Debugging Without a Debugger: The Magic of wercon and a Web Browser

Last week, I was at TechEd 2008: IT Professionals in Orlando, FL. (More on that later.) I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people, and it is always a great learning experience for me.

Along the way, I even had a chance to solve an application compatibility problem, using nothing but a bit of string, 2 paper cups, and a paperclip.

Here's the story:

I was hanging around the Application Compatibility and Deployment booth, and a customer walks up frustrated that Adobe Photoshop Elements isn't working. I asked him which version, and he replied that it was the latest version. Which I know works with Windows Vista. Now, he just wants to know who to blame, because he's on a mission now. He promised his family he'd edit some photos that week, and now this crash was going to keep him from making good on his promise.

He doesn't have debugging tools on the system, so I figured I'd try to see what I could see without having to load one up (since he hadn't set up an Internet connection to the conference WiFi and was hoping to avoid that). So, I popped up wercon. This pointed out the Bucket ID (which is how we reference the crash in our error reporting system) and the Faulting Module. I didn't recognize the faulting module, so I hopped on to the corporate network to see if I could find out if we knew anything more, or had a stack trace (again, to avoid dropping debugging tools on his system). Alas, we didn't have any good data there.

So I popped open my web browser, and had a go with the faulting module name, to see what I could find out about it. capm3k.dll. A Canon DLL. I asked him if he had a Canon printer at home. He looked a bit surprised, and said yes. I asked him to uninstall the software for it.

A minute later, and he's back in business. Neither Adobe or Microsoft were bringing the app down, it was printer drivers! So, he was going to hunt down some updated ones when he got home, but for now he could keep his family happy!

It just goes to show - you don't need to be a master debugger to sniff out a problem. You can find and fix problems with nothing but wercon and a web browser. Nice.

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