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Uhh What? DevPath is an environment variable that allows you specify global directories which are searched just like GAC. If you ever had the urge to load dlls from your application from subdirectories you need a probing element in your app.config which allows exactly that.

The only problem with that is that you cannot escape from your application root directory. When you try to load something from ..\Centralbin it is ignored. In that cases you need to use the GAC if you like it or not. Since DevPath was broken for some time with .NET 2.0 I thought it was no longer supported. But thanks to John Robbins article "PDB Files: What every Developer must know." I did learn a different story. That makes it possibly now to use some Microsoft tools in a standard fashion. The Xml Serialization assembly generator Sgen for example can create the serialization assembly only if all public serializable types do not have dependencies to assemblies in other directories. This is a major PITA since fresh compiled assemblies are located in other directories than the rest (except it you have set Copy To Local to true in Visual Studio but that is a bad idea either).

But now we can alter the sgen.exe.config and add one line

<?xml version ="1.0"?>
<configuration>
    <runtime>       
        <generatePublisherEvidence enabled="false"/>
        <developmentMode developerInstallation="true"/>
    </runtime>
</configuration>

And now behold lets call sgen.exe

C:\Source>sgen.exe

System.Threading.SynchronizationLockException: Object synchronization method was called from an unsynchronized block of code.
at System.Resources.ResourceManager.TryLookingForSatellite(CultureInfo lookForCulture)
at System.Resources.ResourceManager.InternalGetResourceSet(CultureInfo culture, Boolean createIfNotExists, Boolean tryParents)
at System.Resources.ResourceManager.GetString(String name, CultureInfo culture)
at System.Environment.ResourceHelper.GetResourceStringCode(Object userDataIn)
at System.Environment.GetResourceFromDefault(String key)
at System.Environment.GetResourceString(String key)
at System.IO.Path.CheckInvalidPathChars(String path)
at System.IO.Path.NormalizePathFast(String path, Boolean fullCheck)
at System.IO.Path.NormalizePath(String path, Boolean fullCheck)
at System.IO.Path.GetFullPathInternal(String path)
at System.AppDomainSetup.set_DeveloperPath(String value)
at System.AppDomain.SetupFusionStore(AppDomainSetup info)
at System.AppDomain.SetupDomain(Boolean allowRedirects, String path, String configFile)

Ups. .NET 3.5 SP1 did not do the trick? Some investigation shows that the .NET Framework is still subject to bad error handling. If DEVPATH is empty or DEVPATH contains invalid path characters such as > < | or " then it will try to report the issue so far so good. But it seems that Microsoft seems to be a lover of fast in process tests where each methods works perfectly but the whole thing blows apart when used in a true product scenario. This is not the first time that did happen with DEVPATH but I thought that since the release of .NET 2.0 in 2005 these things would have been fixed and some regression tests had been added. Apparently I was wrong.

In my specific case I did try set devpath="c:\Source\EntLib3Src\App Blocks\bin" which did fail because of the parenthesis. Once I removed the "invalid" characters all did work out fine.

During my investigation with Reflector I stumbled upon another undocumented environment variable RELPATH which does set the private probing path.

info.PrivateBinPath = Environment.nativeGetEnvironmentVariable(AppDomainSetup.PrivateBinPathEnvironmentVariable);

When I set it to e.g. subDir then I do no longer need to set the private probing path in my App.config. Nice that could come in handy in some scenarios.

posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:56 PM

Feedback

# re: DEVPATH Is Back! 7/1/2009 1:30 AM Z
SET set devpath="c:\Source\EntLib3Src\App Blocks\bin\

# re: DEVPATH Is Back! 8/6/2009 6:43 AM A
During some experimentation into the use of the DEVPATH environment variable I ran into some unexpected behaviour with the IDE (VS 2008) and some .Net runtime components. I'm going to share this here as I did not come across my specific scenario in my search for a solution to the problem. This text will detail the exact scenario and resulting behaviour.

I edited my machine.config to include the "<developmentMode developerInstallation="true"/>" section to allow the usage of the DEVPATH environment variable in the resolution process.

I set the path appropriately and ran through some scenarios which are applicable in our development environment.
Once I had completed my experimentation I set the environment variable to an empty string (did not remove it entirely.)

Some time later, I needed to open a new instance of the IDE and got heaps of "Package Load Failures" on the IDE which pretty much rendered the IDE useless. I noted some errors in the event viewer resembling the following which resulted in attempted repairs to the .Net runtime, but even these "repairs" were failing.

I couldn't even run installUtil.exe without a resulting exception. This exception did however point me in the right direction. The stacktrace included a call to System.Runtime.InteropServices.RuntimeEnvironment.GetDeveloperPath() which made me revisit the whole DEVPATH thing.

I removed the <developmentMode> element from the machine.config and this sorted everything out.

Be very careful how you use this feature and be VERY aware that you are using it. It creates some erratic behaviour and if forgotten about could result a lot of lost time.
Don't make the value of DEVPATH an empty string. Rather put garbage in the value than leave it empty.

Needless to say, deleting the environment variable and leaving the developerInstallation attribute set to true results in similar behaviour.

I hope I save someone the pain I've just been through.

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