The software update issue is definitely something that we'll be looking into - this is especially an issue for people connecting their Phidgets directly to a laptop ethernet port. Probably we'll add the ability to upload/install packages manually - adding a proxy option would also be a good idea.
As for the networking - this is a hard problem. For the majority of users, the link-local address works fine on networks without DHCP. At the simplest, it's probably easiest to get this working by attaching the SBC directly to your PCs ethernet and just set up a static IP.
I don't like just setting up a static IP because:
1. This will probably have be on a different subnet, so users need to much with their network settings.
2. There is the possibility of a conflict.
3. We would have to disable zero-conf link-local addresses, which are valuable for many users.
Zero-conf with link-local addresses is specifically designed to solve this problem.