Category Archives: Uncategorized

Installing Client Side Libraries in Asp.Net Core

As a relative newcomer to the web front-end, one thing that always surprised me was how many moving parts you need to get something running. This is probably true elsewhere (i.e. in back-end development, and desktop development) but we just do a better job of hiding it. In the past, people writing web-pages have always has an uneasy relationship with Microsoft. Maybe it started in the late nineties when, in order to win the battle of the browsers with Netscape, Microsoft started giving its product away. Since then IE became more and more bloated, as it had to support 10 years worth of old technology, and people have had to ensure it still worked on IE 6 and 7.

But now things are different, Microsoft is a rebranded company and nobody hates them anymore… and when you create a brand new Asp.Net Core 2.1 project, you can use npm to install client side packages, use them in your web page and it all just works – end of the post.

Except that hasn’t happened. In fact, the client side package management for the web seems (to me) to be in a bit of a mess – especially where Microsoft is concerned.

Create a brand new Asp.Net Core 2.1 MVC project from the template and it comes with jquery, supplied by bower; except Microsoft aren’t continuing support for bower anymore.

So, use NuGet to install your package?

Nope – not on .Net Core!

So, use npm – that’s still supported?

Yep – here’s the Asp.Net Signal R client side package installed using npm:

Okay, so it puts it in ‘node_modules’ – I can reference the library directly from there, right?

Nope – it needs to be in wwwroot\lib.

Errr – so I copy it across manually?

You can. Although that’s kind of the problem that package managers were invented to solve.

I can create a gulp task to take the files out of the downloaded directory and place them into the lib directory!

Yes – yes, you can. Although now you have a gulp task, and an npm restore, all so that you can include one or two files in your project. This all just seems too hard!

LibMan

Introducing LibMan. It isn’t a Package Manager; but it might just be the correct answer to the question: “Why the hell is this whole thing so difficult – I only want one file!”

Here is the context menu for the in the lib folder after v15.8 (this has been available in preview for a while):

That gives you the following dialog:

This is amazing, I can pick the library that I want, and where I want it to go! I can also select specific files that I want – this almost feels like a sensible way to manage client side packages. Click install and bang:

You can see what it’s done by either selecting “Manage Client Side Packages…” from the solution context menu:

Alternatively, you can just have a look at the libman.json file (they both do the same thing as of 15.8.7, which makes me wonder whether “Manage Client Side Packages…” will do something different one day – the ellipses kind of give it away).

And There’s More…

There’s a CLI for it (which seemed to balk a bit when I tried to install it via NuGet), and you can use this as a replacement for Gulp to copy files around, by just selecting “File System” as the source (although this sort of solves that problem further down the tree).

References

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/aspnet/core/client-side/bower?view=aspnetcore-2.1

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/webdev/2018/08/22/libman-cli-released/

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/webdev/2018/08/31/library-manager-release-in-15-8/

Microsoft Chat Bot Framework – Up And Running

Some time ago (think early to mid-nineties), I used to run a BBS. One Christmas, I logged onto another BBS based in Manchester, and they had a “Santa Chat”. I tried it for a while, and was so impressed by it, that I decided to write my own; it was basically the gift that kept giving: you put this thing on your BBS (basically an Eliza clone) and it records the responses of the unsuspecting users to a text file (or log).

These days there are laws against recording such things, but those were simpler times, and once they realised the joke, everyone was happy, and life went on (albeit at 14.4k bps).

A few years ago, I decided to relive my youth, and wrote an app for the Windows Store – this one didn’t keep logs, although I imagine, had I added a “Post Log to Facebook” button, it probably would have got some use. It has since removed by MS in their wisdom. There was very little difference between it and Eliza.

Now, Microsoft seem to have jumped on this bandwagon, and they have released a framework for developing such apps. Clearly their efforts were just a copy of mine… well, anyway, this is a quick foray into the world of a chat bot.

You’re first step, in Azure, is to set-up a Web-App bot:

This will actually create a fully working bot in two or three clicks; select “Test in Web Chat” if you don’t believe me:

Okay – it doesn’t do much – but what it does do is fully working! You can download the code for this if you like:

The code doesn’t look too daunting when you download it:

In fact, looking inside MessagesController, it appears to be a simple API controller. In fact, the controller selects a dialog to use, and the dialog is the magic class that essentially controls all the… err… dialog. The default is called “EchoDialog”.

For the purposes of this demo, we can change the part we want using the web browser; select Online Code Editor:

The bit we’re interested in for the purpose of this is the EchoDialog. Let’s try changing the text that gets sent back a little; replace the test in MessageReceivedAsync with this:

public async Task MessageReceivedAsync(IDialogContext context, IAwaitable<IMessageActivity> argument)
{
    var message = await argument;
 
    if (message.Text == "reset")
    {
        PromptDialog.Confirm(
            context,
            AfterResetAsync,
            "Are you sure you want to reset the count?",
            "Didn't get that!",
            promptStyle: PromptStyle.Auto);
    }
    else
    {
        if (message == "test")
        {
            await context.PostAsync("Testing 1, 2, 3...");
        }
        else
        {
            await context.PostAsync($"{this.count++}: You said {message.Text}");
        }
        context.Wait(MessageReceivedAsync);
    }
}

So, we are checking the input, and where it’s “test”, we’ll return a slightly different response. You’ll need to build this; select the “Open Console” button down the left hand side of the screen and type “build”:

When it’s done, open up your test again and see what happens:

Remember that the bot itself is exposed as an API, so you can put this directly into your own code.

References

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/uk_faculty_connection/2017/09/08/how-to-build-a-chat-bot-using-azure-bot-service-and-train-it-with-luis/

https://github.com/Microsoft/BotFramework-Emulator