I found an actual bug in the framework (one of the RewritePath() overloads) and had a nice exchange started via the online support ticket system, finished by a member of the .NET team. It's one of three times I've had to contact MS directly, and every time my problem was resolved or at the very least explained. At the company level, I think they do a fine job.
The bug he talks about actually is fixed, in an ASP.NET hotfix roll-up (released june 2003). Now, I'm very happy for Jeff that his bug got fixed and the patch actually is released to the public and that the bug is documented in the knowledge base. However, are there any "hotfix rollup"s of winforms? Ado.net (I know the Oracle provider in .NET has some serious issues)? VS.NET designers? No.
While I can see the point of why Jeff looks differently at Microsoft's support, I hope he also sees how other people who have supplied perhaps a dozen bugs never got a reply back from Microsoft nor did their bug end up in the KB as being documented nor was there a fix released to help the developer and other developers. You see, there is nothing so frustrating as to find out after spending a lot of time debugging your software the framework contains a bug so your software would never work and the patch for that is not available.
I can live with feature requests not being granted, I can also accept that very silly little tiny bugs aren't patched individually and not before a next major release (like the winforms label text alignment misery), all fine. I can't live with the fact that I don't know about bugs being present and if they are recognized, that I can't download a fix so I don't have to write work-around code. The only resource helping the developer a bit is Google. If Google would die, MS developers would loose the number 1 source for information about bugs in Microsoft software.
Another reader, James Arendt, writes:
Microsoft could learn a thing or to from their competitors about providing useful access to bugs:I think this is the nail on the head. Developers are now left in the dark: "Is it a bug in my code or in the framework?" in other words: "Should I spend a lot of time finding this bug, while it could be in the framework?". You can't tell if it's in the framework other than to really spend that time. The frustrating part is that you probably are the 24,789th developer doing that. But you don't know that. You could search in Google groups, and often it offers you postings of fellow developers fighting the same issue, sometimes there is a workaround posted, but not in all cases. When you finally find out it is the framework and you report the bug, 10 to 1 you never ever hear from Microsoft (it happened to me 10 out of 10 times), left alone a patch for your problem.
Apparently Microsoft is very afraid of what we, customers, might get to know about the real quality of their software if the full bug database is exposed. If not, why isn't the bug database open for us, customers? Why do we, developers, have to fight with unexpected behaviour while it might be caused by a bug in the framework? Or does Microsoft think "Let Google serve them"? I hardly doubt that.
There also seem to be two types of support: the freebee give-away support and the raw 'product support'. I don't see them as two things: the customer buys a license of a product, he expects a given amount of quality, which includes support. As the producer of a piece of software you might think that giving a lot of freebee give-away support is helping customers enough that they think they got enough support for their money, but that's a skewed view on reality. Support is about helping someone. Support also means that if you as a producer, scr*wed up big time because you included some bugs, you have to fix them to give the customer the quality the customer thought he/she bought. But perhaps I'm thinking in weird ways. I've always learned that if you sell something you have to stand by the quality of the product you are selling, and if the product apparently isn't of the quality you think it is, you should do everything you can to make it the quality you think it is.
Microsoft can give away as much examples and free beta's at a show like Devdays (which was mostly about what will come and not about today's technology), that doesn't make up for the total lack of fixes for products like Visual Studio.NET and also .NET 1.x. because when you get home after visiting these shows, when you finish reading the examples, the hard reality of today kicks back in and won't simply go away: you have to finish the software you are working on with the technology available today, you can't do that with technology which isn't available yet, so it does hurt every day's work when fixes are not available, when essential bug information is not available. The KB has a page with .NET bugs listed. It's the same page as 6 months ago. Are all bugs ever found in .NET 1.1 on that page and in the last 6 months there haven't been found any new bugs? How naive must a person be to buy that? After all, the bugs I found are not on that list. Does it mean those bugs do not exist, or does it mean the page is outdated?
If this is the kind of support that is the best of the industry, I really feel sorry for the customers of competing products. Microsoft, you have the resources to do something about it, why aren't you doing something about it?