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Jeroen W. Pluimers on .NET, C#, Delphi, databases, and personal interests

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Archive for the ‘C’ Category

Ken Thompson’s 1980 Unix password got cracked only a while ago: he used much entropy in his password

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/07/22

A few years back, Ken Thompson’s 1980 Unix password got cracked.

It took that long because his password p/q2-q4! had enough entropy by using uncommon characters so the crypt(3) based hash ZghOT0eRm4U9s was hard to crack.

The password was an opening chess move noted in the variety of the descriptive notation. A shorter notation would have been P-Q4, which would require months to crack in that era.

In modern chess notation, it would be 1. d4, moving the Queen’s Pawn from d2 to d4.

References (many interesting messages in the TUHS thread below):

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in *nix, B, C, Development, Power User, Security, Software Development | Leave a Comment »

SetProcessWorkingSetSize: you hardly – if ever – need to call this from your process

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/07/07

There are quite a few posts that recommend using SetProcessWorkingSetSize to trim your process working set, usually in the SetProcessWorkingSetSize(ProcessHandle, -1, -1) form:

[WayBack] SetProcessWorkingSetSize function (winbase.h) | Microsoft Docs

Sets the minimum and maximum working set sizes for the specified process.

BOOL SetProcessWorkingSetSize(
  HANDLE hProcess,
  SIZE_T dwMinimumWorkingSetSize,
  SIZE_T dwMaximumWorkingSetSize );

The working set of the specified process can be emptied by specifying the value (SIZE_T)–1 for both the minimum and maximum working set sizes. This removes as many pages as possible from the working set. The [WayBack] EmptyWorkingSet function can also be used for this purpose.

In practice you hardly ever have to do this, mainly because this will write – regardless of (dis)usage – all of your memory to the pagefile, even the memory your frequently use.

Windows has way better heuristics to do that automatically for you, skipping pages you frequently use.

It basically makes sense in a few use cases, for instance when you know that most (like 90% or more) of that memory is never going to be used again.

Another use case (with specific memory sizes) is when you know that your program is going to use a defined range of memory, which is outside what Windows will heuristically expect from it.

A few more links that go into more details on this:

  • [WayBack] windows – Pros and Cons of using SetProcessWorkingSetSize – Stack Overflow answers by:
    • Hans Passant:

      SetProcessWorkingSetSize() controls the amount of RAM that your process uses, it doesn’t otherwise have any affect on the virtual memory size of your process. Windows is already quite good at dynamically controlling this, swapping memory pages out on demand when another process needs RAM.

      By doing this manually, you slow down your program a lot, causing a lot of page faults when Windows is forced to swap the memory pages back in.

      SetProcessWorkingSetSize is typically used to increase the amount of RAM allocated for a process. Or to force a trim when the app knows that it is going to be idle for a long time. Also done automatically by old Windows versions when you minimize the main window of the app.

    • Zack Yezek:

      The only good use case I’ve seen for this call is when you KNOW your process is going to hog a lot of the system’s RAM and you want to reserve it for the duration. You use it to tell the OS “Yes, I’m going to eat a lot of the system RAM during my entire run and don’t get in my way”.

    • Maxim Masiutin:

      We have found out that, for a GUI application written in Delphi for Win32/Win64 or written in a similar way that uses large and heavy libraries on top of the Win32 API (GDI, etc), it is worth calling SetProcessWorkingSetSize once.

      We call it with -1, -1 parameters, within a fraction of second after the application has fully opened and showed the main window to the user. In this case, the SetProcessWorkingSetSize(... -1, -1) releases lots of startup code that seem to not needed any more.

  • [WayBack] c# – How to set MinWorkingSet and MaxWorkingSet in a 64-bit .NET process? – Stack Overflow answer by Hans Passant:

    Don’t pinvoke this, just use the Process.CurrentProcess.MinWorkingSet property directly.

    Very high odds that this won’t make any difference. Soft paging faults are entirely normal and resolved very quickly if the machine has enough RAM. Takes ~0.7 microseconds on my laptop. You can’t avoid them, it is the behavior of a demand_paged virtual memory operating system like Windows. Very cheap, as long as there is a free page readily available.

    But if it “blips” you program performance then you need to consider the likelihood that it isn’t readily available and triggered a hard page fault in another process. The paging fault does get expensive if the RAM page must be stolen from another process, its content has to be stored in the paging file and has to be reset back to zero first. That can add up quickly, hundreds of microseconds isn’t unusual.

    The basic law of “there is no free lunch”, you need to run less processes or buy more RAM. With the latter option the sane choice, 8 gigabytes sets you back about 75 bucks today. Complete steal.

  • [WayBack] c++ – SetProcessWorkingSetSize usage – Stack Overflow answer by MSalters:

    I had an application which by default would close down entirely but keep listening for certain events. However, most of my code at that point would not be needed for a long time. To reduce the impact my process made, I called SetProcessWorkingSetSize(-1,-1);. This meant Windows could take back the physical RAM and give it to other apps. I’d get my RAM back when events did arrive.

    That’s of course unrelated to your situation, and I don’t think you’d benefit.

  • [WayBack] delphi – When to call SetProcessWorkingSetSize? (Convincing the memory manager to release the memory) – Stack Overflow

    If your goal is for your application to use less memory you should look elsewhere. Look for leaks, look for heap fragmentations look for optimisations and if you think FastMM is keeping you from doing so you should try to find facts to support it. If your goal is to keep your workinset size small you could try to keep your memory access local. Maybe FastMM or another memory manager could help you with it, but it is a very different problem compared to using to much memory.

    you can check the FasttMM memory usage via FasttMM calls GetMemoryManagerState and GetMemoryManagerUsageSummary before and after calling API SetProcessWorkingSetSize.

    I don’t need to use SetProcessWorkingSetSize. FastMM will eventually release the RAM.

    To confirm that this behavior is generated by FastMM (as suggested by Barry Kelly) I crated a second program that allocated A LOT of RAM. As soon as Windows ran out of RAM, my program memory utilization returned to its original value.

  • [WayBack] delphi – SetProcessWorkingSetSize – What’s the catch? – Stack Overflow answer by Rob Kennedy:

    Yes, it’s a bad thing. You’re telling the OS that you know more about memory management than it does, which probably isn’t true. You’re telling to to page all your inactive memory to disk. It obeys. The moment you touch any of that memory again, the OS has to page it back into RAM. You’re forcing disk I/O that you don’t actually know you need.

    If the OS needs more free RAM, it can figure out which memory hasn’t been used lately and page it out. That might be from your program, or it might be from some other program. But if the OS doesn’t need more free RAM, then you’ve just forced a bunch of disk I/O that nobody asked for.

    If you have memory that you know you don’t need anymore, free it. Don’t just page it to disk. If you have memory that the OS thinks you don’t need, it will page it for you automatically as the need arises.

    Also, it’s usually unwise to call Application.ProcessMessages unless you know there are messages that your main thread needs to process that it wouldn’t otherwise process by itself. The application automatically processes messages when there’s nothing else to do, so if you have nothing to do, just let the application run itself.


Posted in .NET, C, C++, Delphi, Development, Software Development, Windows Development | Leave a Comment »

DCOM calls from thread pool threads: CoInitialize/CoUnitialize location and expensiveness?

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/06/24

Interesting takeaway from [WayBack] DCOM calls from thread pool threads

call CoInitialize* at the start, and call CoUninitialize before returning. Expensive, but necessary



Posted in .NET, C, C++, COM/DCOM/COM+, Delphi, Development, Software Development, Windows Development | Leave a Comment »

“No mapping for the Unicode character exists in the target multi-byte code page”

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/06/24

Usually when I see this error [Wayback] “No mapping for the Unicode character exists in the target multi-byte code page” – Google Search, it is in legacy code that uses string buffers where decoding or decompressing data into.

This is almost always wrong no matter what kind of data you use, as it will depend in your string encoding.

I have seen it happen especially in these cases:

  • base64 decoding from string to string (solution: decode from a string stream into a binary stream, then post-process from there)
  • zip or zlib decompress from binary stream to string stream, then reading the string stream (solution: decompress from binary stream to binary stream, then post-process from there)

Most cases I encountered were in Delphi and C code, but surprisingly I also bumped into C# exhibiting this behaviour.

I’m not alone, just see these examples from the above Google search:


Posted in .NET, base64, C, C#, C++, Delphi, Development, Encoding, Software Development, Unicode | Leave a Comment »

Delphi compile time assertions

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/02/24

My post on Delphi intrinsic functions that evaluate to consts as a step up to Delphi compile time assertions.

This is a corner case of Delphi language use, which can come in very handy when your code is changed in the future, and you want to be prepared to ensure that some changes do not violate some predefined boundaries.

Hopefully a future post will elaborate a bit more on actual usage, but for now, lets first show some examples, then some other languages that have a richer set of compile time assertions.

My original goal was to see if I could come up with a mechanism that allowed for better validation of generic types because Delphi generic constraints – still – are quite limited: Delphi Constraints in Generics – RAD Studio XE documentation wiki, so limiting or verifying the aspects of the concrete type often cannot be done by constraints.

C# had a similar limitation for constraining to enum, which finally got added some 13 years after adding generics, in 2018: [WayBack] Unmanaged, delegate and enum type constraints – C# 7.3 in Rider and ReSharper – .NET Tools Blog.NET Tools Blog.

Let’s start simple:

  // forbidden const values to check compile time assert:
  A = 0;
  B = 1;
  C = -1;
  // The below expressions all each generate a "[dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero" (so multiple errors in one compile)
  // Asserting at compile time using boolean expressions:
  BooleanAssertAIsNotZero =  1 div Ord(A <> 0);
  BooleanAssertBIsNotOne = 1 div Ord(B <> 1);
  // Asserting at compile time using numeric expressions:
  AssertAIsNotZero = 1 div A;
  AssertBIsNotOne =  1 div (B - 1);
  AssertBIsNotAbsOne =  1 div (Abs(B) - 1);
  AssertCIsNotAbsOne =  1 div (Abs(C) - 1);

This is all centered around generating a compile time error "[dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero", of which multiple can occur in one compile go (after compilation, the cursor focus will be at the first error) and which has been in the language for a very long time [WayBack] E2098: Division by zero.

The conversion of Boolean to Integer is done using Ord, a very powerful compile time intrinsic that evaluates to a constant.

You can use this for other intrinsics as well, for example:

  TDigits = 0..9;

  DigitsAreInteger = GetTypeKind(TDigits) = tkInteger;
  DigitsAreIntegerIsTrue = 1 div Ord(DigitsAreInteger);
  DigitsAreEnumeration = GetTypeKind(TDigits) = tkEnumeration; // compiles fine
  DigitsAreEnumerationIsTrue = 1 div Ord(DigitsAreEnumeration); // [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero

The above learns that integer subranges are not enumerations, but stay integers.

You can now extend this to check longer boolean expressions, for instance to check if a record size matches certain criteria. For this we create records having zero to four bytes in size (yes, you can have empty record in Delphi, it in fact the only data structure that can be zero bytes in length, though the documentation [WayBack] Structured Types: record types does not state this is in fact possible ), then validate the sizes:

  TRecord0 = record

  TRecord1 = packed record
    FByte0: Byte;

  TRecord2 = packed record
    FByte0: Byte;
    FByte1: Byte;

  TRecord3 = packed record
    FByte0: Byte;
    FByte1: Byte;
    FByte2: Byte;

  TRecord4 = packed record
    FByte0: Byte;
    FByte1: Byte;
    FByte2: Byte;
    FByte3: Byte;

  AssertTRecord0SizeOf0 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord0) = 0); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOf1 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord1) = 1); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOf2 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord2) = 2); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOf3 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord3) = 3); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOf4 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord4) = 4); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOfMultipleOf4 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord0) mod 4 = 0); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord4SizeOfMultipleOf4 = 1 div Ord(SizeOf(TRecord4) mod 4 = 0); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord0SizeOfMultipleOf4AndGreaterThan0 = 1 div Ord((SizeOf(TRecord0) mod 4 = 0) and (SizeOf(TRecord0) > 0)); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero
  AssertTRecord4SizeOfMultipleOf4AndGreaterThan0 = 1 div Ord((SizeOf(TRecord4) mod 4 = 0) and (SizeOf(TRecord4) > 0)); // When expression is false: [dcc32 Error] E2098 Division by zero

That’s how far I got in my first experiments using this mechanism. Hopefully it gave you some inspiration too, so I welcome any usages you made with it.

Inline use of intrinsics can lead to no generated code at all

Since Delphi has no macro language, you cannot create your own intrinsic functions that evaluate to const. You could use a pre-processor though, as described in [WayBack] How to write Delphi compile-time functions – Stack Overflow.

The answer by Johan there however mentions clever use of in-line functions that do not generate any code at all (so effectively evaluate to a const). More on that in a future post.

Compile time assertions in other languages

Many languages support a form of [WayBack] Compile-time calculation – Rosetta Code. If such a language can errors out on compiling such a calculation, then you can have compile time assertions.

Compile time assertions are very much used in C and C++, where they are often called static assertions. Often they depend on macros, but C11 (C standard revision 11) has it built-in.

Since I also do quite a bit of .NET: [WayBack] Can C# Provide a static_assert? – Stack Overflow

Some links on how they work in C and C++, and what you can do with them:


Posted in .NET, C, C#, C++, Conference Topics, Conferences, Delphi, Development, Event, Software Development | Leave a Comment »

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