Questioning the concerns about the state of Open Source tools.

Thomas Tomiczek has a blog entry about a number of Open Source tools. In it he has some complaints about the WiX toolset.

I could add Wix to the list of things I am not really satisfied with, but then this would be unjustified - my complaints with Wix are more along the line that their nice Wiki simply has no serious content, their download links are crap (you have to go do sourceforge to find that ClickThrough IS actually released) and their discussions at the moment about whether or not to have their own bootstrap (hello? Visual Studio 2005 has a VERY nice standardized bootstrap) are really more a sign of a process in progress, unlike what I see especially at Ndoc.

First, Thomas, I am very curious if you have any complaints about the core toolset itself? If so, those are the issues that I believe are the most important for me to address (since the core of the toolset is the primary thing that I work on).

Second, about the web site (which I assume is with no serious content, I totally agree. However, the documentation for the WiX toolset is still not "good enough", IMHO. So, spending a lot of time to get the website populated with "propaganda" type information seems far less useful for actual users of the toolset. That said Gabor has done an incredible job since the beginning with the WiX tutorial and Fredrik is quietly working on a tool to convert the information in the WiX.chm to web pages that can be hosted on (and thus searched by all of the powerful search engines on the web).

Third, I don't understand why going to SourceForge to download the WiX toolset binaries is such a problem. We could (and currently do) maintain a separate list of downloads but that is overhead that we're more likely to mess up than keep accurate (as is true right now). Again, Fredrik (who created all of the web pages) and I have discussed ways to improve the Latest Releases page but haven't come up with anything really smart yet. Of course, this isn't a high priority for either of us so someone with great ideas here could lead the way for the WiX community here.

As for ClickThrough, well, as I tried to point out in my blog entry introducing ClickThrough, ClickThrough is still very much underdevelopment. It works for most basic cases but still needs a fair bit of functionality and polish before I'd call it quality work. That's why it doesn't get advertised a lot right now except to try to illicit feedback (which there hasn't been much).

Fifth, the discussion on bootstrappers was just that, a discussion. I learned a couple things in that discussion and the person that asked the initial question seemed very appreciative for all the information. Thomas, I don't understand your comment that the discussion is "really more a sign of process in progress" but the WiX toolset has a bootstrapper (it's a part of ClickThrough today) because no other bootstrapper today handles all of the scenarios that ClickThrough needs. In fact, I looked around before starting the bootstrapper for the WiX toolset and there were no projects out there that I could contribute to such that ClickThrough would have the bootstrapper it needed. Now, the WiX toolset has a free, Open Source, not-yet-completely functional bootstrapper that everyone in the WiX community can take advantage of and use when the other alternatives for bootstrappers do not.

What is funny, is that I don't remember anyone pointing out that VS2005 provides a bootstrapper.

Which brings me to my point (yeah, yeah, I know it only took me seven paragraphs to get the point). Successful Open Source projects are made up of a community of people that work together to keep the project moving forward. There is a place for those who provide constructive criticism about what the community needs to improve, just like there is a place for people who provide code and content. However, if you really want the community to improve then you have to participate in the community. Throwing criticism from the sidelines is a great way to frustrate the people actually working on the Open Source project and alienate yourself.

So, Thomas, thank you for the comments that we need to improve the WiX web site, investigate if there is a better way to make the binary downloads available, and finish ClickThrough. I look forward to any other feedback you might have to improve the Windows Installer XML toolset and I hope that in the future you will join the discussion and participate in the community to help us improve it for everyone. It sounds like the NAnt and NDoc communities could use some participation as well. <smile/>

Comments (5)

  1. tzagotta says:

    I agree that complaints about the efforts of open-source developers should instead be substituted by contributions on the part of the complainer!

  2. Well,

    first of all – please realize that my complaints about WIX were in fact not really appropriate on my blog, and I said so. All the complaints I had are really pretty much minor, compared to anything else in the other tools, which basically appeared to have disappeared. Wix is among the best maintained ones that I have seen, and that is no wonder (given that it basically has ressources).

    We are going, possibly, to switch over to WIX for our own installers. I am pretty much off with WISE and Installshield, having seen nothing that "really worked" from them for a long time. I was, if anything, a little lost on the ClickThrough thing – I was entering your project through the wix site, and did not find any downloads. I would suggest you just skip your download page and basically just redirect to sourceforge from there – makes things easier to maintain immediatly.

    Anyhow, I have high hopes into Wix. I hope it finally is something that WORKS without making too many problems. I know it is tricky, and MSI is not easy, but the last thing I need is the editor level adding problems (like I have with WISE, where GAC targeting assemblies suddenly end up in a WISE root thans to wrong MSI entries and noone can tell me how to properly set this up in WISE).

    The negative commenty I posted about WIX were really along the line of "and that is ALL that is wrong there – all minor points, so I really do not have anything to complain".

    What I really wanted to pount out is that currently a nice number of important open source projects seem to totally get lost – NDoc and Nant seem to have lost a lot of steam "lately", and lately being about the last 3-4 months. And that is sad.

  3. Pat Rice says:


    Carpenter: "This hammer doesn’t work very well."

    Hammer Manufacturer: "Feel free to fix the problem yourself, then submit your patches."

    Carpenter: "I’m a carpenter, not a blacksmith, and I have a house to build. Guess I’ll buy a new hammer from somebody else."

  4. John says:

    Pat: Your analogy is flawed. There is no "hammer manufacturer". There’s just a friendly blacksmith who makes hammers because he enjoys making them, and gives them away for free to anybody who wants one. From my perspective, the carpenter has no right to complain.

  5. Jonathan says:

    As a blacksmith, I disagree completely with John.

    The carpenter has every right, if not a duty, to point out to the blacksmith where he thinks the hammer is flawed, so the blacksmith can improve his hammers for everyone. Once the hammer is perfect, then the blacksmith can make the "Premiere" version of his hammer, go public, and make a billion dollars on his IPO.

    How will he do that without feedback from the carpenter?

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