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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5 Apps
Note: This hint was lost when the site was hacked on April 23rd. I've reposted it, and the comment thread, as best as I could. --robg

There has been a fair amount of controversy around Google forcing users to install a background updater application before they can use Google Earth 5. A point of particular contention is that a user has no immediate control through the application interface to specify if or how often they want the Google updater service to activate.

As one can imagine, this has the potential to cause a world of hurt especially for people on limited internet connections. Personally, I just don't like not having control over what my computer does; I say what software gets installed and when it gets run. Excuse me while I keep myself from getting carried away here and going on a big rant.

Remove Google Earth's ability to install the update service

Locate your copy of Google Earth, Control-click on the application and choose Show Package Contents from the pop-up menu. Now remove the following two files, based on starting at the top of the application bundle:
  • Contents/Frameworks/KeystoneRegistration.framework/Resources/install.py
  • Contents/Frameworks/KeystoneRegistration.framework/Resources/Keystone.tbz
The first file is the python script used to install the updater service, while the second is a tar-bzip'd bundle that contains the updater service. If the source files aren't there, Google Earth will be incapable of installing the updater service, no matter what you tell/told it on first run.

Remove the updater application and files installed by Google Earth

If you've already been running Google Earth 5, you may also wish to do the following after completing the first part of the hint. Remove the following folders/files:
  • ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.google.keystone.daemon.plist
  • ~/Library/Caches/com.Google.Keystone.*
  • ~/Library/Logs/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.log
The first being the Google update service, the second the launchd plist that specifies when to run the service, third any items already downloaded by the google update service, and fourth the log file from the update service.

Addendum

If you've followed thus far, you should have successfully removed the Google Update service from your Mac, and prevented Google Earth from being able to re-install the software. Note that other Google software may also use/install the Google Update service. I haven't researched that far, and so this hint applies to those only using Google Earth 5 and no other Google software. If all you wanted to do was remove the update service from Google Earth 5, you can stop reading now. If you're of the curious type, the following may be of interest to you, and is provided for informative purposes only.

Those with the ability to read programming code, particularly Python, may wish to peruse the install script to see exactly what happens when the software in installed. If you do, you may notice that providing the --nuke flag when running the script will remove the software and the launchd plist; this of course doesn't stop Google Earth re-installing it at next launch. It also doesn't remove the log, nor the update cache.

For some reason, the Keystone Registration framework also includes copies of the bundle and install script at the following locations, using the same working directory as part one of the above hint:

Contents/Frameworks/KeystoneRegistration.framework/Versions/A/Resources/
Contents/Frameworks/KeystoneRegistration.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/

Normally, .../KeystoneRegistration.framework/Versions/Current is a symlink to .../KeystoneRegistration.framework/Versions/A, and .../KeystoneRegistration.framework/Resources is a symlink to .../KeystoneRegistration.framework/Versions/A/Resources.

Not sure what's going on here, but it seems a bit redundant to have three copies of the same files. Nonetheless, removing the items in the above hint is sufficient in preventing the installation of the service.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: momerath on Apr 24, '09 05:04:59AM

I also am strongly averse to an invisible, uncontrollable updater. However, it should be noted that the Google EULA you agree to when you install the package says that you must allow the updater service and are not allowed to try to modify it or prevent it from running if you use other Google software. I doubt they have the capacity to enforce this provision, but if you're concerned about these sort of "contracts," it's important to know what you may be violating.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: uni on Apr 24, '09 05:10:43AM

I don't give a damn if this violates the EULA. Let them sue me. Maybe Google has forgotten what platform they're developing for. Crapware like this belongs on Windows. How dare you sully my platform by bringing this garbage to it. With regards to Little Snitch, I found that it causes more problems than it solves. It is basically impossible to remove from the system without reinstalling the OS.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: sgmorr on Apr 24, '09 05:18:34AM

Well EULAs usually contain everything but the kitchen sink these days. But realistically, why does Google implant updaters like this into their software? Just because they can?



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: blalor on Apr 24, '09 05:06:00AM

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I'll be trying this out as soon as I get home.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: mankoff on Apr 24, '09 05:07:10AM
A simpler way to block it is to do the following:
$ rm -fR ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
$ rm -fR /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
$ sudo touch ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate 
$ sudo touch /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
This removes the update directory / folder and replaces it with a file owned by root, which the updater will then not be able to replace.
--- http://spacebit.org

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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: etresoft on Apr 24, '09 05:09:08AM
All of this is way too much work. Just add the following lines just after the "" line in the file:
 <key>disabled</key>
 <true/>
If that is too much work, this should also do it:launchctl -w unload ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.google.keystone.agent.plist

I also strongly recommend Little Snitch

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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: etresoft on Apr 24, '09 05:11:50AM

To follow up: On my system, the only file I need to change was "~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.google.keystone.agent.plist". I have heard that some people have additional launchd files in /Library or /System/Library. You may have to apply the same fix to the other files. Furthermore, there no guarantee that GoogleEarth, to whom we've all dutifully given our admin passwords when installing, will not remove this disabled key. It seems to be holding on my system. GoogleEarth is fully functional and I can update on my own schedule. If any of that changes, I'll know about it due to LittleSnitch.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: kyngchaos on Apr 24, '09 05:15:21AM

I did this a while back, based on discussions at MacInTouch. Works just fine.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: sgmorr on Apr 24, '09 05:13:06AM

Have any users here tried this yet? I've downloaded Google Earth 5.0 and performed the operations outlined (the first two easy steps), but I have not yet tried to run G.E. and install it. I'm waiting for some reports!



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: sgmorr on Apr 24, '09 05:16:48AM

Thanks. I suppose we will have to go through the same steps anytime we do further updates to Google Earth? Just speculating.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: Peganthyrus on Apr 24, '09 05:19:34AM

It would be really nice if Apple would make Software Update functionality available to third-party programs. Give the system the place to ping for updates, then sit back and let the OS get them on the same schedule you've set the OS to update itself. We can hope.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: nider on Apr 24, '09 05:21:07AM

Just to clarify, as other's have noted there's more than one way to prevent the Google updater doing its thing. The advantage I see that the method I mentioned has over the others is that it applies to all users of that computer. This is particularly useful in a network user environment where multiple users could be potentially downloading the same update that never gets installed as they're not a privileged user. It also means you don't somehow have to modify/remove the launchd plist and related folders/files under every account.

That said, of course use which ever method suits your situation best.



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: wheeles on Apr 24, '09 05:22:29AM

I recently removed Google Earth as it created a lot of clutter for seemingly little benefit. For example, why is there a Google folder under ~/Library when there is a perfectly good Application Support directory in which Google can put their stuff? Heck, even Microsoft manages to get that right. So many apps use the Sparkle framework for updating. Why can't Google? If an app can't be a good citizen, then it has no place on my Mac. If the developers of Google Earth can't follow a few basics, then who knows what other horrors are in there.



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Keyhole
Authored by: outer on Apr 30, '09 08:24:20AM

Just a thought: "Keyhole" is also the name of one of the USA's strategic satellite surveillance systems. Maybe this background "updater" is a compromise struck to permit selective redaction of views of the Earth, the same way that GPS can be selectively redacted when needs be?

outer



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Permanently remove updater from Google Earth 5
Authored by: mkhaw on Sep 12, '09 03:35:41PM

The Google Earth plugin for web browsers also appears to use the same update mechanism. Even if you don't have the app installed it'll install the updater. The plugin contains the same resources (install.py and Keystone.tbz) as the app.



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