This blog is used as a memory dump of random thoughts and interesting facts about different things in the world of IT. If anyone finds it useful, the author will be just happy! :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Possible source of the signtool “bad format” 0x800700C1 problem

Today I have faced with a weird problem. The operation to sign the EXE file (actually, an installation package) with a valid certificate failed with the following error:
[exec] SignTool Error: SignedCode::Sign returned error: 0x800700C1
[exec] Either the file being signed or one of the DLL specified by /j switch is not a valid Win32 application.
[exec] SignTool Error: An error occurred while attempting to sign: D:\output\setup.exe
This kind of error is usually an indication of a format incompatibility, when the bitness of the signtool.exe and the bitness of the EXE in question don’t correspond. However, this was not the case.

It turns out that the original EXE file was generated incorrectly because of the lack of disk space. That’s why it was broken and was recognized by the signtool like a bad format file. After disk cleanup everything worked perfectly and the EXE file was signed correctly.

Hope this saves someone some time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A solution can build fine from inside the Visual Studio, but fail to build with msbuild.exe

Today I have faced with an interesting issue. Although I failed to reproduce it on a fresh new project, I think this info might be useful for others.
I have a solution which was upgraded from targeting .NET Framework 2.0 to .NET Framework 3.5. I’ve got a patch from a fellow developer to apply to one of the projects of that solution. The patch adds new files as well as modifies existing ones. After the patch application, the solution is successfully built from inside the Visual Studio, but fails to build from the command line with msbuild.exe. The error thrown states that
“The type or namespace name 'Linq' does not exist in the namespace 'System' ”. 
The msbuild version is 3.5:
[exec] Microsoft (R) Build Engine Version 3.5.30729.5420
[exec] [Microsoft .NET Framework, Version 2.0.50727.5456]
[exec] Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation 2007. All rights reserved.
It turns out this issue has been met by other people, and even reported to Microsoft. Microsoft suggested to use MSBuild.exe 4.0 to build VS 2010 projects. However, they confirmed it is possible to use MSBuild.exe 3.5  - in this case a reference to System.Core ( must be explicitly added to the csproj file.
If you try to add a reference to System.Core from inside the Visual Studio, you’ll get the error saying:
"A reference to 'System.Core' could not be added. This component is already automatically referenced by the build system"
So, it seems that when you build a solution from inside the Visual Studio, it is capable to automatically load implicitly referenced assemblies. I suppose, MSBuild.exe 4.0 (and even SP1-patched MSBuild.exe 3.5?) can do this as well. Apparently, this has also turned out to be a known problem – you can’t add that reference from the IDE. Open csproj file in your favorite editor and add this:
<Reference Include="System.Core" />
After this, the project builds fine in both VS and MSBuild.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Default attribute values for custom NAnt tasks

When you create custom NAnt tasks, you can specify various task parameter characteristics, such as whether it is a required attribute, how it validates its value, etc. This is done via the custom attributes in .NET, for example:
[TaskAttribute("param", Required = true), StringValidator(AllowEmpty = false)]
public string Param { get; set; }
It might be a good idea to be able to specify a default value for a task parameter the similar way, for instance:
[TaskAttribute("port"), Int32Validator(1000, 65520), DefaultValue(16333)]
public int Port { get; set; }
Let’s examine the way it can be implemented. First of all, let’s define the custom attribute for the default value:
/// <summary>
/// The custom attribute for the task attribute default value
/// </summary>
public class DefaultValueAttribute : Attribute
  public DefaultValueAttribute(object value)
    this.Default = value;

  public object Default { get; set; }
I suppose the standard .NET DefaultValueAttribute can be used for this purpose as well, but the one above is very simple and is good for this sample. Note also that in this situation we could benefit from the generic custom attributes, which unfortunately are not supported in C#, although are quite valid for CLR.

Now, when the attribute is defined, let’s design the way default values will be applied at runtime. For this purpose we’ll have to define a special base class for all our custom tasks we’d like to use default values technique:
public abstract class DefaultValueAwareTask : Task
  protected override void ExecuteTask()

  protected virtual void SetDefaultValues()
    foreach (var property in GetPropertiesWithCustomAttributes<DefaultValueAttribute>(this.GetType()))
      var attribute = (TaskAttributeAttribute)property.GetCustomAttributes(typeof(TaskAttributeAttribute), false)[0];
      var attributeDefaultValue = (DefaultValueAttribute)property.GetCustomAttributes(typeof(DefaultValueAttribute), false)[0];

      if (attribute.Required)
        throw new BuildException("No reason to allow both to be set", this.Location);

      if (this.XmlNode.Attributes[attribute.Name] == null)
        property.SetValue(this, attributeDefaultValue.Default, null);

  private static IEnumerable<PropertyInfo> GetPropertiesWithCustomAttributes<T>(Type type)
    return type.GetProperties(BindingFlags.DeclaredOnly | BindingFlags.Public | BindingFlags.Instance).Where(property => property.GetCustomAttributes(typeof(T), false).Length > 0);
Let’s examine what this code actually does. The key method here is SetDefaultValues(). It iterates through the task parameters (the public properties marked with DefaultValueAttribute attribute) of the class it is defined in and checks whether the value carried by the DefaultValueAttribute should be set as a true value of the task parameter. It is quite simple: if the XmlNode of the NAnt task definition doesn’t contain the parameter in question, it means a developer didn’t set it explicitly, and it is necessary to set a default value. Moreover, if the task parameter is marked as Required and has a default value at the same time, this situation is treated as not appropriate and the exception is thrown.

Obviously, when a custom NAnt task derives from the DefaultValueAwareTask, it has to call base.ExecuteTask() at the very start of its ExecuteTask() method implementation for this technique to work.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Generate a solution file for a number of C# projects files in a folder

Some time ago I wrote my first T4 template which generates a solution (*.sln) file out of a number of C# project (*.cspoj) files, located in a folder and all descendants. Although it turned out not to be necessary to solve the task I was working on, and assuming it’s quite simple, I still decided to share it for further reference. May someone can find it useful. So, below is the entire T4 template, with no extra comments:
Microsoft Visual Studio Solution File, Format Version 11.00
# Visual Studio 2010
<#@ template language="cs" hostspecific="false" #>
<#@ output extension=".sln" #>
<#@ parameter name="Folder" type="System.String" #> 
<#@ assembly name="System.Core" #>
<#@ assembly name="System.Xml" #>
<#@ assembly name="System.Xml.Linq" #>
<#@ import namespace="System.IO" #>
<#@ import namespace="System.Linq" #>
<#@ import namespace="System.Xml.Linq" #> 
    if (Directory.Exists(Folder))
        var csprojFiles= Directory.GetFiles(Folder, "*.csproj", SearchOption.AllDirectories);
        foreach (var file in csprojFiles)
            ProjectFileMetaData metaData = new ProjectFileMetaData(file, Folder);
            WriteLine("Project(\"{3}\") = \"{0}\", \"{1}\", \"{2}\"",  metaData.Name, metaData.Path, metaData.Id, ProjectFileMetaData.ProjectTypeGuid);

    public class ProjectFileMetaData
        public static string ProjectTypeGuid = "{FAE04EC0-301F-11D3-BF4B-00C04F79EFBC}";

        public ProjectFileMetaData(string file, string root)
            InitProperties(file, root);

        public string Name { get; set; }

        public string Path { get; set; }

        public string Id { get; set; }

        private void InitProperties(string file, string root)
            XDocument xDoc = XDocument.Load(file);
            XNamespace ns = @"";
            XElement xElement = xDoc.Root.Elements(XName.Get("PropertyGroup", ns.NamespaceName)).First().Element(XName.Get("ProjectGuid", ns.NamespaceName));
            if (xElement != null)
                this.Id = xElement.Value;

            this.Path = file.Substring(root.Length).TrimStart(new char[] { '\\' });

            this.Name = System.IO.Path.GetFileNameWithoutExtension(file);

Friday, March 2, 2012

A simple batch script to dump the contents of the folder and its subfolders recursively

This topic might seem too minor for a blog post. You can argue that it’s covered by a simple call to a dir /s command. Well, that’s true unless you need to perform some actions with each line in the list. In this case it could be tricky if you do not use BATCH files on a daily basis.
Imagine you need to dump the file paths in a folder and its subfolders to a plain list. Besides, you’d like to replace the absolute path prefix with UNC share prefix, because each path contains a shared folder and each file will be accessible from inside the network. So, here goes the script:
@echo off
set _from=*repo
set _to=\\server\repo
FOR /F "tokens=*" %%G IN ('dir /s /b /a:-D /o:-D') DO (CALL :replace %%G) >> files.txt
GOTO :eof

 set _str=%1
 call set _result=%%_str:%_from%=%_to%%%
 echo %_result%
GOTO :eof

Let’s start from the FOR loop. This version of the command loops through the output of another command, in this case, dir. Essentially, we ask dir to run recursively (/s), ignore directories (/a:-D), sort by date/time, newest first (/o:-D) and output just the basic information (/b). And the FOR command works on top of this, iterating all lines of dir output (tokens=*), calling a subroutine :replace for each line and streaming the final result into files.txt.

The subroutine does a very simple thing – it replaces one part of the string with another. Let’s step through it anyway. First, it gets the input parameter (%1) and saves it into _str variable. I suppose %1 could be used as is in the expression below, but the number of ‘%’ signs drives me crazy even without it. The next line is the most important – it does the actual replacement job. I’ll try to explain all these % signs: the variable inside the expression must be wrapped with % (like _from and _to); the expression itself should go between % and % as if it’s a variable itself. And the outermost pair of % is there for escaping purpose, I suppose – you will avoid it if you use just string literals for tokens in expression. Note also the usage of the CALL SET statement. Finally, the last line of the subroutine echoes the result.

There’s one last point worth attention. The _from variable, which represents the token to replace, contains a * sign. It means “replace ‘repo’ and everything before it” in the replace expression.

The best resource I found on the topic is