Stupid Developers Version 1.1.1.Over 9000

, , , , , | Working | September 5, 2020

I work on the support desk of a company that develops and hosts web-based applications, but I also handle a lot of the internal and background processes such as the scripts to roll out updates. After struggling with our obtuse versioning, I get sick of it and confront the software manager.

Me: “Why do we append a patch number to the end of the version?”

Manager: “What do you mean?”

Me: “A version is four numbers; eg, the current version is 1.2.1.1, but we then bolt this obtuse patch number onto it so we’ve got ‘1.2.1.1 Patch 5’. That’s the point of the fourth version number.”

Manager: “We’ve always versioned that way; it doesn’t cause problems.”

Me: “You realise that 90% of the problems we have with the service are because the version in the installer is 1.2.1.1 and when we release a new ‘patch’ it’s still 1.2.1.1 so Windows just reinstalls the same version? Do you have any idea how much we have to do to work around that?”

Manager: “When? Nobody’s complaining.”

Me: “What are you— We have problems every single time we release a patch! It’s just so common now that we deal with it ourselves.”

Manager: “Where are the tickets, then?”

Me: “This is irrelevant! I’m telling you now — again — it causes this problem. We need to be versioning properly. Why do we even have this patch number on the end?”

Manager: “Because we need might need to go higher than 9.9.9.9 and we were releasing a lot of patches at the time.”

Me: *Incredulous* “You… realise that it’s not decimal right?”

Manager: “It’s how Visual Studio versions; it goes up by 1, say 1.8, 1.9, 2.0”

Me: “Nooo… Versions go 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11, etc. Each number is an integer, up to two billion or something, for each number.”

Manager: “Well, it’s too much hassle to change our processes.”

This is our software manager. With years of qualifications, he doesn’t know the MOST BASIC fact about software development. I’m kind of stunned and just leave. I relay the story to my manager and he stares at me with his mouth open.

But wait, there’s more. One of the devs comes in about something else and I start telling him, too. When I mention the patch number on the end, he gives me the SAME STORY.

Developer: “Because we might need more than 9,999 versions.”

Me: *Staring* “How…”

I facepalm and explain to him, as well, ANOTHER trained developer, and then show him the problems it causes. He goes off but comes back with more.

Developer: “I found a way around it; you can just add the patch onto the last number.”

Me: “Eh?”

Developer: “I just tested it and it lets me have one-dot-one-dot-one-dot-one-five — 1.1.1.15. Then, it counts as a different version.”

Me: “That’s not dot-one-five. That’s dot-fifteen.”

Developer: “…”

Me: “And what happens when we release the next version?”

Developer: “It would be 1.1.1.2.”

Me: “Yep. And two is less than fifteen, so it would be considered an older version and probably cause other problems.”

I even have to demonstrate this in PowerShell by comparing the two versions, and it confirms that fifteen is greater than two. He goes off, comes back, and admits that they’re not versioning properly.

I wish I was done. I also have to explain this to the remaining two developers AND an ex-developer. Yep, not a single one of our developers knew how to use version numbers. That’s the equivalent of running a sandwich shop without knowing what a knife is so you’ve been using a sharp spoon.

Almost a year later, we’re concluding a meeting about the update process.

Me: “Can we talk about versioning, as well? Seriously, there’s a whole bunch of dodgy stuff in the updater that takes a really long time to do.” *To the software manager* “Remember, you were complaining about it last week.”

Manager: “I said we don’t have time to do that; it’s too ingrained in all our processes.”

My manager and I give him a dirty look as he leaves the room.

Technical Director: “What’s the problem?”

I explain the problems caused by the patch number to him. This is the kind of guy that will tell you the components that your toaster shares with a fighter jet; he’s found some seriously obtuse solutions for bizarre problems and is known for typing on two keyboards at once in emergencies.

Technical Director: “Ah. Well, we can’t do much about it because Visual Studio bumps the version number for every little thing and we were worried we were going to run out.”

At what point do you start questioning that the Earth is round?

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