Archive for February, 2009

Embracing WinUnit

Around two years ago, in early 2007, after having read about, having tried, and finally having dismissed numerous existing unit testing frameworks for C, I resigned and started thinking about creating a new unit testing framework. Having been accustomed to NUnit and JUnit, I found most frameworks clumsy to use — some “frameworks” like MinUnit are a joke, some frameworks like CUnit require lots of boilerplate code to be written, some frameworks only support C++ but not C, and some manage to combine the worst properties of them all (CppUnit).

However, it was not before end of 2007 until I finally found the time to actually start working on what would later become cfix. About half way through the initial coding phase, in the February 2007 issue, MSDN magazine featured the article Simplified Unit Testing for Native C++ Applications, introducing WinUnit, a unit testing framework for unmanaged C++.

Enter WinUnit

On the one hand, it was nice to see someone thinking the same about current unit testing frameworks and coming up with a new solution. But given the effort that had already gone into cfix, I was not exactly amused about this article — after all, WinUnit implements one of the core ideas of cfix, namely, to separate the test runner (winunit.exe/cfix32.exe) from the actual tests (DLLs) and using PE file introspection to identify fixtures and test cases. So although WinUnit already generated significant positive feedback, I continued development of cfix — not only would cfix at least add the benefit of supporting C in addition to C++, after investigating WinUnit a bit, I still saw lots of room for improvement.

Now, one year later, the situation has changed. Contrary to what one might have expected, WinUnit has not evolved into a serious project — it has not gotten past the MSDN article and the accomanying download link: No new features, no fixes, no blog, no community — by now, WinUnit seems pretty much dead to me. Sure, nothing prevents you from keep using WinUnit, but using tools for which no further development seems to take place is somewhat dissatisfying to me.

Good News

Given this situation and the architectural simlarity of both testing frameworks, it therefore just makes sense to take the next logical step and have cfix embrace WinUnit!

That is, the upcoming cfix 1.3 release will be compatible to WinUnit by allowing developers to take existing test cases written against the WinUnit API and recompile them into cfix test cases without requiring any code to be changed.

With such compatibility in place, transitioning from WinUnit to cfix will thus become a snap. Better yet, because no code has to be changed, the option to switch back and forth between cfix and WinUnit is retained, giving existing WinUnit users maximum flexibility at minimal risk.

The 1.3 release of cfix is due in a couple of days. Once released, I will get a bit more into detail about WinUnit compatibility.

By the way…

today is the first anniversary of cfix :)

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Bryan Cantrill on Real-World Concurrency

Browsing through ACM Queue’s archives I came across the article Real-World Concurrency by Bryan Cantrill (who, by the way, is the inventor of DTrace) and Jeff Bonwick (Issue 5/2008). The article provides a nice summary of actual challenges and best practices for systems programming in a multithreaded/shared memory environment. Worth reading.


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About me

Johannes Passing, M.Sc., living in Berlin, Germany.

Besides his consulting work, Johannes mainly focusses on Win32, COM, and NT kernel mode development, along with Java and .Net. He also is the author of cfix, a C/C++ unit testing framework for Win32 and NT kernel mode, Visual Assert, a Visual Studio Unit Testing-AddIn, and NTrace, a dynamic function boundary tracing toolkit for Windows NT/x86 kernel/user mode code.

Contact Johannes: jpassing (at) acm org

Johannes' GPG fingerprint is BBB1 1769 B82D CD07 D90A 57E8 9FE1 D441 F7A0 1BB1.

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