One click deploy for MakeCode and the amazing AdaFruit Circuit Playground Express

There’s a ton of great open source hardware solutions out there. Often they’re used to teach kids how to code, but their also fun for adults to learn about hardware! Ultimately that “LED Moment” can be the start of a love affair with open source hardwa…

Circuit Playground Express and CrickitThere's a ton of great open source hardware solutions out there. Often they're used to teach kids how to code, but their also fun for adults to learn about hardware!

Ultimately that "LED Moment" can be the start of a love affair with open source hardware and software! Arduino is great, as is Arduino talking to the Cloud! If that's too much or too many moving parts, you always start small with other little robot kits for kids.

Recently my 10 year old and I have been playing with the Circuit Playground Express from Adafruit. We like it because it supports not just block-based programming and JavaScript via MakeCode (more on that in a moment) but you can also graduate to Circuit Python. Want to be even more advanced/ You can also use the Arduino IDE to talk to Circuit Playground Express. It's quickly becoming our favorite board. Be sure to get the board, some batteries and a holder, as well as a few alligator clips.

The Circuit Playground Express board is round and has alligator-clip pads around it so you don't have to solder to get started. It has as bunch of sensors for light, temperature, motion, sound, as well as an IR receiver and transmitter and LEDs for visual output. There's a million things you can do with it. This summer Microsoft Research is doing a project a week you can do with the kids in your life with Make Code!

I think the Circuit Playground Express is excellent by itself, but I like that I can stack it on top of the AdaFruit Crickit to make a VERY capable robotics platform. It's an ingenious design where three screws and metal standoffs connect the Crickit to the Circuit Playground and provide a bus for power and communication. The 10 year old wants to make a BattleBot now.

Sitting architecturally on top of all this great hardware is the open source Microsoft Make Code development environment. It's amazing and more people should be talking about it. MakeCode works with LEGO Mindstorms EV3, micro:bit, Circuit Playground Express, Minecraft, Cue robots, Chibichips, and more. The pair of devices is truly awesome.

Frankly I'm blown away at how easy it is and how easily my kids were productive. The hardest part of the whole thing was the last step where they need to copy the compiled code to the Circuit Playground Express. The editor is all online at GitHub https://github.com/Microsoft/pxt and you can run it locally if you like but there's no reason to unless you're developing new packages.

We went to https://makecode.adafruit.com/ for the Circuit Playground Express. We made a new project (and optionally added the Crickit board blocks as an extension) and then got to work. The 10 year old followed a tutorial and made a moisture sensor that uses an alligator clip and a nail to check if our plants need to be watered! (If they do, it beeps and turns red!)

You can see the code here as blocks...

The MakeCode IDE

or see the same code as JavaScript!

let Soil_reading = 0
let dry_value = 0
dry_value = 1500
light.setBrightness(45)
light.setAll(0x00ff00)
forever(function () {
    Soil_reading = input.pinA1.value()
    console.logValue("Soil reading", Soil_reading)
    if (Soil_reading < dry_value) {
        light.setAll(0xff0000)
        music.playTone(262, music.beat(BeatFraction.Half))
    } else {
        light.clear()
    }
    pause(__internal.__timePicker(2000))
})

When you've written your code, you just click DOWNLOAD and you'll get a "uf2" file.

Downloading compiled MakeCode UF2 files

Then the hardest part, you plug in the Circuit Playground Express via USB, it shows up as a Drive called "CPLAYBOOT," and you copy that file over. It's easy for techies, but a speed bump for kids.

Downloading compiled MakeCode UF2 files

It's really a genius process where they have removed nearly every obstacle in the hardware. After the file gets copied over (literally after the last byte is written) the device resets and starts running it.

The "Developer's Inner Loop" is as short as possible, so kudos to the team. Code, download, deploy, run/test, repeat.

This loop is fast and clever, but I wanted to speed it up a little so I wrote this little utility to automatically copy your MakeCode file to the Circuit Playground Express. Basically the idea is:

  • Associate my app with *.uf2 files
  • When launched, look for a local drive labeled CPLAYBOOK and copy the uf2 file over to it.

That's it. It speeds up the experience and saves me a number of clicks. Sure there's batch file/powershell/script ways to do it but this wasn't hard.

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var sourceFile = args[0];
    var drive = (from d in DriveInfo.GetDrives()
                 where d.VolumeLabel == "CPLAYBOOT"
                 select d.RootDirectory).FirstOrDefault();
    
    if (drive == null) {
        Console.WriteLine("Press RESET on your Circuit Playground Express and try again!");
        Environment.Exit(1);
    }
    Console.WriteLine($"Found Circuit Playground Express at {drive.FullName}");
    File.Copy(sourceFile, Path.Combine(drive.FullName, Path.GetFileName(sourceFile)));
}

Then I double click on the uf2 file and get this dialog and SCROLL DOWN and click "Look for another app on this PC." (They are making this hard because they want you to use a Store App, which I haven't made yet)

Selecting a custom app for UF2 files

Now I can just click my uf2 files in Windows Explorer and they'll automatically get deployed to my Circuit Playground Express!

Found Circuit Playground Express at D:\

You can find source here https://github.com/shanselman/MakeCodeLaunchAndCopy if you're a developer, just get .NET Core 2.1 and run my .cmd file on Windows to build it yourself. Feel free to make it a Windows Store App if you're an overachiever. Pull Requests appreciated ;)

Otherwise, get the a little release here https://github.com/shanselman/MakeCodeLaunchAndCopy/releases and unzip the contents into its own folder on Windows, go double-click a UF2 file and point Windows to the MakeCodeLaunchAndCopy.exe file and you're all set!


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SQL Server on Linux or in Docker plus cross-platform SQL Operations Studio

I recently met some folks that didn’t know that SQL Server 2017 also runs on Linux but they really needed to know. They had a single Windows desktop and a single Windows Server that they were keeping around to run SQL Server. They had long-been a …

imageI recently met some folks that didn't know that SQL Server 2017 also runs on Linux but they really needed to know. They had a single Windows desktop and a single Windows Server that they were keeping around to run SQL Server. They had long-been a Linux shop and was now fully containerzed...except for this machine under Anna's desk. (I assume The Cloud is next...pro tip: Don't have important servers under your desk). You can even get a license first and decide on the platform later.

You can run SQL Server on a few Linux flavors...

or, even better, run it on Docker...

Of course you'll want to do the appropriate volume mapping to keep your database on durable storage. I'm digging being able to spin up a full SQL Server inside a container on my Windows machine with no install.

I've got Docker for Windows on my laptop and I'm using Shayne Boyer's "Docker Why" repo to make the point. Look at his sample DockerCompose that includes both a web frontend and a backend using SQL Server on Linux.

version: '3.0'

services:

mssql:
image: microsoft/mssql-server-linux:latest
container_name: db
ports:
- 1433:1433
volumes:
- /var/opt/mssql
# we copy our scripts onto the container
- ./sql:/usr/src/app
# bash will be executed from that path, our scripts folder
working_dir: /usr/src/app
# run the entrypoint.sh that will import the data AND sqlserver
command: sh -c ' chmod +x ./start.sh; ./start.sh & /opt/mssql/bin/sqlservr;'
environment:
ACCEPT_EULA: 'Y'
SA_PASSWORD: [email protected][email protected]$$w0rd

Note his starting command where he's doing an initial population of the database with sample data, then running sqlservr itself. The SQL Server on Linux Docker container includes the "sqlcmd" command line so you can set up the database, maintain it, etc with the same command line you've used on Windows. You can also configure SQL Server from Environment Variables so it makes it easy to use within Docker/Kubernetes. It'll take just a few minutes to get going.

Example:

/opt/mssql-tools/bin/sqlcmd -S localhost -d Names -U SA -P $SA_PASSWORD -I -Q "ALTER TABLE Names ADD ID UniqueIdentifier DEFAULT newid() NOT NULL;"

I cloned his repo (and I have .NET Core 2.1) and did a "docker-compose up" and boom, running a front end under Alpine and backend with SQL Server on Linux.

101→ C:\Users\scott> docker ps

CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES
e5b4dae93f6d namesweb "dotnet namesweb.dll" 38 minutes ago Up 38 minutes 0.0.0.0:57270->80/tcp, 0.0.0.0:44348->443/tcp src_namesweb_1
5ddffb76f9f9 microsoft/mssql-server-linux:latest "sh -c ' chmod +x ./…" 41 minutes ago Up 39 minutes 0.0.0.0:1433->1433/tcp mssql

Command lines are nice, but SQL Server is known for SQL Server Management Studio, a nice GUI for Windows. Did they release SQL Server on Linux and then expect everyone use Windows to manage it? I say nay nay! Check out the cross-platform and open source SQL Operations Studio, "a data management tool that enables working with SQL Server, Azure SQL DB and SQL DW from Windows, macOS and Linux." You can download SQL Operations Studio free here.

SQL Ops Studio is really impressive. Here I am querying SQL Server on Linux running within my Docker container on my Windows laptop.

SQL Ops Studio - Cross platform SQL management

As I'm digging in and learning how far cross-platform SQL Server has come, I also checked out the mssql extension for Visual Studio Code that lets you develop and execute SQL against any SQL Server. The VS Code SQL Server Extension is also open source!

Go check it SQL Server in Docker at https://github.com/Microsoft/mssql-docker and try Shayne's sample at https://github.com/spboyer/docker-why


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Example Code – Opinionated ContosoUniversity on ASP.NET Core 2.0’s Razor Pages

The best way to learn about code isn’t just writing more code – it’s reading code! Not all of it will be great code and much of it won’t be the way you would do it, but it’s a great way to expand your horizons. In fact, I’d argue that most people aren…

The best way to learn about code isn't just writing more code - it's reading code! Not all of it will be great code and much of it won't be the way you would do it, but it's a great way to expand your horizons.

In fact, I'd argue that most people aren't reading enough code. Perhaps there's not enough clean code bases to check out and learn from.

I was pleased to stumble on this code base from Jimmy Bogard called Contoso University at https://github.com/jbogard/ContosoUniversityDotNetCore-Pages.

There's a LOT of good stuff to read in this repo so I won't claim to have read it all or as deeply as I could. In fact, there's a good solid day of reading and absorbing here.However, here's some of the things I noticed and that I appreciate. Some of this is very "Jimmy" code, since it was written for and by Jimmy. This is a good thing and not a dig. We all collect patterns and make libraries and develop our own spins on architectural styles. I love that Jimmy collects a bunch of things he's created or contributed to over the years and put it into a nice clear sample for us to read. As Jimmy points out, there's a lot in https://github.com/jbogard/ContosoUniversityDotNetCore-Pages to explore:

Clone and Build just works

A low bar, right? You'd be surprised how often I git clone someone's repository and they haven't tested it elsewhere. Bonus points for a build.ps1 that bootstraps whatever needs to be done. I had .NET Core 2.x on my system already and this build.ps1 got the packages I needed and built the code cleanly.

It's an opinioned project with some opinions. ;) And that's great, because it means I'll learn about techniques and tools that I may not have used before. If someone uses a tool that's not the "defaults" it may me that the defaults are lacking!

  • Build.ps1 is using a build script style taken from PSake, a powershell build automation tool.
  • It's building to a folder called ./artifacts as as convention.
  • Inside build.ps1, it's using Roundhouse, a Database Migration Utility for .NET using sql files and versioning based on source control http://projectroundhouse.org
  • It's set up for Continuous Integration in AppVeyor, a lovely CI/CD system I use myself.
  • It uses the Octo.exe tool from OctopusDeploy to package up the artifacts.

Organized and Easy to Read

I'm finding the code easy to read for the most part. I started at Startup.cs to just get a sense of what middleware is being brought in.

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    services.AddMiniProfiler().AddEntityFramework();
    services.AddDbContext<SchoolContext>(options =>
        options.UseSqlServer(Configuration.GetConnectionString("DefaultConnection")));
    services.AddAutoMapper(typeof(Startup));
    services.AddMediatR(typeof(Startup));
    services.AddHtmlTags(new TagConventions());
    services.AddMvc(opt =>
        {
            opt.Filters.Add(typeof(DbContextTransactionPageFilter));
            opt.Filters.Add(typeof(ValidatorPageFilter));
            opt.ModelBinderProviders.Insert(0, new EntityModelBinderProvider());
        })
        .SetCompatibilityVersion(CompatibilityVersion.Version_2_1)
        .AddFluentValidation(cfg => { cfg.RegisterValidatorsFromAssemblyContaining<Startup>(); });
}
Here I can see what libraries and helpers are being brought in, like AutoMapper, MediatR, and HtmlTags. Then I can go follow up and learn about each one.

MiniProfiler

I've always loved MiniProfiler. It's a hidden gem of .NET and it's been around being awesome forever. I blogged about it back in 2011! It sits in the corner of your web page and gives you REAL actionable details on how your site behaves and what the important perf timings are.

MiniProfiler is the profiler you didn't know you needed

It's even better with EF Core in that it'll show you the generated SQL as well! Again, all inline in your web site as you develop it.

inline SQL in MiniProfiler

Very nice.

Clean Unit Tests

Jimmy is using XUnit and has an IntegrationTestBase here with some stuff I don't understand, like SliceFixture. I'm marking this as something I need to read up on and research. I can't tell if this is the start of a new testing helper library, as it feels too generic and important to be in this sample.

He's using the CQRS "Command Query Responsibility Segregation" pattern. Here starts with a Create command, sends it, then does a Query to confirm the results. It's very clean and he's got a very isolated test.

[Fact]
public async Task Should_get_edit_details()
{
    var cmd = new Create.Command
    {
        FirstMidName = "Joe",
        LastName = "Schmoe",
        EnrollmentDate = DateTime.Today
    };
    var studentId = await SendAsync(cmd);
    var query = new Edit.Query
    {
        Id = studentId
    };
    var result = await SendAsync(query);
    result.FirstMidName.ShouldBe(cmd.FirstMidName);
    result.LastName.ShouldBe(cmd.LastName);
    result.EnrollmentDate.ShouldBe(cmd.EnrollmentDate);
}

FluentValidator

https://fluentvalidation.net is a helper library for creating clear strongly-typed validation rules. Jimmy uses it throughout and it makes for very clean validation code.

public class Validator : AbstractValidator<Command>
{
    public Validator()
    {
        RuleFor(m => m.Name).NotNull().Length(3, 50);
        RuleFor(m => m.Budget).NotNull();
        RuleFor(m => m.StartDate).NotNull();
        RuleFor(m => m.Administrator).NotNull();
    }
}

Useful Extensions

Looking at a project's C# extension methods is a great way to determine what the author feels are gaps in the underlying included functionality. These are useful for returning JSON from Razor Pages!

public static class PageModelExtensions
{
    public static ActionResult RedirectToPageJson<TPage>(this TPage controller, string pageName)
        where TPage : PageModel
    {
        return controller.JsonNet(new
            {
                redirect = controller.Url.Page(pageName)
            }
        );
    }
    public static ContentResult JsonNet(this PageModel controller, object model)
    {
        var serialized = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(model, new JsonSerializerSettings
        {
            ReferenceLoopHandling = ReferenceLoopHandling.Ignore
        });
        return new ContentResult
        {
            Content = serialized,
            ContentType = "application/json"
        };
    }
}

PaginatedList

I've always wondered what to do with helper classes like PaginatedList. Too small for a package, too specific to be built-in? What do you think?

public class PaginatedList<T> : List<T>
{
    public int PageIndex { get; private set; }
    public int TotalPages { get; private set; }
    public PaginatedList(List<T> items, int count, int pageIndex, int pageSize)
    {
        PageIndex = pageIndex;
        TotalPages = (int)Math.Ceiling(count / (double)pageSize);
        this.AddRange(items);
    }
    public bool HasPreviousPage
    {
        get
        {
            return (PageIndex > 1);
        }
    }
    public bool HasNextPage
    {
        get
        {
            return (PageIndex < TotalPages);
        }
    }
    public static async Task<PaginatedList<T>> CreateAsync(IQueryable<T> source, int pageIndex, int pageSize)
    {
        var count = await source.CountAsync();
        var items = await source.Skip((pageIndex - 1) * pageSize).Take(pageSize).ToListAsync();
        return new PaginatedList<T>(items, count, pageIndex, pageSize);
    }
}

I'm still reading all the source I can. Absorbing what resonates with me, considering what I don't know or understand and creating a queue of topics to read about. I'd encourage you to do the same! Thanks Jimmy for writing this large sample and for giving us some code to read and learn from!


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AltCover and ReportGenerator give amazing code coverage on .NET Core

I’m continuing to explore testing and code coverage on open source .NET Core. Earlier this week I checked out coverlet. There is also the venerable OpenCover and there’s some cool work being done to get OpenCover working with .NET Core, but it’s Window…

I'm continuing to explore testing and code coverage on open source .NET Core. Earlier this week I checked out coverlet. There is also the venerable OpenCover and there's some cool work being done to get OpenCover working with .NET Core, but it's Windows only.

Today, I'm exploring AltCover by Steve Gilham. There are coverage tools that use the .NET Profiling API at run-time, instead, AltCover weaves IL for its coverage.

As the name suggests, it's an alternative coverage approach. Rather than working by hooking the .net profiling API at run-time, it works by weaving the same sort of extra IL into the assemblies of interest ahead of execution. This means that it should work pretty much everywhere, whatever your platform, so long as the executing process has write access to the results file. You can even mix-and-match between platforms used to instrument and those under test.

AltCover is a NuGet package but it's also available as .NET Core Global Tool which is awesome.

dotnet tool install --global altcover.global

This makes "altcover" a command that's available everywhere without adding it to my project.

That said, I'm going to follow the AltCover Quick Start and see how quickly I can get it set up!

I'll Install into my test project hanselminutes.core.tests

dotnet add package AltCover

and then run

dotnet test /p:AltCover=true

90.1% Line Coverage, 71.4% Branch CoverageCool. My tests run as usual, but now I've got a coverage.xml in my test folder. I could also generate LCov or Cobertura reports if I'd like. At this point my coverage.xml is nearly a half-meg! That's a lot of good information, but how do I see  the results in a human readable format?

This is the OpenCover XML format and I can run ReportGenerator on the coverage file and get a whole bunch of HTML files. Basically an entire coverage mini website!

I downloaded ReportGenerator and put it in its own folder (this would be ideal as a .NET Core global tool).

c:\ReportGenerator\ReportGenerator.exe -reports:coverage.xml -targetdir:./coverage

Make sure you use a decent targetDir otherwise you might end up with dozens of HTML files littered in your project folder. You might also consider .gitignoring the resulting folder and coverage file. Open up index.htm and check out all this great information!

Coverage Report says 90.1% Line Coverage

Note the Risk Hotspots at the top there! I've got a CustomPageHandler with a significant NPath Complexity and two Views with a significant Cyclomatic Complexity.

Also check out the excellent branch coverage as expressed here in the results of the coverage report. You can see that EnableAutoLinks was always true, so I only ever tested one branch. I might want to add a negative test here and explore if there's any side effects with EnableAutoLinks is false.

Branch Coverage

Be sure to explore AltCover and its Full Usage Guide. There's a number of ways to run it, from global tools, dotnet test, MSBuild Tasks, and PowerShell integration!

There's a lot of great work here and it took me literally 10 minutes to get a great coverage report with AltCover and .NET Core. Kudos to Steve on AltCover! Head over to https://github.com/SteveGilham/altcover and give it a STAR, file issues (be kind) or perhaps offer to help out! And most of all, share cool Open Source projects like this with your friends and colleagues.


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.NET Core Code Coverage as a Global Tool with coverlet

Last week I blogged about “dotnet outdated,” an essential .NET Core “global tool” that helps you find out what NuGet package reference you need to update. .NET Core Global Tools are really taking off right now. They are meant for devs – this isn’t a r…

Last week I blogged about "dotnet outdated," an essential .NET Core "global tool" that helps you find out what NuGet package reference you need to update.

.NET Core Global Tools are really taking off right now. They are meant for devs - this isn't a replacement for chocolatey or apt-get - this is more like npm's global developer tools. They're putting together a better way to find and identify global tools, but for now Nate McMaster has a list of some great .NET Core Global Tools on his GitHub. Feel free to add to that list!

.NET tools can be installed like this:

dotnet tool install -g <package id>

So for example:

C:\Users\scott> dotnet tool install -g dotnetsay

You can invoke the tool using the following command: dotnetsay
Tool 'dotnetsay' (version '2.1.4') was successfully installed.
C:\Users\scott> dotnetsay

Welcome to using a .NET Core global tool!

You know, all the important tools. Seriously, some are super fun. ;)

Coverlet is a cross platform code coverage tool that's in active development. In fact, I automated my build with code coverage for my podcast site back in March. I combined VS Code, Coverlet, xUnit, plus these Visual Studio Code extensions

for a pretty nice experience! All free and open source.

I had to write a little PowerShell script because the "dotnet test" command for testing my podcast site with coverlet got somewhat unruly. Coverlet.msbuild was added as a package reference for my project.

dotnet test /p:CollectCoverage=true /p:CoverletOutputFormat=lcov /p:CoverletOutput=./lcov .\hanselminutes.core.tests

I heard last week that coverlet had initial support for being a .NET Core Global Tool, which I think would be convenient since I could use it anywhere on any project without added references.

dotnet tool install --global coverlet.console

At this point I can type "Coverlet" and it's available anywhere.

I'm told this is an initial build as a ".NET Global Tool" so there's always room for constructive feedback.

From what I can tell, I run it like this:

coverlet .\bin\Debug\netcoreapp2.1\hanselminutes.core.tests.dll --target "dotnet" --targetargs "test --no-build"

Note I have to pass in the already-built test assembly since coverlet instruments that binary and I need to say "--no-build" since we don't want to accidentally rebuild the assemblies and lose the instrumentation.

Coverlet can generate lots of coverage formats like opencover or lcov, and by default gives a nice ASCII table:

88.1% Line Coverage in Hanselminutes.core

I think my initial feedback (I'm not sure if this is possible) is smarter defaults. I'd like to "fall into the Pit of Success." That means, even I mess up and don't read the docs, I still end up successful.

For example, if I type "coverlet test" while the current directory is a test project, it'd be nice if that implied all this as these are reasonable defaults.

.\bin\Debug\whatever\whatever.dll --target "dotnet" --targetargs "test --nobuild"

It's great that there is this much control, but I think assuming "dotnet test" is a fair assumption, so ideally I could go into any folder with a test project and type "coverlet test" and get that nice ASCII table. Later I'd be more sophisticated and read the excellent docs as there's lots of great options like setting coverage thresholds and the like.

I think the future is bright with .NET Global Tools. This is just one example! What's your favorite?


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Lynx is dead – Long live Browsh for text-based internet browsing

The standard for browsing the web over a text-=based terminal is Lynx, right? It’s the legendary text web browser that you can read about at https://lynx.invisible-island.net/ or, even better, run right now with docker run –rm -it nbrown/lynx lynx htt…

The standard for browsing the web over a text-=based terminal is Lynx, right? It's the legendary text web browser that you can read about at https://lynx.invisible-island.net/ or, even better, run right now with

docker run --rm -it nbrown/lynx lynx http://hanselman.com/

Awesome, right? But it's text. Lynx runs alt-text rather than images, and doesn't really take advantage of modern browser capabilities OR modern terminal capabilities.

Enter Browsh! https://www.brow.sh/

Browsh is a fully-modern text-based browser. It renders anything that a modern browser can; HTML5, CSS3, JS, video and even WebGL. Its main purpose is to be run on a remote server and accessed via SSH/Mosh

Imagine running your browser on a remote machine connected to full power while ssh'ing into your hosted browsh instance. I don't know about you, but my laptop is currently using 2 gigs of RAM for Chrome and it's basically just all fans. I might be able to get 12 hours of battery life if I hung out in tmux and used browsh! Not to mention the bandwidth savings. If I'm tethered or overseas on a 3G network, I can still get a great browsing experience and just barely sip data.

Browsing my blog with Browsh

You can even open new tabs! Check out the keybindings! You gotta try it. Works great on Windows 10 with the new console. Just run this one Docker command:

docker run -it --rm browsh/browsh

If you think this idea is silly, that's OK. I think it's brilliant and creative and exactly the kind of clever idea the internet needs. This solves an interesting browser in an interesting way...in fact it returns us back to the "dumb terminal" days, doesn't it?

There was a time when I my low-power machine waited for text from a refrigerator-sized machine. The fridge did the work and my terminal did the least.

Today my high-powered machine waits for text from another high-powered machine and then struggles to composite it all as 7 megs of JavaScript downloads from TheVerge.com. But I'm not bitter. ;)

Check out my podcast site on Browsh. Love it.

Tiny pixelated heads made with ASCII

If you agree that Browsh is amazing and special, consider donating! It's currently maintained by just one person and they just want $1000 a month on their Patreon to work on Browsh all the time! Go tell Tom on Twitter that you think is special, then give him some coins. What an exciting and artful project! I hope it continues!


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NuKeeper for automated NuGet Package Reference Updates on Build Servers

Last week I looked at “dotnet outdated,” a super useful .NET Core Global Tool for keeping a project’s NuGet packages up to date. Since then I’ve discovered there’s a whole BUNCH of great projects solving different aspects of the “minor version problem….

Last week I looked at "dotnet outdated," a super useful .NET Core Global Tool for keeping a project's NuGet packages up to date. Since then I've discovered there's a whole BUNCH of great projects solving different aspects of the "minor version problem." I love this answer "Why?" from the NuKeeper (inspired by Greenkeeper) project with emphasis mine. NuKeeper will check for updates AND try to update your references for you! Why not automate the tedious!

NuGet package updates are a form of change that should be deployed, and we likewise want to change the cycle from "NuGet package updates are infrequent and contain lots of package changes, therefore NuGet package updates are hard and dangerous..." to "NuGet package updates are frequent and contain small changes, therefore NuGet package updates are easy and routine...".

Certainly no one is advocating updating the major versions of your dependent NuGet packages, but small compatible bug fixes come often and are often missed. Including a tool to discover - and optionally apply - these changes in a CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) pipeline can be a great timesaver.

Why do we deploy code changes frequently but seldom update NuGet packages?

Good question!

NuKeeper

NuKeeper is a .NET tool as well that you can install safely with:

dotnet tool install --global NuKeeper

Here it is running on my regularly updated podcast website that is running ASP.NET Core 2.1:

NuKeeper says I have 3 packages to update

Looks like three of my packages are out of date. NuKeeper shows what version I have and what I could update to, as well as how long an update has been available.

You can also restrict your updates by policy, so "age=3w" for packages over 3 weeks old (so you don't get overly fresh updates) or "change=minor" or "change=patch" if you trust your upstream packages to not break things in patch releases, etc.

NuKeeper is picking up steam and while (as of the time of this writing) its command line parameter style is a little unconventional, Anthony Steele and the team is very open to feedback with many improvements already in progress as this project matures!

The update functionality is somewhat experimental and currently does 1 update per local run, but I'm really enjoying the direction NuKeeper is going!

Automatic NuGet Updates via Pull Request

NuKeeper has a somewhat unique and clever feature called Repository Mode in that it can automatically issue a Pull Request against your repository with the changes needed to update your NuGet references. Check out this example PullRequest!

The NuKeeperBot has automatically issued a PR with a list of packages to update

Again, it's early days, but between NuKeeper and "dotnet outdated," I'm feeling more in control of my package references than ever before! What are YOU using?


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dotnet outdated helps you keep your projects up to date

I’ve moved my podcast site over to ASP.NET Core 2.1 over the last few months. You might want to follow the saga by checking out some of the recent blog posts. Upgrading my podcast site to ASP.NET Core 2.1 in Azure plus some Best Practices Major build…

I've moved my podcast site over to ASP.NET Core 2.1 over the last few months. You might want to follow the saga by checking out some of the recent blog posts.

That's just a few of the posts. Be sure to check out the last several months' posts in the calendar view. Anyway, I've been trying lots of new open source tools and libraries like coverlet for .NET Core Code Coverage, and frankly, keeping my project files and dependencies up to date has sucked.

Npm has "npm outdated" and paket has "paket outdated," why doesn't dotnet Core have this also? Certainly at a macro level there's more things to consider as NuGet would need to find the outdated packages for UWP, C++, and a lot of other project types as well. However if we just focus on .NET Core as an initial/primary use case, Jerrie Pelser has "dotnet outdated" for us and it's fantastic!

Once you've got the .NET Core 2.1 SDK or newer, just install the tool globally with one line:

dotnet tool install --global dotnet-outdated

At this point I'll run "dotnet outdated" on my podcast website. While that's running, let me just point you to https://github.com/jerriep/dotnet-outdated as a lovely example of how to release a tool (no matter how big or small) on GitHub.

  • It has an AppVeyor CI link along with a badge showing you that it's passing its build and test suite. Nice.
  • It includes both a NuGet link to the released package AND a myGet link and badge to the dailies.
  • It's got clear installation and clear usage details.
  • Bonus points of screenshots. While not accessible to call, I admit personally that I'm more likely to feel that a project is well-maintained if there are clear screenshots that tell me "what am I gonna get with this tool?"

Here's the initial output on my Site and Tests.

dotnet outdated

After updating the patch versions, here's the output, this time as text. For some reason it's not seeing Coverlet's NuGet so I'm getting a "Cannot resolve latest version" error but I haven't debugged that yet.

» hanselminutes.core.tests
  [.NETCoreApp,Version=v2.1]
  Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.Testing 2.1.1
  Microsoft.NET.Test.Sdk 15.7.2
  Selenium.Support 3.13.1
  Selenium.WebDriver 3.13.1
  Xunit.SkippableFact 1.3.6
  coverlet.msbuild 2.0.1 Cannot resolve latest version
  xunit 2.3.1
  xunit.runner.visualstudio 2.3.1
» hanselminutes.core
  [.NETCoreApp,Version=v2.1]
  BuildBundlerMinifier 2.8.391
  LazyCache 2.0.0-beta03
  LazyCache.AspNetCore 2.0.0-beta03
  Markdig 0.15.0
  Microsoft.ApplicationInsights.AspNetCore 2.4.0-beta2
  Microsoft.AspNetCore.App 2.1.1
  Microsoft.Extensions.Http.Polly 2.1.1
  Microsoft.NET.Test.Sdk 15.7.2

As with all projects and references, while things aren't *supposed* to break when you update a Major.Minor.Patch/Revision.build...things sometimes do. You should check your references and their associated websites and release notes to confirm that you know what's changed and you know what changes you're bringing in.

Shayne blogged about dotnet out-dated and points out the -vl (version lock) options that allows you to locking on Major or Minor versions. No need to take things you aren't ready to take.

All in all, a super useful tool that you should install TODAY.

dotnet tool install --global dotnet-outdated

The source is up at https://github.com/jerriep/dotnet-outdated if you want to leave issues or get involved.


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Detecting that a .NET Core app is running in a Docker Container and SkippableFacts in XUnit

I have moved my podcast site over to ASP.NET Core 2.1 and I’ve got it running in a Docker container. Take a moment a check out some of the blog posts, as I’ve been blogging as I’ve been learning. I’ve added Unit Tests as well as Selenium Tests that are…

Container Ship by NOAA used under CCI have moved my podcast site over to ASP.NET Core 2.1 and I've got it running in a Docker container. Take a moment a check out some of the blog posts, as I've been blogging as I've been learning.

I've added Unit Tests as well as Selenium Tests that are also run with the XUnit Unit Test Runner. However, I don't want those Selenium Tests that automate Google Chrome to run within the context of Docker.

I tried to add an Environment Variable within my Dockerfile like this:

ENV INDOCKER=1

I figured I'd check for that variable and conditionally skip tests. Simple, right? Well, I decided to actually READ the Dockerfiles that my ASP.NET Core 2.1 app uses. Remember, Dockerfiles (and the resulting images) are layered, and with all things .NET, are Open Source. 

Looking at my own layers and exploring the source on Github, I see I'm using:

Nice, so I don't need to set anything to know I'm running .NET in a Container! I wouldn't have known any of this if I hadn't taken 15 minutes and exploring/asserted/confirmed my stack. Just because I'm running Docker containers doesn't mean it's not useful to take the time to KNOW what I'm running! Assert your assumptions and all that, right?

I added a little helper in my Tests:

private bool InDocker { get { return Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("DOTNET_RUNNING_IN_CONTAINER") == "true";} }

Since I'm using XUnit, I decided to bring in the very useful helper Xunit.SkippableFact!

For example:

[SkippableFact]
public void LoadTheMainPageAndCheckTitle()
{
    Skip.If(InDocker, "We are in Docker, y'all!");
    Browser.Navigate().GoToUrl(Server.RootUri);
    Assert.StartsWith("Hanselminutes Technology Podcast - Fresh Air and Fresh Perspectives for Developers", Browser.Title);
}

SkippableFact lets me skip tests for basically any reason. I could help if I'm in Docker, as I'm doing here. Or, given that Selenium Tests will throw an "OpenQA.Selenium.WebDriverException" when it can't find the Selenium Web Driver, I could also do this, skipping because a specific Exception was through. Note this means it's a SKIP not a FAIL.

[SkippableFact(typeof(OpenQA.Selenium.WebDriverException))]
public void KevinScottTestThenGoHome()
{
   Browser.Navigate().GoToUrl(Server.RootUri + "/631/how-do-you-become-a-cto-with-microsofts-cto-kevin-scott");
   var headerSelector = By.TagName("h1");
   var link = Browser.FindElement(headerSelector);
   link.Click();
}

The results look like this:

Total tests: 22. Passed: 18. Failed: 0. Skipped: 4.
Test Run Successful.
Test execution time: 8.7878 Seconds

You could choose to Skip Tests if a backend, 3rd party API, or DB was down, but you still wanted to test as much as possible. I'm pretty happy with the results!


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.NET Core and Docker

If you’ve got Docker installed you can run a .NET Core sample quickly just like this. Try it:docker run –rm microsoft/dotnet-samples
If your Docker for Windows is in “Windows Container mode” you can try .NET Framework (the full 4.x Windows Framework) …

If you've got Docker installed you can run a .NET Core sample quickly just like this. Try it:

docker run --rm microsoft/dotnet-samples

If your Docker for Windows is in "Windows Container mode" you can try .NET Framework (the full 4.x Windows Framework) like this:

docker run --rm microsoft/dotnet-framework-samples

vs-docker-toolsI did a video last week with a write up showing how easy it is to get a containerized application into Azure AND cheaply with per-second billing.

Container images are easy to share via Docker Hub, the Docker Store, and private Docker registries, such as the Azure Container Registry. Also check out Visual Studio Tools for Docker. It all works very nicely together.

I like this quote from Richard Lander:

Imagine five or so years ago someone telling you in a job interview that they care so much about consistency that they always ship the operating system with their app. You probably wouldn’t have hired them. Yet, that’s exactly the model Docker uses!

And it's a good model! It gives you guaranteed consistency. "Containers include the application and all of its dependencies. The application executes the same code, regardless of computer, environment or cloud." It's also a good way to make sure your underlying .NET is up to date with security fixes:

Docker is a game changer for acquiring and using .NET updates. Think back to just a few years ago. You would download the latest .NET Framework as an MSI installer package on Windows and not need to download it again until we shipped the next version. Fast forward to today. We push updated container images to Docker Hub multiple times a month.

The .NET images get built using the official Docker images which is nice.

.NET images are built using official images. We build on top of Alpine, Debian, and Ubuntu official images for x64 and ARM. By using official images, we leave the cost and complexity of regularly updating operating system base images and packages like OpenSSL, for example, to the developers that are closest to those technologies. Instead, our build system is configured to automatically build, test and push .NET images whenever the official images that we use are updated. Using that approach, we’re able to offer .NET Core on multiple Linux distros at low cost and release updates to you within hours.

Here's where you can find .NET Docker Hub repos:

.NET Core repos:

.NET Framework repos:

  • microsoft/dotnet-framework – includes .NET Framework runtime and sdk images.
  • microsoft/aspnet – includes ASP.NET runtime images, for ASP.NET Web Forms and MVC, configured for IIS.
  • microsoft/wcf – includes WCF runtime images configured for IIS.
  • microsoft/iis – includes IIS on top of the Windows Server Core base image. Works for but not optimized for .NET Framework applications. The microsoft/aspnet and microsoft/wcfrepos are recommended instead for running the respective application types.

There's a few kinds of images in the microsoft/dotnet repo:

  • sdk — .NET Core SDK images, which include the .NET Core CLI, the .NET Core runtime and ASP.NET Core.
  • aspnetcore-runtime — ASP.NET Core images, which include the .NET Core runtime and ASP.NET Core.
  • runtime — .NET Core runtime images, which include the .NET Core runtime.
  • runtime-deps — .NET Core runtime dependency images, which include only the dependencies of .NET Core and not .NET Core itself. This image is intended for self-contained applications and is only offered for Linux. For Windows, you can use the operating system base image directly for self-contained applications, since all .NET Core dependencies are satisfied by it.

For example, I'll use an SDK image to build my app, but I'll use aspnetcore-runtime to ship it. No need to ship the SDK with a running app. I want to keep my image sizes as small as possible!

For me, I even made a little PowerShell script (runs on Windows or Linux) that builds and tests my Podcast site (the image tagged podcast:test) within docker. Note the volume mapping? It stores the Test Results outside the container so I can look at them later if I need to.

#!/usr/local/bin/powershell

docker build --pull --target testrunner -t podcast:test .
docker run --rm -v c:\github\hanselminutes-core\TestResults:/app/hanselminutes.core.tests/TestResults podcast:test

Pretty slick.

Results File: /app/hanselminutes.core.tests/TestResults/_898a406a7ad1_2018-06-28_22_05_04.trx


Total tests: 22. Passed: 22. Failed: 0. Skipped: 0.
Test execution time: 8.9496 Seconds

Go read up on how the .NET Core images are built, managed, and maintained. It made it easy for me to get my podcast site - once dockerized - running on .NET Core on a Raspberry Pi (ARM32).


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