Test Driving AppHarbor – A Walkthrough and Review

by Oliver 15. March 2013 20:50

For some time now, I've wanted to check out AppHarbor, a cloud service to host .NET applications that includes a build environment, executes tests and deploys successful builds to one or more app servers. They use Amazon's cloud computing infrastructure as their backend. The smallest package is free so there's no good reason not to check it out. Getting my first application up and running First, you need to Sign up, confirm the link in the confirmation email, and log in. This part took about 2 minutes. (Created a new KeePass entry with an uncrackable password on the way.) Then, create an application, entering a name and the geographical region you want your application to be hosted at: Once you're done with that, you can choose where your code is hosted – this assumes you version control your source code using e.g. BitBucket, CodePlex, or Git. They also have a solution for the situation where you don't host your code anywhere, using a built-in Git repository. I didn't use that option, though, since I have an account at GitHub. Clicking on "Configure GitHub to deploy to AppHarbor" directs you to the GitHub logon screen (if you're logged out) where you simply sign in. Now, the following dialog was a bit spooky: What I read between the lines is something like: all your base are belong to us! I mean, it basically says that they can do to all of my projects … well, anything, really. Since I didn't want to create a new account just to try out AppHarbor and, honestly, because I somehow felt that they wouldn't destroy all of my work, I clicked "Authorize app". Phew! Remark: You might choose to use a different GitHub account for your deployments, using e.g. copies of your repositories locally where you just copy everything you need from your dev repo. Then you can grand AppHarbor access to that account without much ado. Now, the AppHarbor app took over and I chose a repository for the application I created earlier: Once I chose a repo for my first app, I got to see the first Build status message – here AppHarbor is building my app for the first time: A few seconds after AppHarbor was done building, and testing, and deploying my app after I had clicked the Deploy button, my app was ACTIVE :-) Under the Hostnames link I found that they had given it http://mathie.apphb.com/ and after a couple of seconds I saw my app online on AppHarbor. That was easy – how about deploying a new version? I'm quite surprised at how easy (and fast!) it was to get my first app up and running. For completeness, I wanted to check how AppHarbor would handle my pushing some changes to the master branch of my repo. Here we go: The commit was picked up within seconds! Another click on Deploy gets the new version out there. Remark: On their homepage they say that apps get automatically deployed once build and test runner finish successfully. This was not the case here, and I didn't find any setting to enable this. If you know how that works, please leave a comment. Update: Looks like this works out of the box, you just need to wait a minute or two for their deployment agent to pick up the new version. I updated my app just now and it got deployed by itself :-) Go back in time – it's easy, too Now, this is a nice feature: you can deploy any version of your application with a click of a button! So, if for some reason, you discover that the new version has some flaw, go back to an older one: What else do they offer? AppHarbor contains an add-on infrastructure and already offers several add-ons that you can install with your application. Most of them charge an extra monthly fee, some of them also offer a free plan. There are mostly analytics add-ons and DB engines, including dedicated MS SQL Server, RavenDB, MySQL, a PostgrSQL flavor, and a few more. Interesting platform with big ease of setup and a free plan Should be good for any smallish app that you just want to set up and forget about! For $10/month you can also assign your own host names which makes this a viable solution. It saves you from installing and maintaining a separate build server with something like TeamCity or CruiseControl running and is also almost easier to set up. Where are you gonna host your next app?

Automatic Deployment of a New Discoverize Portal

by Oliver 11. March 2013 15:02

This is a technical post about how we automatically deploy new portals that will be run by our own portal software discoverize. After filling in and submitting our portal creation form we do the following: Save the entered information into /App_Data/<PortalName>/portal.xml Trigger the TeamCity build through a web request to a specific URL Send an email with the request status or any errors that occurred Display a Thank You page. Now, the TeamCity build configuration that was triggered under 2. does the following: Execute the Powershell script create-portal.ps1 in c:\projects\discoverize create the AppPool Discoverize-Portals if it doesn't exist yet (all our portals run within it) iterate over all folders inside wwwroot\discoverize.com\App_Data if a folder with the same name exists under wwwroot\discoverize-portals, skip it else move the current folder from wwwroot\discoverize.com\App_Data to wwwroot\discoverize-portals add a line with the full path to the new portal folder to newportals.txt (e.g. C:\inetpub\wwwroot\discoverize-portals\<PortalName>) add a new site to IIS and set its AppPool to Discoverize-Portals start the new site in IIS (needs Admin privileges, that's why we use a parameterized task scheduler task for that) Build the source code from the repository Execute the Deploy-NewPortals target from deploy.proj using MSBuild in c:\projects\discoverize Iterate over the entries in newportals.txt, for each entry do: Copy the build output from step 2. to wwwroot\discoverize-portals\<PortalName> Run the site setup (this uses Orchard's setup method) with our own recipe (using Orchard.exe) Call an action (SetupComplete) on the new site to mark deployment as done Create a default entry so there's something to look at (using Orchard.exe) The SetupComplete action then finishes doing this: save the information of the portal.xml into an application specific configuration file create new user "portal-owner" for content management send an email about the successful installation of the new portal Quite complex, if I look at it now, but it works!

Writing Acceptance Tests for an Orchard / ASP.NET MVC Application – using SpecFlow, Coypu (Selenium) and the MvcIntegrationTestFramework

by Oliver 22. August 2012 13:48

When we started development on Marinas.info, we decided to write acceptance tests for all important features of our application. This decision was even more justified by the fact that a bunch of similar platforms are to follow using the same codebase. We wanted an application with less bugs and easier maintenance. Writing good, automated acceptance tests is not easy and it’s not fast, either. For some time now, we’ve been trying to get the first set of our tests run green, which proved especially tricky on our TeamCity continuous integration server. This post investigates a working solution. The ingredients: SpecFlow, Coypu (Selenium), Browser, Web Server, and MvcIntegrationTestFramework SpecFlow In .NET world, using SpecFlow to write acceptance tests is nothing new and has recently become, yet again, more appealing after its update to version 1.9. One of our scenarios for verifying image upload functionality looks like this: It’s simple to write, easy to read and great living documentation. For Browser based tests you need: Coypu (Selenium) Everyone who has written tests for Selenium for even a mildly ajax-y site knows how painful it can be to create reliably working tests. Coypu alleviates the pain and makes test creation as straight-forward as it should be in the first place. Coypu is: A robust wrapper for browser automation tools on .Net, such as Selenium WebDriver that eases automating ajax-heavy websites and reduces coupling to the HTML, CSS & JS A more intuitive DSL for interacting with the browser in the way a human being would A few examples of Coypu’s clean API can be seen here in one of the step definitions for the above scenario (Browser is an instance of the BrowserSession class from Coypu): A web browser To run browser based tests you, of course, need … a browser! Coypu offers support for quite a bunch of them, including the usual suspects Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. A web server You need to host your application in some web server or another to process requests. Well, this statement turns out to be only partially true, as you will see with the MvcIntegrationTestFramework. But at least for browser based test you need a web server, and you basically have the choice between IIS and IIS Express (if you don’t want to write your own or use someone else’s implementation). We chose IIS Express as it is manageable through a non-administrator account, but it needs to be installed on all machines that will execute the tests. For non-browser based tests: MvcIntegrationTestFramework Introduced by Steven Sanderson in 2009, this small framework allows to write integration tests for ASP.NET MVC applications and execute them without a browser! It empowers you to make assertions on your controllers’ actions’ results rather than on the rendered html output by injecting some clever hooks into your MVC application under test. An example of how a test would look can be found in the above mentioned post. The “magic” of this framework lies in the use of ApplicationHost.CreateApplicationHost() which creates an application domain for hosting your ASP.NET application. Check out this screenshot of part of the source code: How to put the pieces together After a quite radical evolution of our test code (which you can read up on in my follow-up post The Long Road to Browser Based Acceptance Testing), we finally settled for the following: Before the first test starts, setup an instance of the AUT (application under test). This includes: deploying the AUT as we do for our staging environment, but to a temp folder initialize an AppHost instance à la MvcIntegrationTestFramework, i.e. an ASP.NET enabled application domain that hosts the AUT execute the Orchard setup command via the AppHost instance (instead of running the setup through a browser, which we used to do but was a lot slower) Before each test run (SpecFlow scenario) we then execute various commands to setup the environment for the concrete test, e.g.: clean the database simply by overwriting it with a copy we saved after the initial setup create Marina entries that will be displayed and searchable on the site, again, using the AppHost instance Once we want to execute steps in the browser, we do the following: start an instance of IIS Express pointing to the deployed application (we used the wrapper code from Spinning up IISExpress for integration testing) initiate a Coypu BrowserSession which under the hood creates an instance of the browser you choose after battling with Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox Portable, we now use Firefox 10.0.6 ESR (Extended Support Release) because version 10 is of now the highest version supported by Selenium (2.1.25) and the ESR doesn’t ask to be updated all the time After each test run (SpecFlow scenario) we do this: close the browser shut down the IIS Express instance (we slightly modified the above mentioned wrapper code calling Kill() on the process instance after the call to CloseMainWindow() so that it reliably terminates even on TeamCity) Conclusion Setting up a reliable environment for automatically executing acceptance tests has not been a walk through the park but we finally have a solution that basically “just works”. Hopefully, our experience will help you save a couple of hours and also some headache along the way Happy coding!

The Teamaton tool belt: a collection of small but useful tools for every day development and administration

by Oliver 26. January 2011 20:30

Today: a simple hosts file editor Today I set up a new project on GitHub: the Teamaton tool belt! It shall serve us as a central store for small tools, probably mostly command-line, built for a single purpose. The first tool in our new tool belt is: HostsEditor. I wrote this small command line utility after reading this blog post: http://apdubey.blogspot.com/2008/09/edit-host-file-by-batch-file.html. We were looking for an easy way to edit the Windows hosts file from a script for a larger development environment setup that we wanted to fully automate including IIS website, bindings and new entries in the said hosts file. Of course, for a one-timer echo does the job, but don’t try to run the setup script twice on the same maching – you’ll get duplicate entries very quickly. Reading about how other people are asking the author of the above post how to avoid the duplicates or how to erase entries from the hosts file, I set out to simply write such a utility myself and share it with the rest of the world. If there is one other person out there to whom it will be useful I will be happy. So, HostsEditor does the following: Adds and removes entries to and from the Windows hosts file. Automatically backs up the original hosts file to hosts.bck. Does not add duplicate entries; instead prints a warning. For usage in automation scripts there is /q switch to suppress all info messages. That’s all there is to it for now. But there’s more to come! Stay tuned, Oliver

Automatic deployment of an ASP.NET Web Application Project with TeamCity and MSBuild

by Oliver 21. January 2011 20:19

We recently updated one our largest project to use ASP.NET 4.0, and for this matter the new Package/Publish feature including sub-web.configs which is meant to supersede the Web Deployment Project. For a manual deployment there’s a good write-up on the msdn library titled ASP.NET Web Application Project Deployment Overview which shows how and where to set this up. In our case this was not satisfactory because our deployment process is a bit more complicated. We push our changes to a central repository and use JetBrains’ continuous integration server (CIS) TeamCity Professional, which is totally free for our project size, for a continuous integration process. Once TeamCity has pulled and tested the current version, it is supposed to deploy this version to our staging server where we further test the complete site. The key point in an automatic deployment was the management of the different web.config files for the different environments our project is running on. Unfortunately, until yesterday every deployment that included changes to the web.config file – even to the staging server - required a manual step of editing the web.config that live on our staging system (outside of source control!). What we used to do: after a successful build on our CIS we simply copied the web application (files) to our staging server! But as Scott Hanselman wrote: If You're Using XCopy, You're Doing It Wrong! This post inspired us to move along and take advantage of the new possibilities that we were given. In the meanwhile, before switching to .NET 4.0 actually, we also took a shot at the Web Deployment Project way of doing things but never actually got that far as to fully automate the deployment – somehow the setup was not as easy as we hoped. Anyway, we wanted web.config Transforms! So what does our setup look like and what did we want to do?   During local development and testing I use a web.config file that talks to a local DB instance and has some more specific settings. To run the web application on our staging server we need to replace certain values or whole sections in the web.config. For this transformation we use the sub-web.config files, one for each build configuration: Now, with all of these web.config files the simple XCOPY deployment we used to use does not work any longer. We need to trigger the web.config transformation on the build server and then deploy the whole application. As easy as this looks using the built-in menus and dialogs in Visual Studio – it took me quite a while to find how to do this in an automated build, more concretely from the command line. After unsuccessfulle skimming stackoverflow.com for a solution I finally tripped over this very informative blog post on publishing a VS2010 ASP.NET web application using MSBuild. Admittedly, the author focuses on how to publish on the local machine as it’s yet a different process but towards the end he posts the solution I was looking for: 1: msbuild Website.csproj "/p:Platform=AnyCPU;Configuration=Release;DesktopBuildPackageLocation=c:\_Publish\stage\Website.zip" /t:Package This was it! After running this on my machine with my own settings I looked into the folder with the zip file and found the following 5 files: At first I just wanted to take the zip file, copy it to the staging server, unpack it – done! But then I peaked into it… and deeper… and deeper… and… still deeper… until I finally saw our application files underneath this directory: This has got to be one of the longest paths I’ve ever seen and used! How would I automate the extraction of web application files from the zip with such a path? I was already seeing myself hacking away on the command line… But wait: what about those files that appeared next to the zip file? A ci-stage.deploy.cmd and a readme.txt caught my attention – of course, I opened the cmd file first :-D Well… maybe the readme file gives me a shortcut to understanding this and the rest of the 190 lines: Looks promising! I convinced myself to give it a shot. So we set up a new configuration in TeamCity with the following settings: These settings reflect the command line from above with a few minor changes (removed the DesktopBuildPackageLocation and set the /v[erbose] switch to m[inimal]): msbuild Website.csproj "/p:Platform=AnyCPU;Configuration=Release" /t:Package /v:m The second step is to use the generated script, ci-stage.deploy.cmd. I recommend to run the script by hand once using the /T switch just to make sure everything looks alright. In our case we found out that the deployment of the package would have deleted a lot of files, most of all images, from our website. This was not what we wanted! After a quick search I found this question on stackoverflow.com: MSDeploy: “Leave extra files on destination” from command line? So I added this switch to the parameters list in the build step configuration as follows: That’s it! This is all we need on the command line to generate a package that is ready for deployment on the staging server. There are a few more necessary settings, including the DesktopBuildPackageLocation, that can be found in the Package settings window inside the project properties of the web application project: the DesktopBuildPackageLocation can be set here instead of on the command line the website and application name on the destination IIS server that this package should be installed to some more options like excluding debug symbols etc. These settings are saved in the project file and will be used during generation and deployment of the package. That’s all I have to say right now. Happy Coding, Oliver

About Oliver

shades-of-orange.com code blog logo I build web applications using ASP.NET and have a passion for javascript. Enjoy MVC 4 and Orchard CMS, and I do TDD whenever I can. I like clean code. Love to spend time with my wife and our children. My profile on Stack Exchange, a network of free, community-driven Q&A sites

About Anton

shades-of-orange.com code blog logo I'm a software developer at teamaton. I code in C# and work with MVC, Orchard, SpecFlow, Coypu and NHibernate. I enjoy beach volleyball, board games and Coke.