ASP.NET Core Logging

Whenever an app is running, you need to know what’s happening behind the scenes. And whenever an app crashes or otherwise has trouble, you definitely want to know what’s going on. Logging is the simple, yet critical, way to ensure your apps are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Logging helps you detect and identify any issues.

Now that ASP.Net Core is open source, and cross-platform, building in and linking logging functions is more straightforward than ever. The logging API in ASP.Net Core supports for a whole bunch of logging providers. You can send log details to one location or several locations. You can also connect to a third-party logger. And it’s straightforward. Notice I didn’t say easy, but it’s certainly straightforward. Thankfully, as is often the case, there are several blogs ready to help out.

Logging in ASP.NET Core

Once again, Microsoft’s extensive knowledge base comes to the rescue. While the Microsoft knowledge base, tutorials, and other blog posts are rarely the only source of helpful tips, it’s almost always the best place to start. This guide to logging in ASP.NET Core begins with a brief definition:

“ASP.NET Core supports a logging API that works with a variety of logging providers. Built-in providers let you send logs to one or more destinations, and you can plug in a third-party logging framework. This article shows how to use the built-in logging API and providers in your code.

How to create logs
To create logs, get an ILogger object from the dependency injection container. This example creates logs with the TodoController class as the category. Categories are explained later in this article.

ASP.NET Core doesn't provide async logger methods because logging should be so fast that it isn't worth the cost of using async. If you're in a situation where that's not true, consider changing the way you log. If your data store is slow, write the log messages to a fast store first, then move them to a slow store later. For example, log to a message queue that's read and persisted to slow storage by another process.

How to add providers
A logging provider takes the messages that you create with an ILogger object and displays or stores them. For example, the Console provider displays messages on the console, and the Azure App Service provider can store them in Azure blob storage. To use a provider, call the provider's Add extension method in Program.cs.”

This knowledge base entry also illustrates each instructional narrative with code snippets. After showing you the basics of how to create a log and add a provider, this tutorial post goes on to cover:

  • Sample logging output
  • NuGet packages
  • Log category
  • Log level
  • Log event ID
  • Log message template
  • Logging exceptions
  • Log filtering
  • Log scopes
  • Built-in logging providers
  • Third-party logging providers
  • Azure log streaming

ASP.NET Core - Logging

This tutorial takes you through the whole process of setting up logging for all different versions of ASP.NET Core. It also provides code snippets and listings pf third party loggers you can connect with ASP.NET Core.

“ASP.NET Core framework provides built-in supports for logging. However, we can also use third party logging provider easily in ASP.NET Core application. Before we see how to implement logging in ASP.NET Core application, let's understand the important logging interfaces and classes available in ASP.NET Core framework. The following are built-in interfaces and classes available for logging under Microsoft.Extensions.Logging namespace:

  • ILoggingFactory
  • ILoggingProvider
  • ILogger
  • LoggingFactory

ASP.NET Core framework includes built-in LoggerFactory class that implements ILoggerFactory interface. We can use it to add an instance of type ILoggerProvider and to retrieve ILogger instance for the specified category. ASP.NET Core runtime creates an instance of LoggerFactory class and registers it for ILoggerFactory with the built-in IoC container when the application starts. Thus, we can use ILoggerFactory interface anywhere in your application. The IoC container will pass an instance of LoggerFactory to your application wherever it encounters ILoggerFactory type.”

You’ll find this tutorial requires some familiarity with ASP.NET and ASP.NET Core, but does a comprehensive job of walking you through the process.

Leaner, meaner ASP.NET Core 2 logging

Blogger Nicolas Blumhardt provides a clean, well-organized tutorial on incorporating Serilog with ASP.NET Core. He also supports his statements with code snippets. “You don’t need anything special to use Serilog with .NET Core: the Serilog package works the same way across the .NET Framework and .NET Core on Windows, macOS and Linux. If you are writing .NET Core web apps with ASP.NET, you’ll want to plug into the Microsoft.Extensions.Logging subsystem to receive events from the framework: unhandled errors, diagnostic info from the request processing pipeline, events from EF, and so on.

In ASP.NET Core 2.0, the default logging provider has gained some features, like its own level control and filtering. This is good thing for the out-of-the-box experience, but if you use Serilog, you won’t want two sets of configuration to keep in sync or two logging pipelines running with subtle differences between them.”

Posted by Lafe Low on 04/13/2018 at 5:55 PM0 comments


JavaScript Debugging Made Easy (Sort of)

Hey there everyone, Lafe here. And once again, every month or so my fellow Visual Studio Live! blogger Rich Seeley will present a more technical approach to these blog posts. His latest post covers some of the tools out there that make debugging a bit easier for JavaScript devs.

Every JavaScript programmer would be happy to learn that debugging is being made easier.

Not to get carried away, but improvements are happening. Not at warp speed but not at glacial speeds either.

Tools are available from almost every web browser. Innovations have been made in browsers so JavaScript programmers do not have to rely on old standby console.log for debugging.


Google DevTools

"The first way that most developers learn how to debug is to sprinkle console.log commands throughout their code, in order to infer where the code is going wrong," states the introduction to a tutorial on Google DevTools.

"If you’re still using console.log to find and fix JavaScript issues you’re probably spending more time debugging than you need to," argues Kayce Basques, technical writer for Chrome DevTools, in a YouTube video.

In the tutorial he demonstrates how to set breakpoints in DevTools, which Google says "lets you pause in the middle of a page's execution and step through the code one line at a time. While you're paused you can inspect (and even change) the current values of variables at that point in time. You may find that this workflow helps you debug issues much faster than the console.log method."

Besides the video, Google provides step-by-step text instructions illustrated with screenshots to help you experiment with the Google way of debugging.


Firefox Debugging Tool

Not to be outdone by Google, Firefox, the open-source web browser developed by Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, Mozilla Corp., also offers a debugging tool for JavaScript. A video on the Mozilla site demonstrates how the Firefox JavaScript Debugger allows devs to step through their JavaScript code to “examine or modify its state to help track down bugs."

The text accompanying the video about the JavaScript Debugger explains: "You can use it to debug code running locally in Firefox or running remotely, for example on an Android device running Firefox for Android."

The tool is embedded in Firefox, but developers who want to run it as a standalone web application for use on code running in other browsers can find out how to do that at the GitHub repository for the tool.


iPhone and Safari Debugging

At a recent Visual Studio Live! conference, Microsoft's Matthew Soucoup demonstrated pairing his Visual Studio project to an iPhone for live debugging, as reported in a recent Visual Studio magazine article. Several people in the audience asked if you still need a Mac computer for iOS development and the answer was yes, although there appear to be plans to make it all possible from a Windows machine.

In a March 2 Lifewire blog, Scott Orgera explains how you can debug JavaScript using your iPhone depending on the iOS version you have: “If you have an iPhone running an early version of iOS [prior to iOS 6], you can access the Debug Console through Settings > Safari > Developer > Debug Console. Whenever Safari on the iPhone detects CSS, HTML, and JavaScript errors, details of each are displayed in the debugger.” More recent versions of iOS use Web Inspector, Orgera explains. You can activate it with your iPhone but you have to connect to a Mac computer. Orgera’s blog offers instructions with screenshots.


All the Browsers’ Debuggers

All modern browsers have JavaScript debugging capabilities and you can usually access them by simply pressing F12, notes the JavaScript Debugging page on W3Schools.com. This page shows how to use the console.log method and provides instructions beyond F12 for activating JavaScript debugging in:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Opera
  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari


Third Party Tools

Beyond what is available for free from your favorite browser maker, there are commercial tools available for debugging JavaScript.

The website for Raygun Inc., based in Seattle, WA, says it has a tool that will “Detect, diagnose and destroy JavaScript errors that are affecting your customers.” The software company offers a 14-day free trial.

Airbrake says its tool allows developers to “Code More, Debug Less With JavaScript Error Tracking.” It is available for a 30-day free trial.


Quick Fixes in Visual Studio Code 1.20

There’s also been news in early 2018 of enhancements to help make JavaScript bug fixes easier.

Take for example the January Visual Studio Code update that makes it easier to quickly fix errors both in JavaScript and TypeScript.

In a Visual Studio magazine article about time-saving features in Microsoft’s updated VS Code 1.20, David Ramel writes: “A new Quick Fix lets developers select a flagged error in source code -- such as a method that has been declared but not yet implemented -- and fix it via options provided in the editor's lightbulb icon. If the same error exists in multiple locations in a file, devs can use a new ‘Fix all in file’ option to address them in one action.”

More help for JavaScript debugging is likely on the horizon. In the meantime, remember, if all else fails press F12.

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/20/2018 at 3:05 PM0 comments


Some of the Best Xamarin Tutorials We Could Find

Xamarin continues to be the hot toolset for developing cross-platform mobile apps. Xamarin the company was originally founded in 2011 by the engineers who developed Mono. Microsoft swooped in and acquired Xamarin in February, 2016. Now it operates in lock-step with Visual Studio as the preferred dev environment for mobile apps.

Build Apps with Native UI Using Xamarin in Visual Studio


As you would expect, Microsoft provides dazzlingly clear step-by-step tutorials on its newly acquired mobile app cross-platform development environment. “Once you've done the steps in Setup and install and Verify your Xamarin environment, this walkthrough shows you how to build a basic Xamarin app (shown below) with native UI layers. With native UI, shared code resides in a portable class library (PCL) and the individual platform projects contain the UI definitions.

You'll do these things to build it:

  • Set up your solution
  • Write shared data service code
  • Design UI for Android
  • Design UI for Windows Phone

These steps create a Xamarin solution with native UI that contains a PCL for shared code and two added NuGet packages.

  • In Visual Studio, create a new Blank App (Native Portable) solution and name it WeatherApp. You can find this template most easily by entering Native Portable into the search field.
  • After clicking OK to create the solution, you’ll have a number of individual projects.
  • Add the Newtonsoft.Json and NuGet package to the PCL project, which you’ll use to process information retrieved from a weather data service.”

This example that has you link to a weather app goes on to provide code snippets and excruciatingly detailed step-by-step guidance. This is one of the better spots to check with if you’re launching into the world of Xamarin coding.

C# Corner


And in this corner, you’ll find a refreshingly diverse and encompassing series of Xamarin tutorials. They cover a range of topics; including xamarin.forms, troubleshooting issues, and various cross-platform app development subjects. It’s easy to find what you need. Individual tutorials are presented in a well-organized table of contents. Recent posts include:

Certificate Pinning in Xamarin.Forms, by Alessandro Del Sole: "Securing communications between applications and services is extremely important, and mobile apps are no exception. Even if you use an encrypted channel based on HTTPS, you should never completely trust the identity of the target. For example, an attacker could easily discover the URL your application is pointing to, and put a fake certificate in the middle of the communication between an application and the server, thus intercepting the communication. This is extremely dangerous especially if the application handles sensitive data. In order to avoid this, a technique called certificate pinning can be used to dramatically reduce the risk of this kind of man-in-the-middle attack. This article describes how to implement certificate pinning in Xamarin.Forms, making your mobile apps more secure."

Xamarin.Forms Problem “Could Not Connect to Debugger” Solution, by Munib Ch: "There are some issues traced in the Xamarin 15.2 release. One of the major issued faced by developers is a debugging error.

  • The app is deployed
  • The app starts on the emulator
  • It immediately stops
  • You get one or more messages in your output window

This issue is faced by many of the developers who are new in this field. This issue was first faced in Visual Studio 2015. This issue is resolved by ReSharper but it is costly. So I will give you the simple solution for that issue."

Xamarin.Forms—Working with Application Storage, by Delpin Susai Raj: "This article covers working with Application Storage to save app settings on the app in the Xamarin forms App. Xamarin.Forms code runs on multiple platforms -- each of which has its own filesystem. This means that reading and writing files are the most easily done tasks using native file APIs on each platform. Alternatively, embedded resources are also a simpler solution to distribute the data files with an app."

Introduction to Xamarin Forms ReturnType Key, by Sumit Singh Sisodia: "Today, I would like to tell you about Entry Key ReturnType. I'll tell you how to change ReturnKeyType keys like Search, Done, Next etc. In this article I am using Xamarin Forms PORTABLE and XAML.

  • In IOS: We have UITextField which has a ReturnKeyType property that you can set to a pre-assigned list.
  • In Android: We have EntryEditText which has an ImeOptions property which helps in changing the EditText Key for Keyboard button.

Why Choose Xamarin for Cross Platform Mobile Apps with Visual Studio? by Mukesh Kumar: "Nowadays, everyone wants to use mobile apps rather than websites because they are easy to use with your smartphones. But, do you think mobile apps development is easy? No. Mobile app development is not an easy task due to the availability of different platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows. When we create a website, it is accessible from any device from an Android phone to your laptop. But when you create an App, it is not always accessible from all platforms."

Xamarin Tutorial—For Beginners & Professionals


This blog presents another “table of contents” type of listing of various posts covering various Xamarin development topics. As the title says, some are more basic and some more advanced. Shailendra Chauhan is clearly their Xamarin expert, being the author of all these posts. Recent posts include:

“Xamarin with Visual Studio 2017—Build native cross-platform apps:"Along with the launch of Visual Studio 2017, Microsoft has released many fresh and exciting features for mobile developers to develop cross-platform mobile apps using Xamarin. Visual Studio 2017 will help you to build better native cross-platform apps in less time as compared to Visual Studio 2015."

Xamarin Forms Fundamentals: "Xamarin Forms allows developers to build cross-platform mobile app using the common UI pages, layouts, views, controls, and design patterns. At runtime, each Xamarin Forms UI element will be mapped to its native equivalent element in each platform, so that truly native UI can be build and rendered."

Understanding Xamarin Forms—Build Native Cross Platform Mobile Apps: "Xamarin Forms is a part of Xamarin family to build truly native apps for iOS, Android & Windows from a single and shared code base using C#. Xamarin.Forms offers the UI controls/views which you can use to develop UI. These UI controls/view at run-time are converted to platform-specific UI controls.

Understanding Xamarin iOS—Build Native iOS App: Xamarin.iOS is a part of Xamarin family to build native iOS app with C# and Xamarin. Xamarin.iOS offers the same UI controls that are available in Objective-C or swift language and Xcode."

Understanding Xamarin Android—Build Native Android App: "Xamarin.Android is a part of Xamarin family to build native Android app with C# and Xamarin. Xamarin.Android provides the same UI controls as you have in Android with Java. Understanding Xamarin—A Cross Platform Solution: Xamarin is a free open-source framework to build truly native cross-platform mobile apps using C# .NET for iOS, Android or Windows. It runs on Mono and .NET to build apps with native performance and native UI. Xamarin allows you to develop native apps using C# language and platform specfic tools/SDKs and share the same code across multiple platforms like iOS, Android or Windows."

Xamarin Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps: Today we are living in the age of mobile phones. Every one using mobile phones for various daily activities like chatting, sharing, shopping, and so on. Mobile apps have changed the way of browsing the web and doing online activities.”

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/15/2018 at 9:38 AM0 comments


Go Fast by Going Micro: Microservices Design Patterns You Should Know

Microservices design patterns are software design patterns that generates reusable autonomous services. The goal for developers using microservices is to accelerate application releases. By using microservices, developers can deploy each individual microservice independently, if desired.

They have their strengths and drawbacks (thankfully more strengths) and there are many more examples of when they are appropriate to use than not. Here are some listings of top microservices and their use cases we found in the blog-iverse.


Microservice Design Patterns

This post is a nice fundamental rundown of some of the basic microservice design patterns. It’s a little older, but still germane. Post author Arun Gupta writes, "The main characteristics of a microservices-based application are defined in Microservices, Monoliths, and NoOps. They are functional decomposition or domain-driven design, well-defined interfaces, explicitly published interface, single responsibility principle, and potentially polyglot. Each service is fully autonomous and full-stack. Thus changing a service implementation has no impact to other services as they communicate using well-defined interfaces. There are several advantages of such an application, but it’s not a free lunch and requires a significant effort in NoOps."

Then Gupta lists several microservices design patterns he has found tried and true over the years:

"Aggregator Microservice Design Pattern: The first, and probably the most common, is the aggregator microservice design pattern. In its simplest form, Aggregator would be a simple web page that invokes multiple services to achieve the functionality required by the application.

Proxy Microservice Design Pattern: Proxy microservice design pattern is a variation of Aggregator. In this case, no aggregation needs to happen on the client but a different microservice may be invoked based upon the business need. Just like Aggregator, Proxy can scale independently on X-axis and Z-axis as well. You may like to do this where each individual service need not be exposed to the consumer and should instead go through an interface.

Chained Microservice Design Pattern: Chained microservice design pattern produce a single consolidated response to the request. In this case, the request from the client is received by Service A, which is then communicating with Service B, which in turn may be communicating with Service C. All the services are likely using a synchronous HTTP request/response messaging.

Branch Microservice Design Pattern: Branch microservice design pattern extends Aggregator design pattern and allows simultaneous response processing from two, likely mutually exclusive, chains of microservices. This pattern can also be used to call different chains, or a single chain, based upon the business needs.

Shared Data Microservice Design Pattern: One of the design principles of microservice is autonomy. That means the service is full-stack and has control of all the components – UI, middleware, persistence, transaction. This allows the service to be polyglot, and use the right tool for the right job. For example, if a NoSQL data store can be used if that is more appropriate instead of jamming that data in a SQL database.

Asynchronous Messaging Microservice Design Pattern: While REST design pattern is quite prevalent, and well understood, but it has the limitation of being synchronous, and thus blocking. Asynchrony can be achieved but that is done in an application specific way. Some microservice architectures may elect to use message queues instead of REST request/response because of that."

He goes into greater detail in his post. Check it out if you’re looking for a good primer on microservices design patterns.


Design Patterns for Microservices

Naturally the Azure team at Microsoft has just published nine new microservices design patterns. Mike Wasson, lead content developer for AzureCAT patterns and practices, describes the new offerings from the Azure team in this recent post.

The AzureCAT patterns & practices team has published nine new design patterns on the Azure Architecture Center. These nine patterns are particularly useful when designing and implementing microservices. The increased interest in microservices within the industry was the motivation for documenting these patterns. For each pattern, we describe the problem, the solution, when to use the pattern, and implementation considerations. Here are the new patterns:

Ambassador can be used to offload common client connectivity tasks such as monitoring, logging, routing, and security (such as TLS) in a language agnostic way.

Anti-corruption layer implements a façade between new and legacy applications, to ensure that the design of a new application is not limited by dependencies on legacy systems.

Backends for Frontends creates separate backend services for different types of clients, such as desktop and mobile. That way, a single backend service doesn't need to handle the conflicting requirements of various client types. This pattern can help keep each microservice simple, by separating client-specific concerns.

Bulkhead isolates critical resources, such as connection pool, memory, and CPU, for each workload or service. By using bulkheads, a single workload (or service) can’t consume all of the resources, starving others. This pattern increases the resiliency of the system by preventing cascading failures caused by one service.

Gateway Aggregation aggregates requests to multiple individual microservices into a single request, reducing chattiness between consumers and services.

Gateway Offloading enables each microservice to offload shared service functionality, such as the use of SSL certificates, to an API gateway.

Gateway Routing routes requests to multiple microservices using a single endpoint, so that consumers don't need to manage many separate endpoints.

Sidecar deploys helper components of an application as a separate container or process to provide isolation and encapsulation.

Strangler supports incremental migration by gradually replacing specific pieces of functionality with new services."

Wasson concludes with his own take on the whys and hows of microservices design patterns. "The goal of microservices is to increase the velocity of application releases, by decomposing the application into small autonomous services that can be deployed independently. A microservices architecture also brings some challenges, and these patterns can help mitigate these challenges."

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/28/2018 at 5:45 PM0 comments


What’s Happening with C# Updates? What You Need To Know

Hey there everyone, Lafe here again. And once again, every month or so my fellow Visual Studio Live! blogger Rich Seeley will present a more technical approach to these blog posts. His latest post details some of the clamoring and confusion going on around C#, most notably that C# fans are being left out in the cold when it comes to AI.

What's up with C#?

In a word: Lots.

There's been plenty of news over on https://visualstudiomagazine.com/home.aspx.

Some of the news has been about new features for C#. But one of the big stories is about C# coders being left out of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence game. In .NET Coders Clamor for C# Support in Microsoft's CNTK AI Toolkit David Ramel, editor of Visual Studio Magazine, uncovered unrest in posts on the Issues section of the Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK) GitHub repository for the open source toolkit for commercial-grade distributed deep learning.

While CNTK supports Python, the current AI darling, as well as BrainScript, .NET developers are wondering why more traditional .NET languages like C#, Visual Basic and F# are not included.

Here's some of what Ramel found in posts on the GitHub site where a developer with the handle nikosdim1 wrote a post titled "C# and .NET support barking," highlighting the lack of C# support: "Strangely, though, it seems that we have to abandon C#/VB/F# and learn python because CNTK is more supported in this language (OK C++ too but this is not a 'clean' .net language) maybe because other frameworks rely more on Python."

In the opinion of this poster it seems .NET developers are being told not to use C# or Visual Basic or F# because Microsoft doesn’t seem to fully support them.

Another developer posted: "I'm eager to finally work with deep learning on Windows with C# instead of on Linux with Python."

A poster who appeared to be with Microsoft tried to reassure the developers that support for C# and the other traditional languages is in the works but added there is no timeframe.

Microsoft is famously closed mouthed about these issues. But when news breaks, you’ll find it on VisualStudiomagazine.com.

Better news for C# developers is Microsoft’s commitment to speeding updates.

In Microsoft Quickens C# Release Cadence, Unveils v7.1, Ramel told readers: "Mads Torgersen, lead designer for C#, said the team is moving to 'point releases' to keep up with associated tooling -- like Visual Studio -- and the underlying .NET Framework itself that are shipped more frequently. This, he said, brings new features to developers in a trickle so they can take advantage of them sooner."

In January, Amazon Web Services also had good news for C# developers as reported in AWS Cloud Adds .NET Core 2.0 Support for C# Coding of Lambda Functions. AWS announced support for .NET developers using C# to write Lambda functions “while leveraging .NET Core 2.0 libraries.” Lambda is the foundation of Amazon's “serverless computing” service.

To learn more about the latest features in C#, read this Visual Studio magazine article about a presentation at a recent Visual Studio Live! conference with Microsoft's Adam Tuliper. C# developers with an interest in tuples will find a lot here. It's the next best thing to attending Visual Studio Live! where you would have actually had a chance to chat with Tuliper, as is the case with all of our presenters.

If you are really looking for a deep dive into C#, go to Analysing C# code on GitHub with BigQuery by London-based Microsoft MVP Matt Warren. As he explains: "...in this post I am going to be looking at all the C# source code on GitHub and what we can find out from it." He found answers to both controversial and more prosaic C# questions ranging from "Tabs or Spaces?" to "How many lines of code (LOC) are in a typical C# file?" If you're curious about all things C# this is a great read.

Want to keep up with C# happenings and do more than just read about it but possibly make suggestions for feature and bug fixes? Visit GitHub's C# Language Design page, "the official repo for C# language design." It welcomes visitors and explains: "This is where new C# language features are developed, adopted and specified. C# is designed by the C# Language Design Team (LDT) in close coordination with the Roslyn project, which implements the language." Among the things you'll find on the site are:

  • Active C# language feature proposals
  • C# language design meetings
  • C# language specifications
  • Summary of the language version history

For those who want to get involved, the Design Team suggests: "If you discover bugs or deficiencies in the above, please leave an issue to raise them, or even better: a pull request to fix them."

Finally, here's a question where there doesn't seem to be an answer. C# predates Twitter with its famous hashtags. But in the 21st century wouldn’t it be easier to rename the language Csharp since that's what you have to do when you post to Twitter or create a URL on the web?

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/15/2018 at 10:50 AM0 comments


Agile vs Waterfall: A Few Resources to Help You Choose

In this corner, we have waterfall. Long the champion of the sequential approach through the typical development phases such as design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Developers work through each phase in order, like a "waterfall" cascading down over the rocks.

And in this corner, we have agile. Sometimes you'll see it as big Agile with a capital A, other times as little agile with a lowercase a. Agile is certainly a livelier approach, taking an adaptive and flexible role in the planning, development, delivery, and continuous updating stages. Instead of doing one phase at a time, teams work on all phases, all the time.

So is it one or the other? Should you use the older waterfall approach or the more adaptive agile approach? As you’ll see from some of the expert analysis we've gleaned from the blogosphere, the prevailing attitudes and preferences lean heavily toward agile.


Agile vs Waterfall. What Should You Use For Your Project?

Every development project is different. Every client—even internal clients—have different requirements. Few get this concept as well as the folks at The Digital Project Manager. This site has a deep, profound analysis to help you determine the best approach for particular projects, not really taking a side, but providing thoughtful explanation of the determining factors. Deeper into her analysis, the writer Suzanna Haworth dives right in:

"What should influence your decision on which methodology to apply to a project? Until you know what the project is and other influencing factors, you’re not going to be able to decide which is best suited. Some (or all) of these factors should be taken into account when looking at methodologies:
  • Size of the project
  • Duration
  • Complexity
  • Organizational factors
  • Clients or stakeholders, external and internal

What projects can Waterfall be suited to? Waterfall projects are:

  • Projects where you’re working with other organizations or remote workers
  • Projects with a fixed scope, time and budget
  • Smaller, well-defined and simpler projects
  • Projects with an absent client.
  • What projects can Agile be suited to?

Agile projects are:

  • Projects where your organization is responsible for the whole process
  • Projects with scope for changing requirements
  • Larger, undefined, complex projects
  • Projects with an involved client.

But do organizations really take into account all of these factors? What, or who, actually decides a process? Possibly the main thing that influences a chosen methodology is existing processes. Your organization’s current processes are likely to determine how you run your project—whatever that project is. It’s the classic one-size-fits-all approach. Given that each project has different needs, and can differ quite widely in influencing factors, this isn’t the best way to run every project at your organization."

At this point, Haworth admits she has been sitting on the fence, but then she does have to agree agile is better suited for modern digital projects. "Both methodologies...have benefits in their own right. But if we're living in an ideal world, the Agile approach does suit pure digital projects more. All the principles do seem to fit the digital landscape, where evolving needs and change are present throughout all projects." There you have it.


Agile vs Waterfall

Approaching each step in the development phase individually has it benefits and its drawbacks. This affects how to deal with mistakes and subsequent corrections, and how quickly you can resolve them or expensive it becomes to do so. Agile Nutshell gives us a concise, graphic overview of how these phases flow from one to the other, and how to best navigate them with both methodologies. Post author Jonathan Rasmusson takes us through the grid:

"Traditional waterfall treats analysis, design, coding, and testing as discrete phases in a software project. This worked ok when the cost of change was high. But now that it's low it hurts us in a couple of ways.
  • Poor quality: First off, when the project starts to run out of time and money, testing is the only phase left. This means good projects are forced to cut testing short and quality suffers.
  • Poor visibility: Secondly, because working software isn't produced until the end of the project, you never really know where you are on a Waterfall project. That last 20 percent of the project always seems to take 80 percent of the time.
  • Too risky: Thirdly you've got schedule risk because you never know if you are going to make it until the end. You've got technical risk because you don't actually get to test your design or architecture until late in the project. And you've got product risk because don't even know if you are building the right until it's too late to make any changes.
  • Can't handle change: And finally, most importantly, it's just not a great way for handling change.

Instead of treating these as fixed stages, Agilists believe these are continuous activities. By doing them continuously:

  • Quality improves because testing starts from day one.
  • Visibility improves because you are 1/2 way through the project when you have built 1/2 the features.
  • Risk is reduced because you are getting feedback early.
  • Customers are happy because they can make changes without paying exorbitant costs."

Clearly, Agile Nutshell is a fan of agile over waterfall, and with that compelling argument it's difficult to disagree.


Agile versus Waterfall: approach is right for my ERP project?

You would expect to find some sage advice on choosing the best development methodology from a place like the Project Management Institute. And indeed, the PMI site does not disappoint. This session was presented at a conference in 2012 but is still germane today, focusing on selecting a development methodology best suited for large-scale ERP projects:

  • "Have you ever wondered how to deliver your project quicker and realize business value sooner from your ERP implementations?
  • Have you ever wondered how to remove all of the "ceremony" of the implementation process and the "waste" involved with an ERP implementation while preserving the integrity of the delivered ERP package methodology?
  • Have you ever wondered if there was a way to be flexible enough during ERP implementations, and that changing business requirements could be provided to a project team mid-implementation, without significantly affecting the overall cost and schedule?
  • Have you ever wondered how to improve the efficiency and productivity of your existing ERP teams by doing 'more with less' in today's economy?

These are common questions that are asked when discussing how to improve the implementation of ERP projects. Consideration of Lean concepts and agile techniques to accelerate the time to delivery and the realization of benefits is becoming more prevalent. Project managers are challenging the ways they have been traditionally implementing projects and are seeking new approaches. However, there are many considerations in determining the right approach."

Check out the full presentation, in which the authors discuss the key determining factors to consider when deciding whether a particular project is better suited for agile or waterfall.

Posted by Lafe Low on 01/30/2018 at 2:28 PM0 comments


Getting Started Implementing Scrum with Visual Studio

Howdy readers, Lafe here. About once a month, my partner in crime, Rich Seeley, has been doing technical takeovers of this blog. Here's his latest post, which goes over the fundamentals of implementing Scrum using Visual Studio.

Even if you are new to Scrum you probably know that basically it's an agile programming methodology that can be used with Visual Studio. In keeping with the agile philosophy, Scrum is the opposite of the old step-by-step "waterfall" approach to application development where there is a lengthy product planning stage, then the programming, then the testing, and if everything works perfectly, which it almost never does, deploying. The waterfall approach, which dates back to an era where IT had huge water cooled mainframes running in air conditioned computer rooms, is not likely to work well where businesses need mobile apps for the immediate gratification of consumers who may change their minds daily if not hourly.

"A key principle of Scrum is the dual recognition that customers will change their minds about what they want or need (often called requirements volatility) and that there will be unpredictable challenges—for which a predictive or planned approach is not suited," a Wikipedia article explains.

Scrum breaks development down to smaller steps. The planning stage, which could take months in waterfall, is minimized to quickly come up with basic requirements. "We need an app for impulse buyers so they can view and buy our featured smart gadget quickly and easily."

From there you go to the build stage where your team of developers creates an app to do that. Testing comes next and if the app passes review, you might be able to deploy it.

Of course, there's likely to be requirements volatility as sales and marketing people realize the app needs to be changed. In old school development this could be a crisis. But with Scrum it just creates another step in the ongoing application development process.

The Scrum team just moves on with the new requirements to another incremental stage of planning, building, testing and review, as consultant Steve Stedman, explains in a very short, animated and entertaining YouTube video Introduction to Scrum in 7 Minutes. These incremental stages are called Sprints in Scrum terminology and usually take one to three weeks, Stedman explains. Sprints are repeated until the app is "feature complete," he says.

This is all part of what the Wikipedia article calls "an evidence-based empirical approach—accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined up front, and instead focusing on how to maximize the team's ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements, and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions."

Once you understand the basic concepts, a place to go for in-depth information is the "Home of Scrum," Scrum.org, which "provides comprehensive training, assessments and certifications to improve the profession of software delivery." The site offers:

  • Resources to Learn About Scrum
  • Professional Scrum Training
  • Professional Scrum Certifications

For those using Visual Studio for Scrum development, Microsoft offers specifics with special focus on the team concept.

What is Scrum? by Microsoft's Gregg Boer defines the three roles team members play in the development process:

Product Owner
Responsible for what the team is building, and why they're building it. The product owner is responsible for keeping the backlog up-to-date and in priority order.

Scrum Master
Responsible to ensure the scrum process is followed by the team. Scrum masters are continually on the lookout for how the team can improve, while also resolving impediments (blocking issues) that arise during the sprint. Scrum masters are part coach, part team member, and part cheerleader.

Scrum Team
These are the individuals that actually build the product. The team owns the engineering of the product, and the quality that goes with it.

Boer also explains the unique terminology in the Scrum process beginning with "Product Backlog," which doesn't have the negative connotation of a logjam on unfinished business but is rather "a prioritized list of value the team can deliver." So it's really more of a to-do list. The Product Owner is the custodian of the Product Backlog and is responsible for prioritizing and reprioritizing items, and making additions and changes to the list of things the Scrum team is developing.

There is also a Sprint Backlog where the team decides what items it will be able to complete in a given Sprint.

"Often, each item on the Sprint Backlog is broken down into tasks," Boer explains. "Once all members agree the Sprint Backlog is achievable, the Sprint starts."

This seems a good way to avoid the common application development bugaboo: over promising and under delivering.

To determine the status of the tasks in the Sprint Backlog, Boer recommends that the team hold a Daily Scrum, a 15-minute meeting where team members can discuss how work is progressing:

To aid the Daily Scrum, teams often review two artifacts:

The Task Board
Lists each backlog item the team is working on, broken down into the tasks required to complete it. Tasks are placed in To Do, In Progress, and Done columns based on their status. It provides a visual way of tracking progress for each backlog item.

The Sprint Burndown
A graph that plots the daily total of remaining work. Remaining work is typically in hours. It provides a visual way of showing whether the team is "on track" to complete all the work by the end of the Sprint.

At the completion of a Sprint, the team holds a Sprint Review where they meet with the Product Owner and other stakeholders to show off the product, known as an "Increment" or a "Potentially Shippable Increment" if the owner approves it. There is also a Sprint Retrospective where team members go over what went right, what went wrong and how to improve things for the next Sprint.

Since the Increment may not be a final product, the Scrum Team will likely go on to do another Sprint. This is the heart of the agile process which Boer characterizes as "Repeat. Learn. Improve."

Posted by Lafe Low on 01/19/2018 at 3:53 PM0 comments


Keep Up with Entity Framework Core Migrations: 3 EF Core Tutorials Worth Bookmarking

As you develop new apps, your data model changes by necessity. Entity Framework Core migrations—or EF Core migrations as the cool kids call them—help you keep your data model in sync with the database. It helps your apps run smoothly as they evolve and as you develop new apps that might draw upon the same database. Here are a few tutorials we found that can help ease the process:


Migrations—EF Core with ASP.NET Core MVC Tutorial

You'd expect our buddies at Microsoft to present some compelling tutorials on complex and semi-complex technical topics like this. And indeed they do. This tutorial—fourth in a series of 10—takes us through using EF core migrations to manage data model changes.

They open with,

"When you develop a new application, your data model changes frequently, and each time the model changes, it gets out of sync with the database. You started these tutorials by configuring the Entity Framework to create the database if it doesn't exist. Then each time you change the data model—add, remove, or change entity classes or change your DbContext class—you can delete the database and EF creates a new one that matches the model and seeds it with test data.

This method of keeping the database in sync with the data model works well until you deploy the application to production. When the application is running in production, it is usually storing data that you want to keep, and you don't want to lose everything each time you make a change such as adding a new column. The EF Core Migrations feature solves this problem by enabling EF to update the database schema instead of creating a new database."


Walkthrough: Entity Framework Core 1.1 with Migrations

Veteran Visual Studio Live! presenter Ben Day maintains his own blog, on which he has some excellent step-by-step tutorials and walkthroughs. To help ease some of the confusion around EF migrations, he has—as you would expect—a perfectly well-organized and easy to understand walkthrough, complete with section headers to break up the sections, screen shots, and code samples.

It's a nice straightforward entry. "Here's a walk-through on how to create a new solution that uses an ASP.NET Core project, an MSTest unit test project, and Entity Framework Core 1.1 (EFCore1.1). I'm not sure if you’ve found this to be the case but I've been struggling with the documentation for a few days trying to figure out how to get EF Core Migrations working with the "dotnet ef" command line. This sample will show you how to do all of this with the current version of the .NET Core SDK. For this walk-through I'm going to use the solution name of "Benday.EfCore." We'll start by using my "create" script from that blog post."

Ben's walkthrough also lets you simply go directly to the code if you'd like. He provides a link to do so before he gets into his walkthrough.


Entity Framework Core Migrations

This is another thoughtfully and cleanly organized tutorial. It breaks up each section with section headers (as represented in the mini table of contents), and show code samples in tinted boxes along the way. This tutorial begins with a roadmap of what you'll be learning.
"The following topics are covered in this document:
  • Creating a Migration
  • Removing a Migration
  • Applying a Migration
  • Reversing a Migration
  • Applying a Migration to a Remote Database
  • Executing Custom SQL
  • Targeting Multiple Providers

When developing applications, the model is likely to change often as new requirements come to light. The database needs to be kept in sync with the model. The migrations feature enables you to make changes to your model and then propagate those changes to your database schema. Migrations are enabled by default in EF Core. They are managed by executing commands. If you have Visual Studio, you can use the Package Manager Console (PMC) to manage migrations. Alternatively, you can use a command line tool to execute Entity Framework CLI commands to create a migration."

Posted by Lafe Low on 12/21/2017 at 10:20 AM0 comments


Visual Studio Live!: Our 25th Year

As we wrap up 2017, we hope it was a good year for you. It was a good year for us—great events, new technologies, lots going on. Looking ahead to 2018, we're filling out the calendar for the Visual Studio Live! events for next year—our 25th year of bringing you Visual Studio Live! We have the dates and locations set, so you can start making tentative plans. We even have the agenda for the Las Vegas event in March posted, so you can start crafting your schedule.

As always, every Visual Studio Live! event brings you the latest cutting edge sessions exploring how you can get the most out of the Microsoft development technology stack. The sessions and our expert speakers dive deep into Visual Studio 2017, ASP.NET Core, Angular, Xamarin, R, mobile, and other technologies. Whether you opt for the full day hands-on labs or the laser sharp focus of the individual sessions, our cadre of experts is ready to help you become a better coder.

The first event of the year is once again Visual Studio Live! Las Vegas, March 11-16, 2018 Las Vegas, NV. This one will be held at Bally’s Hotel and Casino. And we already have the agenda set and posted. You can check it out here.

The rest of next year’s events are on the following dates and in the following locations:

  • Visual Studio Live! Austin, April 30-May 4, 2018, Austin, TX. We'll be holding this one in the Hyatt Regency in Austin.
  • Visual Studio Live! Boston, June 10-14, 2018, Cambridge, MA. This one will once again be at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge overlooking the historic and scenic Charles River.
  • Visual Studio Live! Redmond, August 13-17, 2018, Redmond, WA. Come join your colleagues on the Microsoft campus. Rub elbows with Microsoft developers and employees and get a feel for campus life.

And stay tuned for more details as we finalize the websites and agendas for these events:

  • Visual Studio Live! Chicago, Sept. 17-20, 2018, Chicago, IL
  • Visual Studio Live! San Diego, Oct. 7-11, 2018, San Diego, CA
  • Visual Studio Live! Orlando, Dec. 2-7, 2018, Orlando, FL

This last event of the year is once again presented as part of Live! 360, which also includes TechMentor, Office and SharePoint Live!, SQL Server Live!, and Modern Apps Live! And as always, you can craft your own agenda, a little Visual Studio Live! with some SQL Server Live! and Modern Apps Live! mixed in. Whatever you like—your ticket in is your key to the kingdom. You can pick and choose from the five conferences and get just what you want.

Check out the Visual Studio Live! site here for the latest as we finalize plans and agendas for our 25th year events.

Posted by Lafe Low on 12/14/2017 at 8:08 AM0 comments


Can Changing Your Visual Studio Wallpaper Help Keep You Sharp and Focused?

Howdy readers, Lafe here. About once a month, my partner in crime, Rich Seeley, has been doing technical takeovers of this blog. Here's his latest post, which looks at how your Visual Studio wallpaper can help your productivity.

To some developers this may seem like a silly question. Who cares about the wallpaper of all things when you're on a deadline project that is not exactly going swimmingly and it seems like everybody in the world is breathing down your neck?

Good point.

In that state of mind, you may not even have noticed the drab, dare we say uninspiring, wallpaper like this.

It's okay. But you might be forgiven if it reminds you of the tile on your dorm room floor or that cheap hotel room where you stayed when … well, let’s not get into that. Anyway, it doesn't seem to say: "Let's write some beautiful code today."

Or if you aren't visually oriented, you might be just as happy if the wallpaper looks like nothing special.

This wallpaper seems to say: "Don’t distract me. I'm coding."

However, if you are working in a windowless cube or inhabit a home office set up in the 1960's era fallout shelter under your grandfather's house, you might enjoy a peek at the outside world. This Visual Studio Community Wallpapers site does offer some eye candy.

Now you could glance at this and maybe think: "If I ever get this [expletive deleted] project done, maybe I can take a vacation to a place where there are calm waters and beautiful architecture." So maybe the wallpaper helps you set a goal for better work-life balance. This brings us to the question of motivation.

There are authors who believe your work environment, which broadly speaking could include the look and feel of Visual Studio, may influence your productivity.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work, says corporations are beginning to realize that the employee experience is just as important to business success as the much touted customer experience. This includes how the employee interacts with the work environment with a new emphasis on "designing beautiful workplaces," Morgan notes in one of a series of articles he has written for Forbes.

So if you spend your days inside the Visual Studio environment maybe wallpaper could help make it a beautiful workspace.

Could it make you more productive?

Kayla Matthews has given that some thought in her blog.

"Countless apps and software suites can help you maximize your productivity," she writes. "But have you thought about switching your desktop background to a wallpaper that boosts productivity?"

Matthews doesn't say wallpaper can work wonders. She's from the "every little bit helps" school of motivation.

And she has some cool ideas. You might draw strength from looking at a hero like Albert Einstein (available at Wallpaper Abyss):

You can also get wallpaper with inspirational quotes:

  • "If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” ~ Thomas A. Edison
  • "Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done." ~ Robert Heinlein
  • "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." ~ Wernher von Braun

There's more where these came from at https://www.brainyquote.com.

Another option is the aforementioned travel poster wallpaper.

"Although you may associate long-awaited beach vacations and global getaways with a lack of productivity," Mathews writes, "researchers have found taking trips makes people more productive."

If you have your doubts, read 4 Ways Going on Vacation Increases Your Productivity by Jon Levy, behavior scientist, on Inc. magazine's website.

So maybe wallpaper postcards of Maui or Miami or Montana would help you boost your productivity.

Mathews also previews wallpapers that help set down-to-earth goals including enhanced fitness, saving money, eating better, and breaking unhealthy habits.

If you feel creative and can't find a wallpaper to download that fits your mood or the mood you’d like to be in while coding, Adobe offers a site for you: Make custom wallpapers easily with Adobe Spark. No design skills needed.

The main thing is to find or create wallpaper that works for you and hopefully makes you more productive in your work or makes it a little more fun.

Fun in your work environment: What a concept.

Posted by Lafe Low on 10/19/2017 at 1:57 PM0 comments


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