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Markus on Development and Publishing

This is Markus Egger's professional blog, which covers topics such as development, publishing, and business in general. As the publisher of CoDe and CoDe Focus magazines, and as the President and Chief Software Architect of EPS Software Corp., Markus shares his insights and opinions on this blog.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Microsoft's Error Messages Drive Me Ballistic!

I find that there are few things I encounter in my daily developer life that are as frustrating as the error messages Microsoft chooses to display to me. I have to admit that I by no means are super-great in creating error messages, but what Microsoft puts us through at time seems to be deliberately insulting and sadistic. Just right now for instance, I have already spent 3 hours trying to resolve a version conflict in a Visual Studio solution. The error message I get is:

    "Found conflicts between different versions of the same dependent assembly."

That is all fine, but how about telling me which f-ing one!?!?! I mean, could it be such a leap of mind to think that whenever one displays an error message like this, it would also be good to provide some additional information such as the name of the components involved? Couldn't they simply answer the questions "what?" and "why?" as best as possible? It seems almost trivial in this case. After all, there gotta be some assembly of a certain name that has a reference to another assembly of a certain name, that a third assembly of a certain name tries to access too. It doesn't seem to take a rocket scientist to figure out that this information may be useful.

And to add insult to injury, I can even double-click the error message to add a setting to the app.config file which adds a binding redirect, so whichever assemblies are trying to use the one that causes the conflict will both use the latest version. That is nice, but it doesn't help me, since I do not need to know the name of the assembly that is being used (nor does the redirect help me in this case), but instead I need to know the names of the assemblies that are trying to use it. But no, no such chance. I will probably have to write myself a tool to figure this one out. Argh.

And there are many such examples. A little while back, I tried to install a video decoder card on a media center PC. There was some issue, and I was told about it via the following "useful" error message:

So the message says "Decoder Error" and "The video decoder has...". And that's it. The decoder has what?!?!? Are they actually doing this on purpose?

There are tons of similar examples. This gotta change! What it takes is a mind-set shift at Microsoft, similar to what they did with the security stuff. As long as this is not an issue that is actively being worked on and that everyone at Microsoft is made aware of, this will not improve.

It is unbelievable how much time I waste due to this sort of stuff. It is ironic to think that Microsoft is spending billions on making developers more productive. How nice, there now is a smart-tag on the Visual Studio UI designers. That is great, but you know what: It saves me a few seconds. Giving me better error messages would remove my main productivity hurdle...

 

Posted @ 5:47 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
Comments (30)




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