New Open Source Project–Named Colors

I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a new open source project called NamedColors.

As its name suggests, it’s a list of color values (hex RGB) with associated names. In addition, a number of related “emotions” can be associated with each color.

A Named Color is defined as:

<NamedColor>
    <Name>MetroUITeal</Name>
    <RGB>00aba9</RGB>
    <Emotions>
    </Emotions>
</NamedColor>

You can see the current (short) list on GitHub.

The idea is to create a number of projections for use in different programming languages / platforms. For example CSS, Sass, and .NET PCL.

The project is in its early stages at the moment, and I’m not sure what applications people will find for it – it will be interesting to see what happens.

Projections are created using T4 templates.

There are other projections planned, such as a XAML dictionary of colors and brushes.

If anyone has any other ideas for projections feel free to add an issue or send me a pull request – also for adding other named colors.

Eventually for .NET there will be a NuGet PCL available containing all the named colors and way to say “give me a sad color”, etc.

An Overview of Structured Logging with Serilog

Traditional logging techniques (such as writing lines of text to files) results in the loss of structure and semantics.

Structured logging enables richer, more semantic, structured log data to be created. But more importantly queried.

Serilog is an open source logging library that facilitates this structured logging.

Serilog can be used in the traditional way, for example writing to files, but it is designed to allow capture of structured data.

There are multiple provided “sinks” that route log data to a store; from unstructured data stores such as text files (single and rolling) to structured stores such as RavenDB. Multiple sinks can be configured so the same log event is written to both stores.

Writing to multiple sinks with Serilog

To create structured data, the logging code looks slightly different from traditional (unstructured) logging code. Once the logger is configured, to log an information level event we could write something like the following:

Log.Information("Log in succeeded for {UserId}. Authentication service took {LogInMilliseconds}.", userId, responseTime);

Here, a log event is being written that contains two pieces of structured, sematic data: UserId and LogInMilliseconds. If this message is written to an unstructured source (such as text file) then a simple string will be written. If a structured sink is used then the individual data items will be stored as well.

This means that this structured information can be richly queried, for example queries such as: “show me all the logins for user 42 where the login time exceeded 200ms” or “show me all the logins that took more than 1000ms”.

Check out the Serilog site for more info or my Modern Structured Logging With Serilog and Seq Pluralsight course.

Parsing Command Line Arguments with Command Line Parser Library

When writing .Net console applications we often need to parse command line arguments that the user specified when launching the application.

We get these arguments passed into the program in the args parameter of Main()

static void Main(string[] args)

If our application only has a single simple parameter then it’s probably ok to just parse it ourselves.

Once the number and type of parameters increase then there’s a whole host of complexity that can creep in:

  • What if values need converting to enum values?
  • How to handle arguments that takes a list of values?
  • How to implement verb style arguments like “git push”?
  • What if parameters are in different order?
  • What about optional parameters and should we use default values if they’re not supplied?
  • What about arguments that are mutually exclusive?

While we can program our console applications to account for these things it could be quite a lot of work and testing to implement effectively.

It makes sense in these cases to use a ready-built library such as Command Line Parser Library.

Command Line Parser Library Basics

This library represents arguments by creating a class and decorating its properties that represent args with the [Option] attribute.

class SomeOptions
{
    [Option('n', "name", Required=true)]
    public string Name { get; set; }

    [Option('a', "age")]
    public int Age { get; set; }
}

Here this class is stating that we should always have a name argument (Required=true) and we can specify it at the command line with the shorthand “-n” or longer --name”.

The age argument is optional and can be specified with “-a” or --age”.

So from the command line we could type:

myconsoleapplication.exe -n Jason --age 99

In our Main method we can now parse these arguments into  an instance of our SomeOptions class.

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var options = new SomeOptions();

    CommandLine.Parser.Default.ParseArguments(args, options);

    // options.Name will = Jason
    // options.Age will = 99
}

The ParseArguments method takes the array of string args from the command line and populates our SomeOptions instance which we can then use in a strongly typed way.

There’s a lot more to this library such as implementing verb style arguments, strict parsing, and creating help text, all of which I cover in my Pluralsight Building .NET Console Applications in C# course.

Introducing JS Name-O-Tron – Find a Name for Your JavaScript Library

As a Microsoft MVP I get free Azure credits to use every month, so I thought I’d better start making use of them :)

screenshot of JS Name-O-Tron application on Azure

JS Name-O-Tron is the first web site I’ve deployed to Azure and I’m pleased to say it was crazy-easy :)

It generates a random word and adds “.js” to it – you can then check if there’s an existing library with that name (GitHub, CodePlex, and NuGet).

I used Visual Studio 2013 to create a new ASP.Net application and chose MVC (v5) which resulted in a Bootstrapped site with a default Home controller and views.

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New Pluralsight Course: SpecFlow Tips and Tricks

My latest Pluralsight course was released today: SpecFlow Tips and Tricks is a short course to help those who are relatively new to SpecFlow and those who have been using it for a while and want to create more maintainable testing solutions.

The course focuses on 3 main areas:

  • Steps and Bindings
  • Hooks and Scoped Bindings
  • Step Parameters and Data Tables

This course is a loose follow-up to my previous Automated Acceptance Testing with SpecFlow and Gherkin course that covers the Gherkin DSL and other fundamental SpecFlow topics.

You can check out the course on the Pluralsight website or on my author page.

Handling CTRL-C in .NET Console Applications

By default, pressing CTRL-C while a console application is running will cause it to terminate.

If we want to prevent this we can set Console.TreatControlCAsInput Property to true. This will prevent CTRL-C from terminating the application. To terminate now, the user needs to close the console window or hit CTRL-BREAK instead of the more usual and well-known CTRL-C.

class Program
{
    private static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        Console.TreatControlCAsInput = true;
        while (true)
        {
        }
    }
}

There is also the Console.CancelKeyPress event. This event is fired whenever CTRL-C or CTRL-BREAK is pressed. It allows us to decide whether or not to terminate the application.

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Getting Input From Alternative Sources in .NET Console Applications

Using the Console.SetIn Method allows us to specify an alternative source (TextReader stream).

For example suppose we have the following “names.txt” text file:

Sarah
Amrit
Gentry
Jack

We can create a new stream that reads from this file whenever we perform a Console.ReadLine(). Now when we call ReadLine, a line is read from the text file rather than the keyboard.

We can use the Console.OpenStandardInput() method to reset input back to the keyboard.

The code below creates the following output:

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Creating a Spinner Animation in a Console Application in C#

If we have a longer running process taking place in a console application, it’s useful to be able to provide some feedback to the user so they know that the application hasn’t crashed. In a GUI application we’d use something like an animated progress bar or spinner. In a console application we can make use of the SetCursorPosition() method to keep the cursor in the same place while we output characters, to create a spinning animation.

consolespinner1

While the code below could certainly be improved, it illustrates the point:

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Setting Foreground and Background Colours in .NET Console Applications

In addition to doing some fun/weird/useful/annoying things in Console applications, we can also set foreground and background colours.

To set colours we use the Console.BackgroundColor and Console.ForegroundColor properties.

When we set these properties we supply a ConsoleColor. To reset the colours back to the defaults we can call the ResetColor() method.

using System;

namespace ConsoleColorDemo
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Console.WriteLine("Default initial color");

            Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.White;
            Console.ForegroundColor = ConsoleColor.Black;
            Console.WriteLine("Black on white");
            Console.WriteLine("Still black on white");

            Console.ResetColor();

            Console.WriteLine("Now back to defaults");

            Console.ReadLine();

        }
    }
}

The above code produces the following output:

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3 Surprising Things to Do with the Console in C#

The Console class can do more than just WriteLine().

Here’s 3 fun/weird/useful/annoying things.

1. Setting The Console Window Size

The Console.SetWindowSize(numberColumns, numberRows) method sets the console window size.

Console.SetWindowSize

 

To annoy your users (or create a “nice” console opening animation) as this animated GIF shows you could write something like:

for (int i = 1; i < 40; i++)
{
    Console.SetWindowSize(i,i);
    System.Threading.Thread.Sleep(50);
}

2. Beeping Consoles

The Console.Beep() method emits a beep from the speaker(s).

We can also specify a frequency and duration.

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