ArgumentException Creating an XmlSerializer

I ran into a kind of baffling problem. I’ve got some .NET code that is also accessible to Java via JNI. There are unit tests for the .NET code that all pass. To test the Java to .NET connection, I wrote a few JUnit tests which worked fine when run from the IDE, but failed when run from Ant. The failure was ultimately caused by an ArgumentException when creating an XmlSerializer.

The exception was thrown from line 5 in the code below.

public static FileTypeHandlerCatalog Load(string fileName) 
using (StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(fileName)) 
        XmlSerializer serializer = new XmlSerializer(typeof(FileTypeHandlerCatalog));
        FileTypeHandlerCatalog catalog = (FileTypeHandlerCatalog)serializer.Deserialize(reader); 
        return catalog; 

The exception message wasn’t terribly helpful either since it was obviously disgorging ├é┬áimplementation details from somewhere deep in the XmlSerializer class:

System.ArgumentException: Item has already been added. Key in dictionary: 'path' Key being added: 'path'

The stack trace led me to the System.CodeDom.Compiler.Executor.ExecWaitWithCaptureUnimpersonated method, which contains the following bit of code:

StringDictionary sd = new StringDictionary(); 
foreach (DictionaryEntry entry in Environment.GetEnvironmentVariables()) 
  sd.Add((string) entry.Key, (string) entry.Value); 

I guess it is copying the environment variables so that it can add a new one related to security. The problem is that when running under Ant, for some reason there were three different PATH environment variables with an assortment of cases: PATH, Path and path. Looking at the StringDictionary.Add implementation, the problem became clear. In line 7, it converts the key to lower case in order to add it to the hash table, resulting in duplicate keys.

public virtual void Add(string key, string value) 
    if (key == null) 
        throw new ArgumentNullException("key"); 
    this.contents.Add(key.ToLower(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture), value); 

So it appears to be a bug in the Executor class — it doesn’t expect to encounter multiple keys in the environment variable dictionary that differ only by case.

I solved the problem by pregenerating the serialization assembly using sgen, which is generally a good idea anyway.

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