Monday, September 8, 2008

Coming back gradually

I got a new hard drive and have been gradually getting everything reinstalled. I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade in a few places along the way.

The 2008 edition of Visual Studio Express fixes the bugs that annoyed me in the 2005 edition: the inability to double-click on solution files in Vista, the extra security dialog check, and the inability to drag and drop files onto the Visual Studio editor. All of these are the kinds of things you'd think would be impossible to break in a long-running product like this, but they probably re-implement everything periodically just to keep life interesting.

Beyond Compare has a new version 3.0 out; they finally implemented 3-way merge although they charge an extra $20 for it. This diff utility is an integral part of my day job and I can't imagine working without it. There are much more expensive solutions out there (Araxis Merge) but I think Beyond Compare delivers some of the best value.

I'm getting more and more pissed off at Perforce, mostly because I'm the de facto Perforce administrator at work. I am unimpressed (version 2 of my post) with the current programming lineup behind this product. The current GUI client (P4V) is quite noticeably slower than their old Win32 client (P4Win) despite years of development and suffers from incredibly bad user interface design and a never-ending stream of bugs. As an example of the bad user interface, the Sync and Checkout buttons are adjacent on the toolbar. Once or twice every month somebody will select the root of the art tree and accidentally check out everything. This action is very quick and locks everyone else out from checking any of the art files out. Unfortunately reverting the checkout takes hours, unless you use command-line trickery. The old P4Win client, by asking the user “Do you really want to check out 60,000 files?” avoids this sort of problem. I've requested that they put this warning into P4V since it is present in P4Win, and I've reiterated that it's a problem four or five times, and in as many releases of P4V they have not done it. I haven't even mentioned the inexplicable problems with the user interface, like not being able to get the Submit dialog to appear, and I haven't mentioned the Qt debacle, whereby they used a DLL with the same name as a DLL in Maya, and from the same vendor, but with different function sets, thereby rendering either P4V or Maya inoperable depending on which came first in the PATH.

The Perforce server, which was written by the Wise Ones at the Dawn of Time, continues to be a most excellent piece of software. It's a shame that all we can do is gaze back in wonder and mystification at these relics of a bygone era.

I'm considering switching to a different version control for personal use. My criteria are: free, easy to install and administer, fast, and no “turd files” littering my work directories. A good GUI client would be nice too. Wish me luck; I have a feeling such a combination of things does not exist.

I've tried out Google Chrome for a while. It is a decent browser but has a tendency to get very thoughtful (shall we say) when you require it to share those 4GB of RAM with other programs.

Finally, Jungle Disk was the real star of this computer breakdown. I was able to restore my backed-up projects with no trouble. They've continued to improve the interface of the client.

It's past time to return to work on my little game; I've been getting antsy while my computer's been out of commission. Fortunately there have been things like crunch time at work to fill the void. I'm looking forward to getting back to work this week, though.

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