FAQs/Troubleshooting/Networking & Systems/UD Update Tracks

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Copyright © 2007-2009 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2009.12.07)

Q: How are Userful Desktop™ software updates done?

Also answered by this FAQ:
  • What are update tracks?
  • Why did my software change?
  • What process does Userful go through before releasing software?

A: It depends on the update track your computers use.

Userful Desktop™ is constantly undergoing refinement and enhancement. Some changes are major, some are minor, but our Product Development Team follows the same basic procedures for all changes. Through these procedures, we try our best to ensure that defects do not reach our customers, but bugs do happen.

Below, we will also give you some tips on how to prevent undiscovered bugs from taking you by surprise.

Our Update Process

We follow a process that heavily involves members of our Quality Assurance Team in various roles to ensure that:

  • Changes fix the right problem (requirements)
  • Changes are thoroughly tested
  • Changes are tested with various system configurations
  • Changes do not reach customers until proper testing is completed

Changes can come in two main flavors:

  • Enhancements -- new features added to our software, or new/updated third party applications.
  • Bug Fixes -- solutions to discovered defects.

When you actually receive these changes on your computers depends on which "track" your computers are on. Please consider this diagram:

. . . . . . . . . .
Userful's development/release process.

As you can see, the procedures we use are quite involved. Changes must pass through several phases of quality assurance as it moves toward general release.

Note the different update "tracks" shown in the diagram. We will discuss these in more detail.

Update Tracks

Some customers like to receive the latest features and bug fixes as soon as they become available. Others want to minimize change and prefer to wait until new features and bug fixes have become "ultra stable" before receiving the updates to minimize risk of disruption and frequency of change. Userful lets customers choose which update track their machines are subscribed to.

We use several tracks, kind of like gates, to control the number of computers a change can reach. Every Userful Desktop computer is assigned a track in Userful Manager. "Stable" is the track selected by default, but some customers request that their computers be set to a different track. Currently, the only way to change a computer's track is to specifically make a request through our Customer Support. Changing the update track is a move that should never be made lightly.

The update track a computer uses determines when it will receive automatic updates from our servers. Once a change is moved into a given update track, all computers on that track will receive the updates within a few days.

Below, we take a look at the difference between the different tracks. Here you will see some reasons why you may want certain computers put on a different track.

Track Name Recommended Use Description Typical Update Frequency
Stable Recommended for most computers. This track offers the best combination of stability and recent fixes for known bugs. Changes move from the Latest track into Stable only after they have been tested in Latest for weeks.

Note: Customers with many computers should have at least one machine subscribed to the Latest track in order to test the updates before they are moved to Stable and onto all your systems.

Every 4-6 months.
Latest Recommended for at least 1 preview computer per customer. Used by relatively few computers to provide an early look at changes soon to appear on all computers. These changes have already passed Userful's internal quality assurance checks and are suitable for common use, however, they have not yet been broadly tested in production environments in many hardware configurations. Every 3-4 months.
Ultra-Stable Only recommended for customers who do not want new features right away and who have a large number of machines and branches and wish to keep changes to an absolute minimum. This track is typically only used by large deployments with 10+ branches and perhaps 100+ stations. For these customer living with known bugs is typically preferable to having an update rolled out to all branches at once. These organizations often have complex politics around change. If you are choosing this track, you should have a few machines in at least one branch/location subscribed to the Stable track so that updates are tested out in your environment before they are moved to Ultra-Stable. Customers in this update track may endure known bugs until Userful has a particularly proven Stable release which has been running for at least several months. Once a year or less.
(Others) Not for use outside of Userful. These other tracks are used for internal testing by Userful's developers and testers. These tracks should never be used for customer computers. Very often.

FAQs About Update Tracks

Q: What update level should I choose for my systems?

A: This is an important question. If you only have one computer or just a few stations you may want to keep them on Stable. But here are some good reasons to put one or more computers on Latest:

  • You have many computers.
  • You have several different locations, using different network configurations and printers.
  • You always like to have the latest, coolest software.

Even if you have one or more of the above situations, please remember that Latest is only for a few computers, and should never be used on all of your computers.

Q: Which system should I choose to place in the Latest track?

A: The best location is where it will be under the watchful eye of staff who are most likely to notice and report any undesirable changes in behavior. Staff members should be informed that such updates occur and that the computer may behave differently from others.

Q: Can I switch from one update track to another?

A: Yes, but you must make this decision carefully. For example, it is quite easy to switch a computer from Stable to Latest, but if you decide to return it to Stable in the future, it may require extra intervention from Customer Support. It is a bit like getting a haircut. Once it's cut, it's cut. All you can do is wait for it to grow out.

Q: Will I receive notifications before updates are applied?

A: Provided you have computers on the Stable or Ultra-Stable tracks, you will receive email notifications prior to these updates occurring.

Q: How long does it take before my configuration changes are applied?

A: After Customer Support makes the change in Userful Manager, the Computer Profile needs to have Apply Configuration used on it. After that, your Userful Desktop will automatically retrieve the new configuration within a few hours (or you could cause it manually with a Ctrl-Alt-U). If the change to the update track requires new software to be downloaded, that will take additional time. With a fast Internet connection, you should expect all changes to have taken place within several hours of making the change.