humor, rest comments edit

I was browsing around the other day and found your mom's REST API. Naturally, I pulled my client out and got to work.

An abbreviated session follows:

GET /your/mom HTTP/1.1

HTTP/1.1 200 OK

PUT /your/mom HTTP/1.1
":)"

HTTP/1.1 402 Payment Required

POST /your/mom HTTP/1.1
"$"

HTTP/1.1 411 Length Required

PUT /your/mom HTTP/1.1
":)"

HTTP/1.1 406 Not Acceptable
HTTP/1.1 413 Request Entity Too Large
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
.
.
.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
.
.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
HTTP/1.1 502 Bad Gateway
HTTP/1.1 503 Service Unavailable

I think I need to get a new API key before she gives me the ol' 410. :)

build comments edit

In making a package similar to the NuGet.Server package, I had a need to, from one project in the solution, get the list of build output assemblies from other projects in the same solution.

That is, in a solution like:

  • MySolution.sln
    • Server.csproj
    • Project1.csproj
    • Project2.csproj

...from the Server.csproj I wanted to get the build output assembly paths for the Project1.csproj and Project2.csproj projects.

The technically correct solution is sort of complicated and Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi has documented it on his blog. The problem with the technically correct solution is that it requires you to invoke a build on the target projects.

That build step was causing no end of trouble. Projects were re-running AfterBuild actions, code was getting regenerated at inopportune times, cats and dogs living together - mass hysteria.

I came up with a different way to get the build outputs that is less technically correct but gets the job done and doesn't require you to invoke a build on the target projects.

My solution involves loading the projects in an evaluation context using a custom inline MSBuild task. Below is a snippet showing the task in action. Note that the snippet is in the context of a .targets file that would be added to your .csproj by a NuGet package, so you'll see environment variables used that will only be present in a full build setting:

<Project DefaultTargets="EnumerateOutput" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003" >
  <ItemGroup>
    <!-- Include all projects in the solution EXCEPT this one -->
    <ProjectToScan Include="$(SolutionDir)/**/*.csproj" Exclude="$(SolutionDir)/**/$(ProjectName).csproj" />
  </ItemGroup>
  <Target Name="EnumerateOutput" AfterTargets="Build">
    <!-- Call the custom task to get the output -->
    <GetBuildOutput ProjectFile="%(ProjectToScan.FullPath)">
      <Output ItemName="ProjectToScanOutput" TaskParameter="BuildOutput"/>
    </GetBuildOutput>

    <Message Text="%(ProjectToScanOutput.Identity)" />
  </Target>

  <UsingTask TaskName="GetBuildOutput" TaskFactory="CodeTaskFactory" AssemblyFile="$(MSBuildToolsPath)\Microsoft.Build.Tasks.v12.0.dll" >
    <ParameterGroup>
      <ProjectFile ParameterType="System.String" Required="true"/>
      <BuildOutput ParameterType="Microsoft.Build.Framework.ITaskItem[]" Output="true"/>
    </ParameterGroup>
    <Task>
      <Reference Include="System.Xml"/>
      <Reference Include="Microsoft.Build"/>
      <Using Namespace="Microsoft.Build.Evaluation"/>
      <Using Namespace="Microsoft.Build.Utilities"/>
      <Code Type="Fragment" Language="cs">
      <![CDATA[
        // The dollar-properties here get expanded to be the
        // actual values that are present during build.
        var properties = new Dictionary<string, string>
        {
          { "Configuration", "$(Configuration)" },
          { "Platform", "$(Platform)" }
        };

        // Load the project into a separate project collection so
        // we don't get a redundant-project-load error.
        var collection = new ProjectCollection(properties);
        var project = collection.LoadProject(ProjectFile);

        // Dollar sign can't easily be escaped here so we use the char code.
        var expanded = project.ExpandString(((char)36) + @"(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\" + ((char)36) + "(OutputPath)" + ((char)36) + "(AssemblyName).dll");
        BuildOutput = new TaskItem[] { new TaskItem(expanded) };
      ]]>
      </Code>
    </Task>
  </UsingTask>
</Project>

How it works:

  1. Create a dictionary of properties you want to flow from the current build environment into the target project. In this case, the Configuration and Platform properties are what affects the build output location, so I pass those. The $(Configuration) and $(Platform) in the code snippet will actually be expanded on the fly to be the real values from the current build environment.
  2. Create a tiny MSBuild project collection (similar to the way MSBuild does so for a solution). Pass the set of properties into the collection so they can be used by your project. You need this collection so the project doesn't get loaded in the context of the solution. You get an error saying the project is already loaded if you don't do this.
  3. Load the project into your collection. When you do, properties will be evaluated using the global environment - that dictionary provided.
  4. Use the ExpandString method on the project to expand $(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\$(OutputPath)$(AssemblyName).dll into whatever it will be in context of the project with the given environment. This will end up being the absolute path to the assembly being generated for the given configuration and platform. Note the use of (char)36 there - I spent some time trying to figure out how to escape $ but never could, so rather than fight it... there you go.
  5. Return the information from the expansion to the caller.

That step with ExpandString is where the less technically correct bit comes into play. For example, if the project generates an .exe file rather than a .dll - I don't account for that. I could enhance it to accommodate for that, but... well, this covers the majority case for me.

I considered returning a property rather than an item, but I have a need to grab a bunch of build output items and batch/loop over them, so items worked better in that respect.

There's also probably a real way of escaping $ that just didn't pop up in my searches. Leave a comment if you know; I'd be happy to update.

sublime, xml comments edit

I already have my build scripts tidy up my XML configuration files but sometimes I'm working on something outside the build and need to tidy up my XML.

There are a bunch of packages that have HTML linting and tidy, but there isn't really a great XML tidy package... and it turns out you don't really need one.

  1. Get a copy of Tidy and make sure it's in your path.
  2. Install the Sublime package "External Command" so you can pipe text in the editor through external commands.
  3. In Sublime, go to Preferences -> Browse Packages... and open the "User" folder.
  4. Create a new file in there called ExternalCommand.sublime-commands. (The name isn't actually important as long as it ends in .sublime-commands but I find it's easier to remember what the file is for with this name.)

Add the following to the ExternalCommand.sublime-commands file:

[
    {
        "caption": "XML: Tidy",
        "command": "filter_through_command",
        "args": { "cmdline": "tidy --input-xml yes --output-xml yes --preserve-entities yes --indent yes --indent-spaces 4 --input-encoding utf8 --indent-attributes yes --wrap 0 --newline lf" }
    }
]

Sublime should immediately pick this up, but sometimes it requires a restart.

Now when you're working in XML and want to tidy it up, go to the command palette (Ctrl+Shift+P) and run the XML: Tidy command. It'll be all nicely cleaned up!

The options I put here match the ones I use in my build scripts.. If you want to customize how the XML looks, you can change up the command line in the ExternalCommand.sublime-commands file using the options available to Tidy.

aspnet, rest, json comments edit

Here's the situation:

You have a custom object type that you want to use in your Web API application. You want full support for it just like a .NET primitive:

  • It should be usable as a route value like api/operation/{customobject}.
  • You should be able to GET the object and it should serialize the same as it does in the route.
  • You should be able to POST an object as the value for a property on another object and that should work.
  • It should show up correctly in ApiExplorer generated documentation like Swashbuckle/Swagger.

This isn't as easy as you might think.

The Demo Object

Here's a simple demo object that I'll use to walk you through the process. It has some custom serialization/deserialization logic.

public class MyCustomObject
{
  public int First { get; set; }

  public int Second { get; set; }

  public string Encode()
  {
    return String.Format(
        CultureInfo.InvariantCulture,
        "{0}|{1}",
        this.First,
        this.Second);
  }

  public static MyCustomObject Decode(string encoded)
  {
    var parts = encoded.Split('|');
    return new MyCustomObject
    {
      First = int.Parse(parts[0]),
      Second = int.Parse(parts[1])
    };
  }
}

We want the object to serialize as a pipe-delimited string rather than a full object representation:

var obj = new MyCustomObject
{
  First = 12,
  Second = 345
}

// This will be "12|345"
var encoded = obj.Encode();

// This will decode back into the original object
var decoded = MyCustomObject.Decode(encoded);

Here we go.

Outbound Route Value: IConvertible

Say you want to generate a link to a route that takes your custom object as a parameter. Your API controller might do something like this:

// For a route like this:
// [Route("api/value/{value}", Name = "route-name")]
// you generate a link like this:
var url = this.Url.Link("route-name", new { value = myCustomObject });

By default, you'll get a link that looks like this, which isn't what you want: http://server/api/value/MyNamespace.MyCustomObject

We can fix that. UrlHelper uses, in this order:

  • IConvertible.ToString()
  • IFormattable.ToString()
  • object.ToString()

So, if you implement one of these things, you can control how the object appears in the URL. I like IConvertible because IFormattable runs into other things like String.Format calls, where you might not want the object serialized the same.

Let's add IConvertible to the object. You really only need to handle the ToString method; everything else, just bail with InvalidCastException. You also have to deal with the GetTypeCode implementation and a simple ToType implementation.

using System;
using System.Globalization;

namespace SerializationDemo
{
  public class MyCustomObject : IConvertible
  {
    public int First { get; set; }

    public int Second { get; set; }

    public static MyCustomObject Decode(string encoded)
    {
      var parts = encoded.Split('|');
      return new MyCustomObject
      {
        First = int.Parse(parts[0]),
        Second = int.Parse(parts[1])
      };
    }

    public string Encode()
    {
      return String.Format(
        CultureInfo.InvariantCulture,
        "{0}|{1}",
        this.First,
        this.Second);
    }

    public TypeCode GetTypeCode()
    {
      return TypeCode.Object;
    }

    public override string ToString()
    {
      return this.ToString(CultureInfo.CurrentCulture);
    }

    public string ToString(IFormatProvider provider)
    {
      return String.Format(provider, "<{0}, {1}>", this.First, this.Second);
    }

    string IConvertible.ToString(IFormatProvider provider)
    {
      return this.Encode();
    }

    public object ToType(Type conversionType, IFormatProvider provider)
    {
      return Convert.ChangeType(this, conversionType, provider);
    }

    /* ToBoolean, ToByte, ToChar, ToDateTime,
       ToDecimal, ToDouble, ToInt16, ToInt32,
       ToInt64, ToSByte, ToSingle, ToUInt16,
       ToUInt32, ToUInt64
       all throw InvalidCastException */
  }
}

There are a couple of interesting things to note here:

  • I explicitly implemented IConvertible.ToString. I did that so the value you'll get in a String.Format call or a standard ToString call will be different than the encoded value. To get the encoded value, you have to explicitly cast the object to IConvertible. This allows you to differentiate where the encoded value shows up.
  • ToType pipes to Convert.ChangeType. Convert.ChangeType uses IConvertible where possible, so you kinda get this for free. Another reason IConvertible is better here than IFormattable.

Inbound Route Value, Action Parameter, and ApiExplorer: TypeConverter

When ApiExplorer is generating documentation, it needs to know whether the action parameter can be converted into a string (so it can go in the URL). It does this by getting the TypeConverter for the object and querying CanConvertFrom(typeof(string)). If the answer is false, ApiExplorer assumes the parameter has to be in the body of a request - which wrecks any generated documentation because that thing should be in the route.

To satisfy ApiExplorer, you need to implement a TypeConverter.

When your custom object is used as a route value coming in or otherwise as an action parameter, you also need to be able to model bind the encoded value to your custom object.

There is a built-in TypeConverterModelBinder that uses TypeConverter so implementing the TypeConverter will address model binding as well.

Here's a simple TypeConverter for the custom object:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Globalization;

namespace SerializationDemo
{
  public class MyCustomObjectTypeConverter : TypeConverter
  {
    public override bool CanConvertFrom(
        ITypeDescriptorContext context,
        Type sourceType)
    {
      return sourceType == typeof(string) ||
             base.CanConvertFrom(context, sourceType);
    }

    public override bool CanConvertTo(
        ITypeDescriptorContext context,
        Type destinationType)
    {
      return destinationType == typeof(string) ||
             base.CanConvertTo(context, destinationType);
    }

    public override object ConvertFrom(
        ITypeDescriptorContext context,
        CultureInfo culture,
        object value)
    {
      var encoded = value as String;
      if (encoded != null)
      {
        return MyCustomObject.Decode(encoded);
      }

      return base.ConvertFrom(context, culture, value);
    }

    public override object ConvertTo(
        ITypeDescriptorContext context,
        CultureInfo culture,
        object value,
        Type destinationType)
    {
      var cast = value as MyCustomObject;
      if (destinationType == typeof(string) && cast != null)
      {
        return cast.Encode();
      }

      return base.ConvertTo(context, culture, value, destinationType);
    }
  }
}

And, of course, add the [TypeConverter] attribute to the custom object.

[TypeConverter(typeof(MyCustomObjectTypeConverter))]
public class MyCustomObject : IConvertible
{
  //...
}

Setting Swagger/Swashbuckle Doc

Despite all of this, generated Swagger/Swashbuckle documentation will still show an expanded representation of your object, which is inconsistent with how a user will actually work with it from a client perspective.

At application startup need to register a type mapping with the Swashbuckle SwaggerSpecConfig.Customize method to map your custom type to a string.

SwaggerSpecConfig.Customize(c =>
{
  c.MapType<MyCustomObject>(() =>
      new DataType { Type = "string", Format = null });
});

Even More Control: JsonConverter

Newtonsoft.Json should handle converting your type automatically based on the IConvertible and TypeConverter implementations.

However, if you're doing something extra fancy like implementing a custom generic object, you may need to implement a JsonConverter for your object.

There is some great doc on the Newtonsoft.Json site so I won't go through that here.

Using Your Custom Object

With the IConvertible and TypeConverter implementations, you should be able to work with your object like any other primitive and have it properly appear in route URLs, model bind, and so on.

// You can define a controller action that automatically
// binds the string to the custom object. You can also
// generate URLs that will have the encoded value in them.
[Route("api/increment/{value}", Name = "increment-values")]
public MyCustomObject IncrementValues(MyCustomObject value)
{
  // Create a URL like this...
  var url = this.Url.Link("increment-values", new { value = value });

  // Or work with an automatic model-bound object coming in...
  return new MyCustomObject
  {
    First = value.First + 1,
    Second = value.Second + 1
  }
}

Bonus: Using Thread Principal During Serialization

If, for whatever reason, your custom object needs the user's principal on the thread during serialization, you're in for a surprise: While the authenticated principal is on the thread during your ApiController run, HttpServer restores the original (unauthenticated) principal before response serialization happens.

It's recommended you use HttpRequestMessage.GetRequestContext().Principal instead of Thread.CurrentPrincipal but that's kind of hard by the time you get to type conversion and so forth and there's no real way to pass that around.

The way you can work around this is by implementing a custom JsonMediaTypeFormatter.

The JsonMediaTypeFormatter has a method GetPerRequestFormatterInstance that is called when serialization occurs. It does get the current request message, so you can pull the principal out then and stick it on the thread long enough for serialization to happen.

Here's a simple implementation:

public class PrincipalAwareJsonMediaTypeFormatter : JsonMediaTypeFormatter
{
  // This is the default constructor to use when registering the formatter.
  public PrincipalAwareJsonMediaTypeFormatter()
  {
  }

  // This is the constructor to use per-request.
  public PrincipalAwareJsonMediaTypeFormatter(
    JsonMediaTypeFormatter formatter,
    IPrincipal user)
    : base(formatter)
  {
    this.User = user;
  }

  // For per-request instances, this is the authenticated principal.
  public IPrincipal User { get; private set; }

  // Here's where you create the per-user/request formatter.
  public override MediaTypeFormatter GetPerRequestFormatterInstance(
    Type type,
    HttpRequestMessage request,
    MediaTypeHeaderValue mediaType)
  {
    var requestContext = request.GetRequestContext();
    var user = requestContext == null ? null : requestContext.Principal;
    return new PrincipalAwareJsonMediaTypeFormatter(this, user);
  }

  // When you deserialize an object, throw the principal
  // on the thread first and restore the original when done.
  public override object ReadFromStream(
    Type type,
    Stream readStream,
    Encoding effectiveEncoding,
    IFormatterLogger formatterLogger)
  {
    var originalPrincipal = Thread.CurrentPrincipal;
    try
    {
      if (this.User != null)
      {
        Thread.CurrentPrincipal = this.User;
      }

      return base.ReadFromStream(type, readStream, effectiveEncoding, formatterLogger);
    }
    finally
    {
      Thread.CurrentPrincipal = originalPrincipal;
    }
  }

  // When you serialize an object, throw the principal
  // on the thread first and restore the original when done.
  public override void WriteToStream(
    Type type,
    object value,
    Stream writeStream,
    Encoding effectiveEncoding)
  {
    var originalPrincipal = Thread.CurrentPrincipal;
    try
    {
      if (this.User != null)
      {
        Thread.CurrentPrincipal = this.User;
      }

      base.WriteToStream(type, value, writeStream, effectiveEncoding);
    }
    finally
    {
      Thread.CurrentPrincipal = originalPrincipal;
    }
  }
}

You can register that at app startup with your HttpConfiguration like this:

// Copy any custom settings from the current formatter
// into a new formatter.
var formatter = new PrincipalAwareJsonMediaTypeFormatter(config.Formatters.JsonFormatter);

// Remove the old formatter, add the new one.
config.Formatters.Remove(config.Formatters.JsonFormatter);
config.Formatters.Add(formatter);

Conclusion

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed in the different ways the same things get handled here. Why do some things allow IConvertible but others require TypeConverter? It'd be nice if it was consistent.

In any case, once you know how it works, it's not too hard to implement. Knowing is half the battle, right?

Hopefully this helps you in your custom object creation journey!

autofac, aspnet comments edit

We've been silent for a while, but we want you to know we've been working diligently on trying to get a release of Autofac that works with ASP.NET 5.0/vNext.

When it's released, the ASP.NET vNext compatible version will be Autofac 4.0.

Here's a status update on what's been going on:

  • Split repositories for Autofac packages. We had been maintaining all of the Autofac packages - Autofac.Configuration, Autofac.Wcf, and so on - in a single repository. This made it easier to work with but also caused trouble with independent package versioning and codeline release tagging. We've split everything into separate repositories now to address these issues. You can see the repositories by looking at the Autofac organization in GitHub.
  • Switched to Gitflow. Previously we were just working in master and it was pretty easy. Occasionally we'd branch for larger things, but not always. We've switched to using Gitflow so you'll see the 4.0 work going on in a "develop" branch in the repo.
  • Switched the build. We're trying to get the build working using only the new stuff (.kproj/project.json). This is proving to be a bit challenging, which I'll discuss more below.
  • Switched the tests to xUnit. In order to see if we broke something we need to run the tests, and the only runner in town for vNext is xUnit, so... we switched, at least for core Autofac.
  • Working on code conversion. Most of the differences we've seen in the API has to do with the way you access things through reflection. Of course, IoC containers do a lot of that, so there's a lot of code to update and test. The new build system handles things like resources (.resx) slightly differently, too, so we're working on making sure everything comes across and tests out.
  • Moved continuous integration to AppVeyor. You'll see build badges on all of the README files in the respective repos. The MyGet CI NuGet feed is still live and where we publish the CI builds, but the build proper is on AppVeyor. I may have to write a separate blog entry on why we switched, but basically - we had more control at AppVeyor and things are easier to manage. (We are still working on getting a CI build for the vNext stuff going on there.)

Obviously at a minimum we'd like to get core Autofac out sooner rather than later. Ideally we could also get a few other items like Autofac.Configuration out, too, so folks can see things in a more "real world" scenario.

Once we can get a reliable Autofac core ported over, we can get the ASP.NET integration piece done. That work is going on simultaneously, but it's hard to get integration done when the core bits are still moving.

There have, of course, been some challenges. Microsoft's working hard on getting things going, but things still aren't quite baked. Most of it comes down to "stuff that will eventually be there but isn't quite done yet."

  • Portable Class Library support isn't there. We switched Autofac to PCL to avoid having a ton of #if ASPNETCORE50 sorts of code in the codebase. We had that early on with things like Silverlight and PCL made this really nice. Unfortunately, the old-style .csproj projects don't have PCL support for ASP.NET vNext yet (though it's supposed to be coming) and we're not able to specify PCL target profiles in project.json. (While net45 works, it doesn't seem that .NETPortable,Version=v4.6,Profile=Profile259 does, or anything like it.) That means we're back to a couple of #if items and still trying to figure out how to get the other platforms supported. UPDATE: Had a Twitter conversation with Dave Kean and it turns out we may need to switch the build back to .csproj to get PCL support, but PCL should allow us to target ASP.NET vNext.
  • Configuration isn't quite baked. Given there's no web.config or ConfigurationElement support in ASP.NET, configuration is handled differently - through Microsoft.Framework.ConfigurationModel. Unfortunately, they don't currently support the notion of arrays/collections, so for Autofac.Configuration if you wanted to register a list of modules... you can't with this setup. There's an issue for it filed but it doesn't appear to have any progress. Sort of a showstopper and may mean we need to roll our own custom serialization for configuration.
  • The build structure has a steep learning curve. I blogged about this before so I won't recap it, but suffice to say, there's not much doc and there's a lot to figure out in there.
  • No strong naming. One of the things they changed about the new platform is the removal of strong naming for assemblies. Personally, I'm fine with that - it's always been a headache - but there's a lot of code access security stuff in Autofac that we'd put into place to make sure it'd work in partial trust; we had [InternalsVisibleTo] attributes in places... and that all has to change. You can't have a strong-named assembly depend on a not-strong-named assembly, and as they move away from strong naming, it basically means everything has to either maintain two builds (strong named and not strong named) or we stop strong naming. I think we're leaning toward not strong naming - for the same reason we tried getting away from the #if statements. One codeline, one release, easy to manage.

None of this is insurmountable, but it is a lot like dominos - if we can get the foundation stuff up to date, things will just start falling into place. It's just slow to make progress when the stuff you're trying to build on isn't quite there.

aspnet, net, autofac, github comments edit

Alex and I are working on switching Autofac over to ASP.NET vNext and as part of that we're trying to figure out what the proper structure is for a codeline, how a build should look, and so on.

There is a surprisingly small amount of documentation on the infrastructure bits. I get that things are moving quickly but the amazing lack of docs of any detail creates for a steep learning curve and a lot of frustration. I mean, you can read about the schema for project.json but even that is out of date/incomplete so you end up diving into the code, trying to reverse-engineer how things come together.

Below is a sort of almost-stream-of-consciousness braindump of things I've found while working on sorting out build and repo structure for Autofac.

No More MSBuild - Sake + KoreBuild

If you're compiling only on a Windows platform you can still use MSBuild, but if you look at the ASP.NET vNext repos, you'll see there's no MSBuild to be found.

This is presumably to support cross-platform compilation of the ASP.NET libraries and the K runtime bits. That's a good goal and it's worth pursuing - we're going that direction for at least core Autofac and a few of the other core libs that need to change (like Autofac.Configuration). Eventually I can see all of our stuff switching that way.

The way it generally works in this system is:

  • A base build.cmd (for Windows) and build.sh (for Linux) use NuGet to download the Sake and KoreBuild packages.
  • The scripts kick off the Sake build engine to run a makefile.shade which is platform-agnostic.
  • The Sake build engine, which is written in cross-platform .NET, handles the build execution process.

The Sake Build System

Sake is a C#-based make/build system that appears to have been around for quite some time. There is pretty much zero documentation on this, which makes figuring it out fairly painful.

From what I gather, it is based on the Spark view engine and uses .shade view files as the build scripts. When you bring in the Sake package, you get several shared .shade files that get included to handle common build tasks like updating assembly version information or running commands.

It enables cross-platform builds because Spark, C#, and the overall execution process works both on Mono and Windows .NET.

One of the nice things it has built in, and a compelling reason to use it beyond the cross-platform support, is that a convention-based standard build lifecycle that runs clean/build/test/package targets in a standard order. You can easily hook into this pipeline to add functionality but you don't have to think about the order of things. It's pretty nice.

The KoreBuild Package

KoreBuild is a build system layered on top of Sake that is used to build K projects. As with Sake, there is zero doc on this.

If you're using the new K build system, though, and you're OK with adopting Sake, there's a lot of value in the KoreBuild package. KoreBuild layers in Sake support for automatic NuGet package restore, native compile support, and other K-specific goodness. The _k-standard-goals.shade file is where you can see the primary set of things it adds.

The Simplest Build Script

Assuming you have committed to the Sake and KoreBuild way of doing things, you can get away with an amazingly simple top-level build script that will run a standard clean/build/test/package lifecycle automatically for you.

var AUTHORS='Your Authors Here'

use-standard-lifecycle
k-standard-goals

At the time of this writing, the AUTHORS value must be present or some of the standard lifecycle bits will fail... but since the real authors for your package are specified in project.json files now, this really just is a placeholder that has to be there. It doesn't appear to matter what the value is.

Embedded Resources Have Changed

There is currently no mention of how embedded resources are handled in the documentation on project.json but if you look at the schema you'll see that you can specify a resources element in project.json the same way you can specify code.

A project with embedded resources might look like this (minus the frameworks element and all the dependencies and such to make it easier to see):

{
    "description": "Enables Autofac dependencies to be registered via configuration.",
    "authors": ["Autofac Contributors"],
    "version": "4.0.0-*",
    "compilationOptions": {
        "warningsAsErrors": true
    },
    "code": ["**\\*.cs"],
    "resources": "**\\*.resx"
    /* Other stuff... */
}

Manifest Resource Path Changes

If you include .resx files as resources, they correctly get converted to .resources files without doing anything. However, if you have other resources, like an embedded XML file...

{
    "code": ["**\\*.cs"],
    "resources": ["**\\*.resx", "Files\\*.xml"]
}

...then you get an odd generated path. Easiest to see with an example. Say you have this:

~/project/
  src/
    MyAssembly/
      Files/
        Embedded.xml

In old Visual Studio/MSBuild, the file would be embedded and the internal manifest resource stream path would be MyAssembly.Files.Embedded.xml - the folders would represent namespaces and path separators would basically become dots.

However, in the new world, you get a manifest resource path Files/Embedded.xml - literally the relative path to the file being embedded. If you have unit tests or other stuff where embedded files are being read, this will throw you for a loop.

No .resx to .Designer.cs

A nice thing about the resource system in VS/MSBuild was the custom tool that would run to convert .resx files into strongly-typed resources in .Designer.cs files. There's no automatic support for this anymore.

However, if you give in to the KoreBuild way of things, they do package an analogous tool inside KoreBuild that you can run as part of your command-line build script. It won't pick up changes if you add resources to the file in VS, but it'll get you by.

To get .resx building strongly-typed resources, add it into your build script like this:

var AUTHORS='Your Authors Here'

use-standard-lifecycle
k-standard-goals

#generate-resx .resx description='Converts .resx files to .Designer.cs' target='initialize'

What that does is add a generate-resx build target to your build script that runs during the initialize phase of the standard lifecycle. The generate-resx target dependes on a target called resx which does the actual conversion to .Designer.cs files. The resx target comes from KoreBuild and is included when you include the k-standard-goals script, but it doesn't run by default, which is why you have to include it yourself.

Gotcha: The way it's currently written, your .resx files must be in the root of your project (it doesn't use the resources value from project.json). They will generate the .Designer.cs files into the Properties folder of your project. This isn't configurable.

ASP.NET Repo Structure is Path of Least Resistance

If you give over to Sake and KoreBuild, it's probably good to also give over to the source repository structure used in the ASP.NET vNext repositories. Particularly in KoreBuild there are some hardcoded assumptions in certain tasks that you're using that repo structure.

The structure looks like this:

~/MyProject/
  src/
    MyProject.FirstAssembly/
      Properties/
        AssemblyInfo.cs
      MyProject.FirstAssembly.kproj
      project.json
    MyProject.SecondAssembly/
      Properties/
        AssemblyInfo.cs
      MyProject.SecondAssembly.kproj
      project.json
  test/
    MyProject.FirstAssembly.Test/
      Properties/
        AssemblyInfo.cs
      MyProject.FirstAssembly.Test.kproj
      project.json
    MyProject.SecondAssembly.Test/
      Properties/
        AssemblyInfo.cs
      MyProject.SecondAssembly.Test.kproj
      project.json
  build.cmd
  build.sh
  global.json
  makefile.shade
  MyProject.sln

The key important bits there are: - Project source is in the src folder. - Tests for the project are in the test folder. - There's a top-level solution file (if you're using Visual Studio). - The global.json points to the src file as the place for project source. - There are build.cmd and build.sh scripts to kick off the cross-platform builds. - The top-level makefile.shade handles build orchestration. - The folder names for the source and test projects are the names of the assemblies they generate. - Each assembly has... - Properties with AssemblyInfo.cs where the AssemblyInfo.cs doesn't include any versioning information, just other metadata. - A .kproj file (if you're using Visual Studio) that is named after the assembly being generated. - A project.json that spells out the authors, version, dependencies, and other metadata about the assembly being generated.

Again, a lot of assumptions seem to be built in that you're using that structure. You can save a lot of headaches by switching.

I can see this may cause some long-path problems. Particularly if you are checking out code into a deep file folder and have a long assembly name, you could have trouble. Think C:\users\myusername\Documents\GitHub\project\src\MyProject.MyAssembly.SubNamespace1.SubNamespace2\MyProject.MyAssembly.SubNamespace1.SubNamespace2.kproj. That's 152 characters right there. Add in those crazy WCF-generated .datasource files and things are going to start exploding.

Assembly/Package Versioning in project.json

Part of what you put in project.json is your project/package version:

{
    "authors": ["Autofac Contributors"],
    "version": "4.0.0-*",
    /* Other stuff... */
}

There desn't appear to be a way to keep multiple assemblies in a solution consistently versioned. That is, you can't put the version info in the global.json at the top level and I'm not sure where else you could store it. You could probably come up with a custom build task to handle centralized versioning, but it'd be nice if there was something built in for it.

XML Doc Compilation Warnings

The old compiler csc.exe had a thing where it would automatically output compiler warnings for XML documentation errors (syntax or reference errors). The K compiler apparently doesn't do this by default so they added custom support for it in the KoreBuild package.

To get XML documentation compilation warnings output in your build, add it into your build script like this:

var AUTHORS='Your Authors Here'

use-standard-lifecycle
k-standard-goals

#xml-docs-test .clean .build-compile description='Check generated XML documentation files for errors' target='test'
  k-xml-docs-test

That adds a new xml-docs-test target that runs during the test part of the lifecycle (after compile). It requires the project to have been cleaned and built before running. When it runs, it calls the k-xml-docs-test target to manually write out XML doc compilation warnings.

Runtime Update Gotchas

Most build.cmd or build.sh build scripts have a line like this:

CALL packages\KoreBuild\build\kvm upgrade -runtime CLR -x86
CALL packages\KoreBuild\build\kvm install default -runtime CoreCLR -x86

Basically: - Get the latest K runtime from the feed. - Set the latest K runtime as the 'default' one to use.

While I think this is fine early on, I can see a couple of gotchas with this approach.

  • Setting the 'default' modifies the user profile. When you call kvm install default the intent is to set the aliast default to refer to the specified K runtime version (in the above example, that's the latest version). When you set this alias, it modifies a file attached to the user profile containing the list of aliases - it's a global change. What happens if you have a build server environment where lots of builds are running in parallel? You're going to get the build processes changing aliases out from under each other.
  • How does backward compatibility work? At this early stage, I do want the latest runtime to be what I build against. Later, though, I'm guessing I want to pin a revision of the runtime in my build script and always build against that to ensure I'm compatible with applications stuck at that runtime version. I guess that's OK, but is there going to be a need for some sort of... "binding redirect" (?) for runtime versions? Do I need to specify some sort of "list of supported runtime versions?"

Testing Means XUnit and aspnet50

At least at this early stage, XUnit seems to be the only game in town for unit testing. The KoreBuild stuff even has XUnit support built right in, so, again, path of least resistance is to switch if you're not already on it.

I did find a gotcha, though, where if you want k test to work your assemblies must target aspnet50.

Which is to say... in your unit test project.json you'll have a line to specify the test runner command:

{
    "commands": {
        "test": "xunit.runner.kre"
    },
    "frameworks": {
        "aspnet50": { }
    }
}

Specifying that will allow you to drop to a command prompt inside the unit test assembly's folder and run k test to execute the unit tests.

In early work for Autofac.Configuration I was trying to get this to work with the Autofac.Configuration assembly only targeting aspnetcore50 and the unit test assembly targeting aspnetcore50. When I ran k test I got a bunch of exceptions (which I didn't keep track of, sorry). After a lot of trial and error, I found that if both my assembly under test (Autofac.Configuration) and my unit test assembly (Autofac.Configuration.Test) both targeted aspnet50 then everything would run perfectly.

PCL Support is In Progress

It'd be nice if there was a portable class library profile that just handled everything rather than all of these different profiles + aspnet50 + aspnetcore50. There's not. I gather from Twitter conversations that this may be in the works but I'm not holding my breath.

Also, there's a gotcha with Xamarin tools: If you're using a profile (like Profile259) that targets a common subset of a lot of runtimes including mobile platforms, then the output of your project will change based on whether or not you have Xamarin tools installed. For example, without Xamarin installed you might get .nupkg output for portable-net45+win+wpa81+wp80. However, with Xamarin installed that same project will output for portable-net45+win+wpa81+wp80+monotouch+monoandroid.

Configuration Changes

Obviously with the break from System.Web and some of the monolithic framework, you don't really have web.config as such anymore. Instead, the configuration system has become Microsoft.Framework.ConfigurationModel.

It's a pretty nice and flexible abstraction layer that lets you specify configuration in XML, JSON, INI, or environment variable format. You can see some examples here.

That said, it's a huge change and takes a lot to migrate.

  • No appSettings. I'm fine with this because appSettings always ended up being a dumping ground, but it means everything you have originally tied to appSettings needs to change.
  • No ConfigurationElement objects. I can't tell you how much I have written in the old ConfigurationElement mechanism. It had validation, strong type parsing, serialization, the whole bit. All of that will not work in this new system. You can imagine how this affects things like Autofac.Configuration.
  • List and collection support is nonexistent. I've actually filed a GitHub issue about this. A lot of the configuration I have in both Autofac.Configuration and elsewhere is a list of elements that are parameterized. The current XML and JSON parsers for config specifically disallow list/collection support. Everything must be a unique key in a tree-like hierarchy. That sort of renders the new config system, at least for me, pretty much unusable except for the most trivial of things. Hopefully this changes.
  • Everything is file or in-memory. There's no current support for pulling in XML or JSON configuration that comes from, say, a REST API call from a centralized repository. Even in unit testing, all the bits that actually run the configuration parsing on a stream of XML/JSON are internals rather than exposed - you have to load config from a file or manually create it yourself in memory by adding key/value pairs. There's a GitHub issue open for this, too.

As a workaround, I'm considering using custom object serialization and bypassing the new configuration system altogether. I like the flexibility of the new system but the limitations are pretty overwhelming right now.

android comments edit

A couple of years back I bought some Samsung TecTiles for use with my Galaxy S3. I created a tag that would easily switch my phone to vibrate mode at work - get to work, scan it, magic.

Within the last couple of weeks I upgraded to a Galaxy Note 4 and when I tried to use the Note 4 on my TecTile I got a message saying the tag type wasn't supported.

A little research revealed that the TecTiles I bought are "MIFARE Classic" format, which are apparently not universally compatible. So... crap. If I want to mess around with NFC, I'm going to need to get some different tags. These TecTiles can't be read by any device I have in my home anymore.

android comments edit

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Verizon.

If you already know about running custom ROMs and customizing your Android phone, you're probably laughing right now. Not knowing any better, I took all the standard over-the-air ("OTA") updates all the way through current Android 4.4.2, figuring when the time came I could follow whatever the latest rooting process is and update to something like Cyanogenmod. Oh, how wrong I was.

The problem mostly was in the things I didn't understand, or thought I understood, with the whole process of putting a custom ROM on the phone. There is so much information out there, but there isn't a guide that both tells you how to do the upgrade and what it is you're actually doing, that is, why each step is required.

I learned so much in failing to flash my phone. I failed miserably, getting the phone into a state where it would mostly boot up, but would sometimes fail with some security warning ("soft-bricking" the phone; fully "bricked" would imply I couldn't do anything with it at all).

So given all that, I figured rather than write a guide to how to put a custom ROM on your phone, I'd just write up all the stuff I learned so maybe folks trying this themselves will understand more about what's going on.

Disclaimers, disclaimers: I'm a Windows guy, though I have some limited Linux experience. Things that might be obvious to Linux folks may not be obvious to me. I also may not have the 100% right description at a technical level for things, but this outlines how I understand it. My blog is on GitHub - if you want to correct something, feel free to submit a pull request.

Background/Terminology

An "OS image" that you want to install on your phone is a ROM. I knew this going in, but just to level-set, you should know the terminology. A ROM generally contains a full default setup for a version of Android, and there are a lot of them. The ones you get from your carrier are "stock" or "OTA" ROMs. Other places, like Cyanogenmod, build different configurations of Android and let you install their version.

ROMs generally include software to run your phone's modem. At least, the "stock" ROMs do. This software tells the phone how to connect to the carrier network, how to connect to wireless, etc. I don't actually know if custom ROMs also include modem software, but I'm guessing not since these seem to be carrier-specific.

You need "root" access on your phone to do any low-level administrative actions. You'll hear this referred to as "rooting" the phone. ("root" is the name of the superuser account in Linux, like "administrator" in Windows.) Carriers lock their stock ROMs down so software can't do malicious things... and so you can't uninstall the crapware they put on your phone. The current favorite I've seen is Towelroot.

With every update to the stock ROM, carriers try to "plug the holes" that allow you to get root access. Sometimes they also remove root access you might already have.

You need this root access so you can install a custom "recovery mode" on your phone. (I'll get to what "recovery" is in a minute.)

When you turn on your phone or reboot, a "bootloader" is responsible for starting up the Android OS. This is a common thing in computer operating systems. Maybe you've seen computers that "dual boot" two different operating systems; or maybe you've used a special menu to go into "safe mode" during startup. The bootloader is what allows that to happen.

In Android, the bootloader lets you do basically one of three things:

  • Boot into the Android OS installed.
  • Boot into "recovery mode," which allows you to do some maintenance functions.
  • Boot into "download mode," which allows you to connect your phone to your computer to do special software installations.

You don't ever actually "see" the bootloader. It's just software behind the scenes making decisions about what to do when the power button gets pushed.

Recovery mode on your phone provides access to maintenance functions. If you really get into a bind, you may want to reset your phone to factory defaults. Or you may need to clear some cached data the system has that's causing incorrect behavior. The "recovery mode" menu on the phone allows you to do these things. This is possible because it's all happening before the Android OS starts up.

What's interesting is that people have created "custom recovery modes" that you can install on the phone that give the phone different/better options here. This is the gateway for changing the ROM on your phone or making backups of your current ROM.

Download mode on your phone lets you connect the phone to a computer to do custom software installations. The complement to recovery mode is download mode. This allows you to connect the phone to a computer with a USB cable and push a ROM from the computer over to the phone.

Odin is software for Samsung devices that uses download mode to flash a ROM onto a device. When you go into download mode on the phone, something has to be running on your computer to push the software to the phone. For Samsung devices, this software is called "Odin." I can't really find an "official" download for Odin, which is sort of scary and kind of sucks. (You can apparently also use software called Heimdall, but I didn't try that.)

The Process (And Where I Failed)

Now that you know the terminology, understanding what's going on when you're putting a custom ROM on the phone should make a bit more sense. It should also help you figure out better what's gone wrong (should something go wrong) so you know where to look to fix it.

First you need to root the phone. You'll need the administrative access so you can install some software that will work at a superuser level to update the recovery mode on your phone.

Rooting the phone for me was pretty easy. Towelroot did the trick with one button click.

Next you need to install a custom recovery mode. A very popular one is ClockworkMod ROM Manager. You can get this from the Google Play store or from their site. It is sad how lacking the documentation is. There's nothing on their web site but download links; and other "how to use" guides are buried in forums.

If you do use ClockworkMod ROM Manager, though, there's a button inside the app that lets you flash the ClockworkMod Recovery Mode. Doing this will update the recovery mode menu and start letting you use options that ClockworkMod provides, like installing a custom ROM image or backing up your current ROM.

THIS IS WHERE THINGS WENT WRONG FOR ME. Remember how you get into the recovery mode by going through the bootloader? Verizon has very annoyingly locked down the bootloader on the Galaxy S3 on more recent stock ROM images such that it detects if you've got a custom recovery mode installed. If you do, you get a nasty warning message telling you that some unrecognized software is installed and you have to go to Verizon to fix it.

Basically, by installing ClockworkMod Recovery, I had soft-bricked my phone. Everything looked like it was going to work... but it didn't.

This is apparently a fairly recent thing with later OTA updates from Verizon. Had I not taken the updates, I could have done this process. But... I took the updates, figuring someone would have figured out a way around it by the time I was interested in going the custom ROM route, and I was wrong.

If the custom recovery works for your phone then switching to a custom ROM would be a matter of using the custom recovery menu to select a ROM and just "switch" to it. The recovery software would take care of things for you. ROMs are all over for the download, like right off the Cyanogenmod site. Throw the ROM on your SD card, boot into recovery, choose the ROM, and hang tight. You're set.

If the custom recovery doesn't work for your phone then you're in my world and it's time to figure out what to do.

The way to un-soft-brick my phone was to manually restore the stock ROM. Again, there are really no official download links for this stuff, so it was a matter of searching and using (what appeared to be) reputable places to get the software.

  • Install the Odin software on your computer.
  • Boot the phone into "download mode" so it's ready to get the software.
  • Connect the phone to the computer.
  • Tell the phone to start downloading.
  • In Odin, select the stock ROM in "AP" or "Phone" mode. (You can't downgrade - I tried that. The best I could do was reinstall the same thing I had before.)
  • Hit the Odin "Start" button and be scared for about 10 minutes while it goes about its work and reboots.

After re-flashing the stock ROM, I was able to reboot without any security warnings. Of course, I had to reinstall all of my apps, re-customize my home screens, and all that...

...But I was back to normal. Almost.

My current problem is that I'm having trouble connecting to my wireless network. It sees the network, it says it's getting an IP address, but it gets hung on this part "determining the quality of your internet connection." This is a new problem that I didn't have before.

It seems to be a fairly common problem with no great solution. Some people fix it by rebooting their wireless router (didn't fix it for me). Some people fix it by telling the phone to "forget" the network and then manually reconnecting to it (didn't fix it for me).

My current attempt at solving it involves re-flashing the modem software on the phone. Remember how I mentioned that the stock ROM comes with modem software in it? You can also get the modem software separately and use Odin to flash just the modem on the phone. Some folks say this solves it. I did the Odin part just this morning and while I'm connected to wireless now, the real trouble is after a phone restart. I'll keep watch on it.

Hopefully this helps you in your Android modding travels. I learned a lot, but knowing how the pieces work together would have helped me panic a lot less when things went south and would have helped me know what to look for when fixing things.

media, hardware, synology, home, music comments edit

Way back in 2008 I put up an overview of my media server solution based on the various requirements I had at the time - what I wanted out of it, what I wasn't so interested in.

I've tried to keep that up to date somewhat, but I figured it was time to provide a nice, clean update with everything I've got set up thus far and a little info on where I'm planning on taking it. Some of my requirements have changed, some of the ideas about what I want out of it have changed.

Requirements

  • Access to my DVD collection: I want to be able to get to all of the movies and TV shows in my collection. I am not terribly concerned with keeping the menus or extra features, but I do want the full audio track and video without noticeably reduced fidelity.
  • Family acceptance factor: I want my wife and daughter to be able to navigate through the system and find what they want to watch with minimal effort.
  • Access to my pictures: I want to be able to see my family photos from a place outside my office where the computers generally sit.
  • Access to my music: I want to be able to listen to my music collection from any room in the house.
  • As compatible as possible: When choosing formats, software, communication protocols, etc., I want it to be compatible with as many devices I own as possible. I have an Android phone, an iPod classic, an iPad, Windows machines, a PS4, an Xbox 360, a Kindle Fire, and a Google Chromecast.

Hardware

My hardware footprint has changed a bit since I started, but I'm in a pretty comfortable spot with my current setup and I think it has a good way forward.

  • Synology DS1010+: I use the Synology DS1010+ for my movie storage and as the Plex server (more on Plex in the software section). The 1010+ is an earlier version of the Synology DS1513+ and is amazingly flexible and extensible.
  • HP EX475 MediaSmart Server: This little machine was my first home server and was originally going to be my full end-to-end solution. Right now it serves as picture and audio storage as well as the audio server.
  • Playstation 3: My main TV has an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a small home theater PC attached to it... but I primarily use the PS3 for the front end for all of this stuff. The Xbox 360 may become the primary item once the Plex app is released for it. The PC was primary for a while but it's pretty underpowered and cumbersome to turn on, put to sleep, etc.
  • Google Chromecast: Upstairs I have the Chromecast and an Xbox 360 on it. The Chromecast does pretty well as the movie front end. I sort of switch between this and the 360, but I find I spend more time with the Chromecast when it comes to media.

Software

I use a fairly sizable combination of software to manage my media collection, organize the files, and convert things into compatible formats.

  • Picasa: I use Picasa to manage my photos. I mostly like it, though I've had some challenges as I have moved it from machine to machine over the years in keeping all of the photo album metadata and the ties to the albums synchronized online. Even with these challenges, it is the one tool I've seen with the best balance of flexibility and ease of use. My photos are stored on a network mounted drive on the HP MediaSmart home server.
  • Asset UPnP: Asset UPnP is the most flexible audio DLNA server I've found. You can configure the junk out of it to make sure it transcodes audio into the most compatible formats for devices, and you can even get your iTunes playlists in there. I run Asset UPnP on the HP MediaSmart server.
  • Plex: I switched from XBMC/Kodi to Plex for serving video, and I've also got Plex serving up my photos. The beauty of Plex is that it has a client on darn near every platform; it has a beautiful front end menu system; and it's really flexible so you can have it, say, transcode different videos into formats the clients require (if you're using the Plex client). Plex is a DLNA server, so if you have a client like the Playstation 3 that can play videos over DLNA, you don't even need a special client. Plex can allow you to stream content outside your local network so I can get to my movies from anywhere, like my own personal Netflix. Plex is running on the Synology DS1010+ for the server; and I have the Plex client on my iPad, Surface RT, home theater PC, Android phones, and Kindle Fire.
  • Handbrake: Handbrake is great for taking DVD rips and converting to MP4 format. (See below for why I am using MP4.) I blogged my settings for what I use when converting movies.
  • DVDFab HD Decrypter: I've been using DVDFab for ripping DVDs to VIDEO_TS images in the past. It works really well for that. These rips easily feed into Handbrake for getting MP4s.
  • MakeMKV: Recently I've been doing some rips from DVD using MakeMKV. I've found sometimes there are odd lip sync issues when ripping with DVDFab that don't show up with MakeMKV. (And vice versa - sometimes ripping with MakeMKV shows some odd sync issues that you don't see with DVDFab.) When I get to ripping Blu-ray discs, MakeMKV will probably be my go-to.
  • DVD Profiler: I use this for tracking my movie collection. I like the interface and the well-curated metadata it provides. I also like the free online collection interface - it helps a lot while I'm at the store browsing for new stuff to make sure I don't get any duplicates. Also helpful for insurance purposes.
  • Music Collector: I use this for tracking my music collection. The feature set is nice, though the metadata isn't quite as clean. Again, big help when looking at new stuff to make sure I don't get duplicates as well as for insurance purposes.
  • CrashPlan: I back up my music and photo collection using CrashPlan. I don't have my movies backed up because I figured I can always re-rip from the original media... but with CrashPlan it's unlimited data, so I could back it up if I wanted. CrashPlan runs on my MediaSmart home server right now; if I moved everything to Plex, I might switch CrashPlan to run on the DS1010+ instead.

Media Formats and Protocols

  • DLNA: I've been a fan from the start of DLNA, but the clients and servers just weren't quite there when I started out. This seems to be much less problematic nowadays. The PS3 handles DLNA really well and I even have a DLNA client on my Android phone so I can easily stream music. This is super helpful in getting compatibility out there.
  • Videos are MP4: I started out with full DVD rips for video, but as I've moved to Plex I've switched to MP4. While it can be argued that MKV is a more flexible container, MP4 is far more compatible with my devices. The video codec I use is x264. For audio, I put the first track as a 256kbps AAC track (for compatibility) and make the second track the original AC3 (or whatever) for the home theater benefit. I blogged my settings info.
  • Audio is MP3, AAC, and Apple Lossless: I like MP3 and get them from Amazon on occasion, but I am still not totally convinced that 256kbps MP3 is the way and the light. I still get a little scared that there'll be some better format at some point and if I bought the MP3 directly I won't be able to switch readily. I still buy CDs and I rip those into Apple Lossless format. (Asset UPnP will transcode Apple Lossless for devices that need the transcoding; or I can plug the iPod/iPad in and play the lossless directly from there.) And I have a few AAC files, but not too many.

Media Organization

Videos are organized using the Plex recommendations: I have a share on the Synology DS1010+ called "video" and in there I have "Movies," "TV," and "Home Movies" folders. I have Plex associating the appropriate data scrapers for each folder.

/videos
    /Home Movies
        /2013
        /2014
            /20140210 Concert 01.mp4
            /20140210 Concert 02.mp4
    /Movies
        /Avatar (2009).mp4
        /Batman Begins (2014).mp4
    /TV
        /Heroes
            /Season 01
                /Heroes.s01e01.mp4
                /Heroes.s01e02.mp4

You can read about the Plex media naming recommendations here:

Audio is kept auto-organized in iTunes: I just checked the box in iTunes to keep media automatically organized and left it at that. The media itself is on a mapped network drive on the HP MediaSmart server and that works reasonably enough, though at times the iTunes UI hangs as it transfers data over the network.

Photos are organized in folders by year and major event: I've not found a good auto-organization method that isn't just "a giant folder that dumps randomly named pictures into folders by year." I want it a little more organized than that, though it means manual work on my part. If I have a large number of photos corresponding to an event, I put those in a separate folder. For "one-off photos" I keep a separate monthly folder. Files generally have the date and time in YYYYMMDD_HHMMSS format so it's sortable.

/photos
    /2012
    /2013
    /2014
        /20140101 Random Pictures
            /20140104_142345 Lunch at McMenamins.jpg
            /20140117_093542 Traffic Jam.jpg
        /20140307 Birthday Party
            /20140307_112033.jpg
            /20140307_112219.jpg

Picasa works well with this sort of folder structure and it appears nicely in DLNA clients when they browse the photos by folder via Plex.

Network

My main router is a Netgear WNDR3700v2 and I love it. I've been through a few routers and wireless access points in the past but this thing has been solid and flexible enough with the out-of-the-box firmware such that I don't have to tweak with it to get things working. It just works.

I have wired network downstairs between the office/servers and the main TV/PS3/Xbox 360/HTPC. This works well and is pretty much zero maintenance. I have two D-Link switches (one in the office, one in the TV room) to reach all the devices. (Here's the updated version of the ones I use.)

The router provides simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless-N through the house which covers almost everywhere except a few corners. I've just recently added some Netgear powerline adapters to start getting wired networking upstairs into places where the wireless won't reach.

The Road Ahead

This setup works pretty well so far. I'm really enjoying the accessibility of my media collection and I find I'm using it even more often than I previously was. So where do I go next?

  • Plex on Xbox 360: The only reason I still have that home theater PC in my living room is that it's running the Plex app and if I want a nice interface with which to browse my movies, the HTPC is kinda the way to go. Plex has just come out with an app for Xbox One and should shortly be available for Xbox 360. This will remove the last reason I have an HTPC at all.
  • Add a higher-powered Plex server: My Synology DS1010+ does a great job running Plex right now, but it can't transcode video very well. Specifically, if I have a high-def video and I want to watch it on my phone, the server wants to transcode that to accommodate for bandwidth constraints and whatnot... but the Synology is too underpowered to handle that. I'd like to see about getting a more powerful server running as the actual Plex server - store the data on the Synology, but use a different machine to serve it up, handle transcodingI, and so forth. (That little HTPC in the living room isn't powerful enough, so I'll have to figure something else out.)
  • Add wireless coverage upstairs: It's great that I can hook the Xbox upstairs to wired networking using the powerline adapters but that doesn't work so well for, say, my phone or the Chromecast. I'd like to add some wireless coverage upstairs (maybe chain another WNDR3700 in?) so I can "roam" in my house. I think even with the powerline stuff in there, it'd be fast enough for my purposes.
  • Integrate music into Plex: I haven't tried the Plex music facilities and I'm given to understand that not all Plex clients support music streaming. This is much lower priority for me given my current working (and awesome) Asset UPnP installation, but it'd be nice long-term to just have one primary server streaming content rather than having multiple endpoints to get different things.

synology, security comments edit

A few months back Cory Doctorow stopped by the local library and did a great talk on security and copyright issues. Very cool stuff which inspired me to look into how to secure my public/open wifi usage.

I have a Synology DS1010+ with a ton of helpful packages and features on it, so that seemed like the best place to start. It took a while, but I got it. I'm going to show you how.

Truly, Synology has made this super easy. I'm not sure this would have been something I could have done nearly as easily without that device and the amazing Diskstation Manager "OS" they have on it. If you haven't got one of their NAS devices, just go get one. I've loved mine since I got it and it just keeps getting more features with every DSM release they put out.

So, with that, the general steps are:

  • Set up user accounts on your Synology NAS.
  • Make your Synology NAS publicly accessible.
  • Add a proxy server to the NAS.
  • Add VPN support to the NAS.
  • Make sure the firewall and router allow the VPN to connect.
  • Configure your client (e.g., phone) to use the VPN and proxy.

I'll walk you through each step.

Don't skim and skip steps. I can't stress this enough. Getting this up and running requires some virtual "planets to align" as it were, so if you skip something, the process will break down and it is kind of tough to troubleshoot.

You need to set up user accounts for people accessing the VPN. Chances are if you have your NAS set up already, you have these accounts - these are the same accounts you use to grant access to NAS files and other resources. There is a nice detailed walkthrough on the Synology site showing how to do this.

Now you need to set up your Synology NAS so you can access it from outside your home network. This is accomplished through a service called "dynamic DNS" or "DDNS." But you don't really need to know too much about that because, built right into the DSM interface, is a program called "EZ-Internet" that will do all the work for you. For the easiest solution, you'll need to set up a user account with Synology, but that's free... and if you use their DDNS system (a "synology.me" domain name) then that's also free. They have a really super tutorial on getting this set up. Focus specifically on the EZ-Internet part of the tutorial - the QuickConnect stuff is neat and good to set up, but it won't work for VPN usage.

It took me something like (seriously) five minutes to get this part working from start to finish. Some of the steps may seem "scary" if you've not set it up before, but Synology has made this really painless and if you don't know what to do, accept the defaults. They're good defaults.

When that's done, you'll see your DDNS setup in the Synology control panel under "External Access."

The DDNS settings will show your NAS

Next, install the Proxy Server and VPN Server packages using the DSM Package Station package manager. Installing packages is a point-and-click sort of thing - just select them from the list of available packages and click "Install." Make sure you set them as "Running" if they don't automatically start up. Once they're installed, you'll see them in the list of installed packages.

Proxy Server and VPN Server packages installed

Let's configure the proxy server. From the application manager (the top-left corner icon in the DSM admin panel) select the "Proxy Server" application. There isn't much to this. Just go to the main "Settings" tab and...

  • Put your email address in the "Proxy server manager's email" box.
  • Make a note of the "Proxy server port" value because you'll need it later.

You can optionally disable caching on the proxy server if you're not interested in your Synology doing caching for you. I didn't want that - I wanted fresh data every time - so I unchecked that box. You can also optionally change the proxy server port but I left it as the default value provided.

Proxy server settings updated

Done with the proxy server! Close that out.

Now let's configure the VPN server. This is a bit more complex than the proxy server, but not too bad.

Again from the application manager (the top-left corner icon in the DSM admin panel) select the "VPN Server" application.

On the "Overview" pane in the VPN server you you will start out showing no VPNs listed. Once you've finished configuring the VPN, you'll see what I see - the NAS running the VPN and the VPN showing as enabled.

My overview tab after the VPN has been enabled

The VPN Server application offers several different VPN types to choose from. You can read about the differences on this article. I chose to use PPTP for my VPN for compatibility reasons - it was the easiest to get set up and running and I had some challenges trying to get different devices hooked up using the others. I am not specifically recommending you use PPTP, that's just what I'm using. The steps here show how to set up PPTP but it isn't too different to set up the other VPN types.

On the PPTP tab, check the "Enable PPTP VPN server" option. That's pretty much it. That gets it working.

Check the PPTP enabled box

That's it for the VPN configuration.

To allow people to connect to the VPN on the NAS, we need to set up the firewall on the NAS. In the Synology DSM control panel, go to the "Security" tab on the left, then select "Firewall" at the top. Click the "Create" button to create a new firewall rule.

Start creating a new firewall rule

When prompted, choose the "Select from a list of built-in applications" option on the "Create Firewall Rules" page. This makes it super easy - the DSM already knows which ports to open for the VPN server.

Select from a list of built-in applications

Scroll through the list of applications and check the box next to "VPN Server (PPTP)" to open the firewall ports for the VPN.

Select the VPN from the list of applications

The firewall settings will be applied and you'll see it in the list of rules.

The last thing to do on the NAS is to set up the router port forwarding configuration. DSM can automatically configure your router right from the NAS to enable the VPN connection to come through.

In the DSM Control Panel, go to the "External Access" tab on the left and choose "Router Configuration" from the top. This is almost identical to the firewall configuration process. Click the "Create" button to add a new rule and you'll be prompted to choose from a list of existing applications. Do that, and select the VPN server from the list.

Choose "Built-in application" and select the VPN

Once it's configured, the DSM will issue some commands to your router and the rule will show up in the list.

The router rule in DSM control panel

That's it for your server configuration! Now you have to connect your clients to it.

The rest of this walkthrough shows how I got my Android 4 phone connected to the VPN. I don't have walkthroughs for other devices. Sorry.

Go to the main settings screen. From here, you're going to choose "More settings."

Choose "More settings"

Scroll down to the VPN settings and click that.

Choose "VPN"

For a PPTP VPN, select "Basic VPN" from the list.

Choose "Basic VPN"

Give your VPN a memorable name and put the DDNS name for your server in the "Server address" box.

Name your VPN and put the DDNS name as the server address

When you connect to the VPN you'll be asked for a username and password. Use the username and password from your user account on the Synology NAS. (Remember that first step of setting up user accounts? This is why.)

The last configuration step is to set the proxy server. Android 4 has this hidden inside the wifi configuration for each wifi hotspot. For the hotspot you're connected to, edit the settings and check the "Show advanced options" box. Fill in the proxy details using the local machine name of your NAS (not the DDNS name) and the proxy server port you have configured.

The proxy server configuration in the wifi hotspot

Now connect to the VPN and the wifi hotspot at the same time. Go back through the Settings => More settings => VPN path to find the VPN you configured. Connect to it and if you haven't previously set up credentials you'll be prompted. Connect to the wifi hotspot as well so it's using the proxy server.

When you're connected to both the VPN and the hotspot with the proxy settings, things work! You will see a little "key" at the top of the phone showing you're connected to a VPN. You can pull up some VPN details from there.

The VPN details will show connection information

And here's a screen shot of me surfing my blog through my VPN and proxy server, securely from an open wifi hotspot. Note the key at the top!

Secure browsing through VPN and proxy

I'm still working out a few things and may change my setup as time goes on, but this is the easiest DIY VPN/proxy setup I've seen.

Stuff I'd like to do next...

  • Switch from PPTP to a different VPN type (or maybe offer more than one VPN type so I can be compatible with devices requiring PPTP but offer better security for devices that can handle it).
  • Figure out if caching helps.* I've found that some stuff is pretty fast, but other stuff is slow (or doesn't flow quite right through the proxy). I'm not sure why that is. Maybe additional proxy settings I'm not aware of yet?

And, finally, again - thanks to Cory Doctorow for prodding me into researching this; and thanks to Synology for making it easy. Part of what Doctorow was saying at his visit is that Security is Hard, particularly the implementation of decent security for the lay person. Synology is as close to point-and-click easy setup as I've ever seen for this.

If you're looking for one of these devices, the Synology DS214se is pretty budget-friendly right now, though the Synology DS414j might give you a little room to grow. I have the DS1010+, which is basically the previous model of the Synology DS1513+, which is more spendy but is super extensible. All of the Synology products run the DSM so you really can't go wrong.

powershell, teamcity comments edit

We have a nice TeamCity build server at work and we somewhat-recently updated it to use a MySQL database instead of XML for the data storage (like for the VCS roots).

We have a number of service accounts we use for interacting with the version control systems and they periodically need their passwords changed. It used to be that we could modify the XML document search-and-replace style, but now it's hidden in the database somewhere and is less straightforward to update.

Thankfully, TeamCity offers a REST API you can work with, so I decided to play with PowerShell and the Invoke-RestMethod command to automate the drudgery of going through the something-like-50 VCS roots we have defined and updating the passwords for selected accounts.

Here's the code for a small one-function module:

<#
.Synopsis
   Updates the password for a user account in TeamCity associated with VCS root entries.
.DESCRIPTION
   Iterates through the VCS roots defined in TeamCity and updates the password associated with the specified user for all VCS roots.
.EXAMPLE
   $credential = Get-Credential
   Update-TeamCityVcsAccount -TeamCityUrl "http://your-teamcity-dash/" -TeamCityCredential $credential -VcsUserName "serviceaccount" -VcsPassword "TheNewPassword"
.NOTES
   This command uses the TeamCity REST API to iterate through the VCS roots and update the password for matching accounts.
#>
function Update-TeamCityVcsAccount
{
    [CmdletBinding()]
    Param
    (
        # The URL to the TeamCity dashboard.
        [Parameter(Mandatory=$true,
                   ValueFromPipeline=$false)]
        [ValidateNotNull()]
        [ValidateNotNullOrEmpty()]
        [Uri]
        $TeamCityUrl,

        # The credentials of the TeamCity administrator account to make changes.
        [Parameter(Mandatory=$true,
                   ValueFromPipeline=$false)]
        [ValidateNotNull()]
        [ValidateNotNullOrEmpty()]
        [PSCredential]
        $TeamCityCredential,

        # The username of the VCS user that should be updated.
        [Parameter(Mandatory=$true,
                   ValueFromPipeline=$false)]
        [ValidateNotNull()]
        [ValidateNotNullOrEmpty()]
        [String]
        $VcsUserName,

        # The new password for the VCS user.
        [Parameter(Mandatory=$true,
                   ValueFromPipeline=$false)]
        [ValidateNotNull()]
        [ValidateNotNullOrEmpty()]
        [String]
        $VcsPassword
    )

    Begin
    {
        $updated = @()
        $progressActivity = "Updating VCS root passwords for $VcsUserName..."
    }
    Process
    {
        $vcsRootsUri = New-Object -TypeName System.Uri -ArgumentList $TeamCityUrl, "/httpAuth/app/rest/vcs-roots"
        $allRoots = Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $vcsRootsUri -Method Get -Credential $credential
        foreach($href in $allRoots.'vcs-roots'.'vcs-root'.href)
        {
            $rootHref = New-Object -TypeName System.Uri -ArgumentList $TeamCityUrl, $href
            $vcsRoot = Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $rootHref -Method Get -Credential $credential
            $currentVcsUserName = $vcsRoot.'vcs-root'.properties.property | Where-Object { $_.name -eq "user" } | Select-Object -ExpandProperty "value"
            if($currentVcsUserName -ne $VcsUserName)
            {
                continue;
            }

            # secure:svn-password == Subversion Repo
            # secure:tfs-password == TFS Repo
            # Making the assumption all the password fields have this
            # name format...
            $propToChange = $vcsRoot.'vcs-root'.properties.property  | Where-Object { ($_.name -like 'secure:*') -and ($_.name -like '*-password') }  | Select-Object -ExpandProperty "name"
            $propHref = New-Object -TypeName System.Uri -ArgumentList $rootHref, "$href/properties/$propToChange"

            Write-Progress -Activity $progressActivity -Status "VCS root: $href"
            Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $propHref -Method Put -Credential $credential -Body $VcsPassword | Out-Null
            $updated += $propHref;
        }
    }
    End
    {
        Write-Progress -Activity $progressActivity -Completed -Status "VCS roots updated."
        return $updated
    }
}

Export-ModuleMember -Function Update-TeamCityVcsAccount

Save that as TeamCity.psm1 and then you can do this:

Import-Module .\TeamCity.psm1
$credential = Get-Credential
Update-TeamCityVcsAccount -TeamCityUrl "http://your-teamcity-dash/" -TeamCityCredential $credential -VcsUserName "serviceaccount" -VcsPassword "TheNewPassword"

When you run Get-Credential you'll be prompted for some credentials. Enter your TeamCity username and password. Fill in the appropriate values for the parameters and you'll see progress rolling by for the password updates. The return value is the list of VCS root URLs that got updated.

Now that I have a reasonably-working pattern for this, it should be easy enough to use the REST API on TeamCity to automate other common admin tasks we do. Neat!

vs, azure comments edit

I have an MSDN subscription at work which comes with some Azure services like virtual machines. I'm using one of these VMs to explore the VS 14 CTP.

The problem is... port 3389 isn't open through the firewall at work, so using the default port for Terminal Services doesn't work for me.

Luckily, you can change the port your VM uses for Terminal Services. Knowing I won't be hosting a web site here, changing to port 80 makes it easy.

First, open up the VM in the Azure Portal and click the "Settings" button.

Click the Settings button on the VM

Now click the "Endpoints" entry on the list of settings.

Click Endpoints in the settings menu

We want the public port for Terminal Services to be port 80. Click the Terminal Services entry to edit it.

We want TS on port 80

Update the public port to 80 and click the Save button at the top.

Update the public port to 80

Now go back to the main VM dashboard and click the "Connect" button.

Click the Connect button

A small .rdp file will download. If you open it in a text editor it will look like this:

full address:s:yourmachine.cloudapp.net:3389
prompt for credentials:i:1

Change that port at the end to 80.

full address:s:yourmachine.cloudapp.net:80
prompt for credentials:i:1

Save that and double-click the file to start a Terminal Service session. Boom! Done.

autofac, github comments edit

All Autofac documentation has moved to our official documentation site at http://autofac.readthedocs.org/.

Since moving from Google Code to GitHub we've had documentation spread all over, some of which was getting pretty stale from not being maintained. We wanted to get control over that and set a good stage going forward, so we consolidated everything to our site on Read the Docs.

Doing this provides a lot of benefit:

  • Documentation is searchable.
  • You can get the docs in multiple formats (online, PDF, epub).
  • Docs are readable on a mobile browser.
  • We can start versioning the documentation.
  • We can update docs in one spot, inside the source tree, and not worry about wikis all spread out getting stale.

As part of this, you will see some changes to our wikis:

  • All of the pages in our GitHub wiki have been removed except for the release notes pages. We'll only be maintaining release notes in the wiki. If you want docs, you need to go to the doc site. This may break some links in things like StackOverflow answers, but the other choice was to keep a bunch of placeholder redirect pages in place, which would be just painful to maintain. Instead we ripped the bandage off.
  • All of the pages in the Google Code wiki have been cleared out and replaced with some text pointing to the new documentation location. There are a substantially larger number of articles and answers linking to the old wiki and that wiki doesn't change anymore so putting some pseudo-redirects in there was a simple one-time effort.

Apologies if this causes some issue with broken links.

It's taken a long time to get here, but we think this will provide a better documentation experience for everyone now and going forward.

personal, tv, costumes, halloween comments edit

For Halloween this year I went as the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who (originally played by David Tennant).

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

I make my costume every year (well, pretty much every year) and I enjoy sewing so it was fun to take this on. However, I don't normally post "behind-the-scenes" stuff and there are folks who don't really realize what goes into making a costume so I figured this year I'd do it. Oh, and if you want to see the pictures in a larger format, I have an annotated photo album on Google+.

Before doing anything else, I did some research. The Making My Tennant Suit blog was the best resource I found for info on the suit, the fabrics, and so forth. It has a really good fabric comparison showing different fabrics and sources that match/approximate the fabric from the suit. I also gathered a few pictures from the web to help me pick the right pieces.

I was due for some new glasses, so I picked some out that both look good on me (IMHO) and are close to the ones seen in the show.

My new Tennant-style glasses

I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and searched for a pattern. None were exact, but I found that Vogue pattern 8890 was pretty close. I figured I could take "View A" jacket from the pattern, change it from a two-button jacket to four buttons, and add a custom breast pocket. The "View D" pants could be done unmodified.

Vogue Pattern 8890

The pattern was actually pretty ambitious. Given that it wasn't a "costume pattern," it was fully lined with all the extra stuff you'd find if you bought a suit - nicely finished pockets, extra give/pleats in the lining for movement... Definitely the most complex thing I've taken on to date.

The fabric I picked was ordered online from Hancock Fabrics. It's item #3859071 "Brown and Teal Pinstripe Suiting." I got it on sale half-off so I bought something like eight yards so I wouldn't run out if I made a mistake or had to lengthen the pants/sleeves on the suit.

My Tenth Doctor fabric from Hancock

This particular fabric was a little challenging to work with because it was somewhat light and stretchy. When you work with cotton or wool, it's not really stretchy so you can cut and pin it without worrying about it moving on you or changing shape. With this, I had to be really careful about pinning it, making sure I wasn't stretching it while it was getting cut, and so on.

The buttons I used were some pretty standard tortoise shell ones off the shelf.

The buttons I used on the suit

Thread was Coats & Clark #8960. It was the perfect brown to match the fabric so hems and seams were nice and hidden. I think I went through three of these spools of thread.

Coats & Clark #8960

The pocket insides, waistband lining, and other strong internals was all done with some off-the-shelf brown cotton twill. You don't really see this from the outside, but it is a nice shade to offset the suiting. Not that I had a lot of choice; there was only one color of brown twill available when I went shopping and I wasn't feeling too picky.

My cotton twill

After I got all the materials together, I got down to work. I ironed the pattern (yes, ironed the pattern - on low heat, to make it easy to cut out and all flat), cut it out, and pinned the pattern to the fabric. There were something like 15 pieces to the pants and 30 pieces to the jacket.

Pinning the pattern

I did the pants first (though I didn't get any pictures of the making of the pants). Normally I've found Vogue patterns run a little small, so I took my measurements and did the pants the next size up. This pattern seemed to run pretty true to size, so I had to take the pants in when they were done. I haven't yet figured out how to fit a pattern on myself before it's finished.

Doing the pants first helped me figure out that I needed to make the jacket true to size.

The first part of the jacket to be done is the main body outside. In this picture you can see I've replaced the breast pocket from the pattern with one of my own design so it matches the Tenth Doctor. I did that without a pattern, sort of taking an average measurement on width/height of pockets on other garments and fudging something together. This custom pocket is about 5.5" wide and 6" tall.

The outside jacket body

After the body of the jacket was done, it was time to sew the arms in. Putting arms in a jacket is always a real pain because the fabric at the top part of the arm is larger than the arm hole on the jacket body. They do that so you can move around, but it means you have to be really careful about putting the arm in and evenly distributing the extra fabric or you'll get gathers along the seam where the fabric folds over onto itself. This is a particular problem with stretchy fabric, which likes to move around a lot. I had to rip out and redo a couple of areas to remove the gathering, but I got the arms in.

The right sleeve sewn in

Here's the jacket with both sleeves sewn in but the lining not yet put in. The white stuff you see on the collar is interfacing - a sort of mesh-like fabric that you attach to make other fabric less flexible. You have interfacing in collars and cuffs, for example. I used "fusible interfacing" which is basically iron-on to attach. This pattern called for "hair canvas" interfacing, which is really expensive and much harder to work with. If I was making this as a suit and not as a costume, I probably would have tried to work with the hair canvas.

Both sleeves in, but no lining

With the outside done, it was time to do the lining. The first bit of lining was the inside front - the part with the inside pocket. Here's the inside of the right front. You can see in the image a diagonal line where the collar is intended to fold over. You can also see a small, thin rectangle where the inside pocket will eventually go.

The inside right front, minus the inside pocket

Here's the inside right front after getting the inside pocket in. You can see a small loop hanging down off the top of the pocket that will be used to button the pocket closed. The pattern called for 2" of ribbon (I used bias tape) for the loop, but that turned out to be too small to fold around the button that will be later attached below the pocket. If I were to do it again, I'd use 3" or 3.5" of ribbon. You can always move the button down a bit, but I had to sew my button right on the pocket welt (the twill "lip" lining the pocket).

The inside right front, this time with the inside pocket

Here's what the lining looks like fully assembled - both inside front pieces, the back, and the sleeves. If you've never lined a coat before, it's sort of like making a second copy of the coat, just inside-out. Then you take the lining, put it in the jacket, and sew along the edges. Basically.

In the picture on the left you see the inside pocket as you'll view it when wearing the jacket; on the right is the other side - that brown square is the other inside pocket.

The lining, fully assembled

Once you put the lining in, you have to attach it. The back was able to be machine-sewn in, but the sleeves required hand sewing. Here you see I have the sleeve lining pinned in place so I can hand sew it in.

Sleeve lining pinned in place

Here's the same sleeve lining after the hand sewing. I also have the sleeve buttons attached, so this sleeve is done.

The sleeve with the lining and buttons attached

Once the lining is in, the last thing to happen is the front buttons. Here's the jacket entirely finished. You can see in the photo the white marks around the button holes on the front where I was sketching out the button locations.

Finished jacket with button hole markings

I did a little cleanup on the markings and here's how it turned out.

First time wearing the complete jacket

And, once the whole costume was on, here's how it looked. I think it turned out pretty well.

Travis as the Tenth Doctor

For those interested: The shoes are unbleached white Converse Chuck Taylors. The shirt is one I already had; any old white dress shirt will do. The sonic screwdriver is the toy version that's been out for a while. The tie is a maroon polka dot tie by Chevalier.

I don't know how much time it took exactly, but I know that I watch TV/Netflix while I'm working and I made it through three seasons of Kyle XY, the Jekyll miniseries, a couple of movies, and half a season of The Blacklist... and I wasn't watching something the whole time. So... it took a while.

As far as cost, that's another thing I didn't really keep track of, but roughly (guessing on a few of these)...

  • Shoes: $45
  • Tie: $15
  • Pinstripe Suiting: $50
  • Lining: $10
  • Interfacing: $10
  • Felt (for the collar): $5
  • Twill: $10
  • Thread, buttons, zipper, notions: $30

So... uh... $175? Give or take. It's not cheap. Even if you take out the cost for the shoes and tie, which I can wear elsewhere, you're still looking at over $100. Plus the time.

This definitely increases my admiration and respect for folks who do this on a convention circuit.

Again, if you want to see the pictures in a larger format, I have an annotated photo album on Google+.

testing, culture comments edit

One of the projects I work on has some dynamic culture-aware currency formatting stuff and we, of course, have tests around that.

I'm in the process of moving our build from Windows Server 2008R2 to Windows Server 2012 and I found that a lot of our tests are failing. I didn't change any of the code, just updated a couple of lines of build script. What gives?

It appears Windows Server 2012 has different culture settings installed than the previous platforms. Per the documentation, "Windows versions or service packs can change the available cultures" and it appears I'm getting hit by that.

I cobbled together a quick program to do some testing using LINQPad.

var nfi = CultureInfo.CreateSpecificCulture("as-IN").NumberFormat;
Console.WriteLine("{0}:{1}:{2}",
  nfi.CurrencyNegativePattern,
  nfi.CurrencyPositivePattern,
  nfi.CurrencySymbol);

The results were the same on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2 but different on Windows Server 2012:

Item Windows 7 Windows 2008R2 Windows 2012
CurrencyNegativePattern 12 12 12
CurrencyPositivePattern 1 1 2
CurrencySymbol

Notice the positive pattern is different? Yeah. That's not the only culture or item that differs across the installed cultures.

So... now I have to figure out a way to craft our tests to be a little more... dynamic(?)... about the expected value vs. the actual value.

halloween, costumes comments edit

It was raining this year and I think that put a damper on the trick-or-treat count. We also didn't put out our "Halloween projector" that puts a festive image on our garage, so I think the rain, combined with lack of decor, resulted in quite a bit fewer kids showing up. When it was busy, it was really busy; but when it wasn't... it was dead.

2014: 176
trick-or-treaters.

The graph is starting to look like a big mess so I will probably start keeping more like "the last five years" on there. I'll also keep an overall average graph to keep the bigger picture.

Average Trick-or-Treaters by Time Block

The table's also starting to get pretty wide; might have to switch it so time block goes across the top and year goes down.

Cumulative data:

  Year
Time Block 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014
6:00p - 6:30p 52 5 14 17 19 31 28 19
6:30p - 7:00p 59 45 71 51 77 80 72 54
7:00p - 7:30p 35 39 82 72 76 53 113 51
7:30p - 8:00p 16 25 45 82 48 25 80 42
8:00p - 8:30p 0 21 25 21 39 0 5 10
Total 162 139 237 243 259 189 298 176

My costume this year was the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. Jenn was Anna from Frozen. We both made our costumes and I posted a different blog article walking through how I made the suit. Phoenix decided she was going to be Sleeping Beauty this time, which was a time-saver for us since she already has a ton of princess costumes.

Travis and Jenn

ndepend comments edit

NDepend is awesome and I use it to analyze all sorts of different projects.

One of the nice things in NDepend is you can define queries that help qualify what is your code (JustMyCode) and what isn't (notmycode).

I've seen two challenges lately that make rule analysis a bit tricky.

  • async and await: These generate state machines on the back end and NDepend always flags the generated code as complex (because it is). However, you can't just exclude the code because basically the generated state machine moves your code in there, so excluding the state machine will exclude some of your code.
  • Anonymous types: I see these a lot in MVC code, for example, where the anonymous type is being used as a dictionary of values to truck around.

I haven't figured out the async and await thing yet... but here's how to exclude anonymous types from the JustMyCode set of code:

First, in the "Queries and Rules Explorer" window in your project, go to the "Defining JustMyCode" group.

Defining JustMyCode

In there, create a query like this:

// <Name>Discard anonymous types from JustMyCode</Name>
notmycode
from t in Application.Types where
t.Name.Contains("<>f__AnonymousType")
select new { t, t.NbLinesOfCode }

Save that query.

Now when you run your code analysis, you won't see anonymous types causing any violations in queries.

windows comments edit

I develop using an account that is not an administrator because I want to make sure the stuff I'm working on will work without extra privileges. I have a separate local machine administrator account I can use when I need to install something or change settings.

To make my experience a little easier, I add my user account to a few items in Local Security Policy to allow me to do things like restart the machine, debug things, and use the performance monitoring tools.

In setting up a new Windows 2012 dev machine, I found that the domain Group Policy had the "Shut down the machine" policy locked down so there was no way to allow my developer account to shut down or restart. Painful.

To work around this, I created a shortcut on my Start menu that prompts me for the local machine administrator password and restarts using elevated credentials.

Here's how:

Create a small batch file in your Documents folder or some other accessible location. I called mine restart-elevated.bat. Inside it, use the runas and shutdown commands to prompt for credentials and restart the machine:

runas /user:YOURMACHINE\administrator "shutdown -r -f -d up:0:0 -t 5"

The shutdown command I've specified there will...

  • Restart the computer.
  • Force running applications to close.
  • Alert the currently logged-in user and wait five seconds before doing the restart.
  • Set the shutdown reason code as "user code, planned shutdown, major reason 'other,' minor reason 'other.'"

Now that you have the batch file, throw it on your Start menu. Open up C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and make a shortcut to the batch file. It's easy if you just right-drag the script in there and select "Create shortcut."

Give the shortcut a nice name. I called mine "Restart Computer (Elevated)" so it's easy to know what's going to happen.

I also changed the icon so it's not the default batch file icon:

  • Right-click the shortcut and select "Properties."
  • On the "Shortcut" tab, select "Change Icon..."
  • Browse to %SystemRoot%\System32\imageres.dll and select an icon. I selected the multi-colored shield icon that indicates an administrative action.

Change the icon to something neat

Finally, hit the Start button and go to the list of applications installed. Right-click on the new shortcut and select "Pin to Start."

Restart shortcut pinned to Start menu

That's it - now when you need to restart as a non-admin, click that and enter the password for the local administrator account.

windows comments edit

I was setting up a new dev machine the other day and whilst attempting to install TestDriven I got a popup complaining about a BEX event.

Looking in the event log, I saw this:

Faulting application name: TestDriven.NET-3.8.2860_Enterprise_Beta.exe, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x53e4d386
Faulting module name: TestDriven.NET-3.8.2860_Enterprise_Beta.exe, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x53e4d386
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x003f78ae
Faulting process id: 0xe84
Faulting application start time: 0x01cfe410a15884fe
Faulting application path: E:\Installers\TestDriven.NET-3.8.2860_Enterprise_Beta.exe
Faulting module path: E:\Installers\TestDriven.NET-3.8.2860_Enterprise_Beta.exe
Report Id: df1b87dd-5003-11e4-80cd-3417ebb288e7

Nothing about a BEX error, but... odd.

Doing a little searching yielded this forum post which led me to disable the Data Execution Prevention settings for the installer.

  • Open Control Panel.
  • Go to the "System and Security" section.
  • Open the "System" option.
  • Open "Advanced System Settings."
  • On the "Advanced" tab, click the "Settings..." button under "Performance."
  • On the "Data Execution Prevention" tab you can either turn DEP off entirely or specifically exclude the installer using the whitelist box provided. (DEP is there to help protect you so it's probably better to just exclude the installer unless you're having other issues.)