Debug.Assert lets you check various things during the debugging process or when you are a debug build.

One of the problems with Debug.Assert is that it pops up a MessageBox dialog. UI dialogs are a big no-no in server applications since there are scenarios in which this UI dialog will never be show and your server application will simply get stuck waiting for someone to push the buttons of the dialog.

One of the most common cases in which you will not see the dialog is when your server application runs under different credentials than your currently logged on user. In that case the UI dialog will hide somewhere in a different sessions without any chance of being seen by any other user.

.NET employs various huristics to figure out when to display the assert dialog. In most cases, in a server application it will not show the assert dialog at all (even in debug builds). As far as I could tell (and its currently just an calculated guess), if you have a debugger installed and registered as a debugger, .NET WILL display the dialog and that may pose a problem if your server application runs under different credentials than the currently logged on user.

It seems there is a way to overcome this by using a configuration flag.

Add the following section to your web.config (or app.config for applications other than ASP.NET) and it will disable poping up a UI window in your application which make cause it to deadlock:

<system.diagnostics>
<assert assertuienabled=”false” />
</system.diagnostics>

If you have any trace listeners that might popup a UI window you can also add the following configuration in your web.config that will clear all trace listeners:

<system.diagnostics>
<trace>
<listeners>
<clear/>
</listeners>
</trace>
</system.diagnostics>

If you are not sure this is really your problem, its very easy figuring it out using WinDbg, by attaching to the process, loading the SOS.dll and running the command:

~*e!clrstack

This command will show the managed call stack of each thread in the application (some of these threads are not managed so they might return an error and you can safely disregard them).

If you’ll see in the call stack a call to “Debug.Assert” followed by “MessageBox.Show” you can be certain that this is the problem you are facing.

Typed DataSets are a type safe wrapper around a DataSet which mirrors your database structure. It was created to make sure that the code accessing the database is type safe and any changes in the database structure that changes tables, columns or column types will be caught at compilation time rather than runtime.

If you have a big typed dataset that contains a lot of tables, columns and relations it might be quite expensive to create it in terms of memory and time.

The main reason that creating a big typed dataset is expensive is due to the fact that all of the meta data that is contained within the typed data sets (tables, columns, relations) is created when you create a typed dataset even if eventually all you’ll use it for is to retrieve data from a single table.

I can speculate that the reason all of the typed dataset meta data is created during the instantiation of the typed dataset is due to the fact that it inherits from a generic DataSet and accessing the meta data (tables, columns) can also be done in a non type safe manner (i.e. access the Tables collection and/or Columns collection of a table).

If you are using a typed dataset (or dataset in general) you might be interested in the following tips:

  • If you have a big typed dataset, avoid creating it too many times in the application. This is specifically painful for web applications where each request might create the dataset. You can use a generic DataSet instead, but this might lead to bugs due to database changes and the fact that you’ll only be able to find these bugs during runtime rather than compilation time (which basically misses the whole point of using a typed dataset in the first place).
  • DataSets (typed datasets included) inherits from the MarshalByValueComponent class. That class implements IDisposable which means DataSets will actually be garbage collected after finalization (you can read more about finalization and the finalizer thread here). To make sure datasets are collected more often and are not hagging around waiting for finalization make sure you call the “Dispose” method of the dataset (or typed dataset) or use the “Using” clause which will call “Dispose” for you at the end of the code block.
  • Don’t use DataSets at all 🙂 Consider using a different data access layer with a different approach such as the one used in the SubSonic project.

I guess it would be rather trivial creating a typed dataset that is lazy in nature which creates the meta data objects only when they are accessed for the first time. That would reduce the memory footprint of a large typed dataset but will make the computation used to create these objects a little less predictable. If you are up to it or already did a lazy typed dataset ping me through the contact form 🙂

I’ve previously written about Internal .Net Framework Data Provider error 6 and how to obtain the hot fix to fix this issue.

It appears this hot fix never made it to .NET Framework 2.0 SP1 and there is a special fix (and KB article) to apply because the hotfix mentioned in the previous post will simply not work.

To get the hotfix for a .NET Framework 2.0 SP1 installation you’ll need to request a fix for KB948815 in the hot fix request web submission form.

In relation with my previous post about string.GetHashCode being used in AJAXControlToolkit’s ToolkitScriptManager class, I wanted to talk about object.GetHashCode in general, and string.GetHashCode specifically.

string.GetHashCode documentation states:

“The behavior of GetHashCode is dependent on its implementation, which might change from one version of the common language runtime to another. A reason why this might happen is to improve the performance of GetHashCode.”

The real conclusion from this paragraph is that you shouldn’t base your implementation on string.GetHashCode. But this is a bit too harsh since GetHashCode in general and string.GetHashCode specifically are being used throughout the runtime for internal things.

As long as you don’t share this hash code outside the boundry of the AppDomain its relatively safe to use.

The reason you cannot (or should I say should not) pass it across an AppDomain boundry is that the basic implemenetation of object.GetHashCode is to return an integer representing the reference id of the object in the .NET runtime. That reference is not guarenteed to be the same for the same object in a different appdomain/process/machine.

In the case of string.GetHashCode, where the implementation differ from the default one, you can pass it across AppDomains and even machines (though you shouldn’t count on that as well!) as long as they are in the same architecture, i.e., 32bit to 32bit and 64bit to 64bit.

All in all, the most recommend way of using x.GetHashCode is simply not using it at all. There are numerous implementations of hashing functions built into .NET (such as MD5, SHA1, SHA256, etc) which are more consistent but may be a bit more expensive computation wise.

For all your outward facing code I would recommend using one of the common and known hashing functions specifically if this is a case where the code on the other side needs to recompute the hash and compare it with the hash value being passed.

If you mix and match 32 bit machines/processes with 64 bit machines/processes in an ASP.NET load balanced environment and you are using the AJAXControlToolkit ToolkitScriptManager class you might end up with the following error:

Message: Assembly “AjaxControlToolkit, Version=1.0.10920.32880, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=28f01b0e84b6d53e” does not contain a script with hash code “9ea3f0e2”.
Stack trace: at AjaxControlToolkit.ToolkitScriptManager.DeserializeScriptEntries(String serializedScriptEntries, Boolean loaded)

at AjaxControlToolkit.ToolkitScriptManager.OnLoad(EventArgs e)
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint)

The reason is that the request being sent to retrieve the combined javascripts of the control used in the page contains a hash code that is used internally. That hash code is being generated from the script’s name using the default string.GetHashCode function which returns different values for 32 bit and 64 bit processes.

If your 64 bit process creates the javascript include call which contains the 64 bit hash code and the request will eventually reach the 32 bit process/machine you will get this error since the hash value will not be found internally and vice versa.

There is an open issue about this in CodePlex since late January but as of the time of this post, the latest source version in CodePlex doesn’t have a fix for this.

I’ve just been asked through the “Ask” widget on the side of this blog on Yedda (my day job) this question:

Yedda � People. Sharing. Knowledge.Where is sos.dll for .net 3.5?

I installed Visual Studio 2008, but I don’t see sos.dll in the Microsoft.NET\Framework\v3.5 directory? What’s up with that?

Topics: , ,

Asked by dannyR on January 03, 2008

View the entire discussion on Yedda

To which I replied:

Yedda � People. Sharing. Knowledge.Where is sos.dll for .net 3.5?

There is a bit of confusion as to the .NET Framework versions as opposed to the CLR (Common Language Runtime) versions.

Up until .NET Framework 2.0, the CLR versions advanced side by side with the versions of the framework.

Starting from .NET Framework v3.0, the version of the CLR stated at 2.0 (there was no significant change in the CLR itself) and the framework’s version kept on going forward.

.NET Framework v3.5 actually runs on CLR 2.0 SP1.

This means that you can should be able to use the SOS.dll located at Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727 with either Visual Studio (as I’ve explained on this post) or with WinDbg.

Dave Broman of Microsoft has written a post about the mapping of the versions of the .NET Framework to the version of the CLR. Do mind that as Dave states in his post, its the way he figures things up in his head and not the official documentation on this matter.

Topics: , ,

Answered by Eran on January 03, 2008

View the entire discussion on Yedda

I know its a bit confusing and I’m not really sure why Microsoft detached the versions of the Framework from the versions of CLR (well, I can understand some of the thoughts leading to this but I don’t think it was that good of a move) but Dave’s excellent post does put things in perspective and allows figuring out in what version of the CLR you are actually using.

I haven’t written in a while and I don’t like being an echo blog but this couldn’t pass right along.

ScottGu announced 2 days ago (yeah, I’m slow to catch that up, but its been a holiday here in Israel 😉 ) that they’ll release the full source code of the .NET framework library with Visual Studio 2008 so that everyone can browse it as well as be able to debug (which is always helpful).

In addition to that, it seems that VS 2008 will have integrated symbols server support which also includes downloading the debug symbols as well as source code directly from Microsoft.

Way to go Microsoft. This is exactly what I was missing for quite a long time!

Sometimes in ASP.NET when you are trying to access a certain page you might get the following error:

External component has thrown an exception

In some other situations in .NET you might get this error as well (not directly related to ASP.NET, but sometimes to Interoping code or COM code), but this is beyond the scope of this post.

In the cases that I’ve stumbled upon, the reason is usually related to on-the-fly compilations ASP.NET performs when first accessing a certain page on an application.

The main problem with this exception that it is less than informative 🙂 . The only way of actually figuring out what is wrong (if this is indeed a case related to compilation error like I’m talking about) is to dig deep using WinDbg.

Luckily, every compilation that runs inside ASP.NET uses an API that upon encountering an error will create an object in the heap called CompilerError.

To debug this issue perform the following steps:

  1. Attach WinDbg to the ASP.NET worker process (w3wp.exe in Windows 2003, aspnet_wp.exe in Windows XP/2000)
  2. Make sure you have CLR exceptions enabled (see this previous post about how to enable CLR exceptions in WinDbg).
  3. Try to access the page that is not working, it should throw an exception and WinDbg should break in.
  4. Run the following command:

    !dumpheap -type CompilerError

    This should produce a list of all CompilerError objects which should allow us to inspect them and see the exact compilation error.

  5. Now dump each of the objects using the following command:

    !dumpobject 0xXXXX

    Where 0xXXXX is the address of the objects listed in the list you got from the !dumpheap command.

  6. At that point you should see the CompilerError object itself and you can dump its errorMessageText member (it’s address is near its name) using !dumpobject which should show you the exact compilation error.

In my case, the problem was that in the web.config file under the <compilation> / <assemblies> element there was no reference to one of the AJAX.NET assemblies (System.Web.Extensions) which caused the page to fail during on-the-fly compilation.

Do remember that this exception sometimes has nothing to do with compilation. If you don’t have any object of type CompilerError or there are a few but they make no sense in regards to the page you are accessing it might be something else.

It is often overlooked, but Response.Redirect has an overloaded method which has two parameters.

The first is like the overloaded version which gets only one parameter – the URL to redirect to.
The second is whether to end the request now or let it complete and only then redirect.

By default when calling the first version:

Response.Redirect(“http://somewherenice.com”);

It will actually call the following code:

Response.Redirect(“http://somewherenice.com”, true);

This means that the request will end right after the execution of the Response.Redirect function and no other code that is hooked to events that occur after the place in which you called Response.Redirect will execute.

For example, if you have a certain code at the Page_PreRender event and you are calling Response.Redirect in the Page_Load event (either on the page or in a control on the page), without using the overload version of Response.Redirect that gets two arguments and setting the second argument to “false”, the code in the Page_PreRender event will never get called.

While this seems very trivial, there are a lot of bugs that sometimes occur because people forget the Response.Redirect with one parameter stops the execution of the request.

Every time you call Response.Redirect, stop for a second and think if you really want to end the request at that point or let it continue to process until it finishes.

If you want it to continue processing the page and perform the redirection after the processing is done use the following code:

Response.Redirect(“http://somewherenice.com”, false);

Thinking 2 seconds before writing a Reponse.Redirect code can save a lot of minutes debugging and figuring out that you never reach the other code because the request ended at the Response.Redirect call.

UPDATE: Fixed the last sample, thanks to Eber Irigoyen

Perhaps its just another case of RTFM but I might have a point here. Really.

I was using AJAX.NET and wanted to attach some silly handler to the “onmousedown” event of a link (“<a href”). I used the nice little $addHandler method in the following syntax:

$addHandler(myElement, “onmousedown”, myHandler);

And to my surprise it didn’t hook up anything.

I did what any developer would do, plunged back to the documentation and after a bit of a careful reading I saw the following line:

“The eventName parameter should not include the “on” prefix. For example, specify “click” instead of “onclick”.”

Now why should I care if I’m writing “onclick” or “click”. The convention used in browsers is “onclick”, after all that’s what you put on an element if you want to add an “onclick” handler in HTML.

Why would anyone want to break this convention. And even if you do decide to break it, adding a simple “if” or checking for the characters “on” at the start of the string and removing them would be nice.

Anyhow, I quickly changed the code to:

$addHandler(myElement, “mousedown”, myHandler);

and everything started to work wonderfully.

At least I’ve learned something new, that the eventName passed to the $addHandler function should not contain the “on” prefix. I also re-learned again that I should always RTFM, even the fine prints in the “Remarks” section.