Why I'm excited to be a developer right now

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020 logo

Microsoft’s Ignite 2020 conference is on this week. It’s all online and registration is free!

This Thursday at 3pm +930 I’m participating in a “Table Talk” open discussion on the topic “Why we’re excited to be a developer right now”, along with Samir Behara, Sal Janssen, Dr Neil Roodyn, Senthamil V.

We’d love to have you join and take part in the discussion!

The church of the future (from 1995)

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Way, way back in 1995 I’d been a part of a team that published a newspaper leading up (and during) that year’s National Christian Youth Convention (aka NCYC 95). After the convention had finished, the New Times newspaper (which had been supporting us) asked us to continue writing pieces.

Recently my Dad gave me a collection of articles from these publications that he’d kept. This one stood out as being surprisingly relevant! If you know me well, you’ll be familiar with my unusual sense of humour, and I enjoyed sprinking this into my written work.

Extract from New Times August 1995

The full text from my article, first published in the August 1995 edition of New Times follows:

YAWN, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to getting up early for church. It’s good to catch up with friends. But worship is the real reason we get together each week.

Of course our church, like most, is “virtual”. We all meet via our computer communications link. Sure, you miss out on actually being with other people. But there are advantages.

You can attend your own church, no matter where you are in the world. It allows people with disabilities to participate as much as anyone. What I consider the biggest advantage is that you can “tune-out” those noisy kids!

On reflection, I guess modern church life has changed a lot over the years.

Today, we had communion. I think my replicator is on the blink, because the wine/grape juice was an uncharacteristic luminescent green.

The minister’s message was pretty good. I do appreciate being able to fast forward over the boring bits. I don’t know how people used to cope when they actually had to site through a whole sermon.

The use of hypertext scripture readings, multimedia and 3D real-time computer animation are commonplace in the sermons of today. They certainly add a new dimension to understanding the Bible in today’s society.

Like most churches, we are often struggling with our regular giving. Accepting all major credit cards has helped, though. But I’m not so sure about the floating of our church on the stock market. Next thing you know the CPI will stand for the “Consumer Prayer Index”.

And another thing. Call me old fashioned, but I do prefer those tried and true choruses - I can’t relate to all these modern techno-sampled tunes we have in church now.

Well, I guess things are always changing - technologies, language, people. But God never changes. God’s still as relevant today as in the 1990s.

Given what’s happened just this year, I’d say most of my predictions been pretty close to the mark.

In the garden - August 2020

Sunday, 9 August 2020

August, and winter is hanging around. It’s been pretty cold overnight and first thing in the morning. Today was overcast but there has been the odd day where the sun comes out and warms you up a little.

I do enjoy it when the jonquils and daffodils appear. Splashes of colour that are have laid forgotten for most of the year. Here’s a few growing in our garden. I don’t know the names of all the varieties. Some we’ve planted but many were already in the garden when we moved here.

Daffodil - yellow and orange

Daffodil - pale white and yellow

Daffodil - pale white and frilly yellow

Daffodil - small yellow

Daffodil - small white and yellow

Daffodil - small white and orange

Jonquil - white

GitHub Releases

Thursday, 23 July 2020

I want to make creating a release as simple as possible. Some projects might adopt a continuous delivery approach where every commit to the main branch generates a new release. In this case I want to allow commits to accrue until I decide that a new release should be created.

My requirements for creating a new release include the following:


The main.yml file in the Show Missing project is split into two jobs - build and update_release_draft. The latter job only runs when we’re building the main branch.

The second workflow is publish.yml, which is run after a non-draft release is created.

Update release draft job

This job has an if: clause that means it only runs when we’re building master branch.

    name: Update release draft
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    needs: [build]

    if: github.ref == 'refs/heads/master'

Release notes

Browsing GitHub Actions, there’s a few that help with release notes. I chose Release Drafter. It creates a draft release (automatically generating the release name based on the version) and each time it runs, it reviews the list of commits since the last release and generates formatted release notes. It is smart enough to update the draft release on subsequent runs.

Release Drafter calls GitHub APIs so we set GITHUB_TOKEN.

I use Nerdbank.GitVersioning to manage version numbers. I use the full notation to access the calculated version number from the previous build job.

      - uses: release-drafter/[email protected]
        id: create_release
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
          version: ${{ needs.build.outputs.GitBuildVersionSimple }}

Here’s the release notes (edited for this blog post) to show the kind for formatting that Release Drafter provides. It can use labels to group the issues under the different headings.

Release Notes

You configure Release Drafter by adding a file named .github/release-drafter.yml. Mine contains the following:

name-template: 'v$RESOLVED_VERSION'
tag-template: 'v$RESOLVED_VERSION'
  - title: '🚀 Features'
      - 'feature'
      - 'enhancement'
  - title: '🐛 Bug Fixes'
      - 'fix'
      - 'bugfix'
      - 'bug'
  - title: '🧰 Maintenance'
    label: 'chore'
change-template: '- $TITLE @$AUTHOR (#$NUMBER)'
      - 'major'
      - 'minor'
      - 'patch'
  default: patch
template: |
  ## Changes


Release assets

The Upload a Release Asset action is used to append the vsix from the build to the draft release.

      - name: Upload Release Asset
        id: upload-release-asset
        uses: actions/[email protected]
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
          upload_url: ${{ steps.create_release.outputs.upload_url }} # This pulls from the CREATE RELEASE step above, referencing it's ID to get its outputs object, which include a `upload_url`. See this blog post for more info: https://jasonet.co/posts/new-features-of-github-actions/#passing-data-to-future-steps
          asset_path: ./bin/Release/Gardiner.VsShowMissing.VS2019.vsix
          asset_name: Gardiner.VsShowMissing.VS2019.vsix
          asset_content_type: application/octet-stream

Publishing to the marketplace

The publish.yml workflow triggers after the draft release is published (changes to non-draft).

It firstly grabs a copy of vsix file that was attached to the release that has triggered this workflow.

      - name: Download Assets
        uses: i3h/[email protected]
          owner: ${{ github.event.repository.owner.login }}
          repo: ${{ github.event.repository.name }}
          tag: ${{ github.event.release.tag_name }}
          file: Gardiner.VsShowMissing.VS2019.vsix
          token: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}

And then locates VsixPublisher.exe, then runs that to publish the vsix up to the marketplace.

      - name: Script
        run: |
          # Find VsixPublisher
          $Installation = & "${env:ProgramFiles(x86)}\Microsoft Visual Studio\Installer\vswhere.exe" -latest -format json | ConvertFrom-Json
          $Path = $Installation.installationPath

          Write-Host $Path
          $VsixPublisher = Join-Path -Path $Path -ChildPath "VSSDK\VisualStudioIntegration\Tools\Bin\VsixPublisher.exe" -Resolve

          & $VsixPublisher publish -payload ".\Gardiner.VsShowMissing.VS2019.vsix" -publishManifest ".\build\extension-manifest.json" -personalAccessToken $env:PersonalAccessToken -ignoreWarnings "VSIXValidatorWarning01,VSIXValidatorWarning02,VSIXValidatorWarning08"
          PersonalAccessToken: ${{ secrets.PersonalAccessToken }}

Creating a new release

After enough changes have been made, it’s time to publish a new release!

  1. Browse to the Releases page.
  2. A draft release is shown. Draft release Click on the Edit button
  3. Review (and optionally edit) the release notes. Edit draft
  4. If you’re happy to proceed, click on Publish release
  5. The publish workflow is automatically triggered

The release is now public (no longer in draft) and GitHub has attached additional files to it

Latest release

Reviewing the Visual Studio Marketplace, you can see that the new vsix has been submitted and is being processed before being made available to the general public.




Friday, 17 July 2020

Keeping dependencies up to date is useful. Even more so if the dependency has a security fix.

I’ve using Dependabot for a while now. Initially with the preview integration, but now that Dependabot is part of GitHub (complete with a name change to ‘GitHub Dependabot’) the integration is even better.

All you need to do is add a file under .github/dependabot.yml, and Dependabot integration will be enabled for your repository.

Here’s the dependabot.yml file for Show Missing:

version: 2
- package-ecosystem: nuget
  directory: "/"
    interval: daily
    time: '19:30'
  open-pull-requests-limit: 10
  - flcdrg

It specifies the following:

Dependabot will create a pull request to update each outdated dependency. If release notes are available, it will populate the pull request with those details, as well as the commit history between the old version and the new one.

Dependabot-generated pull request

There’s comprehensive documentation for using Dependabot on the GitHub Docs site, including many more configuration options.

I let Dependabot create the pull requests but I still decided whether to approve the request (or not). You could even hook up a GitHub Action to auto-merge your Dependabot pull requests!

Azure Pipelines

The interesting thing about Dependabot is the core engine is open source and hosted on GitHub as well. Andrew Craven has created an example of using the Dependabot engine with Azure DevOps. Not sure if he’s updating that repo, but you might find some of the pull requests I’ve submitted there useful.

You don’t get all the @dependabot bot behaviour like you see on GitHub (as that’s built on top of the core). I guess if you were keen you could build that functionality too!

I’ve used his code to generate pull requests on some repositories hosted in Azure DevOps and then used Service Hooks to trigger some code in an Azure Function to update the pull requests to set auto-complete and assign a work item.