Toolset for a Software Developer

Intro

The following list shows some of the tools I have used (and still do) on my daily activities as a Software Developer.

Password Management

Task & Time Management

Online Storage

  • Google Drive
  • OneDrive
  • DropBox

Software Development

  • Visual Studio
  • Visual Studio Code
  • Visual Studio Online
  • SQL Management Studio
  • PowerShell

Continuous Integration

Virtualization

Training

Brainstorming

Prototyping

  • Balsamic
  • PowerPoint Story Board
  • Microsoft Visio

Project Management

  • Visual Studio Online
  • Microsoft TFS
  • Trello

Team Work / Collaboration

 

 

 

How To: Compare two text files with PowerShell

Intro

This post shows the code to compare two text files and determine whether the content is identical or not, as well as listing a line by line comparison. This utility could be useful to verify some scenarios, such as migrations, upgrades.

Comparing two files with PowerShell

The script below takes two files stored in the Desktop, compares their content, and prints a message to determine whether they are identical or not.

$desktopFolder = [Environment]::GetFolderPath("Desktop")
$fileA = "$desktopFolder\FileA.txt"
$fileB = "$desktopFolder\FileB.txt"

If (Compare-Object -ReferenceObject $(Get-Content $fileA) -DifferenceObject $(Get-Content $fileB))
{
  Write-Host "Different" -foregroundcolor red
}
Else
{
  Write-Host "Identical" -foregroundcolor green
}

The second script compares two files and provides a line by line comparison.

$desktopFolder = [Environment]::GetFolderPath("Desktop")
$fileA = "$desktopFolder\FileA.txt"
$fileB = "$desktopFolder\FileB.txt"

Compare-Object $(Get-Content $fileA) $(Get-Content $fileB) -includeequal

Reference

Using the Compare-Object Cmdlet – TechNet

How To: Decode user name from claims format in SharePoint 2013

Intro

After converting a SharePoint web application to Claims Authentication mode, it is often required to write some code to decode and extract the regular user name in the way of domain\username. This is due to the fact that calling  SPContext.Web.CurrentUser.LoginName will now return an encoded string.

E.g: “i:0#.w|mydomain\luis.carrazana”.

A great explanation about how claims are formatted and how to identify the different claim types is provided by my colleague Wictor Wilén here.

In this post I’ll share a method for getting the regular user name without having to manually parse the encoded claim identity, and leveraging SharePoint built-in API. Here, I’m extending an original solution provided by Tobias Zimmergren, in order to address an issue when using HttppContext instead of SPContext.

Context about my scenario

In my case, I was maintaining a custom ASP.NET solution, which was originally built on top of SharePoint 2010. The platform was being upgraded to SharePoint 2013, and the web application was migrated to use claims authentication. The custom ASP.NET components made heavy used of the current logged in user name, which in some cases was retrieved using SPContext.Web.CurrentUser.LoginName and in other cases using HttpContext.Current.Identity.User.Name.

Tobias Zimmergren posted a great solution for getting the user name by leveraging the SharePoint built-in functions. I leveraged this solution in my project, but I faced the following issue:

When HttpContext.Current.Identity.User.Name is used to get the current user name, the encoded formatted string doesn’t contain the claim’s identity identifier. In this case, the encoded claim format for the user name will be something like “0#.w|mydomain\luis.carrazana” instead of “i:0#.w|mydomain\luis.carrazana” (notice how the “i:” is missing from the string). For this reason, the SharePoint built-in function SPClaimProviderManager.IsEncodedClaim will not work as intended.

Please share your comments if you know the reason behind this behavior and a better solution to address it.

Solution

To completely address this scenario and support both SPContex and HttpContext, I updated Tobias’ solution and added  another condition in case IsEncodedClaim method doesn’t work as expected. I check if the user name contains the ‘|’ character, in which case the string is converted back to the proper claims format and then decoded.

See the code below with my updated version.

public string GetUserLoginNameFromClaim(string userLoginName)
{
 using (new SPMonitoredScope("GetUserLoginNameFromClaim method called for " + userLoginName))
 {
 try
 {
 SPClaimProviderManager spClaimProviderMgr = SPClaimProviderManager.Local;
 if (spClaimProviderMgr != null)
 {
 if (SPClaimProviderManager.IsEncodedClaim(userLoginName))
 {
 // return the normal domain/username without any claims identification data
 userLoginName = spClaimProviderMgr.ConvertClaimToIdentifier(userLoginName);
 }
 else if (userLoginName.IndexOf('|') > -1)
 {
 //This case will occur if the user name was obtained from calling HttpContext.Current.User.Identity.Name
 //In this case, the encoded claim format for the user name will be something like "0#.w|mydomain\luis.carrazana" instead of "i:0#.w|mydomain\luis.carrazana"

 //This line will convert to the proper claim format, so we can later decode it.
 userLoginName = spClaimProviderMgr.GetUserIdentifierEncodedClaim(userLoginName);

 // return the normal domain/username without any claims identification data
 userLoginName = spClaimProviderMgr.ConvertClaimToIdentifier(userLoginName);
 }
 }
 }
 catch (Exception ex)
 {
 //Log exception here
 }

 return userLoginName;
 }
}

Summary

When a SharePoint web application is converted to use claims authentication, the current user name is encoded. This articles showed some code to properly use the SharePoint built-in methods for decoding the user name. It also addressed the issue when HttpContext is used, and the encoded string doesn’t contain the identity identifier.

Reference

How Claims encoding works in SharePoint 2010 – Wictor Wiléen

Tip: Getting the normal domain username from the claims username in SharePoint 2013 – Tobias Zimmergren

SPClaimProviderManager.GetUserIdentifierEncodedClaim method – MSDN Reference

Programmatically converting login name to claim and vice versa – Waldek Mastykarz

 

Microsoft Azure 101: Azure Subscriptions

Intro

This article describes what an Azure subscription is and how to create one. It also touches on some of the best practices for managing multiple subscriptions.

What is an Azure Subscription?

An Azure subscription allows you to get access to the Azure cloud services through the Windows Azure Platform Management Portal. It is mostly used for recording resource usage and billing services.

How to create an Azure subscription?

If you are new to Azure, the easiest way to get started is to navigate to http://azure.microsoft.com and click “Start free” button. This will walk you through the process of creating a free trial account with some free credit (as of 08/13/2016 they are offering $200 free credits that expire after a month), and you can continue to purchase credits or use their free services.

If you are already registered in the Azure portal and would like to create additional subscriptions, you can navigate to this link . Similarly, if you are logged into the portal, you can click on the account name on the top right corner and select “View My Bill” from the menu. Here you should be able to manage your existing subscriptions and add new ones.

Some best practices

  • It is possible for an organization to have several Azure accounts, each one with one subscription. However, it is generally a better approach to have one Azure account with multiple subscriptions, in order to reduce the management complexity.
  • Use separate subscriptions for different departments, to keep track of usage, spending, and to be able to use different payment methods (very useful for managing cost centers).
  • Assign different co-admins to each subscriptions to be able to delegate management and billing operations. Ensure granular security and use minimal access strategy.
  • It is a good idea to create separate subscriptions for DEV/TEST and Production environments. This will allow you to monitor billing and usage for each of this environment separately. Also, you can leverage free services while in DEV/TEST.

Reference

Create Windows Azure Subscriptions – Arun Rakwal

How Azure subscriptions are associated with Azure Active Directory – Curtis Love

 

Tips for Time Management

Intro

"It's all about working smarter, not harder".

Effective Time Management techniques must be one of the most popular online topics among professionals of all fields. In Software Development specifically, being able to manage time is a critical skill every person should master, since the work usually requires large number of complex (and sometimes abstract) tasks, and the pressure to comply with a specified timeline. Also, good time management will allow developers and team managers to provide better estimates and assessments when facing new projects, as well as identifying unrealistic scenarios. At the same time, no matter how obsessed you are about your work, you would also like to accomplish great things in your personal life, have a healthy life-style, and make sure you spend quality time with your family and friends. In this post I’ll provide several tips that I’ve learned throughout my career from listening and paying attention to other great leaders and highly efficient people.

Select the best tools

You will need tools to capture data and manage time and activities. The first thing I’d suggest is to try several tools and find the perfect combination that works for you. Things you should consider are:

  • Easy access from  anywhere (desktop or mobile)
  • Very simple to use (you wanna make this process very simple and pleasant)
  • Use templates and forms (remove the repetitive areas and only focus on what you need)

In my case, I’ve found the following tools very useful:

  • Microsoft Outlook for managing work calendar
  • Google Calendar for managing personal activities (although some times I mingle work and personal items in Outlook, since the 9-5 schedule is no longer so rigid and we can get work done from anywhere and at any time).
  • Microsoft Outlook Tasks for maintaining a lists of pending items at work and reminders
  • Wunderlist mobile app for maintaining a list of personal pending items
  • Company’s Performance Tool to manage career goals
  • Google Drive to store forms and templates I’ll use throughout the year for personal growth

Tips for Time Management

  1. Set your Goals

    You wouldn’t visit a new country and try to drive without a GPS, would you? If you are really serious about your career, you would want to know your accomplishments and identify your areas needing improvements. You need to set realistic goals and push yourself to meet them, then you can perform an honest assessment and determine why you fell short, or if it was an extremely easy year, how to maximize your potential. You can use the TTT&T list:

    • Set goals for This year
    • Set goals for This month
    • Set goals for This week
    • Set goals for Today

    An interesting variation of this is the “Rule of 3“, proposed by JD Meier.

  2. Break down the goals into actionable and time-bound items.

    Tasks should be small (no more than a day) and outcome should be well-defined so you can measure results.

  3. Prioritize

    To be honest, I stopped worrying about keeping my master list sorted by priority at all times, since requirements tend to change frequently, and therefore priorities are affected. What I like to do is to make sure I have meaningful tasks up in the list and prioritize them based on due date and actual value (what benefits do I get from completing a task).

  4. Block time in calendar for focus time

    Calendar is a great tool, use it properly! Most people only use calendar items for team meetings and online calls. It is a great practice to also block time for focusing and completing a task. This is a great way for optimizing the work day and also letting your boss know that those meetings better be critical, otherwise some work is being pushed back.

  5. Set reminders

    Albert Einstein said: “Never memorize something that you can look up.” I guess this phrase universally applies to many things, but in this case, the bottom line is to free your memory and rely on tools to remind you what needs to get done. In my case, this allows me to go home for the weekend and totally disconnect, since I know that Outlook will tell me where I left off. Also, I never miss any birthday 😉

  6. Work more with a fresh brain

    Most people are more aware in the morning, but you should identify what is your most efficient time of the day (I used to prefer late night for getting stuff done when I was in college, but I now I’m more of a morning person). Choose tasks that require high level of concentration and effort and work on them when your brain is fresh, and leave simpler tasks for later.

  7. Track your daily achievements and reward yourself

    This is not about maintaining a diary, but recording meaningful things that are being completed so you can tell whether you are on track or not, and adjust you workload accordingly (or ask for help). I have to agree that this is not a fun task, as it represent extra work, however, the benefits are clearly visible and will be very helpful. You can try these tips:

    • Dot it the same time each day so it becomes part of the daily routine.
    • Use a template so it is very simple to do.
    • Review achievements on a weekly and monthly basis and reflect on them.
    • Recognize your accomplishments and reward yourself.
    • Identify what areas need more attention in order to meet your goals, and act on them.
  8. Calibrate your plan

    You should try to stick to your plan, even if your ultimate goals look impossible to reach sometimes. Perseverance and hard work is one of the greatest skills that will make a person succeed. However, often times the path we are taking to achieve those goals is not always the most efficient one, hence we need to calibrate and make subtle changes to get back on track. It is a good idea to frequently compare your achievements against your goals and make proper adjustments.

  9. Leverage Productivity Tools

    Here are some of the tools that can assist in becoming more efficient and aware:

    • RescueTime – Automatically tracks time and activities to help you understand daily habits and identity productivity issues.
    • Pomodoro Technique – Allows to organize and split the work day into small intervals, in order to reduce interruption and reach maximum focus.
  10. Say “No” more often

    This sounds bizarre, but it is actually one of the most important things we can do to be more productive and reach desired goals. It is not about insubordination or refusing to help others. This is about clearly defining what activities are more important in a given moment, and staying focused. It is also about avoiding unrealistic schedules that will result in stressful situations and missed deadlines. Every “yes” is actually a “no” to something else.

Summary

Time Management is a very critical skill every software developer should master. There are countless guides, articles, and tools available. The most important part is to recognize how to make efficient use of the time by spending it in meaningful tasks. It is also very important to reach a good work-life balance in order to feel accomplished and energized.

Reference

Productivity vs Guilt and Self Loathing – Scott Hanselman

15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management – Kevin Kruse

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

Getting Results the Agile Way – JD Meier

How to start doing TDD?

Intro

A colleague recently asked my advice about how to start incorporating Test-Driven Development (TDD) into his project. I don’t consider myself very advanced in this topic, but long ago I recognized the tremendous value of this development approach and the benefits it provides for writing good and clean software, therefore I started practicing it and forming my own learning path. Rather than jumping right into a demo, I decided to provide a set of initial pointers that will allow any developer to better understand and apply this development paradigm, even before writing a line of code.

What to learn before writing unit tests?

Here are some of the topics along with useful resources that will allow developers better understand and apply the TDD approach:

  • Understand how to write testable code
  • Learn the art of refactoring
  • Understand the TDD philosophy
    • What is Red->Green->Refactor workflow?
  • Try and choose a unit test framework that works for you and learn the syntax
  • Define a naming convention for your tests
    • Setting a naming convention is very important, since the number of test cases will grow exponentially as you write more code, and you want a quick way to identify what scenarios are being tested and what is breaking, just by glancing over the list of tests.
    • For test libraries, I like to use:
      • <libraryname>.tests.dll
    • For test methods, I like to use:
      • <classname>_<methodname>_<testconditions>_<expectedresult>
  • Practice, practice, practice
    • Exercism.com – I found this amazing site offering several simple exercises that must be solved using a TDD approach and can be implemented in multiple languages. Great resource not only for learning TDD, but also for keeping programming and logical skills sharp and learning a new language once in a while. It is also great to be able to view how other programmers implement the same solution, as well as providing and receiving feedback. I took the personal challenge of solving a couple of exercises every week.

Once you are very familiar with the above topics, you could try expanding into more adavanced scenarios:

  • Learn how to use mocks and fakes
  • Integrate unit tests into the Continuous Integration build
  • Get test coverage reports

Summary

I hope this post can be helpful to those developers wanting to incorporate TDD into their development approach for the first time. It only touches the surface, but hopefully it can serve as a starting point for future craftsmen, willing to put the extra effort in order to write clean, efficient and maintainable code.
Please let me know if you’d like to expand on any topic or add new ones to this list.

Reference

How to enable the Developer Dashboard in SharePoint 2013

Intro

The SharePoint Developer Dashboard is a built-in tool that has been available since SharePoint 2010. It provides diagnostic information that can be used by developers and system administrators to identify and troubleshoot issues related to page components. It also makes it easier to identify performance issues and resource usage right from the current page, which is easier than analyzing raw data from the ULS logs.

This post provides some details about changes to the developer dashboard in SharePoint 2013 and a PowerShell script to enable and disable the dashboard.

Changes to Developer DashBoard in SharePoint 2013

  • In SP 2010, the Developer Dashboard was rendered as a control in the master page, and it only showed information about the current request. In SP 2013 it shows as a separate window and it shows information about all request since the dashboard was enabled
  • The dashboard depends on “Usage and Health Data Collection Service Application”. This service must have been created and it must be running, otherwise no data trace data will be displayed (see Wictor Wilén post below).
  • The dashboard can be enabled (On) and disabled (Off). See the PowerShell below for performing these two actions.
  • The following tags must be present in the master page:
<SharePoint:DeveloperDashboard runat="server" />
<SharePoint:DeveloperDashboardLauncher
    ID="DeveloperDashboardLauncher"
    ThemeKey="spcommon"
    TouchMode="true"
    TouchModeWidth="30"
    TouchModeHeight="30"
    TouchModePaddingLeft="7"
    TouchModePaddingTop="7"
    TouchModePaddingRight="7"
    TouchModePaddingBottom="7"
    NavigateUrl="#"
    OnClick="ToggleDeveloperDashboard();return false"
    OuterCssClass="ms-dd-button ms-qatbutton"
    runat="server"
    ImageUrl="/_layouts/15/images/spcommon.png"
    AlternateText="<%$Resources:wss,multipages_launchdevdashalt_text%>"
    ToolTip="<%$Resources:wss,multipages_launchdevdashalt_text%>"
    OffsetX="237"
    OffsetY="30"
    HoverOffsetX="219"
    HoverOffsetY="66"
    Height="16"
    Width="16" />

PowerShell Script

The following script can be used to enable or disable the developer dashboard in a SharePoint 2013 farm:

# Add SharePoint cmdlets reference 
Add-PSSnapin "Microsoft.SharePoint.Powershell" -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

#Enable Dashboard
$contentSvc = [Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPWebService]::ContentService
$devDahsboardSettings = $contentSvc.DeveloperDashboardSettings
$devDahsboardSettings.DisplayLevel = "On"
$devDahsboardSettings.Update()

#Disable Dashboard
$contentSvc = ([Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPWebService]::ContentService)
$devDahsboardSettings =$contentSvc.DeveloperDashboardSettings
$devDahsboardSettings.DisplayLevel = [Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPDeveloperDashboardLevel]::Off
$devDahsboardSettings.Update()

Summary

The SharePoint developer dashboard is a great tool to identify and troubleshoot page issues. In addition to ULSViewer, the dashboard is a great addition to the developer toolset for assisting in fine tuning custom components and ensuring good performance.

Reference

Using the Developer DashBoard (MSDN)

Developer Dashboard in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013: Developer Dashboard shows no data “issue” (Wictor Wilén)