US 20020078222 A1
A method for obtaining information includes retrieving in a network device a listing of available information update packages and automatically updating the network device based on the listing. Transferring information update packages can include determining whether a network device is using a computer network connection and transferring portions of the package to the network device only while the network device is not using the network connection.
1. A method comprising:
retrieving in a network device a listing containing information about available information update packages; and
automatically updating the network device based on the listing.
2. The method of
3. The method of
4. The method of
5. The method of
removing old versions of information; and
installing new versions of information.
6. A method comprising:
determining whether a network device is using a computer network connection; and
transferring portions of a package to the network device in a manner based on the determined usage of the network connection by the network device.
7. The method of
8. The method of
9. A computer system comprising:
a computer network;
a network device coupled to the network;
a file server coupled to the network and containing information update packages;
a managing server coupled to the network and containing a listing about information update packages located on the file servers; and
wherein the network device is configured to obtain the listing and automatically update the network device based on the listing.
10. The system of
11. The system of
12. The system of
13. The system of
14. An article comprising a computer-readable medium that stores computer-executable instruction for causing a computer system to:
obtain a listing containing information about available information update packages from a managing server; and
automatically update the network device based on the listing.
15. The article of
16. The article of
17. The article of
removing old versions of information; and
installing new versions of information.
18. The article of
checking if the network device is using a computer network connection; and
retrieving portions of the package to the network device only while the device is not using the network connection.
19. The article of
20. The article of
21. A device comprising:
a downloader component in a network device configured to retrieve a listing stored on a managing server containing information about information update packages located on file servers, obtain those packages over a computer network connection, and install them on the network device.
22. The device of
23. The device of
24. The device of
25. The device of
26. The device of
27. The device of
28. The device of
29 The device of
30. The device of
 This invention relates to updating information in network devices.
 In push-based methods to update information (such as software, data or documents) in network devices file servers that store the information initiate the transfer of update packages to the network devices when the network devices become available.
 In pull-based methods of distribution, the copying of an update package from the server is initiated by the network device. Typically, the network device requests an update package from the server, downloads the package, and installs it.
 In both of these methods, the communication bandwidth available to the user diminishes for other applications running on the network device while the transfer is in progress.
FIG. 1 shows a computer network system.
FIG. 2 shows a listing file.
FIG. 3 is a flow chart.
FIG. 4 is a flow chart.
FIG. 5 shows an example of transferring information update packages over a computer network.
FIG. 6 shows a set of rules associated with conflicting client computer instructions.
 As shown in FIG. 1, a computer system 2 includes network devices 3 and file servers 4, 5 that can communicate over a network 6. Each network device 3 has a downloader component 7 that controls the automatic updating of information on that machine. A managing server 5 stores a listing 8 that contains information about available updates for the network devices. Update packages 9 can be stored on one or more servers 4.
 In one such system, the Internet is the network 6, web servers are the file servers 4, 5, and Internet appliances or personal computers with connections to the Internet act as the network devices 3.
 An example of the listing 8 kept on the managing server is shown in FIG. 2. In general, the listing 8 contains network device targeting information as well as descriptions of the available update packages 9. One section 30 in the listing 8 can list update packages that apply to all network devices. Other sections 32, 34 can list information applicable to individual network devices or groups of network devices that are defined (by listing) in another section 36 of the listing. The information about the update packages 9 includes the name 38, version 40, and location 42 of each package. extensible Markup Language (XML) can be used as the encoding language for the listing file. Files expressed in XML can be stored as readable text files, are easily transported over existing networks through HyperText Transfer Protocol (“HTTP”), work well within existing networks, and are compatible with many languages and development environments. Also, using XML, new information about update packages 9 can be added without affecting the downloader components 7 already in place. Newer versions of the downloader component 7 easily can be implemented to operate on older versions of the listing 8.
 As indicated by FIG. 3, to update information, the downloader component 7 in a particular network device 3 obtains 11 the listing 8 of available updates 9 from the managing server 5 through the network 6. This occurs automatically at at times that can be set by the user or preset in the factory during manufacturing. The downloader 7 parses 12 the listing 8 for install and uninstall instructions for that particular network device 3.
 The downloader 7 determines 13 whether any information stored on the network device 3 has to be removed to permit the update to occur. The downloader 7 then removes 14 any such information. Next, the downloader 7 identifies 15 what, if any, packages 9 are to be installed on the device 3 and on which servers 4 they are located. That information can be obtained from the listing file 8. The downloader 7 then downloads 16 the packages 9 and installs 17 the packages 9 on the network device 3.
 After the packages 9 have been downloaded and installed, the downloader 7 sends 18 a status report to the managing server 5 so that, if there were any problems with the transfer or installation, the system's administrator can correct them.
FIG. 4 illustrates an implementation of an automatic downloading process in which each package 9 is transferred from the server 4 to the network device 3 in portions. Before each portion is transferred, the downloader component 7 initially checks 21 if the network device 3 is using the network 6 connection 10. If the connection 10 is not in use, the downloader 7 increases 23 the size of the portion to be transferred and retrieves 24 the next portion of the package 9 from the server 4. If the connection 10 is being used, the downloader 7 resets 26 the portion size to its original state and enters 27 a sleep mode for a period of time before checking 21 again. After transferring 23 each portion, the downloader 7 determines 25 whether the entire package 9 has been transferred. If transfer of the package 9 is still incomplete, the downloader 7 returns to block 21 and repeats the process of checking 21 the connection 10, increasing 23 the portion size, and retrieving 24 the next portion.
 During the process of automatically downloading the package, if the downloader 7 finds the connection 10 in use by the network device at any point, it will revert to the beginning of the process so as not to decrease the bandwidth available to the user.
 An example of how such a process may occur is shown by FIG. 5. The package 9 in this example is thirteen kilobytes in size, and the downloader component 7 is configured to have an initial portion size of zero and to increase the portion size by one kilobyte (kB) each time it retrieves a portion of the package.
 Assuming that the downloader 7 initially determines that the connection 10 is unused by the network device 3, the downloader increases the portion size from zero to one kilobyte and transfers a copy of the first kilobyte 60 of the package 9 from the server to a storage 62 associated with the network device 3. The downloader 7 then determines that the transfer is unfinished and checks whether the connection 10 is in use. Assuming that the connection still is unused, the downloader 7 increases the portion size to two kilobytes and transfers the next portion 64 of the package 9.
 Transfer of the package 9 is still unfinished, and again the downloader 7 checks if the network device 3 is using the connection 10. Assuming that the connection 10 is now in use by the device 3, the downloader 7 resets the portion size to its original size of zero and enters the sleep mode for a predetermined period of time. The downloader 7 subsequently checks the connection 10, finds that it is unused, increases the portion size from zero to one kilobyte, and retrieves the next portion 66 of the package 9. It then repeats the process of checking the connection 10, increasing the portion size by one kilobyte, and transferring 23 the portions 68, 70 and 72 until the entire package 9 has been transferred.
 In some other implementations, the increase in size of transfer can vary. The increases can be in different units than kilobytes, and can increase by some formula such as twice or three times the previous portion size.
 In some situations, a network device 3 may be instructed to perform conflicting operations by the listing 8. For example, a specific device might be instructed to install a package that all devices are instructed to uninstall. FIG. 6 shows a set of rules that can be used to resolve such conflicts and can be implemented by the individual downloaders 7.
 The automatic downloading process described above can be implemented, for example, in Internet or Web appliances, such as the Intel® Dot.Station™ Web appliance or other personal computers functioning as network devices connected to the Internet. The downloader component 7 can use, for example, the HTTP GET command to obtain the listing 8 and apportioned update packages 9. Other transfer methods such as File Transfer Protocol (“FTP”) or NFS also can be used. However, by using the HTTP byte range protocols with the transfer method described above, the size of the downloaded byte chunks can be throttled by the downloader 7. This allows the user to have uninterrupted use of the network during the update process. Also, if the connection 10 is interrupted, HTTP allows the downloader 7 to resume the transfer from where it left off, rather than having to restart the transfer from the beginning.
 Advantages of these techniques may include the ability for updates to be made over the course of several user network sessions so as not to impinge on the network connection 10 bandwidth available to the user. In addition, the automation of the distribution can greatly reduce the amount of user participation required for the updating process. All of these factors could create a higher probability of success in updating information on network devices.
 Various features of the system can be implemented in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software. For example, some aspects of the system can be implemented in computer programs executing on programmable computers. Each program can be implemented in a high level procedural or object-oriented programming language to communicate with a computer system. Furthermore, each such computer program can be stored on a storage medium, such as read-only-memory (ROM) readable by a general or special purpose programmable computer, for configuring and operating the computer when the storage medium is read by the computer to perform the functions described above.
 Other implementations are within the scope of the following claims.