Comparing Visual SourceSafe and Visual Studio Team Foundation (Again)

In mid-2004, I sat in my feature-simple, windowless office at Microsoft one afternoon, in late-spring or early-summer. I was writing a whitepaper of some sort, about source control in Visual Studiio Team System. A SourceGear Vault poster and a drawing of Winston Churchill loomed above me. My phone rang. I recognized the caller: a product manager on the Visual Studio Team System team, then known as "Burton." Having never spoken with this particular individual before and knowing that he would not call me were it not a matter of some urgency, I answered slowly and suspiciously.

"Yo. Whaddup?" I asked, purposefully and preemptively attempting to disabuse my caller of the notion that I might be the right person to call upon in a moment of need.

"Korby, I need you to write a whitepaper that compares and contrasts VSS 6.0 and Hatteras," the codename for the version control system that underlies VSTFS, "and I need it by 9AM, the day after tomorrow."

The product manager in question had done his homework. I was the best person in the world to call upon, at least for this particular task.

"I was just in an executive review with a VP and three GMs," he continued anxiously, "and they specifically requested that we publish this doc asap in advance of blah blah blah."

Randomization: things that distract you from doing the things you get paid to do. Is this an industry-standard term? Anyway, I decided that this randomization would be fun and challenging. I worked diligently, until midnight that night, hit the ground running early the next morning, and emailed a v1 draft to two colleagues, the program managers for VSS and Hatteras respectively, around noon. I took pains to ensure that my PMs prioritized my Tech Review request appropriately, plainly messaging my absolute resolve to publish utter sheit and falsehood should they fail to deliver their comments to me by the end of the day. Apparently (and accurately) convinced of my willingness to invite the wrath of our managers and tens of thousands of customers should they fail to do so, both PMs came through with gobs of red ink and corrections.

Edits in hand, I pulled a near all-nighter, polishing off a 20-page masterpiece of overstatement and fluff. My whitepaper looked something you'd find on the Oracle or IBM homepages: useless, glossy, convincing, and worthless. The interesting thing about this whitepaper was the Summary, which read something like,

"It is impossible to compare Visual SourceSafe and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. This whitepaper attempts to compare Visual SourceSafe and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server."

The irony inherent in that introduction was not lost upon my intended audience: its requestors. Thankfully, it never saw the inside of an MSDN server. Sometimes, you have to build a bulletproof Gremlin to convince your managers that it's a bad idea to put the model into production. Fortunately, I don't work at AMC and the presentation of my bulletproof Gremlin, in the form of a comparision between VSS and VSTFS, persuaded its requestors that its publication would be a good idea.

Earlier today, one of my favorite Developer Evangelists pinged me by IM, "I have a customer who wants to see a comparison between VSS and VSTFS. I can't find anything on MSDN. Can you help me out?"

As tempted as I was to dust off my bulletproof Gremlin prototype, I restrained myself, punting him to Rob Caron, instead. Rob, if you find yourself in need of a bulletproof Gremlin, let me know. I'd start by pointing you to a few blog posts I've written on the subject like 😉

If you are a Visual SourceSafe user and you work alone or on a small team, VSS2005 is the best version yet. It's faster, more reliable, and requires far less active administration than past versions. If you decide to use VSS2005 in a collaborative development capacity, I encourage you to enable "Multiple Checkouts". Please note that I am not responsible for the documentation and I haven't been for ~3-1/2 years. If you want to blame me for something, blame me for the Hatteras docs. Finally, before you invest in an upgrade to VSS2005, I encourage you to get the trial version of VSTS Team Suite and see what you'll be missing. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for integrated source control and work item tracking and that doesn't even scratch the surface of VSTFS. For all of the neutral-negative press VSTFS has been getting from XP developers, it's light years ahead of VSS and other "competitors", like Subversion, in terms of functionality and feature richness.

Comments (2)

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