Atwood Is Preaching And I'm In The Choir

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ChoirIn Jeff Atwood’s latest post entitled Source Control: Anything But SourceSafe he is preaching the gospel message to choose something other than Visual Source Safe and I am screaming amen in the choir section.

There are three common reasons I hear for sticking with Visual Source Crap (I sometimes swap that last word with one that doesn’t break the acronym).

1. It is free!

UPDATE: As a lot of people pointed out, VSS isn’t free. What I meant was that it comes with the MSDN Universal Subscription, so many companies already have a copy of VSS.

So is Subversion.  I was on a project recently in which VSS corrupted the code twice!  The time spent administering to it and time lost was a lot more costly than a license to SourceGear Vault.

2. We know how to use it and don’t want to learn a new system.

When I hear this, what I am really hearing is we like our bad habits and don’t want to spend the time to learn good habits.  Besides, Eric Sink already wrote a wonderful tutorial.

3. We have so much invested in VSS.

Well you had a lot invested in classic ASP (or other such technology) and that didn’t stop you from switching over to ASP.NET (Ruby on Rails, Java, etc…), did it?

The reason I spend time and energy trying to convince clients to switch is that it saves them money and saves me headaches.  It really is worth the effort.

For Open Source projects (or any project that receives user code contributions), Subversion and CVS have the nice benefit of a patching feature making it easy to contribute without having write access.

tags: Source Control

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9 responses

  1. Avatar for Scott Elkin
    Scott Elkin August 15th, 2006

    AANNND, VSS isn't actually free making SVN even more beautiful

  2. Avatar for Barry D
    Barry D August 15th, 2006

    But Subversion doesn't work right under IIS.
    My problem is not with Subversion, but Tortoise. Get your darned nose out of all my directories you cheeky cheeky extension.
    And patching is not really a source control feature, but tortoise.

  3. Avatar for Jon Galloway
    Jon Galloway August 15th, 2006

    I disagree with Barry on this one. I think one of the main selling points of Tortoise is that it doesn't try to pretend that your code isn't a bunch of files stored on your disk.
    I like the simplicity of keeping source control and file operations in one place. It's nice to be able to right click a file and check it in.

  4. Avatar for Mike
    Mike August 15th, 2006

    I just went thru setting up Subversion on a Win 2003 server (
    and even tho it took a couple of days for me to get it configured how I like and figure out Tortoise I have really enjoyed it. I couldn't stand how intrusive VSS was when I was trying to do work and the WebSVN feature is great (tho I couldn't get syntax coloring to work).

  5. Avatar for jiltedcitizen
    jiltedcitizen August 15th, 2006

    We use it at work, well because its the standard. Not too much choice there. We could experiment with Team Server but why? SS is not perfect but it works, kind of. Of course there are only 2 of use that use it so that simplifies things. I used Source forge in a large environment and it was no better. There were all sorts of problems with people checking things out and what to upload at promotion time. That was with 100+ people though.

  6. Avatar for Lothan
    Lothan August 15th, 2006

    We experienced several issues that finally encouraged us to switch to Subversion as well as the new process methodologies encouraged by Subversion:
    1. We lost approximately 60 revisions in some projects when Visual SourceUnsafe wrote empty files into the repository. I don't mean it checked in empty files, I mean the actual underlying files in the repository itself were zero bytes.
    2. We had several instances in which SourceUnsafe failed to check in all files for variouos reasons. This was a mess because it required developers to very carefully and cautiously check out files (without getting latest) so they could check in changes.
    2. There's no way to lock down the repository to prevent unwanted tampering with the repository.
    3. Tracking releases was difficult because (honestly) we lacked the discipline to "label" every release. There were also conflicts with new changes being made before we had a chance to "label" a clean revision. Even so, I find the labels a bit tacky because they are lumped in with thousands of check ins.
    4. No easy way to perform code reviews by comparing diffs from the base. It can be done, but it's a pain to diff against each revision one file at a time. It's not nearly as neat as svn blame, a diff against the base, or a unified diff.
    We have been running Subversion on a Linux server with Apache and SSL access for several months and the difference is tremendous. However, I should point out that we officially migrated our SourceUnsafe repository to Subversion right after Subversion released the FSFS repository. I'm glad we did because it mitigates all the compatibility issues with the Berkely Database.
    It also took me a while (by experimenting on a local Subversion repository) to get the hang of the branch and merge methodology, but I love it and we actually have tags for every release we've done over the past year. Not just stinky labels, but real tags.
    The most significant relief in my mind is the transactional approach to commits. If Tortoise or Subversions says the files are committed, the files are committed.

  7. Avatar for Jeff Atwood
    Jeff Atwood August 15th, 2006

    > VSS isn't actually free
    Just echoing this. You pay for the suckiness. It's like the creamy icing on top of the cake.. that's made of poop.
    How'd you like to be the MS team that worked on VSS 2005? That's gotta be the Microsoft equivalent of peeling potatoes in the kitchen.

  8. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked August 15th, 2006

    Ah true, I know it isn't free. By free I mean that it comes with their MSDN subscription. So it feels free to them.

  9. Avatar for Steven Harman
    Steven Harman August 17th, 2006
    You pay for the suckiness. It's like the creamy icing on top of the cake.. that's made of poop.

    HaHa... if I'd have been drinking a soda while reading that, it certainly would have come out my nose!