Scott Hanselman

Git-deployable F# based Web Applications in the Azure Cloud with WebSharper

May 19, '15 Comments [5] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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Web Apps with WebSharper and F#Last month after I wrote a small prototype to get the F# Suave.io web framework running on Azure Web Apps (a git deployed managed Platform as a Service) I started looking for more F# Azure resources.

Here's a list of some other existing F# programming technologies that are great with Azure. Did I miss any? I surely did. There's a huge list up at FSharp.org for resources running F# on any cloud.

  • Fog (an F# Azure data scripting API)
  • MBrace (a scalable distributed programming model for F#)
  • FSharp.Data (a set of F# type providers for common cloud data manipulation scenarios)
  • Suave (a simple web development F# library for lightweight microservices including route flow and task composition)
  • FSharp.CloudAgent - a simple framework to easily distribute workloads over the cloud using standard F# Agents as the processing mechanism. Support exists for both simple and reliable messaging via Azure Service Bus, and for both workers and actors.
  • AzureStorageTypeProvider - An F# Azure Type Provider which can be used to explore Blob, Table and Queue Azure Storage assets and easily apply CRUD operations on them
  • Try F# - A web programming console for F# that can be reoriented towards Azure programmability
  • HadoopFs - A lightweight F# implementation of the Hadoop Streaming API
  • FSharp.Azure - A wrapper over WindowsAzure.Store using idiomatic F#

There's also the WebSharper web framework. WebSharper isn't ASP.NET with F#, it's its own idiomatic thing. What's that really mean, "idiomatic?"

You know how when you Google Translate a sentence it doesn't quite work? I mean, it works, but it doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel right because the translator understands the words, and some phrases, but not the idioms - the underlying thoughts that are unique to that language. There was a time a few years back when folks were constantly looking for C# to VB convertors. This is something that's quite possible, almost line for line. However, changing an imperative language into a functional one is not like turning American English into British English. ;) Let functional languages be functional.

F# people like to do things their way and the language has very different goals and ideas than C# so it makes sense there would be a opinionated web framework for F#. I like it.

(Although I'm sure there will be a way to use ASP.NET 5 and MVC with F# in the future, this post isn't about that.)

WebSharper has a VS Extension so you can File New new projects, and here's a hello world ToDo List app (minus the HTML view, which you can see here)

namespace UINextApplication1

open WebSharper
open WebSharper.JavaScript
open WebSharper.JQuery
open WebSharper.UI.Next
open WebSharper.UI.Next.Notation

[<JavaScript>]
module Client =
type IndexTemplate = Templating.Template<"index.html">

let Tasks = ListModel.FromSeq ["Have breakfast"]

let Main =
JQuery.Of("#tasks").Empty().Ignore

let newName = Var.Create ""

IndexTemplate.Main.Doc(
ListContainer =
(ListModel.View Tasks |> Doc.Convert (fun name ->
IndexTemplate.ListItem.Doc(
Task = View.Const name,
Done = (fun e -> Tasks.Remove name)))
),
Task = newName,
Add = (fun e ->
Tasks.Add(newName.Value)
Var.Set newName "")
)
|> Doc.RunById "tasks"

More interesting is the recent blog post by Adam Granicz where he expands on my "Suave to Azure via GitHub" prototype and shows how to deploy a real F# WebSharper app to Azure Websites via GitHub.

One of the main improvements is that my solution used FAKE and I found myself wanting a binary version of the FSharp compiler as  NuGet. An issue was open and closed within days, simplifying the deployment. Additionally their WebSharper solution creates an ASP.NET app that runs in the context of ASP.NET and IIS, while my Suave solution needed a separate process. WebSharper 3.1 was recently released, and you can see their sample running live in Azure here: http://websharper-clientserver.azurewebsites.net

And of course, you can deploy it to Azure right from here using the Deploy to Azure button!

Deploy to Azure

Do you dabble in F#, are you doing F# professionally? What do you think about F#-based web applications?


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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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Running Suave.io and F# with FAKE in Azure Web Apps with Git and the Deploy Button

April 27, '15 Comments [11] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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I was told by some lovely folks in the F# community that there is a nice web framework called Suave.io. Best name ever, eh? Suave is a clean, lightweight, and very F#y (pronounced F-Sharp-ie, I say) in its syntax.

Frameworks like this do well when they are easy to deploy, especially for Hello World. I always find that if a framework can quickly and easily give me a sense of accomplishment I'll be more likely to stick with it. I like to "fall into the pit of success."

I wanted to see if I could make Suave on Azure work easily as well. With the help of Steffen Forkman and the encouragement of the F# community (who have felt historically that support for F# in Visual Studio and Azure has been lacking) I put this little proof of concept together. I used the HttpPlatformHandler that is available in Azure Web Apps now by default, along with a basic Kudu Deployment Script from my Ruby/Middleman post.

Most of the F# community uses a NuGet alternative called Paket that is more F#-friendly. There's also a tiny Paket.Bootstrapper so I could curl things down, then run Paket like this, as part of an Azure Web App deployment. This script modified from Steffen:

@echo off
cls

mkdir .paket
REM TODO - might want to do an IF EXISTS *or* a SHA check
curl https://github.com/fsprojects/Paket/releases/download/1.2.0/paket.bootstrapper.exe -L --insecure -o .paket\paket.bootstrapper.exe

.paket\paket.bootstrapper.exe prerelease
if errorlevel 1 (
exit /b %errorlevel%
)

.paket\paket.exe restore
if errorlevel 1 (
exit /b %errorlevel%
)

Then we need web.config to tell Azure Web Apps (IIS8+) to start FAKE to get F# and Suave going. Note the use of %HOME%, full paths and the %HTTP_PLATFORM_PORT%:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<configuration>
<system.webServer>
<handlers>
<remove name="httpplatformhandler" />
<add name="httpplatformhandler" path="*" verb="*" modules="httpPlatformHandler" resourceType="Unspecified" />
</handlers>
<httpPlatform stdoutLogEnabled="false" stdoutLogFile="fake.log" startupTimeLimit="20" processPath="%HOME%\site\wwwroot\packages\FAKE\tools\FAKE.exe"
arguments="%HOME%\site\wwwroot\build.fsx port=%HTTP_PLATFORM_PORT%">
<environmentVariables>
<environmentVariable name="WhateverYouLike" value="GoesHere"/>
</environmentVariables>
</httpPlatform>
</system.webServer>
</configuration>

I added logging but it's off by default. You can use it to debug if you have issues, as the FAKE.exe output will go into a series of log files. You can then access them with the Kudu debug console.

I like running "azure site log tail YOURSITE" with the Azure Cross Platform command line. It lets me see the deployment and output as it happens.

FAKE and F# in Azure Web Apps

Here is Steffen's build.fsx:

// --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// FAKE build script
// --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

#r @"packages/FAKE/tools/FakeLib.dll"

open System
open System.IO
open Fake

Environment.CurrentDirectory <- __SOURCE_DIRECTORY__

// Step 2. Use the packages

#r "packages/Suave/lib/net40/Suave.dll"

open Suave // always open suave
open Suave.Http.Successful // for OK-result
open Suave.Web // for config
open Suave.Types
open System.Net

let port = Sockets.Port.Parse <| getBuildParamOrDefault "port" "8083"

let serverConfig =
{ defaultConfig with
bindings = [ HttpBinding.mk HTTP IPAddress.Loopback port ]
}

startWebServer serverConfig (OK "Hello World! It's Suave.io on Azure Websites. <a href='https://github.com/shanselman/suavebootstrapper'>So easy to setup. Just click Deploy.</a>")

I just added the Azure Deploy button to my Readme.md like this. This is markdown, of course, but could be HTML

[![Deploy to Azure](http://azuredeploy.net/deploybutton.png)](https://azuredeploy.net/)

And you can try this yourself by visiting the repository here and pressing Deploy to Azure, or hit it here:

Hopefully this is a decent clear start towards easily deploying F# Web Apps to Azure via Git, and/or the Deploy Button.

Your thoughts?


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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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Introducing Azure Resource Explorer for the Azure Resource Management APIs

April 9, '15 Comments [10] Posted in Azure | Web Services
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When managing Azure resources (Virtual Machines, Web Apps, etc) I like to do most of my work in Azure from the command line using the "Azure xplat cli" - the Azure Cross Platform Command Line Interface. It's an Open Source node.js app that you can get with "npm install -g azure-cli" and it calls the backend REST services that all of Azure uses to manage itself. In fact, when you are using the Azure Portal it's calling the same backend.

It's mostly an "Azure Noun Verb" structure, as you can see in the figure below. You can Azure Site Create or Azure VM Restart, etc.

Azure Command Line Syntax

You can ALSO add --json to the xplat cli to see a JSON representation of the result of your call. So Azure Site List --json gives you a lot more information than without the json switch.

There's a PowerShell interface to Azure, this xplat nodejs one I'm using, as well as other libraries like the Azure Management Libraries for .NET again, all calling the backend REST API.

However, that REST API is huge and confusing. Enter David Ebbo, a Principal Development Lead on the Azure App Platform. He's made the Azure Resource Explorer at https://resources.azure.com as a great way to explore the Azure Resource Management APIs visually and interactively!

And, wait for it, Azure Resource Explorer is, of course, Open Source and hosted here at GitHub https://github.com/projectkudu/ARMExplorer. It's a preview/beta and not done, but we're all interested in what YOU think! Does it do what you'd expect? Feel free to add issues and get involved in the repository.

Go hit http://resources.azure.com/ and login with your Azure Credentials. It's an Object Explorer if you've ever used Visual Studio to move around a large object model, except this is a resource try of all the hypermedia nodes within your view of Azure.

Azure Resource Explorer

Here I am moving around my Web Applications that I host in the West US Region of Azure. I can see the deployment slots for staging and production, the source control system and web hooks that deploy my site and lots more. Notice that I can click Actions as well, and (when I turn Read-Only off) perform POST and DELETE calls that will affect my Azure resources.

If you're familiar with Postman, the REST API development tool, this is kind of like Postman for Azure. Here's a 5 min YouTube video by David Ebbo walking you through the Azure Resource Explorer.

To be clear, this is NOT a new Portal, and it IS very low level. This is a tool for folks who want to know what's really going on when an Azure API is called. Perhaps you're creating your own explorer or your own API client in another language. This tool can give you documentation and live examples on how to call those APIs correctly.

Again, it's Open Source and hosted here at GitHub. They would be thrilled to hear your thoughts. Is this useful? In what direction would you like it to go?

By the way, if you'd like to try Azure for an hour for free without signing up for any trials or anything, go check out http://try.azurewebsites.net and play! Also, check out Azure Friday at http://friday.azure.com and subscribe on iTunes.

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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Getting admin by adding a new user to sudoers when you're locked out of an Azure Linux VM

March 17, '15 Comments [11] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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So I got locked out of an Ubuntu VM that's running in Azure  Long story, but an employee left and somehow the "admin" user I had access to no longer had "sudo" powers anymore. I needed to run apt-get update && apt-get upgrade but literally had no user available with admin on the box.

If the machine was local, I could perhaps boot into recovery mode but this is a VM in the cloud.

I do however, have access to the Azure portal because I do own the VM. While the operating system  doesn't think I'm powerful inside, I am powerful outside. ;)

Corey Sanders, the head of the IAAS team was kind enough to remind me of the CustomScriptForLinux "VM Extension." VM Extensions can inject/install software like Chef and Puppet into VMs. I talked to Kundana Palagiri about this on Azure Friday (http://friday.azure.com)

He pointed me to his "AddUser.sh" script on GitHub. It's pretty straightforward, but how do I run it?

#!/bin/bash
# Script to add a user to Linux system
if [ $(id -u) -eq 0 ]; then
        username="$1"
        password="$2"
        echo "Creating $username"
        egrep "^$username" /etc/passwd >/dev/null
        if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
                echo "$username exists!"
                exit 1
        else
                pass=$(perl -e 'print crypt($ARGV[0], "password")' $password)
                useradd -G adm,dialout,cdrom,floppy,sudo,audio,dip,video,plugdev,netdev -m -p $pass $username
                [ $? -eq 0 ] && echo "User $username has been added to system!" || echo "Failed to add a $username!"
        fi
else
        echo "Only root may add a user to the system"
        exit 2
fi

I don't have root, but Azure has root. Azure has all the power, in fact. I need to run this script with parameters (my new username and password) then SSH in and put things right. I can return my original user to sudoers:

sudo adduser <username> sudo

And there's other administration I may want to do, including deleting this user I just added. Doing this dance is how I'm going to regain access to my VM, though.

NOTE: There are other ways to regain access to a Linux VM if you've lost a SSH Key or forgotten your password, like the VMAccess Extension in PowerShell. However, not everyone has a Windows machine, and I wanted in fast without any local setup. I'm going to use the Custom Script extension.

First, I'll log into the Azure Portal at http://portal.azure.com and select the VM, then under All Settings, select Extensions. Click ADD and pick Custom Script for Linux.

Adding Custom Script for Linux

Note that my bash script has two parameters, so I'll put my preferred USERNAME and PASSWORD in the Arguments box there and hit done.

Successfully added a VM Extension

After it's done, I click look at the detailed results. Do note that the Azure Portal is called into the backend REST services that manage all of Azure so you can certainly script all of this if you need to.

Script Success

Now I can SSH into the machine (I use bitvise) and then add my original user back into sudoers.

Adding user to group sudo

At this point I can generally tidy up this machine and put it as it was. I've regained control of a Linux VM that I no long had root on.

Please check out http://friday.azure.com, subscribe on iTunes, and tweet and tell your friends! There are over 150 episodes of Azure Friday, each just around 15 min long!


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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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Running the Ruby Middleman Static Site Generator on Microsoft Azure

February 24, '15 Comments [17] Posted in Azure | Open Source | Ruby
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Middleman is "a static site generator using all the shortcuts and tools in modern web development." With any static site generator you can run it all locally and then push/FTP/whatever the resulting HTML to any host. However, static site generators are even more fun when you can host the source code in Git and have your static site build and deploy in the cloud.

Middleman uses Ruby for its build system and views, and some of the Gems it uses are native gems. That means if you are a Windows user, your system will need not just Ruby, but the Ruby DevKit so you can build those native gems. The DevKit is a lovely set of tools that "makes it easy to build and use native C/C++ extensions such as RDiscount and RedCloth for Ruby on Windows."

Azure Websites supports not just ASP.NET today, but also node.js, PHP, Python, and Java, all built in. But not Ruby, directly, yet. Also, Azure Websites doesn't know formally about the idea of a static site generator. You might be thinking, oh, this'll be hard, I'll need to use a VM and do this myself.

However, even though Azure Websites are totally "platform as a service" there's still a Windows Virtual Machine underneath, and you can use the disk space however you like. You've got a LOT of control and can even get a hold of a console where you can run commands and install stuff. The Azure Portal lets you open a command line from your website.

The New Azure Portal

Check me out, here in the new Azure Portal. This is where I did my practice work to see if I could programmatically download and install Ruby via a script. I tried a number of different commands, all from the browser, and explored a number of ideas. When I got it working, I put together a batch file called GetRuby. I could have also used a shell script or PowerShell, but Batch was easy given what I was doing.

ASIDE: You may recognize that console from this video I did about the "Super Secret Debug Console" in Azure. It's not so secret now, it's a feature.  There is still a cool debug "sidecar" website for every Azure site, it's at http://YOURSITENAME.scm.azurewebsites.net/DebugConsole but now a version of the console is in the portal as well.

Azure Websites uses an open source project called Kudu to deploy from locations with source like Github. Kudu supports custom deployment scripts where you can jump in and do whatever you like (within the limits of the security sandbox)

Basically I needed to do these things before running Middleman on my source:

  • Ensure Ruby is installed and in the path.
  • Ensure the DevKit (which includes native compilers, etc) is installed
  • Initialize and setup DevKit for builds
  • Update RubyGems to 2.2.3 until the Windows version of Ruby has this included
  • Install eventmachine 1.0.7, a problematic gem on Windows
  • Run the Ruby Bundler's update
  • Install Middleman

And then, every deployment run the Middleman static site generator.

  • Middleman build

The first part is a one time thing for a new website. I just need to make sure Ruby is around and in the path. The second part is what runs every time a source file for my static site generator is checked in. It runs middleman build. Then at the very end, Kudu takes the results from the /build folder and moves them to /wwwroot, which makes the changes live.

Here's an annotated part of the first bit, but the actual file is on GitHub. Note that I'm putting stuff in %temp% for speed. Turns out %temp% a local drive, so it's a few times faster than using the main drive, which makes this deployment faster. However, it's cleared out often, so if I wanted things to be persistent but slower to deploy, I'd put them in D:\deployments\tools. As it is, the deploy is fast (less than a minute) when Ruby is there, and just about 3 minutes to get and setup Ruby when it's not. The exists check handles the case when a deploy happens but %temp% has been cleared so it'll get Ruby again.

NOTE: If this seems confusing or complex, it's because I like to give folks LOTS of detail. But just look at my repository. All we have is a standard "Middleman init" site plus the Azure-generator deploy.cmd and my getruby.cmd. That's all you need, plus a Basic Azure Website. The getruby.cmd is my automating what you'd have to any way on a Windows machine without Ruby.

REM Note that D:\local\temp is a LOCAL drive on Azure, and very fast
SET PATH=%PATH%;D:\local\temp\r\ruby-2.1.5-x64-mingw32\bin

pushd %temp%
REM If you need things to be persistent, then put them elsewhere, not in TEMP
if not exist r md r
cd r
if exist ruby-2.1.5-x64-mingw32 goto end

echo No Ruby, need to get it!

REM Get 64-bit Ruby
curl -o ruby215.zip http://dl.bintray.com/oneclick/rubyinstaller/ruby-2.1.5-x64-mingw32.7z?direct
ECHO START Unzipping Ruby. 7Zip is already on Azure Websites
REM Note Azure deployments run faster with 7Zip not spewing so much. Redirect to a file.
d:\7zip\7za x -y ruby215.zip > out

REM Get DevKit to build Ruby native gems
REM If you don't need DevKit for your Gems, rem this out.
curl -o DevKit.zip http://cdn.rubyinstaller.org/archives/devkits/DevKit-mingw64-64-4.7.2-20130224-1432-sfx.exe
ECHO START Unzipping DevKit
d:\7zip\7za x -y -oDevKit DevKit.zip > out
ECHO DONE Unzipping DevKit

ruby DevKit\dk.rb init

REM Tell DevKit where Ruby is
echo --- > config.yml
echo - d:/local/temp/r/ruby-2.1.5-x64-mingw32 >> config.yml

REM Setup DevKit
ruby DevKit\dk.rb install

REM Update Gem223 until someone fixes the Ruby Windows installer https://github.com/oneclick/rubyinstaller/issues/261
curl -L -o update.gem https://github.com/rubygems/rubygems/releases/download/v2.2.3/rubygems-update-2.2.3.gem
call gem install --local update.gem
call update_rubygems --no-ri --no-rdoc > updaterubygemsout
ECHO What's our new Rubygems version?
call gem --version
call gem uninstall rubygems-update -x

REM This is needed on Windows, why is this gem such a problem?
ECHO Install eventmachine 1.0.7
call gem install eventmachine -v '1.0.7' --no-ri --no-rdoc > updateventmachineout

call bundle update

ECHO Install middleman...the whole point!
call gem install middleman --no-ri --no-rdoc

:end
popd

call middleman build

REM KuduSync and actual /build to /wwwroot is after this in deploy.cmd!

And in the Deploy.cmd all I needed to change was this under SETUP. This is where YOU can do whatever you like. Note since I'm using Batch, I need to put CALL in front of other Batch files (and Ruby uses them also!) otherwise my script will just end early.

ECHO CALLING GET RUBY

call getruby.cmd

ECHO WE MADE IT

Then later, still in Deploy.cmd, I just added \build to the source directory name.

call :ExecuteCmd "%KUDU_SYNC_CMD%" -v 50 -f "%DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\build" -t "%DEPLOYMENT_TARGET%" -n "%NEXT_MANIFEST_PATH%" -p "%PREVIOUS_MANIFEST_PATH%" -i ".git;.hg;.deployment;deploy.cmd"

And that's it.  Now whenever I updated my views or other things in my Middleman source on GitHub, it automatically deploys to my live site.

Yes, again, to be clear, I realize it's a static site generator that I could run locally and FTP the results, but I'm working in a small team and this is a great way for us to collaborate on our static site. Plus, when it's done, it's all done and I don't have to mess with it again.

Middleman Static Site Generator on Azure

Debugging Custom Azure Website Deployments

I thought debugging my GetRuby batch file was going to be a nightmare. However, it turns out that the Azure cross-platform command line (the Azure x-plat CLI, open source, and written in nodejs, BTW) can connect to Azure's log streaming service. "Azure Site Log Tail" lets me see the LIVE console output as the deploy happens!

Azure Site Log Tail

Now, note that the need for this whole "getruby.bat" file totally goes away if the Azure Websites folks start including Ruby and DevKit in the Azure Websites VM image by default. That would make Ruby, Rails, Gems, DevKit, etc. available to everyone. Do you want Ruby on Azure? Do you care? Sound off in the comments!

HELP: The batch file could use more testing, especially for robustness as well as Ruby-correctness as I'm likely confused about a few things, but it works for me and it's a great start. Sometimes different native gems don't build, though, or Gems complains about conflicting versions and asks me to run Bundler. I have no idea why. Running things twice clears it. It's either my bug or someone else's. :)

I'm just happy that Azure Websites is as flexible as it is that I was able to console into it from the browser, look around, add my own custom deployment hook, and do something I initially didn't think was possible!

Give Azure Websites a try FOR FREE, no signup, no credit card for an hour in a sandbox with PHP, Node, ASP.NET, or Java at http://try.azurewebsites.net. (Full Disclosure, I helped a little with this site, so I'm a fan.)

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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.