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By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-01-31 Print this article Print

However, the company has released so many CTPs that some developers claim to be confused by the multiple releases and upset over their quality. CTPs are releases that occur before and between beta releases, which are more solid. "This beta cycle is getting painful," said a developer who asked not to be identified. "They came out so long ago with the Community Tech Previews Beta 1 that people are getting annoyed. It is such a double-edged sword for Microsoft. Everyone wants them to release a beta or CTP as soon as possible, then they get ticked off that they cant really do anything with the stuff they build. Then they want them [Microsoft] to hurry up and release the product so they can really use all of the cool new features. Of course, then they complain if Microsoft rushes it out and it has bugs or security issues."
Indeed, Microsoft has acknowledged that the quality has not been consistent in all of its CTPs, but the company said it also has forewarned developers that the CTPs are not absolutely solid code, but builds the company hopes to get developer feedback on.
Rob Caron, a programmer and writer for Microsofts Visual Studio team, recently cited on his Weblog a series of features that did and did not work in the December Visual Studio 2005 CTP, which focused mainly on Visual Studio Team System. "We consistently receive very positive feedback on the CTP program—developers tell us every day they love the frequent code drops so they can monitor progress were making on VS 2005," Somasegar said. "Developers love this level of transparency, and are feeling more like an extension of the VS development team as a result of the CTP program. "But its critical for testers to also understand that VS CTPs are intended to only provide a snapshot of progress at interim junctures of the product development cycle," he said. "Developers should decide how much time they want to spend on each CTP release. We do love the feedback that we get from developers on our CTP drops, and that absolutely helps us build the right product. "If there is something new or they care about a particular feature/bug that is fixed in a CTP release, by all means they should pick up the CTP and give it a test drive. On the other hand, depending on what a particular CTP includes, some developers may choose to just give a cursory look at that. We dont expect every developer to go deep every time we release a CTP." "I think the complaints [about CTPs] are frankly absurd," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Citigate Hudson in New York. "Theres no such thing as too many CTPs; people who feel that way have the option of ignoring them, quite frankly. CTPs by their very nature are interim builds that MS has decided to share with the developer public on an as-is basis. If people dont want to deal with the hassles that can imply, they should wait for the next full beta release before upgrading their environment. The ideal way to use a CTP is in its own Virtual Machine so you can get a sneak preview of what has changed/improved/been added." Steven Forte, chief technology officer at Corzen Inc., in New York, said, "I have heard the same complaints from developers in the community about CTPs. I have very little sympathy for them. I remember losing days and days rebuilding machines with betas that trashed my machines configuration. Now with Virtual Server and VMware, there really is no excuse. Are CTPs fully tested and perfect like an official beta? No. Is that a problem? No. Someone complaining about a CTP should remember just as recently as a few years ago when every beta was top secret and we had no access. So the question is do you want less than perfect access or no access? I vote for less than perfect access." "As far as the CTPs go, I dont think there has been all that much confusion, at least not more than in past beta rollouts," said Mike Sax, CEO of Eugene, Ore.-based Sax Software Corp. and Sax said when he first heard about the CTPs, "I thought it was a complete recipe for disaster because it sounded like they were going to introduce some very unstable code to the world. It turns out that theyve actually done quite a bit of testing before releasing these CTPs, and the bar seems to be fairly high [although still slightly lower than a regular beta version]. So I think theyve executed less ambitiously from their original plan of almost giving the community access to their daily build regardless of what shape theyre in, and thats probably a good thing." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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