise worth considering. Support current release and current -1.

            You’re right on target. The two reasons you give are exactly the sort, and the only sort, that I’m taking aim at in my suggestion.

            Sure, you need a better engineering process. And you could probably use a larger development staff, a quality assurance staff and a nice big lab filled with Macs and PC’s running every flavor of Apple, Windows and Linux OS’s on every flavor of motherboard and video card. At the same time, while we’re at it, let’s give you a controlling share in nVidia so that any and all driver fixes are X-Plane driven.

            Ah, for the ideal world and unlimited resources.

            What it comes down to is that LR has to live within it’s resources and business model. And the fact that you guys are human. So no matter how good your engineering process gets, the flubs are going to happen. And a one-button one-version rollback for a user would be a benefit that has real benefits for both the community and LR.

          2. I admit, it was not the most grammatically flattering sentence. 😉

            Current -1 is _sort_ of what we get by having separate beta and final. I think another way to do this would be to somehow encourage more aggressive adoption of beta once we’re sure it’s a release candidate. That way by the time something goes final, it would _really_ be final. We face that now with 10.04…we’re going to go beta 7 soon, then RC, all in the privacy of “Get betas”. So invariably, as soon as we push 10.04 out to final, we will get a slew of bug reports that could have come in during beta that users who ignored the beta didn’t see.

            At the same time having people not jump on the beta is a win…we’d rather that users who want a reliable experience go from solid patch to solid patch.

  6. Forgiven! 😀

    Your comments drive to the user, don’t they? Early in whole number edition, beta is probably more risky. There have been many comments in the .org about waiting for 10.3 or so due to the many changes and refinements to the experience of running the sim.

    Clearly you’d like to have lots more people participating in the beta, but that implies a ready supply of the technically saavy people that can at least tie their shoes. I think my aim here is for those that can’t, and stick to the non-beta version. The rewards of the beta system are a bit scary: they involve two things: “thinking” and “work.”

    When you do go RC with an increment, and you finally get those bug reports, you give yourself breathing room if peeps can roll back to the last stable version. Really, this whole concept is an advantage both to the dev staff and the user base, and is a one-time bad deal to implement.

    Now I realized something after our last exchange: what’s to keep people from rolling back and rolling back and rolling back sequentially through previous stable versions? That’s what potentially exposes LR to the tech support soup of all previous versions. I know it’s simplistic, but the process would have to be coded to prevent people from rolling back more than once after they’ve installed “the latest and greatest.” The unfortunate fact is that not everyone updates frequently, some not at all. Heck, there are people that are probably still flying earlier versions of 9 and expecting tech support. I don’t know how you are handling that now.

    But I’m going to stop pushing my point there, Ben. I appreciate your replies. It’s something to seriously consider, and might expand your beta user base just on reputation alone. Think of it as adding strength to the safety net.

  7. Be nice if you could drop it in the Mac App Store and do away with installers all together…

    1. Since I keep a rolling number of versions for upgrades, I don’t see the need to rollback -1. I can test two beta versions or keep the latest RC, which is pointless because that is available as a downgrade with beta unchecked. Sometimes I keep three versions, but the third spot is now reserved for 9.70 (development).

      1. I do the same thing. I have scads of different XP9 versions.

        If a user is astute, they learn how to point their global and custom scenery folders to common folders shared throughout all of their saved versions. This makes keeping up with the progression very easy, and rollbacks aren’t even needed.

        The problem without this approach comes when someone has all of the global scenery installed and makes the mistake of trying to backup copy the whole enchilada. Even with terrabyte levels of disk storage, that can add up fast.

        Therefore the rollback -1 idea is, frankly, for the less technically inclined user, something I think X-Plane is getting a lot more of as FSX development fades into history. MS Flight isn’t going to be a significant player in the serious flight sim community with its narrow geographic focus and overly simplistic controls.

        1. Very funny. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped my Backup .app because I forgot to slide the Global Scenery into the active XP folder in the backup drive. It’s even worse now that I keep two separate folders of Custom (downloaded) Scenery: One vetted for XP10 and one not.

          I’d kill 9.70 now but I’m afraid Austin might take some time off to work on XP10, and I might have to go back to 9 for some “fixes.”

          Okay… where do I send my crash log? Ah, I posted bits in the .org.

  8. Ben, can you make it so the updater component of the new unified installer, can be run without inserting the disc first? I may want to update X-Plane 10 but not use it right away. I can perform the update at work for example, ready for use later at home where the disc is kept or any number of scenarios.

  9. Further on my last comment, can you stop the new installer from putting the installer log on my Desktop (Mac)? I don’t want to there, inside the XP10 folder will do just fine.

  10. Hi Ben,

    the Installer/Updater poses a problem to me: I don’t have a DVD, but a USB (beta) Key. So the updater is stuck at “Please insert X-Plane 10 DVD number one to begin…” and I can’t get any further.

    Any advice other than driving 30mi to fetch my DVD at home?


    1. Hi Philipp,

      I am fixing the bug so that the installer/updater recognizes the same set of keys the sim does.
      But generally, users _will_ need the same “authorization” device for the updater that they do for the installer. This is because the installer can now update NON-DEMO content off the net. Our theory is that if the installer and updater use the same authorization devices as the sim (and since the sim remembers the DVD for a while) this is going to be seamless in nearly all cases.

      For non-purchasing demo users (that is, users who have never bought the sim), I am making the demo installer also update. The about box already does this, but this will provide a more explicit route to updates.

  11. I have commercial USB keys, so can we get past the request to see the DVD disk again when I try to udate? DVD’s are stored off-site, for safe keeping.


  12. Hi, I am currently at Beta 6 but when I try to update to beta 7 I get stuck at this “I am contacting // to find an update server” and then the installer does nothing. Sometimes it says that X-Plane 10 version is already up to date. I have checked the beta box so that the installer can detect beta 7. I am using the new installer which asks me for Dvd 1. After doing what it says, it tells me that my copy of version10 is up to date. It’s like the installer doesn’t detect any update. I think there might some proxy issue. Can’t update from within X-Plane either. Please help thanks.

  13. Hi Ben,
    please remove the aerosoft demo installation from this installer – unless people want this – me not.
    So it is not possible to use the nice streets without the little houses – did you ever see how London looks … ? To use only the streets would be a big improve, I think.
    Reagards Tom

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