Posts Tagged 'Windows'

Advocacy for the Uncool: SVN vs. git and Cygwin vs. the World

There are two Free Software packages that many Free Software people love to hate: Cygwin and Subversion.


Cygwin is a Unix-like environment on Windows. It gives the user a shell, and it’s possible to install there Perl, Python, Ruby, GNU make, gcc, vim and many other familiar tools from the GNU world. It’s even possible to run X windows using it.

I mostly use it for running Perl on Windows. There are two other major versions of Perl for Windows: ActiveState and Strawberry. Every now and then i try using them and i get immediately frustrated: from my experience, Cygwin is much more stable and predictable. Failure to install a CPAN module on Cygwin is much more rare than on ActiveState and Strawberry. Maybe i install the wrong modules, but for modules that i need Cygwin did the job better.

Cygwin is not without problems. But all too often it does the job more readily than ActiveState, Strawberry and GNU/Linux. Nevertheless, Free Software people tend to call me names, when i tell them that i use Cygwin. “You should expect problems when you run an emulator instead of running real Linux!”, they say. Well, what do you know – sometimes, i have to run Windows, that’s a fact of life, and there are stupid problems with Linux, too.


Another stupid holy war in the Free Software community is Git vs. Subversion (SVN in short). Both are source code management (SCM) systems. The “cool” Free Software people say that git is better, because it git lets you create your own repositories, because git is faster, because git is easier.

I can see the principal advantage in having a local repository, which is the way git works. I can work offline and make as many commits as i like. In SVN i need to go online for every commit. But that, in practice, is the only disadvantage that SVN has. People say that SVN sucks at branching and merging. They like to quote Linus Torvalds: “Did you ever try to merge using SVN? Did you enjoy the experience?” Well, i have news for them: I tried branching and merging using Perforce, Mercurial, ClearCase, SVN and git – and i didn’t enjoy the experience in any of them. So git also sucks at branching and merging, but the difference is that with git i lost data, too. Every single time i tried to branch and merge using git, i cursed the hell out of it, copied the files i wanted to change to a backup directory, deleted the repository, recreated it, and did the merge manually. Every single time.

Besides, every time i try to use git, i feel like a fucking scientologist, forced to look up every single word in the help files: how the hell am i supposed to remember the difference between “pull” and “fetch” or between “branch”, “clone” and “checkout”? To understand what “fetch” is, i need to understand what the fuck “head”, “tag”, “object” and “ref” are. Go on and tell me that i should sit down and learn git properly, but i didn’t have to sit down and learn SVN. It just worked without forcing me to understand things.

Call me stupid and old-fashioned, but SVN didn’t give me a headache. Ever.


So, cool kids, go on, keep being cool, keep telling people that Cygwin and SVN suck. But every now and then do a reality check, please. You find it fun to use git? Great. Just don’t force it on other people.

To the developers of Cygwin and SVN i want to say: Thank you. You deserve far more appreciation than you get.

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