What can you do with a logic app? Part One – Send tweets at random intervals based on a defined data set

I thought I’d start another of my patented series’. This one is about finding interesting things that can be done with Azure Logic Apps.

Let’s say, for example, that you have something that you want to say; for example, if you were Richard Dawkins or Ricky Gervais, you might want to repeatedly tell everyone that there is no God; or if you were Google, you might want to tell everyone how .Net runs on your platform; or if you were Microsoft, you might want to tell people how it’s a “Different Microsoft” these days.

The thing that I want to repeatedly tell everyone is that I’ve written some blog posts. For this purpose, I’m going to set-up a logic app that, based on a random interval, sends a tweet from my account (https://twitter.com/paul_michaels), informing people of one of my posts. It will get this information from a simple Azure storage table; let’s start there: first, we’ll need a storage account:

Then a table:

We’ll enter some data using Storage Explorer:

After entering a few records (three in this case – because the train journey would need to be across Russia or something for me to fill my entire back catalogue in manually – I might come back and see about automatically scraping this data from WordPress one day).

In order to create our logic app, we need a singular piece of custom logic. As you might expect, there’s no randomised action or result, so we’ll have to create that as a function:

For Logic App integration, a Generic WebHook seems to work best:

Here’s the code:

#r "Newtonsoft.Json"
using System;
using System.Net;
using Newtonsoft.Json;
static Random _rnd;

public static async Task<object> Run(HttpRequestMessage req, TraceWriter log)
{
    log.Info($"Webhook was triggered!");
    if (_rnd == null) _rnd = new Random();
    string rangeStr = req.GetQueryNameValuePairs()
        .FirstOrDefault(q => string.Compare(q.Key, "range", true) == 0)
        .Value;
    int range = int.Parse(rangeStr);
    int num = _rnd.Next(range - 1) + 1; 
    var response = req.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, new
    {
        number = num
    });
    return response;
}

Okay – back to the logic app. Let’s create one:

The logic app that we want will be (currently) a recurrence; let’s start with every hour (if you’re following along then you might need to adjust this while testing – be careful, though, as it will send a tweet every second if you tell it to):

Add the function:

Add the input variables (remember that the parameters read by the function above are passed in via the query):

One thing to realise about Azure functions is they rely heavily on passing JSON around. For this purpose, you’ll use the JSON Parser action a lot. My advice would be to name them sensibly, and not “Parse JSON” and “Parse JSON 2” as I’ve done here:

The JSON Parser action requires a schema – that’s how it knows what your data looks like. You can get the schema by selecting the option to use a sample payload, and just grabbing the output from above (when you tested the function – if you didn’t test the function then you obviously trust me far more than you should and, as a reward, you can simply copy the output from below):

That will then generate a schema for you:

Note: if you get the schema wrong then the run report will error, but it will give you a dump of the JSON that it had – so another approach would be to enter anything and then take the actual JSON from the logs.

Now we’ll add a condition based on the output. Now that we’ve parsed the JSON, “number” (or output from the previous step) is available:

So, we’ll check if the number is 1 – meaning there’s a 1 in 10 chance that the condition will be true. We don’t care if it’s false, but if it’s true then we’ll send a tweet. Before we do that , though – we need to go the data table and find out what to send. Inside the “true” branch, we’ll add an “Azure Table Storage – Get Entities” call:

This asks you for a storage connection (the name is just for you to name the connection to the storage account). Typically, after getting this data, you would call for each to run through the entries. Because there is currently no way to count the entries in the table, we’ll iterate through each entry, but we’ll do it slowly, and we’ll use our random function to ensure that all are not sent.

Let’s start with not sending all items:

All the subsequent logic is inside the true branch. The next thing is to work out how long to delay:

Now we have a number between 1 and 60, we can wait for that length of time:

The next step is to send the tweet, but because we need specific data from the table, it’s back to our old friend: Parse JSON (it looks like every Workflow will contain around 50% of these parse tasks – although, obviously, you could bake this sort of thing into a function).

To get the data for the tweet, we’ll need to parse the JSON for the current item:

Once you’ve done this, you’ll have access to the parts of the record and can add the Tweet action:

And we have a successful run… and some tweets:

Using Entity Framework with IoC

One thing to bear in mind about using entity framework is that the DbContext object is not thread safe. This threw me when I first discovered it; it also confused why I was getting this error, as I was running in an environment that I thought was pretty much single threaded (in fact, it was an Azure function). I was using IoC and so the DbContext is shared across instances.

Because the error is based on, effectively, a race condition, your mileage may vary, but you’ll typically get one of the following errors:

System.InvalidOperationException: ‘The context cannot be used while the model is being created. This exception may be thrown if the context is used inside the OnModelCreating method or if the same context instance is accessed by multiple threads concurrently. Note that instance members of DbContext and related classes are not guaranteed to be thread safe.’

System.InvalidOperationException: ‘A second operation started on this context before a previous operation completed. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.’

I had a good idea what the cause of this might be, but in order to investigate, I set-up a console app accessing Entity Framework; in this case, EF Core.

If you’re here to find a solution, then you can probably scroll down to the section labelled To Fix.

Reproducing the error

To reproduce the error, we need to introduce Unity (I imagine the same would be true of any IoC provider, as the problem is more with the concept than the implementation):

Install-Package Unity

The next step is to abstract away the data access layer, in order to provide a base for our dependency injection:

As you can see, we’re introducing a data access layer – and we’re creating an interface for our DbContext. The idea being that this can subsequently be resolved by Unity. Here are our interfaces:

public interface IDataAccess
{
    List<string> GetData();
 
    void AddData(List<string> newData);
}

public interface IMyDbContext
{
    DbSet<MyData> MyData { get; set; }
 
    void SaveChanges();
}

public interface IDoStuff
{
    void DoStuffQuickly();
}

Finally, we can implement the interfaces:

public class DataAccess : IDataAccess
{
    private readonly IMyDbContext _myDbContext;
 
    public DataAccess(IMyDbContext myDbContext)
    {
        _myDbContext = myDbContext;
    }
    public void AddData(List<string> newData)
    {
        foreach (var data in newData)
        {
            MyData myData = new MyData()
            {
                FieldOne = data
            };
            _myDbContext.MyData.Add(myData);
        }
        _myDbContext.SaveChanges();
    }
 
    public List<string> GetData()
    {
        List<string> data = 
            _myDbContext.MyData.Select(a => a.FieldOne).ToList();
 
        return data;
    }
}

The DbContext:

public class MyDbContext : DbContext, IMyDbContext
{
    public DbSet<MyData> MyData { get; set; }
 
    protected override void OnConfiguring(DbContextOptionsBuilder optionsBuilder)
    {
        string cn = @"Server=.\SQLEXPRESS;Database=test-db . . .";
        optionsBuilder.UseSqlServer(cn);
 
        base.OnConfiguring(optionsBuilder);
    }
 
    void IMyDbContext.SaveChanges()
    {
        base.SaveChanges();
    }
}

Let’s register a class to actually start the process:

public class DoStuff : IDoStuff
{
    private readonly IDataAccess _dataAccess;
    private readonly ILogger _logger;
 
    public DoStuff(IDataAccess dataAccess, ILogger logger)
    {
        _dataAccess = dataAccess;
        _logger = logger;
    }
 
    public void DoStuffQuickly()
    {
        _dataAccess.AddData(new List<string>()
        {
            "testing new data",
            "second test",
            "last test"
        });
 
        Parallel.For(1, 100, (a) =>
        {
            List<string> data = _dataAccess.GetData();
            foreach(string text in data)
            {
                _logger.Log(text);
            }
        });
    }
}

Now let’s register the types in out IoC container:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    Console.WriteLine("Hello World!");
 
    UnityContainer container = new UnityContainer();
    container.RegisterType<IDataAccess, DataAccess.DataAccess>();
    container.RegisterType<IMyDbContext, MyDbContext>();
    container.RegisterType<IDoStuff, DoStuff>();
    container.RegisterType<ILogger, ConsoleLogger>();
 
    container.Resolve<IDoStuff>().DoStuffQuickly();
}

(Console logger is just a class that calls Console.WriteLine()).

Now, when you run it, you’ll get the same error as above (or something to the same effect).

To fix

One possible fix is to simply instantiate a DbContext as you need it; for example:

public List<string> GetData()
{
    using (var myDbContext = new MyDbContext())
    {
        List<string> data =
            myDbContext.MyData.Select(a => a.FieldOne).ToList();
        return data;
    }
    
}

However, the glaring problem that this creates is unit testing. The solution is a simple factory class:

public interface IGenerateDbContext
{
    IMyDbContext GenerateNewContext();
}

public class GenerateDbContext : IGenerateDbContext
{
    public IMyDbContext GenerateNewContext()
    {
        IMyDbContext myDbContext = new MyDbContext();
 
        return myDbContext;
    }
}

We’ll need to make the DbContext implementation disposable:

public interface IMyDbContext : IDisposable
{
    DbSet<MyData> MyData { get; set; }
 
    void SaveChanges();
}

And, finally, we can change the data access code:

public void AddData(List<string> newData)
{
    using (IMyDbContext myDbContext = _generateDbContext.GenerateNewContext())
    {
        foreach (string data in newData)
        {
            MyData myData = new MyData()
            {
                FieldOne = data
            };
            myDbContext.MyData.Add(myData);
        }
        myDbContext.SaveChanges();
    }
}
 
public List<string> GetData()
{
    using (IMyDbContext myDbContext = _generateDbContext.GenerateNewContext())
    {
        List<string> data =
            myDbContext.MyData.Select(a => a.FieldOne).ToList();
        return data;
    }
    
}

Now we can use IoC to generate the DBContext, and therefore it is testable, but we don’t pass the DbContext itself around, and therefore there are no threading issues.

Setting up Entity Framework Core for a Console Application – One Error at a Time

Entity Framework can be difficult to get started with: especially if you come from a background of accessing the database directly, it can seem like there are endless meaningless errors that appear. In this post, I try to set-up EF Core using a .Net Core Console application. In order to better understand the errors, we’ll just do the minimum in each step; and be guided by the errors.

The first step is to create a .Net Core Console Application.

NuGet Packages

To use Entity Framework, you’ll first need to install the NuGet packages; to follow this post, you’ll need these two (initially) 1:

PM> Install-Package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore
PM> Install-Package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools

Model / Entities

The idea behind Entity Framework is that you represent database entities, or tables as they used to be known, with in memory objects. So the first step is to create a model:

namespace ConsoleApp1.Model
{
    public class MyData
    {
        public string FieldOne { get; set; }
 
    }
}

We’ve created the model, so the next thing is to create the DB:

PM> Update-Database

In the package manager console.

First Error – DbContext

The first error you get is:

No DbContext was found in assembly ‘ConsoleApp1’. Ensure that you’re using the correct assembly and that the type is neither abstract nor generic.

Okay, so let’s create a DbContext. The recommended pattern (as described here) is to inherit from DbContext:

namespace ConsoleApp1
{
    public class MyDbContext : DbContext
    {
    }
}

Okay, we’ve created a DbContext – let’s go again:

PM> Update-Database

Second Error – Database Provider

The next error is:

System.InvalidOperationException: No database provider has been configured for this DbContext. A provider can be configured by overriding the DbContext.OnConfiguring method or by using AddDbContext on the application service provider.

So we’ve moved on a little. The next thing we need to do is to configure a provider. Because in this case, I’m using SQL Server, I’ll need another NuGet package:

PM> Install-Package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer

Then configure the DbContext to use it:

public class MyDbContext : DbContext
{
    protected override void OnConfiguring(DbContextOptionsBuilder optionsBuilder)
    {
        string cn = @"Server=.\SQLEXPRESS;Database=test-db;User Id= . . .";
        optionsBuilder.UseSqlServer(cn);
 
        base.OnConfiguring(optionsBuilder);
    }
}

And again:

PM> Update-Database

Third Error – No Migrations

Strictly speaking this isn’t an actual error. It’s more a sign that nothing has happened:

No migrations were applied. The database is already up to date.
Done.

A quick look in SSMS shows that, whilst it has created the DB, it hasn’t created the table:

So we need to add a migration? Well, if we call Add-Migration here, we’ll get this: 2

That’s because we need to tell EF what data we care about. So, in the DbContext, we can let it know that we’re interested in a data set (or, if you like, table) called MyData:

public class MyDbContext : DbContext
{
    public DbSet<MyData> MyData { get; set; }

Right – now we can call:

PM> Add-Migration FirstMigration

Fourth Error – Primary Key

The next error is more about EF’s inner workings.:

System.InvalidOperationException: The entity type ‘MyData’ requires a primary key to be defined.

Definitely progress. Now we’re being moaned at because EF wants to know what the primary key for the table is, and we haven’t told it (Entity Framework, unlike SQL Server insists on a primary key). That requires a small change to the model:

using System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations;
 
namespace ConsoleApp1.Model
{
    public class MyData
    {
        [Key]
        public string FieldOne { get; set; }
 
    }
}

This time,

PM> Add-Migration FirstMigration

Produces this:

    public partial class FirstMigration : Migration
    {
        protected override void Up(MigrationBuilder migrationBuilder)
        {
            migrationBuilder.CreateTable(
                name: "MyData",
                columns: table => new
                {
                    FieldOne = table.Column<string>(nullable: false)
                },
                constraints: table =>
                {
                    table.PrimaryKey("PK_MyData", x => x.FieldOne);
                });
        }
 
        protected override void Down(MigrationBuilder migrationBuilder)
        {
            migrationBuilder.DropTable(
                name: "MyData");
        }
    }

Which looks much more like we’ll get a table – let’s try:

PM> update-database
Applying migration '20180224075857_FirstMigration'.
Done.
PM> 

Success

And it has, indeed, created a table!

References

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/ef/core/miscellaneous/cli/powershell

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/ef/core/miscellaneous/configuring-dbcontext

https://www.learnentityframeworkcore.com/walkthroughs/console-application

Foot Notes

Reading Azure Service Bus Queue Names from the Config File

In this post, I wrote about how you might read a message from the service bus queue. However, with Azure Functions (and WebJobs), comes the ability to have Microsoft do some of this plumbing code for you.

I have a queue here (taken from the service bus explorer):

I can read this in an Azure function; let’s create a new Azure Functions App:

This time, we’ll create a Service Bus Queue Triggered function:

Out of the box, that will give you this:

public static class Function1
{
    [FunctionName("Function1")]
    public static void Run([ServiceBusTrigger("testqueue", AccessRights.Listen, Connection = "")]string myQueueItem, TraceWriter log)
    {
        log.Info($"C# ServiceBus queue trigger function processed message: {myQueueItem}");
    }
}

There’s a few things that we’ll probably want to change here. The first is “Connection”. We can remove that parameter altogether, and then add a row to the local.settings.json file (which can be overridden later inside Azure). Out of the box, you get AzureWebJobsStorage and AzureWebJobsDashboard, which both accept a connection string to a Azure Storage Account. You can also add AzureWebJobsServiceBus, which accepts a connection string to the service bus:

"Values": {
    "AzureWebJobsStorage": "DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName=teststorage1…",
    "AzureWebJobsDashboard": "DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName=teststorage1…",
    "AzureWebJobsServiceBus": "Endpoint=sb://pcm-servicebustest.servicebus.windows.net/;SharedAccessKeyName=RootManageSharedAccessKey;SharedAccessKey=…"
  }

If you run the job, it will now pick up any outstanding entries in that queue. But, what if you don’t know the queue name; for example, what if you find out the queue name is different. To illustrate the point; here, I’m looking for “testqueue1”, but the queue name (as you saw earlier) is “testqueue”:

public static class Function1
{
    [FunctionName("Function1")]
    public static void Run([ServiceBusTrigger("testqueue1", AccessRights.Listen)]string myQueueItem, TraceWriter log)
    {
        log.Info($"C# ServiceBus queue trigger function processed message: {myQueueItem}");
    }
}

Obviously, if you’re looking for a queue that doesn’t exist, bad things happen:

To fix this, I have to change the code… which is broadly speaking a bad thing. What we can do, is configure the queue name in the config file; like this:

"Values": {
    "AzureWebJobsStorage": " . . . ",
    . . .,
    "queue-name":  "testqueue"
  }

And we can have the function look in the config file by changing the queue name:

[FunctionName("Function1")]
public static void Run([ServiceBusTrigger("%queue-name%", AccessRights.Listen)]string myQueueItem, TraceWriter log)
{
    log.Info($"C# ServiceBus queue trigger function processed message: {myQueueItem}");
}

The pattern of supplying a variable name in the format “%variable-name%” seems to work across other triggers and bindings for Azure Functions.

Deployment

That’s now looking much better, but what happens when the function gets deployed? Let’s see:

We can now see that the function is deployed:

At the minute, it won’t do anything, because it’s looking for a queue name in a setting that only exists locally. Let’s fix that:

Remember to save the changes.

Looking at the logs confirms that this now runs correctly.

Short Walks – C# Pattern Matching to Match Ranges

Back in 2010, working at the time in a variety of languages, including VB, I asked this question on StackOverflow. In VB, you could put a range inside a switch statement, and I wanted to know how you could do that in C#. The (correct) answer at the time was that you can’t.

Fast forward just eight short years, and suddenly, it’s possible. The new feature of pattern matching in C# 7.0 has made this possible.

You can now write something like this (this is C# 7.1 because of Async Main):

static async Task Main(string[] args)
{            
    for (int i = 0; i <= 20; i++)
    {
        switch (i)
        {
            case var test when test <= 2:
                Console.WriteLine("Less than 2");
                break;
 
            case var test when test > 2 && test < 10:
                Console.WriteLine("Between 2 and 10");
                break;
 
            case var test when test >= 10:
                Console.WriteLine("10 or more");
                break;
        }
 
        await Task.Delay(500);
    }
 
    Console.ReadLine();
}

References

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/csharp/pattern-matching

https://visualstudiomagazine.com/articles/2017/02/01/pattern-matching.aspx

Creating a Scheduled Azure Function

I’ve previously written about creating Azure functions. I’ve also written about how to react to service bus queues. In this post, I wanted to cover creating a scheduled function. Basically, these allow you to create a scheduled task that executes at a given interval, or at a given time.

Timer Trigger

The first thing to do is create a function with a type of Timer Trigger:

Schedule / CRON format

The next thing is to understand the schedule, or CRON, format. The format is:

{second} {minute} {hour} {day} {month} {day-of-week}

Scheduled Intervals

The example you’ll see when you create this looks like this:

0 */5 * * * *

The notation */[number] means once every number; so */5 would mean once every 5… and then look at the placeholder to work out 5 what; in this case it means once every 5 minutes. So, for example:

*/10 * * * * *

Would be once every 10 seconds.

Scheduled Times

Specifying numbers means the schedule will execute at that time; so:

0 0 0 * * *

Would execute every time the hour, minute and second all hit zero – so once per day at midnight; and:

0 * * * * *

Would execute every time the second hits zero – so once per minute; and:

0 0 * * * 1

Would execute once per hour on a Monday (as the last placeholder is the day of the week).

Time constraints

These can be specified in any column in the format [lower bound]-[upper bound], and they restrict the timer to a range of values; for example:

0 */20 5-10 * * *

Means every 20 minutes between 5 and 10am (as you can see, the different types can be used in conjunction).

Asterisks (*)

You’ll notice above that there are asterisks in every placeholder that a value has not been specified. The askerisk signifies that the schedule will execute at every interval within that placeholder; for example:

* * * * * *

Means every second; and:

0 * * * * *

Means every minute.

Back to the function

Upon starting, the function will detail when the next several executions will take place:

But what if you don’t know what the schedule will be at compile time. As with many of the variables in an Azure Function, you can simply substitute the value for a placeholder:

[FunctionName("MyFunc")]
public static void Run([TimerTrigger("%schedule%")]TimerInfo myTimer, TraceWriter log)
{
    log.Info($"C# Timer trigger function executed at: {DateTime.Now}");
}

This value can then be provided inside the local.settings.json:

{
  "IsEncrypted": false,
  "Values": {
    "AzureWebJobsStorage": "DefaultEndpointsProto . . .",
    "AzureWebJobsDashboard": "DefaultEndpointsProto . . .",
    "schedule": "0 * * * * *"
  }
}

References

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-functions/functions-bindings-timer

http://cronexpressiondescriptor.azurewebsites.net/?expression=1+*+*+*+*+*&locale=en

Using Unity With Azure Functions

Azure Functions are a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to the Microsoft Azure stack. I’ve previously written about them, and their limitations. One such limitation seems to be that they don’t lend themselves very well to using dependency injection. However, it is certainly not impossible to make them do so.

In this particular post, we’ll have a look at how you might use an IoC container (Unity in this case) in order to leverage DI inside an Azure function.

New Azure Functions Project

I’ve covered this before in previous posts, in Visual Studio, you can now create a new Azure Functions project:

That done, you should have a project that looks something like this:

As you can see, the elephant in the room here is there are no functions; let’s correct that:

Be sure to call your function something descriptive… like “Function1”. For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter what kind of function you create, but I’m going to create a “Generic Web Hook”.

Install Unity

The next step is to install Unity (at the time of writing):

Install-Package Unity -Version 5.5.6

Static Variables Inside Functions

It’s worth bearing mind that a static variable works the way you would expect, were the function a locally hosted process. That is, if you write a function such as this:

[FunctionName("Function1")]
public static object Run([HttpTrigger(WebHookType = "genericJson")]HttpRequestMessage req, TraceWriter log)
{
    log.Info($"Webhook was triggered!");
    
    System.Threading.Thread.Sleep(10000);
    log.Info($"Index is {test}");
    return req.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, new
    {
        greeting = $"Hello {test++}!"
    });
}

And access it from a web browser, or postman, or both as the same time, you’ll get incrementing numbers:

Whilst the values are shared across the instances, you can’t cause a conflict by updating something in one function while reading it in another (I tried pretty hard to cause this to break). What this means, then, is that we can store an IoC container that will maintain state across function calls. Obviously, this is not intended for persisting state, so you should assume your state could be lost at any time (as indeed it can).

Registering the Unity Container

One method of doing this is to use the Lazy object. This pretty much passed me by in .Net 4 (which is, apparently, when it came out). It basically provides a slightly neater way of doing this kind of thing:

private List<string> _myList;
public List<string> MyList
{
    get
    {
        if (_myList == null)
        {
            _myList = new List<string>();
        }
        return _myList;
    }
}

The “lazy” method would be:

public Lazy<List<string>> MyList = new Lazy<List<string>>(() =>
{
    List<string> newList = new List<string>();
    return newList;
});

With that in mind, we can do something like this:

public static class Function1
{
     private static Lazy<IUnityContainer> _container =
         new Lazy<IUnityContainer>(() =>
         {
             IUnityContainer container = InitialiseUnityContainer();
             return container;
         });

InitialiseUnityContainer needs to return a new instance of the container:

public static IUnityContainer InitialiseUnityContainer()
{
    UnityContainer container = new UnityContainer();
    container.RegisterType<IMyClass1, MyClass1>();
    container.RegisterType<IMyClass2, MyClass2>();
    return container;
}

After that, you’ll need to resolve the parent dependency, then you can use standard constructor injection; for example, if MyClass1 orchestrates your functionality; you could use:

_container.Value.Resolve<IMyClass1>().DoStuff();

In Practise

Let’s apply all of that to our Functions App. Here’s two new classes:

public interface IMyClass1
{
    string GetOutput();
}
 
public interface IMyClass2
{
    void AddString(List<string> strings);
}
public class MyClass1 : IMyClass1
{
    private readonly IMyClass2 _myClass2;
 
    public MyClass1(IMyClass2 myClass2)
    {
        _myClass2 = myClass2;
    }
 
    public string GetOutput()
    {
        List<string> teststrings = new List<string>();
 
        for (int i = 0; i <= 10; i++)
        {
            _myClass2.AddString(teststrings);
        }
 
        return string.Join(",", teststrings);
    }
}
public class MyClass2 : IMyClass2
{
    public void AddString(List<string> strings)
    {
        Thread.Sleep(1000);
        strings.Add($"{DateTime.Now}");
    }
}

And the calling code looks like this:

[FunctionName("Function1")]
public static object Run([HttpTrigger(WebHookType = "genericJson")]HttpRequestMessage req, TraceWriter log)
{
    log.Info($"Webhook was triggered!");
 
    string output = _container.Value.Resolve<IMyClass1>().GetOutput();
    return req.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, new
    {
        output
    });
}

Running it, we get an output that we might expect:

References

https://github.com/Azure/azure-webjobs-sdk/issues/1206

Short Walks – Entity Framework – Exception calling “SetData” with “2” argument(s)

The full exception is a little more verbose, but not much more helpful:

Exception calling “SetData” with “2” argument(s): “Type ‘Microsoft.VisualStudio.ProjectSystem.VS.Implementation.Package.Automation.OAProject’ in assembly
‘Microsoft.VisualStudio.ProjectSystem.VS.Implementation, Version=15.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a’ is not marked as serializable.”
At C:\myapp\packages\EntityFramework.6.2.0\tools\EntityFramework.psm1:722 char:5
+ $domain.SetData(‘startUpProject’, $startUpProject)
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (:) [], MethodInvocationException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : SerializationException

System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
at System.Data.Entity.Migrations.Extensions.ProjectExtensions.GetProjectTypes(Project project, Int32 shellVersion)
at System.Data.Entity.Migrations.Extensions.ProjectExtensions.IsWebProject(Project project)
at System.Data.Entity.Migrations.MigrationsDomainCommand.GetFacade(String configurationTypeName, Boolean useContextWorkingDirectory)
at System.Data.Entity.Migrations.UpdateDatabaseCommand.<>c__DisplayClass2.<.ctor>b__0()
at System.Data.Entity.Migrations.MigrationsDomainCommand.Execute(Action command)

When does it happen?

Typically, you get it when you’re trying to do a EF operation, for example:

Update-Database

But your start-up project does not have an app.config or web.config file that has a connection string pointing to that database.

Why does it happen?

EF looks in your start-up project to find your web.config and work out where your database is. Clearly this could be a slightly better worded error.

Short Walks – XUnit Tests Not Appearing in Test Explorer

On occasion, there may be a case where you go into Test Explorer, knowing that you have XUnit tests within the solution; the Xunit tests are in a public class, they are public, and they are decorated correctly (for example, [Fact]). However, they do not appear in the Text Explorer.

If you have MS Test tests, you may find that they do appear in the Test Explorer – only the XUnit tests do not.

Why?

To run Xunit tests from the command line, you’ll need this package.

To run Xunit tests from Visual Studio, you’ll need this package.

References

https://xunit.github.io/docs/nuget-packages.html

Using the Builder Pattern for Validation

When doing validation, There’s a number of options to how you approach it: you could simply have a series of conditional statements testing logical criteria, you could follow the chain of responsibility pattern, use some form of polymorphism with the strategy pattern, or even, as I outline below, try using the builder pattern.

Let’s first break down the options. We’ll start with the strategy pattern, because that’s where I started when I was looking into this. It’s a bit like a screwdriver – it’s usually the first thing you reach for and, if you encounter a nail, you might just just tap it with the blunt end.

Strategy Pattern

The strategy pattern is just a way of implementing polymorphism: the idea being that you implement some form of logic, and then override key parts of it; for example, in the validation case, you might come up with an abstract base class such as this:

public abstract class ValidatorBase<T>
{        
    public ValidationResult Validate(T validateElement)
    {
        ValidationResult result = new ValidationResult();
 
        if (CheckIsValid(validateElement))
        {
            result = OnIsValid();                
        }
        else
        {
            result = OnIsNotValid();
        }
 
        return result;
    }
 
    protected virtual ValidationResult OnIsValid()
    {
        return null;
    }

    . . .

You can inherit from this for each type of validation and then override key parts of the class (such as `CheckIsValid`).

Finally, you can call all the validation in a single function such as this:

public bool Validate()
{
    bool isValid = true;
 
    IEnumerable<ValidatorBase> validators = typeof(ValidatorBase)
        .Assembly.GetTypes()
        .Where(t => t.IsSubclassOf(typeof(ValidatorBase)) && !t.IsAbstract)
        .Select(t => (ValidatorBase)Activator.CreateInstance(t));
 
    foreach (ValidatorBase validator in validators)
    {
        ValidationResult result = validator.Validate();
        if (!result.IsValid)
        {
            isValid = false;
            Errors.AddRange(result.Errors);
        }
 
        if (result.StopValidation)
        {
            break;
        }
    }
 
    return isValid;
}

There are good and bad sides to this pattern: it’s familiar and well tried; unfortunately, it results in a potential explosion of code volume (if you have 30 validation checks, you’ll need 30 classes), which makes it difficult to read. It also doesn’t deal with the scenario whereby one validation condition depends on the success of another.

So what about the chain of responsibility that we mentioned earlier?

Chain of responsibility

This pattern, as described in the linked article above, works by implementing a link between a class that validates your data, and the class that will validate it next: in other words, a linked list.

This idea does work well, and is relatively easy to implement; however, it can become unwieldy to use; for example, you might have a class like this:

private static bool InvokeValidation(ValidationRule rule)
{
    bool result = rule.ValidationFunction.Invoke();
    if (result && rule.Successor != null)
    {
        return InvokeValidation(rule.Successor);
    }
 
    return result;
}

But to build up the rules, you might have a series of calls such as this:

ValidationRule rule2 = new ValidationRule();
rule.ValidationFunction = () => MyTest();

ValidationRule rule1 = new ValidationRule();
rule.ValidationFunction = () => MyTest();
Rule.Successor = rule2;

As you can see, it doesn’t make for very readable code. Admittedly, with a little imagination, you could probably re-order it a little. What you could also do is use the Builder Pattern…

Builder Pattern

The builder pattern came to fame with Asp.Net Core; where during configuration, you could write something like:

services
    .AddMvc()
    .AddTagHelpersAsServices()
    .AddSessionStateTempDataProvider();

So, the idea behind it is that you call a method that returns an instance of itself, allowing you to repeatedly call methods to build a state. This concept overlays quite neatly onto the concept of validation.

You might have something along the lines of:

public class Validator
{
    private List<ValidationRule> _logic;        
 
    public ValidatorEngine AddRule(Func<bool> validationRule)
    {
        ValidatorLogic logic = new ValidatorLogic()
        {
            ValidationFunction = validationRule
        };
        _logic.Add(logic);
 
        return this;
    }

So now, you can call:

myValidator
    .AddRule(() => MyTest())
    .AddRule(() => MyTest2())
    …

I think you’ll agree, this makes the code much neater.

References

http://blogs.tedneward.com/patterns/Builder-CSharp/

http://piotrluksza.com/2016/04/19/chain-of-responsibility-elegant-way-to-handle-complex-validation/