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What environment do Microsoft developer…

What environment do Microsoft developers use, I wonder? Linux?

Nov. 27, 2012

I'm joking about Linux, of course. Nevertheless, this question really interests me. I understand that systems they work on in Microsoft are large and complex. I know very well that bugs may be detected by users only some time later after release. But I don't understand how can one simply not notice obvious bugs in the tools the developers themselves are meant to use regularly?

A few words about classic mistakes to start with. Everything's clear about them: developers may well miss them because they are not the end users. A good example of this is an error in one of the Microsoft Visio versions. It was the 2010 version, I suppose. When you started typing text in Russian into a Basic Flowchart block, it was being typed back to front. I can understand it. Someone has mixed up things and decided that words are written from right to left in the Russian language. Russian and Arabic are absolutely the same, or very similar at least. There were no Russians among testers, and the error got into the release version. I can understand this case.

But what happens in the Visual Studio environment cannot be explained by any rational reason. Don't they use this environment at all? I suspect that they use complex build-systems to build their projects. But doesn't anybody in the whole Microsoft corporation use the Visual Studio environment itself in their work? If anybody does, why cannot they see obvious defects?

The search function in the Visual Studio 2010 environment has become a notorious story [1, 2, 3, ...]. Those of you who used to work in Visual Studio 2010 at once understand what I mean. Hasn't anyone of the Visual Studio developers ever pressed Ctrl+F in this environment?

With the release of Windows 8, programmers have got another bugdrome. I don't know in what programs it will reveal itself. But I can tell you how it impacts PVS-Studio. In our area, it reveals itself at the connection between Windows Defender and the Visual C++ compiler. My colleague has written a technical note about that. But I want to explain its point in a simpler and more emotional way.

So, once upon a time there lived the Windows Defender system in Windows. In Windows 8, this system has become a kind of a free antivirus. Everything's OK. But PVS-Studio now works several times slower.

How are these related? This relation is subtle and vague. The PVS-Studio analyzer launches the Visual C++ compiler (cl.exe) for the preprocessing purpose. Well, now preprocessing is executed only on one core if Windows Defender is active. Miracles and magic!

The reader might say: "You must be creating processes incorrectly. Check Affinity Mask.". No, it's alright with that. The problem is with the association between Windows Defender and Visual C++.

At the same time, there is some mechanism made of plasticine and paper inside Windows Defender. It makes Visual Studio pretend to work correctly. All the processor cores are being used in parallel compilation. But once you specify the switches /P and /c in the settings, everything goes wrong. You press F7 in Visual Studio, and all the CL.EXE processes are run on one core. It's a funny thing watching all the processes huddle together on one core in an 8-core processor, eating off their small 12% of CPU load. All the rest 7 cores are drinking tea meanwhile.

Once you turn Windows Defender off, everything starts working well. I'm sure other apps will soon suffer from Windows Defender too.

Let's go back to PVS-Studio. It needs to launch CL.EXE for that very purpose of file preprocessing. As a result, this all is done on one core. A sad thing. At the same time, even forced specification of Affinity Mask can't help it in any way: Windows Defender holds the system tight in its claws.

And again I want to ask that question! Why, do the Microsoft programmers turn Windows Defender off when working? Hasn't anybody ever noticed anything strange? Or doesn't anybody use Visual Studio at all?

On the one hand, it all would seem trifles and programmers' usual stern routine. We have seen much strange in complex systems before. But I'm still upset with this situation. We don't know how to fix that slowdown without turning Windows Defender off. The Internet is keeping silent so far.

The main reason for it all must be the fact that developers use a different environment than the one they offer to users. One more question. If guys in Microsoft really turn Windows Defender off, do we need this useful system ourselves?

This is my appeal to developers. Not only those from Microsoft, but all the developers. Use the applications you develop! Otherwise users feel very well that you don't trust your own system. This distrust crawls out of every crack. And it forms a negative attitude to your product.

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