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The hidden danger of forgetting to specify %SystemRoot% in a custom environment block

When spawning a process using CreateProcess and friends, the child process usually inherits the environment (i.e. all environment variables) of the spawning process. Of course, this behavior can be overridden by creating a custom environment block and passing it to the lpEnvironment parameter of CreateProcess. While the MSDN documentation on CreateProcess does contain a remark saying that current directory information (=C: and friends) should be included in such a custom environment block, it does not mention the importance of SystemRoot. Continue »

cfix finished 2nd in ATI's Automation Honors Awards, surpassed only by JUnit

Along with JUnit, JWebUnit, NUnit, and SimpleTest, cfix was one of the nominees for the Automated Testing Institute’s Automation Honors Award 2009 in the category Best Open Source Unit Automated Test Tool. A few days ago, the results were published and cfix finished second – surpassed only by JUnit, which finished 1st (No real surprise here). If you are interested, there is a video in which the results are presented. Continue »

NTrace paper published on computer.org

Our paper NTrace: Function Boundary Tracing for Windows on IA-32 from WCRE 2009 has now been published on computer.org: Abstract: For a long time, dynamic tracing has been an enabling technique for reverse engineering tools. Tracing can not only be used to record the control flow of a particular component such as a piece of malware itself, it is also a way to analyze the interactions of a component and their impact on the rest of the system. Continue »

Visual Assert Beta 3 released

A third beta release of Visual Assert is now available for download on www.visualassert.com. Visual Assert, in case you have not tried it yet, is an Add-In for Visual Studio that adds unit testing capabilities to the Visual C++ IDE: Based on the cfix unit testing framework, Visual Assert allows unit tests to be written, run, and debugged from within the IDE. Pretty much like Junit/Eclipse, TestDriven.Net or MSTest, but for real, native code – code written in C or C++. Continue »

cfix 1.5.1 released

A new version of cfix, the unit testing framework for C and C++ on Windows, is now available on Sourceforge. Despite fixing several minor issues, the new version resolves the following two issues that were reported by users: Definiting multiple WinUnit fixtures with setup/teardown routines in a single .cpp file leads to a compilation error A thread handle is leaked during execution of a test (#2889511) Updated binaries and source code are available for download on Sourceforge. Continue »

LTCG issues with the WIN7/amd64 environment of WDK 7600

Now that Windows 7 is out, we all sooner or later have to upgrade to WDK 7600. I am still reluctant to move away from WDK 6000⁄6001 because of the dropped W2K support, but this is a different issue. However, as one cfix user who has obviously already adopted WDK 7600 kindly pointed out to me, linking a kernel mode unit test against cfix using WDK 7600 and the WIN7/amd64 environment fails reproducibly with the following error message: Continue »

Launched ntrace.org

Having given my presentation on NTrace today at the WCRE in Lille/France, I have also opened ntrace.org to the public. NTrace, in case you have missed my previous posts, is a dynamic function boundary tracing system for Windows/x86 I initially developed as part of my Master’s thesis that is capable of performing DTrace-like tracing of both user and kernel mode components. On the NTrace page, you will now find the paper itself as being published as part of the WCRE proceedings (mind the copyright notice, please) along with two screencasts: One showing how NTrace can be used to trace kernel mode components such as NTFS, and one demonstrating NTrace for user mode tracing. Continue »

Mixing 32 and 64-bit components in a single MSI

Definetely one my pet peeves about Windows Installer is how it deals with instruction set architectures (ISAs). Looking at Windows NT history, supported ISAs have come (amd64, IA-64) and gone (Alpha, PowerPC, MIPS) – yet most of the time, there was more than one ISA being officially supported. Having to ship binaries for multiple ISAs therefore always has been on the agenda for many ISVs. Needless to say, supporting multiple ISAs requires special consideration when developing setup packages and providing separate packages – one for each ISA – has become common practice to approach this. Continue »

I'll be at WCRE 2009 presenting NTrace

Next week, the 16th Working Conference on Reverse Engineering (WCRE) will be held in Lille, France. I will be there presenting NTrace: Function Boundary Tracing for Windows on IA-32. NTrace is a dynamic function boundary tracing toolkit for IA-32/x86 that can be used to trace both kernel and user mode Windows components – examples for components that can be traced include the kernel itself (ntoskrnl), drivers like NTFS as well as user mode components such as kernel32, shell32 or even explorer. Continue »

Visual Assert Beta 2 Released

The Beta 2 release of Visual Assert (formerly named cfix studio) is now available for download. The release marks a major step in the development of Visual Assert for that it not only comprises a number of bugfixes but also introduces major new features. The two most important certainly are support for EXE targets and Wizard assistance. Support for EXE Targets As announced in a previous post and also discussed in the post about the cfix 1. Continue »

cfix 1.5 released; adds support for EXE-embedded tests and kernel mode multi-threading

A new version of the cfix unit testing framework is now ready for download. Unlike the previous release, which was mainly a maintenance release, cfix 1.5 adds major new features: kernel mode multithreading and EXE-based unit tests. EXE based unit tests As I discussed in a previous post in the context of Visual Assert/cfix studio, cfix’ restriction to DLL based unit tests has turned out to be quite a limitation for certain kinds of projects. Continue »

cfix studio renamed to Visual Assert

Back when I began thinking about creating a Visual Studio Add-In for cfix, I needed a code name for the project. After tentatively using the name cfix+ for a while, I quickly settled on cfix studio – given that the project revolved around cfix and Visual Studio, this name pretty much suggested itself. Soon after going into Beta, however, I had to realize that this name was not without its problems. Continue »

Writing Data-Driven Custom Actions

Whenever Windows Installer’s built-in actions do not suffice to perform a specific task, a Custom Action needs to be written. Needless to say, Custom Actions, can be a bit tricky – not only can they be laborious to write and cumbersome to debug, they also run the risk of interfering with Windows Installer’s declarative, transactional way of performing installs. It is not really surprising that Windows Installer therefore more or less discourages the use of Custom Actions unless it is absolutely necessary. Continue »

Overview on Designing High-Performance Windows Applications

Back in 2008, the Windows Server Performance Team Blog, which I came across recently, ran a series of posts on Designing Applications for High Performance: Designing Applications for High Performance - Part I Designing Applications for High Performance - Part II Designing Applications for High Performance - Part III If you are interested in developing server side applications for Windows, these articles are definitely worth reading. Continue »

Vote for cfix

The Automated Testing Institute has elected cfix to be one of the finalists for the Autmation Honors award. The winners of the award will be highlighted in a Special December Edition of the Automated Software Testing Magazine. If you are a cfix user, be sure to vote for cfix here. And by the way, I think The Grinder, which is a really neat web performance testing framework, also deserves being voted for… Continue »

cfix studio Beta 2 to add support for EXE-based unit tests

N.B. cfix studio was the code name of what has become Visual Assert The biggest shortcoming of the current cfix studio version certainly is that it requires all tests be implemented in a DLL. Conceptually, keeping test cases separated from the remaining code certainly is a good idea – and implementing tests in a DLL is a way to accomplish this. However, there are many projects in which such separation is either not feasible or just too much effort. Continue »

More Context Menu Handlers for Everyday Use

Although Windows Explorer may actually not be the brightest spot of Windows, it is still, for most users, among the most often used pograms. Customizing it to speed up certain tasks is thus a natural desire. A while ago, I wrote about how to extend the context menu by new commands that allow MSI packages to be installed/uninstalled with logfiles being created. The registry entries I used were: Windows Registry Editor Version 5. Continue »

Introducing cfix studio, the Visual Studio AddIn for C/C++ Unit Testing

N.B. cfix studio was the code name of what has become Visual Assert There is little doubt that native code, and C and C++ in particular, is here to stay. And still, it is pretty obvious that when it comes to tools and IDEs, it is the managed world that has gotten most attention from tool vendors over the past years. While there are lots and lots of useful tools for native development, many of them probably even better than their managed counterparts, there are some areas where the managed language fraction is far ahead: One of these areas certainly is IDE support for unit testing. Continue »

cfix 1.4 released

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Today, a new version of cfix, the open source unit testing framework for user and kernel mode C and C++, has been released. cfix 1.4, in addition to the existing feature of allowing test runs to be restricted to specific fixtures, now also allows single testcases to be run in isolation, which can be a great aid in debugging. Besides several minor fixes, the cfix API has been slightly enhanced and cfix now degrades more gracefully in case of dbghelp-issues. Continue »

On Setup Bootstrap Loaders

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Almost two years ago, I wrote about how to create multi-language MSI packages. Although using transforms to internationalize an MSI package is a viable solution, one drawback of this approach is that it may require a bootstrap loader. While it is easy to say that a bootstrap loader is required and many high-profile setups do indeed use bootstrap loaders, bootstrap loaders do have their issues. They not only add complexity to the setup package, there actually are several reasons why a bootstrap loader-free setup may be preferrable. Continue »