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Archive for May, 2010

Reading from the registry with Silverlight.

Posted by robkraft on May 20, 2010

Yes, you can read from the registry of the local machine using a Silverlight application.  This is subject to these qualifications:

1)     The Silverlight App must be running out-of-browser.  This is necessary so that you can run the Silverlight App with elevated permissions.

2)     The Silverlight App must be running with Elevated Permissions.  This is necessary so that you can access the COM Interop.

3)     The COM Interop Automation Factory must be available.  Honestly, if you are running out of browser with elevated permission I don’t know why it would not be available.

4)     You must be running Silverlight 4.

To do this for yourself:

1)     Create a new Silverlight Application in Visual Studio 2010

2)     Open the Project Properties, select the Silverlight tab, and check the box for “Enable running application out of the browser”.

3)     Click on the “Out-of-Browser Settings” button and check the box for “Require elevated trust when running outside the browser”.

4)     Place a simple button in the Grid your MainPage.xaml.  Use the default name button1.

5)     Paste this code:

          private void button1_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)


              if (App.Current.IsRunningOutOfBrowser)

                   MessageBox.Show(“Running Out of Browser!”);

              if (App.Current.HasElevatedPermissions)

                   MessageBox.Show(“Has elevated Perms!”);

              if (AutomationFactory.IsAvailable)

                   MessageBox.Show(“Automation Factory is Available!”);

              dynamic WshShell = AutomationFactory.CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”);



6)     Run the app, right-click on the form and choose “Install ..appname… onto this computer…”

7)     Click the button on the “out-of-browser” version of the app.  Hopefully you receive all the expected values.


Posted in Visual Studio 2010 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Schools teach syntax, not good coding

Posted by robkraft on May 19, 2010

Young developers rarely write maintainable code.  They are excited just to get the correct output to appear for specific input.  This may mark the difference between beginner and advanced programmers – the ability to write lasting, maintainable code.  Most schools, especially technical training centers, primarily teach the syntax needed to write code.  Are you aware of any college or technical center that teaches how to write quality code?

Posted in Code Design | Leave a Comment »

Our upgrade to Visual Studio 2010 encountered more problems than we expected

Posted by robkraft on May 18, 2010

Our upgrade to Visual Studio 2010 encountered more problems than we expected. We are developing Silverlight applications for resale using Visual Studio 2008, Silverlight 3 and Blend 3. After doing a little research we devised an upgrade plan to migrate to Visual Studio 2010, .Net 4, and Silverlight 4. Our basic upgrade sequence was correct, but we neglected to include steps for upgrading Nant, Nunit, and Microsoft Patterns and Practices. Also, as of this post, we have not succeeded to get our applications to work on Silverlight 4. I’ve included the upgrade plan we now recommend at the end of this article. In between here and there are the issues we faced with each task and our resolutions.

Visual Studio 2010

I don’t recall any problems with the installation of Visual Studio 2010 or opening our projects and running them there.

.Net 4
We encountered more problems than expected, particularly with the conversion to .Net 4.
Tip 1) When converting projects to .Net 4, start with the projects in the solution that have the most dependencies, such as an .exe. Work your way down toward the dll that has the most dependencies, doing several builds along the way. Check in the changes made so far after each successful build.
Tip 2) Keep an eye on the projects you have changed, particularly if you try to have multiple instances of Visual Studio open. I frequently found that some projects I had converted to .Net 4 lost their changes. This may be because I had two solutions opened at the same time, but each had some of the same dependency projects.
Tip 3) Be careful if you open a Visual Studio command prompt. Make sure you choose a VS 2010 command prompt instead of a VS 2008 command prompt.
Tip 4) In a few cases, the update to .Net 4 did not update some of the referenced system files to their .Net 4 equivalent. Of course, the project won’t compile, and you will need to manually change the reference. This happened to me a few times with the System.Data and System.Data.Extensions DLLs.

Our project files (.csproj) have post-build events in them. Some of the changes we had to make were:
1) To put a file in the GAC, change it from:
  C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A\bin\gacutil
  C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0A\bin\NETFX 4.0 Tools\gacutil
2) To register an assembly in the post build event, change it from:
3) and possibly also:
  C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A\bin\tlbexp.exe
  C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0A\bin\NETFX 4.0 Tools\tlbexp.exe

Some of our projects could not compile because they used System.Data.OracleClient which is deprecated in .Net 4. We were able to convert those projects to using the DLLs from Oracle with a few hours of work.

Some of our Visual Basic projects would not compile due to this error:
The error is warning BC42353 or BC42025
“Function ‘IsExcludeField’ doesn’t return a value on all code paths…

Some attributes are deprecated and won’t compile like RegistryPermissionAttribute.

Nant’s gac-install was not working for .Net 4, so we converted all of our gac-install tasks to run the gacutil.exe using “exec program” instead. In hindsight, this was not necessary. The real problem was that our modifications to the nant.exe.config file were incorrect. We are now using the nant.exe.config we found at

We were running on Nunit 2.4. We realized after the fact that we needed to upgrade to Nunit I encourage you to upgrade to Nunit 2.5 prior to your upgrade to VS2010. We had a few tests begin failing simply due to differences between Nunit 2.5.5 and 2.4.

We used to run Nunit tests from within Visual Studio by having our nunit test projects launch the Nunit.exe. This option is more complicated now that our application is on .Net 4 because Nunit is a .Net 2 app. It is still possible for Nunit to run tests built in .Net 4, but now, after we launch our application from Visual Studio we need to go back into Visual Studio to the Debug menu, select Attach To Process, and attach to the nunit-agent process in order to debug/step through our nunit tests.

We had to change our nant build process to reference the reference the new directory we installed nunit to and also to specify the correct framework version:

1) <property value=”c:\program files\NUnit 2.4\bin” />
to <property value=”c:\program files\NUnit\bin\net-2.0″ />

2)<property value=”v2.0.50727″ unless=”${property::exists(‘framework.version’)}” />
to <property value=”v4.0.30319″ unless=”${property::exists(‘framework.version’)}” />

 3) on commandline for nunit-console:

… /output=mytests.txt /labels


… /output=mytests.txt /labels /framework=net-4.0

Managing the GAC
The GAC has changed in .Net 4 and Microsoft has not documented it well (IMHO).

The most (perhaps only) reliable way to manage the GAC on your PC for .Net 4 is the command line tool gacutil. If you open the assembly folder (c:\windows\assembly), you will not see any .Net 4 assemblies, nor is there a .Net 4 Assembly Configuration tool (yet).

I do see that you can open c:\windows\assembly\Download to see your .Net 4 assemblies. But on my machine several of my assemblies are in there multiple times with the same version numbers. And some are marked private and some are marked shared. I don’t know what to make of all of that.

I have gotten good at running this command to dump the GAC contents to a text file which I then open with notepad:
Gacutil /l > c:\gac.txt
Notepad c:\gac.txt
To add a file to the gac I use:
Gacutil /if MyFileName.dll
To remove a file from the gac I use (no .dll extenstion):
Gacutil /u MyFileName

Microsoft Patterns & Practices Logging Framework:
We run one of the programs built on our framework from a network drive. But after our upgrade to .Net 4 this program failed to run from the network drive. We tracked the error down to an inability to load the Microsoft Patterns and Practices (P&P) Logging Framework DLLs. The problem occurred because all the DLLs in our framework use strong name keys, but the P&P DLLs do not. This was not a problem prior to .Net 4; but it is now. Instead of obtaining the P&P source code, adding SNKs, and compiling them ourselves, we obtained the recently released 5.0 version of the P&P DLLs. We had to make a minor code change, and we had to change all of our config files from version to version 5.0.414.0. We also now deploy five P&P DLLs instead of the three we needed in the previous version of P&P.
Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a
Version=5.0.414.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35

Silverlight 4
I recommend that developers avoid installing the Silverlight 4 runtime until after they are on VS2010. I upgraded one machine to the Silverlight 4 runtime and then was no longer able to debug my Silverlight 3 application in VS2008.
At this time, we have not successfully converted to Silverlight 4.
When you convert to Silverlight 4, it is best to convert all the projects in the solution to Silverlight 4 at the same time. In a few cases, Visual Studio did not correctly upgrade the System Dlls and we had to unreferenced them, then re-reference them. Our application uses the framework. We experienced a problem when running our app and the problem only occurs in release mode. Apparently Silverlight 4 release mode optimizes the data sent down to the client such that our serialized values don’t all make it to the client. We tried upgrading from Csla 3.8 to Csla 3.8.3; and we also tried converting all of our private static propertyinfo methods in our business objects to be public. This latter action did cause our application to get past several errors, but the application still fails to return all the data to the client in release mode most of the time. We are still working on resolving this.

If we were to do our upgrade again, this would be our conversion plan:

1) Upgrade to Nant 2.5 and upgrade your config files for Nant to support .Net 4 ( Test build processes.
2) Upgrade to the most current version of the Microsoft Patterns & Practices Logging Framework. For us, version 5.0.414.0 ( Test build processes and deployed application from build.
3) Upgrade to the most current version of Nunit ( Run all tests.
4) Upgrade one developer to Visual Studio 2010.
5) That developer should convert all projects and solutions to VS 2010 and test them.
6) Upgrade all other developers to Visual Studio 2010.
7) Upgrade the build server to Visual Studio 2010, convert all the projects and solutions on the build server to VS 2010, and test the build process. Check in all changes to the subversion repository. Developers update from subversion.
8 ) Have one developer upgrade all projects to .Net 4 and test.
9) Make changes to build processes for .Net 4, build, deploy, and test.
10) All developers update from subversion to get .Net 4 versions of projects.
11) Have one developer upgrade to Silverlight 4 and test. Make sure to test with Release mode compiles!
12) Make changes to build processes for Silverlight 4. I don’t think we had any.
13) All developers update to Silverlight 4.

Posted in Dev Environment, Visual Studio 2010 | Leave a Comment »

Software is not art!

Posted by robkraft on May 12, 2010

Software is not a piece of art, produced in a way that the artist feels is perfection. Software developers should think of software as providing solutions to users that users desire primarily for increasing their productivity. So, instead of spending three days to figure out how to override the default colors on windows controls so that they all match, instead spend that three days adding a logging framework, or an export to excel. Let the customer determine which features are more important to them. You will learn that they often prefer to keep bugs that they can tolerate if provides you time to add a new feature they really want.

Posted in Code Design, Project Management | Leave a Comment »

It’s not easy to prioritize the work to be done

Posted by robkraft on May 12, 2010

It is difficult to provide a formula for prioritizing the work to be done. On the surface, it may seem that we should, “Do what is most valuable to the users”, but that is often not the formula used and for good reason. Sometimes we must do a task for political reasons, because the boss demands it, or because we need to change the way this code works to make a particular person happy so that we can work with him better on other tasks. Sometimes it may be done because a client keeps asking about this one change.

Besides the political, you may choose to have a junior developer work on a feature even though it is not the most important thing he could work on. It could teach the junior developer a valuable skill. We want him to get better at Silverlight, and he could probably add this Silverlight feature, so we will have him add this to increase his skills. In this case, we are sacrificing the best feature now in order to make him a better developer so that as a team we have better options in the future.

A third reason for ignoring the next most important feature is that we include some of the lower priority features in with a high priority feature because the high and low priority features are all part of the same code base. Developers usually say, “While we are in that block of code, we might as well add these features…” This is often beneficial because the developer does not need to repeat the time invested understanding that section of code, and the overall testing time of the features may be reduced.

Are there other reasons that we work on features other than what is most valuable to the end users?

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More reasons that software estimates are inaccurate

Posted by robkraft on May 11, 2010

One source of inaccurate software development estimates is the residual impact of a new feature. On a recent project we decided that we wanted to persist the user’s column width customizations in the grid of our Silverlight application. We estimated that we could complete this in just two hours, so we did so. However, after we implemented the feature we realized related issues that needed to be addressed and thus all took additional time. Some of these issues were:
• Will the customizations persist if we release a new version of our code?
• What happens when a user resizes the entire form and grid? Is that the behavior we want?
• What happens with a grid designer adds or removes columns from a grid that a user has saved customized column widths for?
• Should we have tied the customizations to the grid id or to the form id the grid was displayed on?

Residual issues and questions like these often show up during the development and testing of a new feature and are not accounted for in the original estimate. Some of these can be resolved in less than ten minutes, but others may take much longer.

What does this mean to a development team? Just that several people should generally be involved in the decision to implement new features and that a few extra minutes should be spent up front to identify as many issues as possible if you desire the implementation time required to be close to what you expected.

Posted in Estimating | Leave a Comment »

How to group files in partial classes under one file

Posted by robkraft on May 9, 2010

I’ve always liked that the separate files (designer and cs) comprising my aspx pages were grouped together under one aspx. Did you know that you can group any files together under one specific file? You can modify the project file and add the DependentUpon element to any include file and specify the name of the file it is dependent upon.

In Visual Studio 2010, you can do this more easily with an Extension. Go to Tools/Extension Manager, Online Gallery, and find VSCommands 2010 and install it.
This should open a web page with a quick description of the features this add-in provides. (Grouping files, open in blend, copy as link, etc.).

Posted in Free tools, Visual Studio 2010 | 1 Comment »