Debugging Smart Device MSTEST Unit Tests

If you’ve ever done mstest unit testing with a Smart Device project, then you’re painfully aware of how badly Microsoft dropped the ball on this one.  Debugging a unit test requires making device registry modifications, adding a call to Debugger.Break in your code, then telling Studio to Attach to Remote Process once the breakpoint has been hit.  Seriously, that’s their officially published answer to how you debug a Smart Device unit test!

If you know anything about testing, you know that keeping the cycle time for a test to a minimum.  The longer it takes a developer to go from “start testing” to a break point where they can step, then the less productive they’re going to be.  Even worse, if the process is painful, slow and convoluted (check, check and check for Microsoft’s recommendation), they’re likely to just skip writing tests altogether.

Internally we get around this by using our own test runner which uses Reflection to load up and run tests.  I’ve decided to once again give back to the community and publish this gem as part of Project Resistance (it will get checked in to the IoC Framework as well).

It does not support everything that mstest does, but it’s got enough to get you going, and I think it’s at least reasonably easy to modify if it doesn’t meet your needs.  The currently supported attributes are:

It also might now be obvious how to set it up for your own app.  You need to add a reference to your test assemblies (so VS will deploy them – for some stupid reason you can’t tell it to do so via the Configuration Manager) and make sure all projects are set to deploy to the same place.

As usual, if you have feedback or updates, please let me know.  Submitting a patch right on one of the project portals is probably the easiest way (hint, hint).

It’s probably worth noting here that the code for this is the CFTestRunner project, and you have to pull it from the source tab on the project site (it’s not in the release download yet).

Project Resistance Note: This will be a slow week

For those following Project Resistance, this is probably going to be a week with little progress.  I’ve got a major milestone on another project that we’re trying to prepare for followed by an on-site installation so my activity in the code base will be very, very limited.  I believe Alex is also on-site and swamped this week as well.  We will be back at it next week though, hopefully with some new graphics so we can hammer out the final details of the UI.

Project Resistance: Event Aggregation with OpenNETCF.IoC

So my final piece of functionality for the week in Project Resistance was to add key handling to the code base.  The idea is that if you’re running on a non-touch device (or for some reason want to use the D-Pad on a touch device) then you need some ability to “select” a resistance band to change.  I plumbed through events from the Form down to the ResistorController, and back up to the View so now you can move left or right to select a resistance band and then up or down will cycle the band just like a gesture will.  Of course there’s nothing yet to *visually* show you what band is selected, but the code is in place for it.

What’s most interesting about the way this works is that I’m not using the standard old EventHandler subscription mechanism in code.  Instead I’m using a pattern called “event aggregation.”  It’s a bit odd, but I couldn’t find a reasonable definition online of exactly what event aggregation is, so instead of a link, I’ll actually have to provide a bit more information. 

Event aggregation is the ability of a framework to automatically collect up (or aggregate) event information and wire publishers to subscribers.  The OpenNETCF.IoC framework, which Project Resistance is using for Dependency Injection and as well as the UI framework, also provides Event Aggregation through simple Attributes.  Let’s look at this key-handling as an example.

In the normal old-school event handling way of thinking, if the ResistorController wanted to get events when a KeyDown happened on the Form, the controller would need a reference to the Form so it could do a form.KeyDown += new KeyEventHandler(Foo).  The problem with this is that to do this, the Controller now has to know about the Form, meaning that they get coupled together.  That’s bad from a maintenance and extensibilty standpoint, and it really sucks from a test standpoint.

Sure, I could interface the Form and then pass an interface reference in, but still, why does the Controller need to know anything about the Form?  Really it just wants to know when some other component wants to change the currently selected band or change the value of the selected band.

Well this is a classic case of where Event Aggregation rocks.  In the OpenNETCF.IoC framework, we simply need to know the string name of the event (which is stored in a global constant so everyone can use it).

The Form “publishes” the event with a simple attribute like this:

public event KeyEventHandler DPadKeyPressed;

The anything that wants to receive the event simply uses an attribute to subscribe.  This is what it looks like in the ResistorController:

[EventSubscription(EventNames.DPadEvent, ThreadOption.Caller)]
public void DPadHandler(object sender, KeyEventArgs e)


By the nature of the fact that these objects were inserted into one of the IoC framework’s DI container collections, the two automagigically get paired up.  No references get passed around, no interfaces get unnecessarily polluted, and out objects stay nicely decoupled.  All that is required is that both attributes use the same string name for the event and that the handler method signature matches the expected publisher’s delegate.

Project Resistance: Form Painting and Comments on the Studio Designer

I didn’t do much today with Project Resistance, but that didn’t stop progress. Alex got all of the background paionting ironed out today while I was screwing around with paying work.  It looks pretty nice (well, except for the lower workspace, which is awaiting artwork):

I did do some thinking on the broader process of developing WinMo apps, though.  One thing that most Windows developers (as well as a great many devs for other OSes) have come to rely on is the good old WYSIWYG editor for Form/Screen/View layouts.  Generally speaking, they’ve been around for a good while now and not counting that major backslide called Visual InterDev, they’ve done a pretty good job of presenting a design time what you see at runtime.

Well for everything except Smart Device projects.  We at OpenNETCF have been building controls and libraries for devices since before we were a company.  We’ve seen all the iterations of Microsoft’s tools (all the way back to the add-in for VB 6 in fact). Never has designing a Form in the tool been easy once you go past the basic Label, Textbox and Button UI.

Since Studio ’03, to get any form of custom control to render properly you had to do a whole load of extra work.  And to make matters worse, how you had to do it seems to have changed with every new release of Studio, meaning you have to re-do a lot of the work for existing controls to get the new tools to support them.  I think this is one of the reasons there are so few 3rd-party vendors doing nice controls (especially with any sort of designer support).  To make thigs even worse, trying to support just the current tool runs into bugs almost immediately.

So what do those of use who build these apps day-in and day-out do?  Well we live with a rectangle, or a series of them, in the designer and do all of the actual layout by iterating with a device or the emulator.  So the run-time view you see above looks like this in the designer:

Fancy, eh?  And what, you ask, is the upper “DeckWorkspace”?  Well it’s a container object from the OpenNETCF.IoC framework.  It basically holds a UserControl, which is what that resistor image is.  It, similarly, gives you very little as design time:

Yes, this is the state-of-the-art.  If you’re coming to device development from the desktop, be prepared to be a bit frustrated.  Could we have added designer support for the resistor to this project?  Sure.  But I bet it would take more than twice the time we have already into the entire project just to get it to render, and even then it would come with caveats (like it would work with CF 3.5 but not 2.0 projects or similar silliness).

So the moral of the story is that you just get used to it.  Unless you plan to be a control vendor don’t bother wasting your time even trying to get designer support working.  You’ll only end up frustrated, behind schedule, and with a load of convoluted code that you’ll have to rewrite the next time Microsoft releases a new version of Studio.  Maybe things will change in VS10, but based on the track record I seriously doubt it.

Don’t take all of this as being completely down on Studio though.  As far as a development tool it’s still the best thing out there (well it’s not so great for C++, but that’s another diatribe – just do yourself a favor and get SourceInsight for that).  I’ve used a lot of tools, and Studio, by far, is the most stable and feature-rich tool that I’ve ever used.  It’s just that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Project Resistance, Day 4: graphic fixes and more gesturing

We’ve made more today progress on Project Resistance.  It turns out that the earlier bug was indeed due to the fact that in the Compact Framework Color.Transparent is not a transparent color.  How intuitive.  If you do Graphics.Clear(Color.Transparent) what actually occurs is that the underlying bitmap gets filled with white.  We (and by “we” I mean “Alex”) had to create some utility functions to directly manipulate the HDC and do actual transparency. 

Again, it’s more than a little awkward, and how Microsoft might expect the vast majority of developers out there to get this right I’m not sure.  Even if everyone could write this code, I still think they shouldn’t have to.  We should be focused on solving our business problems, not solving platform problems.

At any rate, we got a fix into the code, and I added gesturing support for the resistance bands in the ResistorView as well.


You can see that the background is not right, but that’s an offset math issue (again due to the inability to draw transparent controls on a Form) that should be simple to fix.  Yes, the View for the numeric data at the bottom is hideous, but right now it’s simply there to ensure that events get properly wired from the view above, down to the controller and back out.  Making it look good will require work from the graphic designer.

As a side note, Alex seems to be having some difficulties using SVN as a CodePlex client and that’s why the fix took so long to get published.  I’m not having any problems with the TFS client.

Project Resistance: iPhone Edition

Today has been a slow day here for Project Resistance because I’m neck deep in writing other code.  I did manage to get the gesture events for the Tolernace band on the ResistorView plumbed in so now you can swipe up/down with your finger and it actually changes the band color (though I noticed I need to fix a couple images) and it updates a second View with a text representation of the tolerance. Right now that view looks like an engineer created it, so no screen shot today – I’d rather not embarass myself.

On another, more fun note, fellow MVP and iPhone development author Christopher Fairbairn has started an iPhone port of Project Resistance.  He’s also started blogging about his project.  Looking at his posts and how easy a time he’s having so far makes me almost jealous.  If it weren’t for the facts that you have to subject your eyes to the abomination known as Objective-C and you have to work on a Mac I just might be.  It should be interesting to see how the two projects track toward getting a product to market.  So far we’re both just barely out of the gate.

Project Resistance: Transparency in the Compact Framework sucks

Alex made some headway over the weekend on Project Resistance with the ResistorView and doing some drawing.  Now (on the WinMo classic emulator) it looks like this:

Notice the white border around the bands.  Nicely enough, Alex gave me a bug item for this, so I started looking at it this morning, thinking that maybe the images simply have some non-transparency problem along the edges.  Well, not so simple.  Here’s a close up (using Paint.NET if you’re curious) along the right edge of a Ring1 Yellow band (the one used for generating this view):


You can see that there’s nothing wrong here.  What appears to be happening is that pixels with partial transparency (or partial opacity if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person) are getting incorrectly rendered as white.  So now we’re off to chase down a redering problem instead of spending time developing logic for our actual business problem.  My off-the-cuff guess is that it’s because we’re storing the bands as a Bitmap class, which probably has no notion of an alpha channel, and therefore is just replacing these pixels with white.

It’s worth noting that just getting this far with drawing has been heavily reliant on non-CF classes, and if my guess on the Bitmap being the problem is corrrect it means that even more of the drawing code will rely on objects not in the CF.  Again, this exemplifies the pain of creating WinMo apps that have the aethetics users have come to expect since iPhone came on the scene.

Project Resistance: Windows Marketplace acceptance

Well, last night I got an email from Microsoft:

Not too bad.  Less that 48 hours from when we applied we got accepted, and I’m not sure what “contact” I was supposed to get from GeoTrust.  I did get an email response immediately after the application (within a few minutes) to confirm my contact info, but that was it.  All in all, a completely painless process.

Project Resistance Day 2 : Unit tests, gestures and Registering with Microsoft

I didn’t have a whole lot of time today to code on Project Resistance, so it didn’t progress as far as I’d have liked, but I did get a few important things done.  First off I got the unit test project added to SCC after being admonished by Nick

I did a little bit of coding for the placement of the color bands on the resistor (though I’m not actually drawing them as anything but a rectangle right now).  This allowed me to code in “gestures” for them.  The idea is that you’ll be able to put your finger/stylus on a band and swipe up or down to change the color (instead of popping up a menu or something).  Right now the gestures are plumbed all the way to the debug output.

I also started the process of becoming a registered developer for the Windows Marketplace for Mobile (seriously Microsoft, can you quit with these long names?  Notice how “App Store” is 2 syllables?).  Since I’ve pretty much ignored all of the info that’s been pushed out to us on how this works, I’m actually a pretty good test case. 

I started the process with a Bing search for “windows mobile application certification” which apparently was a good choice since the first result led me where I wanted to be: the page on the “Application Certification Program”.

To be honest, this page is going to cause confusion.  I want to create and sell a WinMo app.  Why are there two separates paths to get there.  Please, Microsoft, let’s streamline this.  Give me one path.  I understand that some people want just the “designed for WinMo” logo and not to put the app in the WMM (my lazy typing acronym), and that’s fine. WMM certification should simply be an added step, not a completely separate process.

At any rate, I know we’re after a WMM app, so I reviewed the “Prohibited Application Types” document.  Seems like a reasonable list, and as long as we stay away from resistor-ads and resistor-porn it seems we’ll be fine.

Next I filled out the WINDOWS® MARKETPLACE FOR MOBILE REGISTRATION form.  Refreshingly short as far as forms go.  There was one oddity, though. When I entered my email address for the company email I got and error:

“The e-mail address provided for the corporate contact cannot be the same as the account holder’s e-mail address. Please provide an alternate email address for the corporate contact.”


This seems a bit ridiculous. What about the single developer shop?  Why should they have to have 2 emails?  If someone wants to subvert this, using a distribution list would work so I see zero value in this this as a constraint.  Sure, it’s a small bump in the process, but if Microsoft is after seamless and smooth these things add up.


I ponied up my $99 and I’m perfectly okay with that.  If I’m going to make my living off of software, then $99 is really nothing.  It’s way less than we spend on tools, hardware or even coffee.


Now all I have to do is wait for GeoTrust to contact me “to complete the Identity Verification Process”.  No idea how long that might take, but I’ll blog when it happens so you get a feel for how long this takes.


Project Resistance: Day 1

Today I did some of the preliminary work for Project Resistance (well I did it yesterday and today, but we’ll call it Day 1).

As usual Smith, my go-to graphics guy for things like this, turned out images that were better than expected, so the app won’t look like I did the graphics.  That’s the first key to this project looking professional.

I did some preliminary inrastructure work for the application, setting up file layouts and the like.  I also did some quick work for drawing the blank resistor on a background as well:

As usual this was pretty painful – way more painful than it should be.  Trying to get alphablending/transparency working on Windows Mobile can be a huge chore.  It’s even worse if you want a control (which is what the resistor is) to have a transparent background through which you can see the parent Form (which is where that green PCB image is drawn).

It involves calling back up to the parent and having it draw the clipping region under your control when the control paints itself.  Fortunately I’d run into this before and I had the code readily available.  Many thanks to Alex Feinman for figuring this out in the first place.

This is certainly something Microsoft needs to work on simplifying if they want the average developer to be able to achieve success.