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Azure build error messages aren't helpful

When working with Microsoft Windows Azure, I sometimes feel like I'm back in the 1980s. They've rushed their development tools to market so that they can get us developers working on Azure projects, but they haven't yet added the kinds of error messages that one would hope to see.

I've spent most of today trying to get the simplest website in my server rack up into Azure. The last hour and a half has been spent trying to figure out two related error messages that occurred when trying to debug a Web application project that I converted from a Web site project:

  • Failed to debug the Windows Azure Cloud Service project. The output directory ' { path }\csx\Debug' does not exist.
  • Windows Azure Tools: Can't locate service descriptions.

The first error message seems straightforward enough: when the project got created, it never added the \csx\Debug folder. After creating the empty \csx\Debug folder, the second message occurs.

When an Azure project builds, it's supposed to create the \csx\Debug folder under the Cloud Service project root. It then copies the service definition (.csdef) and configuration (.cscfg) projects into the folder, which the Azure compute emulator can hook into.

In my project, this wasn't happening. So I created a new Cloud solution to see if this was a system problem or a configuration problem. (First I uninstalled and reinstalled all the Azure tools...which wasn't as big a time-suck as it could have been because I walked Parker while that was going on.)

The Deleteme solution built fine; mine still had the problem. So then I started comparing the configuration, project, and solution files...and completely missed the significance of this:

...except it gnawed at me for a few minutes, until I looked at this:

Why it created a configuration and then decided not to build it I just don't know. The solution to my hours of pain is simply to do change the solution platform to Any CPU (or check "build" on the .NET platform):

I am now going to fix the hole in my desk where I've been pounding my head.

When I started getting these messages, I Googled and I Googled, but the technology is so new that no one else appears to have had exactly this problem. I hope this post pays back some of the Karmic debt I've taken on from all the times when someone else had the right answer.

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