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Writing a custom debug visualizer for Visual Studio 2015


Often at work I'll be debugging some incredibly complex logic with lists that can be hundreds, if not thousands, of items long. While the ability to inspect these lists using the normal debugging tools is useful, it gets annoying trying to scroll to the 700th item in a list and then accidentally moving the mouse focus away and having to start again.

For this reason I wanted to look into the possiblity of creating a custom display for certain objects while debugging in Visual Studio. For those of you who have worked with the DataTable you might be familiar with this screen:

data table visualizer

This can be accessed by hovering over the object when paused in the debugger and clicking the magnifying glass icon as shown here:


Reading from a COM port


I was recently researching how to read from a COM (Serial) port in order to communicate with an old embedded system. If you're not familiar with them that's one of these:

a serial port has a 9 pin connection

C# provides the SerialPort class for just this purpose which is hugely helpful. However there's one problem with this class which is that it's just not... very good. I didn't know about this but this post by Ben Voigt should leave you in no doubt that it has some problems.


In order to test the code on my machine without access to the actual device which was elsewhere, I installed Eltima's Virtual Serial Port Driver which would allow me to test with emulated serial ports. Once I had set up a pair of ports I could send data from one end using PowerShell.


New Site


I've not been able to find time to blog at all since starting my new job in March, working at a startup means learning a lot but also working long hours!

Almost a year and a half after first blogging about vNext/.NET core I've finally written my first (almost) functional program in it. I've changed this blog from a horrible mess of PHP to a nice MVC6 site running on an Ubuntu server using .NET core. The nice part is noticeable in the code, the UI still remains a dumpster-fire.

The motivation to finally get a site running using .NET core was from this blog post by Scott Hanselman which shows just how easy it is to get something running on .NET core. I grabbed a very cheap Ubuntu droplet from Digital Ocean and followed along, all development was done on my awful 8 year old laptop running xUbuntu. It's so nice to be able to build C# apps and have them run across platforms.

Another improvement is I have scripted my entire deployment using a shell script, as soon as I'm happy with my changes I can run one script which will build, package, deploy and start the site. No more tedious manual FTP interaction.

The code for the blog is on GitHub so you can see just how badly written it is and probably hack my terrible home-brew security stuff.

I'm still missing a couple of features from the old blog which I was too lazy to port across but hopefully they won't be missed by anyone, if you want them back (code snippets hosted on this site for some older tutorials) let me know in the comments.

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