Skip to main content

Review: Version Control by Example

It isn't surprising that most FoxPro developers think of one primary tool when version/source control is mentioned: Visual SourceSafe. After all, this was the Microsoft tool that was heavily promoted when version control integration was first promoted in VFP. (I recall YAG and Flash introducing their Multi-User Project Manager for FoxPro which was my first introduction to how to let multiple developers work on the same project, absolutely needing some kind of version control)

But if you, like many other VFP developers, were geographically remote, you quickly discovered SourceGear's SourceOffSite, a SourceSafe client that made working remotely fast and easy. SourceGear's founder, Eric Sink, has written on version control for years and SourceGear moved from assisting SourceSafe to Vault, a SQL Server based alternative and additional tools, such as bug-tracking.

VFP's integration of source control isn't perfect - most of it due to its use of the DBF/FPT format for MNX, VCX, SCX and FRX - and the existing SCCTEXT has been improved in the past with alternate SCCTEXT and GenXML.

More recently, however, he's written on open-source version control systems, and no surprise, SourceGear has written its own distributed version control system, Veracity (also open-source). His new book, "Version Control By Example", however, isn't just about Veracity - it's about making Version Control even more accessible than before.

He takes the reader from the history of version control (v1 - SourceSafe , v2 - centralized version control, v3 - distributed version control) and then plunges into perhaps, one of the best examples of learning Source Control in recent memory.

Eric walks us through exactly the same development scenario, using Subversion, Git, Mercurial and Veracity as the version control tool. With Harry and Sally, two developers separated by an ocean and culture, we start with the creation of a software project and go all the way to its version 1.0 implementation, with the challenges of code conflicts, spelling changes, commenting and of course, the inevitable, "I'm going to work alone" mentality.

But the book also describes how different software (web, commercial, etc) implement version control and the internals of how each VCS handle some of the details. While Veracity is discussed, it isn't heavily promoted - this isn't your "here's why my product rocks" book - this is a discussion piece on the strengths and weaknesses of each tool.

Eric's writing style is fun and easy to read. With most developer books, readers pick and choose what chapters you read, and while you can do this with Version Control By Example, I read it cover to cover. You might think going through the same example four times would be boring - but Eric's minor changes make it a breeze (if you're looking for the many different ways Brits can say "happy" or "angry", this is just the sprig in the thicket!) Highlighting the differences in culture helps show the "real" development process.

My favourite chapter is the Best Practices where there are gems that even experienced software developers may not consider:

3) Don't Comment Out Code. (throw it away! - as some developers know, I just hate unnecessary comments comments!)
Version Control By Example is available free online, for purchase, for download, for ePub and more.

If you're looking for a new version control system, read it. If you've never heard of version control before (hello students!!), read it. If you're looking at changing your version control system (some of my clients are still using VSS), read it. If you're looking for a great dev book, read it. I received a copy and after reading it, the best thing I could do, as I do with all the best developer books, is share it.

Version Control by Example


Eric Selje said…
Thanks, I just picked up a copy! I'll be doing a SubFox/TwoFox shootout session and need to get up to speed as much as I can on all the nuances.

Popular posts from this blog

Well, that explains CodePlex...

In a move that will be sure to anger open source (or rather anti-paid software, anti-Microsoft open source)  zealots, Microsoft is planning to buy GitHub.

A year ago, I mused about why Microsoft would shut down CodePlex and how the world needs competing source code repositories to be strong. I'm not the only one per this Slashdot article :
"...people have warned about GitHub becoming as large as it did as problematic because it concentrates too much of the power to make or break the open source world in a single entity, moreso because there were valid questions about GitHubs financial viability...." - Jacques Mattheij

I will be interested in seeing this play out - whether developers jump ship or not. Have all the efforts Microsoft has made in pushing towards open source be seen as genuine or will all the zealots jump ship or maybe even attack?

Microsoft's comment about why they shut down CodePlex referred to how spammers were using CodePlex. Well, GitHub has its own …

FoxInCloud Stats

FoxInCloud sent this link a while back about their statistics regarding visits to their site:

What's interesting here is the breakdown of people. Yes, I think it's understandable that the Fox community is getting older.

Another factor is the growth of the mobile and web environments taking over development. These environments really do push people towards the newer non-SQL or free SQL/hosted environments but more towards hosted storage options like Amazon and Google. A tool like FoxInCloud that helps MOVE existing applications to the cloud inherently competes with those environments.

But FoxInCloud also allows developers to extend their application further by giving them a starting point using Javascript and the basic CSS (such as Bootstrap). If you're not rebuilding your application from scratch, it's certainly a great step forward.

Attending Southwest Fox 2019 could change your life - Find out how

Southwest Fox is coming up in October and as I do every year, I spoke with the organizers Rick, Doug and Tamar on the FoxShow.

Deadlines for Southwest Fox:
Super-saver price (before July 1): $695
Early-bird price (before August 1): $770
Regular price (August 1 and later): $820
This year, I took a different approach with separate shows for each organizer but the main message is still the same : July 1st is their Go/No-Go date.

Conferences don't talk about this very often. I don't think developers really question if Apple will hold their WWDC in June or Microsoft will hold their Build conference - but that's because those conferences are vendor-led.

Southwest Fox is a community-driven conference - it's not driven by a company with an agenda. Listen to the interviews and you can hear how important each of the organizers feel the live connection between speakers and among attendees.