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Compuware touts alternative tools for Windows driver developers

Developers of drivers for the Microsoft Windows operating system often work under tremendous pressure with programming tools that are from "the Stone Age," according to John Carpenter at Detroit-based Compuware Corp.

"Basically, driver developers don't have a whole lot of choices," he said. "They're stuck with this thing Microsoft calls their Drivers Developers Kit, otherwise known as DDK."

Carpenter joked that while the good news is that DDK is free, the bad news is that you get what you pay for. "There's not a whole lot in there," he explained. "Besides the C compiler, there are some driver development tools that basically come out of the Stone Age. They're all command line-oriented, and they're poorly documented. It's a very complex environment to set up. The environment they give you is very prone to introducing errors into your driver. Because of the nature of drivers and their sheer complexity, it becomes very difficult to debug it. As a result, driver development is incredibly slow."

The driver is often the last step before the product goes to market, said Carpenter, which puts driver developers under tremendous pressure to finish the coding and debugging. The driver then has to pass a Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) driver certification or it cannot carry the "Designed for Windows XP" logo.

Compuware is trying to make life a little easier for driver developers, he added, with the recent release of DriverStudio 3.0, which, among other things, contains sample code that is WHQL-certified for use as a template.

"They're skeleton drivers that are WHQL-certified and it's up to you the developer to fill in the blanks to make your device run," said Carpenter, who is the product manager for DriverStudio.

With the new release, he said, Compuware is moving to provide driver developers with the kind of environment that is available for general application development.

"In the driver world, there's no such thing as an integrated developer environment," Carpenter said. "That's where we're going with 3.0 ... to give driver developers an environment where they can develop a driver, write it, debug it, build it, test it and deploy the classic functions of an IDE. We've taken a big step in that direction with DriverStudio 3.0."

The new release integrates with Microsoft .NET, but also offers other alternatives, including Driverworkbench, which allows developers who haven't moved to .NET to continue to work with Visual Studio 6.0, he explained.

"What we're giving the driver developer is the ability to develop a driver in a friendly, known environment," Carpenter explained. "The same kind of environment he uses to develop his applications."

Links:

For more information on DriverStudio 3.0, please go to www.compuware.com/products/driverstudio/782_ENG_HTML.htm

For other Programmers Report articles, please go to www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6265

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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