Mary Jo Foleys Microsoft Watch entry on Just Good Enough software picks up and summarizes a torrent of notes on the quality of Visual Studio 2005 just released on November 7th 2005. In contrast with SQL Server 2005 there are a number of bugs lurking in this version. And some people are raising the issue of “Just Good Enough” returning to rule the roost at 1 Microsoft Way. Just Good Enough software says ship when there are no longer any show stopper bugs … but there may be plenty of other bugs in the Redmond ointment

This was dangerous enough in the days when Office and Word were still competing against Lotus and Word Perfect – for a long time Lotus Ami Pro lead the parade in stability as well as features … but that is another story. It is redoubled in the case of development software which tends to get used very intensively. In Ami Pro I used 20% of the features 80% of the time. In Eclipse or NetBeans I use nearly 100% of the features all of the time.

Brobadingnangian Visual Studio

But I must admit I cannot say that I use even 20% of the features of Visual Studio – its just too Dammerlinggensheidt Big. In fact I only use C# and for very specialized applications. But on the NetBeans side of the fence I tend to use most of the features of the IDE most of the time. And if they dont work – it upsets my work schedule because I have to spend a lot of extra time figuring out who is wrong – the IDE or me. Like a lot of programmers, I DO NOT LIKE BUGS IN MY DEVELOPMENT SOFTWARE.

Whatlots of bugs in Visual Studio means in effect is that a)I am constantly doubting whether I will get a useful days work done; b)I worry whether I am passing along bugs in my own project unbeknownst to me, and c) I hate hacks – wrestling with the software to get it to work like it says in the manual. Some may love this – NOT ME.

But even worse I do not like the constant wave of updates, bug fixes, and service packs because they interrupt the flow of work. This is going to happen bigtime with Visual Studio and Vista. But this problem does not belong to Microsoft alone. Part of the problem with Macromedia Flash has NOT been bugs, but the sheer volume and frequency of change in the underlying software over the past 5-7 years. The version number is 8 and the changes have been big at versions 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. And the Flash Player is now at 8 on a point system. 8.5 Flash Player has big changes yet again. Ditto for Web Services and to an extent J2EE and Java.

Curiously, Microsoft has taken the opposite tack – infrequent updates to Visual Studio with very long beta and development cycles. But now with all the service packs and fixes and “extra goodies” required as Visual Studio tries to keep up with Vista there will be:
a)all the fixes and patches its roach city will need;
b)all the updates and new features required to support Vista, LINQ, WinFS, WinWF, etc – most of which are to be delivered over the next 2-3 years;
One can see the headaches being passed on to developers. And its not as if Microsoft was short of cash – $40B in the till $2-5B of which might be well spent as grants to university CS programs to help solve some problems. Bill wants more programmers – well he has the problems and the money to seed a lot of development work in the universities in the US or around the World(sensitive as that issue may be).

Just Good Enough Callback

The real issue here is that under the guise of being Agile and using “iterative methods”, the old Redmond bugaboo of releasing before its time with incomplete and/or bug infeated features designed to meet competitive marketing thrusts (think Team Studio) – a Callback to just Good Enough Software has been issued at Microsoft. And it comes when and where it absolutely should not – in the era of Trustworthy Computing and in its basic development software, Visual Studio. Bad news for all those purported kings of the Microsoft hill – developers, developers, developers.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005