All DVCS suck

Sam Hart

2007-05-22 16:28:30

Well, I've been migrating my development server to a new hoster (actually, they aren't new, I've used them for years for my other stuff, and been very pleased with them). In the process of the move, I've been cleaning things up and re-engineering things somewhat to solve some of the problems I've had traditionally.

One of the things that does keep coming up is a question as to whether or not I should continue to use Subversion for my online code repo. So, I've been looking at other alternatives, especially DVCSes, trying to see whether I would get any real benefit from them, or just be more burdened.

What's my conclusion? My conclusion is that they all suck, and maybe I just need to stick with SVN. Read on for the details...

SVN's elegance

First of all, let me tell you why I've been using SVN all these years. There's many reasons, but the key ones are as follows:

The need for DVCS

Where SVN starts not working well is when you start needing to have more of a distributed model than even SVN can allow for. For example, when you need to have multple repos that aren't canonical, but rather will eventually feed the central, canonical repo. Or when you want to branch, merge, etc on a local repo when you're offline.

Because of the various hyped up concepts of DVCS, it starts becoming more and more appealing when you're looking for something more than what SVN can offer.

The question then becomes which DVCS to use. That's where the complication comes in, and that's where you can easily find a myriad of irritations.

So let's look at some of the DVCS offerings. I wont be showing you what their features are, as they all seem to offer essentially the same things as far as general project management needs are concerned. Instead, I'll point out their irritations.

BTW, I'm doing this largely as a personal exercise to try and help me figure out what I'm going to do: Whether I keep SVN or use one of the alternatives. Even though I may sound very irritated by each of these DVCSes (and actually am very irritated by them) I still haven't decided what I'm going to do. Basically, I want to weigh them all and try to see exactly which will irritate me the least (which tends to be how I decide things anyway since everything irritates me).


Let's start with Bazaar or bzr. This is the DVCS made and used by Canonical in their development on Ubuntu.

bzr's biggest problems are as follows:


git is the thing that the kernel folks use. It honestly has some pretty nifty features, and I probably would lean towards it if it didn't have the following gigantic, hairy, man-titty problems:


Hg is fucking clever. Hg, Mercury, get it? Get it?! Bah... Unfortunately, all the cleverness for Hg was spent coming up with the fucking name...


svk is essentially Subversion with DVCS stuff wedged on top. It uses the SVN filesystem, but then provides the more common DVCS functionalities on top of that. This has a huge benefit of being compatible with SVN clients, but loses some of the functionality you expect from other DVCSes.

So svk problems...

Many choices, none good

I know there's other DVCSes out there, but the ones I looked at all had enough problems that they didn't even make it onto this list of things for me to bitch at. In the end, I really think it will wind up being one of the above for me.

Right now, I'm leaning strongly towards SVN, bzr and hg. git and svk's wedge problems are simply to onerous for me to consider them seriously.

I will say that Hg looks to have the least problems, but the fact that it has less-than-stellar support in Debian makes me worried.

Anyway... stay tuned.