Rapid Prototyping with “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools

As a developer there are times I want to quickly throw something together to see if an idea I have is workable. I don’t need to go through all the ceremony of creating a project with necessary dependencies, good architecture, etc. if all I want to know is if I can access some service. For most things I can fire up a quick test project using either Console or Web project templates and have my answer in a few minutes. For SharePoint though, this has never been very easy.

Introducing Napa Tools

“Napa is a great way to get started building Office Add-Ins right in a browser window. You don’t need to install any tools such as Visual Studio. All you need is an Office 365 account and a supported browser.”

With previous versions of SharePoint, server-side code was really the only way to go to create custom SharePoint solutions. Developing for SharePoint was tricky as it required a local install in order to build and package solutions. This made throwing together test harnesses very slow to prove out a concept. With the introduction of client side libraries and services, extending SharePoint with custom code has become much easier.

Even though developing for SharePoint doesn’t mean server side code, it still has packaging requirements. That’s where Napa comes into play. Using an online editor which resembles lightweight editors like Sublime and Visual Studio Code, anyone with a modern browser can throw together a quick test or demo without a local install of SharePoint or even worrying about manifests and elements files. The editor provides syntax highlighting, jump to definition, basic Intellisense capabilities, and saves your work automatically.


“Napa” Office 365 Development Tools Online Editor

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Windows 8 and Wireless Display (WiDi) Not Working

Devices Charm showing the option to add a wireless display.

Wireless Display Support in Windows 8

I just spent way too many hours trying to figure out why every blog post on the subject of using a wireless display claims there was a link to “Add a wireless display” in the Devices charm under the Project option but not on my machine. I recently bought a Samsung UN55H7150 television that had screen mirroring capability and my HP TouchSmart 15t laptop claimed to support wireless displays but for some reason I couldn’t make them work.

If you’re having this problem, I’ll save you the effort of figuring it out: you’ve got a virtual network driver installed that is mucking with this capability. I ran across a reference in a blog saying they had trouble after installing their company VPN software. I thought maybe it might be that but then I realized this hasn’t worked since I installed Oracle VirtualBox. I tried disabling the driver but that didn’t seem to do anything. After uninstalling VirtualBox completely, the option was again available.

I can’t tell you how many hours over how many days I lost to this as I would attempt to figure it out, get frustrated, give up and then try again another day but it was too many.

If the “add a wireless display” option is missing from your Windows 8 machine and you’re sure you have hardware capable of supporting WiDi or Miracast, look at your installed software and remove anything that added a networking driver.

Frustratingly yours,

Web Api Progressive Download on GitHub and NuGet

In a previous post I wrote an example library for ASP.NET Web Api that would handle HTTP requests that could contain RANGE headers. I just published the code on GitHub and have made a signed, release build package on NuGet.

You can find usage information in the Progressive Download GitHub repository. The latest build is dependent on the WebApi Client and Core version 5.0.0 NuGet packages and the Newtonsoft.Json version 4.5.11 NuGet package. Hopefully this will let people leverage the library without upgrading their dependencies.

The solution on GitHub contains 100% code coverage tests which I’ve been running before I commit the code or publish a package to NuGet.

Check the previous post on the topic about limitations of the System.Net.Http.ByteRangeStreamResult class or any other particulars. I would recommend this path for progressive downloads than my aging attempts to replicate the functionality in MVC.

Feedback is welcome.

Creating NUnit Tests in Visual Studio 2013

Recently I’ve been interested in incorporating more automated testing in my projects. The benefits of having tests are heavily covered in other topics so I won’t waste time explaining why I sat in on a few sessions at this year’s Code Camp NYC focusing on automated testing. Needless to say a few of the sessions was all it took to push me into getting my feet wet.

I decided to start out on a demo project just so I didn’t dirty up any formal projects while I tried out the best approach to implementing the tests. I recently created a project to check out ASP.NET Web API as a progressive download host (which allows for streaming video to iOS devices, allows downloads to be chunked and resumed by download managers, etc.) This seemed like a good candidate for tests since the behavior of the library changes based on the HTTP request headers for a resource.

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Progressive Download Support in ASP.NET Web API

(Update 2014-12-10: The code is now in GitHub and a package is available as a NuGet Package. See the announcement about it.)

Some time ago I read an interesting Stack Overflow question asking about streaming videos to iOS devices from ASP.NET MVC. In researching the answer, I learned about parsing HTTP request headers and constructing responses. In general for iOS devices to support playing video a web server needs to understand requests with the RANGE header and respond appropriately with 206 (PartialContent) and a CONTENT-RANGE header which more or less repeats the original request range.

I originally wrote an answer to this effect but also wanted to test it out to make sure it worked in ASP.NET MVC. While successful, it was not particularly elegant. After getting some feedback and requests, I wrote a second version. Surprisingly I still get pings on this from time to time and it made me wonder if something more integrated has shown up in ASP.NET MVC since my original attempts. Until recently I hadn’t had a need for this myself until a couple days ago I got the urge to stream video content from my Windows laptop to my TV and thought this might be a good time to revisit the library. What I wanted was an iOS compliant video server so I could stream videos to my Apple TV via my phone.

I knew I had a working library for ASP.NET MVC that I could have up and running in a few minutes but I was more curious if there had been any advancements in supporting partial range requests more seamlessly. A few brief searches turned up the ByteRangeStreamContent class and the HttpRequestMessage’s RANGE header used in ASP.NET Web API which looked promising.

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Note on Installing TFS 2013

Over the last few months I’ve been investigating source control solutions to replace our aging solution. After going through a few options we finally settled on TFS 2013. After much research I was able to figure out all the necessary requirements, the best options for getting it set up and running except for one crucial question. I couldn’t find a straight answer that explained how the application talked to remote database server with regards to user accounts. My guess was the TFSService account was in charge of this but I couldn’t get a definitive answer. I was really hoping it wasn’t going to use integrated authentication all the way to the database since that would be a non-starter.

With fingers crossed, I managed to get all the necessary approvals, got a new VM stood up and even got the database team to agree to create a service account that would let TFS manage its database requirements directly (rather than trying to pre-create the tables.)

When the day finally came, we ran into a slight snag. I was attempting to the do the TFS configuration from my account while the database guy watched, ever-ready to type in the service credentials. Unfortunately the database wasn’t being found no matter how correctly those credentials were typed. On a complete guess, we decided to try again while the DB guy was logged in. Sure enough this worked.

Once the configuration was complete, I was able to hit the TFS front-end and the connections to the database from that point on happened through the TFSService account. Neat. The downside is I can’t run the configuration tool to add new collections or change features since my account doesn’t have database rights. The TFSService account only applies to calls through the front-ends.

So, if you decide to install TFS 2013 on premises and to use a remote database managed by another team with very strict permissions, you’re going to need to run the configuration under an account with permissions to the database server. The web front-ends will communicate using the account configured as the TFSService account after that.

There. Weeks of trying to find a definitive answer and I finally just had to try it and hope for the best. Hopefully this saves someone else some time!

Happy controlling of the source,

HTML User Picker now on GitHub!

It’s taking a bit longer to get out Part 2 of creating a user picker in HTML, CSS and jQuery than I’d initially expected. In the interim the User Picker has evolved into a more generic picker useful for other types of data. As such it’s undergone some heavy modification to strip out specific references to users / employees and gained some additional configuration options.

I had almost the entire Part 2 post written and ready the night I published Part 1. I only needed to do a bit of cleanup of the user picker to remove any traces of specific information and get it ready for people to view publicly. With all the changes that have happened since, the post is basically obsolete. It wouldn’t be kind to force people to wait for it to be rewritten before letting you see the current code and begin using it. I’ll try to get the blog post out soon for those interested in the process of creating a jQuery plugin but I have a feeling the source is much more highly desired!

The picker – now called entitypicker – can be found on GitHub. There is also a hastily thrown-together demo page. The demo uses Yahoo services to do YQL queries for city names.

This is my first jQuery plugin and most complex bit of HTML, CSS and JavaScript I’ve ever attempted to write. Please keep that in mind when you’re reviewing it. I look forward to feedback and hopefully some contributions to help make it more useful and solid.

Be kind,