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FindControl: Recursive DFS, BFS, and Leaf to Root Search with Pruning October 24, 2011

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, CodeProject, jQuery.
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I have nefarious reason for posting this. It’s a prerequisite for another post I want to do on control mapping within javascript when you have one control which affects another and there’s no good spaghetti-less way to hook them together. But first, I need to talk about my nifty FindControl extensions. Whether you turn this in to an extension method or just place it in your page’s base class, you may find these handy.

We’ve all used FindControl and realized it’s a pretty lazy function that only searches its direct children and not the full control hierarchy. Let’s step back and consider what we’re searching before jumping to the code. What is the control hierarchy? It is a tree data structure whose root node is Page. The most common recursive FindControl extension starts at Page or a given parent node and performs a depth-first traversal over all the child nodes.

Depth-first search
Search order: a-b-d-h-e-i-j-c-f-k-g

/// <summary>
/// Recurse through the controls collection checking for the id
/// </summary>
/// <param name="control">The control we're checking</param>
/// <param name="id">The id to find</param>
/// <returns>The control, if found, or null</returns>
public static Control FindControlEx(this Control control, string id)
{
    //Check if this is the control we're looking for
    if (control.ID == id)
        return control;

    //Recurse through the child controls
    Control c = null;
    for (int i = 0; i < control.Controls.Count && c == null; i++)
        c = FindControlEx((Control)control.Controls[i], id);

    return c;
}

You will find many examples of the above code on the net. This is the “good enough” algorithm of choice. If you have ever wondered about it’s efficiency, read on. Close you’re eyes and picture the complexity of the seemingly innocent form… how every table begets rows begets cells begets the controls within the cell and so forth. Before long you realize there can be quite a complex control heirarchy, sometimes quite deep, even in a relatively simple page.

Now imagine a page with several top-level composite controls, some of them rendering deep control heirachies (like tables). As the designer of the page you have inside knowledge about the layout and structure of the controls contained within. Therefore, you can pick the best method of searching that data structure. Looking at the diagram above and imagine the b-branch was much more complex and deep. Now say what we’re trying to find is g. With depth-first you would have to search the entiretly of the b-branch before moving on to the c-branch and ultimately finding the control in g. For this scenario, a breadth-first search would make more sense as we won’t waste time searching a complex and potentially deep branch when we know the control is close to our starting point, the root.

Breadth-first search

Search order: a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k

/// <summary>
/// Finds the control via a breadth first search.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="control">The control we're checking</param>
/// <param name="id">The id to find</param>
/// <returns>If found, the control.  Otherwise null</returns>
public static Control FindControlBFS(this Control control, string id)
{
    Queue<Control> queue = new Queue<Control>();
    //Enqueue the root control            
    queue.Enqueue(control);

    while (queue.Count > 0)
    {
        //Dequeue the next control to test
        Control ctrl = queue.Dequeue();
        foreach (Control child in ctrl.Controls)
        {
            //Check if this is the control we're looking for
            if (child.ID == id)
                return child;
            //Place the child control on in the queue
            queue.Enqueue(child);
        }
    }

    return null;
}

Recently I had a scenario where I needed to link 2 controls together that coexisted in the ItemTemplate of a repeater. The controls existed in separate composite controls.

In this example I need to get _TexBoxPerformAction’s ClientID to enable/disable it via _ChechBoxEnable. Depending on the size of the data the repeater is bound to there may be hundreds of instances of the repeater’s ItemTemplate. How do I guarantee I get the right one? The above top-down FindControl algorithms would return he first match of _TextBoxPerformAction, not necessarily the right one. To solve this predicament, we need a bottom-up approach to find the control closest to us. By working our way up the control hierarchy we should be able to find the textbox within the same ItemTemplate instance guaranteeing we have the right one. The problem is, as we work our way up we will be repeatedly searching an increasingly large branch we’ve already seen. We need to prune the child branch we’ve already seen so we don’t search it over and over again as we work our way up.

To start we are in node 5 and need to get to node 1 to find our control. We recursively search node 5 which yields no results.

Next we look at node 5’s parent. We’ve already searched node 5, so we will prune it. Now recursively search node 4, which includes node 3, yielding no results.

Next we look at node 4’s parent. We have already searched node 4 and its children so we prune it.

Last we recursively search node 2, which includes node 1, yielding a result!

So here we can see that pruning saved us searching an entire branch repeatedly. And the best part is we only need to keep track of one id to prune.

/// <summary>
/// Finds the control from the leaf node to root node.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="ctrlSource">The control we're checking</param>
/// <param name="id">The id to find</param>
/// <returns>If found, the control.  Otherwise null</returns>
public static Control FindControlLeafToRoot(this Control ctrlSource, string id)
{
    Control ctrlParent = ctrlSource.Parent;
    Control ctrlTarget = null;
    string pruneId = null;

    while (ctrlParent != null &&
           ctrlTarget == null)
    {
        ctrlTarget = FindControl(ctrlParent, id, pruneId);
        pruneId = ctrlParent.ClientID;
        ctrlParent = ctrlParent.Parent;
    }
    return ctrlTarget;
}

/// <summary>
/// Recurse through the controls collection checking for the id
/// </summary>
/// <param name="control">The control we're checking</param>
/// <param name="id">The id to find</param>
/// <param name="pruneClientID">The client ID to prune from the search.</param>
/// <returns>If found, the control.  Otherwise null</returns>
public static Control FindControlEx(this Control control, string id, string pruneClientID)
{
    //Check if this is the control we're looking for
    if (control.ID == id)
        return control;

    //Recurse through the child controls
    Control c = null;
    for (int i = 0; i < control.Controls.Count && c == null; i++)
    {
        if (control.Controls[i].ClientID != pruneClientID)
            c = FindControlEx((Control)control.Controls[i], id, pruneClientID);
    }

    return c;
}

Now we have an efficient algorithm for searching leaf to root without wasting cycles searching the child branch we’ve come from. All this puts me in mind jQuery’s powerful selection capabilities. I’ve never dreamed up a reason for it yet, but searching for a collection of controls would be easy to implement and following jQuery’s lead we could extend the above to search for far more than just an ID.

CustomValidator and the ValidationSummary Control April 26, 2010

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, jQuery, Uncategorized.
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ASP.NET validators can be tricky at times.  What they actually do isn’t particularly hard, but we have all had issues with them or quickly find their limits when they don’t meet our requirements.  The CustomValidator control is very useful for validating outside the constraints of the pre-defined validators: required fields, regular expressions, and the like which all boil down to canned javascript validation.  CustomValidators are brilliant as you can write your own client-side functions and work within the ASP.NET validation framework.  They are also unique in that they allow for server-side validation via an event.

However, there is a common pitfall when used in combination with the ValidationSummary control.  Normally, I would avoid using ShowMessageBox option as I believe pop-ups are evil.  However, where I work this is the norm and the problem is the CustomValidator’s error isn’t represented in the summary popup. 

When the ASP.NET validators don’t live up to our requirements we really must not be afraid to poke around Microsoft’s validation javascript.  It contains most of the answers to the questions you read about on the net (to do with ASP.NET validation… it isn’t the new Bible/42).  Quickly we identify the function responsible for showing the pop-up.  ValidationSummaryOnSubmit sounds good, but as the name implies it occurs only on submit.  However my validator failed after submit and now I need the popup to show what errors occurred.  I could see from the script window that this function could be called but programmatically registering the startup script wasn’t working.  So I used a jQuery trick to call the function after the DOM had loaded.

So drumroll please, there is the information you want to copy and paste in to your CustomValidator event:

if (!args.IsValid)
{
ScriptManager.RegisterStartupScript(this, this.GetType(), “key”, “$(function() { ValidationSummaryOnSubmit(‘MyOptionalValidationGroup’)});”, true);
}

Now my server-side validation will bring up the ValidationSummary messagebox.

A day with The Gu! MVC 2, VS2010 and ASP.NET v4.0 September 29, 2009

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, jQuery, linq, Visual Studio 2010.
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Yesterday I went to Dublin to attend a talk by Scott Guthrie. I knew from reputation Scott was a good speaker so it was great to see him in action. I think most of the Microsoft development world is familiar with Scott’s blog. I’ve exchanged emails with him in the past and he has always done a great job following up. He is a very down to earth guy, very at ease at the podium, and very comfortable the material.

We started the talk with a beginner’s look at MVC 2 and then looked at .NET v4 and VS 2010. Some of this information was a recap of TechEd (see my earlier post), but there was plenty of new information which I’ll recap here.

MVC 2

Scott’s talk was about some of the improvements of the next version of MVC which will be baked in to VS2010. But thankfully, he covered the whole concept in a very demonstration-oriented way. He built upon each concept in a way that left me with a good grasp of the basics.

First, he reiterated that webforms is not going away. MVC is just an alternative presentation layer built upon the same core .NET libraries we know and love. Because there is no designer, no .NET controls, and no code behind (as such) you are much more in control of the generated HTML.

What MVC offers is that control, URL mapping, js integration, and testability. If you’ve ever worked on a messy web app and wished for more structure MVC may be for you. It offers a clean separation of your data layer (model), your html (view), and your business logic (controller).

Right, enough of this verbose carrying-on, time for bullet points!

· MVC 1 was an extra for VS2008 built on ASP.NET v3.5. MVC2 will be baked in to VS2010 and built on ASP.NET v4.0. It will be backwards compatible with MVC1 apps so upgrades should be a snap.

· Controller

o URL Mapping – this is not just a cool feature but fundamental to MVC

§ http://localhost/galway maps to a controller class called galway

· .index is the default action method

§ http://localhost/galway/hooker maps to an action method inside controller Galway

§ http://localhost/galway/hooker/beer maps to the action method hooker and passes the string parameter “beer”. Note this is an alternative to query string parameters.

· These parameters can be strongly typed to string, int, even classes

§ Routing rules go in to gloal.asax.cs

· Operates like an HTTPHandler but is baked in to ASP.NET

· Order routing rules as you see fit. One falls through to another and ultimately to a default

· Can use regular expressions and constraints in your rules

o We can start playing with a controller without a View or Model and directly return some html from controller (think webservice)

o Controller action methods can return an action result type to return a View, redirect, etc.

o To communicate with View we can

§ store information in a ViewData[“key”] dictionary to pass to View

§ store information in a Model and pass this class to View

o Action Filters decorator attributes can be specified on the controller class or an action method to specify which roles / authorization required to use

o Tip: Use a service layer to keep direct data layer queries out of controller

· View

o Offers separation of UI from business logic and just renders the UI

o Remember, no designer or ASP.NET controls. Just you, html, and <%inline code%>.

o HTML. Helper with many built-in templates to generate common controls like checkboxes and textboxes with validation

§ Create your own View templates to have custom scaffolding like a table for a DB list

o Html.EditorFor gives Linq type intellisense to meaning we aren’t binding to a “string” in our model

§ Smart in that Booleans render as checkboxes, etc.

§ EditorTemplates can be used to custom render anything can be shared across entire site or used for just one View

o Html.DisplayFor gives read-only view of data

· Model

o A data entity with logic.

§ Can be LinetoSQL, ADO.NET, your own entity class, whatever

o Can decorate properties with attributes to specify common validators

§ Required, range, etc.

§ Very powerful, dynamic, should greatly ease pain of validating form data

§ Automatically adds a CSS class you can customize to get a red background, whatever

§ Can have server and client side validation

· Client side requires an extra js plug-in but worked seamlessly in demo

· Unit testing is crucial component of MVC and a test project is automatically created for you with every MVC website

o Use AAA method

§ Arrange

· Create a controller

§ Act

· Get the result of (controller.Index(0) as ViewResult)

§ Assert

· Assert if result.IsNotNull

o Dependency injection

§ In the constructor pass DB service layer or fake data. Use an interface for flexibility.

VS2010 & .NET v4.0

· Beta 2 out shortly

· IDE improvements

o Ctrl-, – quick nav via types

o Highlight all references

o Tip: Download CodeRush Xpress for these features in VS2008)

· Better intellisense support

o camel case (i.e. DB matches DataBind)

o Matching (i.e. bind matches DataBind)

o Consume first mode for TDD (test driven development)

§ Ctrl + Alt + Space to toggle

o Much improved javascript support

§ XML documentation (place under function()) for better intellisense for your own libraries

· Debug History and dumping a crash covered again (see previous post)

· .NET 4 is a new CLR unlike 3.0 and 3.5

o In IIS you will see v4.0 as a selectable framework

· Upgrading to VS2010 hopefully just changes solution file (like VS2005 > VS2008) so painless enough to upgrade

· Multi-target support from .NET v2.0 on up

· Lots of project templates including a new online template gallery (web starter kits?)

· Controls to have ClientIDMode property

o Static – is what it is. Call it “bob” and you are guaranteed to get document.getElementByid(“bob”)

o Predictable – new default… no more ctrl001_ prefixing

o Auto – current

o Inherit

· CSS rendering support

o Big upgrades including alternatives to tables for .NET controls

· ViewState – off by default. Force developers to think when we really need it.

· URL routing like MVC for WebForms (connotical)

· SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

o Page.Description and Page.Keywords to generate <meta> tags

§ Idea: Place in master page, tie-in to DB, allow client to change as required

o New SEO plug-in for II7 will crawl site and indentify issues that reduce search relevancy

§ Can increase search traffic 30-40%

· ScriptManager support CDN allowing you to specify URL for AJAX and jQuery direct from http://ajax.microsoft.com. Will actually phantom redirect to very local source but browser histories across many site will use standard Microsoft url meaning high probability of being cached

· New controls

o QueryExtender search control – search a grid

o Chart control

· Validation like MVC for GridView, FormView, ListView

o Auto reflect on class for validation decorator attributes and dynamically render validators with client and server-side validation

· Output/object cache providers (aka customizable I’m sure)

· Pre-start application

o Keep your application up, cached, and ready vs. IIS default behavior which shuts down when not in use

· Performance monitoring

· <%: Html encoded string %>

· Deployment (see previous post)

 

Well that wraps it up.  Please see my earlier post from Tech-Ed and download my PowerPoint presentation which covers a lot of the upcoming features in VS2010.

Cascading Dropdown Lists with jQuery (parent / child select options) March 9, 2009

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, CodeProject, Javascript, jQuery.
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Recently I was tasked with merging 3 similar screens in to one.  I took stock of the commonalities and decided a Category and Subcategory dropdown list would suffice.   As you’d expect the contents of the Subcategory dropdown depend on the selected Category.  Obviously I wanted to avoid postbacks so I first looked to the Ajax Control Toolkit’s CascadingDropDown extender to link the parent to the child.  In my case, there were only a dozen subcategories so a webservice seemed like overkill.

After attending Tech-Ed 2008 and seeing Microsoft throwing its weight behind jQuery I decided to have a look.  So what follows is my first foray in to jQuery and I’m quite pleased with the results.

First, we define an enum in the codebehind which can be used for bitwise operations.

public enum Category

{

Invoice     = 1,

Order       = 2,

Shipment    = 4   //Fourth item would be 8, then 16, 32, …

}

Next I wanted to be able to use the enum to specify the Category (only specifying one) and Subcategory items (bitwise OR any combination).

_DropDownCategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Orders”, Category.Order, false));

_DropDownCategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Invoices”, Category.Invoice, false));

_DropDownCategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Shipments”, Category.Shipment, false));

_DropDownSubcategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Purchase Orders”, Category.Invoice | Category.Order | Category.Shipment, false));

_DropDownSubcategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Quote Number”, Category.Order, false));

_DropDownSubcategory.Items.Add(GenerateListItem(“Customer Project Number”, Category.Shipment, true));

The enum was converted to a number and added as a custom attribute to the new list item in GenerateListItem():

li.Attributes.Add(“Category”, ((int)eCat).ToString());

Enter jQuery, first we’re going to need to keep a copy of all the available Subcategory items.  Each time we change the Category we will be showing a subset of this array which we must keep separate in memory.

var optSubCat = null;

$(function() {

//Make a copy in memory of all the subcat options

optSubCat = $(“#_DropDownSubcategory”).children().clone();

//Default subcat to “Orders”

ddSubcategoryUpdate(2);

});

Then we need an event to fire when the Category is changed.

$(function() {

$(“#_DropDownCategory”)

.bind(“change”, function(event) {

var eCat = this[this.selectedIndex].attributes(“Category”).value;

ddSubcategoryUpdate(eCat);

});

});

Note how jQuery allows us to wire up DOM events after the fact to our .NET controls.  Here we add an onchange event dynamically rather than injecting this via the codebehind which forces us to put javascript code in the wrong place.  All we’re doing is pulling the value of the enum from the selected Category and then passing it to a function which will update the Subcategory items.

function ddSubcategoryUpdate(eCat) {

//Remove all items from drop down

$(“#_DropDownSubcategory”).children().remove();

//For each subcat item: test if it belongs in eCat, if so add it

$(optSubCat).each(function() {

if (($(this).attr(“Category”) & eCat) > 0) {

$(“#_DropDownSubcategory”).append($(this).clone()[0]);

}

});

}

And finally, in the if statement we see we test each Subcategory item previously saved in memory to see if it matches the enum value of the Category.

What we’ve ended up with is a very powerful yet simple mechanism for cascading dropdowns using enums in our codebehind.  It’s easier to wire up than what the Ajax Control Toolkit provides, its all script so the UI looks good, and while this could have been done in straight javascript it demonstrates the power and simplicity of the jQuery library.

Tech-ed 2008 November 17, 2008

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, IIS, jQuery, Parallelism, Security, SharePoint, Visual Studio 2010.
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Last week I had the opportunity to attend TechEd 2008.  I have compiled a set of notes from the keynote and sessions I attended below.  Most of the information presented at these conferences is not really instructive for addressing today’s problems but talks about future problems and the technologies we will use to address them.  There are some interesting technologies coming down the pipe in the not so distant future and these notes may provide you with enough information to google more information about the topics which interest you.

 

I skipped a lot of older information about the VS2008 release, C# v3.0, and Linq which can all be found here.

 

Keynote

·         Testing Activity Center application

o   Pillar: No more no-repro

o   Generate test cases that tester can click off

o   Bug recording including video, call stack, system information

o   Generate a bug integrated in to Team System

§  Can start up debugger and reproduce tester’s scenario

§  Captures line of code, call stack, everything

·         Code buffering

o   Method shows history of changes (graphically too)

o   Integrates SCC versions in to IDE

·         MVC design pattern

o   Model                   =              data

o   View                     =              web page / UI

o   Controller             =              logic

·         SharePoint Integration

o   Server explorer includes lists, ect

o   Webpart template automatically contains ascx control for design support

o   SharePoint LINQ

o   List Event wizard

§  Auto-generate XML for site def??

·         Performance Profiler

o   Pillar: Leverage multi-core systems

o   See which method is taking time and core utilization

§  Graphically shows core usage including drill down

·         Will help with concurrency, deadlock debugging, ect

VS2008 Service Pack 1 Overview

·         ADO.NET Entity Framework release

o   Very similar to Linq To SQL

o   Generate data model

§  conceptual model static (actual db) model

o   Data Services

§  Data centric abstraction over web services (WFC)

§  Exposes and takes IQueryable so datasets very easy to work with in a LINQ like way

§  Routing lets URI act like a Linq query

·         http://Root/my.svc/Customers/35/FirstName

o   Dynamic Data

§  Given a data model will create aspx accessibility to defined objects

·         Security: all objects off by default but can dynamically access entire data model

·         Allow CRUD access via ASPX templates applied to all objects

o   CRUD = create, read, update, delete

o   Can create individual page for certain object

o   Can customize template to affect all objects

·         Ajax / other enhancements

o   Ajax

§  History Points

·         Addresses problem that users lose ability to hit back button

§  Script combining

·         To improve performance allows to dynamically combine js libraries

o   Improves javascript intellisense

o   Improves web designer performance (bugs/regressions addressed)

C# v4.0

·         History

o   V1 – Managed Code big emphasis

o   V2 – Generics; finished the language

o   V3 – LINQ

·         Pillars

o   Declarative programming: we are moving from “what?” to “how?”

§  LINQ is an example of this

o   Concurrency: Some of the parallelism extensions we will be getting

o   Co-Evolution: VB and C# will more closely evolve together vs. Features hitting languages at different times

o   Static vs. Dynamic Languages: aren’t necessarily a dichotomy

§  Static: C++, C#, VB – anything compiles

§  Dynamic: IronRuby, IronPython, Javascript

·         New keyword: dynamic

o   Call any method of a dynamic object and the compiler won’t complain

§  No intellisense possible

§  Will call during runtime

§  i.e.

·         dynamic calc = GetCalculator();

·         calc.Add(10,20);   //We know nothing about calc object

§  Lots of power to  be explored here

o   Optional Parameters

§  Like in C++ (and apparently VB)

§  Named parameters

·         Can also skip optional parameters

·         Public StreamReader OpenTextFile(string sFile, bool bReadOnly = true, int nBufferSize = 1024);

·         sr = OpenTextFile(“foo.txt”, buffersize:4096);

o   COM Interoperability

§  No more “ref dummy”!

·         Will get: doc.SaveAs(“Test.docx”);  //Winword saveas

·         Versus:   doc.SaveAs(“Test.docx”, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy, ref dummy);

§  Automatic dynamic mapping so less unnecessary casting

§  Interop type embedding

·         No more bringing in PIA

o   Safe Co and Contra-variance

o   Compiler as a service

§  Compiler black box opened up to be used and extended

§  In example created a command window with C#> prompt

·         Was able to define variables, functions, ect like in IronPython

Ajax v4.0

·         Introduction

o   Web app definition

§  Web site is a static collection of pages (such a BBC news)

§  Web application is something which replaces a traditional windows app

o    Traditional Server-Side ASP.NET vs. AJAX

§  Pros

·         Safe: Guaranteed browser compatibility

·         Powerful: All the power of a .NET language in code-behind

§  Cons

·         Response: User must wait for postback

·         Performance: All page content rendered for each interaction

·         Update Panels: Use Wisely

o   An update panel uses sneaky postbacks so while it looks better it is still as bad as traditional server side asp.net

o   Don’t wrap an entire page in an update panel

§  Wrap the smallest region required

§  Use triggers to set what controls will fire a sneaky postback

o   Turn ViewState OFF

§  Down the line this will not be on by default

§  We often send a lot of unnecessary information over the wire in ViewState

·         Ajax Calls (Services)

o   Consider using an Ajax control to update data as needed

o   Calling a web service from javascript is not considered dangerous or bad practice

o   Example

§  Have a datagrid with postback bound to a dropdown list.  Instead of a postback on ddlist use Ajax call

·         Instead of a datagrid use a straight html table

·         Via script we make a call to the web service

·         Use stringbuilder to format return to build up new rows

§  Kinda horrible!  Too much mixing of mark-up and script

·         Client Side Controls

o   Clean way of separating Ajax related script from the web page

o   Allows you to bind to Ajax calls in a template way

o   Example

§  From above we now separate js in to a client side control which is now cleanly referenced on our web page

·         Declarative Client Side Controls

o   “X” in XML stands for extensible; but not often extended!

o   Use XML to bring in namespaces like System and DataView

o   Can define a datagrid purely in html by adding attributes to the

tag in a table

·         Fail over

o   Problem with Ajax is not it is not always supported for reasons of accessibility, search engines, or disabled javascript (mobile devices)

o   Does require double implementation of Ajax and traditional solution but it is an option when needed

·         New features in SP1

o   Back button support!

§  As of VS2008 SP1 Ajax now has back button support

§  ScriptManager property EnableHistory=true and onNavigate event

§  AddHistoryPoint(key,value);

§  AddHistoryPoint(key,value,“Text seen in back button history instead of url”)

§  Process

·         Enable history and add event

·         When page event fires store value (index, ect) with AddHistoryPoint() in provided history cache

·         Use history event to set page back up with value retrieved from HistoryEventArgs

o   Example: set a form to display an item from the last selected index

o   Script Combining

§  Combine scripts for better performance

·         Example showed initial 15sec down to 3

§  Must tell ScriptManager all libraries and it will combine/compress them in to one server call

§  Must explicitly tell which scripts to use – even separate AJAX libraries

·         ScriptReferenceProfiler

o   Free webcontrols which will tell you all the libraries a page uses to make the above less painful

·         Factoids

o   Ajax initiative started to address Outlook Web Access (OWA); a good example of a web application

o   Script Manager is just a way to make sure the page includes the Ajax javascript libraries

§  Ajax script commands prefixed with $

·         $get(“my id”) looks to be handy

§  Can dynamically add event handlers in javascript using Ajax js library

·         $addHandler($get(“dropdownlist1”), “change”, myFunc);

·         Cool “must have” tools

o   Fiddler (www.fiddler2.com)

§  Shows response time, requests/responses, statistics

§  Tip: must place a dot in uri for Fiddler to capture localhost

·         http://localhost./default.aspx

o   Firebug – Firefox extension

 

Visual Studio Tips & Tricks

·         Ppt slides: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/karenliuteched08

·         A lot more keyboard shortcuts: http://blogs.msdn.com/karenliu/

·         MS and partnered with DevExpress which is offering CodeRush Express for free

o   Required for a lot of the shortcuts and refactoring shown

·         Editing

o   Tools>Options>Editors>C#>Formatting>Set Other Spacing Options>Ignore Spaces

o   Keyboard tricks

§  Ctrl M,O               Toggle collapse all

§  Ctrl M,M              Expand region

§  F12                         Go to definition

§  Shift F12              Final all references

§  Ctrl Shift F8        Jump up Go to definition stack

§  Ctrl [ or ]              Jump between brackets

§  Ctrl Alt = or –      Smart Select

§  Ctrl .                      See smart tag (Implement a missing function, add using statements)

§   

o   Snippets

§  Lots of boilerplate goodies are there.  Really need to start using them

·         Ctor

§  Lots more smart HTML snippets coming

·         Debugging

o   Step OVER properties (r-click at breakpoint to check option)

o   Step into Specific – list of all functions down the chain you can jump to step in to

o   Tools

§  Tinyget – mini stress test

§  Adphang – get memory dump of w3wp

§  Windbg – open dump

·         Loadby SOS mscorwks

o   Need sos.dll for windbg to interpret stack

·         Deployment

o   Web.config transform for release, uat, ect

o   Powerful web deployment publishing options

§  Http, ftp, fpse

§  Msdeploypublish

·         New MS protocol for host supporting includes database, iis settings, access control lists (ACL), ect

·         Free test account at http://labs.discountasp.net/msdeploy

·         Other

o   www.VisualStudioGallery.com  – IDE extensions gallery

§  PowerCommands for VS08

o   VS2008 SDK application

§  Samples tab

·         Click to open sample straight in VS ready to go

Silverlight v2 101

·         XAML

o   A subset of WPF

o   Read-only designer view

§  Must edit  XAML by hand

§  Proper designer on the way

o   Can at least drag XAML text templates for many controls

·         Silverlight Controls

o   Greatly extended in Silverlight v2

§  Visit: www.silverlight.net for a demo

§  Most of what you’d expect in ASP.NET is available in Silverlight

o   Of Note

§  StackPanel

·         Previously on Canvas available requiring static x,y position designation

·         Operates like a panel with z-order

·         Security

o   Lives in a sandbox which can’t be extended for security reasons

o   There are ways to safe access local (isolated) storage, have a file dialog, sockets, cross domain access

·         Nifty

o   Can easily stream media content with one line of XAML

o   Can easily spin any element

Parallelism

·         Introduction

o   Sequential performance has plateaued

o   When we have 30 cores this may lead to dumber cores where we have a situation that today’s software runs slower on tomorrow’s hardware

o   Need  to start thinking about parallelism

§  Understand goals vs. usage

§  Measure existing performance.  VS2010 has tools to do this

§  Tuning Performance

·         Typically we start with sequential programming and add parallelism later

·         VS2010 has Profiler tool for tuning performance

§  Identify opportunities for parallelism

§  Use realistic datasets from the outset; not only on site with the customer

§  Parallelize only when necessary, but PLAN for it as it does introduce race conditions, non-determinism, timing issues, and a slew of other potential bugs

§  Once code is written for parallelism it can scale to any size automatically without any code changes

·         New technologies to help

o   Parallel API

§  Task

·         Like a thread but more optimal with a richer API

o   Has a value for threads which must return a value

§  Accessing the value automatically the same as Thread.Join or Task.Wait

§  ThreadPool

·         Just pass a delegate and let Microsoft worry about the hardware and how to best allocate and spawn threads

·         The ideal number of threads = number of cores

§  TimingBlock class makes it easy to test performance

·         No more: (end time – start time) / 1000

§  Decorate code w/ measurement blocks which appear in Profiler

o   Parallel Extensions

§  First class citizen in VS2010 (SDK today?)

§  Parallel.For and Parallel.ForEach

·         Still need to use critical sections around shared resources inside loop

·         Tip: Best practice is to parallelize the outer for loop only

·         Automatically adds measurement blocks to profiler to see results

§  Parallel.Invoke

§  Parallel extended IEnumerable to perform queries much faster

·         var q = from n in arr.AsParallel() where IsPrime(n) select n;

§  Task group

·         i.e.  For a quick sort instead of using a recursive algorithm use task groups to leverage parallelism with little change to code

o   Debugging – Parallel Stacks

§  Richer API to display tasks or threads and view a holistic mapping of their execution

o   Tools

§  Performance Wizard

·         CPU sampling, timing, ect

§  Profiler

·         Thread Blocking Analysis

o   Shows each thread’s parallel execution revealing race conditions affecting performance

§  Displays information about critical sections in tooltip

§  Can show dependencies for resources/locks across threads

jQuery

·         Ships in future VS but available now

·         Will not be changed by Microsoft but will be supported so we can use it with customers requiring support

·         VS intellisense available from jquery.com

·         Selectors

1.       $(“:text”)             tag          Select all text boxes

2.       $(.required)       class      Select any element with this class tag

3.       $(“#name”)        id            Select with this ID

·         Animations

1.       $(…).Show()

2.       $(…).Hide()

3.       $(…).slideDown()

4.       $(…).slideUp()

5.       $(…).fadeIn()

6.       $(…).fadeOut

7.       Massive open source libraries with hundreds more

§  Plugins.jquery.com

MVC 101

·         MVC

o   Controller (input) pushes to model and view

o   View (UI)

o   Model (logic)

·         An alternative, not replacement, to traditional web forms

·         Easier to test

o   No dependencies on request/response or viewstate as this everything is explicit and therefore testable

·         No server side controls (or designer support), postbacks, or events.

o   Think back to classic ASP

o   What is all this by-hand crap?  XAML (WPF and Silverlight) is only notepad as well

·         Action, instead of event, fires not in View but in the Controller. 

o   The View, aka aspx page, has no code behind.

·         In Controller can define a action and use wizard to create it’s view (web page)

·         ViewUserControl is a collection of html and inline asp which is reusable

IIS v7

·         Modules

o   ASP.NET managed HttpModules can be plugged in directly to IIS v7

§  No more unmanaged ISAPI filters

o   Modules can be managed within IIS v7 Manager

o   Configuration for modules can be exposed through manager

§  Customer WinForm configuration can also be exposed

·         Config

o   No more meta-base

§  All settings exists in central applicationHost.config – similar to a web.config

·         C:\windows\system32\inetsrv\config\schema

§  Can share IIS config for farm scenario

o   www.iis.net contains a configuration pack which allows you to show the config file within the IIS manager

Security

·         Concept of Security Development Lifecycle (SDL)

·         Threat Modelling – package available for formalized  security reviews

o   Talks about prioritizing risks

·         Multi-Pass Review Model

o   1 – Run fuzz and code analysis tools

o   2 – Look for ‘patterns’ in riskier code

o   3 – Deep review of riskiest code

·         Golden rule: What does the bad guy control?

o   What if he controls x & j (resources obtained from user, port, pipeline, compromised file system or database)

§  Char [] f = new char[3];

§  f[3] = 0;                                 bug

§  f[x] = 0;                                 can write a null to anywhere in memory

§  f[x] = y;                                 can write anything anywhere in memory

·         Accepted encryption

o   AES and SHAXXX only

o   Everything else is banned!  So long TripleDES

·         Do not use:  try { } catch (Exception ex) { }

o   Hides bugs and security flaws

o   Catch only exceptions we can handle

IE v8

·         Debug tools included out of the box

o   Hit F12

§  Debug javascript

§  Solve style issues

·         Compatibility – new rendering engine following widely-accepted standard

o   Get prepared for our apps look and feel to break

o   www.msdn.com/iecompat

o   Set meta-tag to tell IE8 to continue to render using v7 engine

·         Accelerators

o   Can develop own accelerators which can highlight a name and pass to a website as a parameter.  Employee staff directory, for example.

Cool Stuff

·         Ctrl-,

o   Quick search feature in 2010

·         Ctrl-.

o   Refactoring: infers using statement.  Generate a new method as your developing

·         Web.config

o   Release version compiles debug/standard web.config and turns off debug, hardens security, replaces config and connection strings

o   Part of the installer

Other Stuff

·         Ribbon support in VS2008 Feature Pack

·         Vista Bridge

o   Wrapper to get access to Vista controls and features

o   TaskDialog and CommandLinks

§  Standard now so will be seen in Win v7

§  Backwards compatible, just extra messages to standard native button

o   Restart/Recovery API

§  Get notified of a reboot

§  Register delegate called in separate thread when app crashes/reboots

§  OS will run app with a command line argument you catch to load saved info

o   Power Management

§  Get notified about all power related info, low battery, ect

Biz Stuff

·         StepUp Program

o   Allows customers to upgrade current SKU

§  i.e. VS Pro to Team Foundation Server

§  30% discount until June 2009

Visual Studio 2008 JumpStart December 18, 2007

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, Javascript, jQuery, linq.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Yesterday I attended the Visual Studio 2008 Jumpstart at Microsoft in Dublin.  This was a one-day course, presented by David Ryan, introducing some of the new features in C# 3.0 and VS2008.

 

I approach every release with excitement and trepidation.  There are some fantastic new features like JavaScript debugging, nested MasterPages, improved IDE for both coding and web design, and multi-target runtime support.  With multi-targeting support we can use VS2008 to continue to code or support .NET 2.  If you open a VS2005 project, you will be prompted to upgrade your project even if you continue to use .NET 2.  I asked was there any risk associated with this for those who need to continue to support .NET 2 and was told only the SLN file is changed.  So theoretically, there is no reason to keep VS2005 installed!  Do you believe it??  If only we could get rid of VS2003 as well.

 

Now, the reason I also approach each release with trepidation is because you know there is going to be some big, new, ghastly feature which will be force-feed to us like geese in a pâté factory.  This time that feature in LINQ.  Open wide because there is a big push behind LINQ and you’ll notice a using System.Linq statement in every new class (which is a real pain if you change target framework back to .NET 2).  But first, let’s review some of the changes made to C#:

 

  • Anonymous types
    • var dt = DateTime.Today;
    • Anything can be assigned to a var, but once it’s assigned its strongly typed and that type can’t be changed.  So I can’t reuse local variable dt and assign string “Hello” like I could with object.
  • Automatic Properties
    • This:

      private int m_nID;

         public int ID

         {

             get

             {

                 return m_nID;

             }

             set

             {

                 m_nID = value;

             }

         }

 

  •  
    • becomes this:

public int ID { get; set; }

 

  •  
    • The problem is in practice I prefer to use the private variables in code leaving properties for external access only.  Many times the get/set is doing something interesting, like reading the value from a cache or performing some complex operation.  We don’t necessarily want/need this code to execute every time it is accessed from within the class so I use the private variable.  Automatic Properties has us using the public property directly everywhere in the class.  So, personally, this will cause inconsistency in my coding style.
    • You can also specify the get as public but keep the set to just be accessible from within the class like this:

public int ID { get; private set; }

 

  • Object initalizers
    • Ever have to instantiate your own class and have to initialize it with a dozen properties?  Do you add 13 lines of code or go overload the constructor?  Now you don’t have to, imagine a simple Person class with 3 properties:

Person person = new Person { FirstName=“Chris”, LastName=“Green”, Age=33 };

 

  •  
    • Only initialize what you properties you want:

Person person2 = new Person { FirstName = “Chris”, LastName = “Green” };

 

  • Collection initalizers

List<Person> people = new List<Person>

         {

new Person { FirstName = “Chris”, LastName = “Green”, Age = 33 },

new Person { FirstName = “Bill”, LastName = “Bob”, Age = 46 },

new Person { FirstName = “Foo”, LastName = “Bar”, Age = 26 }

         };

 

  • Extension methods
    • This is a way of adding new inherent functionality to existing classes.  The objective is to add a new method to the DateTime type called LastDay() which will return the last day of the given date’s month.

public static class DateTimeUtils

{

        public static int LastDay (this DateTime dt)

        {

            return DateTime.DaysInMonth(dt.Year, dt.Month);

        }

}

 

  •  
    • Notice the this before the first parameter argument.  This tells the compiler that this is an extension method for the DateTime type.  We can now use this method as if it was built in to the DateTime class:
      • int nLastDay = dt.LastDay();
  • Lambda expressions
    • Too lazy or couldn’t be arsed to write a small 2 line function?  This is for you:

Func<string, bool> CheckName = sName => sName == “Bob”;

bool bBob = CheckName(person.FirstName);

Func<int, int> Square = x => x * x;

int nSquare = Square(5);

 

The fact is there’s an ulterior reason var, Lamda expressions, and many of above additions have been added to C# 3.0.  C# had been bent in order to accommodate LINQ.  LINQ allows you to perform queries on objects, DataSets, XML, and databases.  It’s interesting in that it offers an independent layer of abstraction for performing these types of operations.  This has actually occurred to me before when looking at data layers chock full of embedded SQL not being particularly ideal.  LINQ offers a generic and powerful alternative.  Let’s take a look at a simple example based on the people collection from above:

 

var matches = from person in people

              where person.FirstName == “Bob”

              select person;

 

The first thing that caught my attention was the select was last.  One reason they likely did this was to force us to state what we were querying first (the from clause) so that Intellisense could kick-in for the rest of the expression.  Notice person.FirstName was fully supported by Intellisense so the Person class was automatically inferred from the people collection.

 

You can create objects on-the-go from your expression.  For example:

 

var matches = from employee in people

              where employee.FirstName == “Bob”

              select new Person(employee.FirstName, employee.LastName);

 

 

Notice how var is inherently handy here (but bad practice for nearly everything else) as our LINQ expression returns System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable.  Lambda expressions as well play a key part in LINQ:

 

var matchesBob = people.Select(CheckName => CheckName.LastName == “Bob”);

 

matchesBob.ToArray()

{bool[3]}

    [0]: false

    [1]: true

    [2]: false

 

var matchesInitials = people.Select(ChopName => ChopName.FirstName.Remove(1) + ChopName.LastName.Remove(1));

 

matchesInitials.ToArray()

{string[3]}

    [0]: “CG”

    [1]: “BB”

    [2]: “FB”

 

There is so much more to LINQ that I won’t attempt to cover any more.  Rest assured you will hear much more about LINQ in the months to come (fatten up those livers).  One thing is obvious, C# took a heavy hit in order to support it.  Let’s hope it’s worth it as every release we lean more and more towards VB.  A colleague recently remarked, “C# is all VB under the covers anyhow”.  He might be right.

 

Some other interesting new additions:

  • XElement – for anyone who has programmatically built XML before you will appreciate this quicker alternative
  • ASP.NET ListView – the singular new control this release.  Its basically a Repeater but with design-time support
  • Script Manager Proxy – typically the Ajax ScriptManager will be placed in the MasterPage.  When the content page needs to access the ScriptManager a ScriptManagerProxy can be used to get around the restriction of only one ScriptManager allowed per page.
  • Javascript enhancements – built-in libraries which extend string, add StringBuilder, and a number of other enhancements to make writing JavaScript more .NET-like
  • CLR Add-In Framework: essentially a pattern for loading modules (only from a specified directory) vs. using reflection, iterating classes for a specified type, and using the activator to instantiate the object
  • Transparent Intellisense: In VS2005 Intellisense went in to hyperdrive and our tab keys have never been the same.  However, I often found myself cursing it as it often got in the way.  So when VS is being too helpful and you can’t see what you’re doing press CTRL rather than ESC to turn Intellisense transparent.
  • Right-click the code and you will see an Organize Using menu below Refactor.  Here is a feature I’ve often dreamed of: Remove Unused Usings.  Pinch me!  Also, if you right-click the interface in a class’s definition (public class MyClass : Interface) there is an Implement interface option.   Last, if you are coding away and using a class before adding a using statement use ALT-Shift-F10 to automatically resolve the class and add the using statement to your file.
  • Improved support for debugging multithreaded applications
  • SQL Database Publishing Wizard is now integrated in the VS
  • Did I mention JavaScript debugging??!

 

You may notice I’ve omitted a few big topics.  I didn’t mention Ajax because that’s old news now.  However, there are new versions of the Ajax Control Toolkit and web deployment projects for VS2008.

 

I also didn’t mention Silverlight although I may find some interesting applications for it in the future.  For example, if you really hate writing JavaScript you could use Silverlight’s built-in mini CLR to write C# code which executes in the browser.  Oh, I hear it does some UI stuff too.

 

References: ScottGu 19-11-2007, ScottGu 13-03-2007, ScottGu 08-03-2007, C# 3.0 In a Nutshell, Pro ASP.NET 3.5 in C# 2008, and CodeProject.