Sun, 27 Nov 05

Operating systems should be managed by version control

I spent from about 09:30 until 15:00 yesterday trying to get some graphics software talking to two output devices (basically printers) on Windows.

On arrival, it kinda worked, although not as requested. There were some additional problems that needed to be sorted too.

I managed to go from a working state to a non-working state very quickly (great) and then had to spend several hours trying to return it. In the end, I had one of the connected machines talking correctly but couldn’t for the life of me work out the other one.

I found myself trying to diagnose the problem (complaints of missing driver files / mis-communication between ports) using several (very good) utilities from sys internals. Indeed these did help to a certain extent but it was not easy.

Coming from a development perspective where every little change is registered in version control, it got me to thinking. If the changes to an operating system were version controlled I’d be able to see exactly what changed during every ‘upgrade’ to the OS, making it potentially easier to spot the cause of a problem and far easier to roll back to a working state.

I know that Windows XP (which this machine was running) offers a kind of ‘rollback’ functionality; but, to be honest, I don’t trust it in the slightest; hence not using it.

Mmm, I think I might install a fresh copy of XP, add all files to version control (which I guess might not even work), change something and then diff between the versions. I can already think of problems when diffing registry files as they are in binary format so it will not be easy to see differences.. Although, I guess it wouldn’t be too difficult to store registry files in a text format, i.e. customize the version control somehow. Just an idea.