Category Archives

Travels in October and November

Azure, Microsoft, Technical stuff, Visual Studio, Work, Xamarin
No Comments

These coming few weeks will be quite busy with conferences and other meetings. Here is where you might have the occasion to see me:

  • I am currently in Boston, where I will support Scott Guthrie’s Red Shirt Tour on October 19. Ultimately, Scott is my boss (‘s boss’s boss’s boss) as well as someone I have admire ever since I met him in person 10 years ago. The event is all about Azure with Scott showing demos and code across all of Azure, Visual Studio, Xamarin and more.
  • After Boston, I will be in New York City on October 20th. This is another stop of the Azure Red Shirt Tour.
The Red Shirt Dev Tour NYC edition will be livestreamed!! Join us at http://aka.ms/rstlive

  • Before going back home, I will have the privilege and pleasure to fly down to Lima, Peru on October 25th and 26th. There, I will participate to the MVP Connection event, organized by Microsoft for its Most Valuable Professionals. Unfortunately, due to travel constraints, I won’t have time to participate in any public event there, but I will most certainly do my best to come back at another occasion and speak in public.

At the MVP Connection event, I will have an hour to speak about a few exciting topics including Azure Functions and Xamarin, the Azure Mobile Center and the Xamarin Live Player. Of course I will also be available for questions and discussions around Azure, Xamarin, Windows, MVVM Light and more.

After a few days at home, I will continue with travel:

  • I will fly to Hyderabad, India and participate to another MVP Connection event on November 3rd and 4th where I will be honored to speak about the same topics as in Lima. There too, I will be available for questions and discussions, and meeting as many MVPs as I can :) Unfortunately I don’t have other stops in India in November, but I am already thinking of coming back next year!

Then I still have two conferences in November:

  • I am super happy that I can travel to Malmö, Sweden this year again and speak at the Oredev conference on November 10. I spoke there once in 2011 [TODO CHECK] and never could again because the conference was always conflicting with the Microsoft MVP summit. At Oredev, I will be speaking about HoloLens and show developers how to get started with Mixed Reality programming. This should work well with my dear friend Rene Schulte’s talk at the same conference, which is scheduled just after mine and will dig quite a lot deeper into the topic.

  • To conclude the travel in November, I will spend a couple of days in Sofia, Bulgaria on November 16th and 17th. There, I will have the honor of keynoting the ISTA conference. From their website: “Innovations in Software Technologies and Automation (ISTA) is an annual, international conference, devoted to the latest trends in software development and test automation. We are committed to support the development of quality standards in the field with focus on new technologies and best practices.” Sounds like a very exciting conference in a dynamic city of software. I had the pleasure to speak in Sofia before and was always impressed by the quality of the attendees!

I hope that I have a chance to meet some of you, dear readers, at one or the other event. Make sure to follow me on Twitter to get the details of my travels, and by all means come say hi!

Happy coding
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook

Flexibility is great until it isn’t… Careful with these Azure Tables!!

Azure, Azure Storage Explorer, Azure Tables, Technical stuff, Work
5 Comments

As part of my ongoing discovery of Azure features and services, I am working on a few applications and samples that use various features of Azure such as Azure Functions, Azure Tables and more. Recently I had a bug in one of my applications, a link shortener that takes in a link in the form http://gslb.ch/5t and returns another longer link, in this case https://expertday.forxamarin.com.

The application uses an HTTP Module that detects the short domain gslb.ch and performs the table lookup. This is straightforward enough. Where things become interesting is that by deploying this solution on Azure and switching Application Insights on, I get some feedback on who is clicking what. For instance, the short link above has a few possible variations. http://gslb.ch/5t is used for Twitter, as indicated by the trailing T. I could also use http://gslb.ch/5f for Facebook, http://gslb.ch/5l for LinkedIn, you get the idea. It allows me to see where the majority of my community is active, which is interesting information.

Using analytics

As part of the service, I also have the possibility to add some analytics information for the destination system. For some Microsoft links, we use analytics like the following:

“?WT_mc_id=redshirtdevtour-twitter-lbugnion”

This type of analytics is used for the Red Shirt Tour taking place this Fall, where Scott Guthrie is visiting 5 locations in the USA and talking about Azure with a LOT of demos. If you haven’t done so yet, you should really check it out, some great content for free, and a chance to meet a lot of the Cloud Developer Advocates, including myself in Boston and NYC. Sometimes I want to use analytics, and sometimes I don’t, so I have foreseen a boolean column for this in the database, as shown below.

Using Azure Tables for storage

I found one small issue that cost me a few head scratches. You see, I use Azure Tables for the storage of the link information. This is quick to use and super easy to maintain. As time goes, I might port it to CosmosDB but for now, this works well.

From the Azure Tables page: “A NoSQL key-value store for rapid development using massive semi-structured datasets”. This is a very flexible, schema-less system. It means that you can easily add new entries in a table, and create new properties on the fly, for example with the Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer which I documented earlier. In my case, here is a screenshot of the table:

2017-10-01_11-05-22
(Click for full size)

As you can see, the last column is titled SkipAnalytics. If true, the analytics portion described above is omitted from the long link. Obviously I made this value a boolean as shown in the class code:

public class ShortenedLinkEntity : TableEntity
{
    public string LongLink { get; set; }
    public string Alias { get; set; }
    public string Channel { get; set; }
    public string EventName { get; set; }
    public bool SkipAnalytics { get; set; }
    public string LinkAlias { get; set; }
}

The entities are retrieved with the following code. In this example, I hardcoded the index “5”, which corresponds to the RowKey column in the table shown above.

var account = CloudStorageAccount.Parse(Constants.ConnectionString);
var tableClient = account.CreateCloudTableClient();
var linksTable = tableClient.GetTableReference(LinksTableName);
await linksTable.CreateIfNotExistsAsync();

var retrieveOperation = TableOperation.Retrieve<ShortenedLinkEntity>(
    "partition",
    "5");
var operation = await linksTable.ExecuteAsync(retrieveOperation);
var link = operation.Result as ShortenedLinkEntity;
return link;

The code above starts by creating a CloudStorageAccount corresponding to the connection string I obtained from the Azure Storage Explorer as shown here (Primary Connection String):

2017-10-01_11-20-54

Then I create a CloudTableClient which I use to retrieve the CloudTable for the short links. To retrieve the entity itself, I use here the TableOperation.Retrieve method, which is very fast and convenient if you happen to know the PartitionKey and the RowKey for a given entity. Since in my code the RowKey is the index passed in the URL (here “5”), it is easy.

That sounds great, so where’s the issue?

Here is the bug: I wanted to add a new row. Eventually I will have a client for this (planning to develop it with Xamarin, of course, so I can use it on Windows, iOS, Android) but right now I add rows directly in the Azure Storage Explorer. Let’s see if you can spot the issue.

First I add a new entity in the table. Notice that I don’t enter a value for the SkipAnalytics column, this is an error that I will fix later.

2017-10-01_11-25-29

2017-10-01_11-26-21

Then I see ooops I forgot the SkipAnalytics column, let’s correct that now by selecting the row and clicking the Edit button.

2017-10-01_11-32-01

Note that the empty columns are missing from this dialog. This is because as I explained, the entities stored in Azure Tables can take any shape, there is no strict schema. Freedom is great but in that case it will cause a small issue. Let’s add the missing SkipAnalytics column by pressing the Add Property button.

2017-10-01_11-33-47

Looking good right? Now if I press Update, the entity is updated in the Table. I can then run the code to retrieve the entity in my web application and… SkipAnalytics is false. Why???

Did you spot the issue?

Let’s go back to the place where I edited the entity.

2017-10-01_11-33-48

Wait… how can the column SkipAnalytics be a string? All the other rows use Boolean for this value in the table!! Well here you go, this is the issue. Because of the added freedom, I can have an object with a SkipAnalytics value of type bool, and another object in the same table where the SkipAnalytics value is of type string. When I retrieve the value in a strongly typed language like C#, I don’t get an error, but the value “true” maps to the Boolean false. Ugh…

Unfortunately, (1) the Azure Explorer doesn’t perform a check when you add an entity, (2) the Azure Table doesn’t have a problem storing what we would consider incompatible values and (3) there is no exception when the entity is retrieved and the values are mapped to the corresponding entity. This creates a bug in the application that can be quite difficult to understand.

What now?

For now, I didn’t ask the team yet why this is possible. I’d love to know if this is by design or if they would consider it a flaw of the system. What do you guys think? Personally I would be happier if the Azure Storage Explorer would prevent me from doing that. Maybe an update in the future? If and when I get a reply from the team, I will update this post with what I learn.

Happy coding
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)

Share on Facebook

Writing, writing, writing…

.NET, Azure, Azure Functions, Cloud Developer Advocate, Microsoft, Technical stuff, Work, Xamarin
No Comments

One thing I love in my new job is that I can just sit down anywhere on Earth, grab my Surface Pro and produce content (articles, samples, etc) or learn new things just as if I was home. I just came back from Singapore and had a great time there talking at the Xamarin “MonkeyFest” conference. But it was also a busy time producing content and I am so happy that things are starting to fall into place.

Here are a few highlights:

  • I just published a few new articles (see below). As I am discovering new features of Azure, I want to share with you all. I decided to write in markdown (just like docs.microsoft.com) and publish on GitHub. Why GitHub? Well first of all this is of course the destination for developers. The markdown renderer is pretty good, it is easy and fast to create and publish good quality content. At some point this documentation might migrate to another location, but for now it makes sense to have it on Github. Also, and maybe most importantly, I like that the source code and the corresponding articles are all grouped together, for example my sample-azure-coinvalue application.
  • As I was writing, I noticed that a few topics are going to be recurrent in all my samples. So I went ahead and created the following repo: sample-azure-general. In this repo, I will document recurring processes in Azure, such as creating a trial account, Creating and testing Azure Functions in Visual Studio, Publishing functions to Azure, etc etc etc.
  • In parallel I am also working on new samples and should be able to publish more soon. So stay tuned to this blog or to my Twitter account. Yes for now the list of samples is very lean but now that everything is starting to be coherent, I want to add new content regularly!

Please help me help you!

I’d really like you all to be able to tell me what is the most important for you. And so in this spirit I want to start with two features:

Available articles:

At the moment you can find the following content in sample-azure-general:

Hopefully this is helpful to all of you, and I hope that we can get the discussion running. Microsoft is literally paying me to help you understand Azure, cross-platform, Windows, .NET and more and I love that job. So please please please don’t be shy and let me know what you need. We want to help!

Happy coding
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook

Installing #mvvmlight for .NET Standard 1.0

.NET, MVVM, Technical stuff, Universal Windows Platform UWP, WPF, Xamarin
2 Comments

I just released the new MVVM Light preview version for .NET Standard 1.0. I also published an article in the MVVM Light documentation describing the installation of the .NET Standard 1.0 version of MVVM Light as well as the changes needed to existing applications.

Hopefully you find this helpful.

This is a pre-release version and I am eager to hear your feedback. If you have any issue during the uninstallation process, installation process or while using MVVM Light for .NET Standard 1.0, send me an email at Laurent@galasoft.ch for assistance.

Happy coding!
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)

Share on Facebook

Running unit tests on Azure Functions in Visual Studio 2017

.NET, Azure, Azure Functions, Microsoft, Technical stuff, Visual Studio
No Comments

TL;DR; You should really update your Nuget packages

I am currently experimenting a lot with Azure due to my new job and also of course due to the really cool innovation that we can find there. Recently I got interested in Azure Functions. This cool feature allows to write a small piece of code that runs on Azure and can be triggered by various events (time based, HTTP-request based, etc). For example, imagine that you have a value that keeps changing and you want to monitor this value and do some kind of analytics on this. In the code I am currently writing, I am using the value of a Bitcoin as the sample, and I am just periodically reading this value and storing it into an Azure database.

For this small functionality, it would be much too complicated to set an entire server-based application up. This is a perfect example for a time-based Azure Function. I am not going to explain more about Azure Functions here, because I am working on a complete article including sample which will do that. But in the course of my investigation, I stumbled upon an issue that can easily be solved.

The problem:

The issue arises when you try to write unit tests for your Azure Function. In many examples I saw, the Azure Function was created straight in the Azure portal, which is great but makes it a bit difficult to unit test the code. Thankfully it is also possible to create the Function project in Visual Studio, and to take advantage of all the features including unit test, code coverage etc.

To do this, try the following:

  • Install Visual Studio 2017. I currently have the Update 3, which is the most recent at this time. Make sure to select the Azure workload when you install Visual Studio!

Click to see the full picture

  • In Visual Studio, select Create new project.
  • In the New project dialog, select Cloud on the left, and then Azure Functions.
  • Give your project a name and then click OK.
  • Right click on the Function project and select Add, New Item.
  • In the Solution Explorer, right click on the solution and select Add, New Project.
  • In the Add New Project dialog, select the Test category, and then Unit Test Project (.NET Framework).
  • Give your unit test project a name and then click OK.
  • In the Unit test project in Solution Explorer, right click the References folder and select Add Reference.
  • In the Reference Manager dialog, select Projects and then the Function project that you created earlier. Then click OK.
  • Build the solution.

If you have the same setup as I have, you will get an error stating something like:

Metadata file ‘C:\Users\Laurent\Documents\Visual Studio 2017\Projects\FunctionApp2\FunctionApp2\bin\Debug\net461\FunctionApp2.dll’ could not be found

Indeed, if you check the path in Windows Explorer, you will see that there are no DLLs under FunctionApp2\bin\Debug\net461. There is however a folder under FunctionApp2\bin\Debug\net461\bin which contains all the DLLs. The issue is that the Functions project does not generate its output to a standard path. As a result, the Unit test project does not find the reference it was expecting.

The resolution

After reaching out to the Azure Functions team, I found out that this is a know issue and that an updated project template for Visual Studio will be released soon. But there is already an easy fix that you can apply to your project today: You just need to update your Nuget packages, and this will apply the fix to the Functions project.

  • In the Solution Explorer, right click on the Solution and select Manage Nuget Packages for Solution.
  • Under Installed, select the Microsoft.NET.Sdk.Functions package.
  • On the right under Versions, select the Function project. Note that the version shown is smaller than 1.0.2 (likely 1.0.0).
  • Below this box, make sure that Latest stable 1.0.2 is selected in the Version combo box and then click Install.
  • Build the project again. This time it should succeed.

Click to see the full picture

Conclusion

This was an easy fix that the Azure Functions team was able to deploy to your project using an update to the Nuget package. Of course, there are good reasons why teams are sometimes reluctant to apply an update: They might fear that the update brings breaking changes, or that something might go wrong unexpectedly due to regression bugs etc. But when you create a brand new project, it is a good idea to apply the Nuget updates to the solution. This way you will make sure that your new project starts with the latest and greatest.

Thanks to the Azure Functions team for their help solving this issue!

Happy coding
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook
 

Solving the #Xamarin error “Unable to copy appname.dll…”

.NET, Technical stuff, Visual Studio, Work, Xamarin
No Comments

If you recently updated Xamarin to the latest stable version in Visual Studio 2015 or Visual Studio 2017, you might have encountered an annoying error when trying to build:

Unable to copy appname.dll from obj to bin because it is being used by another process

This error typically happens the second time that you try to build after you start Visual Studio. The first time everything works OK, then suddenly you cannot build anymore. Cleaning the solution doesn’t help, the only “fix” is to restart Visual Studio which is of course really annoying when you are developing.

This error is known, as shown by the Bugzilla issue #56275. There is also an old forum discussion on the Xamarin forums, which is a bit confusing because it might be a recurring error in the Xamarin updates.

Fortunately, the Bugzilla discussion also carries a workaround. This is a Visual Studio extension that you can install, which should fix the issue. I also talked to Microsoft about this and got confirmation that the error is fixed in a future release of Visual Studio. The engineer who replied to me also gave me a VSIX to fix the issue. I am not entirely sure what the difference is with the one in the Bugzilla issue, so I will just copy it here for your convenience. As far as I can tell, both VSIX files work well.

Happy coding
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook
 

Using the Windows Template Studio with #MVVMLight

.NET, Build, MVVM, Technical stuff, Universal Windows Platform UWP, Visual Studio, Windows 10, Work
1 Comment

Here is a story of a great collaboration between Microsoft and the community.

Last year in August, as I was speaking at VS Live in Redmond, I was asked by my friend Clint Rutkas for coffee because he had an idea he wanted to run by me. Now if you know Clint, that is usually really intriguing and I was really excited to hear about his idea.

Clint told me about the project he was thinking of starting. This was just conceptual at the time, but his idea made a lot of sense: Why not make the process of creating a new Universal Windows application a lot easier. Why not help people with all the tedious tasks that you get right after File, New, Project.

Usually when you get started, you need to add a bunch of pages and helpers to your application. The Blank application template is just that, blank. In MVVM Light, I added a project template for the supported frameworks (Universal Windows Platform, Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin.Android, Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight).

2017-05-24_11-09-27
The MVVM Light templates in Visual Studio 2017

However creating a meaningful project template is really difficult. You are constantly navigating between “too much content” and “too little content”. If you have too much, the developer ends up having to remove a whole lot of code, which is tedious. If you have too little, then the developer needs to spend time adding the basics, as well as sometimes having to look for guidance on how to do common things like navigation, dialogs, a Settings page, etc.

Building a wizard

Of course I thought of building a wizard to help people getting started. This is not easy though. First of all, the Visual Studio automation can be complex. You need to support multiple versions of Studio, and the extensibility model changes from version to version, so that is a big commitment. And this is where Microsoft has a huge advantage, they own the extensibility model, they know in advance is something is going to change, and they have the resource to create and maintain the code. And since the WTS is open source and available on Github, you can also contribute, and help make this project even better.

Installing the Windows Template Studio

Before you get started, you will need to add the Windows Template Studio (WTS) to Visual Studio 2017. Thankfully this is really very easy. In Visual Studio 2017, just select Tools, Extensions and Updates. Click the Online item on the left, and enter Windows Template Studio in the search box on the top right.

2017-05-24_09-47-08
The Extensions and Updates dialog with WTS

In Visual Studio 2017, you are now required to close the application to install the extension, so after the download is complete, close Studio and it will get installed.

Getting started

2017-05-24_11-16-46

The WTS starts in the File, New, Project dialog. Under the usual Universal Windows templates, you will see the entry for the WTS. Select it, give a name to your new application and press OK.

The project type

2017-05-24_11-19-16
The project type and framework dialog

The next screen is about the foundation of your app. You can select a type of navigation (currently you can select an app with a navigation pane, or an app with tabs), or simply a blank template without navigation.

The framework

Then comes the framework selection. This is where you will notice MVVM Light front and center. The other options at the moment are Code Behind, or a basic “no-name” MVVM implementation which can be useful in situations where the usage of 3rd party frameworks is completely forbidden.

The pages

2017-05-24_11-20-12
The pages dialog

The next step is probably the one I am the most excited about. It is usually so tedious to add the same pages over and over in every application I create. Here, you can choose to add pages such as blank page, map page, master/details, web view, settings etc. I can’t stress enough how much of a time saver this step is.

Note that the studio also supports you in finding out which licenses the 3rd party frameworks use. For example, if you add a Settings page which uses JSON.Net for the serialization of the settings, a link to the license is added to the Summary pane on the right, and so you don’t have any surprise.

The features

The features dialog is as exciting. With one click, you can add new experiences to your application such as Suspend/Resume, Background tasks, notifications, live tiles and more.

2017-05-24_11-54-40
The features dialog

This is probably the easiest way to offer a fully featured application to your users.

Why only MVVM Light at this time?

Microsoft ran numbers of the Nuget downloads and saw a confirmation that MVVM Light is the most widely used framework to build MVVM applications on Windows. In addition, its modularity and simplicity of use makes it a prime candidate for the first version of the WTS. However this is an open source project and so the developers of other projects (such as my good friends at the Prism or MVVM Cross projects) are already working to add support for their own framework in the WTS.

What about other application types?

At the moment, the WTS only works for Universal Windows applications. However nothing would prevent it to be updated for other application types. Personally I would welcome Xamarin support! And here we can predict that this will probably happen sooner or later, supported by the community of open source developers. I can see a lot of advantages in adding support for Xamarin or even WPF desktop applications. So I encourage everyone to head to Github and start contributing!

Resources

Here are some videos and links to get started:

I hope that you also see the potential of this great tool and that you will contribute.

Happy coding!
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook
 

Live blogging the Microsoft Build keynote, day 2 #msbuild

.NET, Build, Conferences, Technical stuff, Universal Windows Platform UWP, Visual Studio, Windows 10, Work, Xamarin, XAML
No Comments

And the show continues on day 2! In this post, I will be live blogging the Microsoft Build keynote on day 2. This should be a very exciting event with focus on client development, Windows and Mixed Reality. Get ready!!

Live blogging the Microsoft Build keynote, day 1 #msbuild

.NET, Build, Conferences, HoloLens, Technical stuff, Universal Windows Platform UWP, Visual Studio, Windows 10, Work, Xamarin, XAML
No Comments

Build day 1 is a wrap and you can find all the live notes taken during the keynote in this post!

My plans for Build 2017 #msbuild

.NET, Blog, Build, Conferences, Technical stuff, Universal Windows Platform UWP, Visual Studio, Windows 10, Xamarin
No Comments

Days are passing and the time is getting closer to pack my stuff and fly to Seattle again. This will be my first trip to my third home this year, and I am really impatient to be there. I just love that place.

Getting there

I will be arriving in town on Saturday evening, quite late. My plan is to pick a rental car and get to the hotel in Pioneer Square and get to bed :) The next morning, based on experience, I will be up super early (thank you jet lag). This is a droning day! I am not 100% sure yet where I will drive but I am considering getting close to Rainier National Park if the weather is good enough. Alternatively maybe take the ferry to Bainbridge to make footage of the islands. Or maybe the Snoqualmie area. Or maybe all of the above. This will be a day like I love, driving around on my own schedule, relaxing, flying, filming, editing pictures at a cafe… Should be a lot of fun if the clouds are cooperating!

Visiting the office

Monday will be an office day. Seattle is an important hub for Valorem, and this is the office where it all started for me. I love going there and seeing the new and improved space. So as usual I will be looking forward to meet new colleagues and meet old colleagues again!

The conference: Live blogging

During the conference itself, I will try something new this year: I will be live blogging the keynotes and the sessions that I can attend. In previous years, I was always taking notes during the events and posting these notes to my blog every so often. Surprisingly, this has been quite popular, even though these are my raw notes without much commentary. I found out that not everyone can watch the live stream, and people were reading my notes and getting some of this keynote feeling there. But of course posting a blog post is a lot slower than taking the actual note. So this year I installed a new plugin on my blog called 24LiveBlog. This will allow me to publish my notes about the keynote in real time as well as hopefully post pictures too. That should be a fun exercise!

You will be able to follow the live blogs at the following URLs. However please note that these links will only be active on and after the keynote day 1 and 2 respectively!

Keynote day 1 (Wednesday May 10, 2017): http://blog.galasoft.ch/posts/?p=1601
This keynote will take place from 8AM to 11AM PST
(4PM London time, 5PM Zurich time).

Keynote day 2 (Thursday May 11, 2017): http://blog.galasoft.ch/posts/?p=1606
This keynote will take place from 8:30AM to 10AM PST
(4:30PM London time, 5:30PM Zurich time).

I am really looking forward to this exercise and hope that it will be useful to you all!

Wednesday: Mix2017 party with iHeartRadio and Valorem

Yes yes I know, the name is really significant… this is not a revival of the MIX conference! I know we all miss this amazing conference… No, the Mix2017 event is Valorem’s and iHeartRadio’s party at Build!

Join iHeartRadio and Valorem for #Mix2017, a fantastic night where music meets mixed reality. iHeartRadio’s DJ will mix your favorite music and Valorem will mix your reality with exciting HoloLens experiences on Wednesday, May 10, at the Living Computers Museum + Labs. As a bonus, event attendees get free admittance to the museum.

More details and registration on the Valorem website! I hope to see many of you at this event!

Happy coding!
Laurent

GalaSoft Laurent Bugnion
Laurent Bugnion (GalaSoft)
Share on Facebook