Why Am I Scared Of C# 4.0?

by Jon Davis 21. October 2009 23:21

Microsoft is doing a good thing, and I should be excited to be tinkering with the new Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 that just came out this week. Fact is, I haven’t prioritized time enough to do much of anything of any beta of VS 2010 yet. Limited energy levels caused by sloppy living habits and everyday work stress might have a bit to do with it, but I also must admit that, while I greatly look forward to the future, I’m simply not prepared to make it the present. I, like so many people in this field, am limited significantly by the constraints of my employer’s best interests and the limited availability of my time (or in my case the juggling of free time prioritization between Gemli, Stargate Universe, StumbleUpon surfing, and other geeky activities).

With respect to Gemli, much of what that project (including tons of wishlist scoped details) was about is based on the limitations of current RTM’d offerings from Microsoft. Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0 address a lot of things I wanted, making parts of future-scoped bits of Gemli more or less moot. On the other hand, the parts that .NET 4.0 doesn’t address will likely become greatly enhanced by some of the new features of .NET 4.0, things like the dynamic object.

And in any case, the objectives of Gemli or any other open source project for that matter is to have the tooling needed to produce and maintain software in an efficient and stable manner, and so there’s nothing wrong with continuous improvement and evolution of the tools we use. I should, then, be excited about what Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0 bring to do the table in the contexts of everything I’m doing, and not be holding back.

Yet, I do hold back. It could be fear, but it’s not that simple.

Perhaps the biggest problem that keeps me from tinkering is that one cannot tinker with “legacy” (RTM-based) projects in the new tooling environments without permanently upgrading the projects/solutions. It would be really neat if I could check out Gemli from TFS into VS 2010 and dabble in C# 4.0 features using #ifdef-like directives to isolate “legacy” (C# 3.0) and “modern” (C# 4.0) features and code sets. In this way, producing a .NET 3.5 flavor and a separate .NET 4.0 flavor of the framework would be as easy as recompiling with the selected solution configuration. And indeed I could do that, if I want to switch to VS 2010. But I can’t do that given that it’s an open source solution that I want other people to open up in a current RTM version of Visual Studio (2008), nor do I want to cut off that version of Visual Studio the moment VS 2010 is released.

But since VS 2010 cannot open a VS 2008 solution without upgrading it – or at least I assume it can’t, such was the behavior of VS 2005->VS 2008 – the benefits of VS 2010 / .NET 4.0 tooling are limited for the most part to greenfield projects and self-education of future technology. Neither of these are particularly practical in the absence of an employer who is willing and indeed desirous to stay on the cutting edge of a future-scoped product/project release. And believe me, this is not a complaint of my current employer. Few employers want to take such risks; they exist, but unless you’re talking about an innovative startup company, they’re really quite rare.

On the other hand, Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 comes with a go-live license. If that’s not a sign that the core functionality of the toolsets is stable, I don’t know what a better sign would look like. Technically, anyone can start on Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 projects with the intent to deploy at any time, if indeed they want to (it is technically still a beta), and if they’re looking at a long-term development process, RTM of .NET 4 / VS 2010 will come before they release. Otherwise, they can release anyway.

So really, making the switch right now, once and for all, might even make sense. The only catch or down side is the abandonment of last year’s tech. Such would be the downfall for an open source project. But this doesn’t have to be the case for everything I’m working on; if there’s no intent for the project to be shared with unknown outsiders, making the switch might as well be considered safe, even. Would you be able to place that bet? If so, how do you categorize yourself and where you work?

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
 
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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