Developer .NET UPDATE, April 8, 2003

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April 8, 2003--In this issue:

1. DEVELOPER .NET PERSPECTIVES

  • Visual Studio .NET and Windows 2003 Features, Part 1

2. ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Register Now for Our Wireless Technology Web Seminar!
  • Have You Checked Out SSMU's Newly Designed Site?

3. NEW AND IMPROVED

  • Visualize Your Code as a Flowchart

4. CONTACT US

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

1. DEVELOPER .NET PERSPECTIVES

(contributed by Bill Sheldon, [email protected])

  • VISUAL STUDIO .NET AND WINDOWS 2003 FEATURES, PART 1
  • Over the next few weeks, I'm going to discuss some of the features in Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Windows Server 2003, which Microsoft is officially releasing on April 24. Although some of the features I'll discuss are in Windows 2003, all the features are accessible from Visual Studio .NET. This week, let's look at a feature that Microsoft designed just to make your Windows .NET Framework applications confusing: obfuscation.

    Obfuscation doesn't make developing applications confusing. Rather, obfuscation makes the resulting code confusing, which is a good thing. As its definition implies, obfuscation conceals the logic that's embedded in an application so that other developers can't capture the code, reverse engineer the application, then sell it or a similar program under a different name.

    Capturing code isn't new. Many HTML developers learned HTML by looking at the source code from their favorite Web sites. Even today, HTML developers can still easily capture Web sites' client-side JavaScript code. However, up to this point, reverse engineering captured code hasn't been too prevalent because the benefits usually don't outweigh the costs. For example, most developers have a copy of Microsoft Office running locally on their machines, which means that all the logic is available to them. But because of the way that C++ changes the original source code into a machine-specific series of instructions, trying to reverse engineer that code would be difficult and would cost almost as much as writing it from scratch.

    With Framework applications, reverse engineering might become more prevalent. Applications written in the Framework languages aren't compiled down to the machine-language level but rather the Microsoft intermediate language (MSIL) level. Developers can glean a significant amount of information about the source code from the MSIL-compiled code. Framework assemblies often embed readable metadata that describes the intended runtime behavior of the assemblies' modules. As a result, someone who wants to reverse engineer logic can look at an assembly and get a pretty good idea of the major elements in the source code.

    If you're developing an application that will be sold to the public or a set of custom libraries that will be sold to other developers, the obfuscator that's part of Visual Studio .NET can help protect your source code. You can obfuscate the source of the logic used to create your application. The obfuscator starts by changing the friendly names that you assigned variables into unreadable names. Then, the obfuscator adjusts some of the logical pointers to make your code difficult to follow. The idea is that an obfuscator doesn't interfere with the running of your logic, but if someone attempts to reverse engineer your code, the logic becomes nested or broken.

    If you're developing an application (e.g., a Web site) that will run on a server you control, the obfuscator doesn't have much value. Although your application might be publicly accessed, your source code will already be protected because it's on your server.

    Interestingly, Microsoft didn't develop its own obfuscator. Instead, Microsoft purchased the rights to use PreEmptive Solutions' Dotfuscator, which is the same product that Sun Microsystems uses to obfuscate some of its core Java security libraries. Visual Studio .NET's embedded Dotfuscator has only basic capabilities. To go beyond those capabilities, you must purchase an upgraded version of Dotfuscator or purchase a third-party product, such as Wise Owl's Demeanor for .NET or Remotesoft's Salamander.

    Dotfuscator isn't a tool that you turn on while debugging. Instead, using Dotfuscator requires an additional step when you're creating the release version of your application. After you use Visual Studio .NET to compile your application in release mode, you select Dotfuscator on Visual Studio .NET's Tools menu to open it. Dotfuscator, which runs in its own process, takes your release assembly as its input and recompiles it, producing hard-to-read custom project files.

    The official release of Visual Studio .NET and Windows 2003 is just around the corner. Although some people might not think these new products offer many new features, they certainly have a few elements, such as the Dotfuscator, that can make a big difference in developers' jobs. Next week, I'll discuss the next generation of the Internet and how these new Microsoft products are preparing to meet it.


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    2. ANNOUNCEMENTS
    (brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

  • REGISTER NOW FOR OUR WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY WEB SEMINAR!

  • Windows & .NET Magazine's newest Web seminar, sponsored by BlackBerry, covers what you need to know about wireless access and Exchange. Learn more about how to provide secure wireless access, what performance and scalability issues to watch out for, and what user issues you need to be prepared to handle as you roll out. There is no fee for this Web event, but space is limited. Register now!

    http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars/rimwireless

  • HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT SSMU'S NEWLY DESIGNED SITE?

  • SQL Server Magazine University e-Learning Center has launched a new Web site for you to check out! SSMU's online learning opportunities include live 1-hour Web seminars and Microsoft Certified Training courses taught by the best instructors in the industry. We're here to help you do your job better! Click now:

    http://www.sqlmag.com/ssmu

    3. NEW AND IMPROVED
    (contributed by Sue Cooper, [email protected])

  • VISUALIZE YOUR CODE AS A FLOWCHART
  • Aivosto released Visustin 1.2, an application to create flowcharts from your code by reverse engineering its underlying structure. You can paste a procedure or code snippet into the GUI, and the tool will display its structure. Visustin helps you understand existing code, review algorithms, verify correctness of program logic, and document complex procedures. Visustin was designed for Visual Basic .NET, Visual Basic (VB), C, C++, C#, J#, Java, JavaScript, JScript .NET, Pascal, Delphi, and COBOL but also works with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), eMbedded Visual Basic (eVB), Windows CE Toolkit for Visual Basic (VBCE), and QuickBasic. Pricing of a single-user license is $149; a site license is $2490. Contact Aivosto at [email protected]

    http://www.aivosto.com

    4. CONTACT US
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