Debugging a WCF Service Using a 32 Bit Dll

Recently I was involved in a problem where we had a WCF service referencing a 32 bit dll. The service was set to to “Start WCF Service Host when debugging another project in the same solution”. Unfortunately that ended up with an exception.

Could not load file or assembly ‘My32BitLib, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null’ or one of its dependencies. An attempt was made to load a program with an incorrect format.

When a CLR process starts, the exe file determines if it will be loaded as a 32 or 64-bit process. In this case the WcfSvcHost.exe is started as a 64-bit process, loads the service dll (compiled as “Any CPU”) and then fails when trying to load the My32BitLib assembly which is compiled as “x86”.

The solution is to create a special 32bit version of WcfSvcHost and setup the debugging environment to use that instead of the standard WcfSvcHost

Using and Disposing of WCF Clients

Designing an interface always requires careful considerations of how it will be used. Scott Meyers elegantly catches the entire problem in one sentence in his book Effective C++:

Make interfaces easy to use correctly and hard to use incorrectly.

The people at Microsoft who were in charge for the WCF client code generation either hadn’t read that book or didn’t understand it. They have made an interface that is counter intuitive and hard to use when it comes to disposing of the WCF client.

In my previous post IDisposable and using in C# I wrote that “Always call Dispose on objects implementing IDisposable“. This is true, as long as the class implements IDisposable in a reasonable way. Unfortunately the WCF client doesn’t. The MSDN docs presents the problem.

using (CalculatorClient client = new CalculatorClient())
} // <-- this line might throw
  "Hope this code wasn't important, because it might not happen.");

That is definitely an example of an interface that is hard to use. The hidden call to Dispose might throw with a strange exception which sometimes even hides the real error. There is a simple solution though that makes the above code work as expected.

Software Development is a Job – Coding is a Passion

I'm Anders Abel, a systems architect and developer working for Kentor in Stockholm, Sweden.

profile for Anders Abel at Stack Overflow, Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers

Code for most posts is available on my GitHub account.

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