Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adobe's installer session at Macworld

This last week the some brave members of the Creative Suite installer team form Adobe team courageously sat in front of a group of attendees at the Macworld conference. I was in the crowd as they talked about the concerns they have heard from the MacOS X admin community about their installers (and to a lesser extent the products themselves). They had been convinced by John Welsh to come and speak at the conference, and the "pitchfork and torches" crowd (myself included) came ready to voice their frustrations.
The speakers from Adobe did a great job of summarizing the problems that we have been having, and demonstrated beautifully that they had not only been listening to our complaints, but had actually heard and understood them. During the development of CS4 their focus had been on solving the issues the individual users had had with the previous installers, and they talked about how their focus for the "next major version" of the Creative Suite had turned to solving the problems that Mac Admins have had.
I was very impressed both by the frankness of the folks presenting, and by what they had to say. The biggest news to me was that they are working to make the Creative Suite Deployment Toolkit produce native installers on both platform (so .msi's on Windows and .pkg's on MacOS). This was absolutely wonderful news to me, and by itself will solve most of my problems with their installers.
I was a little confused by their reasoning about keeping the generic installer as their custom installer system that they are using now, and having the Deployment Toolkit the produce native installers from that. As I understood it the reasoning was that it would require them to maintain 2 separate installers with separate problems and limitations. But to my thinking they now have to spend resources on 4 projects rather than 2: Windows custom, Windows .msi, Mac custom, Mac .pkg. But as long as they are going to give me a way to produce .pkg installers for what I want, I am mollified.
The only negative part of it for me was that the Acrobat team was conspicuously absent from the group on stage, and every time Acrobat was talked about it was to say that they were not expecting much to change with it in the "next major version". This was disappointing, as Acrobat has been one of the worst offenders of the bunch. I keep telling myself that only having to deal with one problem child in the Creative Suite is a vast improvement of the current state of affairs.
On a note of specific interest to me: I talked to them about making sure that the .pkg's that the new Deployment Toolkit will produce is compatible with InstaDMG and SIU's NetRestore from DVD features. The lead engineer initially was not aware of this the Direct-to-DMG idea, but with only a minimal explanation from me he quickly warmed to the idea and had a private aside with another member of the team. After the session I had a conversation with some Adobe administrative staff who have been using InstaDMG for their internal work at Adobe and they were going to offer their input to the engineering staff. So we have some hope that the .pkg' produced will just work, greatly simplifying the job of installing the "next major version" of the Creative Suite products.

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