Scott Hanselman

Introducing Gulp, Grunt, Bower, and npm support for Visual Studio

September 2, '14 Comments [69] Posted in ASP.NET | Tools | VS2013
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Web Development, specifically front end web development, is fast becoming as complex and sophisticated as traditional back end development. Most projects don't just upload some JS and CSS files via FTP. There's now a front end build process that can include expansion of SASS and LESS, minification of CSS/JS, running JSHint or JSLint, and much more. These build tasks and processes are coordinated with tools like Gulp and Grunt. Additionally, client-side libraries are managed as packages using management systems like npm and bower.

Why client-side package managers for ASP.NET? Why not NuGet? Why not MSBuild?

Some of you may ask, why not use NuGet for JavaScript? Why not extend MSBuild for building CSS/JS? Simple. Because there's already a rich ecosystem for this kind of thing. NuGet is great for server side libraries (and some client-side) but there are so many more CSS and JS libs on npm and bower. MSBuild is great for server-side builds but can be overkill when building a client-side app.

So, use both. These are tools in your toolkit. Adding support for Gulp, Grunt, Bower, npm (and other stuff, in the future if needed) means a more familiar environment for front-end devs doing ASP.NET and it opens the doors for ASP.NET devs to bring in the JS and CSS libraries communities use every day.

Introducing Task Runner Explorer

We’ve received a ton of feature requests regarding Grunt/Gulp support from many of you as well as the community at large. We are building first-class support for both Grunt and Gulp in Visual Studio “14” with full extensibility. Now we’re ready to ship a preview of this support as an extension to VS2013 and would appreciate your help testing and exploring this feature. 

Today we're introducing a preview of the "Task Runner Explorer" as a VSIX extension. We're also recommending two other VSIXs to round out the experience for this feature.

NOTE: Much of the functionality included in these multiple VSIX extensions will be built into Visual Studio so you won't need to install so many things. However, for VS2013 and this preview we needed multiple VSIXs in order to get you the bits sooner than later. Also note that today only Task Runner Explorer will work on Visual Studio Express but for VS14 all  the features will work in the free VS Express version.

Consider these features as a "DevLabs" preview for now, much like the VS Productivity Power Tools. They'll graduate into the final product.

What do you need?

First, you'll need Visual Studio 2013.3 - that 3 means "Update 3" which is a free update.

  1. TRX - Task Runner Explorer Visual Studio Extension
  2. NPM/NBower Package Intellisense - Search for online NPM and Bower packages directly with Intellisense
  3. Optional Grunt Launcher (gives right-click options in Solution Explorer - including "npm install")
    • Without this extension, for now you'll need to run npm install yourself to restore/add packages.
    • If you DO have this extension, right click on packages.json and "npm install" before running a grunt/gulp task.

To open the TRX (Task Runner Explorer), simply right-click any gruntfile.js in your project:

image002 

The TRX sits at the bottom of VS by default and looks like this:

 image001

Here we can see that it found a gruntfile.js in the root of one or more projects in the solution. It also shows the task bindings feature that allows any task or target to be triggered by 4 different Visual Studio events.

To associate a task/target with a VS event, just right-click and setup bindings.

image003

To run any task/target, just double-click it and a console appears:

image004

When you've got the Package Intellisense Extension you'll find it easy to add and update packages when directly editing your package.json for both bower and npm.

completion-name

You'll even get metadata tooltips populated asynchronously.

tooltip-animated

As you go testing it, remember you'll need to run "npm install" before you use the Task Runner Explorer to run Grunt tasks.

Big thanks to Mads Kristensen, Dan Chartier, and Van Kichline for their great work on this feature!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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ASP.NET vNext - August 2014 Status Rollup

August 29, '14 Comments [31] Posted in ASP.NET | Open Source
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Work on the next version of ASP.NET continues. It's a world of Alpha software, Git commits, breaking changes, and daily builds. If you're not one for risk, this blog post is for you. Read about all the fun stuff that's going on, and install nothing. If you do like a little spice in your life, jump in and install some early builds and join this active and opinionated community.

Introducing ASP.NET vNext

We announced vNext in May and did some great talks at TechEd.

ASP.NET vNext has number of notable features, including, but not limited to:

  • Open Source from the start and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • No "build to disk" step, just refresh and go with runtime in-memory compilation from the Open Source Roslyn compiler.
  • Optional cloud optimized local install the CoreCLR that runs great in Azure.
  • Want to use a Mac and Sublime rather than Windows and VS? Sure.
  • No strong naming, no dependency on System.Web
  • Dependency injection everywhere
  • side-by-side runtimes (one app can't hurt another, get your own versions of everything)
  • NuGet Packages easy to bring in the new project.json system. But, you can also swap in the source for your favorite libraries!

 

David Fowler and Scott Hanselman

Since then we've seen the release of betas of the next version of Visual Studio, like Visual Studio "14" CTP 3. This version of VS includes the ASP.NET vNext alpha 3 packages plus initial tooling. The project system is changing and this VS14 build includes Intellisense for the new Project.json files.

  • ASP.NET and Web Development vNext Updates. This CTP includes all the Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 web tooling improvement and ASP.NET vNext alpha 3 runtime packages. It has improved tooling support for ASP.NET vNext, such as support for build configuration and support for unit tests, and it no longer includes content and compile items inside “.kproj” file. ASP.NET vNext includes an updated version of the RyuJIT JIT compiler. For details, please read the full post on the .NET Web Development Tools blog.

Separate from ASP.NET vNext, this build of VS14 also includes .NET Native, C++ updates, Shared Projects, as well as little things like retina icons for HiDPI displays.

Project.json files

Scaffolding for ASP.NET vNext

ASP.NET vNext is very modular and will include customizable command-line scaffolding . As with all of ASP.NET vNext, it's easy and alpha, but we've got blog posts up showing you how to get started with scaffolding. We've also got details on how to customize (of course) scaffolding for your personal needs.

ASP.NET vNext on a Mac

Sure, why not? We're working on a Sublime Text 3 plugin at https://github.com/ligershark/Kulture that means you'll be able to develop ASP.NET vNext apps in your favorite IDE. There's a quick YouTube video here.

ASP.NET on a Mac

There's also some clever community members with C# Intellisense working! The LEGO pieces are snapping together nicely.

Intellisense on a Mac

This is just a taste, there's more coming that WILL surprise you

What else is possible?

ASP.NET vNext going forward...Alpha 3

David Fowler has some great Alpha 3 details on his blog that cover some architecture changes and explains some choices. ASP.NET vNext apps get their own copy of the CLR/BCL when deployed, but this is a hassle when developing. So, ASP.NET vNext apps can use a Global NuGet repository (this is NOT the GAC, relax.)

Apps can also opt in to new C# 6 features easily with a quick change to project.json.

{
"compilationOptions": {
"languageVersion": "experimental"
}
}

Again, this is all happening in the open on GitHub at https://github.com/aspnet, so check out the last milestone's issues here: https://github.com/aspnet/KRuntime/milestones/1.0.0-alpha4

I'm sure I missed something. Sound off in the comments!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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How to run Background Tasks in ASP.NET

August 26, '14 Comments [39] Posted in ASP.NET | NuGet | NuGetPOW | Open Source
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A few years back Phil Haack wrote a great article on the dangers of recurring background tasks in ASP.NET. In it he points out a few gotchas that are SO common when folks try to do work in the background. Read it, but here's a summary from his post.

  • An unhandled exception in a thread not associated with a request will take down the process.
  • If you run your site in a Web Farm, you could end up with multiple instances of your app that all attempt to run the same task at the same time.
  • The AppDomain your site runs in can go down for a number of reasons and take down your background task with it.

If you think you can just write a background task yourself, it's likely you'll get it wrong. I'm not impugning your skills, I'm just saying it's subtle. Plus, why should you have to?

There's LOT of great ways for you to do things in the background and a lot of libraries and choices available.

Some ASP.NET apps will be hosted in IIS in your data center and others will be hosted in the Azure cloud. The spectrum of usage is roughly this, in my opinion:

  • General: Hangfire (or similar similar open source libraries)
    • used for writing background tasks in your ASP.NET website
  • Cloud: Azure WebJobs 
    • A formal Azure feature used for offloading running of background tasks outside of your Website and scale the workload
  • Advanced: Azure Worker Role in a Cloud Service
    • scale the background processing workload independently of your Website and you need control over the machine

There's lots of great articles and videos on how to use Azure WebJobs, and lots of documentation on how Worker Roles in scalable Azure Cloud Services work, but not a lot about how your hosted ASP.NET application and easily have a background service. Here's a few.

WebBackgrounder

As it says "WebBackgrounder is a proof-of-concept of a web-farm friendly background task manager meant to just work with a vanilla ASP.NET web application." Its code hasn't been touched in years, BUT the WebBackgrounder NuGet package has been downloaded almost a half-million times.

The goal of this project is to handle one task only, manage a recurring task on an interval in the background for a web app.

If your ASP.NET application just needs one background task to runs an a basic scheduled interval, than perhaps you just need the basics of WebBackgrounder.

using System;
using System.Threading;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace WebBackgrounder.DemoWeb
{
public class SampleJob : Job
{
public SampleJob(TimeSpan interval, TimeSpan timeout)
: base("Sample Job", interval, timeout)
{
}

public override Task Execute()
{
return new Task(() => Thread.Sleep(3000));
}
}
}

Built in: QueueBackgroundWorkItem - Added in .NET 4.5.2

Somewhat in response to the need for WebBackgrounder, .NET 4.5.2 added QueueBackgroundWorkItem as a new API. It's not just a "Task.Run," it tries to be more:

QBWI schedules a task which can run in the background, independent of any request. This differs from a normal ThreadPool work item in that ASP.NET automatically keeps track of how many work items registered through this API are currently running, and the ASP.NET runtime will try to delay AppDomain shutdown until these work items have finished executing.

It can try to delay an AppDomain for as long as 90 seconds in order to allow your task to complete. If you can't finish in 90 seconds, then you'll need a different (and more robust, meaning, out of process) technique.

The API is pretty straightforward, taking  Func<CancellationToken, Task>. Here's an example that kicks of a background work item from an MVC action:

public ActionResult SendEmail([Bind(Include = "Name,Email")] User user)
{
if (ModelState.IsValid)
{
HostingEnvironment.QueueBackgroundWorkItem(ct => SendMailAsync(user.Email));
return RedirectToAction("Index", "Home");
}

return View(user);
}

FluentScheduler

FluentScheduler is a more sophisticated and complex scheduler that features a (you guessed it) fluent interface. You have really explicit control over when your tasks run.

using FluentScheduler;

public class MyRegistry : Registry
{
public MyRegistry()
{
// Schedule an ITask to run at an interval
Schedule<MyTask>().ToRunNow().AndEvery(2).Seconds();

// Schedule a simple task to run at a specific time
Schedule(() => Console.WriteLine("Timed Task - Will run every day at 9:15pm: " + DateTime.Now)).ToRunEvery(1).Days().At(21, 15);

// Schedule a more complex action to run immediately and on an monthly interval
Schedule(() =>
{
Console.WriteLine("Complex Action Task Starts: " + DateTime.Now);
Thread.Sleep(1000);
Console.WriteLine("Complex Action Task Ends: " + DateTime.Now);
}).ToRunNow().AndEvery(1).Months().OnTheFirst(DayOfWeek.Monday).At(3, 0);
}
}

FluentScheduler also embraces IoC and can easily plug into your favorite Dependency Injection tool of choice by just implementing their ITaskFactory interface.

Quartz.NET

Quartz.NET is a .NET port of the popular Java job scheduling framework of the (almost) same name. It's very actively developed. Quartz has an IJob interface with just one method, Execute, to implement.

using Quartz;
using Quartz.Impl;
using System;

namespace ScheduledTaskExample.ScheduledTasks
{
public class JobScheduler
{
public static void Start()
{
IScheduler scheduler = StdSchedulerFactory.GetDefaultScheduler();
scheduler.Start();

IJobDetail job = JobBuilder.Create<MyJob>().Build();

ITrigger trigger = TriggerBuilder.Create()
.WithDailyTimeIntervalSchedule
(s =>
s.WithIntervalInHours(24)
.OnEveryDay()
.StartingDailyAt(TimeOfDay.HourAndMinuteOfDay(0, 0))
)
.Build();

scheduler.ScheduleJob(job, trigger);
}
}
}

Then, inside your Application_Start, you call JobScheduler.Start(). There's a great getting started article on Quartz at Mikesdotnetting you should check out.

Hangfire

And last but definitely not least, the most polished (IMHO) of the group, Hangfire by @odinserj. It's a fantastic framework for background jobs in ASP.NET. It's even optionally backed by Redis, SQL Server, SQL Azure, MSMQ, or RabbitMQ for reliability.

The Hangfire documentation is amazing, really. Every open source project's document should be this polished. Heck, ASP.NET's documentation should be this good.

The best feature from Hangfire is its built in /hangfire dashboard that shows you all your scheduled, processing, succeeded and failed jobs. It's really a nice polished addition.

image

You can enqueue "fire and forget" jobs easily and they are backed by persistent queues:

BackgroundJob.Enqueue(() => Console.WriteLine("Fire-and-forget"));

You can delay them...

BackgroundJob.Schedule(() => Console.WriteLine("Delayed"), TimeSpan.FromDays(1));

Or great very sophisticated CRON style recurrent tasks:

RecurringJob.AddOrUpdate(() => Console.Write("Recurring"), Cron.Daily);

Hangfire is just a joy.

Check out the Hangfire Highlighter Tutorial for a sophisticated but easy to follow real-world example.

There's a rich ecosystem out there ready to help you with your background tasks. All these libraries are excellent, are open source, and are available as NuGet Packages.

Did I miss your favorite? Sound off in the comments!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thinktecture.IdentityManager as a replacement for the ASP.NET WebSite Administration tool

June 17, '14 Comments [13] Posted in ASP.NET | Open Source
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In ASP.NET 2005 (v2 timeframe) there was a web-based tool called ASP.NET Website Administration tool that folks could use the edit users and generally administer the ASP.NET Membership database. This useful tool was removed in 2012 and is still missed.

Since then, ASP.NET has introduced ASP.NET Identity and community member Brock Allen created IdentityReboot with some significant improvements and extensions. Brock Allen and Dominick Baier have gone even further and created Thinktecture IdentityManager. It's the beginnings of a nice bootstrapped replacement for the missing ASP.NET Website Administration Tool. It's nicely factored and supports both ASP.NET Identity and their alternative called MembershipReboot.

I cloned Thinktecture.IdentityManager and ran it under Visual Studio 2013.2. It's nice when projects just clone cleanly and build. You'd be surprised how often that's not the case.

Thinktecture.IdentityManager plugs into the ASP.NET middleware pipeline, so switching the sample host to use ASP.NET Identity rather than their alternative MembershipReboot was as easy as commenting out a line and adding a line as seen below.

public class Startup
{
public void Configuration(IAppBuilder app)
{
app.UseIdentityManager(new IdentityManagerConfiguration()
{
//UserManagerFactory = Thinktecture.IdentityManager.MembershipReboot.UserManagerFactory.Create
UserManagerFactory = Thinktecture.IdentityManager.AspNetIdentity.UserManagerFactory.Create
});
}
}

Just run it and you'll get a nice Bootstrapped interface for creating, editing, and deleting users from your Identity database.

Identity Manager

Here you can see those same users in the SQL database that ASP.NET Identity uses.

There's the users created in the identity database

The whole application is written as a Single Page Application with an ASP.NET Web API handling the backend with Angular.js on the frontend.. You could run this application as it's own site and lock it down, of course, or host it within your existing website at something like /admin.

Serving Embedded Assets

Unrelated to the core functionality of Thinktecture.IdentityManager, one cool piece of functionality worth noting is how they are storing the HTML, CSS and other resources as embedded resources inside the Thinktecture.IndeityManager.Core assembly. This is not something you'd necessarily want to do yourself, but considering that they've got a nice embedded "manager" that they'll want to plug into other websites easily without causing issues with file dependencies, it's quite clever.

Here's the static page controller:

public class PageController : ApiController
{
[Route("")]
[HttpGet]
public IHttpActionResult Index()
{
return new EmbeddedHtmlResult(Request, "Thinktecture.IdentityManager.Core.Assets.Templates.index.html");
}
}

Then later in EmbeddedHtmlResult:

public static HttpResponseMessage GetResponseMessage(HttpRequestMessage request, string name)
{
var root = request.GetRequestContext().VirtualPathRoot;
var html = AssetManager.LoadResourceString(name);
return new HttpResponseMessage()
{
Content = new StringContent(html, Encoding.UTF8, "text/html")
};
}

Then later, all the CSS and JS are handled by the ".UseFileServer()" extension from Microsoft.Owin.StaticFiles, and then Microsoft.Owin.FileSystems handles the mapping the whole of the /assets URI space over all the resources

app.UseFileServer(new FileServerOptions
{
RequestPath = new PathString("/assets"),
FileSystem = new EmbeddedResourceFileSystem(typeof(AppBuilderExtensions).Assembly, "Thinktecture.IdentityManager.Core.Assets")
});
app.UseFileServer(new FileServerOptions
{
RequestPath = new PathString("/assets/libs/fonts"),
FileSystem = new EmbeddedResourceFileSystem(typeof(AppBuilderExtensions).Assembly, "Thinktecture.IdentityManager.Core.Assets.Content.fonts")
});

It's nice and clean, and a cool reminder about what you can do with a nicely factored system and a decent middleware pipeline.

A bright future

If you've got a ASP.NET system and are looking for a flexible and simple web-based administration tool for your Identity system, you should totally check out Thinktecture.IdentityManager. It looks like the team is gearing up for the possible release of this project as NuGet, so may have that to look forward to as well!

Remember that when people create cool projects like this, they are often doing this as volunteers out of the kindness of their hearts. They are often looking for feedback and comments, sure, but also validation of their idea as well as help. Open source help can come in the form of Pull Requests, Bugs and Issues, Documentation, Build Servers, and more. Head over and "star" the GitHub Thinktecture.IdentityManager project, and check it out!

Related Links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Future of .NET on the Server: ASP.NET vNext content and videos from TechEd 2014

May 18, '14 Comments [13] Posted in ASP.NET
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David Fowler and Scott Hanselman on ASP.NET vNext

Hi everyone, last week we announced ASP.NET vNext to the world at TechEd North America. All the sessions videos are up and available for downloading on Channel 9! There are still many MANY months between this early alpha that we've shared and release, so I'd encourage you all to subscribe to the .NET Web Development blog. This is a group blog, from and by the ASP.NET and Azure Web Tools team. It's an excellent and unfiltered group blog that everyone contributes to. Also follow the team on Twitter @aspnet and Facebook as we post there regularly.

We also released Visual Studio 2013.2 so be sure to go get that free update.

While everyone's jazzed about ASP.NET vNext, there's a lot of cool new stuff you can do TODAY with ASP.NET, like:

OK, here's the videos from TechEd.

ASP.NET vNext Videos at TechEd

Other ASP.NET videos from TechEd

http://www.asp.net/vnext

We've also updated the ASP.NET site with all new vNext content and walkthroughs.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy piling through these posts and watching these videos. We sure have had fun (and continue to!) building all this. Remember, all the code is at http://github.com/aspnet.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.