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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

Actually, as I'm self-employed, I guess that means that any views I expressed here aren't my own. That's confusing!


Theme modified from one by Tom Watts
C#/F# code styling by Manoli (for posts pre-2016) and Google code prettify (for post from Jan 2016 and beyond)

My rambling thoughts on exploring the .NET framework and related technologies

I had been having some serious grief with Visual Studio’s unit testing tools. VS was complaining that some tests did not exist, and others called methods that didn’t exist. Both claims were total lies as all methods in question existed, and could be found by using the “Navigate to” feature in VS.

I had two basic errors when I tried to run tests. One was of the form "Method TestProject.SystemsRepositoryTest.CreateNewCamera does not exist" when the method did exist. I could right-click the test in the Test Results window and choose “Open test” and it would take me there. However, when trying to run the test, VS claimed it didn’t exist.

The other error I got was of the form "Test method TestProject.SystemsRepositoryTest.GetAllCameras threw exception: System.MissingMethodException: Method not found: 'System.Collections.ObjectModel.ObservableCollection`1<string> Repository.GetAllCameras()'" which was also a lie as the method being tested existed. Again, I could go to the test method, click on the name of the method being called, click f12 (Navigate to) and be taken to the code for the method.

Thanks to these problems, I have wasted loads of time debugging things that could have been fixed with unit testing. It has been frustrating to say the least!

Well, I finally found the answer…

I opened the bin/Debug folder in the test project in Windows Explorer and deleted everything in it. I then rebuilt the test project, and my tests ran fine.

For some odd reason, it looks like rebuilding the test project wasn't actually changing the DLLs in the folder, so it was using old versions, in which the methods didn't exist. Deleting them all forced VS to grab fresh copies of the referenced DLLs, and rebuild the test project's DLL.

I don’t know if this is a bug in Visual Studio 2010, but it doesn’t seem to be a feature that I would have added in by choice!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011 13:45:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

When you use Linq to create a query against an entity framework model, a common scenario is to use the .Include() extension method to make sure that any child objects are also loaded. This is mainly useful when the results of the query are to be sent over WCF, where the client is disconnected from the source of the query, and so cannot go back to the database to pick up any child objects as needed.

This works fine for simple queries, but falls apart when you want to do anything clever, like joins or shaping.

Without going into details, all you need to do is cast the query to an ObjectQuery<> and use .Include() on that. The syntax is not as obvious as it might be, so here’s an example…

ObjectQuery<Ferret> ferretQuery = ((from f in ctx.Ferrets select f) as ObjectQuery<Ferret>)

This particular example is too simple to require this trick, but I didn’t want to distract from the syntax of the cast.

I got this trick (after a long time of frustrated scratching of head at some of Microsoft’s more obscure and less helpful error messages) from this blog post.

Linq | WCF
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 15:21:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

A common scenario is to have a button on a view that is bound to a command on the viewmodel. You can also have an ABCCommandCanExecute() method on the VM that tells the view whether or not the button can be clicked.

This is all fine until you want to ask the user to confirm the action that will be performed when they click the button. For example "Are you sure you want to reformat your hard disk, dial up all the people in your contact list and reformat their hard disks, and then destroy the world?" It's kind of rude to do this without confirmation first.

The problem is that when you use WPF binding to bind the VM's command method to the button's Command property, you lose control over the execution process, and so can't inject a message box into the flow.

You could call the message box from the VM code, but this breaks the MVVM pattern, and is a really bad idea if you don't want people sneering at you in the street. It also stops you unit testing your code, which is inconvenient, but nowt by comparison to the derisive looks.

What you can do is not bind the command method, and handle it all in the button's click event. If the user confirms their desire to destroy the world, you just call the command method on the VM manually. However, doing this loses the benefits of the ABCCommandCanExecute() method. As this feature is pretty neat, we don't want to lose it if we don't have to.

Thankfully, we don't. After that long and drawn-out preamble, we are proud to present a surprisingly simple solution to the problem (drum roll please)...

This is based on the (apparently reliable) fact that a button's click event is called before the command is sent to the VM, giving us chance to get in the way.

We create a Boolean property (capital B in deference to the dear, departed George Boole, inventor of most of modern mathematical logic - the good bits anyway!) that will specify whether or not the command is to be executed. Here is some sample code for the VM...

public bool WasISure { get; set; }

Pretty complex stuff eh? Now, in the code-behind of the view, we have code like this...

private void button1_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e) {
  bool wasISure = (MessageBox.Show("Are you sure?", "Confirm", MessageBoxButton.YesNo) == MessageBoxResult.Yes);
  ((MainViewModel)this.DataContext).WasISure = wasISure;

The code above assumes that your VM is called MainViewModel, and is bound to the DataContext of your view. If not, you just substitute your own code for getting hold of the VM.

When the user clicks the button, the click event is raised first, and this shows the message box. The result (ie confirmation or refusal to destroy the world) is shoved into the VM's Boolean property, where it can be used by the command method to determine whether or not it is to execute...

private void DestroyTheWorldCommand() {
  if (WasISure) {
    // destroy the world here

That's it really! A great long piece of waffle for a few lines of code (more for those modern types who insist on putting their opening braces on a new line, but still not many). Best of all, it doesn't break the fab MVVM pattern, allowing you to hold your head up high next time you go down the pub and brag about how clever you are.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011 15:09:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)