Update: Intuit patches Mac QuickBooks

But patch disables QuickBooks' upgrade tool; how will users get future fixes?

Intuit Inc. on Thursday began automatically feeding a patch to Mac QuickBooks users that permanently switches off the program's upgrade mechanism to prevent a repetition of a data disaster last month.

"The patch (R5) for QuickBooks Pro 2006 for Mac and QuickBooks New User Edition 2006 for Mac that resolves the product upgrade issues will be available via automatic update starting today," said Ian Vacin, offering leader for Intuit's Mac finance line, in a posting to the product's support forum Thursday morning. "When you receive the notification to update QuickBooks, please go ahead and accept the update," urged Vacin.

Two weeks ago, QuickBooks 2006 users discovered that a buggy program update erased all files on the Mac desktop. Some have not been able to recover what they lost, while others have filed a class-action lawsuit against Intuit.

The patch, said Vacin, will prevent a reoccurrence of the disaster because it cripples QuickBooks' upgrade tool. "It will disable the upgrade mechanism completely to prevent any future episodes from occurring," he said Monday in a different support forum posting.

Thursday, company spokeswoman Heather McLellan confirmed the patch's approach. "The patch seals the automatic updating mechanism," she said in an e-mail. McLellan also clarified statements that Vacin made Monday, which seemed to indicate Intuit would need to re-patch the fix issued Thursday.

Earlier this week, Vacin announced that the December data-delete bug also strikes any Mac with a copy of QuickBooks Pro 2006 when the accounting software is launched at a public wireless hotspot and a redirection error interrupts the connection. (A redirection error can crop up at for-fee hotspots, such as Internet cafes and airports.) Computerworld interpreted that to mean Intuit would need to craft a second patch beyond the one issued today.

"The reality is: Users who apply the patch are no longer at risk anywhere," McLellan said. "The intent of Ian [Vacin]'s statement was to alert users who did not yet have the new patch, to a possible re-manifestation of the prior bug in Wi-Fi hotspots due to re-direction."

Intuit has not said, however, whether it intends the patch to be permanent, and if so, how users will update QuickBooks with the software's update service switched off.

The company's standard policy is to provide updates for the newest version of QuickBooks, as well as the two versions prior, which typically gives any given edition a three-year lifespan. QuickBooks 2006 launched in August 2005, and by Intuit's stated "sunset" scheme, should be supported until the 2009 version appears, presumably near the end of this year or early next; QuickBooks 2008 Pro for Mac did not release last September along with the 2008 Windows edition, and is now slated for an unveiling sometime this year, according to Intuit.

One user on the QuickBooks support forums speculated that the patch meant an end to 2006's support. "It appears the immediate fix is to just disable automatic update for QB2006," said a user identified as "gxnprvby," but whose profile gave his real name as Rich Auricchio, a former Apple software engineer who now works as an independent Mac support consultant. "Since Intuit probably doesn't want to make any more changes to QB2006, it's my guess that this will be all they do. Further changes to QB2006 -- if any -- would then be available via direct download," added Auricchio. I assume they'll declare QB2006 at end-of-life with no further support.

Intuit did not immediately respond to questions about if QuickBooks 2006 users will receive upgrades after installing the patch, and if so, how.

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