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After listening to the Hanselminutes episode on Microsoft Solver Foundation (MSF) I decided it’s time to give it a shot today. Solver Foundation seems to be a solution to a set of constrained problems I sometimes face:
Something I don’t remember Scott Hanselman and his guest talking about is that Solver Foundation comes with an Excel Add-In that is supposed to make creating models easy easier, no code needed. Along with the “Solver Foundation for Excel Primer” document that is installed along with the binaries I figured Excel would be a good way to start looking into Solver Foundation.
After the MSI ran, I started Excel but didn’t find the Solver Foundation tab that’s advertised in the primer. The COM Add-Ins dialog said something about that the Add-In could not be loaded. Nice! Luckily the Event Viewer was more helpful in terms of error messages where I found this beauty of an exception:
Customization could not be loaded because the application domain could not be created.
---> System.IO.FileLoadException: Could not load file or assembly 'MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel, Version=18.104.22.16890, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35' or one of its dependencies.
The located assembly's manifest definition does not match the assembly reference. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80131040)
My first guess was that an old MSF assembly was referenced and I decided to go with an assembly binding redirect for excel.exe. Didn’t help. The next step was to get into the innards of VSTO deployment. What I found in the MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel.vsto and MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel.dll.manifest files wasn’t surpising: Several references to old versions of MSF. None of which were deployed by the MSI installer, so Excel trying to load such dependencies failed.
<assemblyIdentity name="MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel" version="22.214.171.12448"…
<assemblyIdentity name="MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel" version="126.96.36.19990"…
I updated both references to the match the installed version 188.8.131.5232, just to find myself faced with another error saying that the manifest’s digital signature is broken.
Now was time to contact my friend Lars Keller who is an expert in VSTO development. Lars told me that I would have to re-sign the .vsto and .manifest files to make the signature reflect my changes. The Office Development with Visual Studio blog has the full details.
makecert -r -pe -n "CN=Your Name" -b 01/01/2010 -e 01/01/2099 -eku 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.3 -ss My
mage.exe -update MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel.dll.manifest -CertFile <your-cert.pfx> -Password <cert-export-password>
mage.exe -update MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel.vsto -appmanifest MicrosoftSolverFoundationForExcel.dll.manifest -CertFile <your-cert.pfx> -Password <cert-export-password>
(Tested with Office 2010 beta.)
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