• #### Extending the Internet Explorer context menu

• 46 Comments

In a comment, Darrell Norton asked for a "View in Mozilla" option for Internet Explorer.

You can already do this.

Internet Explorer's context menu extension mechanism has been in MSDN for years. Let me show you how you can create this extension yourself.

First, create the following registry key:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\View in Mozilla]
@=REG_SZ:"C:\some\path\to\ViewInMozilla.htm"
Contexts=REG_DWORD:1


Of course, you need to change C:\some\path\to to an actual path.

How did I know to do this? Because steps 1, 2 and 3 in the "Implementation Steps" section tell me (1) what key to create, (2) what to set the default value to, and (3) what to set Contexts to. I chose a Context value of 1, which means "Default".

Okay, now to write the script ViewInMozilla.htm. Well, the documentation says that I can access context from the menuArguments property of the external object. So let's start with that.

<SCRIPT>
alert(external.menuArguments);
</SCRIPT>


Okay, let's run this puppy. Launch IE, right-click on a blank space in the web page, select "View in Mozilla", and you get...

    [object]


Woo-hoo! This is a major accomplishment: Something happened at all. Doing things in small steps makes it easy to identify where a problem is. If we had run full steam ahead to completion and then it didn't work, we wouldn't have known whether it was due to a bug in the script, a bad registration, a bad filename...

Now that I have the menu arguments, I can use that to suck out information about the item that the context menu applies to. Let's try this:

<SCRIPT>
alert(external.menuArguments.document.URL);
</SCRIPT>


Woo-hoo, now it gives me the URL. Almost there. All that's left to do is to run a program with that URL as the command line parameter.

<SCRIPT>
var shell = new ActiveXObject("WScript.Shell");
shell.run("mozilla \"" + external.menuArguments.document.URL + "\"");
</SCRIPT>


Mission accomplished.

Now you too can create Internet Explorer context menu extensions.

In fact, go ahead and do it, since Darrell asked for it: Create an Internet Explorer context menu extension that operates on anchors and opens the linked-to page in Mozilla.

(Bonus: Tony Schreiner cooked up something similar for zooming.)

• #### Callback, the safety newsletter for the aviation community

• 9 Comments

Yes the "S" in NASA stands for "Space", but don't forget that the "A" stands for "Aeronautics". One of the programs that I (amateur aviation wannabe) find fascinating is the Aviation Safety Reporting System, where pilots can submit anonymous reports of "stupid things I have done" in order to teach other pilots "Don't do what I did."

• #### Do you know when your destructors run? Part 2.

• 33 Comments

Continuing from yesterday, here's another case where you have to watch your destructors. Yesterday's theme was destructors that run at the wrong time. Today, we're going to see destructors that don't run at all!

Assume there's an ObjectLock class which takes a lock in its constructor and releases it in its destructor.

DWORD ThreadProc(LPVOID p)
{
... do stuff ...
ObjectLock lock(p);
... do stuff ...
return 0;
}


Pretty standard stuff. The first batch of stuff is done without the lock, and the second batch is done inside the lock. When the function returns, the lock is automatically released.

But suppose somebody adds a little code to this function like this:

DWORD ThreadProc(LPVOID p)
{
... do stuff ...
ObjectLock lock(p);
...
if (p->cancelled) ExitThread(1);
...
return 0;
}


The code change was just to add an early exit if the object was cancelled.

But when does that ObjectLock destructor run?

It runs at the return statement, since that's when the lock goes out of scope. In particular, it is not run before you call ExitThread.

Result: You left an object locked permanently.

You can imagine how variations on this code could lead to resource leaks or other problems.

• #### You can do anything at zombo.com, anything at all

• 15 Comments

Zombo has been around for many years, and yet I still find it hilarious (requires Flash).

I just went back to check, and alas the introduction actually ends. But fortunately, they made it even cooler by having a text-only version. (Still requires sound.)

• #### Do you know when your destructors run? Part 1.

• 10 Comments

Larry Osterman discussed the importance of knowing when your global destructors run, but this problem is not exclusive to global objects. You need to take care even with local objects. Consider:

void Sample()
{
if (SUCCEEDED(CoInitialize(NULL))) {
CComPtr<IXMLDOMDocument> p;
if (SUCCEEDED(p.CoCreateInstance(CLSID_IXMLDOMDocument))) {
...
}
CoUninitialize();
}
}


Easy as pie. And there's a bug here.

When does the destructor for that smart-pointer run?

Answer: When the object goes out of scope, which is at the closing brace of the outer if statement, after the CoUninitialize call.

So you shut down COM, and then try to access a pointer to a COM object. This is not good. (Or as Larry describes it, "Blam!")

To fix this problem, you have to release all your COM pointers before the CoUninitialize. One way would be to insert a p.Release() at the end of the inner if. (But of course, if you're going to do that, then why bother using a smart pointer?)

Another fix would be to introduce a seemingly unnecessary scope:

void Sample()
{
if (SUCCEEDED(CoInitialize(NULL))) {
{
CComPtr<IXMLDOMDocument> p;
if (SUCCEEDED(p.CoCreateInstance(CLSID_IXMLDOMDocument))) {
...
}
} // ensure p is destructed before the CoUninit
CoUninitialize();
}
}


Make sure you leave that comment there or the next person to come across this code is going to "clean it up" by removing the "redundant" braces.

Of course, this is still too subtle. Here's another solution: Put the CoUninitialize inside a destructor of its own!

class CCoInitialize {
public:
CCoInitialize() : m_hr(CoInitialize(NULL)) { }
~CCoInitialize() { if (SUCCEEDED(m_hr)) CoUninitialize(); }
operator HRESULT() const { return m_hr; }
HRESULT m_hr;
};

void Sample()
{
CCoInitialize init;
if (SUCCEEDED(init)) {
CComPtr<IXMLDOMDocument> p;
if (SUCCEEDED(p.CoCreateInstance(CLSID_IXMLDOMDocument))) {
...
}
}
} // CoUninitialize happens here


This works even if you put the smart pointer at the same scope, as long as you put it after the CCoInitialize object:

void Sample()
{
CCoInitialize init;
CComPtr<IXMLDOMDocument> p;
if (SUCCEEDED(init) &&
SUCCEEDED(p.CoCreateInstance(CLSID_IXMLDOMDocument))) {
...
}
}


This works because objects with automatic storage duration are destructed in reverse order of declaration, so the object p wil be destructed first, then the object init.

Mind you, this is basically subtle no matter now you slice it. Nobody said programming was easy.

Tomorrow, part 2.

• #### Coffee machine or assault weapon?

• 12 Comments

Coffee Machine Assault Weapon
AK-47   X
M-90 Automatic X
KF550-BK X
XM15-E2S   X
• #### Beware the hash reset attack

• 18 Comments

There are a variety of message digest algorithms out there, MD5 being a particularly popular one. These generate a "message digest" (essentially, a hash) so you can detect whether somebody has tampered with a file, the theory being that it's hard to tamper with a file without changing its hash.

But make sure you record the file size as well as the digest.

Not that collisions are necessarily easy to create by mistake. (I've heard a rumor that the deployment team has seen an MD5 collision, but it's just a rumor. I have no evidence. Heck, maybe what really happened was that somebody on the deployment got their MR2 into a car accident...)

Anyway, the possibility of a "reset attack" makes collisions trivial to create.

Hash generators typically operate on a stream. The hash engine maintains some state. The file to be hashed is broken up into chunks, and each chunk is combined with the engine's state variables in some complex way. When you have passed all the data through the engine, you push a button on the engine and out pops the hash value (which is typically a copy of the state variables, or possibly a subset of them).

Now suppose somebody came up with a way of "resetting" the engine; that is, returning it to the initial state. Here's how they can make any document match your digest:

First, create an alternate message and send it through the hash engine.

Next, generate the bytes necessary to "reset" the engine.

Finally, append the original message.

In other words, the fake file looks like this:

[alternate message][garbage][original message]


where "garbage" is the reset.

This fake file has the same hash as the original message, since the "garbage" resets the hash engine to the initial state, at which point the replay of the original message regenerates the hash.

Result: A file with the same hash as the original, but with different content!

In a proper attack, of course, the "alternate message" would be crafted so the garbage and original mesage would be ignored. You might end it with a marker that means "Ignore everything after this point." (For HTML, you can just say <NOFRAMES> and everything after that point will be largely ignored by all modern browsers.) Many other file types encode the expected file length in the header, in which case you can append whatever garbage you want without having any effect.

But if you also store the file size with the hash, then the reset attack fails, because a reset attack always generates a file bigger than the original. To create a collision, they would have to create a shorter alternate message than the original, and then fiddle with the extra bytes to get the desired target hash to come out. This is significantly harder than just resetting.

(I'm not aware of anybody who has successfully been able to reset MD5, mind you. This is a protective measure: If somebody figures out how to reset MD5, a small bit of work on your side will prevent you from falling victim.)

• #### Letterboxing: Geocaching without the GPS

• 4 Comments

Geocaching is sort of like global hide-and-seek (with hints) for technology geeks.

I stumbled upon a non-GPS version of this diversion, known as Letterboxing (not to be confused with letterboxed movies, another subject entirely).

By the way, if geocaching isn't enough "fun with a GPS" for you, you can try The Degree Confluence Project. See the world with a GPS, experience other cultures, learn a few words of the local language:

The Thais kept asking how many farang (foreigners) did this and how much they got paid. I must have heard the phrase "farang Baar", (foreigners are crazy) more than a couple of times that evening.
• #### String sorting is not done by ASCII code any more.

• 31 Comments

Just because you have the ASCII table memorized doesn't mean you know how sorting works.

I remember a bug filed where somebody said that the "sort" command was sorting underscores incorrectly:

AAA__
AAAAA


this was claimed to be wrong "because underscore character follow uppercase letters and precedes lowercase letters".

Well perhaps it does if you think ASCII sorting is the way sorting should be.

ASCII sorting is so last century.

The CompareString function describes two types of sorting, "word sort" and "string sort". And both of them sort punctuation before letters.

• #### The coolest thing you can do with a Gameboy is not "play a game on it"

• 5 Comments

From Public Radio International, The Next Big Thing covers The Gameboy Music Match.

These days, a lot of electronic music is performed directly off of a laptop, which most people complain looks a lot like someone up there on stage checking their email. But Gameboy music isn't just for listening. It's also a performance. Nullsleep plays with both thumbs tapping, both feet moving, and head swaying. Okay, yeah, it looks like he's playing a video game. But a really great video game.

Read the episode rundown or listen directly to the fourth story, Hot GameBoy Music Club. (The story was re-run a year later under the much catchier title New Old Sounds.)

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