Until recently I didn’t do kernel debugging, but recently I’ve toyed around with some code which executes before the the process is in a state which is agreeable for user-mode debuggers. So I borrowed this book from one of my friends (thanks D!) and read trough it.
To get the bad stuff straight out of the way:
- The authors define a very wide scope for the book in the introduction (something along the lines of “everyone should read it” – of course I’m paraphrasing). There is stark contrast however between this statement and the level of knowledge required to be able to understand the book, knowledge mostly isn’t covered in the book
- A large part of the book is monospaced textual content. They don’t use a typeface however in which you can easily differentiate between the letter l and the digit 1 (like Monaco), which makes many of the examples ambiguous
- The chapters have a certain feel of disorganization to them in my opinion, and frequently they seem to be more of a “tips & tricks” collection than complete whole. I assume that a large reason for this is the fact that the WinDBG commands evolved over time, so there isn’t a simple logic which can “decode” all of them (similar to the MS-DOS/MS Windows batch language). Still, a summary of the commands (in cheat-sheet fashion) would have been nice.
One positive aspect of the book is its low error rate. In fact I’ve seen only one error in the whole book (there might have been more, but not many more): a drawing shows the end of the SEH chain as being 0x00000000, while in fact it is 0xFFFFFFFF (the correct value is used however in the text). An other positive aspect is the thoroughness: after reading trough all off ~750 pages, you will get a very good idea about the capabilities of WinDBG and other related tools.
So would I recommend reading this book? If you want to use WinDBG (or other debuggers from the Windows Debugging Tools) yes, but only after reading at least the Windows Internals and an assembly book (I've heard that Art of Assembly would be good, although I've didn't read it myself). It should have a warning sticker: for hard-core enthusiast only.
Full disclosure: the links in the post contain my Amazon Affiliate ID.