How to make an updatable CD-Rom
December 14, 2004 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Making an "updatable" CD-Rom (lots of linked, searchable pdfs/ docs) that needs to check the web for updated documents and download them to user's hard-drive, subsequently seamlessly showing data from HD/ CD as necessary. Any resources on coding said beast? Google-fu fails me.

I'm envisaging a PC-based solution; perhaps browser-based, downloading .docs/ .pdfs./ .swfs that are on with a later create date than their corrollaries on the cd.

I'm agnostic as to programming languages.
posted by Pericles to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I think you're in for a lot of pain, esp. if you want to make this work cross-platform. Why not just have everything (including search) online?
posted by mkultra at 9:28 AM on December 14, 2004

I don't think it would be too terribly difficult. If it were me I'd use a scripting language like tcl/tk (but that's my bag, others include but are not limited to perl, python, ruby, etc although you might consider java also). You could either make your own interface, or more likely, I think I'd make a VERY simple webserver that was smart enough to fetch docs off CD or HD depending on which was most relevant, and return those to the browser. So the person could use a web browser that would connect to localhost. This would be easy to do cross platform with any of the technologies above. Again, I like tcl because you can make little starkits which are sort of executables. Vanilla C would work OK too if you worked at making it compile cross platform but that sounds like too much work for me.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2004

Combined with wxWidgets for the interface, you could easily do it in any language of your choice.
posted by cmonkey at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2004

Sure, wxwidgets would be a good way to go. I think the point is, the actual problem of fetching updates from a web site is easy. Having a program tell whether to get a particular file from the hard drive or the CD is pretty easy. Writing something to search the CD and hard drive directory is pretty easy. Making user interfaces ranges from hard to easy depending on what you want, and making it cross platform, which not particularly difficult, takes time, effort and testing. It's possible that cross platform is not all that important to you.

The web-only solution might be all right for you. I'm a frequent buyer from Grainger (an electric and tool supply place) and although I often look at their online catalog, I more often look at their desktop-catalog-product. It's way faster.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:40 PM on December 14, 2004

Response by poster: The web-only solution isn't an option, as most of our users have dial-up, so just pulling back the occasional updated pdf is fine, but we know (from bitter experience) that the web-only mechanism isn't gonna work.

This is what we're looking to do, and I've seen programs like Microsoft Encarta do it, but it obviously isn't as easy as I'd hoped (guess I was hoping for a website full of scripts that do it, or a pointer to some authoring software).
posted by Pericles at 1:05 PM on December 14, 2004

A long time ago, I put together an prototype (company internal) that was essentially a small HTTP server that autoran when the CD was inserted, and then started the web browser with the URL to connect to this server.

This particular server would download information from the net to the hard drive to dynamically 'update' information on the CD. Hardest part was keeping the content/versions intact without sending over too much data.

It was a windows exe to handle the autorun, then a java app for the server.
posted by azlondon at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2004

I'm not saying there's nothing off the shelf that'll do it. I guess I misunderstood as you said you were agnostic to programming languages -- I assumed that meant you expected to program something. I'm an application developer and I'm generally accused of reinventing the wheel, as I'm often more interested in the process than the solution. Anyway, for something like this, in my own experiences I've found that the pared-down version that I would make myself is going to work better in the end, with less headache, than the off-the-shelf version. Any reason you can't use the service described in the thingy you linked to?
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:25 PM on December 14, 2004

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