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Delivering Software, Electronically? 220

zpengo asks: "I'm trying to find the best way to implement a large-scale Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) service for my software company. I've been able to find very little information online (after weeks of research) so I must take it to America's best and brightest. Have you ever worked with ESD on a higher than plain-vanilla FTP level, and if so, what did you learn from it? When do you consider the product 'delivered'? Was it worth it? (I'm planning to put together a public domain whitepaper on the subject with the information I gather, to help fill in the gaps I found while researching online)."
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Delivering Software, Electronically?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:00PM (#4537904)
    When do you consider the product 'delivered'?

    When it's available on Kazaa?
    • Web-logons (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      At my school, there's a page set up for your basic freeware (acrobat reader, PuTTy), and other more expensive site-licensed software (X-Win, CRT, Dreamweaver) require a user logon to download. The IT department keeps a log of all the downloads, and whoever's logon is used is responsible for the software. For the really expensive stuff (MATLAB, Mathematica), paperwork is necessary.

      Take a look at it: []
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, I'v seen a white paper a few years back regarding this topic. I'm pretty sure that AT&T worked on a new economic model based on that.

    Anyone remember this?
  • ximian's red carpet (Score:4, Informative)

    by j1mmy ( 43634 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:04PM (#4537923) Journal
    it's now available for anyone to use as a server or client.
  • Ehem... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:05PM (#4537925) Journal
    I've been able to find very little information online (after weeks of research) so I must take it to America's best and brightest.

    Um, this is Slashdot, dude...
    • Re:Ehem... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Servo ( 9177 )
      Hey, he's new here, OBVIOUSLY. :)
    • Re:Ehem... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly, the crowd who beleive in the business-model...

      1: Write free software.
      2: ?
      3: Profit! hardly the best and brightest :)
    • Re:Ehem... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yup, it should have read

      " I've been able to find very little information online (after weeks of research) so I must take it to America's best and brightest. But before that, let me ask on Slashdot..."
  • ESD (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I did ESD delivery for my company a couple years ago. We used "Wininstall" with great success. The only real problem I ran into was variances and testing.

    You know, Joe Schmuck loads his own software, and blammo my ESD job breaks. IF you have rigid controls on your environemnt, ESD works great.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been able to find very little information online (after weeks of research) so I must take it to America's best and brightest.

    Good idea, but what are you doing on Slashdot?

  • by atomray ( 202327 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:06PM (#4537941) Homepage
    I've worked with this before on a project, and it's usefulness depends on your needs. It's essentially an extension applets; it does not run in a browser, but does run in a secure sandbox.

    If you have a pure java swing application, this is probably the way to go. If not, read more about it and decide whether it's appropriate.

    The technology was a little rough at first, but I assume it's matured somewhat, considering that it's now part of the standard java environment.

    Java Web Start []
    • Actually, if you're doing an internal or extra-net application (that is, you're distributing in a corporate environment, not an ISV) then you actually want to use DeployDirector [] by Sitraka.

      The apps deployed with it do not have to run in a sandbox, which is a benefit if your users consider you a trusted souce (i.e., internal IT group). It's not free, but it's really good.

      It's got some great administration/management capability as well -- far superior to WebStart, which has NO such capabilities.

      Incidentally, Java Web Start is still really rough. (I've played around with a few Java deployment technologies, and JWS is the crappiest -- but then again, it's just the reference implemenation.)

  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:07PM (#4537944) Journal
    I'm trying to find the best way to implement a large-scale Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) service for my software company.

    What software, which audience, which principles? It makes a difference whether you are building ESD like tucows or for a special product for a special market - for example. It might be possible for you to get some real information out from here, but you will have to tell more. Don't be scared, if someone wants to look up your company, he is already well capable of doing it :)

    • by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:33PM (#4538056)
      Don't be scared, if someone wants to look up your company, he is already well capable of doing it

      Like somebody smart enough to click on his name in the story ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I realize that this is /. and open source solutions are preferred. But if you want something scalable, professional and with lots of bells and whistles (like multi-platform support), may I suggest:

      Full disclosure: I work for Big Blue, and despite my bias I can tell you some HUGE companies and government agencies are happily using this product. (plus lots of small ones too)
  • If that's what I am, I fear for our nation!
  • Software Delivery (Score:1, Informative)

    by cyberlotnet ( 182742 )
    I really wish people would take some time to do "research" like they "say" they did instead of just come to Slashdot, it shows people are lazy and in some cases ( possibly this one ) Should be thinking about improving there own lifestyles and work habits before starting up a software company..

    If the above doesnt fit you then your answer is below.

    There are a number of companys out there that specialize in software lic's.

    Most can be included into a couple diffrent lang's with very little effort at all.

    One very good example of this would be..

    This and more information can be found on google without a problem. ( But of course this persons "research" didnt include simple searches on the most popular search engine.. But he did research, He really did research hard, I got that link in 1 minute, He spent weeks? researching and sounds like he found nothing? )
    • Oh, before someone comments, I assume since he is looking for more then just ftp/http downloads that he wishes to track/protect/sell his software in some manner..

      This requires a method to keep only purchasing users from using his software..

      Hence the need for something like elicense which in general would cover all his needs.. All he would have to do is put the file up on cnet downloads or something..

      But again he researched this all for weeks..
  • Resuming (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daveman692 ( 558544 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:08PM (#4537949) Homepage
    My biggest concern is that if the transfer fails in the middle you can pick it up from that point. Also that it doesn't need you to install funky software before hand.
  • ESD (Score:5, Funny)

    by cscx ( 541332 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:09PM (#4537954) Homepage
    Always make sure you're wearing one of those wrist-strap thingies.
  • Valve is doing it (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheAntiCrust ( 620345 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:11PM (#4537962)
    Valve Software (makers of Half Life) created a program called Steam. Steam allows you to download patches and goodies (player skins, models, and maps) but you can also buy and download full games. Here is thier website dont know how helpful it will be though.
    • If it only it worked through NAT firewalls. Grrrr

      • You're in luck! It works perfectly through NAT and firewalls.

        How do I know for certain? I just headed over to the website and installed the thing. I'm sitting behind a hardware firewall/router.

        I'm particularly impressed with Steam's efficientness. I participated in the early beta, but things have come a long way since then. From the time I visited the web page for the first time, to the time I was sitting in the game watching the in-game intro (The whole transit system bit), complete with MP3 music, less than five minutes had passed. This truely is a revolutionary way to deliver software. What's more, their beta servers were unable to provide my with more than ~700-1000kbit of bandwidth over my 3.5mbit connection. When they go live with much greater ammounts of bandwidth, those five minutes of prep time could be reduced to two or three minutes!

        Steam is truely an incredible experience.

        Regards, Guspaz.
      • Off-topic, but:

        If it only it worked through NAT firewalls. Grrrr

        The server is blocking ICMP requests, which means it will not see the ICMP Fragmentation Needed packets your NAT'd boxes will send. You need to reduce the MTU to around 1412 on the machines behind the firewall, or force the MTU in the firewall itself.

        If using Linux 2.4/iptables, see the netfilter kernel config help option for "TCPMSS Target Support"...

        Note that, technically, this is a problem on the server side (blocking ICMP for "security" reasons) but it can be solved on your end.

        (I fought with this for months before I found the problem)
        • Why is the DF (Don't Fragment) flag being set? Yes, blocking all ICMP is a broken practice, but the 'MTU error' won't happen unless that DF flag is set.
  • rsync and rdist (Score:4, Informative)

    by jutpm ( 550776 ) <> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:12PM (#4537966) Homepage
    What is wrong with rsync [] and rdist []?

    From the rdist website: "RDist is an open source program to maintain identical copies of files over multiple hosts. It preserves the owner, group, mode, and mtime of files if possible and can update programs that are executing."

    From the rsync website: "rsync is an open source utility that provides fast incremental file transfer. rsync is freely available under the GNU General Public License"

  • by BuildMonkey ( 585376 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:12PM (#4537967)
    My business is software configuration management. Electronic software delivery is a critical part of many solutions. Typically we use a web site. The system has access control, software submital, notification, approvals at various levels, retrieval based on approval level, and logging.

    For examply, only users identified as Development can submit software. At that point Software Configuration Management is notified to reproduce the software (can SCM build the same binaries as the developers?) SCM retrieves the software from the web site. Once SCM approves the software, Test is notified.

    Test retrieves the software and puts it through its paces. If it passes Test grants its approval through the web site. Otherwise the software fails and Test provides a URL explaining the problems. And on...

    At any point program management can see the state of the software in its track to customer delivery. PM has override ability to approve software for customer delivery even if it has, for example, failed testing.

    The web site makes it easy to access. Access control and approval manage the software delivery process. Notification keeps everyone on the ball. And logging provides CYA - and has covered my butt on numerous occasions.

    My boss particularly loves to be sitting in a Change Control Meeting and hear the development manager say, "The software's been delivered to SCM. We're waiting on them." And he can say with confidence, "Not yet it hasn't."
    • I'm developing a similiar system for my company. Since our development is almost all java based, I've been looking at tools developed by Apache Jakarta and XML groups (Ant, Gump, Cocoon,...). In general I'd like to base most of this on open source software since our budget is very small for this project and open source has lots of other advantages too. Do you [or anyone else] have any recommendations?
  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:12PM (#4537968) Homepage Journal
    what are you trying to deliver ?

    I built a app that for win32 sat in the systray and then looked at a internal FTP and checked the manifest against its own on the machine if anything was new download and ask the user for interaction

    on the java side their was webstart which is really nice and is default on MacOS X.x
    this automatcally does what my app did and is a hell of a lot nice and secure

    apps like windows update are pretty silly as you have to ask the user to look every day and how many lusers do that ? let alone people who know better

    its what crontabs where ment for (-;
    of course you can build it into the app

    and if you just want to deliver software to customers use sftp

    its nice and you can even get it on a java applet so that you can point people to a web page and get them to enter username and password and then its server side chrooting them to the right dir

    have fun


    John Jones
  • by I'm not a script ( 612110 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:13PM (#4537969)
    Try this [] EDS solution.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:13PM (#4537970) Homepage
    "Software delivery", per se, is easy: you click on the link and download a file.

    If there's a problem, it's probably related to getting paid for it. Or, worst case, figuring out some way to "deliver" some kind of hostile code (adware, spyware, etc.) to the user's desktop.

  • I do! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Superfreaker ( 581067 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:13PM (#4537973) Homepage Journal
    I developed (insert plug here-

    We do about 5,000 transactions per month.

    Our method is this (note, this is after 5 iterations of delivery systems- all of which had issues):

    - When a customer pays, we create a unique copy of the purchased product and place it in a queue directy for download. This unique file is prefixed with the customers transaction ID, so
    "" becomes ""

    We then provide a direct link to the file. We also send this direct link in an email to the person.

    After 48 hours the file is deleted. after which time, the customer must request more downloads from the merchant.

    We tried many other methods but there always arose a browser/platform issue. The ONLY reliable method has been to provide a direct link to the file for download.

    It can create server load and file storage issues if you have a large scale site.

    Hope that helps, feel free to contact me off list.
    • Re:I do! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Superfreaker ( 581067 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:17PM (#4537995) Homepage Journal
      erm, that should read 5,000 per week. Shit, I even used that damn preview button. I should walk my fat ass into oncoming traffic.
      • Re:I do! (Score:3, Informative)

        by GigsVT ( 208848 )
        You are correct though, about getting a file to the customer. It's harder than it should be!

        I'm generating PDFs to send dynamically. I've done the same thing with inline jpgs for ages now, without having to save them to disk in any way, shape, or form.

        Browsers don't like HTTP redirects. It doesn't always work. IE5.5 is seriously broken unless you have a certain set of patches installed. Opera 6.0 Linux freaks out. Mozilla mostly handles stuff right.

        Eventually I had to do something like you did, generate the file and put it on a directly accessible filesystem, which is very inefficient compared to just streaming the data out, and potentially a lot less secure.

        Why can't browsers get their act together with dymanic content generated for external plugins? It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to fix... Mozilla already has it mostly right.
    • Why not augment this method to the current ideology?

      • move original files to downloads/private
      • echo "Order deny,allow \n Deny from all" > downloads/private/.htaccess
      • Then rather than copying the zip, ln -s it

    • File storage issues?? Maybe I'm missing something, but why not just create a unique link to a file and delete the link after 48 hours? Duplicating the entire file each time seems like overkill.
      • How would you create a unique link to the file? They will see the path to the file and then can guess the names of any of the other files.

        Links that try to use tricks to redirect, etc. fail becuase of browser/os compatibility issues.
        • Re:I do! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by sfe_software ( 220870 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:40PM (#4538324) Homepage
          How would you create a unique link to the file?

          Either use a symbolic link (most Unix filesystems), or even a bit of mod_rewrite (Apache). The user will never see the true filename, and if you're smart the actual file is not within a web- or ftp-accessible location anyway.

          Eg: /home/joblo/public_html/[unique_number]filename.zi p --> /home/joblo/.private/

          on the filesystem.

          Or use a script that authenticates (using the unique ID) and sends the file data; this can be done with PHP, Perl, ASP, or just about any language that can read the QUERY_STRING environment and open/read files. You can store the user's ID and expiration time in a database, flat file, whatever. No browser issues as long as you send the appropriate headers.

          I could think of many other ways do accomplish this; copying the file for each user is just nuts... you might as well email it to them.
    • Borrowing from the virtual link methodology, I think we may have a solution that will work even in IIS.

      We will use the free junction command line component, or linkd.exe, or one of the others and run it from our ASP page using ASPExec from Will do the same as the unix version of a virtual link.

      So, even if this thread did not help the oroginal poster, it helped us out and that is a good thing.

      Give yourselves all +1 karma
      Good job!
  • by infonography ( 566403 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:14PM (#4537975) Homepage
    I worked for, they were hired guns for this sort of thing back about 2000 or so, they seem to have dropped off the net since then. Other players like Digital River were around too. Not to hard to implement, Stick a few apache servers behind a load balancer like an F5 on a big pipe like Exodus and make them pay up front. once you got their money send them a url and password combo that lets them in. The rest is simple stuff. Remember to wash your hands after your done.
    • Not that easy...
      How do you stop port snoffers from determining the direct path to the file and posting it on a NG ?

      The trick is not to divulge the path to the real files.
      • True, but if you keep that specific door open only for a short time and once a successful down load is complete it's closed again. It's all tied up in the configuration of your database and your load balancer.

        1 - send company list of paid buyers by back channel like a direct T1 to server's Database

        2 - Wait till someone uses the key

        3 - Close tunnel after your done

        once it's downloaded this part is done, if someone goes and puts it on Kazaa, that's another matter. Portsnifflers just don't seem like a good way to pirate software. Just wait a while, it may or may not show up on kazaa.

        Honestly, it's a matter of what security you put into the install codes not what you do to protect the distribution. If you got good install protections then they just downloaded 200 megs of inert junk, that's a lot of time on a 56k modem....

        Sig- Maybe we should rate article here on signal to noise ratio.

  • by jlcooke ( 50413 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:15PM (#4537976) Homepage
    Package your application in a self-extracting/self-decrypting archive which uses two keys (k1,k2). k1 is either zero-length or known to the group of indented users. k2 is kept secret until published online at some central site at a time specified by the publisher. If k1 is zero-length, then it'll be an open release of software/data.

    software = Decrypt(software, key), where key = Hash(k1 concatenate-with k2).

    This is called time-lock crypto as written by Rivest Shamir Wagner in [3].

    CertainKey [] offers this service with all the software/crypto you need at a modest price see [1].

    note: I'm a founder of use discretion.

    [1] []
    [2] []
    [3] []
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:15PM (#4537977) Journal
    I've been able to find very little information online (after weeks of research) so I must take it to America's best and brightest.
    When the folks at Mensa solve your problem, will you let this ragtag international band of Slashdotters know?
  • by LL ( 20038 )
    ... when things goes wrong? If you view software as a service, then someone along the line has to make a decision to deploy it. Usually it is some sysadmin who ultimately is responsible for the smooth running of the who ball-of-string (ignoring any CTO stupidity). IMHO that is why they like ftp/http/app-get in that it is a conscious decision to review and vet any new release.

    On the other hand, if you are offering automagic updates (a la MS) then I hope the software contract indicates what happens if things goes wrong. The actual mechanism (whether JavaBeans, .BET, or ASP) becomes a side issue when lawsuits are flying, especially for any mission-critical software (cf backbone router flash-upgrades).

  • I know Valve software has been working on this for automating customer updates for their Half-Life franchise. I know they plan to make their content delivery system available to third parties. Check out Steam at:
  • As much as we like to poke fun at Steve Gibson, you might want to take a look at the way he delivers [] his flagship product SpinRite.

    It's also similar to the way F-Prot Antivirus [] is delivered.

    Basically each customer gets a login for the web site and can download from there. It avoids serial generators and cracks because you can't just download the shareware and then apply a crack. The only people who even get the opportunity to download the software are those who have paid so it's less likely (but still inevitable) that they will give it away, share it on kazaa, etc.

  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by DreamerFi ( 78710 ) <(john) (at) (> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:22PM (#4538017) Homepage
    Kagi [] has a lot of experience with this. Check them out.


  • If its Unix, apt-get is your ally. With apt-get, just set up a cron job that updates the apt-get database daily, and then the user can install software at their leisure. If you aren't using Debian, you can use apt-rpm. Red Carpet also has similar facilities.

    If its Windows, its going to be a bit more difficult. Maybe Windows Update?
  • interesting . . . 8 or so years ago when my dad brought me along to sign up for internet access, the guy from the isp made me ground myself before he gave me the setup (floppy) disk. this was because of "ESD," which back then was bad for software!
  • by hargettp ( 74445 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:28PM (#4538039)
    A lot standard exist; whether they are useful depends on the platform you are targeting and/or the architecture of your product. You've shared nothing about either, so I'll just point you at some general standards that you may find helpful, or as sample design patterns that may bring you closer to your goal. Check out the OSD specification [] at the Web Consortium's main site. An XML-based software description language, it's raison d'etre is electronic delivery of software. I know Microsoft used the format at one point, and I know of at least one other company that architected their product to use the OSD language for software installation as well. An alternative to the OSD model is Sun's Java Web Start [], tailored to automatic installation of software for the Java platform. If you still need to roll your own, may I suggest that you consider the package format [] used in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution as a good design pattern to follow? Because the format exposes extensive amounts of meta-data in each package, a complete array of tools exist to automatically resolve, download, and install dependencies--one of the major benefits of using Debian as a Linux platform. Finally, if you are a member of the ACM, their online Digital Library will no doubt have extensive information, as would the IEEE online resources (again, membership required). A free resource similar to those of the ACM and IEEE that I often find helpful is Citeseer []. Hope some of those help!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I did some searches, and there seems to be a fair amount of info available on this.

    There's some good payware service providers like Digital River, Metatec, Intraware, etc. And some decent freeware/open source ones that you could build off of, like And there's always freshmeat, twocows.

    It really depends what you're trying to achieve - what you're trying to deliver, to whom and for what reasons. You may need accountability, tracking, different views for different user sets, etc. Usually, you're best off just rolling your own if you have the time & resources to implement it.

    Oh, and for resuming transactions, you can use HTTP 1.1 "Range" header protocol to do that if the files are large, and you lost connectivity.
  • by TechnoGrl ( 322690 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:30PM (#4538047)
    ESD is just another buzzword until you actually understand what it is that you want. What DO you want?

    Do you want to deliver upgrades or patches?

    Do you want to tie your system into a point of sale mechanism?

    Are you worried about security? (you should be)

    What security mechanisms are you able to implement?

    How many people will download your software each day? Each hour? How many do you expect to do so next year?

    What platforms will your target audience be running?

    I could go on and on....but my point is that you cannot go to anyone, even "America's Best and Brightest" (whereever they are) and ask for a one-size-fits-all solution to a software delivery system - even if you do have a fancy buzzword like ESD to make it sound sort of sexy.

    You first step here (AS ALWAYS) is to define your specifications. You can *start* with the questions above but if you haven't thought of 4 times that many yourself in your specs then you don't really know what you want... and hence can be offered no real solution.

  • Confirmation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:33PM (#4538054)

    I am currently adding ESD capability to my eCommerce software, so that I can deliver electronic goods to customers.

    The approach I am looking at is one where after payment has been accepted, the user gets a secure account where they can download the files they have a valid licence for, and the file is passed through a script which checks that the user has authenticated properly. This means they cannot simply post a URL to allow everyone access to the file.

    In order to authenticate, and so that they can download this file again at a later date (maybe their hard disk blew up or whatever), they must enter a random 4 digits of the credit card used to purchase the file. This means they would not simply post a username/password and allow everyone access to their account.

    When they receive the file it will be archived. When they unarchive the file, the custom unarchiver will request authorisation from my server, informing me they have the file, and what the md5 hash is. This confirms to me they have a valid file and helps against credit card refunds.

    Inside the archive, I will look for ways to have unique ID's hidden inside various files, so I can then track the file's owner should it appear on any file sharing sites/networks. This doesnt have to be done in realtime, you can prepare 1000 files in advance and assign them to customers. I will look to write into the EULA a clause that states it is their sole responsibility to keep the file and contents secure, and that any lost sales will be charged to them if it could be proven they were neglegent in securing their computer/network.

    I think that the above will be a good set of measures to take. Of course, it all depends on how important/valuable your software is.

    Remember, if someone is really persistant, they will find away to share your files without detection. So things like great customer service, and value add will be your biggest help in keeping your customers loyal to you.


  • I must take it to America's best and brightest.

    Will you be here all week?
  • this is little bit on a tangent...

    my copmany is developing a colaboration app in perl for internal use. i was recently approached by management asking if there is a possibility for resale of the application weve been developing for quite some time now.

    of course theres a big problem with very nature of perl... its an interpreted language. how would someone go around to resell something like a perl script and then prevent people from freely distributing it? only other modules its using is CGI::Application and all the data are stored in mysql database.

    does anyone have experience w/ reselling compiled perl binaries?

    • No need to worry about that with perl code. The syntax is so damn ugly it looks binary anyhow. Just remove the comments and ship away!
  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:41PM (#4538082)

    Take a look at This is an outfit that sells, among other things, PDFs of old TSR AD&D books (the PDF were obtaining by scanning the books). The PDFs are a few bucks each and are sold only through download.

    The neat thing is that they offer a temporary download URL that allows you to redo a download wihin a few days if the first one failed. You don't even need to bookmark the temp URL, you just reenter your name and CC number for authentication and can redo the download (without being charged twice, obviously). This is a very cool feature. I suggest your site adopt a similar functionality.

    -- SysKoll
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So no foreigners are allowed to reply?
    First idea, stop thinking that the best and the brightest are all American.
    Second, do a spider diagram of all the possobilities.
    Third, remove the ideas from the diagram that are not feasible.

    Presto, a solution.
  • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:44PM (#4538091) Homepage
    Don't forget that once you have distributed your software over the Internet to an untrustworthy, evil user, s/he is going to give it away for free. S/he is going to start buring illegal copies of the software he downloaded for all his friends and will probably download it right into his P2P upload directory.

    After the Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) is complete, the user has to get through the EULA so he can install it.

    Just who are you going to get to write that EULA?

    Might I humbly suggest,

    These guys specialize in incomprehensible leagaleze and by the time they are done, your EULA will stand a proud 250 lines long and allow you to have your way with both the user of your software and his/her computer.

    Good Luck!@
  • If your programs are written in Java, then Java Web Start is unbeatable.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:45PM (#4538095) Journal
    You need a good removable storage device on both ends of the network which will act as the adapter. A cd-rw is good but it holds less but is faster to create and send down the sneakernet network. A tape drive is another popular adapter. It hold alot more but takes awhile to get the data ready for transfer. The office messenger transfer protocal ( or me ) would be the typically the transfer protocal which works great around the office or through several office buildings. However the messenger protocal does not work well for many wans since it can run around the office better then getting in a car and driving around the wan.

    However I recommend third party fedex or ups wans. They add great routing and delivery support and would mix your data with their own delivery network. They integrate well with the messenger protocal since they both use the mail room gateway as a standard to retrieve and sometimes even store data. The mailroom is the default gateway between the messenger and fedex and ups protocals.

    The downside of course can be transfer time and very high latency. For example using a third party network like fedex can take a day or two to ship the data to Hong Kong and can be pricy depending on how quick you want the data to move.

    The good side of sneakernet is that when the network is down I can still get data from one side of the office to the next. When the network is congested I can still move around huge amounts of data depending on the store medium used. With me implementing the messenger layer of the sneakernet protocal suite, you do not have to worry about hiring any expensive consultans or installation fee's. All you need is the store medium like a tape or cd-rw drive on both nodes.

    Ps. I am looking for work and wouldn't mind doing this at this point. :-)

  • these guys [] have been doing this kind of thing for years (if i remember correctly they started out with the old locked cd's and selling people keys to the software and then moved onto web distribution when it became feasable)... of course they'll want a cut of sale, but it'll be easier to manage than doing it yourself...
  • Shareware model? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GrouchoMarx ( 153170 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:00PM (#4538155) Homepage
    It depends in a huge part on the type of program, but for general-public use (what some would term "consumer" but I'm trying to erase that word from my vocabulary) a Shareware/registration system is often the easiest, if you have some sort of unique identifier to use.

    For example...

    In the Palm OS world, most software is released in a Shareware fashion. Every Palm OS device has a HotSync ID that is used to identify it on a PC, and to keep that device's data separate from other Palms on the same PC. Two people could very well have the same ID, but not on the same PC, and the vast majority of users just use their own name as their ID, so the odds of two people with identical IDs meeting is neglibible.

    What most developers do is release a single binary version of the program that includes all of the functionality, but sometimes blocks it with popups, disabled functions, timeouts, or whatever. If the user decides to register, they go to a web site (usually and enter their HotSync ID along with their credit card data and the web site generates a unique registration key for them based on their HotSync ID and some program-specific key, known only to the developer. The user enters that code into the Palm program and they're all set and registered. The program can then just generate what the reg code should be against the HotSync ID and the secret key (which it has compiled into it), and determine if the entered code is valid or not. The reg code is stored in the device's Preferences database (sorta kinda the Palm version of the Registry, though better implemented), so the user can easily beam the program to others and SHAZAAM!, the other user now has the unregistered, shareware version of the program! Yay, viral marketing! :-) It also means that you need to maintain only one binary version, and you can make it a simple direct URL which is compatible with every browser in existance.

    Yes, it is possible for the user to fudge the HotSync ID with 3rd party programs, but that's not very common. And frankly, if someone is going to do that to "get around" your registration system, they would never have paid for the program in the first place, so you've lost nothing.

    Of course, that is all predicated on the platform supporting that sort of unique ID. I don't know if that sort of user-defined, constant, pseudo-unique ID exists on any other platform. I wish it did, it would make it a lot easier to develop shareware-type apps. E-mail address is possible, but is subject to change more often.

    [insert obligatory commentary about why you should be releasing GPLed software instead of commercial software here.]
  • I used to work for one called Intraware ( []), that's basically their whole purpose for existing--they deliver software electronically for other companies.
  • Do you really care whether you use electronic hardware to send your software, or are you interested in sending software over the net? Computers and the internet don't necessarily have to be based on electronic hardware.
  • by marko123 ( 131635 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:28PM (#4538283) Homepage
    Upgrade Suite []

    It's windows, and freeware now. You might learn about some of the issues from the documentation.
  • rsync over SSL (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pierce ( 154 )
    When I need to transfer large amounts of data, I use rsync where possible. This allows for updates of the data without transfering all of the data, unless everything changes in the current update.
  • Anyone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZeroConcept ( 196261 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:44PM (#4538337)
    Remembers when Numega had a trial version of SoftIce(kernel mode debugger) available for download?

    Warez groups used it a LOT to remove copy protection from games/apps/etc, so the first think they did whith it after they downloaded it was to alter the SoftIce binaries to get rid of the expiration date...using SoftIce itself to find the places where the checks were being made.
  • ...for a large client several years ago. We needed to deploy software to > 400 factory tool control workstations. The prototype was written in Perl, the final version was reimplemented in Python.

    The basic features of the system were as follows:

    1) Packaging of software into the smallest deployable units. Define a standard for how files and meta-information are grouped together into a package (e.g. tarfiles, RPM's) so that the packages can be created and installed in a common manner.
    2) tracking of dependencies and compatibilities between packages
    3) Specification of the set of top-level packages that are required by an individual workstation
    4) dependency evaluation to calculate the final set of packages to be installed, or determine if no viable package set existed because of dependency conflicts
    5) a sizeable set of tools to allow us to manage this information, build packages, and track what got downloaded, why it got downloaded, and who changed what when ;-).

    The combination of these features is very much like what RedHat's "update agent" (and other Linux update utilities) provides. If you have the luxury of only having to support Linux, your best bet is probably to try to adapt one of these to your needs.
  • I was involved with such a problem on a failed start-up (which didn't get funding for going into operation after we had solved the problem). We used Install Anywhere for our initial distribution and the app itself was written in java, stored in two signed jars which included a generic "key". When it came time to first run or upgrade the app, a request was sent to a server (apache+servlets) which took its info from the jars (generic or unique key + sig) and returned back a new jar(s) with any upgrades/patches (new jars were themselves were each "uniquely" keyed and signed).

    The app itself was started by a launcher which would watchdog the app and could report/then fall back the patches/new code if it didn't work. We could (by option) track users/problems/usage statistics and control upgrades for each user. Finally, we have a diagnostic applet (+HTML page) in the same jar which the user could then start from a browser to deal with failed system/comm/proxy issues.

    It worked extremely well during the pilot -- interestingly the most important feature turned out to be the diagnostic applet which saved us huge amounts of time during the trial rollouts, test cycles and releases. Our biggest expenses came from initial support and upgrades.

    Hope this helps.
  • I'm trying to find the best way to implement a large-scale Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) service for my software company.

    How about the following:

    $ wget SOFTWARE-VERSION.ARCH.rpm \
    > && su -c 'rpm -Uhv SOFTWARE-VERSION.ARCH.rpm'

    Or alternatively:

    $ wget \
    > && tar xjf SOFTWARE-VERSION.tar.bz2 \
    > && cd SOFTWARE-VERSION \
    > && ./configure ... \
    > && make \
    > && make check \
    > && su -c 'make install'
    • Of course, if you really wanted to, you could always do:

      $ apt-get upgrade PACKAGE


      $ rpmfind --upgrade PACKAGE

      (These are jokes. They are neither insightful nor informative.)
  • My experience in ESD has shown me exactly how many clever but bored people there are in the world.

    Developing a secure distribution channel has always fallen down, for me at least, at the point the user gets the raw bytes. Crypto schemes, authorisation keys and checks, and even personalised code is useless once one person manages the crack.

    My perspective nowdays is to try and delay breakages until after the main marketing period. With the upgrade cycle, you can generally keep at least the current version fairly secure.

    Sorry to sound pessimistic - but I am a great believer in "If it can be built, it can be broken". It's just the time taken that varies.


    P.S. An unmodified crypto routine is brute force ready... Much as I hate to say it, security by obscurity is your best first line of defence. Mod that crypto routine, just don't fsck it up...

  • by constantnormal ( 512494 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @06:03PM (#4538417)
    ... kinda like registered snail mail?

    I believe it's already been done. Originally, the exchange of digital information was done by a wide variety of means, then commerce kinda standardized on this thing called EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). More recently, it's evolved into an XML-based thing, but it's still EDI.

    It seems to have all the attributes you need:
    *) electronic delivery across platform, language, even character sets (XML will handle/requires Unicode).
    *) authentication of the recipient and sender, reasonable security
    *) provisions to automatically and securely exchange payment data upon receipt
    *) a standardized set of tags to use for referring to the business entities involved in the exchange
    *) many products already exist to facilitate this

    Googling on "XML EDI" will get you a bunch of responses. From a quick once once-over of the 1st page, I thought this one was a good starting point: yled.xml

    The only downside (and you may or may not consider it a problem) is that this requires your consumers to use a program they probably don't already have to receive and decode the transmission. Ftp has the virtue of being essentially omnipresent, albeit in minutely-differing flavors, and requires a modicum of knowledge to use in cross-platform, cross character set interactions. Perhaps your target user base has that knowledge. You don't really say whether this is an intracorporate distribution mechanism, or a vehicle for direct sales to the unwashed masses. This is important.

    I'm not really sure why nobody (at least nobody I know of) is using this to manage software distribution and payment exchange today, other than that the existing web-based tools are "good enuff".

    I'm sure some standards group has defined the grammar for commercial sale of software and related items (media, documentation, support contracts). And I'm equally sure that someone has a nice generic java-based XML-EDI client/server implementation package. But it's certainly cheaper to whack out something using normal web tools and ftp.

    In the end, cheaper usually wins out over everything else.
  • I heard that somebody has one of those insipid overly-broad "business method" patents on "selling and delivering software over the internet".

    I vaguely remember a story on this. I would recommend doing research before opening such a service.

  • I have been looking for a similar service, but not necessarily for software, although it could be used for that since it is rather generic.

    What I envision is a way to get payment feedback back to the seller's website (or server). In other words, the person makes a payment, and the customer's information, especially email address, is sent back to the server. The server can then send the target file or message (music, software, passwords, etc.) to the customer, all without human intervention.

    My need was to have a way for customers to purchase "units" of an online service, not download software, although I needed that service too for another project. I figure if I solve it for one that it will work for software downloads too.

    Although the store server could perhaps read and parse email from the payment server (Paypal-like service), I suspect that HTTP transactions would be better. The commerce server makes a CGI call to the store site and send the customer information, including customer's email address, and a special password code that only the store site and the payment site both know. (This password would *not* be known to the customer.) The store site can then do whatever it needs to do with the information.

    There is a slight risk that the password can be intercepted from the HTTP transaction though. Perhaps an increment counter can be used to reduce such risk. I suppose security certificates could be used, but this gets rather complicated.

    In a nutshell, what I need is a secure way for my website to know that a customer has made a payment without me physically reviewing something. My website can do the rest from there.

    The store site would need the following info from the payment server/service after the payment has been successfully accepted:

    1. Customer's name
    2. Customer's email address
    3. Payment amount
    4. Product(s) selected (optional)
    5. Quantity of product(s) selected (optional)

    I have been kicking around ways to get such info from Paypal, but its email is too easy to fake.

    I agree that multiple different products in a single given payment could make such a service a bit complicated, but right now I don't really need it that fancy.

    BTW, it ain't porn, but could in theory be used for that too. It would make a good test example for discussion.
  • Perhaps it wont reach the widest audience but it's certainly a great way to deliver it :)
  • Just throw it on a warez site and write the URL on the bathroom wall. Every machine in the office will be up to date in no time. And they'll all be running the latest copy of MS Office and Photoshop, too -- at absolutely no cost to the company!
  • Check out No-Touch Deployment in the .NET Framework [] for an interesting way of solving the problem of delivering software updates automatically, without the need for user intervention. If you set it up properly, it's actually more secure than just downloading straight from a website, because of the very granular code access security features of the .NET Framework.
  • you might want to check out smartcert on google. Pricey but they hold your files and handle transactions. They do not use watermarks to make unique copies.

    I have been working on a simple shop system to tie into Payment One and other credit card clearing systems, written in Perl. A lot of the design depends on your own business policy and how much risk you are willing to take (i.e. is it okay if people can post copies of your software on bbs systems?). If you only have a few items it is easy but with higher throughput you will want to manage clients and handle cooling off (giving money back) quickly. Check out Red Hat's system for some ideas.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.