Visual Studio .NET Beta Has Time-Bomb Bug

For Microsoft Corp., getting the second beta of its forthcoming Visual Studio .NET development environment into the hands of end users was one of its biggest priorities during last month’s TechEd conference in Atlanta.

Thanks to what Microsoft is now calling a “time bomb” bug in Visual Studio .NET, however, developers who’ve installed the software could end up using it for only slightly more than a month.

The software giant dispatched a memo Thursday to alert recent TechEd attendees to a problem with its Visual Studio .NET beta that could cause some functionality in the software to “expire” by July 31.

Microsoft stressed that the problem affects only the design-time environment in Visual Studio .NET Beta 2, which means that customers who’ve already used the next-generation toolkit to write or deploy applications should be unaffected. Users in the midst of an ongoing development project based on Visual Studio .NET could be affected, however.

Experts suggest that most attendees who received copies of Visual Studio .NET Beta 2 are probably doing nothing more than playing around with it.

“Typically, you don’t use a beta product for developing anything mission critical, and if something goes wrong and breaks, you really can’t hold Microsoft accountable,” notes Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with consultancy Giga Information Group.

In the memo, attributed to Yuval Neeman, a vice president with Microsoft’s developer division, the software giant promised developers that it would issue them new, corrected Visual Studio .NET CDs by July 31. The software giant also indicated that the bug-free Visual Studio .NET beta CDs would upgrade users to the Enterprise Architect version of the software, which it says is not affected by the so-called “time bomb” problem.

But some users say that the problem is compounded by Microsoft's requirement that Visual Studio .NET Beta 2 be uninstalled prior to installing the fixed version. “Beta software packages rarely have ‘clean’ uninstallation routines, so there’s a chance that removing [Visual Studio .NET Beta 2] could really hose your system,” one user fears.

Although Microsoft hopes that users will install Visual Studio .NET and will begin to familiarize themselves with it, Giga’s Enderle dryly suggests that most users who install the beta toolkit probably won’t use it as a foundation for mission-critical development projects. Moreover, Enderle says, the potential damage of a bug of this kind is mitigated by the fact that it happens only in the Visual Studio .NET development environment, and that it doesn’t affect applications that have already been written or deployed.

“Certainly, it’s a possibility that folks will be affected by this, but it’s just the design-time environment, and it doesn’t affect the applications themselves,” Enderle says.

Another user suggests that the “time bomb” bug isn’t all that much of an issue. “If you’re worried about uninstalling it, just set the date and time back on your system,” he suggests. “It’s only a beta environment, for crying out loud.”

At TechEd, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates promised the company would complete the code for Visual Studio .NET this calendar year. Stephen Swoyer

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.