Stream reading in C#

I was banging my head against the wall with an odd stream reading problem.  I was making a web service call as straight http, no SOAP, when I hit a snag reading the response back.  I was making the request with a HttpWebRequest object and getting the HttpWebResponse response back by calling the HttpWebResponse GetResponse() method.  From the response object, I was using GetResponseStream() to get at the content.  The data coming back was of variable size.  You would get a fixed size header block, plus a number of fixed sized data entries.  The header block had a field to say how many data blocks there would be.

Naively, I thought I could just use a BinaryReader on the data stream and read x number of bytes in for the header block.  The I would parse that header to the get number of data blocks and then call Read() for that number of data blocks.  Let’s say that the header block was 64 bytes in size and the data blocks were 32 bytes.  I had logic like the following:

HttpWebRequest req = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(uri);
HttpWebResponse resp = (HttpWebResponse)req.GetResponse();

Stream stream = resp.GetResponseStream();
BinaryReader br = new BinaryReader(stream);

byte[] buff = new byte[Marshal.SizeOf(typeof(MyHeader))];

c = br.Read(buff, 0, 64);

GCHandle handle = GCHandle.Alloc(buff, GCHandleType.Pinned);
MyHeader header = (MyHeader)Marshal.PtrToStructure(handle.AddrOfPinnedObject(), typeof(MyHeader));

LogEntry MyLogEntry;

for (int i=0; i < MyHeader.EntryCount; i++)
  buff = new byte[Marshal.SizeOf(typeof(LogEntry))];
  c = br.Read(buff, 0, 32);
  if (c == 32)
    handle = GCHandle.Alloc(buff, GCHandleType.Pinned);
    LogEntry = (LogEntry)Marshal.PtrToStructure(handle.AddrOfPinnedObject(), typeof(LogEntry));


The problem was that c was sometimes less than 32.  My bytes were disappearing.  I did some quick sanity check code like this:

c = br.Read(buff, 0, 8192);
TotalBytes = c;

while (c > 0)
  w.Write(buff, 0, c);
  c = br.Read(buff, 0, 8192);
  TotalBytes += c;

When I ran that, TotalBytes had the expected number.  What was I missing?  A little bit of googling found this bit of extremely helpful information from a guy named Jon.  I was reading while data was still coming into the stream.  The Read method is going to return before all of the data has been written to the source stream,  I had to read the stream into a holding array, by reading it as chunks, until there were no more bytes.  Then I could read the data from the array.  This was so obvious, I can’t believe I missed it.  The ReadFully() method that Jon supplied worked quite well.

In case you were wondering about the GCHandle stuff, that was needed to marshall C style structures into C# structures.  Getting that bit of code to work right is another story….


Vista performance (or lack of)

I just installed the Beta 2 of Vista on one of my dev boxes.  It used to be my primary development box until I got a bright shiny new one last year.  About two weeks ago, the hard drive had a massive failure (it needs to be defraggled at this point) and I needed to rebuild the box.  Since we had the Vista DVD, I figured why not.  We set it up as a dual boot, with XP as the “other” OS.

After a couple of days of use, I’ve come the this conclusion.  Vista is a pig.  It’s slow to boot and slow to run.  It’s running on an older box, P4 1.7ghz with 1GB of RAM, but that box is fast enough to run XP without any issues.  It’s slow enough that I am not going to use it as a day to day OS.  I’ll run XP as the primary OS and I’ll manually boot into Vista when needed.  The performance issues come with the beta tag, that’s all and good.  I just can’t use it.  It felt like OS/2 on a 386.

The fun part was trying to figure out how to get XP back as the default OS.  The new Vista Boot Loader is a strange and wonderful beast, but it’s not your father’s boot.ini file.  With boot.ini, it’s a trivial process to set the default OS.  Vista requires you to use a new command line tool named bcdedit.exe.  With bcdedit, you can specify the default OS, by using the /default parameter and the GUID of the OS to run.

The GUID of the OS?  Where the frack do I get the GUID of the OS? If you run BCDEDIT /enum all, you get a listing of everything BCDEDIT knows how to load and the includes the GUID.  Except for my XP, which didn’t get one.  Apparently that’s a magic number, if you run bcdedit /default {466f5a88-0af2-4f76-9038-095b170dc21c}, the legacy OS becomes the default.

Since I’m using the Vista Boot Loader, I’ll need to remember to restore XP’s boot loader before I rip out this Vista Beta for next one.  In the Vista section of Tech-Recipes, they have helpful information on how to do that.  What you need to do is the following:

  1. Reboot using the XP CD-ROM
  2. Start the Recovery Console
  3. Run FixBoot
  4. Run fixmbr to reset the Master Boot Record
  5. Exit the Recovery Console
  6. Reboot

Lifehacker has some tips on how to setup the dual boot here.