Monday, 27 July 2015

Automatically Generate Resized Icons and Splash Screens with Ionic Framework

Rather than manually generating or cropping different size of images of icons and splash screens for different resolutions, orientation and platforms, we can use Ionic Framework to do this work for us. Ionic will use its resizing and cropping server to do this. We will need a recent version of Ionic CLI.

Below are the steps to do this:
1. Prepare the source icon or splash screen file
For icon file:
- the file is named with 'icon' and has either .png, .psd or .ai extension type (i.e. icon.png, icon.psd or
- image's minimum dimensions should be 192 x 192 px
- rounded corners will be applied for specific platforms (e.g. iOS)

For splash screen file:
- the file is named with 'splash' and has either .png, .psd or .ai extension type (i.e. splash.png, splash.psd or
- image's minimum dimensions should be 2208 x 2208 px
- the artwork should be centered within inner 1200 x 1200 px area

2. Use a new or existing Ionic project to do this job
To have the Ionic server doing the resizing and cropping, we will need to put the file inside an Ionic project.

3. Make sure we have the intended platform on the Ionic project.
To add a platform, run ionic platform add command in the root folder of the project, for example:
C:\MyLabs\IonicTemplate\SideMenu>ionic platform add android

4. Create 'resources' folder on the root of the project

5. Put the icon or splash screen file in the folder

6. Run ionic resources command at the project root
To generate icons, run ionic resources --icon command (with double dash characters), below is a screenshot:

To generate splash screens, run ionic resources --splash command (with double dash characters), below is a screenshot:

7. Get the icons from 'resources/PLATFORM_NAME/icon' folder or the splash screens from 'resources/PLATFORM_NAME/splash' folder

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Generating Android Release Keystore for Visual Studio Apache Cordova Project

Below are the steps to generate an Android keystore for publishing a release version of an app built using Visual Studio Apache Cordova:
1. make sure you have Java SDK installed

2. run keytool command like below:
keytool -genkey -v -keystore PUT_YOUR_KEY_NAME.keystore -alias PUT_KEY_ALIAS -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
For example:
C:\Users\Rical>keytool -genkey -v -keystore my-release-key.keystore -alias rical_blog_app_key -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
Then you will be prompted with some questions:
Enter keystore password: *****
Re-enter new password: *****
What is your first and last name? 
  [Unknown]:  Rical Wirawan 
What is the name of your organizational unit? 
  [Unknown]:  Organisation
What is the name of your organization? 
  [Unknown]:  MyOrg
What is the name of your City or Locality? 
  [Unknown]:  MyCity 
What is the name of your State or Province? 
  [Unknown]:  NSW
What is the two-letter country code for this unit? 
  [Unknown]:  61 
Is CN=Rical Wirawan, OU=Organisation, O=MyOrg, L=MyCity, ST=NSW, C=61 correct? 
  [no]:  yes 

Generating 2,048 bit RSA key pair and self-signed certificate (SHA256withRSA) with a validity of 10,000 days 
        for: CN=Rical Wirawan, OU=Organisation, O=MyOrg, L=MyCity, ST=NSW, C=61 
Enter key password for  
        (RETURN if same as keystore password): 
[Storing my-release-key.keystore] 

3. the key file will be generated in the same folder

4. copy the key file to your Visual Studio project folder that contains file (under 'your_project_name\res\cert\android' folder)

5. put the details in file, continuing our example:

6. run or publish the app in release mode

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Looking Deeper into Async and Await

In this post, we will see the concepts of async and await in more details.

async keyword
A simple async method looks like this:
public async Task MyMethodAsync()
  . . .

An async keyword does not make a method to run asynchronously. What it does, it allows the method to use one or more await keyword to call other asynchronous method(s). The compiler will not generate an error if we fail to provide at least one await, it will only give a warning. We cannot use an await in a method that does not marked with async.

Secondly, it enables the method to return a value or exception into Task or Task<T> return type which will help us a lot in doing asynchronous programming.

A method that is decorated with async will actually start running its codes synchronously like a normal method until it finds an await keyword. Then it will see, if the method called by the await needs to be awaited, only then an asynchronous process will happen. We will see this in more details below.

await Keyword
Below are two examples of using await:
public async Task MyMethodAsync()
  // initially this runs synchronously
  . . .

  // 'await' waits for an asynchronous method to complete. It enables the process to be asynchronous,
  //    depending on how soon the method is completing.
  await RunSomethingAsync();

  // the codes past 'await' will only be executed after the awaited method completes,
  //    however 'await' does not block the thread
  . . .
// this second variation, shows where 'await' is used a little bit later after some other codes
public async Task MyMethodAsync()
  // initially this runs synchronously
  . . .

  var result = RunSomethingAsync();

  // some other codes here still run synchronously
  . . .

  // 'await' waits for an asynchronous method to complete. It enables the process to be asynchronous,
  //    depending on how soon the method is completing.
  await result;

  // the codes past 'await' will only be executed after the awaited method completes,
  //    however 'await' does not block the thread
  . . .

This is the keyword that enables the execution process to become asynchronous. If we do not have any await in our method, then the method will be executed synchronously even though the method is marked with async.

The keyword calls an asynchronous method. It allows the asynchronous method to be awaited until it completes then it will continue the codes after the await. While awaiting, it does not block the current thread but returns the control to the caller (i.e. MyMethodAsync() caller). This is when the asynchronous process is happening. The diagram in 'What Happens in an Async Method' section on this page explains this clearly.

Only when the called asynchronous method needs to be awaited, the process becomes asynchronous. It waits for the method to complete but also allow the caller (i.e. MyMethodAsync() caller) to execute other codes. If the outer codes would encounter an await keyword also then similar process would happen as well.

The await keyword does not need to be put together when calling an asynchronous method, it can be called later (note in our second variation example above, the await is not called straight away).

If the awaited method completes right away before the process above happens then all of those codes will be run in synchronous mode.

Task and Task<T>
We should always use either Task or Task<T> as the return type of our asynchronous method. The earlier is used when we do not have anything to be returned. Yes, when the method does not return anything, use Task instead of void (the exception will be explained below).

// below is an example of a method that returns Task<T>
public async Task<int> CalculateAsync()
   . . .

   // return an 'int' not 'Task<int>' type
   return 5;

Task should be used because this type allows the method to be awaited using await keyword which could lift up the process to be asynchronous. The return type enables the caller as well to know the progress when executing the method. Lastly, it encapsulates any exception that could occur inside the method to allow the exception to be handled easily.

Using void is also possible but it should be used for event handler only. An async void method has to use a different way to handle exception as it does not have a wrapper for the exception. It also does not provide an easy way to notify the caller when it has completed. In addition, this will be difficult to test.

Execution Thread
Our asynchronous method will begin with the caller's thread until it finds a process that needs to be awaited by await keyword (recall that not every asynchronous method that is called by await needs to be awaited). When it happens, the context of the caller's thread will be captured. The awaited process will run on a new thread from thread pool. Then when the awaited task is completed, the control is returned back to the captured context which is using the original thread (caller's thread).

If the awaited task finishes before the signing up process above is completed then the rest of the codes will be run synchronously without opening a new thread (from thread pool). Thus all the codes will always run on the initial thread which is the caller's thread.

public async Task MyMethodAsync()
  // initially this runs on the caller's thread
  . . .

  // since the process inside LongOperationAsync() needs to be awaited, 
  //    the original thread is captured and signed up for continuation.
  // The process is run using a new thread from thread pool 
  await LongOperationAsync();
  // after the awaiting is complete, the control is handed back to the original thread (caller's thread)

  // the codes past 'await' will be executed under original thread
  . . .

The process to returning back the control back to the captured context has some overhead. Moreover, the original context can suffer more if it has already had a performance issue due to other processes that it handles.

Fortunately, the codes after the await keyword can be run with a different thread unless if they really need the original context to run. For example; if the method is an ASP.NET MVC controller action method, the original context is an ASP.NET context and the codes after the await need to do some controller related stuffs then they will need to be run under ASP.NET context as well.

To enable codes after await to be run under a different context, we use ConfigureAwait(continueOnCapturedContext: false).
public async Task MyMethodAsync()
  // initially this runs on the caller's thread
  . . .

  // since 'ConfigureAwait(false)' is used, the process of capturing original context 
  //    and signing up for continuation can be skipped
  // the process in LongOperationAsync() is run using a new thread from thread pool 
  await LongOperationAsync().ConfigureAwait(continueOnCapturedContext: false);
  // after the awaiting is complete, the control will continue under the newly created thread,
  //    the handling back process to the original context can be skipped as well

  // the codes past 'await' will be executed under the newly created thread
  . . .

Whenever possible, we should always set ConfigureAwait(continueOnCapturedContext: false), unless if we know that we are going to need the original thread for the codes after the await.

References and further reading:
Async and Await Post by Stephen Cleary
Best Practices in Asynchronous Programming on MSDN
Async/Await FAQ on MSDN Blogs
Asynchronous Programming with Async and Await on MSDN

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Getting Started with Async Await in C#

I was trying to start using async await in my data layer. After reading a few articles such as this one from MSDN, I start writing some asynchronous methods from my original synchronous methods.

A few steps that need to be done to create an asynchronous method from its counterpart synchronous method:
1. make sure System.Threading.Tasks is referred in one of the using statements
2. change the method return type to be async Task<returntype> or simply async Task if the original method was decorated with void
3. call the asynchronous version of the Entity Framework method
4. most of the time, use await keyword just before the Entity Framework asynchronous method. We could assign the result to a Task variable first then call the await keyword a little bit later if we have some operation that can be executed right away and is not dependent on the asynchronous method's result.

Below are a few simple examples:
- an example of a method that does not return anything
// original synchronous method
public void Insert(Person person)

// the async version
public async Task InsertAsync(Person person)
 await _context.SaveChangesAsync();

- an example of a method returning a value
// original synchronous method
public void int GetTotal()
    return _context.Person.Count();

// the async version
public async Task<int> GetTotalAsync()
    return await _context.Person.CountAsync();

- an example that shows using await a little bit later:
// original synchronous method
public void int GetTotalNumber()
    var result = _context.Person.Count();


    return result;

// the async version
public async Task<int> GetTotalNumberAsync()
    var result = _context.Person.CountAsync(); // use await a little bit later

    // do non-related operation to the result above

    return await result;

On the next post we will see these concepts in more details.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Using When, All, Then and Reject functions of $q Service

We will see how to use when, all, then and reject functions of the AngularJS $q service. To learn the basic usage of $q, please see my previous post.

$q.when() can be used to wrap an object or function if we are not sure whether it returns a promise or not. If we wrap a value object or a value returned function, the value will be passed as a result argument to the next function. When we wrap a function, the when() method will ensure that the function is executed first before going to the next one.

Below are some code examples:
$q.when('aaa').then(function(result) {

var vm = this;
vm.chars = '';

 vm.chars = vm.chars + 'END'

_test = function() {
 for (i = 0; i <= 10000; i++) {
   vm.chars = vm.chars + '.'

$q.all() is used to combine promise returned functions and only continue to progress further after all of the functions complete successfully. If one of the functions fails, immediately as soon as $q.all() gets a rejected promise from one of the functions, it will end the execution and pass forward to an error callback if there is any.
vm.numbers = '';    
_promiseFunction = function(x) {
 var deferred = $q.defer();

 if (x > 0) {
   deferred.resolve(x * 100);
 } else {
   deferred.reject(x + " is smaller than 0")

 return deferred.promise;
var first = _promiseFunction(1);
var second = _promiseFunction(5);
var third = _promiseFunction(10);
var four = _promiseFunction(-1);
var five = _promiseFunction(-10)

$q.all([first, second, third /*, four, five*/]).
  for(i=0; i < results.length; i++) {
    vm.numbers = vm.numbers + ' ' + results[i];
  // if there is any error in the sequence, the success callback will not be called

$q.then() is useful for executing asynchronous functions (or blocks of codes) sequentially in a chain. If the function inside a then() does not return a promise, it will be wrapped as a resolved promise. Otherwise the resolved or rejected promise will be passed forward.

 function() { alert('aaa')}
 function() { alert('bbb');}
 function() {alert('ccc');}

 function() { return $q.reject('failed')}
 function(){ alert('result success')},
 function(){ alert('result fail')}

Note also that if we return a non-promise value in the error callback inside then(), this will be treated as a resolved promise. So we need to be careful when handling error if our intention is to pass the error forward to the next function.
 // success
 function() {},
 // error
 function(error) {
   return 'i got the error'
 function() {
 // error
 function() {

Last thing, we have $q.reject() that is useful as a quick way to create then send a rejected promise (with a value optionally) to the next function in a chain. For example, in a chain of multiple then(). We can see this in the last two examples.

See the examples in Plunker.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Setting Up One to Many Relationship with Fluent API in Code First

Let's say that we would like to have a one to many relationship between two tables, e.g. User and Article. A User can have many Articles. Below are two ways of how we could specify the models and relationship configuration with Fluent API.

1. Without Having Foreign Key Property in Model
public class Article 
 public int Id { get; set; }

 public string Title { get; set; }

 public string Description { get; set; }

 public string Url { get; set; }

 #region navigation properties
 public virtual User Submitter { get; set; }

public class User 
 public int Id { get; set; }
 public string Firstname { get; set; }
 public string Lastname { get; set; }

 #region navigational property
 public virtual ICollection<Article> Articles { get; set; }

protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder)
 #region Article table
 modelBuilder.Entity<Article>().HasKey(t => t.Id);
 // specify the relationship between the two tables
 modelBuilder.Entity<Article>().HasRequired(t => t.Submitter).WithMany(t => t.Articles);

 #region User table
 modelBuilder.Entity<User>().HasKey(t => t.Id);
Before we go further, I would like to say that I prefer to use Data Annotation attributes in a model for validation purpose only for its properties. The database related configurations are done inside OnModelCreating() method.

On the codes above, we do not specify any foreign key property such as 'SubmitterId'. We do this purely in 'code first perspective' only which focuses on models and 'code' relationships between them, not their relational database relationships. So we do not worry on specifying any foreign key property here, we only specify the navigational property.

Please note as well that we do not put a [Required] attribute on the navigation property even though we always want this model to have a navigational property object (i.e. an article must have a submitter). This would create an issue for us later when we want to update an article object only without worrying about submitter. It is better to specify this rule when specifying the relationship in Fluent API.

To let Code First know the relationship we want, we put this on OnModelCreating() method:
modelBuilder.Entity<Article>().HasRequired(t => t.Submitter).WithMany(t => t.Articles);
The validation rule that the navigational property (i.e. submitter) is required is set here.

Code First will generate tables like below:

2. With Foreign Key Property in Model
If we prefer to specify foreign key property in our model, then we can do this way:
// add foreign key property to the model (Article)
public int SubmitterId { get; set; }
The advantage of doing it this way is that we can name it with any name we like.

Then on OnModelCreating() method, we write:
modelBuilder.Entity<Article>().HasRequired(t => t.Submitter).WithMany(t => t.Articles).HasForeignKey(t => t.SubmitterId);

Below are the tables and columns that will be generated:

For setting other configurations using fluent API, please see this post.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

AngularJS Custom Validator Example - Comparing Two Dates

Below is an example of AngularJS custom validator to compare an end date with a start date to make sure that the end date is equal or bigger than the start date. To see basic usage of AngularJS validation, please see my previous post.

HTML codes:
<!DOCTYPE html>

    <script src=""></script>
    <script src=""></script>
    <script src="script.js"></script>

  <body ng-app="validationExample">
    <div ng-controller="MyCtrl as vm">
      <form name="myForm" novalidate="" ng-submit="vm.submitted(myForm, vm.input)">
        <span class="input-label">Start Date</span> 
        <input type="date" name="startDate" ng-model="vm.input.startDate" required />
        <span ng-messages="myForm.startDate.$error" ng-messages-include="errors-template.html"></span>
        <br />       
        <span class="input-label">End Date</span> 
        <input type="date" name="endDate" ng-model="vm.input.endDate" start-date="{{vm.input.startDate.toDateString()}}" compare-with-start-date />
        <span ng-messages="myForm.endDate.$error" ng-messages-include="errors-template.html"></span>
        <br />             
    <!-- error messages template -->
    <script id="errors-template.html" type="text/ng-template">
        <span ng-message="required">* required!</span>
        <span class="form-error" ng-message="checkEndDate">* end date cannot be earlier than start date</span>


JavaScript codes:
var myApp = angular.module('validationExample', ['ngMessages'])

myApp.controller('MyCtrl', [function () {
    var vm = this;
    vm.submitted = function(form, input) {
      if(form.$valid) {
} ]);

myApp.directive("compareWithStartDate", function () {
    return {
        restrict: "A",
        require: "?ngModel",
        link: function (scope, element, attributes, ngModel) {
            validateEndDate = function (endDate, startDate) {
                if (endDate && startDate) {
                    return endDate >= startDate;
                else {
                    return true;

            // use $validators.validation_name to do the validation
            ngModel.$validators.checkEndDate = function (modelValue) {
                var startdate = Date.parse(attributes.startDate);
                var enddate = Date.parse(modelValue);
                return validateEndDate(enddate, startdate);
            // use $observe if we need to keep an eye for changes on a passed value
            attributes.$observe('startDate', function (value) {
                var startdate = Date.parse(value);
                var enddate = Date.parse(ngModel.$viewValue);
                // use $setValidity method to determine the validation result 
                // the first parameter is the validation name, this name is the same in ng-message template as well
                // the second parameter sets the validity (true or false), we can pass a function returning a boolean
                ngModel.$setValidity("checkEndDate", validateEndDate(enddate, startdate));

See the example in Plunker.