Archive for April 2014

Viewing files in the GAC

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I need to copy dlls from the GAC. The problem is that for assemblies prior to .NET 4.0 the contents of the GAC are hidden from explorer by a shell script. I’ve seen a number of solutions to this. Most of them are a bit clunky, but this is the one I like the best.

Open a new command prompt, and enter subst z: c:\windows\assembly

This will map drive z (pick a mor suitable drive letter if you like, of course) to the GAC folder. Doing so bypasses the shell script, allowing you to browse it in explorer just like any other folder.

To remove the drive mapping simply use the command subst z: /d


Something to be aware of is that if you call subst from a cmd window with admin privileges, you won’t be able to access the mapped drive from an explorer window. So don’t do that.

A couple of notes on using Endjin’s Templify

I’ve been working on an internal project which uses Endjin’s Templify. For those not familiar with Templify, it’s a handy piece of software which tokenises (or templifies, to use their parlance) keywords within solutions such that they can be used as templates for new solutions. What I’ve been working on is a server-based implementation of Templify that works with our CI server to allow us to centrally maintain templates. This ensures everyone’s working with the latest version and avoids having to update template packages locally. I ran into a couple of interesting points while doing this, which I think are worth documenting.

Choose tokens carefully

I had initially used the same word for the package name and the token. This was pleasingly consistent, however it caused Templify to break. The problem turned out to be with the manifest.xml file that Templify generates. This file lists all files included in the template along with some Templify metadata, such as its package name and tokens. This file is itself tokenised as part of the Templify process, so if the package name is the same as the token, it too gets tokenised. This results in Templify being unable to deploy the package after its creation. So the lesson here is to make sure the package name is not the same (or does not contain) any of the tokens.

Configuration path

This one isn’t something that’s likely to cause a problem for general usage of Templify, but it was a pain for me. The installer for Templify offers no option to install for all users, and only installs for the current user. This presented a problem when running on our CI server under credentials specially created for the purpose, as Templify will attempt to read its configuration from the current user’s profile directory. Unfortunately the configuration file doesn’t exist for that user profile, but instead of failing completely it gives rise to some odd behaviour.

What happens is this: Templify maintains a list of files to exclude in its configuration file. These files are deleted from the package prior to tokenisation. However if the configuration file is missing, it reads the exclusion list as string.empty, which results in all tokenised files and directories being deleted as exclusions. Whoops! Fortunately this is easily remedied by copying the configuration from the profile it was installed under to the profile of the user you want to run it under. The default location is C:\Users\$USER\AppData\Roaming\endjin\Templify\config

EPiServer CMS 7.5 Clean Database Setup

EPiServer have been making some great improvements to the setup of new sites lately. There’s now no need to wrestle with the Deployment Center. Using the latest EPiServer CMS Visual Studio Extension creating a shiny new CMS 7.6.3 project is a simple matter of choosing between and MVC and Web Forms and pressing a button. This will create a preconfigured site in Visual Studio, with the only remaining tasks being to create a site in IIS and attach the supplied database.

Supplied database?

That’s right, within the App_Data folder is an .mdf file comprising the site’s database. Naturally it isn’t included as part of the solution:

EPiServer default database file

Empty EPiServer database .mdf file. There’s also an .ldf file, collapsed from view under the .mdf here by Visual Studio.

The template installs (at the time of writing) the version 7.6.3 Nuget packages, but there aren’t any database changes between versions 7.5.394.2 and that I’m aware of. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

However there’s a catch. There isn’t always a catch, but sometimes it can certainly seem that way. In this case it’s that the supplied database was created in SQL Server 2012, and 2012 databases cannot be ported back to earlier versions. This was a problem for me as our infrastructure runs mostly on SQL Server 2008R2. I suspect this is the case for a lot of people.

This was frustrating as it was standing in the way of having a nice easy setup process for new projects. The only thing to do was to roll up my sleeves and figure out where that sample database came from. This involved some tedious digging through the Visual Studio Extension’s.vsix file (it’s just an archive) the details of which I’ll spare you in favour of the highlights

Hooray there’s a script

I was concerned when I started looking that I’d find the .mdf file plainly archived in the .vsix. That would have been a disappointing dead end. However there was no sign of it, so it was either being supplied by one of the included Nuget packages (which would have also been a dead end) or created from a SQL script. It was of course the latter, inside EPiServer.CMS.Core.7.6.3.nupkg, in the tools folder: EPiServer.Cms.Core.sql.

Hopefully, I thought, I would just be able to run this script on a new database and we’ll be off.

Boo there’s a catch

The catch this time is that the script doesn’t contain everything you need. The database it created resulted in the error Missing stored procedure “RetrieveNonblockingInstanceStateIds” when I tried to use it with the new project. This is related to Windows Workflow Foundation, which requires some objects creating in the database. As these aren’t part of EPiServer itself, they weren’t included in EPiServer.Cms.Core.sql. However fortunately they are available to us in %WINDIR%\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319\SQL\en. Simply the following two scripts (in order) against the EPiServer database:

  • SqlPersistenceService_Schema.sql
  • SqlPersistenceService_Logic.sql

So we’re done, right?

Yes, I do believe that’s all that’s required to get a fresh database created. Here’s a zip containing all three required scripts. Just remember to run SqlPersistenceService_Schema.sql before SqlPersistenceService_Logic.sql and all should be well.

If however all is not well, please let me know as (there’s that catch again!) it hasn’t been thoroughly tested yet, but it seems sound in principle.