TMIL Nov 2016- This Month I Learned

Earlier this month, I had a “great” idea… or at least I think I had one: Let’s put a monthly blog post up on what I learned during the previous month. If I keep doing this every month, I will not only feel some pressure to actually learn something (to be able to put it up), but will possibly see the progress (if any) I made.

So, without further ado, here is what I learned/experienced last month, in no particular order.

Connecting BizTalk to CRM (Online or on-premise) is not trivial

This is a great blog post containing a very nice example on connecting BizTalk to CRM for basic CRUD operations. This is part 2, where part 1 (linked in the article) is about connecting to CRM using the SDK.

Basically, what one needs to know is that, certain entities/values like a country for example, will not return a value, but rather a GUID. This GUID must then be queried for into CRM again, to know it’s value (in itself an entity again).

To connect to CRM, there are several options:

  • Instance Web API with a URL to the Web API and ODATA4Metadata.xml
    This contains the CSDL (Common Schema Definition Language), which defines an XML representation of the entity data model exposed by an OData service.
  • Organization Service with a URL to a SOAP service providing access to CRM, with a  WSDL you can download (Organization.svc?singlewsdl).
  • One can use the CRM SDK libraries (download the CRM SDK or use the CRM SDK Nuget packages) to connect straight to CRM and let the SDK do the hard work for you

I general it just seems like a very good idea to build a facade API in front of the CRM services, since BizTalk uses typed schemas and CRM untyped ones. You can call this facade using SOAP/Web API for example.

I learned a lot from the following resources:

BizTalk Branch Edition has several limitations, but HIS is not one of them.

In some very specific scenario’s you might use BizTalk Branch Edition instead of the Standard or Enterprise versions. Although the Branch Edition comes with several limitations, Host Integration Server (HIS) is not one of them.

Some limitations are:

  • Only 1 BizTalk application is allowed.
  • WCF and SQL is allowed, but other adapter packs are not supplied.(e.g. SOAP Send)
  • Single server only, so no HA/clustering, etc…

However, HIS 2016 still comes with the BizTalk Branch license, you are still allowed to install the DB2 adapter for example!

Azure DocumentDb is a real piece of work

For an internal project I (finally) had the ideal use case to work with Azure DocumentDb. As a very keen user of SQL Server and normalization, i must say I had to bridge some gaps in order to appreciate the beauty of NoSQL. Schemaless databases are actually quite awesome when you think of it. Not ideal in all circumstances, but amazing none the less.

There is an excellent tutorial on getting started with DocumentDb on Microsoft Docs.

The BizTalk Server 2016 configuration wizard (still) hasn’t changed

This month I installed my first BizTalk Server 2016 Developer Edition. I noticed the configuration wizard actually hasn’t changed at all in regard to previous versions. When creating the installation documentation, I will have to update all of my screenshots however, since the titlebar and logos did get updated!

I was hoping the RTM version might contain some ‘easy’ AlwaysOn configuration. I suppose this will take some time in order to streamline it.

SQL Server 2016 installation comes without SQL Server Management Studio

When installing SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition for the first time, I only noticed after the completed installation that SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio) was not installed. There is now a separate entry in the setup pages that links to a certain URL where the latest version of SSMS can be downloaded and installed.

It seems SSMS as such no longer requires a SQL license of it’s own. It might have never required one in the first place to be honest: I don’t know.

Windows Server 2016 may cause issues with older Remote Desktop Management tools

I have been using Royal TS for a whole while now. I have actually been using the last freeware version available (v1.5.1) and even put it up on oldversion.com once. Not (only) because I’m a cheapskate sometimes, but mainly because I just like the look and feel of that version. The simplicity and ease of use really does it for me.

Anyway, this month I installed my first Windows Server 2016, in order to prepare for the installation of SQL Server 2016 and BizTalk Server 2016. The first thing I tend to do on these VM’s is to connect via RDP, go to Server Manager, Remote Deskop Management and uncheck the checkbox which requires extra authentication. Reason is that Royal TS – and presumable some other, older tools as well – is not able to provide this extra layer of security. However, I was not able to connect to the Windows Server 2016 VM, no matter what I did. Nowadays, I am still looking for some new tool or solution/workaround. Let me know

Learning to work with Git

As an avid fan of Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC), I had the opportunity of working with Git for the first time. I wrote a blog post about this as well.

It allowed me to compare the two and actually, I tend to like Git some more due to the fact that you don’t have to be connected all the time before committing. However, as most of my work is still done involving BizTalk Server, TFVC will remain the standard for now.

Bluetooth allows more than 1 connection at the same time

Somehow I figured my laptop only could handle 1 bluetooth connection at the same time. I was very pleasantly surprised to see both my Bluetooth mouse and wireless headphones worked at the same time this month. Took me a minute to realize that this is probably known by a lot of people, so I didn’t quite make a big fuss of it… but I was honestly amazed that this was possible! Silly me right?

I learned that a practical limit for the number of bluetooth connections is mostly 3 to 4.

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Let Git ignore modifications to a file

Introduction

Lately, at Codit.eu Belgium, we have been working on an internal project after hours and during a hack day. The project and the technology allow some of us, myself included, to get out of our shell and gives us a chance to work with technology we are unfamiliar with.

It is a really interesting work environment and this has sparked my interest in some of the things I haven’t had a chance yet to become familiar with. One of those things was Git. I have experience using TFS (Team Foundation Server) on-premise and VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services), in the cloud.

While setting up VSTS, one is give the option to choose for TFVC (Team Foundation Version Control) or Git. Until now, the safe choice had always been TFVC. This project finally let me work with Git and I must say I learned a lot from this!

2-comparison

This post is not an overview on what the differences between the two are (you can find that here), but rather a difficulty I had during development.

Don’t check-in credentials in web.config

The setup and baseline of the projects were in .NET and were done by a colleague of mine familiar with it already. One of the things I encountered was the fact that we worked with Azure DocumentDb and we need to store the DocumentDb URI and key in the web.config file. However, we can’t have them in the file itself as this is in no way secure.

However, when committing or pushing changes in my local branch to the remote server, I always needed to restore the web.config in its original state. Afterwards, to test the local version again, I needed to include them again. A real problem, as this is quite cumbersome and easily forgotten.

Let Git ignore any local changes

I searched the web for a solution and after some testing I found the solution to my problem here, on StackOverflow.

git update-index --skip-worktree <file-name>

Enter the command in a git command prompt. To get one, go to Team Explorer, Changes, Actions and click Open Command Prompt.

git_cmd

The command will update your local git index and mark the file to skip during commits and to assume no changes were made, although you may actually have made them!

Perfect for our web.config which (almost) never changes!
Even more so, since this only marks your local index and the change is never propagated to the remote index! This means that every developer wanting to do so, will have to do it manually his-/herself.
This is not something that a new developer would need to know about immediately, which is a good thing!

However, whenever we need to make an actual change (one that needs to be merged in the master branch), we need to remove the credentials, make our changes and commit and push the changes remotely to create a PR (pull request).

To do so, use this command in another Git command prompt:

git update-index --no-skip-worktree <file>

Hope you enjoyed this, as this made my life a lot easier on this project!