CS Dept should set up a Version Control Repository

Most computer science classes these days require you to work in groups these days. This means that at some point you will have agree on the interfaces, and merge the code. At MSU this is usually done by sending out angry emails, knocking your group members on the head with dull objects, and rewriting large portions of the code because some idiot does not read his email.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. All we need is to set up some nice source code repository and make it available to students. This would not only make our life easier, but it would also teach students important skills for the future. These few hours wasted fighting with cvs, subversion or even sourcejammer could really pay off once the students get out there and start working in the industry.

And of course, the instructors could monitor the progress of their students. All version control tools keep track of the history of revisions. All you need to do is peek at the project history and you would know which student did the most work, when was the project started, and who contributed which part. There would be no more need to force student to keep a work log, or to expect them to fairly evaluate their team mates at the end of the semester.

A cvs does not lie, and it does not need to uphold the unspoken student honor code. It would truthfully log everything. The logs would easily identify all the lazy slackers without forcing moral dilemmas on poor students

Of course someone would have to maintain that software. And this is where my little dream falls over and dies. No one would take on this responsibility. OIT would wash their hands – we do not have enough students for them to even think about this. The CSAM support crew would be the next choice… But they wouldn’t do it either. They are to busy removing spyware and trying to keep the network in RI from falling apart. They would need to be dragged kicking and screaming into this – and even then, we would only get a half assed support.

The only hope would be to do this in house. Put a graduate assistant on this, and delegate some faculty member to mentor the whole project. Unfortunately GA’s come and go, and faculty is overloaded as it is. No one is going to take on this responsibility.

So it’s never going to happen. But it would be a really cool thing to have!

Update Thu, February 09 2006, 10:41 PM

Uh! Some people do read this blog after all. I got quoted at Gigant Robots so I better clarify this stuff here.

I guess I did not elaborate enough in my complaints about lack of support. This is what happens when you post in a hurry. “Removing spyware” was oversimplification. They don’t clean student computers – that’s helpdesk’s job. From what I know they do maintain the two labs in RI and at least one of them gets ravaged by 109 students who like to download and install crap. These are CSAM funded I think, so they are out of scope for IT.

They also maintain faculty and staff desktops/laptops, the classroom computers, research machines, the smartboard systems and bunch of other things. They also maintain pegasus/freddie and assorted machines which host mailservers, login servers, and bunch of other services. Most cs users have shell accounts on pegassus/freddie they can use for development and other course related work. I bet they do some more important stuff on top of that. So it is a bundle and a half right there :) I guess my main complain was – their turnaround time is really slow most of the time. Most of the faculty complains about them all the time.

CS decided to maintain their own webserver (cs.montclair.edu). It was fully maintained by Dr. Koeller and grad assistants, who designed the page and wrote all the assorted apps from scratch. One woud think that stuff like that would be something that could be delegated to the CSAM IT staff. But for one reason or another they were not able to provide the department with a the level of support, and speed of response they needed. I’m not saying that there were no other reasons behind it, but I guess this just illustrates how CS dept does not like to completely “rely” on CSAM in critical matters.

I guess now you know why this blog has “incoherent” in the name. I tend to ramble without much thinking sometimes :P

All of that said, I will mention it to the faculty. Of course I will have to explain to most of them what a version control system is (sad, I know). Seriously, I get blank stairs most of the time when I mention the little sourcejammer server I use for my research stuff. But maybe if I could reach some of the more cluefull people…

This entry was posted in uncategorized archives. Bookmark the permalink.



4 Responses to CS Dept should set up a Version Control Repository

  1. Dan McCarron UNITED STATES says:

    That is part of what is great about a blog though, you are allowed to ramble and vent at will. This is not an official or professional journal; magazine or publication. IMHO, you have the right to NOT have your feet held to the fire for what you say here. This is a personal, albeit public, place to write whatever you may choose. I think it is time people started to realize that writing something on the internet does not qualify as a real or official statement.

    I think we need to keep in mind that blogs are not signed and proven. The owner of the blog may not even be the one writing at the time. If I broke into someone’s work blog and posted all sorts of slander about their CEO, and she/he happened to read it, what then? It is most definitely within the realm of possibility. I actually know of a situation where a girl’s LJ was hijacked and used to tell of her faux, yet raunchy, sexual adventures and other such debauchery.

    Beyond these simple logistics, there is no real value in trying to interpret humor from serious statements either. Case in point, a while back Bill over at GR made a statement that he told me was meant to “discredit” me even though it happened to be a negatively charged non sequitur. I responded with a mix of serious statements coupled with grand, over-the-top faux-aggresive comedy. This was meant to be a nudge saying “Look, I bet you thought I would never read this” and, “Look at yourself, are you guilty of being a dick?” I admit it was a bit advanced and confusing but I felt it was glaring that I was being satirical. Instead he seemed to take it to heart and was quite upset, even though he admitted it was wrong to post that.(I have the email dialouge that followed for further analysis of logic flow.) Later on my words intended as peaceful reconciliation were again mistaken and I was barked at for making “demands.” I was told there was no way he possibly misunderstood me. I had a good laugh at that statement. Simple proof that intentions have a hard enough time coming through in words, even face-to-face; let alone toneless, voiceless, text.

    Even intentionally logical statements are easy enough to misunderstand; forget about the poetic and often “incoherently” ambiguous statements present in most blogs. With this in mind, why bother to blog about blogs? This type of “report” can only create further obfuscation of any truth. If you want to write something I think it would be ethically correct to clarify what was really meant by what was said at the very least. I hold this truth to be self-evident.

    In simple terms people need to stop taking what they read, and often misunderstand, on the internerd so f’n seriously. Just because “XpokemonX” said he was going to bomb the president in #haXorz on IRC last night does not mean you have justification for a lengthy blog on the subject. I think there has to be a line on what is a good source and what is not.

    If you feel strong emotional upsets over the contents of blogs and IMs from people you never see face to face I recommend you get: a beer, a girl/guy, a dog/God, a tan, a hobby. Any combination will likely soothe you out. Just make sure to steer clear of those TCP/IP stacks for a bit.

    RANT EOF

    Shhhanywayz … how is school going dude? I miss Robilla’s class. Remember that cypher that almost nobody solved but we stayed up working on it for 5 whole points? As school goes, it was great.

    BG@GR is not the only one keeping tabs on your blog, I check it every so often also. I have been ever since I found it via our shared homework assignment. I think it is enjoyable as an “off the cuff” style blog and you should keep it that way. It would be a shame to see you hedge your words and apologize for your right to free speech. Personally I like the fact that you write your unbridled opinions and for yourself rather than solely for image and making sure to please (and not piss off) everyone that may be reading as you write. This way, it has a lot more truth and purity.

    You can write what you wish as you wish, clear and targeted , or broad and cryptic. If it is taken out of context or commented on without clarification or consent, you can let it be known and then let karma work it out. I do, and I will continue to as it pleases me.

    //Dan

    Reply  |  Quote
  2. Luke UNITED STATES says:

    Thanks for the comment :)

    I actually don’t mind being quoted. I also I’m not apologizing for anything here. I just wanted to clarify my statements because… Well, they were a little cryptic and misleading :P

    I think the burden of clarifying my own words lies solely on me. If I’m rambling, then I may be easily misunderstood and thus misquoted. Thus it is in my best interest to present my ideas clearly.

    I’m not planning to change anything or apologize. I’m entitled to my opinion.

    At the same time Bill has the same right to post bullshit on his blog as you and me :) I have no beef with him over what he said about my post. I actually thought he brought up some good points there. He does come off a little arrogant at times, but hey – that’s how some people write.

    But that post about you borders on personal attack. Not nice! Especially since this is a “work blog”. :(

    Thanks for reading! No worries, I’ll continue doing my thing here. And if Bill keeps quoting me, then hey – publicity is publicity. Good or bad, it’s better than none, eh?

    Reply  |  Quote
  3. Dan McCarron UNITED STATES says:

    I agree that you are entitled to your opinion without apology. It is good to hear you feel that way.

    Bill does indeed have a right to post BS, and in my case I was lucky enough to see it (thanks to a tip-off) and respond. Just like anyone has a right to gossip up to the line of slander, people can and should be able to speak their minds.

    I agree with the personal attack part, I do not see much of a justification/debate there and I never did. This being said, I also have no “beef.” I am a little bit too far past the adolescent stage of mental evolution to harbor any negative emotions over something like this.

    Any publicity is good publicity I suppose; under the condition that publicity is something you desire. Sometimes things like this give inspiration for self-improvement. In your case, you wish to be more clear. This will likely be a fine catalyst for that endeavor.

    I know you have not apologized or changed your stance and that deserves respect. I was only mentioning a phenomenon I have seen in similar cases and would hate to see in yours. Writing is often severely altered and watered down by the “halo effect”. That is to say, once you are aware of being watched, namely by peers and colleagues, it is natural human behavior to curb and hedge bold and brazen statements. I acknowledge that you plan on not succumbing to this syndrome.

    Thank you for your response,

    //Dan

    Reply  |  Quote
  4. The mentioned Gigant Robots thing is gone, so I have no context for the above. :-P

    Anyway, you are completely right. Group programming projects in college were a pain in the ass without any version control system. Usually I would try to get one set up using external resources I had available, but the average student doesn’t have those resources.

    At Penn State they have all the dorm network connects individually firewalled so that they can’t accept any connections. The purpose is to inhibit filesharing. If a student wanted to set up a version control system for his team to use he couldn’t do it on the computer in his room. No one could access it. You see, in college, stopping “pirates” is more important than education.

    So, I would use an external computer, like one at my parent’s house, to run stuff like that (and over the phone have to walk my dad through the NAT port forwarding crap on the router).

    Of course, no one else in the class knew about version control, so I was basically the only one making commits beyond an initial “test” commit from my other teammates. Sometimes my teammates would use it a little, even if they were accidentally stomping all over each others commits, or committing object files.

    I’m in my career now, and, for almost everyone I work with, “version control” means making a .zip of their working tree, compiled crap and all, every once in awhile. “Checking out” code means they hand me one of these giant zip files. I clean it up the best I can and check it into Git on my end. There is a serious lack of knowledge about these things outside of the few of us who love this stuff.

    Version control really should be something covered in school, and, as you mentioned, even used to keep track of progress and slackers. There is a lot of theory behind it to go into as well, if they wanted to take that route. It would go a long way towards organizing project teams, then hopefully have them using it beyond school.

    Reply  |  Quote

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>