Andy Pennell's Blog

See me blather about software development, Gadgets, Technology, Fatherhood, plus anything else that gets me going.

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  • Blog Post: Handling Contract assertions on Windows Phone 8

    If you are a fan of System.Diagnostics.Contracts and use them on WP8 you may find a problem: when a contract fails, you get no clue why. Here's how to find out. Firstly lets start with a trivial repro app, take the default WP8 project, add a using System.Diagnostics.Contracts , add a button, then...
  • Blog Post: Why Data Breakpoints are Disabled On Restart

    Data breakpoints are both incredibly useful when you need them and yet can cause extreme pain under some circumstances. For the latter reason they are always disabled on restart, and here is why. First of what is a data breakpoint? Since at least VS2005 (maybe earlier, I forget) they are hardware...
  • Blog Post: Why Address Breakpoints Are Disabled On Restart

    If you set a [native] breakpoint by address, then restart your debugger session the breakpoint will be disabled, unlike most other breakpoint types. This was a deliberate change (in VS2003 or VS2005, I forget which), and here is why. Address breakpoints are not often used if you have matching source...
  • Blog Post: Two Fixes You Must Have for Visual Studio 2008 SP1

    The SP1 release of VS08 regressed some functionality compared to the original release, in a couple of critical areas. As a result it is highly likely you'll need the following two patches for it. I know many of our team who hit these issues, cursed, came to me (because I am the "VS guy" on the team)...
  • Blog Post: See my early work: X-Debug from 1992

    I recently discovered a floppy containing the source to a program I wrote in 1992: X-Debug, a debugger for the Atari ST. Coincidentally I also received an email via this blog from someone asking if I had the source and rights to the Atari version of HiSoft Devpac, which I wrote in the late-80s. I couldn...
  • Blog Post: Detecting over-Releasing on COM objects

    I am in Refcount Hell right now, trying to fix a new chunk of our codebase for COM refcounting issues. Debugging missing AddRefs consumes most of my time, and I might write about that one day, but yesterday I managed to over-Release an object and of course I crashed. Finding over-Releases is trivial...
  • Blog Post: Autoexp.dat not working in Visual Studio 2005?

    As this was reported twice in the space of a week internally, I figured that external users may be hitting this too. The internal emails were along the lines of "I added my custom types to autoexp.dat and they don't work". In both cases this was because they were added at the end of the file, but if...
  • Blog Post: Displaying DirectX Errors in the Debugger

    Debugging DirectX calls that fail is a pain as the debugger cannot show the "nice" HRESULT codes as it does for COM errors (such as E_NOTIMPL). However you can tell the debugger about the custom error codes and add them to the [hresult] section of autoexp.dat. I went through the pain of hand calculating...
  • Blog Post: What does "pdb is obsolete" really mean?

    If your Visual Studio debugger says this to you, it either means Your PDB really is obsolete Your debugger is obsolete 1. It gets expensive in terms of testing and (sometimes) development to read every single old PDB format, so with each release the C++ team determine what is the oldest PDB...
  • Blog Post: 10 Years at Microsoft

    I started at Microsoft the day after Labour Day, 1995 (which I soon learned was spelled Labor Day). This was about a week after the Windows 95 launch , so things were still pretty crazy on campus. It took years for the football (er, soccer) fields to recover from that, and in recent years the turf was...
  • Blog Post: Does anyone use dbgclr? Or even know what it is?

    My third blog entry in a row which is a question, and its becease we really want your input on these things. Do you use dbgclr? If you dont even know what it is, then the answer is clearly no. For those folks, dbgclr is a GUI managed debugger that ships with the .NET Framework SDK (and hence with Visual...
  • Blog Post: Six Year Old MS Debugger better than current Open Source debuggers?

    There is an interesting post on a Firefox developers blog that describes how great the VC6 debugger still is, despite being almost six years old, chiding the open source folks for still not competing with it. We should be flattered I guess. Although I haven't used VC6 myself for over six years (we had...
  • Blog Post: We want to cut Crashdump support : will you let us?

    See Scott's blog for why we want to cut "classic" W2K crashdump from the VS2005 Whidbey debugger. If you agree or disagree, please use the Feedback section on his blog to say why. I personally want to cut this too. Classic crashdumps are a bad file format, hard to read reliably, and (IMHO) seldom used...
  • Blog Post: C# Edit and Continue is here!

    Finally we have announced C# Edit and Continue, the 2nd most requested feature in all of VS (according to the Ladybug tool). The whole team across all the disciplines really pulled together to get it done. As a point of history you can read my original blog on the subject of why we were not doing it...
  • Blog Post: Pointer to new debugger blog and Update

    Mike Stall has a new blog which will be of interest to low-level folks wanting to know how the CLR debugging APIs really do their magic. These are the APIs that we (Visual Studio) use to debug managed code. You may have noticed the lack of blog content from my for a while. Sorry about that, this is the...
  • Blog Post: Windows XP SP2 and the Visual Studio Debugger

    Oh what fun XP SP2 was for the debugger team! The firewall defaulting to On obviously completely broke Remote Debugging, and the DCOM changes broke it even more. Kept us busy for a long time. Well Gregg , mostly. The results are threefold: A new KB 841177 that links to and describes how to use...
  • Blog Post: Magic Tricks with DLL Forwarders

    Thought I would share a DLL trick we used in the VS 2003 debugger that illustrates how a DLL with no real code or data can be very useful, especially if your exe is pretending to be something it is not. VS 2003 has the ability to load windbg extension DLLs , though we only guarantee that one particular...
  • Blog Post: Developer Job Opening: Visual Studio Debugger

    We have a developer position open on the debugger team, you can read more about it at http://www.microsoft.com/careers/search/details.aspx?JobID=9f4b66b0-c5bc-422e-ac63-5b1d8c0c0006 If you are interested in applying, please contact HR via the web site and not me via my blog. If you would like to...
  • Blog Post: Debugger Goodies in VS 2005 Beta 1

    Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1 is announced at last! Previously known as Whidbey (and internally it will forever known as Whidbey, as 7.1 is forever Everett, as 7.0 is, er, 7.0) this beta is going to be available to MSDN Universal subscribers, and some other ways too (see later). Here's what I am excited...
  • Blog Post: How Software Development has changed in 20 or so Years

    A conversation with a workmate made me think back to my early programming days, and how things have changed in the eighteen or so intervening years, so I thought I'd share a time from my early history. No punch cards though (I'll spare you my school days). Back in 1986 I worked for HiSoft, and my...
  • Blog Post: Debugger Window Menu Items: Where should they be?

    The VS debugger since 7.0 has put most debugger windows on the Debug menu, under the Windows sub-menu. I say 'most' because the Output window lives on the View menu, under Other Windows sub-menu. Where do you expect debugger windows to be on the menu? (Ignore Output for now, we intend to fix that...
  • Blog Post: Visual Studio Key Bindings : why do we do change them?

    Every new release of Visual Studio comes with changed key bindings. Excuse me, “better” key bindings, as the designers would have you believe. I don't buy it. I still use the VC2 key binding set, because for me F8 is Step Into. We should never have switched to F11, and the person who made...
  • Blog Post: Visual Studio Breakpoint Helper

    I have created a prototype Breakpoint Helper that deals with the most common issues that Visual Studio Debugger users have when their breakpoints don't work. This is only a prototype, but I hope people will still find it useful. If the feedback is promising I can try to get it integrated into VS2005...
  • Blog Post: Other Related Bloggers

    If you visit here you will find other C# team members who blog. Other debugger team blogs are: Developers: Gregg , Steve , Jim , and Me Testers: Min , Monica , Rich , Deep Program Managers: Scott I will update the list as more debugger team members get into blogging. We have about 50% coverage...
  • Blog Post: C# breakpoint troubles in VS 2003 : Work in progress

    I put my blog Contact page on a few newsgroup postings as we are seeing some strange reports of breakpoints not working in managed code. By not working I don't mean in specific scenarios, but not working at all, under any circumstances. I am working with one particular customer who, right now, has...
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