Windows Hotpatching: A Walkthrough

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As discussed in the last post, Windows 2003 SP1 introduced a technology known as Hotpatching. An integral part of this technology is Hotpatching, which refers to the process of applying an updated on the fly by using runtime code modification techniques. Although Hotpatching has caught a bit of attention, suprisingly little information has been published about its inner workings. As the technology is patented, however, there is quite a bit of information that can be obtained by reading the patent description.

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#ifdef _WIN32

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When writing processor-specific code, the _M_IX86, _M_AMD64 and _M_IA64 can be used for conditional compilation – so far, so good. But sometimes code is not exactly processor-specific but rather specific to the natural machine word length (i.e. 32 bit or 64 bit). Fur such situations, there are defines, too – however there is a little catch: For ancient 16 bit code, there is _WIN16. For 64 bit, the WDK build environment defines _WIN64 by default.

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Windows Hotpatching

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Several years ago, with Windows Server 2003 SP1, Microsoft introduced a technology and infrastructure called Hotpatching. The basic intent of this infrastructure is to provide a means to apply hotfixes on the fly, i.e. without having to reboot the system – even if the hotfix contains changes on critical system components such as the kernel iteself, important drivers, or user mode libraries such as shell32.dll. Trying to applying hotfixes on the fly introduces a variety of problems – the most important being:

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How to test MFC applications using Visual Assert or cfix

Automated testing of GUI applications is tricky. It is not only tricky because testing the GUI itself is hard (despite there being good tools around), it is also tricky because GUI applications often tend to be a bit hostile towards unit testing. One class of GUI applications for which this kind of hostility often applies is MFC applications. Although MFC allows the use of DLLs, components, etc, the framework still encourages the use of relatively monolithic architectures.

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Visual Assert 1.1 beta and cfix 1.7 released

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Slightly delayed, Visual Assert 1.1 beta is now available for download. As announced in a previous post, the most important change in the new version is added suport for the latest version of Visual Studio, Visual Studio 2010. However, the new version also brings a couple of new features that apply to all versions of Visual Studio. Most importantly, cfix and Visual Assert now expose an API that allows developers to plug in custom event sinks.

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Coming soon: Visual Assert for Visual Studio 2010

Now that Visual Studio 2010 has oficially been released, I keep getting questions about a Visual Studio 2010-enabled version of Visual Assert. The fact that Visual Studio 2010 is already out, yet there is no Visual Assert version for it is unfortunate. It would have been nice to have Visual Studio 2010 support ready on Visual Studio’s release date, however, that was not possible due to lack of time. Having solved most compatibilty issues though (of which there were many, Visual Studio 2010 is a truly painful release for AddIn developers), I am now confident to be able to offer a first beta by begin of May.

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What a weirdo: How the /analyze switch changes its behavior depending on its environment

In Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS), the “ultimate” SKU of Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft introduced the /analyze compiler switch. When the /analyze switch is used, the cl compiler not only does its regular checks, but performs a much more thorough static code analysis. While /analyze is very useful indeed, it was only available in the top SKU – the Standard and Professional versions of Visual Studio lacked support for this compiler switch (this has changed by now, Professional now also supports this feature).

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Visual Assert hits RTM, now available for free

Visual Assert, the unit testing Add-In for Visual Studio/Visual C++ has finally left its beta status and – better yet – is now available for free, both for commercial and non-commercial use. Visual Assert, based on the cfix 1.6 unit testing framework, allows you to easily write, manage, run, and debug your C/C++ unit tests -– without ever leaving the Visual Studio® IDE. No fiddling with command line tools, no complex configuration, and no boilerplate code required.

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cfix 1.6 released, simplifies authoring of multi-threaded tests

A new release of cfix, the unit testing framework for C and C++, is now available for download. Besides some minor enhancements like extending the maximum permitted fixture name, cfix 1.6 introduces a major new feature, Anonymous Thread Auto-Registration. Since its very first release, cfix has supported multi-threaded test cases, i.e. test cases that spawn child threads, each of which potentially making use of the various assertion statements like CFIX_ASSERT. To make this work and ensure that failing assertions are handled properly, however, usage of CfixCreateThread (rather than the native Win32 CreateThread) was mandatory when spawning such threads.

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How to customize test run execution to make your cfix test runs more effective

One of the features introduced back in cfix 1.2 was the ability to customize test execution with the command line parameters -fsr and -fsf. Using these switches can make your test runs more effective and can help simplify debugging – so it is worth spending a minute on this topic. Assume our test run comprises two fixtures, Fixture A and Fixture B. As fixtures are always run in alphabetic order, and tests run in the order they are defined, the first test to be executed is Test 1 of Fixture A, followed by Test 2 of Fixture A, and so on.

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