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ASP.NET Core Hosting - Queues In .NET Core

clock August 24, 2018 11:39 by author Kenny

I was recently looking into the new Channel<T>  API in .NET Core (For an upcoming post), but while writing it up, I wanted to do a quick refresher of all the existing “queues” in .NET Core. These queues are also available in full framework (And possibly other platforms), but all examples are written in .NET Core so your mileage may vary if you are trying to run them on a different platform.

FIFO vs LIFO

Before we jump into the .NET specifics, we should talk about the concept of FIFO or LIFO, or “First In, First Out” and “Last In, Last Out”. For the concept of queues, we typically think of FIFO. So the first message put into the queue, is the first one that comes out. Essentially processing messages as they go into a queue. The concept of LIFO, is typically rare when it comes to queues, but in .NET there is a type called Stack<T>  that works with LIFO. That is, after filling the stack with messages/objects, the last one put in would then be the first one out. Essentially the order would be reversed.

Queue<T>

Queue<T>  is going to be our barebones simple queue in .NET Core. It takes messages, and then pops them out in order. Here’s a quick code example :

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    Queue<string> messageQueue = new Queue<string>();
    messageQueue.Enqueue("Hello");
    messageQueue.Enqueue("World!");
 
    Console.WriteLine(messageQueue.Dequeue());
    Console.WriteLine(messageQueue.Dequeue());
    Console.ReadLine();
}

Pretty stock standard and not a lot of hidden meaning here. The Enqueue  method puts a message on our queue, and the Dequeue  method takes one off (In a FIFO manner). Our console app obviously prints out two lines, “Hello” then “World!”.

Barring multi threaded scenarios (Which we will talk about shortly), you’re not going to find too many reasons to use this barebones queue. In a single threaded app, you might pass around a queue to process a “list” of messages, but you may find that using a List<T>  within a loop is a simpler way of achieving the same result. Infact if you look at the source code of Queue, you will see it’s actually just an implementation of IEnumerable anyway!

So how about multi threaded scenarios? It kind of makes sense that you may want to load up a queue with items, and then have multiple threads all trying to process the messages. Well using a queue in this manner is actually not threadsafe, but .NET has a different type to handle multi threading…

ConcurrentQueue<T>

ConcurrentQueue<T>  is pretty similar to Queue<T> , but is made threadsafe by a copious amount of spinlocks. A common misconception is that ConcurrentQueues are just a wrapper around a queue with the use of the lock  keyword. A quick look at the source code here shows that’s definitely not the case. Why do I feel the need to point this out? Because I often see people try and make their use of Queue<T>  threadsafe by using locks, thinking that they are doing what Microsoft does when using ConcurrentQueue, but that’s pretty far from the truth and actually takes a pretty big performance hit when doing so.

Here’s a code sample of a ConcurrentQueue :

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    ConcurrentQueue<string> concurrentQueue = new ConcurrentQueue<string>();
    concurrentQueue.Enqueue("Hello");
    concurrentQueue.Enqueue("World!");
 
    string message;
    while(concurrentQueue.TryDequeue(out message))
    {
        Console.WriteLine(message);
    }
 
    Console.ReadLine();
}

So you’ll notice we can no longer just dequeue a message, we need to TryDequeue. It will return true if we managed to pop a message, and false if there is no message to pop.

Again, the main point of using a ConcurrentQueue over a regular Queue is that it’s threadsafe to have multiple consumers (Or producers/enqueuers) all using it at the same time.

BlockingCollection<T>

A blocking collection is an interesting “wrapper” type that can go over the top of any IProducerConsumerCollection<T>  type (Of which Queue<T>  and ConcurrentQueue<T>  are both). This can be handy if you have your own implementation of a queue, but for most cases you can roll with the default constructor of BlockingCollection. When doing this, it uses a ConcurrentQueue<T> under the hood making everything threadsafe (See source code here). The main reason to use a BlockingCollection is that it has a limit to how many items can sit in the queue/collection. Obviously this is beneficial if your producer is much faster than your consumers.

Let’s take a quick look :

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    BlockingCollection<string> blockingCollection = new BlockingCollection<string>(2);
    Console.WriteLine("Adding Hello");
    blockingCollection.Add("Hello");
    Console.WriteLine("Adding World!");
    blockingCollection.Add("World!");
    Console.WriteLine("Adding Good");
    blockingCollection.Add("Good");
    Console.WriteLine("Adding Evening");
    blockingCollection.Add("Evening!");
 
    Console.ReadLine();
}

What will happen with this code? You will see “Adding Hello”, “Adding World!”, and then nothing… Your application will just hang. The reason is this line :

BlockingCollection<string> blockingCollection = new BlockingCollection<string>(2);

We’ve initialized the collection to be a max size of 2. If we try and add an item where the collection is already at this size, we will just wait until a message is dequeued. How long will we wait? Well by default, forever. However we can change our add line to be :
blockingCollection.TryAdd("Hello", TimeSpan.FromSeconds(60));

So we’ve changed our Add call to TryAdd, and we’ve specified a timespan to wait. If this timespan is hit, then the TryAdd method will return false to let us know we weren’t able to add the item to the collection. This is handy if you need to alert someone that your queue is overloaded (e.g. the consumers are stalled for whatever reason).

Stack<T>

As we talked about earlier, a Stack<T> type allows for a Last In, First Out (LIFO) queuing style. Consider the following code :

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    Stack<string> stack = new Stack<string>();
    stack.Push("Hello");
    stack.Push("World!");
 
    Console.WriteLine(stack.Pop());
    Console.WriteLine(stack.Pop());
 
    Console.ReadLine();
}

The output would be “World!” then “Hello”. It’s rare that you would need this reversal of messages, but it does happen. Stack<T>  also has it’s companion in ConcurrentStack<T> , and you can initialize BlockingCollection with a ConcurrentStack within it. 

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ASP.NET Core Hosting - Easy to Migrate Visual Basic 6 to .NET

clock August 21, 2018 09:56 by author Kenny

Converting VB6 code to VB.NET is not a simple process that can be executed easily in spite of using automation tools. A number of automation tools are available in the market, with Microsoft itself being shipped with Visual Basic Upgrade Wizard. Some of the major changes undergone in VB6 is in the Common Language Runtime (CLR) new programming model. To reap maximum benefit out of the new features and structures of VB.NET, it is advisable to rewrite major sections of the application than porting it. Since this is a tedious process you can use VB.NET’s Upgrade Wizard that automatically converts all the syntaxes, which is just half the work done. No sooner you will be faced with other problems and errors during compilation that won’t be handled properly with the Upgrade Wizard. During migration you will have to rewrite and rearchitect the codes to take maximum advantage of VB.NET’s new tools.

.NET migration is a complex process that requires strict adherence to the features and syntactical aspects of the programming language. Here we list some of the essential steps that need to be considered while migrating from VB6 to VB.NET.

1. Application Assessment – Perform a thorough assessment of the application to be upgraded. You can document the existing system functionalities, which may be a tedious process. Use an assessment tool to analyze the VB6 application to understand issues and estimate the approximate cost and effort.

2. Planning and Preparation – Prepare project plan, determine scope and migration requirements by elucidating maximum information about the application. Create functional requirements for the new framework and application.

3. Upgrade Strategies – Develop a migration strategy after brainstorming the application requirements. First you need to get the VB6 application into the new .NET platform with the existing functionality then perform incremental changes to incorporate new functions.

4. Automatic Upgrade Process – After automated migration the quality of the generated code needs to be improved. This involves removing duplicated code, upgrading problematic syntax and controls, fixing data declarations, and the like.

5. Manual Upgrade Process – It is essential to rewrite critical application logic to suit the .NET framework and those that have not been properly converted during automation. You can continue writing new code in VB.NET leaving the bulk of the existing code in VB6 as there is good interoperability between VB6 COM components and VB.NET components.

6. Migrate Data – This involves creating a SQL Server or database and importing data and resizing the database structure.

7. Compiling – Compiling the project gives a list of compilation errors and runtime errors that needs to be analyzed and fixed through an iterative process.

8. Fixing Errors – Bugs can be tracked using various source code analyzers that helps identify duplicate codes and fix data declarations.

9. Quality Assurance – Upgraded application will be subjected to different levels of testing throughout the process to ensure reliability and correctness of the application.

  • Unit test thoroughly each item converted to help identify any flaws in implementation.
  • Perform system testing to ensure the application functionalities are met in the .NET framework version.
  • Import final version legacy data and perform load testing to ensure the application works in the .NET environment.

10. Deployment – Finally deploy to application server and verify the checklist of all the components and functionalities in the application tally.

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ASP.NET Core 2 Hosting - Create an Application With Angular 6 and .NET Core

clock August 14, 2018 13:13 by author Kenny

Angular 6 recently launched and has introduced some pretty awesome features.

Let's look at how to create and Angular 6 application with and without using .NET Core SPA templates using Visual Studio 2017.

There is more than one way to create an Angular 6 application with .NET Core - let us see some of them.

Make sure you have installed Visual Studio 2017 and .NET Core's latest SDK and, of course, Node and Angular CLI.

Without Using an SPA Template

In this approach, we will not use any template and will add Angular 6 to an API project.

Create the Angular Application Using a .NET Core 2.0 Template in VS 2017

Once you have all these installed, open your Visual Studio 2017 -> Create New Project -> Select Core Web application:

Click 'OK,' and, in the next window, select an API as shown below:

Once the API project is created, open the Command prompt and navigate to the project folder run the following command:

ng new ClientApp

This will create an Angular 6 application within an API project.

The next task is to run our Angular application with .NET Core. For this, we need to add some code within the Startup.cs class.

Add the below lines in the ConfigureService method:

services.AddSpaStaticFiles(configuration =>
{
configuration.RootPath = "ClientApp/dist";
});

Add the below lines in the Configure method:

app.UseHttpsRedirection();
app.UseStaticFiles();
app.UseSpaStaticFiles();
app.UseHttpsRedirection();
app.UseMvc();
app.UseSpa(spa =>
{
spa.Options.SourcePath = "ClientApp";
if (env.IsDevelopment())
{
spa.UseAngularCliServer(npmScript: "start");
}
});

The above code adds the required configuration for running Angular code with .NET Core.

Note: Make sure the property "launchUrl": "api/values" is not present in the Properties/launchSettings.json, if it is available then delete it.

Just run the application in the browser:

Your Angular 6 application is now running with .NET Core.

With an SPA Template

In the first approach, we did not use an SPA template to create an Angular app; in this approach, we will use the Angular template.

Create the Angular Application Using .Net Core 2.1 Template in VS 2017

Once you have all these installed, open your Visual Studio 2017 -> Create New Project -> Select Core Web application:

Click on 'OK,' and, in the next window, select Angular as shown below:

Visual Studio will create a well-structured application for you.

If you compare this project's structure with the previous version, then you would notice that the Views folder is no longer there:

We do not need that Views folder now.

Delete ClientApp and Install Angular 6

If you open a package.json file under the ClientApp folder, you'll notice the Angular version is 5.0 but we want to create an Angular 6 application.

So go to File Explorer and delete the ClientApp folder:

Once the folder is deleted, open the Command prompt and navigate to the project and run the following command:

ng new ClientApp

This command will create a brand new Angular 6 application.

Once the process is completed, go back to Solution Explorer -> ClientApp -> package.json. This file should show Angular 6.0 references:

That is it. We have just created an Angular 6 application with .NET Core.

Let's try to use any random Angular 6 feature just to make sure we have the latest Angular 6 code.

Test Library Feature

We will test the library feature which has been shipped with Angular 6.

Open the command prompt again and navigate to the ClientApp folder -> run the following command:

ng generate library my-shared-library

Logs in the window confirm that we have Angular 6 now. The library will be created under the ClientApp -> Projects folder:

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ASP.NET Core 2 Hosting - Create ASP.NET Chart Control from Database using C#

clock August 10, 2018 11:11 by author Kenny

In this article I will explain with an example, how you can display charts in ASP.Net using new Chart Control.

Web.Config Modifications

You will need to modify the Web.Config file as following shown in order to use the ASP.Net 4.0 Chart control.

<configuration>
    <appSettings>
        <add key="ChartImageHandler" value="storage=file;timeout=20;" />
    </appSettings>
    <connectionStrings>
        <add name="conString"
        connectionString="Data Source=.\SQL2005;database=Northwind;Integrated Security=true"/>
    </connectionStrings>
 
    <system.web>
        <compilation debug="true" targetFramework="4.0">
            <assemblies>
                <add assembly="System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=4.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/>
            </assemblies>
        </compilation>
        <httpHandlers>
            <add path="ChartImg.axd" verb="GET,HEAD,POST" type="System.Web.UI.DataVisualization.Charting.ChartHttpHandler, System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=4.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" validate="false"/>
        </httpHandlers>
        <pages>
            <controls>
                <add tagPrefix="asp" namespace="System.Web.UI.DataVisualization.Charting" assembly="System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=4.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35"/>
            </controls>
        </pages>
    </system.web>
    <system.webServer>
        <handlers>
            <remove name="ChartImageHandler"/>
            <add name="ChartImageHandler" preCondition="integratedMode" verb="GET,HEAD,POST" path="ChartImg.axd" type="System.Web.UI.DataVisualization.Charting.ChartHttpHandler, System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=4.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35"/>
        </handlers>
    </system.webServer>
</configuration>

HTML Markup

Below is the HTML Markup of the page. It has an ASP.Net DropDownList and an ASP.Net Chart Control. The DropDownList is populated with countries and when a country is selected, the chart is populated with the statistics of orders of different cities in the selected country.

<asp:DropDownList ID="ddlCountries" runat="server" OnSelectedIndexChanged="ddlCountries_SelectedIndexChanged"
    AutoPostBack = "true">
</asp:DropDownList><hr />
<asp:Chart ID="Chart1" runat="server" Height="300px" Width="400px" Visible = "false">
    <Titles>
        <asp:Title ShadowOffset="3" Name="Items" />
    </Titles>
    <Legends>
        <asp:Legend Alignment="Center" Docking="Bottom" IsTextAutoFit="False" Name="Default" LegendStyle="Row" />
    </Legends>
    <Series>
        <asp:Series Name="Default" />
    </Series>
    <ChartAreas>
        <asp:ChartArea Name="ChartArea1" BorderWidth="0" />
    </ChartAreas>
</asp:Chart>

Namespaces

You will need to import the following Namespaces.

C#

using System.Data;
using System.Data.SqlClient;
using System.Configuration;

Populating the DropDownList and Chart

Inside the Page Load event, the DropDownList is populated with Countries from the Orders table of the Northwind database. When a Country is selected in the DropDownList, the statistical records of Ship Cities and their Total Orders are fetched from the Orders table. The Ship City values are assigned to the X point values of the Chart while the Total Orders value for the Ship Cities are assigned to the Y point values of the Chart. Finally using these values the Chart is populated and displayed.

C#

protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    if (!IsPostBack)
    {
        string query = "select distinct shipcountry from orders";
        DataTable dt = GetData(query);
        ddlCountries.DataSource = dt;
        ddlCountries.DataTextField = "shipcountry";
        ddlCountries.DataValueField = "shipcountry";
        ddlCountries.DataBind();
        ddlCountries.Items.Insert(0, new ListItem("Select", ""));
    }
}
  
protected void ddlCountries_SelectedIndexChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Chart1.Visible = ddlCountries.SelectedValue != "";
    string query = string.Format("select shipcity, count(orderid) from orders where shipcountry = '{0}' group by shipcity", ddlCountries.SelectedValue);
    DataTable dt = GetData(query);
    string[] x = new string[dt.Rows.Count];
    int[] y = new int[dt.Rows.Count];
    for (int i = 0; i < dt.Rows.Count; i++)
    {
        x[i] = dt.Rows[i][0].ToString();
        y[i] = Convert.ToInt32(dt.Rows[i][1]);
    }
    Chart1.Series[0].Points.DataBindXY(x, y);
    Chart1.Series[0].ChartType = SeriesChartType.Pie;
    Chart1.ChartAreas["ChartArea1"].Area3DStyle.Enable3D = true;
    Chart1.Legends[0].Enabled = true;
}
 
private static DataTable GetData(string query)
{
    DataTable dt = new DataTable();
    SqlCommand cmd = new SqlCommand(query);
    String constr = ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings["ConString"].ConnectionString;
    SqlConnection con = new SqlConnection(constr);
    SqlDataAdapter sda = new SqlDataAdapter();
    cmd.CommandType = CommandType.Text;
    cmd.Connection = con;
    sda.SelectCommand = cmd;
    sda.Fill(dt);
    return dt;
}

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ASP.NET Core 2 Hosting - How to Secure Your .NET Core 2.0 Web App

clock August 3, 2018 11:29 by author Kenny

Configuring ASP.NET Core to require authentication

Imagine we’re starting with an ASP.NET Core 2.0 MVC application (with no authentication mechanism configured).

You can grab the code we’re about to go through and take a look for yourself using the next link.

Get the code: Simple Authentication using ASP.NET Core 2.0
The first step is to enable authentication for our site, which we can do by modifying startup.cs.

We can start by adding the relevant Authentication services to our application.

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    services.AddAuthentication(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme)
        .AddCookie(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme,
            options =>
            {
                options.LoginPath = new PathString("/auth/login");
                options.AccessDeniedPath = new PathString("/auth/denied");
            });
     // ---------------
     // rest of configureServices code goes here...
}

We’re going to stick with cookies for now. This means our logged in users will get a cookie in their browser, which gets passed to our app on every request, indicating that they are authenticated.

Notice how we’ve configured two paths, the path to the login page (where we can send unauthenticated people when they try to access a restricted area) and the path to an access denied page (useful for when they inevitably enter incorrect credentials).

We also need to tell our app to go ahead and actually enable authentication. Happily, this is very very simple in .NET Core 2…

public void Configure(IApplicationBuilder app, IHostingEnvironment env)
{
    app.UseAuthentication();
    // ---------------
    // rest of configure code goes here...
}

Just another Login form

So now our app knows we’re going to be using authentication, but there’s more work to be done.

We need a way to identify our users, the common way being to ask them for a username and password.

Login forms are straightforward enough, here’s one to get us started.

<h2>Hmm, looks like you need to log in</h2>
<form asp-controller="Auth" asp-action="Login" method="post">
    <label for="username">Username</label>
    <input id="username" name="username" type="text"/>
    <label for="password">Password</label>
    <input id="password" name="password" type="password" />
    <button type="submit">Log me in</button>
</form>

If we’re using the default routing for MVC, you’ll want to create an AuthController with a Login action that returns this view.

If you’re not familiar with them, the asp- attributes are tag helpers, new to ASP.NET core, which make it easier to link your html to your ASP.NET MVC controllers. Read more about tag helpers here.

In this example, the form contents will be posted to the Login action on an Auth controller.

A word to the wise, if you start with an empty web app project you’ll find that Tag Helpers don’t work automatically.

The easiest way to get them working is to create a _ViewImports.cshtml file and add this line to it…

@addTagHelper *, Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.TagHelpers

If you start with one of the other starter templates you’ll probably find this file is created for you.

The logging in bit

To keep this super, super simple, we’ll opt to hard-code a username and password for now.

If our users enter the correct combination, they’ll be logged in, with full access to “locked down” parts of the application.

Now let’s be honest, hardcoded usernames and passwords are somewhat limiting (and not at all secure if your code ends up in a public Github repo) but they do tackle our urgent requirement to provide a mechanism for users to log in, and gain access to parts of the site that will be unavailable to Joe Public.

This falls into the camp of “doing the simplest possible thing first”, so you can start to build up momentum with your new app, rather than getting bogged down in building your own user management system from day one.

The login form will post to this controller action…

[HttpPost, ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
public async Task<IActionResult> Login(string returnUrl, string username, string password)
{
    if (username == "Jon" && password == "ABitSimplisticForProductionUseThis...")
    {
        var claims = new List<Claim>
        {
            new Claim(ClaimTypes.Name, "jon", ClaimValueTypes.String, "
https://yourdomain.com")
        };
        var userIdentity = new ClaimsIdentity(claims, "SecureLogin");
        var userPrincipal = new ClaimsPrincipal(userIdentity);
        await HttpContext.SignInAsync(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme,
            userPrincipal,
            new AuthenticationProperties
            {
                ExpiresUtc = DateTime.UtcNow.AddMinutes(20),
                IsPersistent = false,
                AllowRefresh = false
            });
        return GoToReturnUrl(returnUrl);
    }
    return RedirectToAction(nameof(Denied));
}

There’s our super insecure hardcoded username/password check (as discussed).

We’ve opted to use claims-based security.

In the most basic sense, you can think of Claims as pieces of information about your user. In this case we’re simply storing the user’s name in a claim, which we then attach to an identity for the user.

This identity is the representation of your user that ASP.NET core can interrogate, to find out anything it needs to know.

You can assign many claims to one identity, but ASP.NET Core requires the name claim as a minimum requirement (it will error if you don’t assign one).

Next up we create a user principal. If this is your first foray into ASP.NET Core authentication then this can be a little confusing, but it’s worth noting you could have more than one identity and attach them all to the same principal.

We’ve no need to handle multiple identities for the same user yet, so we can move along to the SignInAsync method on the HTTPContext, which logs our user in.

In practice, this creates an encrypted cookie holding the user’s information (the Claims Principal). From here on (until they exit the browser) your user is authenticated.

Because we’ve set IsPersistent to false, the cookie will be lost when our user exits their browser, and will have to log in again next time they come to the site.

If you want to see what that cookie looks like, check out the Application > Cookies window in Chrome (you’ll find a similar view in other browsers) and you’ll find it there, called .AspNetCore.Cookies.
Once they’re logged in, the user is redirected to the original page they requested, or the home page. You can do this with a simple helper method.

private IActionResult GoToReturnUrl(string returnUrl)
{
    if (Url.IsLocalUrl(returnUrl))
    {
        return Redirect(returnUrl);
    }
    return RedirectToAction("Index", "Home");
}

No access for you

This is all well and good, but currently there’s no reason for anyone to log in to the site, because nothing is locked down.

Let’s remedy that by restricting access to the main homepage for the app.

[Authorize]
public class HomeController : Controller
{
    public IActionResult Index()
    {
        return View();
    }
}

The [Authorize] attribute will trigger ASP.NET Core to redirect any users who aren’t logged in (don’t have an auth cookie) to the login page (that we configured in startup.cs).

It’s all about you

So that’s almost the entire process. But it would be nice to greet the user by name.

We’ll do this on our main index view…

<h1>Hi @User.Identity.Name, you're in the club.</h1>    

Let me out of here

Finally, we should probably let them log out, if they so wish.

All this needs is a simple form.

<form asp-controller="Auth" asp-action="Logout">
    <button type="submit">Log out</button>
</form>
And controller action.
public async Task<IActionResult> Logout()
{
    await HttpContext.SignOutAsync();
    return RedirectToAction(nameof(Login));
}

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