LESS + CoffeeScript for ASP.NET = LessCoffee

As documented in recent posts, I’ve been tinkering getting the LESS and CoffeeScript compilers running on Windows Script Host. I’ve now got round to wrapping these up as ASP.NET HTTP Handlers so you can easily use them in ASP.NET-based websites. You simply reference the *.less and *.coffee files and they get served up as CSS and JavaScript directly. For example:

<link href="content/style.less" rel="stylesheet">
<script src="content/site.coffee"></script>

No need to install add-ins into Visual Studio or add build steps to your project. The main downside is that it won’t run on non-Windows platforms under Mono (although I’m tempted adapt it to use Mozilla’s SpiderMonkey JavaScript Shell).

If you’re running Visual Studio 2010 then simply use the LessCoffee NuGet package.

PM> Install-Package LessCoffee

If you’re using Visual Studio 2008 you’ll need follow these manual steps:

  • Copy LessCoffee.dll to your web application’s /bin directory
  • Add the following entries to your web.config file:
            <add path="*.coffee" type="DotSmart.CoffeeScriptHandler, LessCoffee" verb="*" validate="false"/>
            <add path="*.less" type="DotSmart.LessCssHandler, LessCoffee" verb="*" validate="false"/>

    <!-- IIS 7 -->
        <validation validateIntegratedModeConfiguration="false"/>
            <add path="*.coffee" type="DotSmart.CoffeeScriptHandler, LessCoffee" verb="*" name="DotSmart.CoffeeScriptHandler"/>
            <add path="*.less" type="DotSmart.LessCssHandler, LessCoffee" verb="*" name="DotSmart.LessCssHandler"/>

If you’re using Windows 2003/IIS 6 then you will need to map the file extensions *.less and *.coffee to aspnet_isapi.dll.

The source is on GitHub, obv: https://github.com/duncansmart/LessCoffee

First steps with IronJS 0.2

With the release of IronJS 0.2, the code below is the result of a 30-minute play I had this morning, which shows how easy it is to embed a fully .NET JavaScript runtime in your application by simply referencing IronJS.dll.

It’s changed quite a from prior versions and I think you’ll see it has become much easier to host since  Dan Newcombe’s experiments last year.

//reference IronJS.dll
using System;
using System.IO;

class IronJsDoodles
    static void Simple()
        var context = new IronJS.Hosting.CSharp.Context();
        object result = context.Execute("1 + 2;");

        Console.WriteLine("{0} ({1})", result, result.GetType());
        // "3 (System.Double)"

    static void InteractingWithGlobal()
        var context = new IronJS.Hosting.CSharp.Context();

        context.SetGlobal("a", 1d);
        context.SetGlobal("b", 2d);
        context.Execute("foo = a + b;");

        double foo = context.GetGlobalAs<double>("foo");

        // "3"

    static void AddingHostFunctions()
        var context = new IronJS.Hosting.CSharp.Context();

        // Effectively the same as context.CreatePrintFunction() :-)
        var print = IronJS.Native.Utils.createHostFunction<Action<string>>(context.Environment,
            delegate(string str)
        context.SetGlobal("print", print);

        context.Execute("print('Hello IronJS!')");

Hope it helps you get started.

Getting a machine’s NetBIOS domain name in C#

I tried to find some mechanism to get the current machine’s NetBIOS domain name (the machine domain, not user domain), but couldn’t find anything in the usual places (e.g. System.Environment). If you want the fancy-schmancy Active Directory DNS domain then you can use Domain.GetComputerDomain().Name from System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory, or another one that I stumbled across in Reflector was IPGlobalProperties.GetIPGlobalProperties().DomainName that lives in System.Net.NetworkInformation. But a simple way of getting the old-skool NetBIOS/LanManager-style machine domain name proved elusive.

Some googling suggested that WMI would provide the answer but I find WMI a little heavyweight, and not always reliable. The information is also probably in the registry somewhere, although I couldn’t find it after a cursory scan. The proper, supported way it would appear is to use the Network Management API. So my solution entailed P/Invoking to netapi32.dll.

If you’re after the same information I hope you find the code below useful. Once you’ve incorporated this in your project, just call the GetMachineNetBiosDomain method. It will return the machine’s Workgroup name if the machine is not domain-joined.

UPDATE: Now works on 64-bit thanks to update sent by Rp Brongers.

using System;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.ComponentModel;

class NetUtil
    [DllImport("netapi32.dll", CharSet = CharSet.Auto)]
    static extern int NetWkstaGetInfo(string server,
        int level,
        out IntPtr info);

    static extern int NetApiBufferFree(IntPtr pBuf);

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Sequential, CharSet = CharSet.Auto)]
    class WKSTA_INFO_100
        public int wki100_platform_id;
        public string wki100_computername;
        public string wki100_langroup;
        public int wki100_ver_major;
        public int wki100_ver_minor;

    public static string GetMachineNetBiosDomain()
        IntPtr pBuffer = IntPtr.Zero;

        WKSTA_INFO_100 info;
        int retval = NetWkstaGetInfo(null, 100, out pBuffer);
        if (retval != 0)
            throw new Win32Exception(retval);

        info = (WKSTA_INFO_100)Marshal.PtrToStructure(pBuffer, typeof(WKSTA_INFO_100));
        string domainName = info.wki100_langroup;
        return domainName;

Lines between methods in the C# editor (CodeRush/DxCore plugin)

Like most .NET developers,  I used to do VB/VBA coding before C# came along. But, one thing I always missed in in the C# code editor was the lines that the VB editor puts between methods. An an avid user of CodeRush and Refactor! Pro, which itself does code structure painting in Visual Studio, I’ve created a DxCore Plugin that draws lines between methods which (IMHO) improves on the ones in the VB code editor.

Here’s a screen shot of it in action:

Draw Lines Between Methods - in action

And here’s the exciting options page:

Draw Lines Between Methods - settings

Even if you’re a VB.NET person you might like to try it to see if it works any better for you than VB’s built-in lines (although I guess you’d need to turn off the built-in method-separating lines somewhere in Tools Options).

The project is hosted on Rory Becker’s DX Core Community Plugins Google Code project, where you can download the source and binaries.

Let me know how you get on with it in the comments :)

Tests-behind: Tests as Code-Behind Files

One the first issues that you have to deal with when writing unit tests is – where do I put the the tests? Here’s where I prefer to have them: as close to the code that’s being tested as possible, like so:

tests behind 1

The tests class is hooked up to the original source file in the same way that ASP.NET code-behind files are, as a dependent project item.

You can do this by hacking the *csproj file directly using the <DependentUpon> tag, but to automate it I’ve written a Visual Studio macro (works in Visual Studio 2008, should work in Visual Studio 2005) that creates an appropriately-named tests class that can be invoked like so:

Here’s the macro code (copy and paste into a code module in the Visual Studio Macros IDE: Tools > Macros > Macros IDE)

Sub AddTestsFile()
   Dim item As ProjectItem = DTE.SelectedItems.Item(1).ProjectItem
   Dim fileName As String = item.FileNames(1)
   Dim dir As String = System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(fileName)
   Dim bareName As String = System.IO.Path.GetFileNameWithoutExtension(fileName)
   Dim newItemPath As String = dir & "\" & bareName & ".Tests.cs"

   Dim codeClass As CodeClass = findClass(item.FileCodeModel.CodeElements)
   Dim namespaceName As String = codeClass.Namespace.FullName

   System.IO.File.WriteAllText(newItemPath, "" _
     & "#if DEBUG" & vbCrLf _
     & "using System;" & vbCrLf _
     & "using System.Diagnostics;" & vbCrLf _
     & "using NUnit.Framework;" & vbCrLf _
     & "" & vbCrLf _
     & "namespace " & namespaceName & vbCrLf _
     & "{" & vbCrLf _
     & "	[TestFixture]" & vbCrLf _
     & "	public class " & codeClass.Name & "_Tests" & vbCrLf _
     & "	{" & vbCrLf _
     & "		" & vbCrLf _
     & "	}" & vbCrLf _
     & "}" & vbCrLf _
     & "#endif" & vbCrLf _

   ' Add as sub-item and show
   Dim newItem As ProjectItem = item.ProjectItems.AddFromFile(newItemPath)

End Sub

' Utility used by AddTestsFile
Function findClass(ByVal items As System.Collections.IEnumerable) As CodeClass
   For Each codeEl As CodeElement In items
      If codeEl.Kind = vsCMElement.vsCMElementClass Then
         Return codeEl
      ElseIf codeEl.Children.Count &gt; 0 Then
         Dim cls As CodeClass = findClass(codeEl.Children)
         If cls IsNot Nothing Then
            Return findClass(codeEl.Children)
         End If
      End If
   Return Nothing
End Function

The right-click Project Item context menu shortcut can be wired up to the macro with the help of Sara Ford’s tip about customizing Visual Studio context menus.

Update 11 March 2008: Fixed findClass subroutine which resulted in null reference error, it now recurses correctly.

System.Net.Mail: The specified string is not in the form required for a subject

Having your ASP.NET error handling routine, which sends you emails when an error occurs on your site, itself fail is annoying. Especially when you think you’ve made the code robust enough. Anyway the error handler for one site I work on was failing with “ArgumentException: The specified string is not in the form required for a subject“.

So what is exactly “the form required for a subject”? Googling for this error message returns a lot of junk and misinformed forum posts. It turns out that setting the Subject on a System.Net.Mail.Message internally calls MailBnfHelper.HasCROrLF (thank you Reflector) which does exactly what it says on the tin. Therefore one forum poster’s solution of subject.Replace("\r\n", " ") isn’t going to work when your have either a carriage return or line feed in there.

So, obviously, the solution is:

message.Subject = subject.Replace('\r', ' ').Replace('\n', ' ');

Personally, I think that the MailMessage should to this for you or at least Microsoft should document what actually constitutes a “form required for a subject” in MSDN or, even better, in the actual error message itself!

C# Extension Methods and IsNullOrEmpty

As Brad Wilson points out one of the nice features of C# 3.0′s extension methods is that they work on null instances. Indeed, why shouldn’t they? They’re just static methods that are invoked in a slightly different way. But this allows a subtle but very pleasing (to me this morning anyway) bit of syntactic sugar for the very commonly used String.IsNullOrEmpty() method.

So instead of:

if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(myString)) ...

you can have the more-readable:

if (myString.IsNullOrEmpty()) ...

by using:

public static class StringExtensions
   public static bool IsNullOrEmpty(this string str)
      return string.IsNullOrEmpty(str);

It’s a very small thing but I like it.

Shortcut to Switch User in Windows Vista

At home, our PC running Vista is rarely rebooted and is either in a low power state sleeping or being used by either me or my wife. One thing we’ve taken great advantage since the XP days is Fast User Switching which allows someone else to log in to their desktop whilst yours is kept running in the background. My wife and I had got quite used to doing a quick WinKey+L (as you do) before relinquishing control of the PC to one another. In Windows XP WinKey+L is does a “lock workstation” which in non-domain machines takes you back to the Windows logon screen. Unfortunately on Vista it takes you to a “workstation locked” screen, so you then have another mouse click on the Switch User button (followed by monitor re-syncing itself – why does it do this? All users run at the same screen resolution) to take you to the users screen. Of course there is a “Switch User” command tucked away in the little menu next to the lock button on the start menu – but a quick keystroke is what we’re after here.

So – I go off searching for a shortcut key that does a “switch user” rather than “lock workstation”. After a 20 minutes fruitless Googling for some special key combination, I sat back, thought about it logically and came up with this solution:

  1. Create a shortcut on your desktop to TSDISCON (* see below) and call it something like “Switch User”
  2. Go the shortcut Properties page and assign a shortcut key. Note that unfortunately you can’t use the Windows Key in your shortcut – so I went for CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + L
  3. Right click Start button and choose “Open All Users” and move the shortcut into the Programs folder (confirming the UAC prompt as you go).
  4. Log out, and back in again. This is necessary because Explorer hasn’t noticed there’s now a shortcut with a new shortcut key it should be taking notice of.

And that did it. CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + L isn’t quite a neat as WinKey+L but it’s a hell of a lot better than poking around in the Start Menu.

* What is TSDISCON you ask? It’s the Terminal Services Disconnect command. Fast User Switching is all made possible by the core Terminal Services technologies which introduced the concept of multiple Window Stations or “sessions” running concurrently on the one machine. It was of course originally designed to support multiple users connecting concurrently to these sessions over the network using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), but Windows XP took advantage of the multi-session architecture to enable Fast User Switching. (The RDP stuff is still there but hobbled to only allow one user to connect at a a time.)

UPDATE: If you don’t have tsdiscon.exe on your system for some reason (maybe it’s only available in Business/Ultimate or something) then you can use the following C# code (compiled into a Windows EXE using C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\csc.exe if you don’t have Visual Studio) to do the same thing. Tsdiscon.exe is just a wrapper around WTSDisconnectSession. I used Dependency Walker (aka depends.exe) to find out what was being used:

UPDATE 2: For your convenience: I’ve compiled the below and packaged it into a ZIP along with the source for download here.

using System;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.ComponentModel;

class Program
  [DllImport("wtsapi32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
  static extern bool WTSDisconnectSession(IntPtr hServer, int sessionId, bool bWait);

  const int WTS_CURRENT_SESSION = -1;
  static readonly IntPtr WTS_CURRENT_SERVER_HANDLE = IntPtr.Zero;

  static void Main(string[] args)
    if (!WTSDisconnectSession(WTS_CURRENT_SERVER_HANDLE,
         WTS_CURRENT_SESSION, false))
      throw new Win32Exception();

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