Ok, I've kept playing around with this. I keep looking at mintUpdate.py and it seems like there should be a way that I can manually launch it in user mode (with app_hidden == true), all while checking for updates in the background. I don't understand why running $ mintupdate.py automatically defaults to activate_icon_cb (line 1225)? a couple of cli arguments seem relevant, sys.argv seems to control app_hidden, but there's only an if option for "show" (line 1598). Should there be an else clause? That still doesnt explain why it starts in user mode (as an icon) in kde and not in openbox. I'm not that experienced with python, but I know enough to get the gist of what's happening.
It looks like a few lines of code would make mintupdate useful across many different wm's? Maybe? What am I not getting here?
Thanks for your patience.
*edit: added line numbers.