Thursday, July 4, 2013

untold horror stories in Microsoft dev environment

Other horror stories:

* In my projects, logs folder can become inaccessible even though no one but my own services were touching it.
--------- looks like a typical horror story about Microsoft development platform.

- too many binary files involved. In unix environments ascii is the format for most files developers need to deal with. I feel from the beginning unix favors ascii. That tradition has endured the test of time and is going strong. I feel ascii is Clean and efficient. If a platform must use so many binary files, it's a sign of weakness and non-ideal design. Simplicity is not easy to achieve or maintain. Look at copy-paste.

- outcome depends too much on the idiosyncrasies of the IDE. In unix-like environments, all the standard dev tools are command line tools, usually more transparent than a GUI tool.

- environment dependency and esp. the Mysterious Monstrous Murky registry -- the worst problem IMO. It's a local environmental config that's pretty invisible. That means the same source code compiled on another machine may not behave the same. Even if you copy everything to another machine it may behave inconsistently.

- The platform is not robust enough. You may say it's all developer's fault, being inexperienced with the platform and tools. Well, I have substantially fewer such problems on other dev platforms. I'd venture to say a unix veteran hits fewer such problems than a windows veteran. If you follow the standard procedure and hit this kind of roadblock, it's disappointing and stressful. This platform tends to throw up too many such roadblocks. Other platforms are more consistent and robust.

Look, every dev platform has complexity under the hood. As a higher-layer app developer we shouldn't need to know a lot under the hood. The platform should be robust and just work. When we are forced to look under the hood, usually it's a premature, unprofessional dev platform. As a 3-year old eclipse user, I  feel eclipse is such a premature tool, but other tools in java land are simpler and very robust.

This story also reminds me of my very first programming project in Microsoft dev environment. It's a VBA project. Some basic FTP functionality was rather hard to implement. The MS-supplied infrastructure was not fully documented. Took several false starts. I soon left the MS platform for greener pastures -- LAMP, javascript, unix, java, ... and never looked back. Notably, Mysql had the best documentation and no surprise.

A recent project experience is again similar. We just couldn't get auto update to work on a SL-OOB application. Auto-update once worked but now stopped working. What changed? We checked all the known issues... mystery, opaque, hidden under the hood, undocumented.

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