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i had assumed that all i needed was the individual launcher plugins for the platforms i wanted to build on. since i was trying to understand the process i was copying over plugins one by one to the build server. it turns out to include the platform specific binaries in the build you need to have the org.eclipse.equinox.executable feature from the delta pack. once i added that to the build the binaries started showing up in the output. with the binaries the update mechanism works exactly as intended.

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