Category Archives: Bugs

The case of the UAC that Just Wouldn’t

One of my dev machines has long had a weird anomaly where file operations in Explorer that should prompt for UAC, such as copying a file into C:\Program Files, would instead silently fail.

This led to all sorts of issues, from being unable to delete certain files — they’d just obstinately sit there, no matter how much I pressed that Del key — to trying to move folders containing a hidden Thumbs.db file and being unable to move the folder.

My UAC settings were the Windows defaults. Nothing weird these. So I’d always treated put this issue into my “too busy to solve this now” basket. The classic basket case. But today I finally got fed up.

After a quick search for the symptoms on Dr Google returned no results of significance, I decided I needed to trace the cause myself.

Process Monitor to the Rescue

It was time to pull out Process Monitor out of my toolbox again! Process Monitor is a tool from the SysInternals Suite by Microsoft that monitors and logs details on a bunch of different operations on your computer. I use Process Monitor, Procmon for short, all the time to solve problems big and little. But for some reason, it hadn’t crossed my mind until today that I could apply Procmon to this problem.

First, I configured Procmon to filter all events except for those generated by Explorer.exe and Consent.exe. I wasn’t sure if Consent.exe was involved in the problem (Consent.exe being the UAC elevation prompter), but it wouldn’t hurt to include it to start with. Note that all those Exclude filters are default filters setup by Procmon to exclude itself and its friends, removing that confusion from the logs.

Procmon filter

Then I went ahead and tried to copy a file into C:\Program Files (x86). It was just an innocent little text file, but Explorer of course acted like a Buckingham Palace Guard and silently and stolidly ignored its existence.

Source folder  ➔  Dest folder

I used the clipboard Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste (or attempt to paste) the file. I didn’t think the clipboard was at fault because all other UAC-required file operations also failed silently. I could have dragged and dropped, it would have had the same effect.

But now, with procmon, I had captured the communication that went on behind the scenes. All those secret coded winks and nose scratches that told Explorer to fob off any attempts to trigger a UAC prompt. Here’s what I was presented with in the Procmon log.

Procmon start

I searched for the name of my text file (test.txt), and used Procmon’s Highlight tool to highlight every reference to it in the Path column. This made it easy to spot nearby interactions that may have been related, even if they didn’t directly reference the test.txt file itself. You can see below two of the highlighted test.txt lines.

Procmon highlighting

Because there was a lot going on, I filtered out a lot of Operations that I thought were not relevant, such as CloseFile, RegCloseKey, RegQueryKey, ReadFile and WriteFile, among others. This reduced the log considerably and made it easier to spot differences (my screen capture below shows the filtering after it was reset, however — I forgot to capture the filtered trace, sorry).

I decided to also capture a trace on a machine where UAC prompting worked. I then compared the two logs. After scrolling back and forth around the many references to test.txt, I saw that on my dev machine, there was an additional interaction, right before the point where the prompt dialog was presented:

TortoiseShell in Procmon

That’s right, I had a program called TortoiseCVS installed on this machine which hooked into Explorer in a variety of ways. After the FileOperationPrompt references on my second machine, there was no reference to TortoiseCVS. Here’s what it looked like on the other machine:

Procmon on clean machine without TortoiseShell

That was the only visible difference of significance in the logs.

Now for those of you who just knee-jerked into “why on earth are you using CVS?!?”, calm down! This is a story, and I’m telling the story.

I decided that I didn’t really need TortoiseCVS installed and decided to try uninstalling it.

Uninstall Tortoise CVS

Sadly, uninstalling it required a reboot, no doubt to remove its old fashioned hooks into Explorer.

After the reboot, I tried to copy my innocent little text file again.


Success! I was now presented with the prompt I wanted!

Another case closed thanks to SysInternals Suite and Mark Russinovich!



A workaround for a getter bug in the Delphi XE2 compiler

We recently ran into a nasty little bug in the Delphi XE2 compiler, that arises with a complex set of conditions:

  1. A record with a string property that has a get function;
  2. A call to this getter that has a constant string appended to the result;
  3. This result passed directly to another arbitrary function.

When these conditions are met (see code below for examples), the compiler generates code that crashes.

Reproducing the bug

The following program is enough to reproduce the bug.

program ustrcatbug;

  TWrappedString = record
    FValue: string;
    function GetValue: string;
    property Value: string read GetValue;

{ TWrappedString }

function TWrappedString.GetValue: string;
  Result := FValue;

function GetWrappedString: TWrappedString;
  Result.FValue := 'Something';

  writeln(GetWrappedString.Value + ' Else');

Looking at the last line of code from that sample in the disassembler, we see the following code:

ustrcatbug.dpr.28: writeln(GetWrappedString.Value + ' Else');
0040712A 8D45EC           lea eax,[ebp-$14]
0040712D E816E9FFFF       call GetWrappedString
00407132 8D55EC           lea edx,[ebp-$14]
00407135 B8C0BB4000       mov eax,$0040bbc0
0040713A 8B0DE8594000     mov ecx,[$004059e8]
00407140 E883D8FFFF       call @CopyRecord
00407145 8D55E8           lea edx,[ebp-$18]
00407148 B8C0BB4000       mov eax,$0040bbc0
0040714D E8D6E8FFFF       call TWrappedString.GetValue
00407152 8D45E8           lea eax,[ebp-$18]
00407155 BAB4714000       mov edx,$004071b4
0040715A E899D6FFFF       call @UStrCat
0040715F 8B10             mov edx,[eax]
00407161 A12C884000       mov eax,[$0040882c]
00407166 E86DC6FFFF       call @Write0UString
0040716B E868C7FFFF       call @WriteLn
00407170 E867BCFFFF       call @_IOTest
ustrcatbug.dpr.29: end.
00407175 33C0             xor eax,eax

The problem arises with these two lines:

0040715A E899D6FFFF       call @UStrCat
0040715F 8B10             mov edx,[eax]

The problem is that eax is not preserved through function calls with Delphi’s default register calling convention. And, as _UStrCat is a procedure, we can make no assumptions about the return value (which is passed in eax):

procedure _UStrCat(var Dest: UnicodeString; const Source: UnicodeString);

The issue does not arise if we avoid using the property:

  writeln(GetWrappedString.GetValue + ' Else');

From this, the compiler generates:

ustrcatbug.dpr.28: writeln(GetWrappedString.GetValue + ' Else');
0040712A 8D45E8           lea eax,[ebp-$18]
0040712D E816E9FFFF       call GetWrappedString
00407132 8D55E8           lea edx,[ebp-$18]
00407135 B8C0BB4000       mov eax,$0040bbc0
0040713A 8B0DE8594000     mov ecx,[$004059e8]
00407140 E883D8FFFF       call @CopyRecord
00407145 B8C0BB4000       mov eax,$0040bbc0
0040714A 8D55EC           lea edx,[ebp-$14]
0040714D E8D6E8FFFF       call TWrappedString.GetValue
00407152 8D45EC           lea eax,[ebp-$14]
00407155 BAB4714000       mov edx,$004071b4
0040715A E899D6FFFF       call @UStrCat
0040715F 8B55EC           mov edx,[ebp-$14]
00407162 A12C884000       mov eax,[$0040882c]
00407167 E86CC6FFFF       call @Write0UString
0040716C E867C7FFFF       call @WriteLn
00407171 E866BCFFFF       call @_IOTest
ustrcatbug.dpr.29: end.
00407176 33C0             xor eax,eax

Where we now see that edx is reloaded from the stack, as it should be:

0040715A E899D6FFFF       call @UStrCat
0040715F 8B55EC           mov edx,[ebp-$14]


There are a number of possible workarounds:

  1. Upgrade to Delphi XE7 – this problem appears to be resolved, though I could not find a QC or RSP report relating to the bug when I searched. Moving to XE7 is not an option for us in the short term: too many code changes, too many unknowns.
  2. Don’t use properties in records. This means changing code to call functions instead: no big deal for the Get, but annoying for the Set half of the function pair.
  3. Patch around the problem by modifying UStrCat to return the address of the Dest parameter.

In the end, I wrote option (3) but we went with option (2) in our code base.

Because UStrCat is implemented in System.pas, it’s difficult to build your own version of the unit. One way to skin the option 3 UStrCat is to copy the implementation of UStrCat and its dependencies (a bunch of memory and string manipulation functions), and monkeypatch at runtime.

In the copied functions, we need to preserve eax through the function calls. This results in the addition of 4 lines of assembly to the UStrCat and UStrAsg functions, pushing the eax register onto the stack and popping it before exit. I haven’t reproduced the code here because the original is copyrighted to Embarcadero, but here are the changes required:

  1. In UStrCat, Add push eax just after the conditional jump to UStrAsg, and pop eax just before the ret instruction.
  2. In UStrAsg, wrap the call to FreeMem with a push eax and pop eax.

The patch function is also pretty straightforward:

procedure MonkeyPatch(OldProc, NewProc: PBYTE);
  pBase, p: PBYTE;
  oldProtect: Cardinal;
  p := OldProc;
  pBase := p;

  // Allow writes to this small bit of the code section
  VirtualProtect(pBase, 5, PAGE_EXECUTE_WRITECOPY, oldProtect);

  // First write the long jmp instruction.
  p := pBase;
  p^ := $E9;  // long jmp opcode
  PDWord(p)^ := DWORD(NewProc) - DWORD(p) - 4;  // address to jump to, relative to EIP

  // Finally, protect that memory again now that we are finished with it
  VirtualProtect(pBase, 5, oldProtect, oldProtect);

function GetUStrCatAddr: Pointer; assembler;
  lea  eax,[email protected]

  MonkeyPatch(GetUStrCatAddr, @_UStrCatMonkey);

This solution does give me the heebie jeebies, because we are patching the symptoms of the problem as we’ve seen them arise, without being able to either understand or address the root cause within the compiler. It’s not really possible to guarantee that there won’t be some other code path that causes this solution to come unstuck without really digging deep into the compiler’s code generation.

As noted, this problem appears to be resolved in Delphi XE5 or possibly earlier; however it is unclear if the root cause of the problem has been addressed, or we just got lucky. The issue has been reported as RSP-10255.

IE11, Windbg, JavaScript = joy

I was trying to debug a web application today, which is running in an Internet Explorer MSHTML window embedded in a thick client application. Weirdly, the app would fail, silently, without any script errors, on the sixth refresh — pressing F5 six times in a row would crash it each and every time.  Ctrl+F5 or F5, either would do it.

I was going slightly mad trying to trace this, with no obvious solutions. Finally I loaded the process up in Windbg, not expecting much, and found that three (handled) C++ exceptions were thrown for each of the first 6 loads (initial load, + 5 refreshes):

(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)

However, on the sixth refresh, this exception was happening four times:

(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)

This gave me something to look at! At the very least there was an observable difference between the refreshes within the debugger. A little more spelunking revealed that the very last exception thrown was the relevant one, and it returned the following trace (snipped):

(958.17ac): C++ EH exception - code e06d7363 (first chance)
ChildEBP RetAddr  
001875e8 75d3359c KERNELBASE!RaiseException+0x58
00187620 72ba1df2 msvcrt!_CxxThrowException+0x48
00187664 72d659cb jscript9!Js::JavascriptExceptionOperators::ThrowExceptionObjectInternal+0xb4
0018767c 72ba1cda jscript9!Js::JavascriptExceptionOperators::ThrowExceptionObject+0x15
001876a8 72bb5175 jscript9!Js::JavascriptExceptionOperators::Throw+0x6e
001876f4 6e9acd03 jscript9!CJavascriptOperations::ThrowException+0x9c
0018771c 6f3029f5 MSHTML!CFastDOM::ThrowDOMError+0x70
00187750 72b68e9d MSHTML!CFastDOM::CWebSocket::DefaultEntryPoint+0xe2
001877b8 72cff6a2 jscript9!Js::JavascriptExternalFunction::ExternalFunctionThunk+0x165
00187810 72bb849c jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallAsConstructor+0xc7
00187830 72bb8537 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::NewScObject_Helper+0x39
0018784c 72bb858c jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::ProfiledNewScObject_Helper+0x53
0018786c 72bb855e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_NewScObject_Impl<Js::OpLayoutCallI_OneByte,1>+0x24
00187ba8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x3c44
00187dbc 132f1ae1 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
WARNING: Frame IP not in any known module. Following frames may be wrong.
00187dc8 72c372dd 0x132f1ae1
00187ed0 138be456 jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::EntryApply+0x265
00187f38 72b6669e 0x138be456
00188288 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
001883bc 132f0681 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
001883c8 72b6669e 0x132f0681
00188718 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018887c 132f1b41 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00188888 72b6669e 0x132f1b41
00188bd8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
00188d1c 132f1c21 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00188d28 72bb7642 0x132f1c21
00189080 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x2175
001890b8 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
001893f8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
00189594 132f0081 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00189624 72d0134c 0x132f0081
00189650 72bf3de5 jscript9!Js::JavascriptOperators::GetProperty_Internal<0>+0x48
00189678 72b677a7 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_ProfiledLoopBodyStart<0,1>+0xa2
001899b8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x24f7
00189b34 132f0089 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00189b40 72b6669e 0x132f0089
00189e98 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018a004 132f0099 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018a010 72b6669e 0x132f0099
0018a368 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018a4bc 132f1c69 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018a4c8 72b6669e 0x132f1c69
0018a818 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018a95c 132f1c71 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018a968 72b6669e 0x132f1c71
0018acb8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018ade4 132f1fb1 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018adf0 72c372dd 0x132f1fb1
0018ae90 72b60685 jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::EntryApply+0x265
0018aee0 72bd4fcc jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallFunction<1>+0x88
0018b220 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x442e
0018b258 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
0018b598 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
0018b71c 132f1ed9 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018b728 72b6669e 0x132f1ed9
0018ba78 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018bbac 132f1ca1 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018bbb8 72bb7642 0x132f1ca1
0018bf00 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x2175
0018bf38 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
0018c278 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
0018c3ac 132f1e21 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018c3b8 72bb7642 0x132f1e21
0018c700 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x2175
0018c738 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
0018ca78 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
0018cbb4 132f1e21 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018cbc0 72b6669e 0x132f1e21
0018cf08 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018d03c 132f1e51 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018d048 72b6669e 0x132f1e51
0018d398 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018d4bc 132f0341 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018d4c8 72bb7642 0x132f0341
0018d810 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x2175
0018d848 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
0018db88 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
0018dd44 132f1f99 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018dd50 72b60685 0x132f1f99
0018dd98 72bd4fcc jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallFunction<1>+0x88
0018e0d8 72bd501f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x442e
0018e110 72bd507e jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryCatch+0x49
0018e450 72c5bfce jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x4e84
0018e488 72c5bf0f jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_TryFinally+0xb1
0018e7c8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x68eb
0018e8f4 132f0351 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018e900 72b6669e 0x132f0351
0018ec48 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0xbd7
0018ed94 132f1cf9 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018eda0 72b66ce9 0x132f1cf9
0018f0f8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x1cd7
0018f264 132f1d01 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018f270 72b66ce9 0x132f1d01
0018f5c8 72b66548 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x1cd7
0018f70c 132f1d49 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
0018f718 72b60685 0x132f1d49
0018f760 72b6100e jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallFunction<1>+0x88
0018f7cc 72b60f60 jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallRootFunction+0x93
0018f814 72b60ee7 jscript9!ScriptSite::CallRootFunction+0x42
0018f83c 72b6993c jscript9!ScriptSite::Execute+0x6c
0018f898 72b69878 jscript9!ScriptEngineBase::ExecuteInternal<0>+0xbb
0018f8b0 6eaab78f jscript9!ScriptEngineBase::Execute+0x1c
0018f964 6eaab67c MSHTML!CListenerDispatch::InvokeVar+0x102
0018f990 6eaab21e MSHTML!CListenerDispatch::Invoke+0x61
0018fa28 6eaab385 MSHTML!CEventMgr::_InvokeListeners+0x1a2
0018fb98 6e8a98bb MSHTML!CEventMgr::Dispatch+0x35a
0018fbc0 6e92d0c0 MSHTML!CEventMgr::DispatchEvent+0x8c
0018fd18 6e92da30 MSHTML!CXMLHttpRequest::Fire_onreadystatechange+0x8b
0018fd2c 6e9343ea MSHTML!CXMLHttpRequest::DeferredFire_onreadystatechange+0x52
0018fd5c 6e8a9472 MSHTML!CXMLHttpRequest::DeferredFire_progressEvent+0x10
0018fdac 773f62fa MSHTML!GlobalWndProc+0x1cd
0018fdd8 773f6d3a USER32!InternalCallWinProc+0x23
0018fe50 773f77c4 USER32!UserCallWinProcCheckWow+0x109
0018feb0 773f788a USER32!DispatchMessageWorker+0x3bc

So now I knew that somewhere deep in my Javascript code there was something happening that was bad. Okay… I guess that helps, maybe?

But then, after some more googling, I discovered the following blog post, published a mere 9 days ago: Finally… JavaScript source line info in a dump. Magic! (In fact, I’m just writing this blog post for my future self, so I remember where to find this info in the future.)

After following the specific incantations outlined within that post, I was able to get the exact line of Javascript that was causing my weird error. All of a sudden, things made sense.

0:000> k
ChildEBP RetAddr  
00186520 76bd22b4 KERNELBASE!RaiseException+0x48
00186558 5900775d msvcrt!_CxxThrowException+0x59
00186588 590076a3 jscript9!Js::JavascriptExceptionOperators::ThrowExceptionObjectInternal+0xb7
001865b8 5901503d jscript9!Js::JavascriptExceptionOperators::Throw+0x77
00186604 6365e79b jscript9!CJavascriptOperations::ThrowException+0x9c
0018662c 63e609aa mshtml!CFastDOM::ThrowDOMError+0x70
00186660 58f1f9a3 mshtml!CFastDOM::CWebSocket::DefaultEntryPoint+0xe2
001866c8 58f29994 jscript9!Js::JavascriptExternalFunction::ExternalFunctionThunk+0x165
00186724 58f2988c jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::CallAsConstructor+0xc7
00186744 58f29a4a jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::NewScObject_Helper+0x39
00186760 58f29a7a jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::ProfiledNewScObject_Helper+0x53
00186780 58f29aa9 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::OP_NewScObject_Impl<Js::OpLayoutCallI_OneByte,1>+0x24
00186b58 58f26510 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x402b
00186d6c 14ea1ae1 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
WARNING: Frame IP not in any known module. Following frames may be wrong.
00186d78 58faa407 js!Anonymous function [http://marcdev2010:4131/app/main/main-controller.js @ 251,7]
00186e70 15511455 jscript9!Js::JavascriptFunction::EntryApply+0x267
00186ed8 58f268e6 js!d [http://marcdev2010:4131/lib/angular/angular.min.js @ 34,479]
001872c8 58f26510 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x899
001873f4 14ea0681 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00187400 58f268e6 js!instantiate [http://marcdev2010:4131/lib/angular/angular.min.js @ 35,101]
001877e8 58f26510 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x899
00187944 14ea1b41 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8
00187950 58f268e6 js!Anonymous function [http://marcdev2010:4131/lib/angular/angular.min.js @ 67,280]
00187d38 58f26510 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::Process+0x899
00187e74 14ea1c21 jscript9!Js::InterpreterStackFrame::InterpreterThunk<1>+0x1e8

When I looked at the line in question, line 251 of main-controller.js, I found:

// TODO: We need to handle the web socket connection going down -- it really should be wrappered
//  try {
      $scope.watcher = new WebSocket("ws://""/");
//  } catch(e) {
//    $scope.watcher = null;
//  }
    $scope.$on('$destroy', function() {
      if($scope.watcher) {
        $scope.watcher = null;

It turns out that if I press F5, or call browser.navigate from the container app, the $destroy event was never called, and what’s worse, MSHTML wasn’t shutting down the web socket, either.  And by default, Internet Explorer has a maximum of six concurrent WebSocket connections. So six page loads and we’re done. The connection error is not triggering a script error in the MSHTML host, sadly, which is why it was so hard to track down.

Yeah, if I had already written the error handling for the WebSocket connection in the JavaScript code, this issue wouldn’t have been so hard to trace. But at least I’ve learned a useful new debugging technique!

Speculation and further investigation:

  • I’m still working on why the web socket is staying open between page loads when embedded.  It’s not straightforward, and while onbeforeunload is a workaround that, well, works, I hate workarounds when I don’t have a clear answer as to why they are needed.
  • It is possible that there is a circular reference leak or similar, but I did kinda think MS had sorted most of those with recent releases of IE.
  • This problem is only reproducible within the MSHTML embedded browser, and not within Internet Explorer itself. Changing $scope.watcher to window.watcher made no difference.
  • TWebBrowser (Delphi) and TEmbeddedWB (Delphi) both exhibited the same symptoms.
  • A far simpler document with a web socket call did not cause the problem.

Updated a few minutes later:

Yes, I have found the cause. It’s a classic Internet Explorer leak: a function within a closure that references the DOM. Simplified, it looks something like:

  window.addEventListener( "load", function(event) {
    var aa = document.getElementById('aa');
    var watcher = new WebSocket("ws://""/");
    watcher.onmessage = function() {
      aa.innerHTML = 'message received';
    aa.innerHTML = 'WebSocket started';
  }, false);

This will persist the connection between  page loads, and quickly eat up your available WebSocket connections.  But it still only happens in the embedded web browser. Why that is, I am still exploring.

Updated 30 Nov 2015:

The reason this happens only in the embedded web browser is that by default, the embedded web browser runs in an emulation mode for IE7. Even with the X-UA-Compatible meta tag, you still need to add your executable to the FEATURE_BROWSER_EMULATION registry key.

Risks with third party scripts on Internet Banking sites

This morning, Firefox stalled while loading the login page for the ANZ Internet Banking website. Looking at the status bar, I could see that Firefox was attempting to connect to a website, This raised immediate alarm bells, because I didn’t recognise the website address, and it certainly wasn’t an official sub-domain.

ANZ login delay - note the status message at the bottom of the window
ANZ login delay – note the status message at the bottom of the window

The connection eventually started, and the page finished loading — just one of those little glitches loading web pages that everyone encounters all the time, right? But before I entered my ID and password, I decided I wasn’t comfortable to continue without knowing what that website was, and what resources it was providing to the ANZ site.

And here’s where things got a little scary.

It turns out that is a user tracking web site run by marketing firm Omniture, now a part of Adobe.  The ANZ Internet Banking login page is requesting a Javascript script from the server, which currently returns the following tiny piece of code:

if (typeof(mboxFactories) !== 'undefined') {mboxFactories.get('default').get('SiteCatalyst: event', 0).setOffer(new mboxOfferDefault()).loaded();}

The Scare Factor

This script is run within the context of the Internet Banking login page. What can scripts that run within that context do? At worst, a script can be used to watch your login and password and send them (pretty silently) to a malicious host. This interaction may even be undetectable by the bank, and it would be up to you and your computer to be aware of this and block it — a big ask!

At worst, a script can be used to watch your login and password and send them to a malicious host.

The Relief

Now, this particular script is fortunately not malicious! In fact, as the mboxFactories variable actually is undefined on this page, this script does nothing at all. In other words, it’s useless and doesn’t even need to be there!  (It’s defintely possible that the request for the script is being used on the server side to log client statistics, given the comprehensive parameters that are passed in the HTTPS request for the script.)

What are the risks?

So what’s the big deal with running third party script on a website?

The core issue is that scripts from third party sites can be changed at any time, without the knowledge of the ANZ Internet Banking team. In fact, different scripts can be served for different clients — a smart hacker would serve the original script for IP addresses owned by ANZ Bank, and serve a malicious script only to specific targeted clients. There would be no reliable way for the ANZ Internet Banking security team to detect this.

Scripts from third party sites can be changed at any time, without the knowledge of the Internet Banking team.

Another way of looking at this: it’s standard practice in software development to include code developed by other organisations in applications or websites. This is normal, sensible, and in fact unavoidable. The key here is that any code must be vetted and validated by a security team before deployment. If the bank hosts this code on their own servers, this is a straightforward part of the deployment process. When the bank instead references a third party site, this crucial security step is impossible.

Banking websites are among the most targeted sites online, for obvious reasons. I would expect their security policies to be conservative and robust. My research today surprised me.


How could third party scripts go wrong?

First, is not controlled by ANZ Bank.  It’s controlled by a marketing organisation in another country.  We don’t know how much emphasis they place on security. We are required to trust a third party from another country in order to login to our Internet Banking.

This means we need to trust that none of their employees are malicious, that they have strong procedures in place for managing updates to the site, the servers and infastructure, and that their organisation’s aims are coincident with the tight security requirements of Internet Banking. They need to have the same commitment to security that you would expect your bank to have. That’s a big ask for a marketing firm.


The ANZ Internet Banking website is of course encrypted, served via HTTPS, the industry standard method of serving encrypted web pages.

We can tell, just by looking at the address bar, that uses an Extended Validation certificate.

With a little simple detective work, we can also see that serves those pages using the TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA encryption suite, using 256-bit keys.  This is a good strong level of encryption, today.

However, does not measure up. In fact, this site uses 128-bit RC4+SHA encryption and integrity and does not have an Extended Validation certificate. RC4 is not a good choice today, and neither is SHA. This suggests immediately that security is not their top concern, which should then be an immediate concern to us!

ANZ vs Omtrdc Security
ANZ vs Omtrdc Security

I should qualify this a little: Extended Validation certificates are not available for wildcard domains, which is the type of certificate that is using. This is for a good reason: “in order to ensure that EV SSL Certificates are not issued fraudulently or misused after issuance.” It’s worth thinking through that reason and seeing how it applies to this context.

Malicious Actors

So how could a nasty person steal your money?

In theory, if a nasty person managed to hack into the Adobe server, they could simply supply a script to the Internet Banking login page that captures your login details and sends them to a server, somewhere, anywhere, on the Internet. This means that we have to trust (there’s that word again) that the marketing firm will be proactive in updating and patching not only their Internet-facing servers, but their infrastructure behind those servers as well.

If a bad actor has compromised a certificate authority, as has happened several times recently, they can target these third party servers . Together with a DNS cache poisoning or Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack, even security-savvy users will be unlikely to notice fraudulent certificates on the script servers.

heartbleedSecurity flaws like Heartbleed are exacerbated by this setup. Not only do the bank security team have to patch their own servers, they also have to push the third party vendors to patch theirs as a priority.

Protect Yourself

As a user, run security software. That’s an important first step. Security software is regularly refreshed with blacklists of known malicious sites, and this will hopefully minimize any window of opportunity that an untargeted attack may have. I’m not going to recommend any particular brand, because I pretty much hate them all.

If you want to unleash your inner geek and be aware of how sites are using third party script servers, you can use Developer Tools included in your browser — press F12 in Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox, and look for the Network tab to see a list of all resources referenced by the site. You may need to press Ctrl+F5 to trigger a ‘hard’ refresh before the list is fully populated.

I’ve shown below the list of resources, filtered for Javascript, for the National Australia Bank Internet Banking site.  You can see two scripts are loaded from one site — again, a market research firm.


Simplistic Advice for Banks

Specifically to mitigate this risk, banks should consider the following:

  • Serve all scripts from your own domain and vet any third party scripts that you serve before deployment.
  • In particular, check third party scripts for back end communication, via AJAX or other channels.
  • Minimize the number of third party scripts anywhere that secure content must be presented.
  • Use the Content-Security-Policy HTTP header to prevent third party scripts on supported browsers (most browsers today support this).

There are of course other mitigations, such as Two Factor Authentication (2FA), which do reduce risk. However, even 2FA should not be considered a silver bullet: it is certainly possible to modify the login page to take over your current login in real time — all the user would see is a message that they’d mistyped their password, and as they login again, the malicious hacker is actively draining money from their account.

A final thought on 2FA: do you really want a hacker to have your banking password, even if they don’t have access to your phone? Why do we have these passwords in the first place?

Browser Developers

I believe that browser vendors could mitigate the situation somewhat by warning users if secure sites reference third party sites for resources, in particular where these secure sites have lower quality protection than the first party site. This protection is already in place where content is requested over HTTP from a HTTPS site, known as mixed content warnings.

There is no value in an Extended Validation certificate if any of the resources requested by the site are served from a site with lower quality encryption! Similarly, if a bank believes that 256-bit AES encryption is needed for their banking website, a browser could easily warn the user that resources are being served with lower quality 128-bit RC4 encryption.

Australian Banks

After this little investigation, I took a quick look at the big four Australian banking sites — ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, and Westpac.  Here’s what I found; this is a very high-level overview and contains only information provided by any web browser!

Bank Bank site security # 3rd party scripts Third party sites Third party security
ANZ Bank 256-bit AES (EV certificate) 1 128-bit RC4
NAB 256-bit AES (EV certificate) 2 256-bit AES
Westpac 128-bit AES (EV certificate) None!
Commonwealth Bank 128-bit AES (EV certificate) 9! 128-bit AES 128-bit RC4 128-bit AES 128-bit AES 128-bit AES

Do you see how the * subdomains are used by two different banking sites? In fact, this domain is used by a large number of banking websites. That would make it an attractive target, wouldn’t you think?

I reached out to all 4 banks via Twitter (yeah, I know, I know, “reached out”, “Twitter”, I apologise already), and NAB was the first, and so far only, bank to respond:

Kudos are due to NAB and Westpac — NAB for responding so promptly, and Westpac, for not having the issue in the first place!

Updates (6:10am, 9 Sep 2014), with thanks, in no particular order:

Many thanks to Troy Hunt for suggesting I write this, then tweeting it — and for his continual and tireless work in websec!

Stefano Di Paola mentioned a previous Omniture vulnerability and referenced 3rd party script risks in his blog:

hillbrad⚡ mentioned a W3C project to make validation of sub-resource integrity possible:

Erlend Oftedal reminded me that this is not a new issue and mentioned his blog post from 2009:

Fifty-nine vulnerabilities, or do you feel safe using Windows XP?

In today’s Microsoft Security Bulletin release was a very long list of vulnerabilities fixed in Internet Explorer. A very long list. 59 separate vulnerabilities to be exact. I do believe that is a record.

But I’m not here to talk about the record — I am more interested in the steps Windows XP users will take to mitigate the flaws, because Microsoft are not patching any of these vulnerabilities for Windows XP! Some people I’ve talked to, from individuals up to enterprises, seem to have the idea that they’ll practice “Safe Computing” and be able to continue using Windows XP and avoid paying for an upgrade.

What do I mean by Safe Computing? Y’know, don’t open strange attachments, use an alternate web browser, view emails with images switched off, keep antivirus and malware protection software up to date, remove unused applications, disable unwanted features, firewalls, mail and web proxies, so on and so forth.

So let’s look at what the repercussions are of practicing Safe Computing in light of these disclosures.

The first mitigation you are going to take is, obviously, to stop using Internet Explorer. With this many holes, you are clearly not going to be able to use Internet Explorer at all. This means a loss of functionality, though: those Internet Explorer-optimised sites (I’m looking at you, just about every corporate intranet) often don’t even work with non-IE browsers. So if you have to use IE to view these ‘trusted’ sites, you must ensure you never click on an external link, or you will be exposed again. Doable, but certainly a hassle.

Okay, so you don’t use IE now. You use Firefox, or Chrome. But you’re still in trouble, because it turns out that the very next security bulletin announces that GDI+ and Uniscribe are both vulnerable as well, today. GDI+ is used to display images and render graphics in Windows, and Uniscribe is used by just about every application to draw text onto the screen, including all the major web browsers. The Uniscribe flaw relates to how it processes fonts. The GDI+ flaw relates to a specific metafile image format.

So, disable support for downloadable fonts in your browser, and disable those specific metafile image types in the Windows Registry. Yes, it can be done. Now you’ll be all good, right? You don’t need those fonts, or those rare image types, do you? You can still surf the web okay?

But you’ve lost functionality, which we might not value all that highly, but it’s still a trade-off you’ve had to make.

From today, every security flaw that is announced will force you to trade more functionality for security.

And this is my point. From today, and on into the future, every security flaw that is announced will force you to trade yet more functionality for security. Eventually, you will only be able to use Windows XP offline — it simply will not be possible to safely access Internet resources without your computer and your data being compromised. It’s going to get worse from here, folks. It is well and truly past time to upgrade.

Only 21? Do you feel safe yet?

Making global MIME Type mapping changes in IIS7 can break sites with custom MIME Type mappings

One of the most irritating server configuration issues I’ve run across recently emerged when adding global MIME type mappings to Microsoft Internet Information Services 7 — part of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Basically, if you have a MIME type mapping in a domain or path, and later add a mapping for the same file extension at a higher level in the configuration hierarchy, any subsequent requests to that domain or path will start returning HTTP 500 server errors.

You will not see any indication of conflicts, when you change the higher level MIME type mappings, and you typically only discover the error when a user complains that a specific page or site is down.

When you check your logs, you’ll see an error similar to the following:

\\?\C:\Websites\xxx\www\web.config ( 58) :Cannot add duplicate collection 
    entry of type 'mimeMap' with unique key attribute 
    'fileExtension' set to '.woff'

Furthermore, if you try and view the MIME types in the path or domain that is faulting within IIS Manager, you will receive the same error and will not be able to either view or address the problem (e.g. by removing the MIME type at that level, which would be the logical way to address the problem).  The only way to address the problem in the UI view is to remove the global MIME mapping that is conflicting — or manually edit the web.config file at the lower level.

Not very nice — especially on shared hosts where you may not control the global settings!

See also

Delphi’s TJSONString.ToString is broken, and how to fix it

As per several QC reports, Data.DBXJSON.TJSONString.ToString is still very broken. Which means, for all intents and purposes, TJSONAnything.ToString is also broken. Fortunately, you can just use TJSONAnything.ToBytes for a happy JSON outcome.

The following function will take any Delphi JSON object and convert it to a string:

function JSONToString(obj: TJSONAncestor): string;
  bytes: TBytes;
  len: Integer;
  SetLength(bytes, obj.EstimatedByteSize);
  len := obj.ToBytes(bytes, 0);
  Result := TEncoding.ANSI.GetString(bytes, 0, len);

Because TJSONString.ToBytes escapes all characters outside U+0020-U+007F, we can assume that the end result is 7-bit clean, so we can use TEncoding.ANSI.  You could instead stream the TBytes to a file or do other groovy things with it.

Debugging a stalled Delphi process with Windbg and memory searches

Today I’ve got a process on my machine that is supposed to be exiting, but it has hung. Let’s load it up in Windbg and find what’s up. The program in question was built in Delphi XE2, and symbols were generated by our internal tds2dbg tool (but there are other tools online which create similar .dbg files). As usual, I am writing this up for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s, but if I put it on my blog, it forces me to put in enough detail that even I can understand it when I come back to it!

Looking at the main thread, we can see unit finalizations are currently being called, but the specific unit finalization section and functions which are being called are not immediately visible in the call stack, between InterlockedCompareExchange and FinalizeUnits:

0:000> kb
ChildEBP RetAddr  Args to Child              
0018ff3c 0040908c 0018ff78 0040909a 0018ff5c audit4_patient!System.Sysutils.InterlockedCompareExchange+0x5 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\ @ 23]
0018ff5c 004094b2 0018ff88 00000000 00000000 audit4_patient!System.FinalizeUnits+0x40 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\System.pas @ 17473]
0018ff88 74b7336a 7efde000 0018ffd4 76f99f72 audit4_patient!System..Halt0+0xa2 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\System.pas @ 18599]
0018ff94 76f99f72 7efde000 35648d3c 00000000 kernel32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0xe
0018ffd4 76f99f45 01a5216c 7efde000 00000000 ntdll!__RtlUserThreadStart+0x70
0018ffec 00000000 01a5216c 7efde000 00000000 ntdll!_RtlUserThreadStart+0x1b

So, the simplest way to find out where we were was to step out of the InterlockedCompareExchange call. I found myself in System.SysUtils.DoneMonitorSupport (specifically, the CleanEventList subprocedure):

0:000> p
eax=01a8ee70 ebx=01a8ee70 ecx=01a8ee70 edx=00000001 esi=00000020 edi=01a26e80
eip=0042dcb1 esp=0018ff20 ebp=0018ff3c iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=0023  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00200202
0042dcb1 33c9            xor     ecx,ecx

After a little more spelunking, and a review of the Delphi source around this function, I found that this was a part of the System.TMonitor support. Specifically, there was a locked TMonitor somewhere that had not been destroyed. I stepped through a loop that was spinning, waiting for the object to be unlocked so its handle could be destroyed, and found a reference to the data in question here:

0:000> p
eax=00000001 ebx=01a8ee70 ecx=01a8ee70 edx=00000001 esi=00000020 edi=01a26e80
eip=0042dcaf esp=0018ff20 ebp=0018ff3c iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=0023  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00200202
0042dcaf 8bc3            mov     eax,ebx

Looking at the record pointed to by ebx, we had a reference to an event handle handy:

0:000> dd ebx L2
01a8ee70  00000001 00000928

  TSyncEventItem = record
    Lock: Integer;
    Event: Pointer;

Although Event is a Pointer, internally it’s just cast from an event handle. So I guess that we can probably find another reference to that handle somewhere in memory, corresponding to a TMonitor record:

  TMonitor = record
  strict private
    // ... snip ...
      FLockCount: Integer;
      FRecursionCount: Integer;
      FOwningThread: TThreadID;
      FLockEvent: Pointer;
      FSpinCount: Integer;
      FWaitQueue: PWaitingThread;
      FQueueLock: TSpinLock;

And if we search for that event handle:

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F000000 00000928
01a8ee74  00000928 00000000 0000092c 00000000  (.......,.......
07649334  00000928 002c0127 0012ccb6 0000002e  (...'.,.........
0764aa14  00000928 01200125 004b8472 000037ce  (...%. .r.K..7..
07651e24  00000928 05f60125 01101abc 00000e86  (...%...........
08a47544  00000928 00000000 00000000 00000000  (...............

Now one of these should correspond to a TMonitor record. The first entry (01a8ee74) is just part of our TSyncEventItem record, and the next three don’t make sense given that the FSpinCount (the next value in the memory dump) would be invalid. So let’s look at the last one. Counting quickly on all my fingers and toes, I establish that that makes 08a47538 the start of the TMonitor record. And… so we search for a pointer to that.

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 08a47538
076b1d24  08a47538 08aa3e40 076b1db1 0122fe50  [email protected]>....k.P.".

Just one! But here it gets a little tricky, because the PMonitor pointer is in a ‘hidden’ field at the end of the object. So we need to locate the start of the object.

0:000> dd 076b1d00
076b1d00  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b1df1
076b1d10  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b0ce0
076b1d20  004015c8 08a47538 08aa3e40 076b1db1
076b1d30  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b1d51
... snip ...

I’m just stabbing in the dark here, but that 004015c8 that’s just four bytes back smells suspiciously like an object class pointer. Let’s see:

0:000> da poi(4015c8-38)+1
004016d7  "TObject&"

Ta da! That all fits. A TObject has no data members, so the next 4 bytes should be the TMonitor (search for hfMonitorOffset in the Delphi source to learn more). So we have a TObject being used as a TMonitor lock reference. (Learn about that poi(address-38)+1 magic). But what other naughty object is hanging about, using this TObject as its lock?

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 076b1d20
098194b0  076b1d20 00000000 00000000 09819449   .k.........I...

Just one. Let’s trawl back in memory just a little bit and have a look at this one.

0:000> dd 09819480  
09819480  00f0f0f0 00ffffff 00000000 09819641
09819490  00447b7c 00000000 00000000 00000000
098194a0  00000000 098150c0 00448338 098195c8
098194b0  076b1d20 00000000 00000000 09819449
... snip ...

0:000> da poi(00448338-38)+1
004483c0  "TThreadList&"

And what does a TThreadList look like?

  TThreadList = class
    FList: TList;
    FLock: TObject;
    FDuplicates: TDuplicates;

Yes, that definitely looks hopeful! That FLock is pointing to our lock TObject… I believe that’s called a Quality Match.

This is still a little bit too generic for me, though. TThreadList is a standard Delphi class used by the bucketload. Let’s try and identify who is using this list and leaving it lying about. First, we’ll quickly have a look at that TThreadList.FList to see if it has anything of interest — that’s the first data member in the object == object+4.

0:000> dd poi(098194ac)
098195c8  00447b7c 00000000 00000000 00000000
... snip ...
0:000> da poi(447b7c-38)+1
00447cad  "TList'"

Yep, it’s a TList. Just making sure. It’s empty, what a shame (TList.FCount is the second data member in the object == 00000000, as is the list pointer itself).

So how else can we find the usage of that TThreadList? Is it TThreadList referenced anywhere then? Break out the search tool again!

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 098194a8
076d3410  098194a8 00000000 09819580 00000000  ................

Yes. Just once, again. Again, we scroll back in memory to find the base of that object.

0:000> dd 076d33c0  
076d33c0  08abfe60 00000000 00000000 076d4c39
076d33d0  01616964 0000091c 00001850 00000100
076d33e0  00000001 00000000 00000000 00000000
076d33f0  076d33d0 00000000 01616d38 076d33d0
076d3400  00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
076d3410  098194a8 00000000 09819580 00000000
076d3420  00000000 076d2ea9 0075e518 00000000
076d3430  00401ecc 00000000 00000000 00000000

There was a false positive at 076d33f8, but then magic happened at 076d33d0:

0:000> da poi(01616964-38)+1
016169e8  "TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread&"

Wow! Something real! Let’s dissect this a bit. Looking at the definition of TThread, we have the following data:

076d33d0  01616964  class pointer TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread
076d33d4  0000091c  TThread.FHandle
076d33d8  00001850  TThread.FThreadID
076d33dc  00000100  TThread.FCreateSuspended, .FTerminated, .FSuspended, .FFreeOnTerminate (watch that endianness!)
076d33e0  00000001  TThread.FFinished
076d33e4  00000000  TThread.FReturnValue
076d33e8  00000000  TThread.FOnTerminate.Code
076d33ec  00000000  TThread.FOnTerminate.Data
076d33f0  076d33d0  TThread.FSynchronize.TThread (= Self)
076d33f4  00000000  padding
076d33f8  01616d38  TThread.FSynchronize.FMethod.Code (= last Synchronize target method)
076d33fc  076d33d0  TThread.FSynchronize.FMethod.Data (= Self)
076d3400  00000000  TThread.FSynchronize.FProcedure
076d3404  00000000  TThread.FSynchronize.FProcedure
076d3408  00000000  TThread.FFatalException
076d340c  00000000  TThread.FExternalThread

Then, into TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread:

076d3410  098194a8  TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread.FTiles: TThreadList

So… we can tell that the thread has exited (FFinished == 1), and verify that by looking at running threads, looking for thread id 1850:

0:000> ~
.  0  Id: 1c98.1408 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efdd000 Unfrozen
   1  Id: 1c98.16c8 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efda000 Unfrozen
   2  Id: 1c98.11a0 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee1c000 Unfrozen
   3  Id: 1c98.1bbc Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee19000 Unfrozen
   4  Id: 1c98.10dc Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee04000 Unfrozen
   5  Id: 1c98.12f0 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7edfb000 Unfrozen
   6  Id: 1c98.1d38 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efaf000 Unfrozen
   7  Id: 1c98.1770 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7edec000 Unfrozen
   8  Id: 1c98.1044 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ede3000 Unfrozen
   9  Id: 1c98.bf4 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ede0000 Unfrozen
  10  Id: 1c98.b3c Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efd7000 Unfrozen

Furthermore, the handle is invalid:

0:000> !handle 91c
Could not duplicate handle 91c, error 6

That suggests that the object has already been destroyed. But that the TThreadList hasn’t.

And sure enough, when I looked at the destructor for TAnatomyDiagramTileLoadThread, we clear the TThreadList, but we never free it!

Now, another way we could have caught this was to turn on leak detection. But leak detection is not always perfect, especially when you get some libraries that *cough* have a lot of false positives. And of course while we could have switched on heap leak detection, that involves rebuilding and restarting the process and losing the context along the way, with no guarantee we’ll be able to reproduce it again!

While this approach does feel a little tedious, and we did have some luck in this instance with freed objects not being overwritten, and the values we were searching for being relatively unique, it does nevertheless feel pretty deterministic, which must be better than the old “try-it-and-hope” debugging technique.

I am happy to announce that the missing characters have been found!

Last year I published a blog post about characters missing from print jobs with Internet Explorer 9 and my adventures in tracing and reporting the issue to Microsoft.

We saw situations where a letter would be printed with random letters missing, as per the following example:

Here’s how it should have been printed (oh yes, that’s a completely fictional name we used for testing non-English Latin script letters in printing):

Today, I was notified that Microsoft have finally publicly published a hotfix!  We received the hotfix from them a few weeks ago, before it was publicly available, and it certainly solved the problem on our test machines and end user computers.

Download the hotfix from: (Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 SP1) (Windows 8, Windows Server 2012)

(The first link notes that the hotfix is included in the rollup in the second link, though the second link doesn’t mention the hotfix!)

Sadly, they’ve only published a solution for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 onwards, and not for Vista, which could be an issue for some users. 

It was interesting to see that the issue was indeed a race condition (two threads ending up with the same random seed, because, and I quote:

This issue occurs because a conflict causes the text that uses the font to become corrupted when the two threads try to install the font at the same time. The name of the font is generated by the RAND function together with a SEEDvalue whose time value is set to srand(time(NULL)). When the two documents are printed at the same time, the SEEDvalue for the font is the same in both documents. Therefore, the conflict occurs.

So not related to the threading model, which was a little bit of misdirection on my part 😉  That’s par for the course though when debugging complex issues without source…

Fantastic to finally have the fix 🙂

RIGHTeously tripping over T-SQL’s LEN function

We tripped over recently on our understanding of Microsoft SQL Server’s T-SQL LEN function.  The following conversation encapsulates in a nutshell what any sensible developer would assume about the function.

@marcdurdin I guess the answer is, removing the line would give the same result. Right? 🙂

— S Krupa Shankar (@tamil) April 23, 2013

Now, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if that was the whole story.  Because, like so many of these things, it’s not quite that simple.

Originally, we were using RIGHT(string, LEN(string) – 2) to trim two characters off the front of our string.  Or something like that.  Perfectly legitimate and reasonable, one would think.  But we were getting strange results, trimming more characters than we expected.

It turns out that T-SQL’s LEN function does not return the length of the string.  It returns the length of the string, excluding trailing blanks.  That is, excluding U+0020, 0x20, 32, ‘ ‘, or whatever you want to call it.  But not tabs, new lines, zero width spaces, breaking or otherwise, or any other Unicode space category characters.  Just that one character.  This no doubt comes from the history of the CHAR(n) type, where fields were always padded out to n characters with spaces.  But today, this is not a helpful feature.

Of course, RIGHT(string) does not ignore trailing blanks

But here’s where it gets really fun.  Because a post about strings is never complete until you’ve done it in Unicode.  Some pundits suggest using DATALENGTH to get the actual length of the string.  This returns the length in bytes, not characters (remember that NCHAR is UTF-16, so 2 bytes per character… sorta!).  Starting with SQL Server 2012, UTF-16 supplementary pairs can be treated as a single character, with the _SC collations, so you can’t even use DATALENGTH*2 to get the real length of the string!

OK.  So how do you get the length of a string, blanks included, now that we’ve established that we can’t use DATALENGTH?  Here’s one simple way:

  SET @realLength = LEN(@str + ‘.’) – 1

Just to really do your head in, let’s see what happens when you use LEN with a bunch of garden variety SQL strings.  I should warn you that this is a display artefact involving the decidedly unrecommended use of NUL characters, and no more, but the weird side effects are too fun to ignore.

First, here’s a set of SQL queries for our default collation (Latin1_General_CI_AS):

Note the output.  Not exactly intuitive!  Now we run the Unicode version:

Not quite as many gotchas in that one?  Or are there?  Notice how the first line shows a wide space for the three NUL characters — but not quite as wide as the Ideographic space…

Now here’s where things go really weird.  Running in Microsoft’s SQL Server Management Studio, I switch back to the first window, and, I must emphasise, without running any queries, or making any changes to settings, take a look at how the Messages tab appears now!

That’s right, the first line in the messages has magically changed!  The only thing I can surmise is that switching one window into Unicode output has affected the whole program’s treatment of NUL characters.  Let that be a warning to you (and I haven’t even mentioned consuming said NULs in C programs).