Release Management Application Pool is down

If your Release Management application pool keeps crashing and you get the following error: Message: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.: \r\n\r\n at (Object ) … at RM.MonitoringAgent.Services.MonitorService.ProcessScheduledPromotions(), run the following command to fix the issue:

appcmd.exe set config -section:system.webServer/globalModules /[name='SPNativeRequestModule'].preCondition:integratedMode,bitness64

Make sure that you run this command as an administrator.

The Return of At The Movies

Earlier this week, ObjectSharp announced the 2014 version of our annual At The Movies event, to be held on May 8 from 8:30 until noon. For years, ObjectSharp has brought together leading experts in Microsoft technology and presented what’s new and what’s useful. We call it At The Movies because, well, it’s held at the Scotiabank Theatre on John St. in Toronto. And because by doing so, we get to use movie posters as part of the marketing campaign.

Yeah, we have a good time coming up with the various posters. The call for ideas amongst the many ObjectSharp associates is a good indication that spring is coming. And the creativity and execution of the ideas is worth waiting for. But let’s start with what you get out of coming to At the Movies.

The Scrum TeamFirst, the list of topics. As always, we go with things that you want to hear about. Subjects that are on the at the leading edge of technology, but are currently available so that you can go back to your office and start to use them immediately. This year, we’re covering the following.

- Team Foundation Server 2013

- Visual Studio 2013

- Windows 8 (from Tablets to Phones)

- Azure

- SharePoint 2013

 

If you work in the .NET world, these are areas that you need to know about. They can make your life easier and your development process more efficient. And the speakers that we have covering these topics are experts, among the best in the country. They include:

  • Dave Lloyd – Microsoft ALM MVP and Team Foundation Server expert extraordinaire
  • David Totzke and Lori Lalonde – Authors of Windows Phone 8 Recipes: A Problem Solving Approach
  • Colin Bowern – Solutions Architect, former MVP and recent émigré to New Zealand
  • Ali Aliabadi - 10+ year SharePoint developer, architect and training
  • Bruce Johnson – Microsoft MVP and author of a number of Visual Studio and Azure books

In other words, join us for a morning of entertaining speakers talking about relevant topics. There really isn’t another event like it in Toronto. And even better…it’s free!

To sign up, visit http://www.objectsharp.com/atm. Do it now. It’s almost guaranteed that we’ll sell out quickly.

It's on! At The Movies is back!

For those who have attended At The Movies (ATM) event in the past, I'm happy to announce that ATM event is back on. You know it'll be awesome, so make you register at http://objectsharp.com/atm before we run out of space in Scotibank movie theater. 

For those who have not attended At The Movies (ATM) event in the past, well, you have missed out on a lot of fun (and expert knowledge.) So, don't let that happen to you again and register for the event at http://objectsharp.com/atm. You will not be disappointed. Did I mention that this is a free event?!?

To remind you how awesome ATM events are, I have added a few links to old videos from past ATM events:

 

What can I say. Visual Studio, TFS, Azure, SharePoint , Windows 8, etc. Pure geeky fun time. See you there on May 8th, 2014! :)

At the Movies is Back

May 8th is the next At the Movies event from ObjectSharp. Click the poster below to register. You don’t want to miss this. 

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TFS 2013 Upgrade - SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Errors

OK, so I'm upgrading TFS 2008 with SharePoint Foundation 2007 installation to TFS 2013 with SharePoint Foundation 2013. Naturally, you do an upgrade using an intermediary server with TFS 2012 with SharePoint 2010 install, because you cannot upgrade TFS 2008 to TFS 2013 directly (you have to upgrade to TFS 2012 first), just as you cannot upgrade SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2013 (you have to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 first). All goes well except for the SharePoint portion of the upgrade.

Running Test-SPContentDatabase against SharePoint content database produces a few weird errors, like:

Category : MissingFeature Error : True UpgradeBlocking : False Message : Database [WSS_Content] has reference(s) to a missing feature: Id = [00bfea71-c796-4402-9f2f-0eb9a6e71b18], Name = [Wiki Page Library], Description = [An interconnected set of easily editable web pages, which can contain text, images and web parts.], Install Location = [WebPageLibrary]. Remedy : The feature with Id 00bfea71-c796-4402-9f2f-0eb9a6e71b18 is referenced in the database [WSS_Content], but is not installed on the current farm. The missing feature may cause upgrade to fail. Please install any solution which contains the feature and restart upgrade if necessary

You would think that Wiki Page Library feature should exist in new SharePoint, and it does, but the error still shows up. Makes no sense, right. Well, if you try to go ahead and proceed with an upgrade anyways, you will see even stranger things. Upgrade completes successfully, but none of the SharePoint pages come up properly. None of the "default" SharePoint web parts come up properly. To make things worse, you cannot get to any of the system pages in SharePoint. When you try to access any system pages, like Site Settings, you get Access Denied errors (strange part is that you are denied access to built-in v4.master master page; how is that possible!). Very strange…

After a bit of digging on the web, I have found a solution. Apparently, the problem was caused by the fact that SharePoint 2013 has two modes (hives), 2010 (v14) and 2013 (v15). Apparently, by default, a new SharePoint 2013 installation mostly only installs v15 features. Using SharePoint Feature Admin Tool, we can tell that v14 features we needed were not installed. Now that we know that we can simply install missing v14 features individually using SharePoint 2013 Management Shell or we can simply install all existing features in both the v14 or v15 hives by running the following cmdlet.

Install-SPFeature -AllExistingFeatures

Second approach was easier, so I run with it. Running that cmdlet fixed all of my SharePoint problems, and that's a good thing.

How to connect Release Management to Team Foundation Server

Release Management for Visual Studio 2013 (formerly known as inRelease client) is tightly integrated with Team Foundation Server (TFS 2010, TFS 2012 and TFS 2013 versions are supported. Visual Studio Online is not supported yet) To connect  Release Management server to Team Foundation Server, you need to use Release Management Client for Visual Studio 2013:

  • Launch Release Management Client for Visual Studio 2013. If you launch it for the first time, you will be prompted with Configure Services dialog window. Just enter Release Management server name and port number, and click on OK.
  • Click Administration tab to connect Release Management server to TFS. Then, click on Manage TFS section.
  • Click New button to add a TFS connection. You can add connections to many project collections hosted on different TFS servers or many separate project collections hosted on the same TFS server.
  • Provide the following connection settings:
    • name or the URL of TFS server
    • name of the project collection
    • service account credentials to connect to TFS
    • HTTP/HTTPs protocol used to connect to TFS
  • Click Verify to validate the settings provided.
  • Click Save and Close to save the connection to TFS

That's all. Now you should be able to start using Release Management server with TFS. Oh, almost forgot, to configure connection to TFS, your account(s) must have the following minimal permissions

  • Collection Level 
    • 'Make requests on behalf of others' permission (required to setup TFS Connection in release management server)
    • 'View collection-level information' permission (to get list of Build Definitions on behalf of current user) 
    • 'View build resources' permission (to set a Build to Release) 
  • Team Project Level – for all projects used in release management 
    • 'View project-level information' permission (to add a TFS Group) 
  • Build Definition Level – for all build definitions used in release management server
    • 'Retain Indefinitely' permission (when starting a Release)


To keep things simple, you can simply make service account used by release management server to connect to TFS a member of the Project Collection Service Accounts group. 

Release Management Build Template

If you’re working with the Release Management Server (and you should, because it's awesome) and cannot find the location of the Release Management Build Process Template, then try looking under 

C:\Program Files (x86)\ Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\ReleaseManagement\bin.

In some cases you might only see ReleaseDefaultTemplate.11.1.xaml (TFS 2012 build template) or ReleaseDefaultTemplate.xaml (TFS 2010 build template) under C:\Program Files (x86)\ Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\ReleaseManagement\bin. But where is TFS 2013 build template you might ask. Without one you cannot properly integrate Release Management with TFS 2013, which would be fairly disappointing. Luckily, you can download TFS 2013 template here. Inside this .zip file you will find three files:

  • TfvcTemplate.12.xaml (for when you're using TfvcTemplate.12.xaml)
  • GitTemplate.12.xaml (for when you're using GitTemplate.12.xaml)
  • ReleaseTemplate.12.Snippets.xaml (for when you would like to add release management functionality to your custom TFS 2013 build template. snippets file only contains sections with start / end markers to indicate which parts to copy)

Please note that, Release Management Build Process Template are not installed in TFS by default, so it won’t appear as an available build process template until you add it. To add the release management build process template, you will need to check it in to your TFS source control, and then add the build process file when editing (or adding) a Build Definition. Once the release management template has been added to the list of build templates, you can start using it. More on how to use release management build template later... 

Using Deployment Metadata in TFS Release Management

TFS Release Management allows you to use deployment metadata as a value for configuration variables in release templates. It comes in very handy when you need to refer to the build drop location or build number. The following is the list of available Metadata that can be used with Configuration Variables.

Build Directory        $(PackageLocation)

Build Number        $(BuildNumber)

Build Definition    $(BuildDefinition)

TFS Collection        $(TfsUrlWithCollection)

Team Project        $(TeamProject)

 

Unfortunately, you cannot create custom deployment metadata just yet. Hopefully that will change one day. Another "catch" is that deployment metadata can only be used in components. Deployment metadata cannot be used in actions or tools because those are taking place outside of the build process.

It’s starting

And there is no escape...

poster-postergeist

JsonConvert.Serialize Fails Silently

I ran into an interesting issue with JSON.NET over the weekend. Specifically, while I was serializing an object, it would fail silently. No exception was raised (or could even be trapped with a try-catch). However, the call to Serialize did not return and the application terminated.

The specific situation in which the call to Serialize was being made was the following:

List<Customer> _customers;

Task creationTask = new Task(() =>
{
    _customers = new List<Customer>();
   // Do stuff to build the list of customers
});
creationTask.ContinueWith(() =>
{
   serializeCustomer();
});

creationTask.Start();

Now the actual call to JsonConvert.Serialize is found in the serializeCustomer method. Nothing special there, other than the method that actually fails. But the reason for the failure is rooted in the code snippet shown above.

This was the code as originally written. It was part of a WPF application that collected the parameters. And it worked just fine. However the business requirements changed slightly and I had to change the WPF application to a console app where the parameters are taken from the command line. No problem. However while there was a good reason to run the task in the background with a WPF application (so that the application doesn’t appear to be hung), that is not a requirement for a console app.  And to minimize the code change as I moved from WPF to Console, I changed a single line of code:

creationTask.RunSynchronously();

Now the call to JsonConvert.Serialize in the serializeCustomer method would fail. Catastrophically. And silently. Not really much of anything available to help with the debugging.

Based on the change, it appears that the problem is related to threading. Although it might not be immediately obvious, the ContinueWith method results in the creation of a Task object. This process represented by this object will be executed in a separate thread from the UI thread. So any issues that relate to cross-threading execution has the potential to cause a problem. I’m not sure, but I suspect that was the issue in this case. When I changed the code to be as follows, the problem went away.

List<Customer> _customers;

Task creationTask = new Task(() =>
{
    _customers = new List<Customer>();
   // Do stuff to build the list of customers
});

creationTask.RunSynchronously();
serializeCustomer();

Now could I have eliminated the need for the Task object completely? Yes. And in retrospect, I probably should have. However if I had, I wouldn’t have had the material necessary to write this blog post. And the knowledge of how JsonConvert.Serialize operates when using Tasks was worthwhile to have, even if it was learned accidentally.