command - Dave's Blog


Debugging anecdote - the color transparent black breaks accessibility

May 22, 10:36

Some time back while I was working on getting the Javascript Windows Store app platform running on Windows Phone (now available on the last Windows Phone release!) I had an interesting bug that in retrospect is amusing.

I had just finished a work item to get accessibility working for JS WinPhone apps when I got a new bug: With some set of JS apps, accessibility appeared to be totally broken. At that time in development the only mechanism we had to test accessibility was a test tool that runs on the PC, connects to the phone, and dumps out the accessibility tree of whatever app is running on the phone. In this bug, the tool would spin for a while and then timeout with an error and no accessibility information.

My first thought was this was an issue in my new accessibility code. However, debugging with breakpoints on my code I could see none of my code was run nor the code that should call it. The code that called that code was a more generic messaging system that hit my breakpoints constantly.

Rather than trying to work backward from the failure point, I decided to try and narrow down the repro and work forwards from there. One thing all the apps with the bug had in common was their usage of WinJS, but not all WinJS apps demonstrated the issue. Using a binary search approach on one such app I removed unrelated app code until all that was left was the app's usage of the WinJS AppBar and the bug still occurred. I replaced the WinJS AppBar usage with direct usage of the underlying AppBar WinRT APIs and continued.

Only some calls to the AppBar WinRT object produced the issue:

        var appBar = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBar.getForCurrentView(); 
// appBar.opacity = 1;
// appBar.closeDisplayMode = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBarClosedDisplayMode.default;
appBar.backgroundColor = Windows.UI.Colors.white; // Bug!
Just setting the background color appeared to cause the issue and I didn't even have to display the AppBar. Through additional trial and error I was blown away to discover that some colors I would set caused the issue and other colors did not. Black wouldn't cause the issue but transparent black would. So would aqua but not white.

I eventually realized that predefined WinRT color values like Windows.UI.Colors.aqua would cause the issue while JS literal based colors didn't cause the issue (Windows.UI.Color is a WinRT struct which projects in JS as a JS literal object with the struct members as JS object properties so its easy to write something like {r: 0, g: 0, b: 0, a: 0} to make a color) and I had been mixing both in my tests without realizing there would be a difference. I debugged into the backgroundColor property setter that consumed the WinRT color struct to see what was different between and {a: 1, r: 0, g: 0, b: 0} and found the two structs to be byte wise exactly the same.

On a hunch I tried my test app with only a reference to the color and otherwise no interaction with the AppBar and not doing anything with the actual reference to the color:;. This too caused the issue. I knew that the implementation for these WinRT const values live in a DLL and guessed that something in the code to create these predefined colors was causing the issue. I debugged in and no luck. Now I also have experienced crusty code that would do exciting things in its DllMain, the function that's called when a DLL is loaded into the process so I tried modifying my C++ code to simply LoadLibrary the DLL containing the WinRT color definition, windows.ui.xaml.dll and found the bug still occurred! A short lived moment of relief as the world seemed to make sense again.

Debugging into DllMain nothing interesting happened. There were interesting calls in there to be sure, but all of them behind conditions that were false. I was again stumped. On another hunch I tried renaming the DLL and only LoadLibrary'ing it and the bug went away. I took a different DLL renamed it windows.ui.xaml.dll and tried LoadLibrary'ing that and the bug came back. Just the name of the DLL was causing the issue.

I searched for the DLL name in our source code index and found hits in the accessibility tool. Grinning I opened the source to find that the accessibility tool's phone side service was trying to determine if a process belonged to a XAML app or not because XAML apps had a different accessibility contract. It did this by checking to see if windows.ui.xaml.dll was loaded in the target process.

At this point I got to fix my main issue and open several new bugs for the variety of problems I had just run into. This is a how to on writing software that is difficult to debug.

PermalinkCommentsbug debug javascript JS technical windows winrt


Apr 29, 8:27

Does it betray my innocence that I’m shocked by the amount of exec($_GET you can easily find on github? Hilarious comment thread on hacker news: 

This is awful. Shell commands are not guaranteed to be idempotent, people! These should all be of the form exec($_POST, not exec($_GET.


PermalinkCommentshumor security http php technical

Stripe CTF - SQL injections (Levels 0 & 3)

2012 Sep 5, 9:10

Stripe's web security CTF's level 0 and level 3 had SQL injection solutions described below.

Level 0


app.get('/*', function(req, res) {
var namespace = req.param('namespace');

if (namespace) {
var query = 'SELECT * FROM secrets WHERE key LIKE ? || ".%"';
db.all(query, namespace, function(err, secrets) {


There's no input validation on the namespace parameter and it is injected into the SQL query with no encoding applied. This means you can use the '%' character as the namespace which is the wildcard character matching all secrets.


Code review red flag was using strings to query the database. Additional levels made this harder to exploit by using an API with objects to construct a query rather than strings and by running a query that only returned a single row, only ran a single command, and didn't just dump out the results of the query to the caller.

Level 3


@app.route('/login', methods=['POST'])
def login():
username = flask.request.form.get('username')
password = flask.request.form.get('password')

if not username:
return "Must provide username\n"

if not password:
return "Must provide password\n"

conn = sqlite3.connect(os.path.join(data_dir, 'users.db'))
cursor = conn.cursor()

query = """SELECT id, password_hash, salt FROM users
WHERE username = '{0}' LIMIT 1""".format(username)

res = cursor.fetchone()
if not res:
return "There's no such user {0}!\n".format(username)
user_id, password_hash, salt = res

calculated_hash = hashlib.sha256(password + salt)
if calculated_hash.hexdigest() != password_hash:
return "That's not the password for {0}!\n".format(username)


There's little input validation on username before it is used to constrcut a SQL query. There's no encoding applied when constructing the SQL query string which is used to, given a username, produce the hashed password and the associated salt. Accordingly one can make username a part of a SQL query command which ensures the original select returns nothing and provide a new SELECT via a UNION that returns some literal values for the hash and salt. For instance the following in blue is the query template and the red is the username injected SQL code:

SELECT id, password_hash, salt FROM users WHERE username = 'doesntexist' UNION SELECT id, ('5e884898da28047151d0e56f8dc6292773603d0d6aabbdd62a11ef721d1542d8') AS password_hash, ('word') AS salt FROM users WHERE username = 'bob' LIMIT 1
In the above I've supplied my own salt and hash such that my salt (word) plus my password (pass) hashed produce the hash I provided above. Accordingly, by providing the above long and interesting looking username and password as 'pass' I can login as any user.


Code review red flag is again using strings to query the database. Although this level was made more difficult by using an API that returns only a single row and by using the execute method which only runs one command. I was forced to (as a SQL noob) learn the syntax of SELECT in order to figure out UNION and how to return my own literal values.

PermalinkCommentssecurity sql sql-injection technical web-security

Stripe Web Security CTF Summary

2012 Aug 30, 5:00

I was the 546th person to complete Stripe's web security CTF and again had a ton of fun applying my theoretical knowledge of web security issues to the (semi-)real world. As I went through the levels I thought about what red flags jumped out at me (or should have) that I could apply to future code reviews:

Level Issue Code Review Red Flags
0 Simple SQL injection No encoding when constructing SQL command strings. Constructing SQL command strings instead of SQL API
1 extract($_GET); No input validation.
2 Arbitrary PHP execution No input validation. Allow file uploads. File permissions modification.
3 Advanced SQL injection Constructing SQL command strings instead of SQL API.
4 HTML injection, XSS and CSRF No encoding when constructing HTML. No CSRF counter measures. Passwords stored in plain text. Password displayed on site.
5 Pingback server doesn't need to opt-in n/a - By design protocol issue.
6 Script injection and XSS No encoding while constructing script. Deny list (of dangerous characters). Passwords stored in plain text. Password displayed on site.
7 Length extension attack Custom crypto code. Constructing SQL command string instead of SQL API.
8 Side channel attack Password handling code. Timing attack mitigation too clever.

More about each level in the future.

PermalinkCommentscode-review coding csrf html internet programming script security sql stripe technical web xss

Favorite Windows 8 Feature: Intra-Line Tab Completion

2012 May 9, 3:30

Fixed in Windows 8 is intra-line tab completion - you can try it out on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview now. If you open a command prompt, type a command, then move your cursor back into a token in the middle of the command and tab complete, the tab completion works on that whitespace delimited token and doesn't erase all text following the cursor. Like it does in pre Windows 8. And annoys the hell out of me. Yay!

PermalinkCommentscli technical windows cmd32.exe

Vim anti-patterns (

2012 Feb 7, 11:58

Things you do in VIM but faster with more obscure and specific commands.

PermalinkCommentstechnica vi vim reference howto

Using Progress Indicators in Windows PowerShell

2011 Jul 27, 10:33The write-progress command in powershell allows scripts to express their progress in terms of percent or time left and powershell displays this in a friendly manner at the top of my window. Surprisingly, not hooked up to the Shell's TaskbarItemInfo's progress.PermalinkCommentstechnical powershell progress coding shell

Command line for finding missing URLACTIONs

2011 May 28, 11:00

I wanted to ensure that my switch statement in my implementation of IInternetSecurityManager::ProcessURLAction had a case for every possible documented URLACTION. I wrote the following short command line sequence to see the list of all URLACTIONs in the SDK header file not found in my source file:

grep URLACTION urlmon.idl | sed 's/.*\(URLACTION[a-zA-Z0-9_]*\).*/\1/g;' | sort | uniq > allURLACTIONs.txt
grep URLACTION MySecurityManager.cpp | sed 's/.*\(URLACTION[a-zA-Z0-9_]*\).*/\1/g;' | sort | uniq > myURLACTIONs.txt
comm -23 allURLACTIONs.txt myURLACTIONs.txt
I'm not a sed expert so I had to read the sed documentation, and I heard about comm from Kris Kowal's blog which happilly was in the Win32 GNU tools pack I already run.

But in my effort to learn and use PowerShell I found the following similar command line:

(more urlmon.idl | %{ if ($_ -cmatch "URLACTION[a-zA-Z0-9_]*") { $matches[0] } } | sort -uniq)
(more MySecurityManager.cpp | %{ if ($_ -cmatch "URLACTION[a-zA-Z0-9_]*") { $matches[0] } } | sort -uniq)
In the PowerShell version I can skip the temporary files which is nice. 'diff' is mapped to 'compare-object' which seems similar to comm but with no parameters to filter out the different streams (although this could be done more verbosely with the ?{ } filter syntax). In PowerShell uniq functionality is built into sort. The builtin -cmatch operator (c is for case sensitive) to do regexp is nice plus the side effect of generating the $matches variable with the regexp results.
PermalinkCommentspowershell tool cli technical command line

clip.exe - Useful tool I didn't know shipped with Windows

2011 May 26, 11:00

When you run clip.exe, whatever comes into its standard input is put onto the clipboard. So when you need to move the result of something in your command window somewhere else you can pipe the result into clip.exe. Then you won't have to worry about the irritating way cmd.exe does block copy/pasting and you avoid having to manually fixup line breaks in wrapped lines. For instance, you can put the contents of a script into the clipboard with:

more cdo.cmd | clip

I've got a lot of stuff dumped in my bin folder that I sync across all my PCs so I didn't realize that clip.exe is a part of standard Windows installs.

Nice for avoiding the block copy in cmd.exe but I'd prefer to have the contents sort of tee'd into the clipboard and standard output. So TeeClip.ps1:

$input | tee -var teeclipout | clip;
PermalinkCommentspowershell clip tool clipboard cli technical windows tee

PowerShell Script Batch File Wrapper

2011 May 22, 7:20

I'm trying to learn and use PowerShell more, but plenty of other folks I know don't use PowerShell. To allow them to use my scripts I use the following cmd.exe batch file to make it easy to call PowerShell scripts. To use, just name the batch file name the same as the corresponding PowerShell script filename and put it in the same directory.

@echo off
if "%1"=="/?" goto help
if "%1"=="/h" goto help
if "%1"=="-?" goto help
if "%1"=="-h" goto help

%systemroot%\system32\windowspowershell\v1.0\powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Command . %~dpn0.ps1 %*
goto end

%systemroot%\system32\windowspowershell\v1.0\powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Command help %~dpn0.ps1 -full
goto end


Additionally for PowerShell scripts that modify the current working directory I use the following batch file:

@echo off
if "%1"=="/?" goto help
if "%1"=="/h" goto help
if "%1"=="-?" goto help
if "%1"=="-h" goto help

%systemroot%\system32\windowspowershell\v1.0\powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Command . %~dpn0.ps1 %*;(pwd).Path 1> %temp%\%~n0.tmp 2> nul
set /p newdir=
PermalinkCommentspowershell technical programming batch file console

Console Build Window Jump Lists Tool

2010 Dec 13, 11:14

I've made two simple command line tools related to the console window and Win7 jump lists. The source is available for both but neither is much more than the sort of samples you'd find on MSDN =).

SetAppUserModelId lets you change the Application User Model ID for the current console window. The AppUserModelId is the value Win7 uses to group together icons on the task bar and is what the task bar's jump lists are associated with. The tool lets you change that as well as the icon and name that appear in the task bar for the window, and the command to launch if the user attempts to re-launch the application from its task bar icon.

SetJumpList lets you set the jump list associated with a particular AppUserModelId. You pass the AppUserModelId as the only parameter and then in its standard input you give it lines specifying items that should appear in the jump list and what to execute when those items are picked.

I put these together to make my build environment easier to deal with at work. I have to deal with multiple enlistments in many different branches and so I wrote a simple script around these two tools to group my build windows by branch name in the task bar, and to add the history of commands I've used to launch the build environment console windows to the jump list of each.

PermalinkCommentswin7 jumplist technical console

Securely Overwrite Files with a Built-in Command Line Trick

2010 Jun 25, 2:58"... all you need to do is specify the /W switch and the file or folder you want to overwrite—after you have already deleted it. cipher /W:C:\Path\To\Folder"PermalinkCommentstechnical cmd privacy security windows cipher delete

Encode-O-Matic Update: Compression, Hex View, Quick Show Output

2010 Mar 9, 9:08

I've just put up an update for Encode-O-Matic with the following improvements:

PermalinkCommentstechnical encodeomatic project

Think you've mastered Linux? Prove it, with Suicide Linux

2010 Feb 23, 9:38Think you're a bad ass having installed some obscure and difficult to use Linux distro, then prove how hardcore of a Linux nerd you are with '...Suicide Linux, where any unrecognized command is parsed as "rm -rf /"...'PermalinkCommentshumor geek linux bash technical

Researchers identify command servers behind Google attack

2010 Jan 14, 2:54Wow: "If the report's findings are correct, it suggests that the government of China has been engaged for months in a massive campaign of industrial espionage against US companies."PermalinkCommentsinternet google china security politics privacy

WPAD Server Fiddler Extension

2010 Jan 5, 7:42

I've made a WPAD server Fiddler extension and in a fit of creativity I've named it: WPAD Server Fiddler Extension.

Of course you know about Fiddler, Eric's awesome HTTP debugger tool, the HTTP proxy that lets you inspect, visualize and modify the HTTP traffic that flows through it. And on the subject you've probably definitely heard of WPAD, the Web Proxy Auto Discovery protocol that allows web browsers like IE to use DHCP or DNS to automatically discover HTTP proxies on their network. While working on a particularly nasty WPAD bug towards the end of IE8 I really wished I had a way to see the WPAD requests and responses and modify PAC responses in Fiddler. Well the wishes of me of the past are now fulfilled by present day me as this Fiddler extension will respond to WPAD DHCP requests telling those clients (by default) that Fiddler is their proxy.

When I started working on this project I didn't really understand how DHCP worked especially with respect to WPAD. I won't bore you with my misconceptions: it works by having your one DHCP server on your network respond to regular DHCP requests as well as WPAD DHCP requests. And Windows I've found runs a DHCP client service (you can start/stop it via Start|Run|'services.msc', scroll to DHCP Client or via the command line with "net start/stop 'DHCP Client'") that caches DHCP server responses making it just slightly more difficult to test and debug my extension. If a Windows app uses the DHCP client APIs to ask for the WPAD option, this service will send out a DHCP request and take the first DHCP server response it gets. That means that if you're on a network with a DHCP server, my extension will be racing to respond to the client. If the DHCP server wins then the client ignores the WPAD response from my extension.

Various documents and tools I found useful while working on this:

PermalinkCommentsproxy fiddler http technical debug wpad pac tool dhcp

Time/Date Conversion Tool

2009 Aug 28, 3:39

I built timestamp.exe, a Windows command line tool to convert between computer and human readable date/time formats mostly for working on the first run wizard for IE8. We commonly write out our dates in binary form to the registry and in order to test and debug my work it became useful to be able to determine to what date the binary value of a FILETIME or SYSTEMTIME corresponded or to produce my own binary value of a FILETIME and insert it into the registry.

For instance, to convert to a binary value:

[PS C:\] timestamp -inString 2009/08/28:10:18 -outHexValue -convert filetime
2009/08/28:10:18 as FILETIME: 00 7c c8 d1 c8 27 ca 01

Converting in the other direction, if you don't know what format the bytes are in, just feed them in and timestamp will try all conversions and list only the valid ones:

[PS C:\] timestamp -inHexValue  "40 52 1c 3b"
40 52 1c 3b as FILETIME: 1601-01-01:00:01:39.171
40 52 1c 3b as Unix Time: 2001-06-05:03:30:08.000
40 52 1c 3b as DOS Time: 2009-08-28:10:18:00.000
(it also supports OLE Dates, and SYSTEMTIME which aren't listed there because the hex value isn't valid for those types). Or use the guess option to get timestamp's best guess:
[PS C:\] timestamp -inHexValue  "40 52 1c 3b" -convert guess
40 52 1c 3b as DOS Time: 2009-08-28:10:18:00.000

When I first wrote this I had a bug in my function that parses the date-time value string in which I could parse 2009-07-02:10:18 just fine, but I wouldn't be able to parse 2009-09-02:10:18 correctly. This was my code:

success = swscanf_s(timeString, L"%hi%*[\\/- ,]%hi%*[\\/- ,]%hi%*[\\/- ,Tt:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi", 
&systemTime->wMilliseconds) > 1;

See the problem?

To convert between these various forms yourself read The Old New Thing date conversion article or Josh Poley's date time article. I previously wrote about date formats I like and dislike.

PermalinkCommentsdate date-time technical time windows tool

Apollo 11 lunar and command module software open-sourced

2009 Jul 23, 2:59"hand-typed from original scans by the Virtual AGS project; in the comments, numero mysterioso and hope hope hope"PermalinkCommentshumor code space programming via:waxy technical

Pizzas - Commander - Speed Rabbit Pizza

2009 Apr 1, 12:32Spped Rabbit Pizza's "IE8 Explorer" pizza: 8 slices, 8 ingredients, 8 Euros.PermalinkCommentshumor pizza ie8 ie france

Command-line Fu - The best UNIX commands on the web

2009 Mar 23, 9:35Ohhh some nice ones in here. "Command-Line-Fu is the place to record those command-line gems that you return to again and again."PermalinkCommentsshell unix linux cli howto tips via:swannman
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