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# Thursday, February 28, 2008
Writing events with System.Diagnostics.Eventing

... or, how the hell to use Vista and 2008's new ETW stuff with managed code. And, introducing ecmanaged: A decent way to do all this stuff.

Quick ETW Overview

Actually, the real ETW overview is here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnmag/issues/07/04/ETW/ <-- This is some of the best overview and documentation on it (the other good stuff is the ecmangen documentation in the Windows SDK bin folder). The MSDN stuff is terribly confusing for the most part. Or maybe I'm too spolied by how easy it is to find stuff in the BCL. My overview is on what you gotta do to make things work in .NET.

ETW is a real pain to use with .NET. Even so, ETW starts off looking really promising. You define everything in a nice XML manifest file, and everything is based off that. But wait, everything? Shouldn't the manifest be the end-all? Yea, that'd make logical sense. No, you run some tools from the Windows SDK. First you run MC, which generates a .h header file. Managed devs are growning now -- why the hell should something as general as event tracing be language specific? The .h file contains the processed event descriptors, ready for C consumption. 

It worsens: MC also generated a resource script. You have to compile that with RC and it'll create a Win32 .res resource. Then you compile that into a binary (the C# compiler has the /win32res option). Then you go back and edit your XML manifest and make sure it points to the final binary. Wait, what? Yes. The resources that MC generates for RC contain all the messages that are in your XML manifest. Someone thought it was a really cute idea to go and make the Event Viewer not only read all the data from your manifest, but also have to go look it up from some binary resources.

Actually, this probably made sense to someone on the Windows team since I'm guessing they already have tools to go and localise Win32 resources or something. Unfortunately, it sucks and makes no sense for anyone NOT in their particular position. Now, I hope I'm wrong (I really, really want to be wrong), but I think there's no way to force the message strings to just stay in the XML file and be read from there. 

Finally, things get easy again. Just run "wevtutil install-manifest Some.man" (wevtutil is in system32). In fact, this utility is so user friendly, it even lets you type "im" instead of "install-manifest". At this point, assuming the other steps went well, your provider shows up in Event Viewer.


But wait, how do I actually make that manifest? This part is almost the easiest. In the Windows SDK, there's a lovely little tool called ECManGen. Just fire it up, and go to town adding Providers, Channels, Templates, and Events.

Providers are the main things that show up in your Event Viewer, such as MyApp-FooProduct-LameComp. Channels separate Admin/Operational/Debug and others. Templates are an argument list for Events. If you have, say, a bunch of events that take the same kinds of parameters, you can share templates among them (I find it helpful to create a "SingleStringTemplate".) It's very straightforward.

*Note: I can't actually get Admin channels to work. If I create an event and stick it in an Admin channel and set its level to Informational, MC complains (as does ECManGen) that the level has to be Critical, Error, or Informational. Uh, OK. Instead, just use Operational.

Except... ECManGen is a free utility. (Free? Perhaps not, seeing as the annual MS bill for a 4-person dev team is around $20,000 (counting just MSDN) -- but it's well worth it.) Part of the docs say: "NOTE: For the Manifest Generator Tool to function correctly, the file winmeta.xml (which contains pre-defined metadata values) must either be in the Include directory of the SDK or in the same directory as the Manifest Generator tool." OK, easy enough. Except... it doesn't work that easily. The only way I got it to work was to copy the xml file over to the same directory, *and* start ECManGen from that directory.

Oh yea, ECManGen won't open your manifest file if you pass it as an argument, so forget about cute VS integration. Just Google ecmangen and go rate up the bugs on Connect :).

Going Managed

OK, so you're not living in the last century and use decent tools -- how does this map to C#? First off, you create an EventProvider with the right Guid (the one from your manifest). Then you create an EventDescriptor for each event, matching up all the little parameters (the MSDN docs for EventDescriptor have more details). Finally, you can call WriteEvent, passing the EventDescriptor *by ref* for some reason (no, I can't figure out why).

Oh yea, and you have to hookup that Win32 resource to your C# project, so if you needed another resource (like another app manifest?), you'll have to go deal with merging them and all that hassle. And, don't forget to make sure the parameters you pass into the object[] array of WriteEvent line up with what your manifest has. And also, the .NET API won't even handle the Boolean->BOOL (4 byte) silliness for you. 

In summary, it's a lot of boring, error-prone work, and you'll have to repeat it every time you edit your manifest. Yuck. Maybe it's just easier to use the old event log stuff and forget about all this fancy ETW stuff.

However, the ETW features are pretty cool. As is ecmangen (well, for the most part). I couldn't tear myself away from the promises the new ETW stuff offered, so I sat down and wrote a hack tool to do everything for me. The goal is to have an XML file, then convert it right into a DLL I can use.

ecmanaged does exactly this. Sorta. It doesn't deal with complicated scenarios or performance counters, but handles straightforward event logging with templates in an easy and type-safe fashion.

Using ecmanaged

Usage: ecmanaged ecgen <manifest> /out:<target assembly> /namespace:<target namespace> /class:<target class>
Usage: ecmanaged msglocate <manifest> <messageFileName>
Usage: ecmanaged install <manifest> <targetManifest> <messageFileName>
Usage: ecmanaged uninstall <targetManifest>

Call ecgen with a manifest, and it'll go build an assembly with the wrappers for calling your provider events. It'll stick the Win32 resource on the assembly too, so it's ready to be used.

Call msglocate with the manifest and the message binary file, and it'll go fix the manifest to point to the right place.

Call install, and it'll copy the manifest to another location, fix the msg location, and call wevtutil on it. It copies because I'm assuming your original manifest is under source control, and hence shouldn't be fixed up.

Uninstall just calls wevutil uninstall-manifest.

Yey! Now you can just make a batch file to call this on your manifest and run it every time you change your manifest. What I do is stick this in a folder in my project called "Eventing". I check the resulting binary into source control (just like a 3rd party DLL). The downside is making sure you always update the DLL if you modify the manifest. I'm sure somehow msbuild can come to the rescue (and autoupdate when the manifest changes, so Intellisense keeps working), but this works for me.

I welcome all comments/questions/insults, but please, no death threats. Download: ecmanaged.exe (45 KB)

P.S. No, I don't hate Windows or the devs on it, although I hate unmanaged code (it IS 2008, innit?). Perhaps I'm just annoyed I have to make a Saving Throw versus Hang every time I click Send in Outlook 2007 (yes, patched up, even with Vista SP1... which made it worse). But I still think this whole ETW toolchain is terribly unpolished.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 9:12:25 PM UTC  #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback

Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:13:18 PM UTC
I definitely agree with you that ETW + Managed code is *really* ugly, but the devs in VS and Windows are definitely aware that people are wanting to use ETW with managed code more; it's on their radar :)
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