## Telemetry in Desktop Apps

March 29, 2019 Coding 2 comments , , , ,

# Telemetry in Desktop Apps

## Summary

Learn how to collect telemetry in desktop applications for .NET Framework and .NET Core.

## Intro

One of the key parts of product development is the ability to get telemetry out of your apps. This is critical for understanding how your users use your app and what errors happen. It’s part of the “ops” of DevOps and feeds data back into the development cycle to make informed decisions.

Taking a step back, let’s define “telemetry,” so we’re on the same page. I mean events, pages/views, metrics, and exceptions that occur as a user uses the app. This is data about how your app is running, not data profiling a user based on content. The goal is to be able to answer questions like “what parts of my app do people use the most,” or “what path do users take to get to feature X or feature Y?” It’s explicitly not about answering questions like “Find me users in Seattle that shop at Contoso” or “What is Jane Doe’s favorite color?” I believe all apps can benefit from the former while the latter is a business choice with ethical/moral implications.

Application Insights provides a way to collect and explore app usage and statistics. Application Insights used to have support for desktop and devices, but they ended that in 2016 in favor of HockeyApp. HockeyApp was since moved into Visual Studio App Center, where it supports iOS, Android, and UWP. Left out were desktop apps. I should note that there are backlog items, but the SDK alone isn’t enough, it needs updates server-side as well to be useful (particularly around crash dumps). In the end, even App Center recommends analyzing your data in Application Insights.

If you were building a .NET Framework-based desktop app, you could try to use the Windows Server SDK as described by the docs. There are a couple of downsides to that SDK vs the old Windows Desktop SDK they had:

• It’s big and pulls in many more dependencies than you need, and thus increases the size of your redistributable.
• There are several types that are only in the .NET Framework target and not in their .NET Standard target (one key missing item is the DeviceTelemetryInitializer).
• PersistenceChannel doesn’t exist anymore. This channel was designed to store telemetry on disk and send the next time the app started with connectivity. See the team’s blog post for more information on how it works. The ServerTelemetryChannel does have network resilience, but does not persist across app instances in case of crash.

Fortunately Microsoft open sourced the Application Insights SDK, and I’ve been able to revive the PersisteceChannel along with taking a few key telemetry modules from the Server SDk and create a new AppInsights.WindowsDesktop package (code).

## Getting started

You’ll need an Azure subscription (free to sign up) and there’s a basic plan for Application Insights that’s free until you have a lot of data.

1. Create an Application Insights resource and take note of the InstrumentationKey as you’ll need it later.
2. Add the AppInsights.WindowsDesktop NuGet package to your project. I usually put it in a core/low-level library so that I can use its types throughout my code.
3. Add a file called ApplicationInsights.config to your application and ensure the build action it set to Copy if newer. You can adjust many things in it, but a good starting point is here:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ApplicationInsights xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/ApplicationInsights/2013/Settings">
<TelemetryInitializers>
</TelemetryInitializers>
<TelemetryModules>
</TelemetryModules>
<TelemetryProcessors>
</TelemetryProcessors>
<TelemetryChannel Type="Microsoft.ApplicationInsights.Channel.PersistenceChannel, AppInsights.WindowsDesktop"/>
</ApplicationInsights>


This will add in telemetry capture of unhandled exceptions and unobserved tasks. If you want to capture first chance exceptions, uncomment out the FirstChanceExceptionStatisticsTelemetryModule, though be warned that it can be noisy and often does not matter.

4. Set your InstrumentationKey in the configuration as an <InstrumentationKey></<InstrumentationKey> element, or set TelemetryConfiguration.Active.InstrumentationKey in code.
5. You’ll need to set some per-session property values that get applied to all outgoing data for correlation. A telemetry initializer is a good way to do it, and that’s what the SessionTelemetryInitializer does in the config.

Note: many of the samples show using Environment.Username for the user id. As it is common to have all or part of a person’s name as the username, that can lead to sending PII over to Application Insights and is not recommended. The SessionTelemetryInitializer class referenced above sends a SHA-2 hash of the username, domain, and machine to achieve the desired result without sending personally identifiable information over.

6. Consider what additional telemetry might be useful to collect. I have another telemetry initializer to capture the application version and CLR version in VersionTelemetryInitializer. This lets me generate reports split by application version. It uses the AssemblyInformationalVersionAttribute of the main exe. You can always override it by providing your own telemetry initializer afterwards.

Application Insights primarily uses PageView‘s and Events to trace user behavior in the app, and it’s up to you to add those into your code. I’ll typically put a TrackPageView call into every form, or view. If your app has internal navigation to different views, that’s a great place to put page tracking too. I put a TrackEvent call on every action a user can take — menu item, context menu, command, button, etc. It represents something the user does. Together, you can get a picture of how your users use your app, and what things they do the most…or see if there are features that your users aren’t using.

If you choose to set your InstrumentationKey in code, then do so as early as you can in the app startup. Here’s how I do it. Finally, call Flush with a short sleep on exit to give a chance for unsent telemetry be sent. If the user is offline or it’s not enough time, the PersistenceChannel will attempt to send the next time the application is launched.

## Wrapping up

This starts collecting telemetry, next up is analyzing it. Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll explore the kind of data we can see Application Insights for NuGet Package Explorer.

## Packaging a .NET Core app with the Desktop Bridge

December 4, 2018 Coding 13 comments , , ,

# Packaging a .NET Core app with the Desktop Bridge

Update: Starting with Visual Studio 2019 Preview 2, the steps outlined below aren’t necessary as the functionality is built-in. Just create a Packaging Project and add a reference to your desktop application and it’ll “do the right thing.”

The Windows Desktop Bridge is a way to package up Desktop applications for submission to the Microsoft Store or sideloading from anywhere. It’s one of the ways of creating an MSIX package, and there’s a lot more information about the format in the docs. The short version is this: think about it like the modern ClickOnce. It’s a package format that supports automatic updating while users the peace of mind that it won’t put bits all over their system or pollute the registry.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced the first previews of .NET Core 3 and Visual Studio 2019. These previews have support for creating Desktop GUI apps with .NET Core using WPF and Windows Forms. It’s possible to migrate your existing app from the .NET Framework to .NET Core 3. I’ll blog about that in a later post, but it can be pretty straight-forward for many apps. One app that has already made the switch is NuGet Package Explorer; it’s open-source on GitHub and may serve as a reference.

Once you have an application targeting .NET Core 3, some of your next questions may be, “how do I get this to my users?” “.NET Core 3 is brand new, my users won’t have that!” “My IT department won’t roll out .NET Core 3 for a year!”

Sound familiar? One of the really cool things (to me) in .NET Core is that it supports completely self-contained applications. That is to say it has no external dependencies. Nothing needs to be installed on the machine, not even .NET Core itself. You can xcopy the publish output from the project and give it to someone to run. This unlocks a huge opportunity as you, the developer, can use the framework and runtime versions you want, without worrying about interfering with other apps on the machine, or even if the runtime exists on the box.

With the ability to have a completely self-contained app, we can take advantage of the Desktop Bridge to package our app for users to install. As of today, the templates don’t support this scenario out-of-the-box, but with a few tweaks, we can make it work. Read on for the details.

## Getting started

You’ll need Visual Studio 2017 15.9, or better yet, the Visual Studio 2019 preview, just released today. In the setup, make sure to select the UWP workload to install the packaging project tools. Grab the .NET Core 3 preview and create your first WPF .NET Core app with it.

## Details

The official docs show how to add a Packaging project to your solution, so we’ll pick-up after that article ends. Start with that first. In the future, once the tooling catches up, that’s all you’ll need. For now, as a temporary workaround, the rest of this post describes how to make it work.

I’ve put a sample showing the finished product here. The diff showing the specific changes is here.

The goal here is get the packaging project to do a self-contained publish on the main app and then use those outputs as its inputs for packing. This requires changes to two files

1. The main application project, NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp.csproj in the sample.
2. The packaging project, NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp.Package.wapproj in the sample.

### Application Project

Let’s start with the main application project, the .csproj or .vbproj file. Add <RuntimeIdentifiers>win-x86</RuntimeIdentifiers> to the first <PropertyGroup>. This ensures that NuGet restore pulls in the runtime-specific resources and puts them in the project.assets.json file. Next, put in the following Target:

<Target Name="__GetPublishItems" DependsOnTargets="ComputeFilesToPublish" Returns="@(_PublishItem)">
<ItemGroup>
<_PublishItem Include="@(ResolvedFileToPublish->'%(FullPath)')" TargetPath="%(ResolvedFileToPublish.RelativePath)" OutputGroup="__GetPublishItems" />
<_PublishItem Include="$(ProjectDepsFilePath)" TargetPath="$(ProjectDepsFileName)" />
<_PublishItem Include="$(ProjectRuntimeConfigFilePath)" TargetPath="$(ProjectRuntimeConfigFileName)" />
</ItemGroup>
</Target>


The full project file should look something like this:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk.WindowsDesktop">

<PropertyGroup>
<OutputType>WinExe</OutputType>
<TargetFramework>netcoreapp3.0</TargetFramework>
<UseWPF>true</UseWPF>

<!-- Use RuntimeIdentifiers so that the restore calculates things correctly
We'll pass RuntimeIdentifier=win-x86 in the reference from the Packaging Project
-->
<RuntimeIdentifiers>win-x86</RuntimeIdentifiers>
</PropertyGroup>

<!-- Add the results of the publish into the output for the package -->
<Target Name="__GetPublishItems" DependsOnTargets="ComputeFilesToPublish" Returns="@(_PublishItem)">
<ItemGroup>
<_PublishItem Include="@(ResolvedFileToPublish->'%(FullPath)')" TargetPath="%(ResolvedFileToPublish.RelativePath)" OutputGroup="__GetPublishItems" />
<_PublishItem Include="$(ProjectDepsFilePath)" TargetPath="$(ProjectDepsFileName)" />
<_PublishItem Include="$(ProjectRuntimeConfigFilePath)" TargetPath="$(ProjectRuntimeConfigFileName)" />
</ItemGroup>
</Target>

</Project>


### Packaging Project

Next up, we need to add a few things to the packaging project (.wapproj). In the <PropertyGroup> that has the DefaultLanguage and EntryPointProjectUniqueName, add another property: <DebuggerType>CoreClr</DebuggerType>. This tells Visual Studio to use the .NET Core debugger. Note: after setting this property, you may have to unload/reload the project for VS to use this setting, if you get a weird debug error after changing this property, restart VS, load the solution and it should be fine.

Next, look for the <ProjectReference ... element. If it’s not there, right click the Application node and add the application reference to your main project. Add the following attributes: SkipGetTargetFrameworkProperties="true" Properties="RuntimeIdentifier=win-x86;SelfContained=true". The full ItemGroup should look something like this:

<ItemGroup>
<!-- Added Properties to build the RID-specific version and be self-contained -->
<ProjectReference
Include="..\NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp\NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp.csproj"
SkipGetTargetFrameworkProperties="true"
Properties="RuntimeIdentifier=win-x86;SelfContained=true" />
</ItemGroup>


Finally, and we’re almost done, add the following snippet after the <Import Project="$(WapProjPath)\Microsoft.DesktopBridge.targets" /> line: <!-- Additions for .NET Core 3 target --> <PropertyGroup> <PackageOutputGroups>@(PackageOutputGroups);__GetPublishItems</PackageOutputGroups> </PropertyGroup> <Target Name="_ValidateAppReferenceItems" /> <Target Name="_FixEntryPoint" AfterTargets="_ConvertItems"> <PropertyGroup> <EntryPointExe>NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp\NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp.exe</EntryPointExe> </PropertyGroup> </Target> <Target Name="PublishReferences" BeforeTargets="ExpandProjectReferences"> <MSBuild Projects="@(ProjectReference->'%(FullPath)')" BuildInParallel="$(BuildInParallel)"
Targets="Publish" />
</Target>


In that snippet, change NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp\NetCoreDesktopBridgeApp.exe to match your main project’s name and executable.

### VCRedist workaround

Bonus section: as a point-in-time issue, you’ll need to declare a package dependency on the VCRedist in your Package.appxmanifest file. Add the following in the <Dependencies> element: <PackageDependency Publisher="CN=Microsoft Corporation, O=Microsoft Corporation, L=Redmond, S=Washington, C=US" Name="Microsoft.VCLibs.140.00.UWPDesktop" MinVersion="14.0.26905.0" />. When your users install the app, Windows will automatically pull that dependency from the store.

## Build & Debug

With the above pieces in place, you can set the packaging project as the startup project and debug as you normally would. It’ll build the app and deploy it to a local application. You can see the output within your packaging project’s bin\AnyCPU\<configuration>\AppX directory. It should have more files than your main application as it’ll have the self-contained .NET Core runtime in it.

Note: I’ve sometimes found that debugging the packaging project doesn’t cause a rebuild if I’ve changed certain project files. A rebuild of the main app project has fixed that for me and then I’m debugging what I expect.

## Deployment

There are two main options for deploying the package:

1. Sideloading with an AppInstaller file. This is the replacement to ClickOnce.
2. The Microsoft Store. The package can be submitted to the Store for distribution.

Since Windows 10 1803, sideloaded applications can receive automatic updates using an .appinstaller file. This makes AppInstaller a replacement to ClickOnce for most scenarios. The documentation describes how to create this file during publish, so that you can put it on a UNC path, file share, or HTTPS location.

If you sideload, you’ll need to use a code signing certificate that’s trusted by your users. For an enterprise, that can be a certificate from an internal certificate authority, for the public, it needs to be from a public authority. DigiCert has a great offer for code signing certs, $74/yr for regular and$104/yr for EV at this special link. Disclaimer: DigiCert provides me with free certificates as a Microsoft MVP. I have had nothing but great experiences with them though. Once you have the certificate, you’ll need to update your Package.appxmanifest to use it. Automatic code signing is beyond the scope of this article, but please see my code signing service project for something you can deploy in your organization to handle this.

### Microsoft Store

The Microsoft Store is a great way to get your app to your users. It handles the code signing, distribution, and updating. More info on how to submit to the store is here and here.

## Further exploration

One of the projects I maintain, NuGet Package Explorer, is a WPF app on .NET Core 3 and is setup with Azure Pipelines. It has a release pipeline that generates a code signed CI build that auto-update, and then promotes packages to the Microsoft Store, Chocolatey, and GitHub. It has a build script that uses Nerdbank.GitVersioning to ensure that each build gets incremented in all the necessary places. I would encourage you to review the project repository for ideas and techniques you may want to use in your own projects.

## Create and pack reference assemblies (made easy)

July 9, 2018 Coding 2 comments , , , ,

# Create and pack reference assemblies (made easy)

Last week I blogged about reference assemblies, and how to create them. Since then, I’ve incorporated everything into my MSBuild.Sdk.Extras package to make it much easier. Please read the previous post to get an idea of the scenarios.

Using the Extras, most of that is eliminated. Instead, what you need is the following:

1. A project for your reference assemblies. This project specifies the TargetFrameworks you wish to produce. Note: this project no longer has any special naming or directory conventions. Place it anywhere and call it anything.
2. A pointer (ReferenceAssemblyProjectReference) from your main project to the reference assembly project.
3. Both projects need to be using the Extras. Add a global.json to specify the Extras version (must be 1.6.30-preview or later):
{
"msbuild-sdks": {
"MSBuild.Sdk.Extras": "1.6.30-preview"
}
}


And at the top of your project files, change Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk" to Sdk="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras"

4. In your reference assembly project, use a wildcard to include the source files you need, something like: <Compile Include="..\..\System.Interactive\**\*.cs" Exclude="..\..\System.Interactive\obj\**" />.
5. In your main project, point to your reference assembly by adding an ItemGroup with an ReferenceAssemblyProjectReference item like this:

<ItemGroup>
<ReferenceAssemblyProjectReference Include="..\refs\System.Interactive.Ref\System.Interactive.Ref.csproj" />
</ItemGroup>


In this case, I am using System.Interactive.Ref as the project name so I can tell them apart in my editor.

6. That’s it. Build/pack your main project normally and it’ll restore/build the reference assembly project automatically.

## Notes

• The tooling will pass AssemblyName, AssemblyVersion, FileVersion, InformationalVersion, GenerateDocumentationFile, NeutralLanguage, and strong naming properties into the reference assembly based on the main project, so you don’t need to set them twice.
• The REFERENCE_ASSEMBLY symbol is defined for reference assemblies, so you can do ifdef‘s on that.
• Please see System.Interactive as a working example.

## Create and Pack Reference Assemblies

July 3, 2018 Coding 3 comments , , , ,

Update July 9: Read the follow-up post for an easier way to implement.

# Create and Pack Reference Assemblies

Reference Assemblies, what are they, why do I need that? Reference Assemblies are a special kind of assembly that’s passed to the compiler as a reference. They do not contain any implementation and are not valid for normal assembly loading (you’ll get an exception if you try outside of a reflection-only load context).

## Why do you need a reference assembly?

There’s two main reasons you’d use a reference assembly:

1. Bait and switch assemblies. If your assembly can only have platform-specific implementations (think of a GPS implementation library), and you want portable code to reference it, you can define your common surface area in a reference assembly and provide implementations for each platform you support.

2. Selectively altering the public surface area due to moving types between assemblies. I recently hit this with System.Interactive (Ix). Ix provides extension methods under the System.Linq namespace. Two of those methods, TakeLast, and SkipLast were added to .NET Core 2.0’s Enumerable type. This meant that if you referenced Ix in a .NET Core 2.0 project, you could not use either of those as an extension method. If you tried, you’d get an error:

error CS0121: The call is ambiguous between the following methods or properties: 'System.Linq.EnumerableEx.SkipLast(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable, int)' and 'System.Linq.Enumerable.SkipLast(Sy stem.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable, int)'.

The only way out of this is to explicitly call the method like EnumerableEx.SkipLast(...). Not a great experience. However, we cannot simply remove those overloads from the .NET Core version since:

• It’s not in .NET Standard or .NET Framework
• If you use TakeLast from a .NET Standard library, then are running on .NET Core, you’d get a MissingMethodException.

The method needs to be in the runtime version, but we need to hide it from the compiler. Fortunately, we can do this with a reference assembly. We can exclude the duplicate methods from the reference on platforms where it’s built-in, so those get resolved to the built-in Enumerable type, and for other platforms, they get the implementation from EnumerableEx.

## Creating reference assemblies

I’m going to explore how I solved this for Ix, but the same concepts apply for the first scenario. I’m assuming you have a multi-targeted project containing your code. For Ix, it’s here.

It’s easiest to think of a reference assembly as a different project, with the same name, as your main project. I put mine in a refs directory, which enables some conventions that I’ll come back to shortly.

The key to these projects is that the directory/project name match, so it creates the same assembly identity. If you’re doing any custom versioning, be sure it applies to these as well.

There’s a couple things to note:

• In the project file itself, we’ll include all of the original files




• The TargetFrameworks should be for what you want as reference assemblies. These do not have to match that you have an implementation for. For scenario #1 above, you’ll likely only have a single netstandard2.0 target. For scenario #2, Ix, given that the surface area has to be reduced on specific platforms, it has more.
• There is a Directory.Build.props file that provides common properties and an extra set of targets these reference assembly projects need. (Ignore the bit with NETStandardMaximumVersion, that’s me cheating a bit for the future ?)

In that props, it defines REF_ASSM as an extra symbol, and sets ProduceReferenceAssembly to true so the compiler generates a reference assembly.

The other key thing in there is a target we’ll need to gather the reference assemblies from the main project during packing.





With these, you can use something like #ifdef !(REF_ASSM && NETCOREAPP2.0) in your code to exclude certain methods from the reference assembly on specific platforms. Or, for the "bait and switch" scenario, you may choose to throw an NotImplementedException in some methods (don’t worry, the reference assembly strips out all implementation, but it still has to compile).

You should be able to build these reference assemblies, and in the output directory, you’ll see a ref subdirectory (in \bin\$(Configuration)\$(TargetFramework)\ref). If you open the assembly in a decompiler, you should see an assembly level: attribute [assembly: ReferenceAssembly]. If you inspect the methods, you’ll notice they’re all empty.

## Packing the reference assembly

In order to use the reference assembly, and NuGet/MBuild do its magic, it must be packaged correctly. This means the reference assembly has to go into the ref/TFM directory. The library continues to go into lib/TFM, as usual. The goal is to create a package with a structure similar to this:

The contents of the ref folder may not exactly match the lib, and that’s okay. NuGet evaluates each independently for the intended purpose. For finding the assembly to pass as a reference to the compiler, it looks for the "best" target in ref. For runtime, it only looks in lib. That means it’s possible you’ll get a restore error if you try to use the package in an application without a supporting lib.

Out-of-the-box, dotnet pack gives us the lib portion. Adding a Directory.Build.targets above your main libraries gives us a place to inject some code into the NuGet pack pipeline:

<Target Name="GetRefsForPackage" BeforeTargets="_GetPackageFiles"
Condition=" Exists('$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)refs\$(MSBuildProjectName)\$(MSBuildProjectName).csproj') "> <MSBuild Projects="$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)refs\$(MSBuildProjectName)\$(MSBuildProjectName).csproj"
Targets="_GetTargetFrameworksOutput">

ItemName="_RefTargetFrameworks" />
</MSBuild>

<MSBuild Projects="$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)refs\$(MSBuildProjectName)\$(MSBuildProjectName).csproj" Targets="_GetReferenceAssemblies" Properties="TargetFramework=%(_RefTargetFrameworks.Identity)"> <Output TaskParameter="TargetOutputs" ItemName="_refAssms" /> </MSBuild> <ItemGroup> <None Include="@(_refAssms)" PackagePath="ref/%(_refAssms.TargetFramework)" Pack="true" /> </ItemGroup> </Target> This target gets called during the NuGet pack pipeline and calls into the reference assembly project using a convention: $(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)refs\$(MSBuildProjectName)\$(MSBuildProjectName).csproj. It looks for a matching project in a refs directory. If it finds it, it obtains the TargetFrameworks it has and then gets the reference assembly for each one. It calls the _GetReferenceAssemblies that we had in the Directory.Build.props in the refs directory (thus applying it to all reference assembly projects).

## Building

This will all build and pack normally using dotnet pack, with one caveat. Because there’s no ProjectReference between the main project and the reference assembly projects, we need to build the reference assembly projects first. You can do that with dotnet build. Then, call dotnet pack on your regular project and it’ll put it all together.

## Continuous Deployment of Cloud Services with VSTS

October 18, 2017 Coding 4 comments , , ,

# Continuous Deployment of Cloud Services with VSTS

In my last blog post, I showed how you can use ASP.NET Core with an Azure Cloud Service Web Role. The next step is to enable CI/CD for it, since you really shouldn’t be using “Publish” within Visual Studio for deployment.

As part of this, I wanted to configure the Cloud Service settings per environment in VSTS and not have any configuration checked-in to source control. Cloud Services’ configuration mechanism makes this a bit challenging due to the way it stores configuration, but with a few extra steps, it’s possible to make it work.

## What you’ll need

To follow along, you’ll need the following:

• Cloud Service the code can live in GitHub, VSTS, or many other locations. VSTS can build from any of them.
• Azure Key Vault we’ll use Azure Key Vault to store the secrets. Creating a Key Vault is easy and the standard tier will work.
• VSTS this guide is using Visual Studio Team Services, so you’ll need an account there. Those are free for up to five users and any number of users with MSDN licenses.

## What we’re going to do

The gist here is that we’ll create a build definition that publishes the output of the Cloud Service project as an artifact. Then, we’ll create a release management process that takes the output of the build and deploys it to the cloud service in Azure. To handle the configuration, we’ll tokenize the checked-in configuration, then use a release management task to read configuration values stored in Key Vault and replace the matching tokenized values before the Azure deployment.

## Moving the configuration into Key Vault

Create a new Key Vault to hold your configuration. You should have one Key Vault per environment that you intend to release to, since the secret names will directly translate to variables within VSTS. For each setting you need, create a secret with name like CustomSetting-Setting1 or CustomSetting-Setting2 and set their values. Next, in your ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg, set the values to be __CustomSetting-Setting1__ and __CustomSetting-Setting2__. The __ is the token start/end, and the value identifies which VSTS variable should be used to replace it.

One tip: If you have Password Encryption certificates or SSL endpoints configured, the .cscfg will have the certificates’ SHA-1 thumbprint’s encoded in them. If you want to configure this per environment, then replace those with token values. The configuration checker will enforce that it looks like a thumbprint, so use values like:

• ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF012345
• BACDEF01234567ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF012345

Those sentinel values will be replaced with tokens during the build process and those tokens can be replaced with variable values.

We’ll use these in the build task later on.

## The build definition

1. Start with a new Empty build definition.
2. On the process tab, choose the Hosted VS2017 Agent queue and give your build definition a name.
3. Select Get Sources and point to your repository. This could be VSTS, GitHub or virtually any other location.
4. Add the tasks we’ll need: Visual Studio Build (three times), Publish Build Artifacts (once). It should look something like this:
5. For the first Visual Studio Build task, set the following values:
Setting Value
Display name Restore solution
Solution AspNetCoreCloudService.sln
Visual Studio Version Visual Studio 2017
MSBuild Arguments /t:restore
Platform $(BuildPlatform) Configuration $(BuildConfiguration)
6. For the second Visual Studio Build task, use the following values:

Setting Value
Display name Build solution
Solution AspNetCoreCloudService.sln
Visual Studio Version Visual Studio 2017
MSBuild Arguments
Platform $(BuildPlatform) Configuration $(BuildConfiguration)
7. And the third Visual Studio Build task should be set as:

Setting Value
Display name Publish Cloud Service
Solution TheCloudService\TheCloudService.ccproj
Visual Studio Version Visual Studio 2017
MSBuild Arguments /t:Publish /p:OutputPath=$(Build.ArtifactStagingDirectory)\ Platform $(BuildPlatform)
Configuration $(BuildConfiguration) 8. If you are using sentinel certificate values, add a PowerShell Task. Configure the PowerShell task by selecting “Inline Script”, expand Advanced and set the working folder to the publish directory (like $(Build.ArtifactStagingDirectory)\app.publish) and use the following script:

$file = "ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg" # Read file$content = Get-Content -Path $file # substitute values$content = $content.Replace("ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF012345", "__SslCertificateSha1__")$content = $content.Replace("BACDEF01234567ABCDEF01234567ABCDEF012345", "__PasswordEncryption__") # Save [System.IO.File]::WriteAllText($file, $content)  This replaces the fake SHA-1 thumbprints with tokens that release management will use. Be sure to define variables in release management that match the names you use. 9. Finally, set the Publish Artifact step to: Setting Value Display name Publish Artifact: Cloud Service Path to Publish $(Build.ArtifactStagingDirectory)\app.publish
Artifact Name TheCloudService
Artifact Type Server
10. Go to the Variables tab and add two variables:

Name Value
BuildConfiguration Release
BuildPlatform Any CPU
11. Hit Save & Queue to save the definition and start a new build. It should complete successfully. If you go to the build artifacts folder, you should see TheCloudService with the .cspkg file in it.

## Deploying the build to Azure

This release process depends on one external extension that handles the tokenization, the Release Management Utility Tasks. Install it from the marketplace into your VSTS account before starting this section.

1. In VSTS, switch to the Releases tab and create a new release definition using the “Azure Cloud Service Deployment” template.
2. Give the environment a name, like “Cloud Service – Prod”.
3. Click the “Add artifact” box and select your build definition. Should look something like this:

If you want continuous deployment, click the “lightning bolt” icon and enable the CD trigger.
4. Click on the Tasks tab and specify an Azure subscription, storage account, service name and location. If you need to link your existing Azure subscription, click the “Manage” link. If you need a new storage account to hold the deployment artifacts, you can create that in the portal as well, just make sure to create a “Classic” storage account.
5. Go to the Variables tab and select “Variable groups”, then “Manage variable groups.” Add a new variable group, give it a name like “AspNetCloudService Production Configuration”, select your subscription (click Manage to link one), and select the Key Vault we created earlier to hold the config. Press the Authorize button if prompted.

Finally, click Add to select which secrets from Key Vault should be added to this variable group.

It’s important to note that it does not copy the values at this point. The secret’s values are always read on use, so they’re always current. Save the variable group and return back to the Release Management definition. At this point, you can select “Link variable group” and link the one we just created.
6. Add a Tokenize with XPath/Regular Expressions task before the Azure Deployment task.
7. In the Tokenizer task, browse to the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file, something like $(System.DefaultWorkingDirectory)/AspNetCoreCloudService-CI/TheCloudService/ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg depending on what you call your artifacts. 8. Ensure that the Azure Deployment task is last, and you should be all set. 9. Create a new release and it should deploy successfully. If you view your cloud service configuration on Azure Portal, you should see the real values, not the __Tokenized__ values. ## Summary That’s it, you now have an ASP.NET Core Cloud Service deployed to Azure with CI/CD through VSTS. If you want to add additional environments, simply add an additional key vault and linked variable group for each environment, clone the existing environment configuration in the Release Management editor and set the appropriate environmental values. Variable groups are defined at the release definition level, so for multiple-environments you can use a suffix in your variable names and then update the PowerShell script in step 7 to append that per environment (__MyVariable-Prod__), etc. ## Using ASP.NET Core with Azure Cloud Services October 16, 2017 Coding 9 comments , , # Using ASP.NET Core with Azure Cloud Services ## Overview Cloud Services may be the old-timer of Azure’s offerings, but there are still some cases where it is useful. For example, today, it is the only available PaaS way to run a Windows Server 2016 workload in Azure. Sure, you can run a Windows Container with Azure Container Services, but that’s not really PaaS to me. You still have to be fully aware of Kubernetes, DC/OS, or Swarm, and, as with any container, you are responsible for patching the underlying OS image with security updates. In developing my Code Signing Service, I stumbled upon a hard dependency on Server 2016. The API I needed to Authenticode sign a file using Azure Key Vault’s signing methods only exists in that version of Windows. That meant that using Azure App Services was out, as it uses Server 2012 (based on the version numbers from its command line). That left Cloud Service Web Roles as the sole remaining option if I wanted PaaS. I could have also used a B-Series VM, that’s perfect for this type of workload, but I really don’t want to maintain a VM. If you have tried to use ASP.NET Core with a Cloud Service Web Role, you’ll probably have come away disappointed as Visual Studio doesn’t let you do this…. until now. Never one to accept no for an answer, I found a way to make this work, and with a few workarounds, you can too. The solution presented here handles deployment of an MVC & API application that along with config settings and deployment of the ASP.NET Core Windows Hosting Module. VS Cloud Service tooling works for making changes to config and publishing to cloud services (though please use CI/CD in VSTS!) Many thanks to Scott Hunter‘s team, Jaques Eloff and Catherine Wang in particular, on figuring out a workaround for some gotcha’s when installing the Windows Hosting Module. ## Pieces to the puzzle You can see the sample solution here, and it may be helpful to clone and follow along in VS. There are a few pieces to making this work: 1. TheWebsite The ASP.NET Core MVC site. Nothing significantly special here, just an ordinary site. 2. TheCloudService The Cloud Service project. Contains the configuration files and service definition. 3. TheWebRole ASP.NET 4.6 project that contains the Web Role startup scripts and “references” the TheWebsite site. This is where the tricks are. At a high level, the Cloud Service “sees” TheWebRole as the configured website. The cloud service doesn’t know anything about ASP.NET Core. The trick is to get the ASP.NET Core site published and running “in” an ASP.NET site. ## Doing this yourself ### The Projects In a new solution, create a new ASP.NET Core 2 project. Doesn’t really matter what template you use. For the descriptions here, I’ll call it TheWebsite. Build and run the site, it should debug and run normally in IISExpress. Next, create a new Cloud Service (File -> Add -> New Project -> Cloud -> Azure Cloud Service). I’ll call the cloud service TheCloudService, and on the next dialog, add a single Web Site. I called mine TheWebRole. Finally, on the ASP.NET Template selection, choose “Empty” and continue. Right now, we have an ASP.NET Core Website and an Azure Cloud Service with a single ASP.NET 4.6 WebRole. Next up is to clear out almost everything from TheWebRole since it won’t actually contain any ASP.NET Code. Delete the packages.config and Web.config files. Save the project, then select “Unload” from the project’s context menu. Right-click again and select “Edit TheWebRole.csproj”. We need to delete the packages brought in by NuGet along with the imported props and target. There are three areas to delete as noted in the screen shots: Props at the top, all Reference elements with a HintPath pointing to ..\packages\ and the Target at the bottom. At this point, your project file should look similar to this here. You can also view the complete diff. #### Magic Now comes the special sauce — we need a way to have TheWebRole build TheWebsite and include TheWebsite‘s publish output as Content. Doing this ensures that TheCloudService Package contains the correct folder layout. Add the following snippet to the bottom of TheWebRole‘s project file to call Publish on our website before the main build step. <Target Name="BeforeBuild"> <MSBuild Projects="..\TheWebsite\TheWebsite.csproj" Targets="Publish" Properties="Configuration=$(Configuration)" />
</Target>


Then, add the following ItemGroup to include TheWebsite‘s publish output as Content in the TheWebRole project:

<ItemGroup>
<Content Include="..\TheWebsite\bin\$(Configuration)\netcoreapp2.0\publish\**\*.*" Link="%(RecursiveDir)%(Filename)%(Extension)" /> </ItemGroup>  Save the csproj file, then right-click the TheWebRole and click Reload. You can test that the cloud service package is created correctly by right-clicking TheCloudService and selecting Package. After choosing a build configuration and hitting “Package,” the project should build and the output directory pop up. The .cspkg is really a zip file, so extract it and you’ll see the guts of cloud service packages. Look for the .cssx file and extract that (again, just a zip file) Inside there, open the approot folder and that is the root of your website. If the previous steps were done correctly, you should see something like the following You should see TheWebsite.dll, TheWebsite.PrecompiledViews.dll, wwwroot, and the rest of your files from TheWebsite. Congratulations, you’ve now created a cloud service that packages up and deploys an ASP.NET Core website! This alone won’t let the site run though since the Cloud Service images don’t include the Windows Hosting Module. ### Installing .NET Core 2 onto the Web Role Installing additional components onto a Web Role typically involves a startup script, and .NET Core 2 is no different. There is one complication though: the installer downloads files into the TEMP folder, and Cloud Services has a 100MB hard limit on that folder. We need to specify an alternate folder to use as TEMP with a higher quota (this is what Jaques and Catherine figured out). In TheCloudService, expand Roles, right click TheWebRole and hit properties. Go to Local Storage and add a new location called CustomTempPath with a 500MB limit (or whatever else your app might need). Next, we need the startup script. Go to TheWebRole, add a new folder called Startup and add the following files to it. Ensure that the Build Action is set to Content and that Copy to Output Directory is set to Copy if newer. Finally, we need to configure the cloud service to invoke our startup task. Open the ServiceDefinition.csdef file and add the following xml in the WebRole node to define the startup task: <Startup> <Task commandLine="Startup\startup.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple"> <Environment> <Variable name="IsEmulated"> <RoleInstanceValue xpath="/RoleEnvironment/Deployment/@emulated" /> </Variable> </Environment> </Task> </Startup>  Now we finally have a cloud service that can be deployed, install .NET Core, and run the website. The first time you publish, it will take a few minutes for the role instance to become available since it has to install the hosting module and restart IIS. Note: I leave creating a cloud service instance in the Azure Portal as an exercise to the reader ### Configuration There are many ways of getting configuration into an ASP.NET Core application. If you know you’ll only be running in Cloud Services, you may consider taking a direct dependency on the Cloud Services libraries and using the RoleEnvironment types to get populate your configuration. Alternatively, you can likely write a configuration provider that funnels in the RoleEnvironment configuration into the ASP.NET Core configuration system. In my original case, I didn’t want my ASP.NET Core website to have any awareness of Cloud Services, so I came up with another way—in the startup script, I copy the values from the RoleEnvironment into environment variables that the default configuration settings pick up. The key here to making this transparent is knowing that the double-underscore, __, translates into the : when read from an environment variable. This means you can define a setting like CustomSetting__Setting1, and then you can access it with Configuration["CustomSetting:Setting1"], or similar mechanisms. To bridge this gap, we can add this to the startup script (complete script): $keys = @(
"CustomSetting__Setting1",
"CustomSetting__Setting2"
)

foreach($key in$keys){
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable($key, [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::GetConfigurationSettingValue($key), "Machine")
}


This copies the settings from the Cloud Service Role Environment into environment variables on the host, and from there, the default ASP.NET Core configuration adds them into configuration.

## Considerations

• Session affinity If you need session affinity for session state, you’ll need to configure that.
• Data Protection API Unlike Azure App Services, Cloud Services doesn’t have any default synchronization for the keys. You’ll need a solution for this. If anyone comes up with a reusable solution, I’ll happily mention it here. More info on configuring DPAPI is here.
• Local Debugging Due to the way local debugging of cloud services works (it directly uses TheWebRole as a startup project in IIS Express), directly debugging the cloud service does not work with the current patterns. Instead, you can set TheWebsite as a startup project and debug that normally. The underlying issue is that TheWebRole includes TheWebsite as Content and does not copy the published files to TheWebRole‘s directory. It may be possible to achieve this, though you’d likely want additional .gitignore rules to prevent those files from being committed. In my case, I did not want my service to have any direct dependency on Cloud Services, so this wasn’t an issue—I simply needed a Server 2016 web host.

## CI / CD with VSTS

It is possible to automate build/deploy of these cloud service web role projects using VSTS. My next blog post will show how to set that up.

Update October 18: The post is live

## Use all TFM’s with SDK-style projects in Visual Studio for Mac

August 29, 2017 Coding 4 comments , , ,

# Use all TFM’s with SDK-style projects in Visual Studio for Mac

## TL;DR

You can now use SDK-style projects, with all supported TFM’s, in Visual Studio for Mac. See getting started for details.

## Issue

While Visual Studio for Mac supports the SDK-style projects, there have been a couple of issues blocking use of TFM’s other than net, netstandard, and netcoreapp.

1. Those TFM’s are hard-coded and an SDK-style project containing any other target frameworks is blocked.
2. Xamarin on the Mac has a multi-valued MSBuildExtensionsPath property. That means that it can search for targets in different locations. Unfortunately the logic this works with is limited to the <Import /> element, so if you set properties, as is required to use LanguageTargets, it won’t work. Fortunately, with some brainstorming with Ankit Jain and Mikayla Hutchinson, we found a solution.

## Getting Started

You’ll need a few things:

1. Latest stable channel of Visual Studio for Mac
2. .NET Core 2 SDK (even if you’re not targeting .NET Standard 2 or .NET Core, the SDK style projects use these targets). Download here.
3. Matt Ward‘s Extension to VSfM that removes TFM checks on SDK-style projects. Binary | Source. Install by going to Visual Studio -> Extensions... -> Install from file...

Then, create a new SDK-style project and use the latest version of the MSBuild.Sdk.Extras package, at least version 1.1.0-beta.69:

<PackageReference Include="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras" Version="1.1.0-beta.69" PrivateAssets="all" />


At the end of the project file, just before the closing tag, you’ll also need the following, as per the MSBuild SDK Extras readme:

<Import Project="$(MSBuildSDKExtrasTargets)" Condition="Exists('$(MSBuildSDKExtrasTargets)')" />


Here’s a complete example of using the SDK-style projects with an iOS class library:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
<PropertyGroup>
<TargetFramework>xamarinios10</TargetFramework>
</PropertyGroup>

<ItemGroup>
<PackageReference Include="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras" Version="1.1.0-beta.69" PrivateAssets="all" />
</ItemGroup>

<Import Project="$(MSBuildSDKExtrasTargets)" Condition="Exists('$(MSBuildSDKExtrasTargets)')" />
</Project>


## Building these projects

These projects will build in the IDE (VSfM, VS, etc) or the command line. If you use the command line, you must use msbuild, not dotnet build. Keep in mind that with msbuild, you must explicitly call restore first, so your build steps will look like this:

msbuild /t:restore
msbuild /p:Configuration=Release


### Notes

For the beta, since it’s a SemVer2 package, you must be using the NuGet v3 feed. If your VSfM prefs have https://www.nuget.org/api/v2/, you need to update that to be https://api.nuget.org/v3/index.json.

## Support

If you run into issues, please file a bug on the MSBuild SDK Extras project site: https://github.com/onovotny/MSBuildSdkExtras/issues and reach
me @onovotny.

## Announcing Reactive Extensions for .NET 4.0 Preview 1

May 27, 2017 Coding 1 comment , , ,

# Announcing Reactive Extensions for .NET 4.0 Preview 1!

I am happy to announce that the first preview of Rx.NET 4.0 is now available. This release addresses a number of issues and contains several enhancements.

The biggest enhancement is consolidating the existing packages into one main package, System.Reactive NuGet. This will prevent most of the pain around binding redirects that were caused by #205. If you are using Rx 4.0 and need to use libraries built against Rx 3.x, then you need to also install the compatibility package System.Reactive.Compatibility. That package contains facades with type forwarders to the new assembly so types are unified correctly. You only need this compatibility package if you are consuming a library built against 3.x. You do not need it otherwise.

If you’re interested in the background behind the version numbers, I suggest reading the thread as it contains the gory details. While the idea was technically sound, it did mean that binding redirects were required for all .NET Framework uses. We heard the feedback loud and clear that this was really painful and took steps to fix it in 4.0.

The fix was to consolidate the previous set of packages into a single System.Reactive package. With the single package, binding redirects are no longer required and the platforms will get the correct Rx package version.

Please try it out and let us know if you encounter any issues at our repo. The full release notes are there too.

## Multi-targeting the world: a single project to rule them all

January 4, 2017 Coding 15 comments , , , , , , ,

# Multi-targeting the world: a single project to rule them all

Starting with Visual Studio 2017, you can now use a single project to build platform-specific libraries for all project types. This blog will explore why you might want to do this, how to do it and workarounds for some point-in-time issues with the tooling.

## Intro

Since the beginning of .NET Core, the project.json format has enabled multi-targeting, that is compiling to multiple target frameworks in parallel and creating an output for each. With ASP.NET Core, it’s common to target both net45 and netcoreapp1.0 so you can deploy the site to either the desktop framework, which runs on Windows, or to the CoreCLR, which runs cross-platform. Multi-targeting is nothing more than compiling the same code multiple times, once per target platform. Each target can specify its own dependencies and ifdef‘s, so you can easily tailor the code to the specific platform.

Another example may have a library target netstandard1.0, netstandard1.3, and net45 to enable different levels of functionality based on the available surface area.

While it was also possible to target UWP, Win8, or profile-based PCL’s, using project.json, doing so required hacks like private copies of all reference assemblies, WinMD files and more. Beyond that, some things didn’t work correctly as some platforms require additional targets to generate additional outputs like .pri files on UWP for resource lookup. So while technically possible, full multi-targeting was brittle and required you to stay in a very narrow path, avoiding things like resources or GUI elements that require the full tool-chain to process.

### Enter MSBuild

With the move to MSBuild as part of the .NET Core Tooling direction change, the picture gets much better, so much so that with VS 2017 RC2, you can correctly multi-target all platform types, including UWP, profile-based PCL’s, and Xamarin iOS/Android. Not only that, but by conditionally including/excluding directories based on globs, you can reduce the need for ifdef‘s in many cases.

As part of being open sourced and enabled to run cross-platform, the build targets and tasks required to actually do the build were combined into an SDK. This went along with drastic simplification of the csproj file to have a minimal footprint, that will get even smaller, like this:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
<PropertyGroup>
<OutputType>Exe</OutputType>
<TargetFramework>netcoreapp1.0</TargetFramework>
</PropertyGroup>
<ItemGroup>
<PackageReference Include="Microsoft.NETCore.App" Version="1.0.1" />
</ItemGroup>
</Project>


Microsoft’s blog details all of the improvements in this area. For current lack of a better term, I’ll call projects based on these new tools “SDK style.” The easiest way to identify these “SDK style” projects is by looking for the Sdk attribute in the top Project element.

## Multi-targeting vs. .NET Standard Libraries vs. PCL’s

Before we go further, let’s answer this question that many people have asked — why would you want to multi-target vs just use a single portable library, whether that’s .NET Standard or an older profile-based PCL?

There are several answers to that question — first, if your code can all fit within a single .NET Standard-based library, then there’s no reason to multi-target. If you’re using a legacy profile-based PCL, at the very least consider moving up to the equivalent .NET Standard version. Don’t make more work for yourself. The decision to multi-target falls out of a need to use functionality that doesn’t exist within a .NET Standard version or if you need to target an earlier platform that doesn’t support the .NET Standard version you need. A common example is that many libraries still need to support .NET 4.5. Despite a significant amount of functionality available in .NET Standard 1.3, that .NET Standard version only supports .NET 4.6+. Chances are though that the code would work “just fine” on .NET 4.5, so it’s easy to multi-target to both net45 and netstandard1.3.

The other main reason why you’d need to multi-target is to use platform-specific code within your library. For example, on iOS you might want to use SecKeyChain for saved credentials, on Android use its Context to access shared services like preferences, and on Windows its Credential Manager. You might have a common method called GetCredential that other code uses to get the data. Today you might use dependency injection or reflection to access a “.Platform” library with a specific implementation that your common code uses. Instead, you can choose to multi-target and access the platform code directly.

## How to multi-target

Let me start by saying that the methods here are based on the new “SDK-style” projects that VS 2017 provides. They orchestrate using the existing project types that are installed by Visual Studio. As such, the build itself won’t work on a box without the other tools installed (so you’re building on a Windows box, much like you probably are today). Some of these may work on a Mac with Visual Studio for Mac but I have not tested that in any way. When you install Visual Studio 2017, make sure to install all of the tools for the project types you need (Xamarin, UWP, etc) and also the .NET Core Tooling.

There’s no UI in VS for adding additional target frameworks, but I have some samples that show what to do.

First, create a new .NET Core Class Library project. If you don’t see the following option, make sure to install the .NET Core workload in the VS Installer.

Right-click the project and select “Edit project file…”. This is new in VS 2017 – the ability to edit the project file while it’s open and have changes instantly reflected.

In the editor, after noticing how much less boilerplate code there is now, look for the TargetFramework property that looks like this: <TargetFramework>netstandard1.3</TargetFramework> property. Change that to <TargetFrameworks>netstandard1.3;net45</TargetFrameworks> to target .NET 4.5 and NET Standard 1.3. You can add however many targets you want by adding to that semi-colon list. It’s subtle, but note the difference in property names between TargetFramework and TargetFrameworks with a plural. It’s easy to miss.

For some frameworks, like .NET 4.5, that’s all you need to do. However, targeting .NET Standard and .NET 4.x is far from “the world.” We can do better! You would think it should be as easy as adding additional TFM’s like uap10.0, xamarin.ios10 or MonoAndroid70 to the list, and hopefully by the time the tools RTM it will be, but for now we need to add extra properties to the project file to tell MSBuild what to do with those.

Fortunately, and here’s the real secret, the “SDK-style” build system has a LanguageTargets property that you can specify per TFM to import the targets for that project type instead of the vanilla Microsoft.CSharp.targets import. That means we can use the “Windows Xaml”, Android, iOS, or any other platform tool-chain we need.

### Xamarin Example

In the example here, I have a class library that multi-targets to net45, uap10.0, netstandard1.3, Xamarin.iOS10 and MonoAndroid70. In this contrived library, I have a Greeter class that’s calling a Hello() method that needs platform specific code. I’m using a pattern where I have a directory for each TFM where code in there only gets included there, so no ifdef‘s are needed. For Android, Resources are supported if you need them. While the example doesn’t currently use them, you could use PList‘s, xib‘s or Story Boards on iOS, Page‘s on UWP, or any other “native” file type supported by the platform.

### Win81/WP8/PCL/Wpa81/Xamarin/Net45 Example

As a more realistic example, one of my libraries, Zeroconf, an mDNS discovery library, targets “the world.” It currently has concrete implementations for wp8, Wpa81, Win8, portable-Wpa81+Win81, uap10.0, net45, and netstandard1.3 (which supports Xamarin and CoreCLR.) In addition to the the concrete implementations, it provides a netstandard1.0 façade to support being used in portable libraries. The different concrete implementations are required due to differences in the networking stacks between the various Windows networking stacks. For now, the uap10.0 version cannot use the netstandard1.3 version until NetworkInformation is fully supported by the platform, so it continues to use the WinRT variant. You can see the platform-specific code in the platforms directory and then how they’re conditionally included by the csproj in the ItemGroups

The property groups at the top contain the LanguageTargets and properties needed. For portable-Wpa81+Win81 two extra items are required as the special PCL profile also supports WinRT. The ItemGroup here has two TargetPlatform to pull in the correct .winmd references.

### Building

You can build the libraries either in VS 2017 or the command-line. If you use the command line, you’ll want to run the following from a VS 2017 Developer Command Prompt: msbuild /t:restore followed by msbuild /t:build. If you want to create a NuGet package, you can run msbuild /t:pack. It’s important to note that you must currently use msbuild, the desktop version in the VS 2017 path, to build these and not dotnet build. The reason is that while dotnet build calls MSBuild, it’s currently using a CoreCLR version even though the desktop version is present in your VS installation. The engineering team is aware of this and in the future, dotnet build will be smart enough to call the desktop version of msbuild when present. The “regular” targets file we’re using to support the platform-specific features are designed for Desktop MSBuild. They do not yet have support for CoreCLR tasks. Bottom line, as of the current release: if your targets use build tasks, then you need to provide both CoreCLR and Desktop versions of the library in order to support both “regular” MSBuild and dotnet build.

## Common gotcha’s

There are several bugs in the tool-chain currently that are in the process of being fixed:

• Some Project-to-project (p2p) references aren’t resolving correctly. Whereas they should resolve to the “best” match, they are resolving to the first TFM in the list.
• Another bug is preventing a “legacy” csproj from doing a p2p reference with a “Portable Library can only reference other portable library” error.
• Files that are conditionally included won’t show up in the Solution Explorer. As a workaround, include all files with None as the first item group (see example).
• for iOS (and possibly Android), you need to set DebugType to full as the Xamarin ConvertPdb2Mdb task doesn’t yet support the new Portable PDB format generated by this tool-chain.
• Win8, Win81, and uap10.0 aren’t correctly understood by the NuGet targets today. As a workaround, you need to include the NugetTargetMoniker property set to the full TFM as shown here. Similarly, for legacy PCL targets, it requires Version=v0.0 in the NugetTargetMoniker here. These should hopefully be fixed by GA.
• Windows assemblies that use resources need a .pri file alongside them. They’re currently missing from the generated NuGet. Workaround is to use your own .NuSpec for now until the bug is fixed.

## Into the weeds, how it all works

This is by no means an official explanation, it’s what I’ve found from exploring the SDK build targets. Some of the terminology and concepts may change over time.

The “SDK style” projects consist of a set of targets/tasks that are pre-installed with MSBuild (and the CLI tools). You can see them in the following directory: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\<sku>\MSBuild\Sdks where <sku> is Community, Professional, or Enterprise, depending on what you installed. The two SDK’s you’re likely to use directly are Microsoft.NET.Sdk and Microsoft.NET.Sdk.Web.

The Sdk attribute causes an Sdk.props and Sdk.targets within the specified SDK’s \Sdk directory to be imported before and after the project file. The Microsoft.NET.Sdk SDK’s targets defines an “outer” and “inner” build. The “outer-loop” is what your project file directly defines, including several TFM’s in the TargetFrameworks property. If you only have a single build with a TargetFramework property defined, then there’s only an “inner-loop”.

For an “outer-loop” build, the SDK targets imports props/targets in a buildCrossTargeting directory (soon to be renamed to buildMultiTargeting). Those get auto-included before and after the main project file (props before, targets after.) The “outer-loop” targets will eventually loop through each of the TargetFrameworks calling msbuild again in an “inner-loop” with TargetFramework set to one TFM. This “inner-loop” build is what we currently have in today’s “normal” project types. The “inner-loop” build provides an extension point for providing your language-specific targets (the Import that was at the bottom of your old csproj before) in place of the “vanilla” one it’ll include by default. By providing a LanguageTargets property for the “inner-loop,” conditioned by TFM, we can use the “original” targets that invoke the full tool-chain for the target platform. See here, here and here for UWP, iOS, and Android, respectively.

Within each conditionally defined property group, we can set properties that are specific to a particular “inner-loop.” These correspond to the properties in your existing platform-specific project file and are used by the platform-specific targets specified.

One thing you give-up currently is any UI in VS for configuring these properties. Perhaps they’ll return sometime in the future. For now, one thing I’ve found helpful is to maintain a few “dummy” projects where I can edit some settings to see the values and then put them into my multi-targeting csproj.

## Looking forward

As of today (January 4, 2017), the tooling is in a fairly rough state. The .NET Core tooling is rightfully in an “alpha” state. The MSBuild SDK is under active development and things will change before GA. There are a number of issues in the tooling that can make it hard to use today, but I expect those to be fixed soon. Most of the bugs I’ve found are slated to be fixed in the RC3 time-frame, and I’d expect things to be better with that release.

As to whether-or-not to take the plunge today: I’d suggest that if you have a tolerance for figuring this out and reporting issues you’ll encounter, then go for it. If you have a complex project today that already multi-targets a different way (most likely by using multiple “head” projects and shared code project types), I would recommend trying this out in a branch to see how far you get. I’ll be happy to help, just give me a shout. The more the community bangs on this stuff up front, the more issues can be addressed prior to GA.

### Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Brad Wilson, Joe Morris, and Daniel Plaisted for reviewing this post and providing feedback.

## Authenticode Signing Service and Client

September 12, 2016 Coding 2 comments , , , , ,

# Authenticode Signing Service and Client

Last night I published a new project on GitHub to make it easier to integrate Authenticode signing into a CI process by providing a secured API for submitting artifacts to be signed by a code signing cert held on the server. It uses Azure AD with two application entries for security:

1. One registration for the service itself
2. One registration to represent each code signing client you want to allow

Azure AD was chosen as it makes it easy to restrict access to a single application/user in a secure way. Azure App Services also provide a secure location to store certificates, so the combination works well.

The service currently supports either individual files, or a zip archive that contains supported files to sign (works well for NuGet packages). The service code is easy to extend if additional filters or functionality is required.

## Supported File Types

• .msi, .msp, .msm, .cab, .dll, .exe, .sys, .vxd and Any PE file (via SignTool)
• .ps1 and .psm1 via Set-AuthenticodeSignature

# Deployment

You will need an Azure AD tenant. These are free if you don’t already have one. In the “old” Azure Portal, you’ll need to
create two application entries: one for the server and one for your client.

### Server

Create a new application entry for a web/api application. Use whatever you want for the sign-on URI and App ID Uri (but remember what you use for the App ID Uri as you’ll need it later). On the application properties, edit the manifest to add an application role.

In the appRoles element, add something like the following:

{
"allowedMemberTypes": [
"Application"
],
"displayName": "Code Sign App",
"id": "<insert guid here>",
"isEnabled": true,
"description": "Application that can sign code",
"value": "application_access"
}


After updating the manifest, you’ll likely want to edit the application configuration to enable “user assignment.” This means that only assigned users and applications can get an access token to/for this service. Otherwise, anyone who can authenticate in your directory can call the service.

### Client

Create a new application entry to represent your client application. The client will use the “client credentials” flow to login to Azure AD
and access the service as itself. For the application type, also choose “web/api” and use anything you want for the app id and sign in url.

Finally, create a new client secret and save the value for later (along with the client id of your app).

## Server Configuration

Create a new App Service on Azure (I used a B1 for this as it’s not high-load). Build/deploy the service however you see fit. I used VSTS connected to this GitHub repo along with a Release Management build to auto-deploy to my site.

In the Azure App Service, in the certificates area, upload your code signing certificate and take note of the thumbprint id. In the Azure App Service, go to the settings section and add the following setting entries:

Name Value Notes
CertificateInfo:Thumbprint thumbprint of your cert Thumbprint of the cert to sign with
CertificateInfo:TimeStampUrl url of timestamp server
WEBSITE_LOAD_CERTIFICATES thumbprint of your cert This exposes the cert’s private key to your app in the user store
Authentication:AzureAd:TenantId Azure AD tenant ID either the guid or the name like mydirectory.onmicrosoft.com

Enable “always on” if you’d like and disable PHP then save changes. Your service should now be configured.

## Client Configuration

The client is distributed via NuGet and uses both a json config file and command line parameters. Common settings, like the client id and service url are stored in a config file, while per-file parameters and the client secret are passed in on the command line.

You’ll need to create an appsettings.json similar to the following:

{
"SignClient": {
"ClientId": "<client id of your client app entry>",
"TenantId": "<guid or domain name>"
},
"Service": {
"Url": "https://<your-service>.azurewebsites.net/",
}
}
}


Then, somewhere in your build, you’ll need to call the client tool. I use AppVeyor and have the following in my yml:

environment:
SignClientSecret:
secure: <the encrypted client secret using the appveyor secret encryption tool>

install:
- cmd: nuget install SignClient -Version 0.5.0-beta3 -SolutionDir %APPVEYOR_BUILD_FOLDER% -Verbosity quiet -ExcludeVersion -pre

build:
...

after_build:
- ps: '.\SignClient\SignPackage.ps1'



SignPackage.ps1 looks like this:

$currentDirectory = split-path$MyInvocation.MyCommand.Definition

# See if we have the ClientSecret available
if([string]::IsNullOrEmpty($env:SignClientSecret)){ Write-Host "Client Secret not found, not signing packages" return; } # Setup Variables we need to pass into the sign client tool$appSettings = "$currentDirectory\appsettings.json"$appPath = "$currentDirectory\..\packages\SignClient\tools\SignClient.dll"$nupgks = ls $currentDirectory\..\*.nupkg | Select -ExpandProperty FullName foreach ($nupkg in $nupgks){ Write-Host "Submitting$nupkg for signing"

dotnet $appPath 'zip' -c$appSettings -i $nupkg -s$env:SignClientSecret -n 'Zeroconf' -d 'Zeroconf' -u 'https://github.com/onovotny/zeroconf'

Write-Host "Finished signing \$nupkg"
}

Write-Host "Sign-package complete"


The parameters to the signing client are as follows. There are two modes, file for a single file and zip for a zip-type archive:

usage: SignClient <command> [<args>]

file    Single file
zip     Zip-type file (NuGet, etc)


File mode:

usage: SignClient file [-c <arg>] [-i <arg>] [-o <arg>] [-h <arg>]
[-s <arg>] [-n <arg>] [-d <arg>] [-u <arg>]

-c, --config <arg>            Full path to config json file
-i, --input <arg>             Full path to input file
-o, --output <arg>            Full path to output file. May be same
as input to overwrite. Defaults to
input file if ommited
-h, --hashmode <arg>          Hash mode: either dual or Sha256.
Default is dual, to sign with both
Sha-1 and Sha-256 for files that
support it. For files that don't
support dual, Sha-256 is used
-s, --secret <arg>            Client Secret
-n, --name <arg>              Name of project for tracking
-d, --description <arg>       Description
-u, --descriptionUrl <arg>    Description Url


Zip-type archive mode, including NuGet:

usage: SignClient zip [-c <arg>] [-i <arg>] [-o <arg>] [-h <arg>]
[-f <arg>] [-s <arg>] [-n <arg>] [-d <arg>] [-u <arg>]

-c, --config <arg>            Full path to config json file
-i, --input <arg>             Full path to input file
-o, --output <arg>            Full path to output file. May be same
as input to overwrite
-h, --hashmode <arg>          Hash mode: either dual or Sha256.
Default is dual, to sign with both
Sha-1 and Sha-256 for files that
support it. For files that don't
support dual, Sha-256 is used
-f, --filter <arg>            Full path to file containing paths of
files to sign within an archive
-s, --secret <arg>            Client Secret
-n, --name <arg>              Name of project for tracking
-d, --description <arg>       Description
-u, --descriptionUrl <arg>    Description Url


# Contributing

I’m very much open to any collaboration and contributions to this tool to enable additional scenarios. Pull requests are welcome, though please open an issue to discuss first. Security reviews are also much appreciated!