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Microsoft versus Open Source Software - ALT.NET notes

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

At the Seattle alt.net conference, I co-sponsored a session with Justin Angel. The topic was "Choosing Microsoft versus Mature Open Source Alternatives". We wanted to hear the rationale people were using when making choices, like:

LINQ to SQL or Castle Active Record

Entity Framework or NHibernate

Subversion and assorted tools or Team Foundation Server

Not once do I remember price being a factor. Most of the fishbowl conversation revolved around risk. There are risks that technical people don't like, and risks that business people don't like. I tried to take all the major topics mentioned and fit them into the following table.

Choose Microsoft

Choose OSS

Business Risks

License issues

Lack of formal support

Hard to hire experts

Technical Risks

V1 and V2 won't always work

Waiting on bug fixes


Small communities

Lack of training material

Quick summary - Microsoft is a safe choice from the business perspective, but MSFT products can create an uphill struggle for developers. Brad Abrams and ScottGu both popped into the fishbowl to talk about Microsoft's change of direction in building closed source frameworks with "big bang" releases. ScottGu also reminded us that patent trolls create problems for everyone in the ecosystem.

ALT.NET Trivia

How much ALT.NET can you fit in a Hyundai?

According to Hertz, the Hyundai Elantra will accommodate 5 people and 3 pieces of luggage.

The Elantra I drove into Redmond accommodated 5 people (me, Jeremy Miller, Udi Dahan, Steven "I Love The Back Middle Seat" Harman, and Ayende), 6 pieces of luggage, and 3, maybe 4 laptop bags. It was tight. 

Who said developers can't optimize for space anymore?

Wilhelm Svenselius Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Not to flame, but Subversion vs. TFS is so uneven it's not even funny. TFS, even 2008, can't do a simple merge correctly. Files mysteriously end up exclusively checked out "forever". It uses the read-only flag as a poor substitute for keeping track of what files are checked out and utterly breaks when some other program alters it.

By comparison, the only problems I've ever had with SVN have been completely cosmetic in nature. "Risk" has nothing to do with it. TFS is hardly usable while SVN is quickly turning into the industry standard for source control.

Now, if only I could get my workplace to dump TFS...
Scott Allen Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Wilhelm: I've found TFS to be usable but I have run into the occasional problem (most recently trying to delete files). TFS is far more intrusive.
Jimbo Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Interesting post. Can you elaborate a bit more on the "small communities" aspect of OSS? Since the community is the foundation of these projects, size is less relevant than authority. For example, I wonder what the numbers would look like if you compare the amount bad advice you receive tapping the .NET community than, say, the Mono community.

One other comparison factor to consider: Microsoft requires you to "drink the Kool Aid" and buy in to their way of doing all things to do any thing. TFS is a bit self-indulgent considering that the existing tools have history and are available for the benefit of and improvement by the development community.
scott Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The primary discussion around community was that some people felt it was difficult to find advice and workarounds for OSS projects because the number of blogs, forums, and mailing lists is considerably smaller.

I feel the community is there for many projects but it often requires you to participate and ask questions instead of relying on google.
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