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Comments on Application check for updates will never succeed and blocks launch; can I intercept or bypass it?

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Application check for updates will never succeed and blocks launch; can I intercept or bypass it?

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I have a software application (Trope Trainer, from Kinnor Software) that I installed on my Mac (OS 10.12) several years ago. I don't use it often but it's always worked fine for me. The application uses only local storage as far as I know; cloud dependencies weren't common back when this software was written.

Last night I opened it and was greeted with a "checking for updates" message. I guess it's done that before; I don't remember, so it was probably very quick. This time, though, the check just spins. I suspect, but do not know, that the software is making some sort of call to a service run by the publisher. Unfortunately, the publisher has gone out of business and their former domain name is now for sale.

I can't just skip the update check; canceling it crashes the program with an out-of-bounds exception. (Clearly they did not anticipate being unable to check for updates.) I'd like to be able to use the program, and the first thing I would check would be whether auto-update is a user setting I can turn off.

It occurred to me that if I knew what URL the software was trying to hit, I could edit my hosts file to override it and intercept the call. I'd then need to guess what it's expecting me to send back. (I'm not quite sure how to create and send that response if I do identify it, but that's part two of the problem.)

I installed WireShark to see if I could find the outbound call that I assume it's making, but I am a complete newbie, their documentation is written for people who know more than I do, and I'm not sure how to find what I'm looking for. I set it to monitor Ethernet traffic and then started the application and let it run for a while, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I tried saving a "capture file", thinking this would give me a text file to search, but I don't recognize any of the file formats they offer. I searched (in WS) for the name of the publisher without success, and I don't know what their IP addresses were when they had a domain.

Am I on the right track in trying to use WireShark to find the call? If so, what should I be looking for? If not, what should I be trying instead?

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Just to see if maybe others workarounds are viable: does the app work if you are not connected to the... (2 comments)
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This isn't a direct answer to your question, but a suggestion. Try specifically disallowing internet access to this program in your firewall. That may cause the program to realize it can't get to the internet at all and to stop trying.

It is unlikely that the writers of the software always required an internet connection for the software to work. They apparently didn't deal very well with the case of internet access but no access to their servers. Perhaps by denying internet access completely, the software will let you continue. You may then be able to disable the call-home "feature". If not, you'll have to put up with some broken internet access message each time you start it.


I just noticed your answer where you unplugged the network cable. Badly written software like that is annoying, especially if you can't disable it calling home.

Using the firewall to effectively make your internet look unplugged to only that program might be a useable way to proceed. You may still have to dismiss the popup every time you start the program.

You could also look around for where this program keeps static settings, like whether to check for updates or not. In Windows, that would be in the registry. MacOS probably has something equivalent that others here would know more about. Sometimes poking around in the registry to see what settings a particular program has can be quite useful.

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disconnecting (4 comments)
disconnecting
Monica Cellio‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

Thanks for this answer. I hadn't thought to look at the firewall when trying to figure out how to disconnect without resorting to the cable. I asked a followup question about that part of the problem. (There's a firewall at the router, and whatever's baked into MacOS.)

Olin Lathrop‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

I meant whatever is baked into your OS. The router can't block a particular program, but something running on your machine can.

Monica Cellio‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

Yeah, I questioned whether the router could block it. That would require that some sort of client ID (for the specific application) be baked into the request, and while I'm not familiar with the details of TCP/IP, I don't think that's how it works.

Canina‭ wrote almost 3 years ago · edited almost 3 years ago

Monica Cellio‭ No, TCP/IP doesn't encode anything about the application as such. There are heuristics that can be employed which can be anywhere from moderately unusable to actually pretty good, but those are usually relatively blunt instruments. (For example, it's relatively trivial to block outright at least the vast majority of HTTP traffic that uses the plaintext HTTP standard port of 80/tcp, but it's far more difficult to block HTTP traffic that's not from the web browser while allowing web browsing.) However, a locally running application-aware firewall absolutely can allow or block traffic on a per-application basis.