Tag Archives: bzr

bzr, again

I’ve talked a lot lately about different VCSs.

I got some interesting comments in reply to my most recent post. One person took issue with my complaint that nobody really understood how to specify a revision to git format-patch, and proceeded to issue an incorrect suggestion. And a couple of people complained about my comments about bzr, which generally came down to the released version of bzr didn’t have anything compelling and also didn’t support tags.

So I went into #bzr, asked them what bzr has that git, Mercurial, and darcs don’t. And gave bzr the benefit of the doubt that 0.15 will be out soon and will be stable. What I got back were these general items:

  1. Renaming of directories (not in hg, git)
  2. 2-way sync with Subversion (not in hg, darcs)
  3. Checkouts (not in any others by default)
  4. No server-side push requirement

Let’s look at these in more detail.

1. Renaming of directories

All of them can rename files and (excepting git) completely accurately track back the file’s history. But consider this: if person A commits a change to branch A that adds a file, and person B then renames the directory that the file is in on his branch, will a merge cause person A’s file to appear in the new directory name? In darcs and bzr, yes. In Mercurial and git, no.

So yes, this is a nice thing. But I have never actually had this situation crop up in practice, and even if it did, could be trivially remedied. I would say that for me, I don’t really care.

[Update: Current stable releases of Mercurial can do this too. I’m not quite sure how, but it does work. So git is the only one that can’t do that.]

2. 2-way sync with Subversion

This is a really nice feature and is present in both git and bzr. I haven’t tested it either place, but if it works as advertised — and properly supports tracking multiple related svn branches and merges — would be slick. That was enough to make me consider using git, but in retrospect, I so rarely interact with people using svn that it is not that big a deal to me.

Still, for those that have to work with svn users, this feature in bzr and git could be a big one.

Better yet would be to get all those svn holdouts over to DVCS.

3. Checkouts

A bzr checkout is basically a way to make local commits be pushed to the remote repo immediately, as with svn. This is of no utility to me, though I can see some may have a use for it. But it can be done with hg hooks and probably approximated with scripting in others.

4. No server-side process necessary for pushing repos

bzr has built-in support to push to a server that has sftp only, and doesn’t require a copy of itself on the server. While I believe that none of the other three have that, it is possible to rsync (and probably ftp) darcs and Mercurial repos to a server in a safe fashion by moving repo files in a defined order. Probably also possible with git. All four can pull repos using nothing but regular HTTP.

What bzr still doesn’t have

Integrated patch emailing. The big thing is that it has no built-in emailing of patches support. darcs is extremely strong in this area, followed by hg, and git is probably third. “darcs send” is all it takes to have darcs look at the remote repo, figure out what you have that they don’t, and e-mail a bundle of changesets to them. I posted an extension and later a patchset that does all this for Mercurial except for automatically figuring out what default email address to do (that’ll come in a few days, I think). One feature Mercurial has had for awhile that Darcs hasn’t is sending multiple textual diffs as a thread, with one message per changeset. bzr doesn’t have any support for emailing patches yet, which is disappointing. Because of the strong support for this in darcs and Mercurial, people running those systems feel less of a need to publish their repos.

[Update: There is a plugin for bzr that seems to address some of this. I haven’t tested it, and it’s not in bzr core (so doesn’t quite meet my very friendly for a newbie requirement), but this does exist, though apparently not as advanced as Mercurial]

Performance. Supposedly 0.15 is supposed to be better on this, but even if bzr achieves the claimed doubling of performance, most benchmarks I have seen would rate it as still being significantly behind git and Mercurial, though it may overtake darcs in some tests.

Extensive documentation. I would say that bzr’s docs are better in some ways than git’s (its tutorials especially), but lack depth. If you want to know some detail about how the repository works on-disk, it’s not really documented. Darcs still has David’s excellent manual, and Mercurial has the hg book which is still great as well.

Merging not as advanced. darcs is pretty obviously way on top here, but of the others, Mercurial does a pretty good job with its automatic handling of renames and automatic resolving of different branches that commit the same change (even if that same change is a rename, or an add of the same content). bzr can’t resolve as much automatically.


Well, I’ll say that bzr still doesn’t look compelling enough for my use cases to use, and the lack of an easy-for-a-newbie-to-use automated email submission feature is a pretty big disappointment. Though I did appreciate the time those on #bzr spent with me, and if I needed to sync with svn users frequently, I’d probably choose bzr over git.

For now, I’m happy with sticking with darcs for my code and hg for my Debian work.

But all four communities are aggressively working on their weaknesses, and this landscape may look very different in a year.

More on Git, Mercurial, and Bzr

I’ve been writing a lot about this lately, I know, but it’s an interesting landscape.

I had previously discarded git, but in light of git-cvsserver (which provides a plausible way for Windows people to participate), I gave it a try.

The first thing I noticed is that git documentation, in general, is really poor. Some tutorials that claim to cover git actually cover cogito. Still others use commands that are much more complex than those in the current git — and these just the ones linked to from the git homepage.

git’s manpages aren’t much better. There are quite a few git commands (such as log) that take arguments that other git commands accept. Sometimes this fact is documented with a pointer to these other commands, but often not; a person is left guessing what the full range of accepted arguments are.

My complaint that git is overly complex still exists. They’ve made progress, but still have a serious issue here. Part is because of the docuemtnation, and part is because of the interface. I wanted to export to diffs all patches on the current branch in a repo. I asked on #git, and someone suggested using the revision specifier ..HEAD. Nope, didn’t work. A few other git experts chimed in, and none could come up with the correct recipe. I finally used -500, which worked but is hackish.

git’s lack of even offering support for a human to indicate renames also bothers me, though trustworthy people have assured me that it doesn’t generally cause a problem in practice.

git does have nicer intra-repo branching than Mercurial does, for the moment. But the Mercurial folks are working on that anyway, and branching to new directories still works fine for me.

But in general, git’s philosophy is to make things easy for the upstream maintainer, and doesn’t spend much effort making things easy for contributors (except to make it mildly easier to contribute to a large project like Linux). Most of my software doesn’t have a large developer community, and I want to make it as easy as possible for new developers to join in and participate. git still utterly fails on that.

I tried bzr again. It seems that every time I try it, after just a few minutes, I am repulsed. This time, I stopped when I realized that bzr doesn’t support tags and has no support for emailing changesets whatsoever. As someone that has really liked darcs send (and even used tags way back with CVS!), this is alarming. The tutorial on the bzr website referenced a command “bzr help topics”, which does not work.

So I’ll stick with my mercurial and darcs combination for now.

I announced the first version of a hg send extension yesterday as well. I think Mercurial is very close to having a working equivalent to darcs send.