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Why Bazaar rocks, and the highs and lows of its use with Rails

While Subversion is for many the source code revision system of choice, I've never stopped long with it myself. Why? Because it's mostly a fixed-up CVS, and doesn't fix the really gnarly problem with revision control: merging.

Mark Shuttleworth has written an insightful little article on the key aspects of merging source code. Some of the points he makes underpin my choice of revision control system.

For several years now I've been a very contented user of Bazaar, in its first arch-based incarnation, and now in its latter form. The key reason has been ease of merging.

While most articles praising Bazaar are reports of open source development, I've also found it very handy for small in-house teams working on web applications.

There are very often multiple arcs of development going on at once, and the ease of merging makes it easy to ensure that long-running development arcs don't get ridiculously far from the main trunk of development. Bazaar's merging also makes it easier for lead developers to police the merging of the code base.

Using Bazaar with Rails and other tools

Working mostly with Rails, one repeatedly runs up against the assumption that Subversion is the golden path for revision control. This is perhaps a little telling about the level of participation most Rails-based projects have reached.

The tools story for a Bazaar user is both good and bad.

The good

  • Deployment: the Capistrano deployment system has support for Bazaar. I've written previously about the technique I use to deploy my Rails apps.
  • Collaboration: Trac is a wonderful integrated bug database, wiki and source code browser. Although it's a little hard to find, the trac-bzr integration works very well, and happily moves Trac out of the Subversion-based assumption that you can only have one repository root per project.

The bad

  • Continuous integration: with Expectnation, we've had to roll our own continuous integration system ('system' being rather a grand word for a shell script on a cronjob...) Most of the CI systems currently popular seem to assume Subversion.
  • Editor/IDE integration: some early work exists, but it's early days. I've not yet found anything making me want to leave the command line.
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