Dotfuscator on WP7 hurdle: re-signing assemblies

November 16, 2011 · 2 min read

I've started toying with the proper Dotfuscator project settings to give me a workable, yet relatively-secure-as-possible package for deploying to private beta testers and the Marketplace. A great starting point for this journey could be found here:

Before we start, my project includes a number of 3rd party controls like AppBarUtils, MVVMLight, Funq, and my favorite IrcDotNet (which is the source of this post). The instructions say to use your XAP file as input so we'll follow that. On the far right-hand side of the Input Files toolbar is Transform XAML/BAML resources in all assemblies. Click this to turn it off primarily to be thorough. I believe this affects MVVM because it tries to rename Xaml internals that are data bound. Follow the instructions on the Settings->Global Options screen to set Disable Control Flow and Disable Renaming to No to enable them.

Now click the Build Project toolbar button to build your project. If your XAP includes a signed assembly, you'll be greeted with the following message:

Warning: The strong named input assemblies (or assembly) <TempDirectory>IrcDotNet.dll were not resigned. You will need to sign these dotfuscated assemblies manually.

My first instinct was to go to the Settings->Signing screen, and enable Re-sign Strong Named Assemblies and point it to IrcDotNet.snk. If you do that you're met with a different message:

Signing Assemblies...

Running sn.exe /q /R <ConfigDirectory>IrcDotNet.dll <Location of>IrcDotNet.snk

Warning: Password protected Strong Name files are not supported sn returned 1. Build Error.

This is the end of the line as far as automation goes. The only recourse is to sign the assembly manually as the original warning states. If you do not resign this file before deployment, your app will not startup properly. Once code hits that signed assembly it simply will not function.

My first approach was to go to the Rename and Control Flow tabs and exclude every assembly other than my own. This produces the same result. Assemblies are reassembled regardless of whether or not any options are applied.

My preferred approach is to go to the Input tab, right click on each 3rd party assembly and click Exclude assembly from package. This has a lovely UI effect of removing everything from the screen and pausing while Dotfuscator works its magic. The added bonus? This happens every assembly. The bare minimum would be to only remove those signed assemblies but I took it all the way and removed all 3rd party dlls. These are all open source frameworks so obfuscating them isn't necessary.

Now click Build Project again and the app starts! Inspecting the result in IL Spy gives me a runtime error on decompile, meaning control flow is on and teh IP iz protectordez. My app also uses localization and Smart Obfuscation automatically disables renaming for my localization resources so no extra legwork is needed to exclude them.

In summary if you don't need to obfuscate 3rd party assemblies, simply exclude them from the Input tab rather than trying to exclude them in the individual obfuscation tabs. Ilasm is still ran on the assemblies which triggers the need to re-sign them.

Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare -> Severe badassery

May 28, 2011 · 5 min read

I promised a post on kind of breaking down how I understand the album but I thought a combination of it could make me pretentiously douchie and who really cares? Well I do.

I figured I'd try to post this as I listen to the album, giving notes on each track. One thing kind of goes without saying that this is The Rev's last studio work before his death and much of that echoes through each track to me. It's going to be very weird hearing an A7V track without him physically on the drums. Not that I hated any of the other albums mind you, but this is perhaps his best work too which makes it even more tragic to me. I literally can't listen to it without going "Aww damnit!" every time I remember.

I won't try to dissect what I think each track means I don't think. That seems a little pretentious because people often have their own interpretation anyway. Now that I've bored you and the title track Nightmare is over I can go over it:

1 Nightmare - The opening track starts out really mellow which A7V can do quite well but when hell hits around the 0:30 second mark it instantly becomes a typical track. Dueling squeals of guitars and drums of steel quickly start the crescendo to the first verse. The solo sections aren't too over done and when the drums come back, I can't help but start head banging. This is a strong opening for me, really.

2 Welcome to the Family - I have to admit now that I've stopped playing the entire album full stop, I tend to skip this one. This is a track I'd love to play on Rock Band just for the random complexity in spots. As I listen to it I can't really put why I don't like it to words but I think I just pine for the other tracks.

3 Danger Line - I confess I did skip the last track. Danger Line starts with a sweet snare bit that just keeps me interested immediately. I said I wouldn't describe the meaning of tracks but this one seems pretty straightforward and I'll admit it's part of what hooks me. It doesn't hurt that during the verse there's a badass low riff leading to more dueling fills. What really gets me, and sets off that response someone had a name for is right around 3:15 when the piano starts (Hi, Rev! :(). Once the last words are spoken and the guitars come back, I not only identify with the person the track describes but The Rev as well. It's partly eerie how well it works and how deep it can go without personally knowing these people.

4 Buried Alive - Starting off with a lovely ditty to immediately follow the last track, I get sucked in like a black hole. I might not some of these tracks on their own but the order was pure mastery except for one caveat *. There's not much I can say other than it's just all good and especially around the 5:00 mark when the beat changes. Much head banging ensues.

5 Natural Born Killer - Starts off strong with a nice fast tempo. I tend to not like this track like #2 for unknown reasons. I suppose the correct phrasing would be "like less" because I could listen to all of the tracks quite easily but others have a lot of gravity if the metaphor holds.

6 So Far Away - I suppose the only thing I can really say is the words are eerie in the context of everything but right about 3:40 when the slowness starts it ramps up in awesome for me. Belting out "Soooo far awaaaaay" really makes the words hit even harder.

7 God Hates Us - As a Christian I can't say I enjoy the lyrics at all, which tends to lead me to skip it. Yeah I know, such a Bible thumping behavior but I suppose part if it reminds me of the times I did "hate God" which only reminds me of how drastically my view to cause such hatred was altered. I don't believe God hates anything but that's neither here nor there.

8 Victim - It's hard to describe any special parts of the track though I listen to it consistently with everything else. It's a solid yet basic A7V track to me.

9 Tonight The World Dies - I actually have to skip this track consistently. When he sings a long "Iiiiiiiiiiii" somehow that note just pierces my brain and I want it out of my head immediately. I'm listening to it to the point where that starts, which is right around 1:40. Ugh skip time.

10 Fiction - By far far far far my favorite track. I suppose it's The Rev's badass piano work in addition to the drum beat. The entire thing is just ear sex to me. Ending on the organ as they do just seals the entire package for me. I can't really explain it other than "mmmmmmm mmmmmmmm!"

11 Save Me - Welcome to my second favorite track and only because of the awesome intro. This is the way to end a metal album to me and again goes back to placement. I'd really love to play this on Rock Band. Being a 10 minute song though would be Freebird quality almost but I suppose I can't get over how awesome the song is in spite of this. To that end it almost gets too excessive but it never steps over that boundary. "Tonight we all die young" does explain things quite well and since that's my last lyric paste I can promise I won't make any more.

*- The caveat is the last two tracks are so badass I'd rather listen to them earlier but it does end with a huge bang.

So there you have it. I personally think it's a badass album and I'd almost listen to tracks 10 and 11 first but any new album always gets a straight 1-n pass as many times as I can stand it so I can determine which tracks I skip. This album has almost 0 especially if I just wanted to be lazy. This is Avenged Sevenfold to me and every album has grown to be better than the last for me. It's quite sad that I'll miss The Rev though, especially having never seeing them live yet.

WP7 IRC Client -> dIRca

February 20, 2011 · 2 min read

I chose a cheesy name to spoof on one of my favorite films lately, Team America: World Police. The project likely wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the pioneering efforts of Jeremiah Morrill on the XDA forums. I used the Homebrew project, built by daveux here. The primary reason I chose it was a more 1:1 with the System.Net namespace to use one project for both Windows and Windows Phone (or Silverlight or whatever until the Portable Library Projects bake into VS 2010 SP1).

I'm in the process of determining if I want to use CodePlex or BitBucket and I'm really torn. Bitbucket has awesome small features like merging usernames and a slightly better issue tracker (2 extra fields whee) with external services support as well like being able to track things via Google Analytics. I may just release to both initially just to see which gets picked up or used more often but that may bite me in the ass.

As of today the app works connecting to the very first server created in the settings factory. The very first thing I want to get done after this is use real settings stored in isolated storage and build the UI to change it. I'd like to do that before taking off the reigns and publishing for real but I'll see how that goes.

I could try to explain the UI but screenshots would serve a better purpose of landscape and portait mode respectively:

dIRca - Portrait dIRca - Landscape

I'm using the excellent Chillen font, one I've dubbed the new Comic Sans so we'll see how long that sticks. At least initially I hope to have multiple servers as pages with their own pivot controls for channel and query messages. DCC and CTCP commands aren't supported at all and I don't really parse channel events yet except topic changes but things are slowly coming together now that the networking infrastructure is somewhat stable.

I am looking for testers but there's some pretty big caveats. You need developer sideloading access to your phone, either through ChevronWP7 or normal marketplace unlock. I do not have any clue what will happen to this codebase after NoDo hits but I believe native support should still be possible. That puts me in a rush to try to finish something to at least incubate as people use it and luckily I could work on a WPF/SL port reusing almost all of the code.

I primarily posted this just to have a place to link to those screenshots for posterity since I couldn't seem to figure out how to store local images in codeplex or bitbucket. My n00bness is showing...

ListBox, ScrollIntoView and ObservableCollection vs. ICollectionView

February 14, 2011 · 1 min read

I almost struggled with a somewhat SEO-friendly title for this but considering I've had at least one request for an explanation, I thought I'd try to post my thoughts in a blog format. The twitter shotgun of a couple of 140 character posts wasn't enough to really convey what was happening.

To set the scene a little bit, I'm making a IRC client for WP7 and one of the core requirements (to me) is "automatically scroll to bottom on output". To achieve this, the ScrollIntoView() method for certain controls like ListBox, ListView, or DataGrid is absolutely crucial. I use MVVMLight and subscribe to an approach of triggering the code-behind from the ViewModel usually through a property update. In this case I chose binding the ListBox's SelectedItem and wired up the SelectionChanged event with code that basically said "when your selection changes, scroll to that since I'm pretty sure that bit of information is what my users (and I) want to see."

The events only fire when something is on screen, which is a tell-tale sign of virtualization to me, and I needed some way around it safely while still utilizing virtualization if possible. The rescue comes in the form of binding the ItemsSource to ICollectionView instead of ObservableCollection as it gives us the MoveCurrentTo() methods as well as filter, sort, and grouping capabilities. When you call MoveCurrentTo, virtualization is turned off so that SelectionChanged can then fire and finish the job.

I will say that ICollectionView is a bit more overhead than most people need which is probably why it isn't pushed as much in samples but I pretty much never bind directly to ObservableCollection anymore.

Migrating from Windows Mobile 6.1 to Windows Phone 7

January 26, 2011 · 2 min read

I figured I'd try to pick an SEO-rific title to hopefully convey the steps I went through to migrate data from a WM6.1 to WP7.

My Prerequisites: (yours may vary) Outlook and Outlook Connector, OneNote 2007 optional. Thunderbird also works great or so I've been told.

This post assumes everyone has already setup the activesync between their computer and the wm6.x device and the data they want is synchronizing to Outlook. Alternatively I also had the Windows Live app on the phone which allowed for direct synchronization to Hotmail but at the time I didn't want to clutter it up with all my IM email addresses. Skipping Outlook or Thunderbird would be the easiest approach obviously but I found Outlook to be a nice data silo and I could've chose to sync my limited phone number data to the lesser used cloud service.

You have two methods of import, People settings and Email. For the most part the consensus seemed to be to use Settings -> Email & Accounts and People as a last resort. It seemed that some people were having sync issues with Gmail that would only be cleared this way.

You are only going to be able to import Emails, Contact, and Calendar data in comparison to Notes, Tasks, and Docs but you don't really need them.

I basically wrote a bunch of bs to say, hey if you use your client and connect to a web-based email service like Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo then you pretty much just push buttons and walk away. My only nag with the process is you can't really say "Don't sync calendar items" until after its set. I rarely care because it does a good job of removing those extra items from view completely but sometimes I don't want to have to remember to do it.

OneNote was a different beast altogether and seemingly a gentle push towards Office 2010 Trial for a smooth upgrade experience. My current method is copying the raw data from OneNote 2007 into the web app version and reapplying formatting. It's slow and cumbersome but at least I can properly categorize what was formerly a mess of notes. I'm still not used to the on screen keyboard yet but that's learned behavior anyway.

(This post was scheduled)