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I've been reading some of the horror stories about VSS recently, and it seems like a poor choice for anyone to continue to use. This is sort of a two-part question:

  • Are there any objectively good reasons to use VSS?
  • If not, should it be a dealbreaker for employment?

I only have personal experience with one company presently using VSS (in my pre-developer days, so I didn't use it), and the culture there was extremely reactionary and adverse to change. I don't want to project my experience with this company on other organizations if there are legitimate reasons for using VSS these days, but I can't think of any reason other than being stuck in a rut that a place would use VSS 7+ years after support was dropped when it seems that there are relatively painless migration options.

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At least they're using a SCM. I've interviewed and even worked as a contractor at places where they didn't use one at all. –  jfrankcarr Mar 1 '12 at 21:10
7 years after support == 12 years after development stopped. It was a terrible choice in 1997 when the last time I was forced to use it, nothings makes it any better decision in 2012. –  Jarrod Roberson Mar 2 '12 at 5:30

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Use of out-dated tools and/or the reluctance to replace them with modern, current mainstream tools can be an indication towards the culture within the company or the team.

With regards to VSS specifically I cannot think of a single good reason why I would still use it today given the alternatives available today, both commercially and in particular open source such as Subversion, Git and others.

Whether this should be a deal-breaker probably also depends on factors in addition to the use of particular tools. For example if they want to replace VSS anyway then it probably should not be a deal-breaker. If, however, it is just the tip of the ice berg and all other tools are outdated, too, maybe running on hardware that is equally old and insufficient, you may be better off with a different team and/or company. But then again, it also depends on the alternatives you might have.

As often, there are other factors that may be at play in your scenario. Good luck!

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there are plenty of good reason to still use it... like "IT WORKS" –  hanzolo Mar 1 '12 at 21:23
@hanzolo: it works until it doesn't work, and when it doesn't work the results can be catastrophic. You may have had a good experience with it, but the vast majority of us I would wager have cursed it to high heaven. –  Adam Crossland Mar 1 '12 at 21:25
@Adam, I have heard the same thing from many developers and i am very skeptical indeed.. however, at the 2 places i've worked (1 currently) they've been just fine with VSS. So I don't know how these situations come about.. (knock knock!!) –  hanzolo Mar 1 '12 at 21:27
VSS is the only VCS I have used in 25 years that lost work. And not because of anything I or anyone else did, but because it was buggy. In the case of VSS, the false sense of security is less useful than a cron job that automatically zips and copies a directory structure to a network drive. I would pass if I had other opportunities. –  Jarrod Roberson Mar 1 '12 at 21:44
@JarrodRoberson, TOUCHE!! i definitely appreciate your comments. So to the poster, i guess you have good feedback for both sides of the coin. –  hanzolo Mar 2 '12 at 16:17

I have a lot of important things on my list for a new employer. A particular type of source configuration management is not on that list. I do have to say: I have a large mouth. I managed to convince several companies I worked for to change certain rule and software when I worked for them. I would not be scared to join a company that is using VSS (even though I know it is the worst SCM you can use, just below CVS btw). I would simply tell them why it sucks so much and why I think they should switch to SVN (or Git). I would convince other developers first before trying to convince management.

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RCS and SCCS rank above VSS, it is worse than nothing, less than zero in many cases because it puts you in a false sense security, and then bam your stuff is gone for no reason. No other VCS has earned a reputation for losing your work for no reason, especially not CVS. –  Jarrod Roberson Mar 2 '12 at 5:26

I can't think of any rationale that would make sense to me for continuing to use VSS. We live in a world that offers us a plethora of modern, powerful and reliable source code control systems. Usually, software engineers work with source control every day, and every day annoyances are the ones that will really break your spirit.

It's also entirely possible that this fact (strangely old source control) implies other things about the company, the management team, the culture that will also be off-putting.

For it not to be a deal-breaker, I would have to hear a truly compelling technical explanation for their failure to stay up-to-date.

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I absolutely WOULD NOT BASE A decision on something as miniscule as that!!! I work with some seriously Sr. Java / .NET developers and while they may be old school.. they're dam good programmers..

It's funny though.. this is exactly my experience now.. I went from TFS 2010 to VSS.. and while TFS was waaaaay better for many reasons.. VSS works fine.. i work on a high end Financial Service based SaaS built on top of a custom .NET platform (now THAT should've sent me running, LOL).. and it's fine, at least it's integrated into Visual Studio..

In fact our platform implementers (separate company) are against any kind of integrated source control for many reasons, they user Source Off-Site.. now that's not to say that there's not plenty of room for arguments.. but in the end the code is strong, the people are bright, and it gives you something to complain about..

I would not let something like that deter you.

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Could you elaborate on why they're opposed to integrated source control? I'm not as concerned about whether or not it's functional; my wife's netbook and my i7-powered desktop can perform many of the same functions, but when I need to do video editing or run computationally intensive programs, I'll go for the i7 ten times out of ten. Still, there would be arguments for using the netbook (much cheaper, more portable), and those are the kinds of arguments I'm looking for regarding VSS. –  VolcanoLotus Mar 1 '12 at 21:30
@VolcanoLotus, a majority of the sentiment comes from inadvertent checkouts and casual checkins.. if you make an edit, it automatically checks out the file, when some would prefer to make changes and merge using a diff tool, or maybe make edits for testing when they never intend to check the code in.. By having an external check in/out system, it forces "intentional" workflow instead of accidental situations.. personally i dont care either way.. i just code, and if someone steps on my changes or blows them away.. I'm able to get them back.. I've never had VSS not work (knock knock!!) –  hanzolo Mar 1 '12 at 21:36

It depends who is making the decision to use VSS - sometimes that sort of thing is controlled by corporate IT and impossible to change, but the team you actually work with may still be good.

Set up git with a branch synced to VSS (http://stackoverflow.com/a/1903964/101970) and it doesn't matter what the official source control is. If you don't have enough control of your dev box to install git, that would be a reason to not take the job.

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+1 for finding out why VSS is used. Still, even if it's not the team's fault, it still shows there is a problem in the company. –  sleske Mar 2 '12 at 10:04
True, but there are problems like that in every big company. –  Tom Clarkson Mar 2 '12 at 11:10

The company that I started at 5 months ago used VSS. Considering that they only had a few part time developers it did the job for their needs. The only other option that Microsoft offer is TFS, which seems like overkill for their needs, especially when you need to install Sharepoint just to get it to work! So they had a pretty good reason. Everyone knew it and it worked ok.

I asked the boss if he would consider moving to SVN (for a bunch of reasons), he said "maybe after you've delivered your first project". Fair enough really!

So three months later we delivered the project, after that I ran through SVN, he was happy with it, we made the switch, all good.

So you can get in there and change things... just be sensitive and don't go steamrolling through!

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