Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DVCS (Mercurial) for Students

I just had a bit of an epiphany for yet another reason why distributed version control systems (DVCS) like Mercurial rock. In an advanced software engineering class (e.g., a capstone project), it would be appropriate to have project teams using a SCM/VCS tool. At my campus, we've never pushed that because it can be a pain to set up a server for students to access. Gotta have a dedicated host for it. Firewalls have to be open. Permissions and users have to be set up. Yada, yada, yada.

However, with a DVCS tool like Mercurial, it would be trivial and wouldn't require any networking at all. Students could use the modern equivalent of SneakerNet: ThumbNet. Put the whole repo on a thumb drive, meet up with your project partners, push and pull, done. Or, if the project is small enough - just email whole repos around. In this context, "distributed" also means you don't need any support from The Man, and that's a good thing.

For better or worse, I don't teach those classes, but if I did....


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