LINQPad, LLBLGENPro and Npgsql

If you want to test LLBLGenPro/Npgsql queries with LINQPad, and you really should, you have to follow these steps.

  1. Install the official LLBLGenPro driver for LINQPad (Add connection, View more drivers..., ...)
  2. Reference LLBLGenPro generated assemblies (connection configuration), enter proper connection strings and, albeit optional, provide a .config file that contains DBProviderFactiories entry for Npgsql (watch out for version number)
  3. Once connection is created, add Npgsql NuGet package to query. The version should match the one configured in step #2.

And voila, beautiful interactive queries at your disposal. You can even use ORM Profiler.

Sample Npgsql factory entry:

....
<system.data>
    <DbProviderFactories>
      <!-- PostgreSql -->
      <add name="PostgreSql Client Data Provider" invariant="Npgsql" description=".Net Framework Data Provider for PostgreSql" type="Npgsql.NpgsqlFactory, Npgsql, Version=3.1.6.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=5d8b90d52f46fda7" />
    </DbProviderFactories>
  </system.data>

A solution to Visual Studio Tools for Docker debugging problem

I you have problems with debugging your .net core application using Visual Studio Tools for Docker - the app simply stops at start and you see a lot of Trying to connect to http://localhost (N/120) messages (where N = [1,120]) - then you might be interested in the workaround.
Which, as it turns out, is quite simple.
Open docker-compose.debug.yml file and simply remove the volumes section:
    volumes:
      - .:/app

Then you can debug it normally.

See the original solution post named Trying to connect to http://localhost/ (1/XXX) in Q and A section.

Mono, Docker, 3.14, WebAPI on NTK 2016

This year I’ll be presenting at Microsoft’s NT Konferenca as I do every year.

As the topic I’ve picked my experience of using Docker I gathered from a real world example. I’ve been building an application that is a combination of PostgreSQL database, Mono/NGINX/WebAPI on server and UWP/Windows10 on client. Server side supports various OS. Target is Linux but it should run on Windows without issues. The combination of server OS and server tools choice drives costs down significantly on one hand and makes it versatile on the other.

Docker helps a lot through the development and final deployment in production. And that’s what talk is all about. 3.14 will play a role as well – showing that there is almost no HW restriction for such a combination on server side. We’ll build and deploy the application through rich demos.

See you there, Monday at 9:00.

Strong typing DisplayAttribute reference to Resources

Let’s say there is a decorated member with DisplayAttribute in code, i.e.:

public enum SomeEnum
{
	[Display(Name = "ResourceKey", ResourceType=typeof(Resource)]
	SomeValue
}

That’s all right except for one problem. If Name is mistyped or given resource key is latter changed then DisplayAttribute will point to an incorrect value and compiler won’t help. Resources designer doesn’t help as well, at least indirectly, because it doesn’t generate externally usable key names. It generates strong typed getters though, like:

internal static string ResourceKey {
        get {
             return ResourceManager.GetString("ResourceKey", resourceCulture);
        }
}

So, these getters are the only strong typed artifact that can be used to achieve strong typed reference. Luckily there is one C# (also VB) feature that was introduced in 6.0 and it is very useful in improving strong typed aspect of code. it is nameof keyword. it is evaluated at compile time and replaces the given expression with a string representation.

In other words, the sample above can be rewritten in strong typed manner:

public enum SomeEnum
{
	[Display(Name = nameof(Resources.ResourceKey), ResourceType=typeof(Resource)]
	SomeValue
}

This way the name is guaranteed to match since it is checked at compile time. So, no more mismatch between the key name and reference to it.

Of course, nameof can be used in many other places. Most notably in INotifyPropertyChanged/MVVM scenario.

Fixing connection problems between Visual Studio and Mac when building iOS applications

I’ve been digging a bit into problems of connection between Visual Studio (Xamarin.iOS) and a Mac and wanted to share a few tips here.

It all started with my Visual Studio being unable to build an iOS application due to the connection issues. Basically I could connect through Xamarin Mac Agent (XMA) through Visual Studio but then the build would fail saying that it couldn’t log to target Mac given my username.

For starters one might read Connecting to the Mac and Connection Troubleshooting topics. But my problem wasn’t listed there or anywhere else. So I had to figure it out on my own.

First hint was that XMA required me to type in the username/password for connecting to the Mac. It connected and I could show the iOS simulator but I couldn’t build. When configured properly it shouldn’t ask for credentials, perhaps only for the first time. For me it was asking for credentials each time I started Visual Studio.

After reading, digging and googling I understood that XMA is using SSH tunnel to connect to the Mac. First thing was inspecting the log files (VS Help/Xamarin/Open Logs…). I didn’t find much there (other than failed connection to the host lines), or so I thought. Next thing was – checking the SSH connectivity (command prompt, ssh username@host). Using my default private key I had no problems connecting to the Mac but Visual Studio kept failing the build process. Next thing to try was Xamarin’s own SSH diagnostics app (provided as C# sources – kudos) which would throw Permission Denied (publickey) upon Connecting to host. Since the public key is on host, the problem obviously has to do with the host – but why since it was working from command prompt. Using this app I also found out what private key is XMA using. And it isn’t my default one, which I tested the connection with.

The thing is that XMA is using its own private key which you can find it at %LocalAppData%Xamarin/MonoTouch/id_rsa. So next thing I tried was connecting through command prompt/ssh using –i PATH argument (forces what key is used), i.e. (replace %LocalAppData% with value) ssh –i %LocalAppData%Xamarin/MonoTouch/id_rsa user@host. And yes, it didn’t work. So definitely a key issue.

The solution

Time for looking at Mac, specially in file /Users/username/.ssh/authorized_keys  where public keys for my profile are stored. And as anybody would guess, it was missing Xamarin’s public key. To get one from the private key I used Puttygen (a part of PuTTY): imported XMA’s private key and copy & pasted the public key portion right into the new line of authorized_keys file on Mac (I had my default public key already in there). This time the ssh command line tool connected without problems. And so did XMA from Visual Studio. Happy me.

The cause

This let me thinking, why does it usually works without intervention. After further examination of log files, it was clear. XMA first tries using its private key, if it doesn’t succeed it tries to cat the public key portion to authorized_keys file on Mac (probably using the credentials you have to enter ). But what happens if the authorized_keys file is read-only? Ha, nothing, a log entry and that’s it. This was my case, I had authorized_keys file as read only. I wouldn’t mind a clear warning: “hey dude, XMA was unable to modify your authorized_keys file, please enter this public_key manually”. It’d certainly spared me some time.

The security considerations

Let me repeat what happens when first time connecting to Mac. XMA would create a private key and put its public part into authorized_keys on Mac. Were you aware of that? No? Neither was I. To make things complicated, the private key in question isn’t password protected. Theoretically an app that user runs (no admin privileges required) could use the key (or worse, copy it through the Internet) to connect to your Mac and gain your credentials on the Mac, which are most probably administration ones. It still would have to type in password for su access, but nevertheless, this isn’t something that should be taken easily IMO.

I certainly wish that the connection mechanism was better documented and people were aware what’s going on. If nothing else, we could pinpoint the problems more easily. Also, an option to use password protected private key would be much more secure.

Use async keyword only when required

While async keyword is very useful it shouldn’t be used when it isn’t required. Imagine this method

public async Task DoSomethingAsync()
{
	await Task.Delay(1000);
}

The method works but it has too much code generated unnecessarily. The thing is that async triggers a lot of code generation at compile time that is invisible at design time. When using .Net Reflector, compiled code looks like:

[AsyncStateMachine(typeof(<dosomethingasync>d__1)), DebuggerStepThrough]
public Task DoSomethingAsync()
{
	<dosomethingasync>d__1 stateMachine = new lt;dosomethingasync gt;d__1 {
		<>4__this = this,
		<>t__builder = AsyncTaskMethodBuilder.Create(),
		<>1__state = -1
	};
	stateMachine.<>t__builder.Start<<dosomethingasync>d__1>(ref stateMachine);
	return stateMachine.<>t__builder.Task;
}

[CompilerGenerated]
private sealed class lt;dosomethingasync>d__1 : IAsyncStateMachine
{
	public int <>1__state;
	public Program <>4__this;
	public AsyncTaskMethodBuilder <>t__builder;
	private TaskAwaiter <>u__1;

	private void MoveNext()
	{
		int num = this.<>1__state;
		try
		{
			TaskAwaiter awaiter;
			if (num != 0)
			{
				awaiter = Task.Delay(0x3e8).GetAwaiter();
				if (!awaiter.IsCompleted)
				{
					this.<>1__state = num = 0;
					this.<>u__1 = awaiter;
					Program.<dosomethingasync>d__1 stateMachine = this;
					this.<>t__builder.AwaitUnsafeOnCompleted gt;taskawaiter program.="" ,=""><dosomethingasync>d__1>(ref awaiter, ref stateMachine);
					return;
				}
			}
			else
			{
				awaiter = this.<>u__1;
				this.<>u__1 = new TaskAwaiter();
				this.<>1__state = num = -1;
			}
			awaiter.GetResult();
			awaiter = new TaskAwaiter();
		}
		catch (Exception exception)
		{
			this.<>1__state = -2;
			this.<>t__builder.SetException(exception);
			return;
		}
		this.<>1__state = -2;
		this.<>t__builder.SetResult();
	}

	[DebuggerHidden]
	private void SetStateMachine(IAsyncStateMachine stateMachine)
	{
	}
}

I won’t dig into what’s actually generated at this point, but while this code is perfectly functional and correct, it is all for nothing in this simple case. Since the only asynchronous operation is the last one, the original method can be easily rewritten as:

public Task DoSomethingAsync()
{
	return Task.Delay(1000);
}

This way it works the same except for the missing pile of generated code.

So, when there is a single asynchronous operation inside the method and no code is executed after it, the async (and await) keyboard can be omitted and you’ll save yourself from too much unnecessarily generated code plu the application will run a bit faster.

Porting a .net application to Linux/Mono/MonoDevelop

I have a small .net application that I wanted to run on Linux since it is a deamon/service sort of app. Basically is an app that peridically retrieves data from a REST service and stores it to a PostgreSQL database using LLBLGenPro 5.0 CTP2. So I created a .net 4.6.1 console application that uses HttpClient/ModernHttpClient package, NLog package for logging and System.Collections.Immutable package for immutable collecitons obviously. That was on Windows using Visual Studio 2015. After I added all the necessary code it run perfectly well on Windows.

Then I tried to open the same solution on Linux. I cloned the repository and opened it in MonoDevelop 5.10/Mono 4.2.1 (both latest). And it didn’t work out of the box. I stumbled over several issues I will describe here.

.net version

MonoDevelop doesn’t work with anything over .net 4.5 for the time being due to the MSBuild thing – at least that was the complaint.

Hence I downgraded my project to .net 4.5. No problems since I didn’t use anything .net 4.6ish.

System.Collection.Immutable

It won’t install System.Collection.Immutable package because System.Linq package (which System.Collection.Immutable depends on for some reason) won’t install unless NuGet Package Manager is 3.0 or newer. MonoDevelop uses NuGet Package Manager 2.8.7. While this is only a NuGet Package installation issue, it is annoying. First, because System.Collection.Immutable doesn’t really require System.Linq package on Mono/.net 4.5 and next becuse it isn’t smooth as it should be. Funny thing is that at NuGet web page it says that System.Collection.Immutable requires NuGet 2.8.6 or higher. I guess it should be 3.0 or higher since a package that it depends on requires it.

Hence I dropped System.Collection.Immutable package which wasn’t difficult because I wasn’t using it extensively. Hopefully MonoDevelop catches up with NuGet and that is fixed.

HttpClient/ModernHttpClient

ModernHttpClient speeds up communication since it uses native networking libraries. However it won’t work on Linux.

Dropped it since it doesn’t affect the functionallity at all.

NLog

I had configure NLog though nlog.config file. And it works on Windows perfectly. Hower when run on Linux I didn’t get any output whatsoever. Just like there was no configuration file. As a Windows guy I was a bit puzzled why. Since NLog is open source, I downloaded the code and tried debugging. Sadly MonoDevelop didn’t allow me to step into NLog code for some reason but luckily old school “Console.WriteLine” approach worked as usual. After some strategically placed Console.WriteLine calls within NLog library I found the reason, which might be apparent to a Linux guy. Bloody file name casing. I was using nlog.config and Windows doesn’t care about file name casing.

On Linux file name casing does and thus changing the name to NLog.config did the trick.

Linux specific addition

If app wants to gracefully handle SIGTERM signal (like when somebody/something tries to kill it) it might use UnixSignalWaiter NuGet package. While only at version 0.0.1 it seems to work just fine. It is also safe to use it on non-Linux systems where it does nothing (one might also check whether the feature is supported).

Conclusion

If .NET Core has proper database support (PostgreSQL in my case, but more more importantly LLBLGenPro doesn’t work due to lack of ado.net support – I don’t know about you but for me the proper ado.net stack on server is one of the most important aspects) I’d try to use it as well. But since it doesn’t, well, someday in the future I guess.

Anyway, after learning all the problems and the workarounds above I feel more confident in my Mono/Linux skills and the application compiles fine and works as expected. I also think that Xamarin/mono guys are doing really great job. Kudos.

Did I mention that I’m using Docker to run the application? I guess that’s a topic for a future post.