Azure Emulator not working with SQL server alias

I just spent a few hours trying to figure out something that had me stumped.

In my local dev environment I’m building a web api which has a SQL database. The connection string for the database is an alias with a named pipe. If I set the web api as StartUp project in Visual Studio it works fine. (See this post for some tips on how to do that). But when I’d instead start the Azure emulator as the StartUp project it wouldn’t connect to the sql server, with the good ol':

A network-related or instance-specific error occurred while establishing a connection to SQL Server. The server was not found or was not accessible. Verify that the instance name is correct and that SQL Server is configured to allow remote connections. (provider: SQL Network Interfaces, error: 26 – Error Locating Server/Instance Specified)

Eventually I figured it out. The alias was the problem, because if I changed the connectionstring to .\sqlexpress it worked fine.

Digging deeper, the problem was I had set up the alias on the “SQL Native Client 11.0 Configuration (32bit)” node, but I hadn’t added an alias on the “SQL Native Client 11.0 Configuration” node. So the fix was to create an additional Alias on the “SQL Native Client 11.0 Configuration” node.

sql

So it seems that debugging a web api locally may be a 32 bit process but debugging with the Azure emulator is a 64 bit process. Maybe?

Anyway, hope this helps someone.

Generating Swagger example responses with Swashbuckle

Swashbuckle is a tool for generating Swagger, the API description language, from your ASP.NET Web Api solution.
Using Swashbuckle, which provides Swagger-UI, you can create pretty living documentation of your web api, like this:
swagger

Documenting the Response

In this post I am going to show you how to document the Response, and a new way to generate some response examples.

You can specify the type of response for Swashbuckle a number of ways. Consider a simple API endpoint which returns a list of Countries:

public class CountriesController : DefaultController
{
    [HttpGet]
    public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> Get()
    {
        var resource = new List<Country>
        {
            new Country {Code = "AR", Name = "Argentina"},
            new Country {Code = "BR", Name = "Brazil"},
            // etc etc omitted for brevity
        };

        return Request.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, resource);
    }
}

One way of describing the response code and content for Swashbuckle is using a combination of XML comments, and the ResponseType attribute, like so:

/// <response code="200">Countries returned OK</response>
[HttpGet]
[ResponseType(typeof(IEnumerable<Country>))]
public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> Get()
{

However, this only allows for one type of response.

If your API method can return multiple types, i.e. in the case of an error, then you can use the new SwaggerResponse attribute:

[HttpGet]
[SwaggerResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, Type=typeof(IEnumerable<Country>))]
[SwaggerResponse(HttpStatusCode.BadRequest, Type = typeof(IEnumerable<ErrorResource>))]
public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> Get(string lang)
{

The Swagger 2.0 spec allows for examples to be added to the Response. However, at time of writing Swashbuckle doesn’t support this. Fortunately Swashbuckle is extendible so here is a way of doing it.

Create a new SwaggerResponseExamplesAttribute.

public class SwaggerResponseExamplesAttribute : Attribute
{
    public SwaggerResponseExamplesAttribute(Type responseType, Type examplesType)
    {
        ResponseType = responseType;
        ExamplesType = examplesType;
    }

    public Type ResponseType { get; set; }
    public Type ExamplesType { get; set; }
}

Decorate your methods with it:

[SwaggerResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, Type=typeof(IEnumerable<Country>))]
[SwaggerResponseExamples(typeof(IEnumerable<Country>), typeof(CountryExamples))]
[SwaggerResponse(HttpStatusCode.BadRequest, Type = typeof(IEnumerable<ErrorResource>))]
public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> Get(string lang)

Now you’ll need to add an Examples class, which will generate the example data

public interface IProvideExamples
{
    object GetExamples();
}

public class CountryExamples : IProvideExamples
{
    public object GetExamples()
    {
        return new List<Country>
        {
            new Country {Code = "AA", Name = "Test Country"},
            new Country {Code = "BB", Name = "And another"}
        };
    }
}

Now you can add an ExamplesOperationFilter which implements Swashbuckle’s IOperationFilter.

public class ExamplesOperationFilter : IOperationFilter
{
    public void Apply(Operation operation, SchemaRegistry schemaRegistry, ApiDescription apiDescription)
    {
        var responseAttributes = apiDescription.GetControllerAndActionAttributes<SwaggerResponseExamplesAttribute>();

        foreach (var attr in responseAttributes)
        {
            var schema = schemaRegistry.GetOrRegister(attr.ResponseType);

            var response = operation.responses.FirstOrDefault(x => x.Value.schema.type == schema.type &amp;&amp; x.Value.schema.@ref == schema.@ref).Value;

            if (response != null)
            {
                var provider = (IProvideExamples) Activator.CreateInstance(attr.ExamplesType);
                response.examples = FormatAsJson(provider);
            }
        }
    }

    private static object FormatAsJson(IProvideExamples provider)
    {
        var examples = new Dictionary<string, object>()
        {
            {
                "application/json", provider.GetExamples()
            }
        };

        return ConvertToCamelCase(examples);
    }

    private static object ConvertToCamelCase(Dictionary<string, object> examples)
    {
        var jsonString = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(examples, new JsonSerializerSettings() {ContractResolver = new CamelCasePropertyNamesContractResolver()});
        return JsonConvert.DeserializeObject(jsonString);
    }
}

And finally configure it when you configure Swashbuckle’s startup.

configuration
    .EnableSwagger(c =>
    {
        c.OperationFilter<ExamplesOperationFilter>();
    })
    .EnableSwaggerUi();

Now that we’ve done all that, we should see the examples output in our swagger.json file, which you can get to by starting your solution and navigating to /swagger/docs/v1.

response

And then, when you browse the swagger-ui at /swagger, instead of an autogenerated example like this:
response old

You’ll see your desired example, like this:
response new

Run a Windows Azure cloud service locally without the Azure compute emulator

A big bugbear when developing Azure cloud services is the Azure emulator. You make a code change and the write – compile – debug process is slowed down big time because you have to wait for the Azure emulator to start up every time.

One project I worked on had a Web API running in an Azure cloud service and an ASP.NET MVC website running in another cloud service. So in order to develop it locally we had to run 2 instances of Visual Studio 2013 and each of them would fire up an emulator. Needless to say this was quite the resource hog and we’d every now and then see unexpected issues with Visual Studio or the emulators. Oh and the emulators would fight over which ports they would run on so we had to ensure we started debugging the API first so that it would get port 443 and then start the website which would default to 445.

So why can’t we just install our Web API and ASP.NET MVC website into IIS and not use the emulators? Well there are two blockers:

  1. The Azure diagnostics config will throw exceptions if we’re not running in Azure
  2. Settings are read from cloud config values in ServiceConfiguration.cscfg via RoleEnvironment.GetConfigurationSettingValue which needs Azure

My colleague Dylan came up with a solution. Basically, in the Global.asax.cs of both our website and our web api, we need to check if we’re running in Azure or not.

If we are in Azure, then use 1. configure Azure diagnostics config, and 2. read cloud config values using the default RoleEnvironment.GetConfigurationSettingValue.

If we are not in Azure, then 1. don’t configure Azure diagnostics, and 2. read cloud config values from ServiceConfiguration.cscfg manually via XML. parsing.


if (RoleEnvironment.IsAvailable) // we are in Azure
{
    Trace.Listeners.Add(new DiagnosticMonitorTraceListener());
    Trace.AutoFlush = true;
}
else
{
    var di = new DirectoryInfo(HttpContext.Current.Server.MapPath("~"));
    var solutionRoot = di.Parent;

    var xdoc = XDocument.Load(solutionRoot.FullName + @"\Identity.Web.Azure\ServiceConfiguration.cscfg");
    ConfigurationSettingsProvider.Current = new NotInRoleEnvirovmentConfigurationProvider(xdoc, "Identity.Web");
}

Our ConfigurationSettingsProvider.Current is by default a DefaultConfigurationSettingsProvider which uses RoleEnvironment.GetConfigurationSettingValue(key) to read the cloud config – we use one of these when we’re in Azure.

Our NotInRoleEnvirovmentConfigurationProvider reads the .cscfg file using XDocument.

So now I can install our website and web api into IIS locally – and code changes are visible after a compile. No need to run 2 Visual Studios and wait for the memory hungry emulator to startup every time. If I need to debug I can Debug -> Attach to process. Much more productive :-)

Should I cycle: on hold for now

I started building a prototype for Should I cycle on iOS 8 and pretty early on I’ve hit a roadblock. What I wanted was a daily scheduled notification to popup telling me whether conditions were right for cycling or not.

I wanted to use iOS’s local notifications to do this – but I don’t think it can be done. Sure, you can schedule a local notification to popup at say 7:30am, but what’s displayed on the notification has to be set at the time the notification is scheduled. What this means is let’s say at 9pm at night I schedule a notification for 7:30am the next day. And at 9pm the sky is clear and conditions are fine. Then at 7:30am the next day it’s raining. Well, the 7:30am notification popup is going to say “Sky is clear” because that’s what the conditions were like when the notification was scheduled.

So that’s annoying.

What I want to do can be done via remote notifications – i.e. the I would have to schedule on a web server a push notification out to the mobile at 7:30am the next day. But that would be pretty complicated to setup for a prototype.

So I decided I would give up on the push notification for now and instead just check the current weather / cycling conditions whenever the app is started.

But then another thing happened – I gave up cycling to work for various reasons. So for now I have no motivation to work on this app. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up again.

Browse and debug an Azure web role website running locally on a mobile device

So, you’re developing an Azure website using a Web role, and now you want to see what that website looks like on a mobile device.

First, follow my instructions here to set up port forwarding for your website.

Once you’ve done that, assuming your mobile device is on the same network as your PC running the Azure web role, you should just be able to open the URL for the website in your mobile web browser – in my case this https://10.200.34.201:800/

If you need to debug the traffic between your Azure web role and the mobile device, you can do that using Fiddler or Charles proxy. Fiddler instructions here. Charles instructions here. And SSL instructions for Charles here, if your site runs on SSL.

If you need to manipulate the traffic between Azure and the mobile browser, you can use Fiddler’s custom rules to do that – in my case I had to inject a “IsMobile=true” header. Fiddler -> Rules -> Customize Rules. Locate “static function OnBeforeRequest” and add the following line to it. oSession.oRequest[“IsMobile”] = “true”;

A custom tool ‘PublicResXFileCodeGenerator’ is associated… compiler warning

If you ever have a compiler warning saying

A custom tool ‘PublicResXFileCodeGenerator’ is associated with file ‘blah’, but the output of the custom tool was not found in the project. You may try re-running the custom tool by right-clicking on the file in the Solution Explorer and choosing Run Custom Tool.image001

To remove the compiler warning you can just remove the Custom Tool by clicking on the Resource file, pressing F4 to bring up the Properties and then removing the entry for Custom Tool. Easy.

image003

Browse a local Azure Web role from another computer

So, you’re developing an Azure website that runs as a web role, which means you use the Azure Compute Emulator when running it locally. And now you want to test or debug that local website in an older browser, such as IE8.

In this situation I have IE8 running on another computer (or maybe a VM), so I need to open up access to my website which is running locally.

Step 1. Find out your IP address – ipconfig. Mine is 10.200.34.201 (NB. I’ve highlighted the wrong field in the screenshot).
image002

Step 2. Find out which IP address and port the compute emulator is running on, by looking in the System Tray at the IIS Express icon. Note that even though I access the website locally on https://127.0.0.2:447 in my browser, it runs on a different IP and port in the emulator, https://127.255.0.4:448. I don’t know/care why.
image001

Step 3. Download and install Pass Port from http://sourceforge.net/projects/pjs-passport/. Yes it’s old but it does the job of forwarding ports nicely, which is what we need to do.

Step 4. Set up a Pass Port port forwarding rule with your IP address and any port (I’m using 800) to the IP address and port of the emulator. N.B. you may need to run PassPort as an Administrator if it doesn’t seem to be working.

image004Step 5. Open up that port (800) in the Windows Firewall:

image003

That should be it. Now you can connect on the remote computer to your Azure Emulator running locally. Obligatory screenshot of my site running in IE8:

image005