Portable Class Library (PCL) Timer when Targeting Both Windows 8 and Windows Phone using Reactive Extensions

Currently the Timer class is not available when targeting both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 Store Apps.

For the app I’m building I want the MVVMLight PCL ViewModel to update a property every second – the databound View then simply updates itself.

One solution is to implement your own Task based Timer as described in this Stack Overflow article.

Another approach could be to make use of Reactive Extensions Observable.Interval method to create a sequence that updates every n-seconds.

First off add the Reactive Extensions NuGet package to your PCL project.

Next, in the ViewModel constructor (or command, etc.) create the interval stream and then tell it to execute a method every second:

var timer = Observable.Interval(TimeSpan.FromSeconds(1)).DistinctUntilChanged();



I’m using SynchronizationContext.Current because the TimerTick method (below) updates the ViewModel property, without this there is a thread access problem.

So the TimerTick method ends up being called every second and simply updates the (MVVMLight) TotalTimeLeft property:

private void TimerTick(long l)
    TotalTimeLeft = DateTime.Now.Second.ToString();

I’m not an expert on Rx so there may be a better way of using it in this instance (or some potential hidden problems) but it’s working in the app so far (and on ARM Surface RT)…

It’s however cool to know that Rx has portable class library support.

Any Rx experts feel free to comment on a better way :)


Telling a View to display a Message Dialog from the ViewModel With MVVMLight in Windows 8.1 Store Apps

The technique below is one technique, others exist, but the design goals of this approach are:

  1. The ViewModel cannot know or reference the View
  2. The ViewModel should should not care how the View displays or interacts with the user (it could be a dialog box, a flyout, etc.)
  3. The ViewModel must be Portable Class Library compatible and View agnostic, e.g. not need to know about dialog buttons, etc.
  4. Choices the user makes in the View dialog should result in Commands being executed on the ViewModel
  5. The ViewModel must not specify the content of the message text, button labels, etc. – the View should be responsible for the text/content of the message

One way to think about these design goals is that the ViewModel is asking for some semantic message/dialog to be displayed in the View.

Defining a Message to be used with the MVVM Light Messenger

The way the ViewModel “tells” the View to create a dialog is by sending a message using the MVVM Light Messenger.

First we define a custom message:

using System.Windows.Input;
using GalaSoft.MvvmLight.Messaging;

namespace Project.Portable.ViewModel.Messages
    public class ShowDialogMessage : MessageBase
        public ICommand Yes { get; set; }
        public ICommand No { get; set; }
        public ICommand Cancel { get; set; }

This message allows us to define the commands that the view will call, based on the choice that the user makes in the dialog.



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.



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:


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:



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.


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



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.WriteLine("Now back to defaults");



The above code produces the following output:



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.



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++)

2. Beeping Consoles

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

We can also specify a frequency and duration.



Merging IEnumerable Sequences in C# with LINQ

The Zip method allows us to join IEnumerable sequences together by interleaving the elements in the sequences.

Zip is an extension method on IEnumerable. For example to zip together a collection of names with ages we could write:

var names = new [] {"John", "Sarah", "Amrit"};

var ages = new[] {22, 58, 36};

var namesAndAges = names.Zip(ages, (name, age) => name + " " + age);    

This would produce an IEnumerable<string> containing three elements:

  • “John 22”
  • “Sarah 58”
  • “Amrit 36”

If one sequence is shorter that the other, the “zipping” will stop when the end of the shorter sequence is reached. So if we added an extra name:

var names = new [] {"John", "Sarah", "Amrit", "Bob"};

We’d end up with the same result as before, “Bob” wouldn’t be used as there isn’t a corresponding age for him.

We can also create objects in our lambda, this example shows how to create an IEnumerable of two-element Tuples:

var names = new [] {"John", "Sarah", "Amrit"};

var ages = new[] {22, 58, 36};

var namesAndAges = names.Zip(ages, (name, age) => Tuple.Create(name, age)); 

This will produce an IEnumerable<Tuple<String,Int32>> that contains three Tuples, with each Tuple holding a name and age.


(The .Zip method is one of a smorgasbord of C# Tips and Traps that I cover in my Pluralisight C# courses.)


Auto-Generating Sequences of Integer Values in C#

When we need to generate a sequence of integer values, we can do it manually using some kind of loop, or we make use of the Enumerable.Range method.

The following code illustrates:

var oneToTen = Enumerable.Range(1, 10);

int[] twentyToThirty = Enumerable.Range(20, 11).ToArray();

List<int> oneHundredToOneThirty = Enumerable.Range(100, 31).ToList();

We can also use the results of .Range and transform them in some way, for example to get the letters of the alphabet we could write something like this:

var alphabet = Enumerable.Range(0, 26).Select(i => Convert.ToChar('A' + i));

This will generate an IEnumerable<char> containing the letters A through Z.


(The .Range method is one of a smorgasbord of C# Tips and Traps that I cover in my Pluralisight C# courses.)


Creating Inline Data Driven Tests in xUnit

xUnit.net allows the creation of data-driven tests. These kind of tests get their test data from outside the test method code via parameters added to the test method signature.

Say we had to test a Calculator class and check it’s add method returned the correct results for six different test cases. Without data-driven tests we’d either have to write six separates tests (with almost identical code) or some loop inside our test method containing an assert.

Regular xUnit.net test methods are identified by applying the [Fact] attribute. Data-driven tests instead use the [Theory] attribute.

To get data-driven features and the [Theory] attribute, install the xUnit.net Extensions NuGet package in addition to the standard xUnit.net package.

Creating Inline Data-Driven Tests

The [InlineData] attribute allows us to specify test data that gets passed to the parameters of test method.

So for our Calculator add test we’d start by defining the test method: