Visual SourceSafe 2005

One of the most important software development tools out ofRedmond, remarkably, is Visual SourceSafe – In shops across theland, it is the source control system.

Granted those shops probably didn’t kick the tires of thecompetitors, rigorously choosing amongst the competing SCM toolsbefore investing their time and codebase to VSS. Instead theylikely found it bundled in their MSDN subscription, or attached tosome other Microsoft product, and read soothing words about theexcellent integration with Visual Studio. They brought that poor,weepy-eyed little source control tool in from the rain, gave itsome cocoa, and sat it down by the fireplace. Soon enough it becametheir hammer, and an integral part of their development process(probably a hated part of their development process. Ifyou’ve ever fought with an offline complex Visual Studio project,you’ll know what I mean by that).

The remarkable part of all of this is the absolutelyterrible treatment that Microsoft hasgiven this product. It recently got the first real update that ithas gotten since Visual Studio 6, remaininglargely static over the intervening period (with trivial littlechanges). While you could say that you shouldn’t mess withsomething that works, Visual SourceSafe has carried some absolutelyterrible flaws through the years, most obvious being the filedatabase method of operation that led to endless security andreliability problems. SourceSafe 2005 didn’t do anything to fixthat fundamental problem.

Even with the new release, Visual SourceSafe users are stillused and abused, though. I decided to put the product through itspaces, both for consulting purposes, and for yafla softwaredevelopment, and I am absolutely amazed by the problems andpitfalls. From missing options (like turning off HTTPS from theclient when trying to use the internet option), toterrible typos and transpositions in their instructions(did they read these things Things like telling you to runaspnet_iisreg rather than the correctaspnet_regiis), to installs that just completelyfail to work under anything but a cleanroom install (forinstance it insists that you don’t really have IIS if your firstwebsite isn’t internally coded “1”). On three separate machines theinternet hosting option (one of the major new options, finallyadding marginal client-server functionality, albeit with a host ofcaveats and limitations) didn’t install properly. I finally had tosetup a new, freshly installed virtual machine to give it what waslikely the only environment they tested it in, and it appears toinstall marginally properly.

If, through some magic, I get this product working properly,I’ll post a quick summary (I had hoped to get some metrics of thesavings that both the internet web service option, and theSSService option, brought to the table), but as it is I’m simplyamazed at how botched this whole process has been.They’ve been working on this product for how long now?