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Packaging and Deployment – ‘missing types’ compiler errors using Visual Studio 2012 and SharePoint 2010 tools

For a while now, the team and I have been dealing with a odd behavior in Visual Studio 2012 and SharePoint 2010, disruptive to the point that I actually scripted out the whole build and packaging process from the command line just to package up our WSPs (SharePoint packages).  Basically it happened like this… we has a solution with a combination of Class Library projects and SharePoint projects, and were able to compile the projects individually or as a solution in Visual Studio, but when trying to package or deploy them to SharePoint via Visual Studio we would receive a variety of errors about missing types.  These missing types were all part of the class projects that were referenced by the SharePoint projects, providing a variety of utility classes and such, which all compiled fine when simply doing a build, but were reported as missing when we attempted to create SharePoint packages.

Well with no useful information from Visual Studio, the issue just sat on the side lines until either time or frustration found me.  The fact that we could compile from the command line using MSBUILD only added to the confusion, but gave us an opportunity to ignore the issue as long as possible.  But alas, all good things must come to an end, and I found myself in a situation where I needed to actually deploy from within Visual Studio, and so I looked again at the issue.

Well with a bit of speculation, and some criticism of the SharePoint tools for Visual Studio, here’s what seemed to be going on.  The SharePoint project templates and tools are designed for moving forward, and are not friendly to changes or reworking.  This is obvious in the management of features and packages, with the unfriendly two column UI for adding and removing items.  An important thing in SharePoint packages is sequence, however only one of the many item list in the SharePoint tool UIs provides buttons for reordering and unfortunately this is not the one.  In the case of this issue, it appears to be the package additional assemblies.  As time went by and code was refactored and moved to enhance reuse and organization, more project assemblies were added to the various packages.  However, the sequence of the assemblies isn’t easy to manipulate and can intermittently cause issues packaging issues when code a lower level project is changed, as the project additional assemblies appear to be recompiled during packaging either in a weird order or with weird references.

Without spending an inordinate amount of time looking into exactly why, what seemed to help mitigate the issue, was to open the package files in notepad and reorder the additional assemblies such that they would be added in the same order that they would naturally be compiled.  This seemed to clear up the issue, allowing to the SharePoint package projects to be published and deployed again.

So the lesson here would seem to be, make sure you monitor and reorder your package additional assemblies…

Feature contents is another one to watch for order, but that’s a different story.

SharePoint – An unexpected error has occurred or Object Reference Error in a site collection after reattaching a Content Database

2013/02/16 2 comments

After removing a content database from a SharePoint 2010 web application, so that I can restore a backup (for development purposes), upon reattaching the content database I was being plagued with an assortment of error message.

These included when trying to load the site, seeing both an “An unexpected error has occurred” and a simple server information block returned, and upon checking the logs seeing:

“System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.    at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPSite.PreinitializeServer(SPRequest request)”

This would occur on a single web front end server in the development farm (yep, I have multiple WFEs in my development environment), while the other WFEs would load fine.

After a couple different investigations, I found out that one cause of single server site corruption after reattaching a SP content db is… it’s the PowerShell SharePoint CmdLets.

If you are running PowerShell and are using the SharePoint CmdLets (SPSite for example) to connect to that site (for the content database in question), if you try to reattach the content database while that PowerShell session is still open, the reattach goes fine, but the servers where PowerShell was open will fail load the site thereafter… even after reboots and all.

You need to close the PowerShell window and then reattach the content database (either by the Central Admin UI or from a new PowerShell window if you are using scripts).

Additionally, the W3SVC and SPADMIN and SPTIMER services can all cause the same problem, so I have found that restarting those also (I bundled it up into a single PowerShell cmdlet) ensures that I never saw this issue again.