Archive for category Development

ConEmu – split setup for Node.js

I’m a big fan of ConEmu. I’ve recently starting making use of the split console capability, as shown below

ConEmu Split Screen

Getting the split screen is easy, you just have to select the option in the new console window dialog

ConEmu New Console Dialog

Here’s the triple split that I typically use for Node.js development:

ConEmu Triple Split

What I really want though is my split screen setup in one easy step. Fortunately that’s possible with little effort through some additional commands in ConEmu’s Tasks option. What I did was created a new task called Node.js with the following options:

ConEmu Task Setup


  • Node.js – this is just the task name
  • Commands
    • The > before powershell.exe means that I want this console to be the active one when I start the task
    • powershell.exe is listed three times, delimited by empty lines, this means I want powershell to open 3 times
    • The second powershell.exe has the option -cur_console:as30H, meaning that I want it to be a horizontal split at the size of 30%
    • The third powershell.exe has the option -cur_console:as30V, meaning that I want it to be a vertical split at the size of 30%. Since this comes after the second command, it will be split under the second console, as shown in the screenshot above
    • Additional option: -noexit -command “$host.UI.RawUI.WindowTitle=’NodeJS'” means that I want to set the title of the tab to NodeJS

Now I can get my triple split setup just by selecting the new task:

ConEmu New Console Dialog - NodeJS

Hopefully this is useful to someone else. 🙂


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Converting Brail View Engine pages on MonoRail to use the Spark View Engine

Converting from the Brail View Engine to the Spark View Engine for MonoRail apps might not be interesting to many people, but here it is nonetheless. (We’re having to convert a project over due to switching our dependency management to Nuget.. hence the old Brail View Engine does not like the newer Castle.Core.)


Brail property bag shortcuts:


Spark equivalent :


The only problem with this is it’s not as clean as the Brail version. However, there’s a solution. By using the


tag, you can write the code just like Brail:

<viewdata SiteRoot='string' />



<% if AppEnvironment.ToUpper() == "DEV": %>
V: <strong>${VersionNumber}</strong>
Environment: <strong>${AppEnvironment}</strong>
Connection: <strong>${ConnectionEnvironment}</strong>
<% if AreThereProblemsWithTheEnvironment: %>
<a href="${siteroot}/Admin/Health.rails">
<img src="${siteroot}/Images/sick.jpg" title="I'm not feeling so hot...there are some problems with the environment" />
<% end %>
<% end %>


<if condition='PropertyBag["AppEnvironment"].ToString().ToUpper() == "DEV"'>
V: <strong>${PropertyBag["VersionNumber"]}</strong>
Environment: <strong>${PropertyBag["AppEnvironment"]}</strong>
Connection: <strong>${PropertyBag["ConnectionEnvironment"]}</strong>
<if condition='(int)PropertyBag["AreThereProblemsWithTheEnvironment"] > 0' >
<a href='${SiteRoot}/Admin/Health.spark'>
<img src="${SiteRoot}/Images/sick.jpg" title="I'm not feeling so hot...there are some problems with the environment" />



addSlash = false
for breadCrumb in breadCrumbs:
output " > " if addSlash
<a href="${breadCrumb.Href}">${breadCrumb.Name}</a>
addSlash = true


<var addSlash="false" type="bool">
<for each='var breadCrumb in (List[[BreadCrumb]])PropertyBag["BreadCrumbs"]'>
<span if='addSlash == true'>></span>
<a href='${breadCrumb.Href}'>${breadCrumb.Name}</a>
# addSlash = true;

Partial Pages:

In Brail, the way we were using partial pages was to specify the partials as “layouts” after the main layout on our controller:

[Layout("Main", "myPartialPage")]
public class HomeController : SmartDispatcherController


// ...


and in the Main layout, you specify where the view content is rendered like so:


This doesn’t work in Spark. If you provide a second layout parameter to the Layout attribute on your controller, Spark will use that for the view content. So to fix this, we have to remove the second Layout attribute parameter:

public class HomeController : SmartDispatcherController


// ...


and then adjust our HTML to have the <use /> tag instead (I think this is cleaner)

<use file="myPartialPage" />
<use content="view" />

Other things:
Brail has a handy ${SiteRoot} variable added to the view context, which will give you the root path of the site for things like including scripts and css. With Spark, you can also use ${SiteRoot}, you just have to setup a couple of things first:

public class HomeController : SmartDispatcherController
public override void Initialize()
PropertyBag["SiteRoot"] = Context.ApplicationPath;

and add the viewdata tag at the top of the page:

<viewdata SiteRoot='string' />

now you can reference scripts, urls, css, etc. properly:

<script type="text/javascript" src="${SiteRoot}/Scripts/jquery-1.4.3.min.js"></script>

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Strangeness with NUnit runner instantiating attributes before running tests are run

So Scott Koon and I going through converting a project from using MBUnit / Gallio to NUnit instead, mainly for the speed benefits, but also for complying with the direction of our development moving forward.  One gotcha we just ran into is in the way NUnit handles custom attributes.

Say you have an attribute like this:

    [AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class, AllowMultiple = false)]
    public class DogMeowsLikeRatAttribute : Attribute
        public DogMeowsLikeRatAttribute()
            if (!StateMaintainer.HasBeenTouched)
                throw new ImmaCryException("Oh snap! You broke it!");

and a class that uses the attribute:

    public class WhatDoWeAttributeThisTooClass
        public void FoShizzel()
            Console.WriteLine("Nizzle izzle da bomb dapibizzle turpizzle go to hizzle shiz");

and a test for your class

    public class TestThatClassyClass
        public void WhoaNow()
            StateMaintainer.HasBeenTouched = true;

            var subject = new WhatDoWeAttributeThisTooClass();
            subject.Should().NotBeNull("Cause I said so!");

and the state maintainer just to prove the point:

    public static class StateMaintainer
        public static bool HasBeenTouched;

When you run the test, you will receive an exception. Now the important thing is to look at the stack trace here:

<pre>------ Test started: Assembly: DoesNunitInstantiateAttributes.dll ------

Here's what you're a gonna do: Oh snap! You broke it!
Test 'M:DoesNunitInstantiateAttributes.TestThatClassyClass.WhoaNow' failed: Oh snap! You broke it!
	DoesNunitInstantiateAttributes.ImmaCryException: Oh snap! You broke it!
	Class1.cs(18,0): at DoesNunitInstantiateAttributes.DogMeowsLikeRatAttribute..ctor()
	at System.RuntimeTypeHandle.CreateCaInstance(RuntimeType type, IRuntimeMethodInfo ctor)
	at System.Reflection.CustomAttribute.GetCustomAttributes(RuntimeModule decoratedModule, Int32 decoratedMetadataToken, Int32 pcaCount, RuntimeType attributeFilterType, Boolean mustBeInheritable, IList derivedAttributes, Boolean isDecoratedTargetSecurityTransparent)
	at System.Reflection.CustomAttribute.GetCustomAttributes(RuntimeType type, RuntimeType caType, Boolean inherit)
	at System.RuntimeType.GetCustomAttributes(Boolean inherit)
	at NUnit.Core.Reflect.GetAttributes(ICustomAttributeProvider member, Boolean inherit)
	at NUnit.Core.Reflect.HasAttribute(ICustomAttributeProvider member, String attrName, Boolean inherit)
	at NUnit.Core.Builders.NUnitTestFixtureBuilder.CanBuildFrom(Type type)
	at NUnit.Core.Extensibility.SuiteBuilderCollection.CanBuildFrom(Type type)
	at NUnit.Core.TestFixtureBuilder.CanBuildFrom(Type type)
	at NUnit.Core.Builders.TestAssemblyBuilder.GetFixtures(Assembly assembly, String ns)
	at NUnit.Core.Builders.TestAssemblyBuilder.Build(String assemblyName, Boolean autoSuites)
	at NUnit.Core.Builders.TestAssemblyBuilder.Build(String assemblyName, String testName, Boolean autoSuites)
	at NUnit.Core.TestSuiteBuilder.BuildSingleAssembly(TestPackage package)
	at NUnit.Core.TestSuiteBuilder.Build(TestPackage package)
	at testListener, Assembly assembly, ITestFilter filter)
	at NUnit.AddInRunner.NUnitTestRunner.runMethod(ITestListener testListener, Assembly assembly, MethodInfo method)
	at NUnit.AddInRunner.NUnitTestRunner.MemberRun.Run(NUnitTestRunner testRunner, ITestListener testListener, Assembly assembly)
	at testListener, Assembly assembly, IRun run)
	at NUnit.AddInRunner.NUnitTestRunner.RunMember(ITestListener testListener, Assembly assembly, MemberInfo member)
	at TestDriven.TestRunner.AdaptorTestRunner.Run(ITestListener testListener, ITraceListener traceListener, String assemblyPath, String testPath)
	at TestDriven.TestRunner.ThreadTestRunner.Runner.Run()

0 passed, 1 failed, 0 skipped, took 0.18 seconds (NUnit 2.5).</pre>

The test where the attributed class is instantiated has not been hit yet by NUnit.  Instead, it seems that NUnit is gleaning over the text fixtures in the assembly, finding all of the custom attributes, and instantiating those attributes before running any of the tests.  We ran into this issue because of an attribute that had an IoC container lookup (I know what you’re going to say, but we didn’t write it) in the constructor of the attribute. Due to the container not yet being initialized, an exception was thrown.

Hopefully Charlie Poole can provide some insight into this strange behavior on NUnit’s part.

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Getting the Castle Windsor Quartz.Net Facility logging with your log4net configuration

The Castle Windsor Quartz.Net facility is pretty awesome, it making getting up and running a fairly painless process.  However, when things go wrong, will be SILENT about it, unless you configure logging correctly.  Already having log4net and Castle.Facilities.Logging setup in my project, here’s the awesomeness that my team came up with to get to tell us what’s up:

Step number the 1) Add a reference to Common.Logging v2.0.0.0 and Common.Logging.Log4Net v2.0.0.0

Step number the 2) Add this assembly binding redirect to your app/web.config:


<assemblyIdentity name="Common.Logging" publicKeyToken="af08829b84f0328e" culture="neutral"/>

<bindingRedirect oldVersion="" newVersion=""/>


Step number the 3)  Add this section group to the <configSections> in your app/web.config:

<sectionGroup name="common">

<section name="logging" type="Common.Logging.ConfigurationSectionHandler, Common.Logging" />


Step number the 4) Add this xml block in the <configuration> block, right after <configSections> works good:



<factoryAdapter type="Common.Logging.Log4Net.Log4NetLoggerFactoryAdapter, Common.Logging.Log4net">

<arg key="configType" value="FILE-WATCH" />

<arg key="configFile" value="Log4Net.config" />




Step number the last) Profit.

Now, if you mess up your cron schedule, like

<cron-expression>15 0/1 * CAT * ?</cron-expression>

, you’ll get a beautiful error:

<pre>ERROR 03:14:26 Error scheduling jobs: Illegal characters for this position: 'CAT'
System.FormatException: Illegal characters for this position: 'CAT'
   at Quartz.CronExpression.StoreExpressionVals(Int32 pos, String s, Int32 type)
   at Quartz.CronExpression.BuildExpression(String expression)
   at Quartz.CronExpression..ctor(String cronExpression)
   at Quartz.CronTrigger.set_CronExpressionString(String value)
   at Quartz.CronTrigger..ctor(String name, String group, String jobName, String jobGroup, DateTime startTimeUtc, Nullable`1 endTime, String cronExpression)
   at Quartz.Xml.JobSchedulingDataProcessor.ProcessJobs(quartz data)
   at Quartz.Xml.JobSchedulingDataProcessor.ProcessInternal(String xml)
   at Quartz.Xml.JobSchedulingDataProcessor.ProcessFile(String fileName, String systemId)
   at Quartz.Xml.JobSchedulingDataProcessor.ProcessFileAndScheduleJobs(String fileName, String systemId, IScheduler sched, Boolean overwriteExistingJobs)
   at Quartz.Plugin.Xml.JobInitializationPlugin.ProcessFile(JobFile jobFile)

Many thanks to our friend Lane McLaughlin for figuring out this goo… everyone loves a log.

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Visual Studio Silverlight 4 Tools and Resharper Beta snafu & forehead slap

While trying to install Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio this morning, I kept getting this crazy error message “Incompatible processes check” “Submit Exception”.


After wasting about 10 minutes searching, and another 20 redownloading the tools and attempting to install again, I came to the realization that “Submit Exception” was in a list of what should be Window Titles.. and sure enough, Resharper Beta threw up, and wanted me to submit an exception:


well I feel stupid.. Smile

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Adding packages to

clip_image001mmmmm, nuget.

These steps were written from the mindset of adding a package to the nuget gallery on that you require and happens to be missing. Anyone can add a package to for any project, even if you’re not a project contributor (although that is ideal). At Russell, we use a LOT of open source frameworks. While upgrading a portion of our code today, we decided to use nuget.  The first road bump we found was that did not have a package for Castle.Services.Transaction.  So what’s a open source loving dev gonna do then? Why, submit a package for it of course!

Steps to add a new package to (I’m making a lot of assumptions here, such as you know how to work the command prompt):

1) Make sure you have the nuget.exe command line tool.  If not, download the latest from here (or the complex site here) and stick it somewhere accessible from your path (I use d:\dev\tools). If you already have nuget.exe, you can run ‘nuget update’ to get the latest version. More details here from David Ebbo

2) Download the released version of the package you want to add, in this example I’m using Castle.Services.Transaction, which I downloaded from

3) Create an empty folder for the package, such as Castle.Services.Transaction, then create a subfolder called ‘lib’

4) Drop the binaries inside the lib folder. Since Castle.Services.Transaction has a NET35 and NET40 version, you’ll have multiple folders:

5) Delete ALL dependencies in the lib folder.  Castle.Services.Transaction depends on Castle.Core, but you do not want to include these in this package since Nuget handles dependencies for you.  The only binaries you want to include will be the binaries specifically for the project.

6) Create the manifest file by running the nuget spec command, with the –a [assembly location]. You’ll want to make sure you’re NOT inside the folder you created for this project. The .nuspec file will be created in your current folder.

7) Open the nuspec manifest and add the missing information. The Castle.Services.Transaction manifest is at the end of this email.

8) Now we get to generate the actual package. Run the nuget pack command, the first parameter is the .nuspec manifest, the –b parameter is the folder you created for the project, and the –o parameter is the output folder for the package. The –v parameter is for verbose output:

9) Login to, and click on “Contribute”, then “Add New Package”

10) Upload the .nupkg file that we just generated with nuget pack.

11) Verify the details of the package then click Next:

12) Choose a logo, or just click Finish to use the icon taken from the manifest:

13) Then, hopefully, a successful upload:

14) After a few minutes, you package should show up:

That’s all there is to it.  More information on creating packages can be found here: and Phil Haack’s post, which is a little more verbose than these simple instructions.

The Castle.Services.Transaction manifest:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<package xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:xsi="">
 <metadata xmlns="">
 <authors>Castle Project Contributors</authors>
 <owners>Castle Project Contributors</owners>
 <description>Castle.Service.Transaction was inspired by the Java Transaction API (JTA), although it is a simplified version with no support for two phase commit.

Basically there is a transaction manager that is able to create transactions, that are associated with the thread. You can only have one active transaction per thread.

The transaction object only orchestrates the resources enlisted with it. It is up to the resource implementation to provide integration with some external transaction-capable entity, typically a database connection.</description>
 <dependency id="Castle.Core" version="2.5.1" />


Putting Rake & Albacore in your git repo for instant build awesomeness

Whilst checking out the latest and greatest from the machine.specifications repo, I noticed that their build setup uses Rake.. nothing really all that special there, I thought, lots of projects use Rake.  But taking a closer look, I discovered that the guys got smart and added a small version of Ruby 1.8.6 to their Tools folder, and wrote their build batches in such a way that the repo version of Ruby is used for their build instead of the local version of Ruby (even if Ruby is not installed at all).  This is actually quite brilliant.  The brilliance lies in not requiring Ruby to be directly installed on the build server, or any developer’s machine.


Everything that is not needed in Ruby has been stripped out (like webrick) to make the size of the Rake folder as small as possible. Let’s take a look at how Rake is invoked through the build.cmd


Simple and elegant. Since Ruby isn’t something native to the Windows world, it’s just a folder structure that you can move around, so putting a copy in the repo makes a lot of sense.  There are no strange things to worry about, such as having PowerShell installed if your build scripts using psake.  This is perfect for projects running Mono and developers running Linux or Mac.

So rather than pulling the mspec source and duplicating their setup, I created a skeleton project called BuildWithRuby and pushed it out to github with this exact setup.  Instead of using Ruby 1.8.6 like mspec, I’ve carved out a small copy of Ruby 1.8.7 with Albacore in the Tools folder. You can run either build.cmd from the Windows command prompt (or PowerShell), or run from your bash prompt. This example has a small Console application with a specifications project (using mspec no less).  The rake script looks like so:


This script will clean, compile assembly info, build, and run specifications for you. Nothing complicated, and very clean.  Hopefully this will help some poor soul who’s stuck without the ability to install Ruby on their build server. 🙂

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How F5 Driven Development Contributes to Getting Distracted

As someone who has believed in the ideals of Test Driven Development for several years, I often find it unfathomable that some folks are still stuck in what I call F5 Driven Development. Defining this term is quite as simple as stating “Write some code, press F5, see if it worked, close, repeat.”  You can be running a F5DD cycle and not even realize it.  Any time you’re developing and you do not have a short, fast way to test changes several times per minute, you’re essentially in the F5DD cycle.  This applies to writing all types of applications: web, fat client, mobile, Silverlight, Windows services (oh dear, don’t get me started about F5DD and Windows Services). Silverlight is a special and sad case as well, as I cannot think of any other technology where F5DD is the only way to develop most of the application.. ok, well there IS Flash as too.

First, let’s talk about our attention span. It shouldn’t be news to anyone in the tech industry that the Internet with it’s immediate access to a universe full of information has contributed to the majority of us having very short attention spans.  There have even been some studies that say knowledge workers often have the attention span of a sparrow. Ironically, Twitter cuts the short attention span to a whole new, lower, level. When following enough people, “drinking from the fire hose” is no longer an accurate analogy… it’s much more like having an ocean’s worth of water shot at you through a 12′ diameter pipe.  It is my belief that these constant bursts of short information are a detriment to our ability to pay attention to any one thing for a substation length of time. Even writing this article, I’ve switched over to Twitter at least 20 times.

So what does this have to do with F5DD?  One of the biggest problems with F5DD that many articles do not cover is the loss of attention which is supposed to be dedicated to the problem you’re trying to solve.  Observe this typical process (bare with me, Ruby guys):

  1. write a bit of code
  2. compile
  3. wait for successful compile
  4. press F5
  5. wait for app to spin up (potentially having to recompile again)
  6. navigate to and test feature
  7. close app
  8. and then wait for your IDE to come back around so you can start the cycle again.

These wait times can be very damaging to your attention span.  In the world of writing an ASP.NET application, even on a beefy computer, with a medium sized code base, you could very well be waiting for at least 30 to 60 seconds before the application starts up. Only at this point can you begin to manually test your feature.  Have you ever been through such an experience? The delay between typing the last character in the code and starting to test gives your mind ample opportunity to start wandering off… “I wonder what’s happening on Twitter now?” “Better check my email again, though it’s only been 2 minutes” “Ooo I should go get some coffee!” “I’ll just play with my new Android while I wait” “*zombie drool* FACEBOOK *zombie grunt*”. All of these distraction points contribute to a further loss of concentration, and result, ultimately, in sub par code.  When you finally get your attention focused back to the problem again, you may find that you’ve forgotten the last change you made, or an idea about where to head next with the solution.

How does TDD solve this problem? The easiest elevator pitch I can give you is “speed, and lots of it.” Generally speaking, applying the practice of TDD gives your brain less time to wander and become distracted.  Of course this is no absolute, and I can site many times during the TDD process that I have still become distracted and succumbed to the urge to check my email/twitter/phone. The important distinction is that during TDD, the distractions come at a decreased rate.  The less time we give our minds to wander, the more we should be able to stay focused, at least theoretically speaking.

Next time I’m going to tackle another important player in the battle against becoming distracted during the coding process, slow test frameworks and test runners (I’m lookin at you, Gallio!).  Afterwards, I’m going to take on the tough issue of sleep deprivation and how poor code quality can be a direct result.