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Coding Towards Utopia...by Rob Reynolds
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Rob Reynolds

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I manage several open source projects. Need...
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The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

Imagine we are awhile into the future. How do you get open source releases down to your project so that you can use them? How do you get the products down to your computer so that you can use them? Is it easier or harder than the way we’ve always done it before?

The Past and Present

Before we can go there, let’s look at what we do now (the past is really the same for us here). Let’s say I want to use NHibernate. What do I do?  There are basically three paths we all follow in this process.

1. Never had product x before. If I don’t have a current version, I have to go out and look for it. So what do I do?

Open a browser

Find the site

Find the downloads

Find the particular download I want through the plethora of options that may be presented to me

Download it

Unzip it

Then put it into my project references folder somewhere so I can keep it in source control with my project

2. Use the current version without upgrade. If I have a current version, I may just copy it over and use it in my new project. Nevermind that it is two versions ago. I don’t want to take the time to upgrade because it could be a pain.

Open file explorer and find the project with the old version

Open file explorer and find the new project

Create the structure I need for the references folder

Copy the contents of the old project to the new project

3. Upgrade. If I find a bug or I decide it’s time to upgrade to a newer version, how do I get it? Repeat the process of #1 (Never had product x before) and getting the latest version.

Problems with the Present Method of Delivery

It's slow. How long did it take me to get all of that? Yeah, now multiply times every library I want to use.

Too many decisions. I have to make way to many decisions to get the right product and right version downloaded and referenced into my project.

Dependencies may be hard to manage. I may be using projects that depend on the same libraries. In the example above I am using Castle in my project. That got upgraded as well when I got the latest version of NHibernate. Now I may have to test the changes to that. What if the latest version of Castle Windsor I am using is not compatible with the latest version of NHibernate? I won’t see that issue necessarily until I try to run my code. I can try binding redirects, but there is no guarantee that that will work. So now I have a problem. I have to figure out what version of Castle Windsor to use so that I can use the latest version of NHibernate. And this is where dependency management is fully placed on me as a developer. I can now decide to move forward or just continue to use the old version.

Too easy to just continue using the same version you have. It's way too easy to keep using the version you first downloaded and never learning about all of the awesomeness that comes with more current versions of the product.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, what I just mentioned with projects that have dependencies on the same things as other projects is the biggest barrier to using OSS (Open Source Software). So let’s talk about the future.

The Future

So now that we have looked at how we currently do it, how will it be in the future?

Open source developers will publish their latest releases to a central repository (possibly in addition to other methods of offering releases).  Then everyone can get their latest releases and develop from there.

Same three scenarios.

1. Never had product x before. Here’s the process.

Know what I’m looking for and confirm the name at the central repository

open a command line

type something to the effect of nu install nhibernate

And I’m done. It’s all brought to me and sitting in my references folder of my project.

2. Use the current version without upgrade. This is still an option. Same as in the present described above.

3. Upgrade. Here’s the process.

open a command line

type something to the effect of gem update

type something to the effect of nu install nhibernate

What Issues Does the Future Method of Delivery Address?

Speed. The process is amazingly streamlined. We are talking seconds as compared to minutes of time to get something. I can now concentrate on what I want to do instead of spending all the time I was on just getting the packages I needed.

The decision tree is reduced. How many decisions did I have to make to get what I needed in the present scenario? How about the future scenario? Greatly reduced.  Less choices to get what I want actually gets me to a decision faster.

I immediately see the dependency changes. All of the dependencies that are required come along nicely with NHibernate. I can immediately see that it downgraded my versions of Castle Core and Dynamic Proxy2. So now I know immediately that I have a problem between Castle Windsor and NHibernate using different versions. It doesn’t solve my problems on this, but it brings it to the surface. So now I can try something like the aforementioned binding redirects.

The process of upgrade became easier than use the current. Another thing you may have noticed. It actually becomes easier to upgrade to the latest version as compared to #2 (Use the current version). That will move people to upgrade, because people will choose the easiest path to get them on their way. And when everyone using the latest version, everyone wins.

The Future Is Now

Oh yeah, the future? It’s now. http://groups.google.com/group/nu-net

Print | posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 11:30 PM | Filed Under [ Code CastleProject UppercuT gems ]



# re: The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

sounds a lot like apt-get - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Packaging_Tool

APT was introduced in 1998

Welcome to the future!

But really, I love the idea, and it is something that is needed.
7/27/2010 11:59 AM | bill s. preston esquire

# re: The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

That's a totally gnarly post Bill!

I also think it's something that Windows needs.

7/27/2010 12:02 PM | Theodore Logan

# re: The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

and together, we are....


7/27/2010 12:03 PM | bill s. preston esquire

# re: The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

Looks like Microsoft are finally getting in on the act, with the announcement of NuPack to manage packaging in the OSS arena.
10/6/2010 7:41 PM | David Keaveny

# re: The Future of .NET Open Source Software Delivery

10/7/2010 9:01 PM | Rob
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