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3 BASIC DEBUGGING TASKS
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We ve covered a lot of ground in this chapter by introducing the most basic and common debugging tasks and commands This introduction covered the basic functionality of the native debuggers, the managed code debugger extensions (SOS and SOSEX), as well as a brief discussion of postmortem debugging This chapter serves as an introduction to the myriad of commands that exist We will utilize most of the commands in much greater depth in subsequent chapters where we will look at realworld bugs and how to use the commands briefly discussed to arrive at a root cause analysis of each of the bugs
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P A R T
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4 5 6 7
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Assembly Loader 169 Managed Heap and Garbage Collection 203 Synchronization 293 Interoperability 345
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So far, much of our discussion about the CLR has revolved around assemblies, the basic building blocks of NET We looked at the internals of assemblies in both 2, CLR Fundamentals, and 3, Basic Debugging Tasks, but so far we have omitted the details on how NET assemblies are loaded into an application domain One of the goals of the NET platform is to eliminate what is commonly referred to as DLL (or dependency) hell where the proper binaries are overwritten or simply not available as a result of upgrades and/or downgrades These problems manifest themselves in the form of application startup failures or sometimes, more subtly, where applications simply misbehave To avoid the DLL hell problem, the CLR defines strict rules concerning how assemblies are loaded and managed In this chapter, we will take a tour of the CLR loader (codenamed Fusion) and how it achieves the goal of avoiding DLL hell as well as common pitfalls associated with the CLR loader Throughout this tour, we will use the debuggers and tools to arrive at the root cause of problems related to incorrectly using the CLR loader
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CLR Loader Overview
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The CLR offers a highly sophisticated mechanism for loading NET assemblies At a high level, a NET assembly can either be shared or private A shared NET assembly is an assembly that is typically used by two or more applications located on the same machine The benefits of having a shared assembly are pretty clear; rather than each application maintaining the assembly in a local path, it can be shared and therefore managed and maintained in one place Shared assemblies are typically located in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) A private assembly, on the other hand, is an assembly that is private to one particular application and is typically stored in the same folder (or predefined subfolders) as the application itself (although it is not a requirement) In light of the different types of assemblies, how does the CLR loader determine which location to load the assembly from The answer lies in what is known as load contexts Figure 4-1 illustrates the high-level CLR assembly load process 169
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Assembly Loader
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Assembly Bind
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Is Default Load Context
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Figure 4-1 High-level overview of the CLR loader At a high level, when an assembly load is requested, the CLR loader determines the load context (how the load request was issued) and uses different algorithms depending on the context to determine the location of the assembly Before we discuss each of the load contexts in more detail, the notion of an assembly identity is important to understand and will be discussed next
Assembly Identity
An assembly s identity defines the uniqueness of any given assembly as seen by the CLR The identity is crucial when determining which assembly gets loaded during bind time as well as when determining if two or more loaded assemblies are equal Consider an assembly, quite generically, named workflowdll Due to the generic nature of the assembly name, it s quite possible that there could be multiple assemblies with the same name on any given system Furthermore, imagine that you have multiple assemblies that reference the various instances of the workflowdll How does the application specify the correct instance of the workflowdll that gets loaded; or rather, how does the CLR choose which assembly to load A lot of factors play into the answer but one key ingredient is the assembly identity An assembly s identity is comprised of the following key components: