Since it appears lots of other people are talking about the beta of the MSN Toolbar Suite (Scoble is tracking many of them here and here) so I thought I’d take a look at it. Besides, I’m tired tonight and not up to writing anything superbly technical. Anyway, I downloaded the bootstrapper that kicked off the install. It was obviously a Windows Installer package so I went rooting around for their MSI file to see what I could see. I finally found a copy of it (in the Windows Installer cache that I will talk about some other night) and popped the MSN Toolbar Suite’s MSI file open in Orca.
At first, I was pretty excited because the installation package was written using the WiX toolset (albeit a version of WiX built about four months ago). Unfortunately, as I investigated deeper, I saw some non-ideal authoring. For example, the Directory table has a number of entries where the short and long names for the directory are identical. This bloats the package for no reason. More recent builds of the WiX toolset print out a warning to inform the setup developer about that kind of unnecessary duplication. Also, I noticed a large number of invalid identifiers in the MSI file. Those also would have been caught if built by a more recent build of the WiX toolset.
As you can see, the WiX toolset is slowly getting smarter about bad authoring. I’ve even considered adding a "-pedantic" switch to candle.exe many times to catch things that just shouldn’t be done in an MSI file. However, for now there is plenty of error checking to tighten in the WiX toolset without the "-pedantic" switch. But, I digress…
Fortunately, none of the errors described above are fatal with the current versions of the Windows Installer available so the Beta installed just fine (it’s indexing my machine right now). However, to ensure future compatibility with the Windows Installer at least the identifier issue should be fixed. Also, fortunately, this release is just a beta package so there is still time for all of the issues to get fixed. Finally, a few of the MSN Toolbar Suite guys are coming up to Redmond this week (they are down at the Silicon Valley campus) and they’ve scheduled lunch with me to talk about how they are using the WiX toolset. I’ll raise these issues with them again there.
Oh, and I agree with Michael Giagnocavo, "What’s with the shortcut on the desktop? Don’t do that! The desktop is the user’s space. At least ask for permission to stick stuff there."