Automating software update downloads

Macworld.com – Reader John DeCarli suffers with the hell that is satellite broadband access. He writes:

I have access to the Internet via Hughes Satellite. One of the drawbacks is a limit to how much data I can download in a 24-hour period. The limit with my service is 375MB and, if exceeded, my access speed is severely reduced for 24-hours.

Downloads from Apple generally cause a problem. Like the recent iPod touch and iTunes update. It took four days to completely finish the upgrade. That was due to exceeding the download limit. Between 3AM and 6AM there is no limit to the download data. What download manager will work with the Apple software updates?

John, as someone who lived with satellite broadband for nearly three years, I am more sympathetic to your plight than you can imagine. While satellite broadband is better than nothing, a well-placed stick-in-the-eye is better than satellite broadband.

The cheap way to go is to check Software Update during the day to see what it holds. If you find something you really need, set an alarm for 3:01AM, launch Software Update from its system preference, start the download, and go back to bed.

Because I value my sleep, I prefer an automated way. For me, that way is Stairways Software's US$36 Keyboard Maestro. Using Keyboard Maestro I constructed a macro that includes these steps:

Open Software Update (It lives at System/Library/CoreServices/Software Update)

Pause for 20 Seconds (This is to give Software Update time to update its database. If it takes your Mac longer to update the database because of the slow connection, adjust accordingly.)

Type the Return Keystroke (This is to click the Install button.)

Pause for 5 Seconds (This is to give the Admin Password dialog box time to appear.)

Insert Text password (Where password is your Administrator's password.)

Type the Return Keystroke (To acknowledge that password.)

Create the macro so it's triggered at 3:01AM every day and you should be good to go.

Before committing to it and then wondering why it doesn't work, try a couple of dry runs during the day. You may encounter a problem, for example, when Software Update tosses up a dialog box that demands that you click a Restart button in order to begin the process. Because you won't actually begin the download until you've run through every step, you can conduct the dry run without worrying about exceeding your bandwidth.

Commenters: I tried to come up with a way to do this via Automator because I prefer a free solution to one that costs $36, but I was stumped when it was time to enter a password. If you have The Way (or, at least, Another Way) I'm all ears.

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