Send us those Watson reports!

I would have to second Cyrus’s request for everyone to send us Watson crash dumps when you run into problems. Watson is an invaluable tool for finding squirrly bugs that may be difficult for us to reproduce or require configurations that, for some reason, we don’t test. I will also add that debugging a Watson crash dump is a big pain in the rear, so you can also take some perverse pleasure in the fact that whoever introduced the bug in the first place is going to have to suffer to fix it. (I confess that sometimes I get a little jolt of satisfation on this as a user when I’ve hit some particularly bad crash.)

Interestingly, in VS 2002 and VS 2003, the VB compiler itself won’t report most crash dumps. That’s because Watson normally works by catching unhandled exceptions that escape out into the system. The problem with this is that after Watson finishes collecting its crash information, it really can’t do anything but kill the offending process, so you lose everything you’ve got in the IDE at that point. So instead of having compiler crashes result in losing everything, the VB compiler catches all of its own exceptions and gives you a dialog that says, in effect, “Something bad really happened. Save all your work and restart the IDE.” Since we never let any exceptions escape out into the system, Watson never gets involved. (I believe the C# compiler does the same thing in VS 2002 and VS 2003.)

For VS 2005, Watson has been enhanced to allow us to invoke it without actually having to kill the application. So going forward, VB will give you a Watson dialog to let you report the crash and then let you save your data. So we expect to get a lot more Watson reports this time around, which is a good thing. (As a side note, in VS 2002 and VS 2003, we did allow exceptions to escape to Watson during the betas so we could get better beta information. It was just suppressed in the released retail version.)

Interestingly, one of the handful of features that I actually implemented in VB 2005 was enabling this Watson reporting…

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