Access to modified closure

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Imaging a small C# winform app with just one ListBox and the following code:

private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++)
        Thread t = new Thread(() => AddToListbox(i));

private void AddToListbox(int i)
    if (this.InvokeRequired)
        this.Invoke(new Action<int>(AddToListbox), i);

A simple loop iterating over the numbers from 0 to 4 and adding these values asynchronous to a ListBox. What do you expect? I expected the numbers from 0 to 4 shown in the ListBox but in any random order since I do not control the threads in any way.

2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 5 4 - 2 -  2 - 4 - 5

I didn’t expect any number to appear multiple times and I’m totally surprised to  see the number 5!

But ReSharper gave me a hint that I often saw but never understood:

"Access to modified closure" by  R#

So what’s going on?

I use the syntax of an Lambda expression instead of a regular function call (e.g. using the ThreadStart class and a delegate). This Lambda expression is not evaluated until the thread uses it. And by this time, the loop can be in its next iteration. If the loop is already finished i will be 5.

That is exactly what R# tries to tell me: “Hey, you are accessing here a variable but change it later on. Maybe that is not a good idea.”. – It isn’t.

The solution

Just make a copy of i before passing it into the expression. This copy must be a private copy that will not be changed later. The easiest way to do so is declaring a variable inside the body of the loop. In every iteration of the loop a new integer will be created on the stack and the Lambda expression will access this one.

for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++)
    int copy = i;
    Thread t = new Thread(() => AddToListbox(copy));

Mind ‘win32manifest’ when interop-ing

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For those who look for a quick solution:

Try switching off the win32manifest-switch in Visual Studio.

Here is the long story.

Hi! As you may already know we are working on the best .NET – ARIS interface there is so far. It’s an interface that makes heavy use of an old C-Api, using interop and p/invoke.

In Mid-December Benjamin found a very strange behavior that almost spoiled my Christmas. We had just release Version 1.1 when he called me: “Arisan crashes with Vista64.” I was shocked. “And with Vista32 as well”. I felt annihilated. We had done so much testing with various versions of XP, Vista and it worked fine with any of those OSes.

After some testing I saw that ARIS didn’t deliver any pointers at all. That’s rather bad for an interface to C that uses pointer in every call.  After one more day we had more evidence: We had switched to .NET3.5 and VS2008 some month ago and our old versions, that were compiled using the .NET2.0-compiler, still worked.

I was so terrified. The 3.5-framework should be similar to the 2.0-framework, just some (not so) little enhancements. A bug in the 3.5-compiler?

To provide a quick solution we re-wrote parts of the fancy 3.5-syntax, to make our newest enhancement compile with the 2.0-compiler again. That worked (at least we thought so) and we released version 1.1.1.

Then a very frustrating time began. We read articles over and over and quickly found this very interesting post. The problems described there where exactly what we saw.  So we followed the track of the nxcompat-flag and DEP, but it didn’t lead us anywhere.

The C-Api we interface is well documented, but it calls hundreds of other components and one of them crashed deep inside an undiscovered country.

We read pages of differences between 2.0- and 3.5-compiler, new compiler-flags (should have paid more attention here), any documentation we could find, but nothing seemed to help.

We had a feeling it could have something to do with Vista UAC, but we didn’t find any matching explanations to our problem. Being really desperate we started this thread at the MS forums. As you can read there, no one could provide a solution that worked.

I was really sad, because the last thing I wanted to do was to switch the entire development of arisan back to VS2005. I got prepared for a very sad life from now on.

But five days ago my life turned to happiness again. One more time I started of by googling words like “.NET compiler 2.0 3.5 differences” and one more time I read the new features of the 3.5-compiler. This time I obviously paid more attention to the compiler-flags and read about the /win32manifest and /nowin32manifest – switches. I didn’t have much hope left, but tried to set the /nowin32manifest switch.

It worked! Everything worked! The C-Api delivered pointers again. I tried switching the win32manifest on and off and a day later Benjamin confirmed my results. We had found it. But after a long time of suffering (for me it felt like half a year) we still were skeptical and thought we needed a deeper understanding of the problem.

The win32manifest and UAC

Finally we had something to look for and quickly found valuable information on the great I’m just sayin’ blog. The documentation of the switches helped as well, so here is a summary:

The win32manifest is not the .NET-manifest.

The win32manifest is part of the UAC (user access control). UAC was introduced with Vista as an answer to more and more security threads. One of its ideas is to keep malicious software from secretly starting to work. If you work with Vista you may have noticed a lot of dialogs that ask you for permission to run certain programs. THAT is UAC.

Now the win32manifest inside an application tells the OS what level of permission it needs to run. There are levels like “asInvoker” (default), “highestAvailable” or “requireAdministrator”. In case the OS (and the current user) can provide the requested permission, the program runs as a trusted process (according to the granted access level). Of course, 90+% (just my estimation) of the programs on you Vista-machine don’t have a win32mianifest,  because it’s a new feature and older applications just don’t have it. (And I think a majority of newer applications won’t have it either). In order to be compatible with no-win32manifest applications on one hand and providing security on the other hand, Vista can do a miracle called “virtualization”. It’s a bit like running a process in a sandbox: Vista provides anything the process may need to run: disk space, memory, a registry etc. So the process feels cosy.

But anything provided this way is separated from the main system. The process uses a copy of the registry, writes to a special parts of the HDD drives and accesses the memory in a controlled way (not sure about the memory thing…). For me this is a great achievement of Vista, almost magic. I can’t tell in detail how it works (mainly because I don’t have a clue), but it works good and doesn’t cost notable performance.

So on your Vista machine you have processes that run virtualized and others that run non-virtualized. “Non-virtualized” is also called “UCA-compatible” or just “compatible”, so I’ll adopt this wording here.

You could say that Vista trusts compatible processes a little bit more than virtualized processes. That doesn’t mean virtualized processes are evil, but.. well… maybe… under certain circumstances… not 100% trustworthy. (Here is another nice article)

Note three facts here:

  1. The state (virtualized/compatible) always counts for a process and is set when the process starts. When you start an .exe-file, Vista decides how to run it.
  2. Because of 1) there is no sense in attaching a win32manifest to components that do not start a process, like .dlls. Thus .dlls don’t have a win32manifest.
  3. The state (virtualized/compatible) of a process doesn’t change during its lifetime.

So if a .dll is used by a virtualized process, its code also runs virtualized. And if the same .dll is used by a compatible process, its code runs compatible.


With some of that in my mind, I could explain the problems we had with our interface software arisan: arisan is a .dll you reference in your .NET-application and use it. As mentioned above arisan calls a native (so non-.NET) .dll using p/invoke-interop-techniques. Now this native .dll starts a bunch of new processes: a database-server, a database-driver, some middle-layers, etc. I am pretty sure non of this newly started processes is based on applications with a win32manifest – so they all run virtualized.

But the .NET-applications we use to test the arisan.dll started running compatible as we switched to VS2008 and the 3.5-compiler. So our test application (compatible) called arisan.dll (compatible), arisan.dll (compatible) called C-Api.dll (compatible). C-Api.dll started new processes (virtualized !!) and called functions there. And in the end a compatible (fully trusted) process asked a virtualized (less trusted) process to fill some pointers… and that’s the point where Vista interferes and says: “Dudes, are you drunk? No way!”

It was a bit of bad luck that the clash of a virtualized and a compatible process happened so deep inside a software we couldn’t debug and only threw some strange, meaningless error-messages, but on the other hand Vista could have told us more. Maybe there is some place in Vista where the clash is logged. If someone knows – please let me know, too. Let me get this straight: Vista is absolutely right here, but I’d wish more information when it happens. I don’t exactly know how, but you could do harmful things if you could easily exchange all sorts of pointers between virtualized and compatible processes…


So finally the solution was easy. Both processes have either to run virtualized or non-virtualized. Since we can’t make a third-party software run compatible, we have to make our .NET-application run virtualized: We just need to prevent .NET from inserting a win32manifest to executables.

Using the compiler from the command-line the compiler-flag /nowin32manifest does it.

In VS2008 same switch can be found on the “Application”-tab of the project properties.


The manifest-area is enabled for ‘console applications’ and ‘Windows applications’. It is disabled for class libraries.

Another way to handle this problem is to switch off UAC completely. But we strictly advice you against this solution. UAC is one of Vista’s main features and it is designed to provide shelter for your precious data in times of evil viruses and brutal intrusion attempts 🙂

Epilog- bad fix

After we understood the problem, we saw that the ‘fix’ we provided as V1.1.1 couldn’t do much. Ok – it made the demos run, because the executable compiled with the 2.0- come without a win32manifest and thus run virtualized. But users trying it with VS2008 still had the same issues.

Actually we cannot provide a technical solution with the arisan.dll, because if the running mode depends on the executables that use arisan. So we’ll write detailed information and everyone lived happily ever after.

x += x++;

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Ok, what does this expression do or mean? First of all: never write something like this in your code. Nobody understands the meaning with a single look and that will lead to confusion and maybe to a bug in your software someday.

Now let’s take a deeper look. First you may think about the difference between x++ and ++x. If you write it as a single statement both expressions are equal, but if you use it as a part of a complex expression the first will evaluated to the value of x before increasing it; the second one will evaluate to the new value of x. So y = x++; leads to a different result for y as y = ++x;.

x+=a simply is a ‘shortcut’ for x=x+a.

Now let’s do it step by step. For example x is 5. Then first x will be increased by one to 6 but the old value will go into the formula that remains as x=x+5. Since x was increased before the result will be 11.

If you think that is all right, than please take a break and test it with your favorite compiler. If you are a C or C++ guy you will in fact receive 11 as an answer and everything is fine. But if you are a C# or java guy x will be 10. Why?

.Net as well as the Java Runtime are stack machines. The expression will be put on the stack step by step before evaluating the whole thing. At that time x is 5. x will be changed to 6 by the x++ part, but that only happens in the main memory. The old value (5) is still on the stack. After executing the whole expression the changed x will be overwritten by 10 (5+5).

And once again: NEVER write code like this!

throw null;

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I found this somewhere and I think it’s worth to write a short (only a very short) entry.

throw null;

If you use this expression in your C# code it will throw a NullReferenceException. That is because the throw-statement needs an object of type Exception as its single parameter. But this very object is null in my example.

I like this way to produce some exception while testing code.

Using webservice from .Net

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Lately I was looking for a way to translate geo coordinates (latitude and longitude form my gps device) to some sort of text or names. As you know I’m trying to geotag my photos using a gps logger and PhotoTagStudio. This data can be used to visualize the place a photo was taken on a map (e.g. Google Maps or flickr!). The next step can be to use this data to describe the photo as well.

I think one should be able to translate a geo coordinate into at least the name of the county, the state and the city; maybe to the district or a street name, too. To achieve this I found the webpage. This page collects exactly the data I need and allows searching via the website and a webservice.

The webservice itself consists of approximate 30 REST methods one can call by querying an URL. Most of these calls return a XML document (or optional a JSON document). Unfortunately  there is no SOAP / WSDL version of this webservice. For a .net and C# developer a SOAP webservice is very easy to consume but for such a REST / XML webservice you have to create the URLs yourself and parse the resulting XML document.

I started to create a library to query the webservice. This library provides a few static methods mapped to the most useable webservice-methods and returns good shaped .Net objects. These objects carry all the data coming from the webservice. At the moment this library is in an early beta status but you can use it in your own projects. It can be found on Codeplex: GeonamesDotOrgDotNet, there you will find a small example and a demo application. When using this library you should take a look at the documentation of the webservices since the interfaces are nearly the same.

I hope this is useful for someone. I will extend the library in the next weeks. Feature requests are welcome, so is help on the coding side.

Currently the following webservice calls are supported:

  • findNearby
  • findNearbyPlaceName
  • findNearByWeather
  • findNearbyWikipedia
  • get
  • hierarchy
  • children
  • gtopo30
  • srtm3

At the end a few random screenshots and a code snippet. For more information please take a look at the Codeplex project page.

// finding some place in Berlin, Germany
// (using prefix m for decimal literals)
Geoname Place =
GeoNamesOrgWebservice.FindNearbyPlaceName(52.51m, 13.4m);

// getting all parents
IEnumerable ParentPlaces = Place.Hierarchy();

// display the partents
// (will print out something like:
//  “Globe > Europe > Germany > Land Berlin > Berlin >”)
foreach (Geoname x in ParentPlaces)
Console.Write(x.Name + ” > “);

The Classes of the Library:


A screenshot of the demo application to test the library:


Getting rid of the DSL model explorer

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Every DSL you create with DSL Tools has a model explorer. This model explorer is a tool window in Visual Studio displaying the elements of your model in a hierarchical way. This is often a nice feature but sometimes a hierarchical view of your data is not appropriate. So I came to the question: How to remove the explorer from the generated code?

I could not find any option in the DSL design to remove the model explorer, but if you look at some of the .tt files you will find somewhere a query for this.Dsl.Explorer != null. For example in the file that generates the package.cs which is responsible for registering the tool window for the model explorer:

    if(this.Dsl.Explorer != null)
    [VSShell::ProvideToolWindow(         typeof(<#= dslName #>ExplorerToolWindow),          MultiInstances = false,          Style = VSShell::VsDockStyle.Tabbed,          Orientation = VSShell::ToolWindowOrientation.Right,          Window = "{3AE79031-E1BC-11D0-8F78-00A0C9110057}")]
    [VSShell::ProvideToolWindowVisibility(         typeof(<#= dslName #>ExplorerToolWindow),          Constants.<#= dslName #>EditorFactoryId)]

Even if I did not find any option to set the Dsl.Explorer property of the model to null (you did not see the Explorer property anywhere in the DSL diagram) it seems that the developers of the DSL Tools had this use case in mind.

To remove the Dsl.Explorer from your DSL model open the .dsl file with a text editor and go to the end. There you will find some XML tags like the following:

<Explorer ExplorerGuid="6c276297-6acd-4e9a-8740-b61ba834004b"  Title="HardwareDescription Explorer">
    <ExplorerBehaviorMoniker      Name="HardwareDescription/HardwareDescriptionExplorer" />

Just delete these three lines and generate your code once again. Maybe you should reset your Experimental Hive, too.

I tested a DSL with a removed Model Explorer without any problems. It seems the developers of the DSL Tools did a very good job on the code generation templates . The generated ModelExplorer.cs file contains only a single line:

// This source file is empty because    this DSL does not define a model explorer.

That should be a good proof that a DSL can run without the model explorer even if it might be not supported by the DSL Tools. 🙂

The List<T>.ForEach() method

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We all know and love the foreach keyword in C# and use it for loops every day:

List<int> list = new List<int>();
/* fill the list */
foreach (int i in list)

But the generic List<T> class contains a useful method for small loops, too. The method is called ForEach() and has only one parameter: an Action<T>.

delegates: Action<>, Func<> and Predicate<>

The Framework 3.5 defines a few generic delegate types for actions and functions. In this case a function is something that returns a value (think back to your math class) and actions are something that do not return a value but do something (maybe think back to physics class). All these delegates are defined with zero, one, two, three and four parameters:

public delegate voidAction();
public delegate voidAction<T>(T obj);
public delegate voidAction<T1, T2>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2);
public delegate voidAction<T1, T2, T3>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2, T3 arg3);
public delegate voidAction<T1, T2, T3, T4>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2, T3 arg3, T4 arg4);

public delegateTResult Func<TResult>();
public delegateTResult Func<T, TResult>(T arg);
public delegateTResult Func<T1, T2, TResult>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2);
public delegateTResult Func<T1, T2, T3, TResult>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2, T3 arg3);
public delegateTResult Func<T1, T2, T3, T4, TResult>(T1 arg1, T2 arg2, T3 arg3, T4 arg4);

And there is one more delegate. The Predicate<T> (philosophy class, you know). A predicate comes to a logical decision (true or false; bool return value) based on a single object:
public delegate bool Predicate<T>(T obj);

All these delegates are generic so you can use them in a type save way with the type parameters you need.

Back to the ForEach() method

As I explained above, the ForEach() method takes an Action<T> parameter. In my example this is an Action<int> delegate:

list.ForEach( delegate(int i) {Console.WriteLine(i);} );

This anonymous delegate declaration is not that nice, but we can use Lamda types here:

list.ForEach(i => Console.WriteLine(i));

But let’s take a look at the method we’re calling: void Console.WriteLine(int). That is exactly the definition of the needed Action here. So we can write the code line even shorter:

list.ForEach( Console.WriteLine );

I like this code. It is very short, elegant and readable. It says: “For each [entry of] the list: write it out”. Great.

Workaround for Known Issue with TypeDescriptors in DSL Tools for Visual Studio

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There is a known issue in the current version of the DSL Tools while dealing with custom TypeConverters or custom TypeDescriptors:

1.10 TypeConverters and TypeDescriptors are not picked up during the build process or during toolbox initialization.
When adding a custom TypeConverter or TypeDescriptor and then building the DSL, the TypeConvertor or TypeDescriptor is not picked up. The workaround is to rebuild the solution with a clean build.

[see Known Issues for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SDK 1.0]

Some time ago I posted a workaround for this problem with the TypeConverter, but today a realized that this workaround does not work with the same issue for TypeDescriptors.

Imagine some class with the following attribute:

public partial class MyClass : ModelElement

The corresponding TypeDescriptor (provided by the MyClassTypeDescriptionProvider class) is loaded only the first time you build or rebuild your solution. Every time you start Visual Studio after that, this attribute seems to be ignored.

Fortunately there is another way to glue TypeDescriptors to your classes using a static method of the TypeDescriptor class at runtime:

   new MyClassTypeDescriptionProvider(), typeof(MyClass));

I think a good place for this code is the static constructor of the MyClass type:

partial class MyClass
    static MyClass()
            new MyClassTypeDescriptionProvider(),

Another interesting point is: Not only custom TypeDescriptors you write yourself are affected by this problem, also the TypeDescriptors that are generated by the DSL-Tools from your DslDefintion have to struggle with it:

In the DSL Explorer you can define custom TypeDescriptors for each Domain Class and each Shape. Even these TypeDescriptors will not be loaded after the first run. In other words: the definition of TypeDescriptors in the DSL Explorer is pretty useless as long as you do not add the three lines of code to each class. Of course this is something one can automate! 🙂 I stole some code from and added a few lines to create the Just add this file to your Dsl Project in the GeneratedCode folder and all TypeDescriptors defined in the DSL Explorer will be loaded every time you start your project.

Even CodeVeil has bugs

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I love CodeVeil. From my point of view CodeVeil is simply the best tool to protect .NET assemblies from being reflectored, decompiled or whatever. It is very powerful, offers a wide range of protection aspects and still comes with a handy gui. So far I haven’t seen a method to crack veiled assemblies and that’s why I really rely on it for my commercial products.

You don’t find bugs in CodeVeil when you try to find them, but half a year ago we found this one by chance. CodeVeil veils well, but the resulting code throws a mighty exception.

You don’t need spectacular code to lure the bug out of it’s hole – here is the prelude:

private static void Main(string[] args)
    // Get list and fill it with values
    List<Capsule<int>> l = new List<Capsule<int>>();
    l.Add(new Capsule<int>(23));
    l.Add(new Capsule<int>(42));

    // Have it sorted
    List<Capsule<int>> l2 = GetSortedReturnList(l);

    // Show result
    foreach (Capsule<int> ci in l2)


A simple list of two ints that are encapsulated in a generic type. The generic type just makes sure that two items can be compared:

internal class Capsule<T> : IComparable<Capsule<T>>
    public T Item;

    public Capsule(T i)
        Item = i;

    public int CompareTo(Capsule<T> other)
        return Item.ToString().CompareTo(other.Item.ToString());

And this code causes the exception when being executed by the veiled assembly:

private static List<Capsule<T>> 
    GetSortedReturnList<T>(List<Capsule<T>> list)
    int sortOrder = 1;
        delegate(Capsule<T> a, Capsule<T> b) 
          { return sortOrder * a.CompareTo(b); });

    return (list);

The sore point is the sortOrder variable being multiplied with the result of a.CompareTo(b) used in an anonymous method. Okay, you wouldn’t expect this code from a beginner, but it’s not rocket-science either. So we were very astonished and it took us quite some time to track this down and to believe our eyes. Maybe the problem with CodeVeil is related to the internal representation of anonymous method. When you use a constant instead of a variable

const int sortOrder = 1;

the problem disappears. I guess the compiler eliminates the constant and CodeVeil will not see it. But it remains, when you use a Linq-notation here:

list.Sort((a, b) => a.CompareTo(b)*sortOrder);

As said before we found this bug half a year ago. We contacted Xheo and received a very quick and friendly reply, but no solution. Seasons went by and several new versions of CodeVeil were released; but this bug is still present. At least in the stand-alone version.

But there is hope: The new beta preview of the DeployLX suite contains an obviously new version of CodeVeil and the bug is finally gone. And – by the way – this new version seems to offer a nice package of new feature and improved power! So, please, Mr. Xheo, release a new stand-alone-version of CodeVeil based on the new beta preview!

Where can I find the model filename in a text template (tt)?

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As you know I was working with the DSL Tools in the past months. For some weeks I am writing the code generation for my project and I am struggling with new problems.

For some reason I want to know the filename of the model used in the tt-file. The default implementation provides you only with a reference to the model but with no chance to get its filename.

In your tt-file you will find something similar to

<#@ Language15 processor="Language15DirectiveProcessor"
     requires="fileName='Sample.mydsl1'" #>

This will use the Language15DirectiveProcessor to load the given file and provide your template with a global ExampleModel variable (of cause the name depends on your DSL and you can change it with the provides attribute in the tt-file).

To change the Language15DirectiveProcessor you can create a partial class in your DSL and add some code to it:

partial class Language15DirectiveProcessor
    protected override void GenerateTransformCode
     (string directiveName,
      StringBuilder codeBuffer,
      System.CodeDom.Compiler.CodeDomProvider languageProvider,
      IDictionary<string, string> requiresArguments,
      IDictionary<string, string> providesArguments)
                    codeBuffer, languageProvider,
                    requiresArguments, providesArguments);           

           "public string {1} = @\"{0}\";",

    protected override void InitializeProvidesDictionary
    (string directiveName,
      IDictionary<string, string> providesDictionary)


This adds a new global variable FileName to the tt and initializes it with the model file name.

Attention: You see the variable in this example is generated by writing a line of C# code to the codeBuffer. This may be a bad idea if you want to use this DirectiveProcessor for templates where the template language is set to VB. The better way is to create the code using the Emit and CodeDom API, but I was to lazy to do it that way.

If anybody ports this code to work with VB templates by using the CodeDom or plain VB code, please post a comment here.

Further reading: The process of creating your own DirectiveProcessor and everything you need to understand the code above can be found in the msdn: Creating Custom Text Template Directive Processors.

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