Typemock Isolator Troubleshooting Guide

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Typemock Isolator is a cool and very powerful mocking framework. However, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and it’s easy to get into situations where there are errors appearing that are hard to troubleshoot. For example, you may end up with a test that passes if run by itself but when run as part of a fixture (or a full set of test fixtures) it fails inexplicably. This guide can help you look for “red flags” that, in my experience, can cause these hard-to-figure-out issues.

Almost every time you encounter one of these inexplicable errors it’s because someone corrupted the environment in a test. This is akin to having unit tests that run against a real database (these are really “integration tests,” not “unit tests”) and one test runs, fails, and doesn’t put the data back in the original state, which then causes other tests to fail. Since Isolator works on the Profiler API, a few more things are “global” than you might realize. Normally this doesn’t cause problems, but most problems, in my experience, boil down to one of three things:

  • Too much is being mocked - things that don’t actually need to be mocked.
  • Mocks are being set up and not properly cleaned up.
  • A static or application-wide variable is being set in a test or test fixture and isn’t being put back to its original value.

These tips generally have to do with finding and fixing these issues.

 

ALWAYS CLEAN UP YOUR MOCKS

Prior to Typemock Isolator version 4.0, mocks needed to be manually cleaned up:

MockManager.ClearAll();

Some fixtures would have that in each individual test; some kept it in a central teardown method. For older fixtures that have not been updated for new syntax, make sure mocks get cleared after each test runs.

After Typemock Isolator version 4.0, you could decorate tests or test fixtures with attributes. For the older record/replay API, you would use:

[VerifyMocks]
public class MyTestFixture

For the newer Arrange-Act-Assert (AAA) API, you would use:

[Isolated]
public class MyTestFixture

Ensure any test/fixture using Typemock Isolator is cleaning things up. Failing to clean things up can sometimes cause hard-to-troubleshoot issues.

 

DON’T OVER-CLEAN YOUR MOCKS

While it technically shouldn’t matter if you clean up or verify mocks multiple times during the run of a test, occasionally you run into inexplicable trouble. I can’t give you a reason why this sometimes causes failure, just that it does, so if you see it, you’ll want to fix it.

For example, if you see something like this:

[VerifyMocks]
[ClearMocks]
public class MyTestFixture
{
  [TearDown]
  public void TearDown()
  {
    MockManager.ClearAll();
  }
}

…this is a problem. In this example, mocks will actually be cleaned up three times after each test:

  1. The TearDown method manually calls MockManager.ClearAll().
  2. The [VerifyMocks] attribute verifies the mock calls and clears the mocks after each test.
  3. The [ClearMocks] attribute clears the mocks after each test.

If you see redundant cleaning like this, it needs to be fixed.

The best way to solve this problem is to:

  1. Add the [VerifyMocks] attribute to the test fixture. Let it do the verify and clean steps for you.
  2. Remove all MockManager.ClearAll() calls from the entire fixture.
  3. Remove all MockManager.Verify() calls from the entire fixture.

Note this example is for the older record/replay mocking API. You can get into less over-cleaning trouble by using the newer AAA API, where there’s only one [Isolated] attribute to put on your test fixture.

 

DON’T OVER-MOCK

It is especially tempting, especially in the old record/replay API, to use something akin to the MockManager.MockAll() method to just mock everything you think might be needed even if you’re not sure. Let’s call this “kitchen sink mocking” because you’re mocking everything including the kitchen sink.

Don’t mock anything that you aren’t going to actually use.

The problem with over-mocking is twofold:

  • You lose the focus between what you’re isolating and what you’re testing. Many times use of “MockAll” results in you testing your mocks rather than the code you’re isolating, particularly if you’re not being careful.
  • “MockAll” has historically been a notorious problem for cleanup to deal with, especially if there are a lot of things getting mocked with “MockAll.” (This was addressed in newer versions of Isolator.)

Look at your code and see if you’re mocking “globally” - using constructs like “MockAll” should be a red-flag. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use them, just that you should triple-check to make sure you absolutely have to. And, if you do, triple-check the cleanup on that fixture to make sure they don’t leak into other fixtures.

In the AAA syntax, you should look for calls to Isolate.Swap.AllInstances()… though historically the AAA syntax has been less afflicted with the over-mocking problems that the record/replay syntax has.

 

DON’T MIX MOCKING STYLES

Prior to Typemock Isolator version 5.0, all mocking was done using a record/replay style of syntax. This used classes named things like RecorderManager and MockManager. A sample record/replay mock looks like this:

using(RecordExpectations recorder = RecorderManager.StartRecording())
{
  int dummy = someObject.PropertyToMock;
  recorder.Return(expectedValue);
}
Mock mock = MockManager.Mock(typeof(SomeOtherObject));
mock.ExpectAndReturn("SomeMethod", returnValue);

When you clean up after record/replay mocks, you usually use the [VerifyMocks] attribute on your test fixture. (See above for more info on mock cleanup.)

After 5.0, a new Arrange-Act-Assert (AAA) syntax was added. Mocks in AAA almost always start with Isolate, like:

var mock = Isolate.Fake.Instance();
Isolate.WhenCalled(() => mock.SomeMethod()).WillReturn(expectedValue);

When you clean up after AAA mocks, you usually use the [Isolated] attribute on your test fixture. (See above for more info on mock cleanup.)

NEVER mix mock types in the same test. EVER. This is a recipe for disaster and is not supported by Typemock, even if it might “work” when you run the test.

To keep things easy, you probably should not mix mock types in the same test fixture, though it is technically possible and supported.

If you see a fixture with BOTH [VerifyMocks] and [Isolated] attributes at the top, it is wrong. That’s mixing mocks. You can’t have both attributes run on the same fixture. Again, you can technically have them on different tests, just not at the fixture level.

PROBLEM: Two different mock cleanup attributes on the same fixture

Here’s an example showing the issue:

// BAD CODE: Two mock cleanup attributes.
[VerifyMocks]
[Isolated]
public class MyFixture
{
  public void AaaMockTest()
  {
    // Test code that uses Isolate.* mocking.
  }
  public void RecordReplayMockTest()
  {
    // Test code that uses RecorderManager/MockManager mocking.
  }
}

SOLUTION: Move the mock attributes to the test level. If you HAVE to mix mock types in a fixture, you’ll need to mark each test that uses the mocks with the appropriate cleanup attribute. Note if you move the attribute to the test level, you need to remove it from the top-level fixture.

// BETTER CODE: Different mock cleanup attributes on the associated tests.
public class MyFixture
{
  [Isolated]
  public void AaaMockTest()
  {
    // Test code that uses Isolate.* mocking.
  }
  [VerifyMocks]
  public void RecordReplayMockTest()
  {
    // Test code that uses RecorderManager/MockManager mocking.
  }
}

PROBLEM: Two different mock types in the same test

Here’s an example showing the issue:

// BAD CODE: Two mock types in the same test.
public class MyFixture
{
  [VerifyMocks]
  [Isolated]
  public void MixedMockTest()
  {
    var mock1 = Isolate.Fake.Instance();
    var mock2 = RecorderManager.CreateMockedObject();
  }
}

SOLUTION: Refactor the test to use only one type of mocks. You have no easy choice in this scenario. You have to rewrite the test so only one mock type is being used. All things being equal, try to use the new AAA syntax over the older record/replay syntax. That said, if the entire rest of the fixture is in the old syntax, don’t introduce a new AAA syntax in just because. It’s better to have all the tests in the fixture using the same syntax so you don’t run into the multiple-attribute issue.

 

BE CAREFUL OF STATICS AND ENVIRONMENT VARIABLES

Not necessarily a Typemock-specific issue, but something that is commonly seen and causes issues is when tests set static values or environment variables during a test and don’t reset them.

For example, an ASP.NET MVC test may make use of the System.Web.Mvc.DependencyResolver. In those tests, there is a desire to set the current IDependencyResolver to a test value. The problem is, it is easy to overlook ‘‘putting back the original value’’ on both success and failure conditions. Not putting back the default value can corrupt later tests.

The same can be said for other environmental settings. Look for things like…

  • Setting the current thread principal.
  • Setting the current thread culture.
  • Modifying environment variables.
  • Modifying registry keys.
  • Writing actual physical files.
  • Storing things in a static cache (like HttpRuntime.Cache).
  • Reading values that get cached in static variables (for example, in configuration-related classes where the config gets read, deserialized, and cached in a static).

 

DON’T AUTO-DEPLOY IF TYPEMOCK IS ALREADY INSTALLED

It is possible to auto-deploy and auto-register Typemock Isolator from a build script. This is an OK practice on a build server that doesn’t have Typemock installed, but it causes issues on machines that may already have it installed. Auto-deploy/auto-register running if Typemock is already installed will corrupt the existing Typemock installation and will generally create a corrupt new installation. The only way to repair this is to run the Typemock installer and run a repair. (You may also have to repair NCover or any other profiler/coverage tool you have installed.)

One way to solve this is to add a condition to your auto-deploy task in your build script. For example, in a developer environment there may be a setting such that the build configuration is always “Debug” and on the build server it’s always “Release.” You could set up an MSBuild task like this to only auto-deploy/register Typemock when it’s a Release environment:

<TypeMockRegister
    Company="YourCompany"
    License="1111-2222-3333-4444-5555"
    AutoDeploy="true"
    Condition="'$(BuildConfiguration)'!='Debug'"/>

 

USE THE TYPEMOCK TRACER UTILITY

When you install Typemock Isolator, it installs a Tracer utility that lets you watch as tests run to see what Isolator is setting up behind the scenes and which expectations have been fulfilled. This is a great tool to use when things are failing when they should pass, or passing when they should fail. There is some good online documentation on how to use it so I won’t repeat all that here, but something not in the docs:

You have to run the Tracer utility and the unit tests as Administrator for it to work.

This may change in a future release, but as of this writing, that’s the case. If you don’t run Tracer and the unit tests both as Administrator, the Tracer doesn’t display anything and there’s no explanation why.

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