Aparently I have written something on that note before for CMS 4 and it looks like someone still needs it as I got a request for an updated version for it a couple of days ago. So here we go:

for the most part the syntax for the call is equivalent to what is was before so go to my previous article regarding that (check out the old article for details). What I’ve added this time around is:

  • the @PropertyName can be declared as ‘%’ if you want to look in all property names
  • @PropertyType can be –1 if you want to look in all property types otherwise you need to specify type id (this has changed from type name before due to database schema changes)
  • additionally this version of the stored proc will only look in the Master language Branch, so it will work for the single language pages and for multi-language but for language agnostic properties. (should you require the language to be variable the change is pretty simple – I can send you the updated version by email.
/****** Object:  StoredProcedure [dbo].[PagedSearch]    Script Date: 07/07/2009 12:18:10 ******/
IF  EXISTS (SELECT * FROM sys.objects WHERE object_id = OBJECT_ID(N'[dbo].[PagedSearch]') AND type in (N'P', N'PC'))
DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[PagedSearch]
GO

CREATE Procedure PagedSearch
    @Condition varchar(1024),
    @PropertyName varchar(1024),
    @PropertyType int,
    @PageSize int,
    @PageNumber int,
    @Offset int
AS
BEGIN

    DECLARE @RowStart int
    DECLARE @RowEnd int

    SET @RowStart = @PageSize * @PageNumber + @Offset;
    SET @RowEnd = @RowStart + @PageSize + @Offset;

    WITH PageRefs AS
        (SELECT page.pkID as PageId,
            ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY pageLang.StartPublish DESC) as RowNumber
            FROM tblPage page, tblProperty propValue, tblPageDefinition propDef, tblPageLanguage pageLang
            WHERE page.pkID = propValue.fkPageID
                AND page.fkMasterLanguageBranchID = pageLang.fkLanguageBranchID
                AND page.pkID = pageLang.fkPageID
                AND propValue.fkPageDefinitionID = propDef.pkID
                AND (@propertyType = -1 or propDef.fkPageDefinitionTypeID = @propertyType) -- is proper type
                AND propDef.Searchable = 1 -- the property is searchable
                AND propValue.String like @Condition -- contains facets
                AND propDef.[Name] like @PropertyName) -- property of proper name
    SELECT PageId
        FROM PageRefs
        WHERE (RowNumber Between @RowStart and @RowEnd) or (@PageSize = 0);
END
GO

However… looking how the schema has changed over time, I am not convinced this approach is really the best one for someone who is not prepared to deal with the changes (e.g. you better be able to change the stored procedure based on the schema changes – or bribe me with pizza and beers for updates :) ).

Additionally this procedure only searches for properties that store their value in Short string field. To make it look into long string you need to Change the highlighted line to.

AND (propValue.LongString like @Condition)

or alternatively to look in both change it to:

AND ((propValue.String like @Condition) or (propValue.LongString like @Condition))

Enjoy!

SoakIE – a Web Server Stress Tool with a twist

Last week or so ago a couple of friends in another project in Cognifide has run into a wall while trying to load test their website. the problem was as follows: The website is highly AJAX based – the page merely loads a stub in the initial request but then loads the rest of its data in a dynamic matter therefore a traditional web testing tools are fairly useless. What they tried was to setup a number of Selenium clients to pound the server, but that turned out to be fairly challenging to the machine doing the testing. It was not possible to set up more than 10 clients on a fairly strong machine.

Also there are other limitations like time to wait for the server to timeout and time between clicks, which I am not sure the tool allowed them to adjust. Talking to them I recalled a tool for grabbing website thumbnails long time ago. one way for them would be to to make a batch file with it. The tool would grab the sites’ thumbnail and stress it, but they would still have to setup a number of clients. Also it creates and tears down an instance of IE every time, making it’s not optimal for that task.

So a couple of evenings later (and a few back-s and forth-s during the testing sessions) out comes SoakIE:

SoakIETest

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Advanced Language Manipulation Tool for EPiServer

Have you ever (or have your customers) created and edited a page in one language only to realize that their selected locale was wrong? Have you ever wished you could delete a master language branch of a page  after creating its localized counterpart but you could only delete the newly created slave language instead? Have a customer ever requested that they could copy a whole branch and you convert it to another language so that they could then translate in-place?

Well I have… and I’m sure I will. And so did Fredrikj on the our #epicode IRC channel ;).

Basically I had the tool that would convert from one language to another, but Fredrikj requested something that would switch master language of a page from one to another. Since I’ve already had some of the work done, I’ve updated the stored procedure I’ve written some time ago and slapped a nice GUI up on it. Here’s the result:

 

AndvancedLanguageTool

What the tool allows you to do is perform either language conversion or master branch switching on a selected page and all of its children (if you choose so).

The stored procedure have been updated to work on CMS5 R2 (will no longer work on R1 – but if you need that functionality, comment here or give me a shout and I’ll create a compatible version for you).

A word of caution though – I take no guarantee whatsoever about its operation. Especially, if you wreck your client’s database with it. I did what I could to prevent some of the obvious problems (like switching to a non existing master or converting to an existing one) but I will not be responsible if it won’t work for you. make a database backup and experiment there before you do any changes on the real data. That said – it works for me, so I think it should also work for you.

You can download the archive containing the tool here. unzip it to your EPiServer web application folder keeping the folder structure or the plugin reference will be wrong. Include the *.aspx and the *.cs files in your project and apply the SQL file to your database (The manipulation is performed by a stored procedure located in the file).

Also if you’re performing the change in a load balanced environment, you may need to restart the other servers once you do the changes. I reset the DataFactory cache, but I am not sure it propagates through to other servers.

Immediately after you implement the VirtualPathProvider proxy from my previous post you will notice a one fairly serious lack in it. Namely all the files within that provider will be hiding behind the registration form. That is not cool for a couple of reasons…

  • You may want to keep all of the files in one store – being forced to put them into a designated folder is not desired.
  • You may want to make some file freely available for some time and lock it after a while, or the other way around (e.g. to allow the robots to crawl it initially). having to move them is just silly and defeats the purpose.

So how do you discriminate the files that you want locked from those that you want to be publically available, and potentially from those that you want only the logged in users to be able to get?

Specifying the EPiServer File Metadata sweetness

One of the potential solutions would be to define a special rights group and check for that group for the people that have your “registered” magic-cookie. That however introduces a bogus group, and I would rather like to avoid that. However if you look into the FileSummary.config file that’s located in your web application folder you will find a slightly mysterious content. A bit of hacking reveals that you can actually add your own metadata to the file. For example adding the access rights based on what I’ve established above would look as follows (the content you can already find in the file that comes with the public templates that-we-all-oh-so-love is skipped):

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Simple registration for files served by EPiServer

With the culture of knowledge sharing and open source spreading, everyone races to show they have something valuable that you may want. And while you may not ask for money for your content you may still want to get something in return, say a contact, an email address that’s verified (or not), to keep in touch with the consumer of your content.

Yet a full fledged registration doesn’t seem like a proper thing to do – cluttering your EPiServer user repository with (let’s face it – for a large part fake or temporary email addresses that user create only to get your content).

While there may be a lot of ways to handle that (streaming it through a page Response.WriteFile might seem as one of the more obvious ones), I would like to show you a cleaner, simpler and more elegant way that I’ve come up with.

We really don’t want people to deep link to our files without them knowing the files are from our site, that’s just rude – so hiding them behind an obscure URL wouldn’t work (thus we cannot use the regular file providers). We’ve already establish that we don’t want to log them in, so setting file rights are useless. But I want all the benefits including client-side caching.

Basically the solution boils down to creating a thin layer over the File provider of our choice, in my case the versioning file provider. The only method we need to override in it is GetFile. I want to allow downloading for logged in users and I want to allow downloading for all users that have a “magic-cookie” set. If either of the conditions are met, the file just downloads using the underlying provider’s routines including all the logic EPiServer has put for caching and rights. But if neither of the requirements are met, the user is directed to a page of our choice.

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Once you’ll update the framework to the extended one, you will immediately notice that… nothing has changed. Hmm… did something go wrong?

Well, not really. By default the framework will be run in the “legacy mode”. Thanks to an old article by our own Marek Blotny, I’ve learned how to build Plugin settings which are just perfect for the purpose!

So to configure and enable the new features you need to open your admin UI and in the “Config” click on the “Plugin Manager” item and select our framework plugin as shown in the picture

WebPartFrameworkPluginSettings1

The available options are:

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Back in the day when we started designing our last project we’ve been presented with a following problem – a big number of templates with slightly different sidebars.

Hmm…

Is sidebar a part of content? No, rather not. We don’t want the editors to have to setup the sidebar for every article they write (and the site has a few dozens of articles created on it every day).

Is sidebar more of a template thing? Well… more like it, but still… we have articles all over the site with different sidebar elements when the articles are in different parts of the site (ok so we could add rules what controls display in which part of the site). But wait! There’s more! The sidebar will be different for every language (region). Now we’re talking a dozen of templates or a rules engine just to make the sidebar different. Customising the template with properties isn’t ideal either as it makes EPiServer UI very cluttered. Additionally we want to change sidebars across many templates so the whole branch/section of the site will be able to share the same sidebar.

To a degree this is an academic discussion as we’ve been through it with the previous version of the site and we already knew that integrating this stuff into templates just won’t work and we will be in a world of pain just changing the templates over and over adding little tweaks and changes while the customer ads promotions and performs ad campaigns. Well, we can do it, of course, but it’s not a work a programmer will enjoy, and we all want to do new and more exciting things, don’t we?

We have an internally developed  module to make something like that, that is fully home-grown by another internal team (we now have 3 “squads” capable or making incredible things with EPiServer and we tend to share a lot of technologies and try to rotate people around to adopt the good habits and experiences) and I was (and still am) VERY impressed by it. The technology uses EPiServer pages for defining every module (which are located somewhere outside the site root branch. and then you can mix and match them either declaratively in the code) or by handpicking them in the UI. It’s really cool, though, during the discussions it turned out that we might have to add big chunks of functionality and might end up with separate branches of module-pages for different languages/regions, but… frankly… about that time an article by Ted Nyberg reminded me about a technology I have read about quite a while ago in an article by Stein-Viggo Grenersen and ooohhhhhh… I got seduced. I really wanted to try if for a long time and Ted’s article made it a snap to try and get convinced, and more important… convince Stu ;) that it’s the right way to explore.

So I started to dig.

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The problem that can make a grown up man cry…

You’re editing your EPiServer 4 project and suddenly the edit mode stops working. the server reports compilation errors. something along the lines:

Compiler error: CS0433: Type „EPiServer.Global” exists in „c:\WINDOWS\assembly\GAC_MSIL\EPiServer\5.1.422.122__8fe83dea738b45b7\EPiServer.dll” and „c:\WINDOWS\assembly\GAC\EPiServer\4.61.5.83__8fe83dea738b45b7\EPiServer.dll”

The solution is to go to your web.config and edit the compilation section. The section will most probably look something like this:

<configuration> <system.web> <compilation defaultLanguage="c#" debug="true"> <assemblies> <add assembly="System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/> <add assembly="System.Design, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=B03F5F7F11D50A3A"/> <add assembly="System.Web.Extensions.Design, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/> <add assembly="EPiServer, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="Microsoft.Web.Services3, Version=3.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.BaseLibrary, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="System.Configuration.Install, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=B03F5F7F11D50A3A"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Configuration, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Implementation, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.XForms, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Events, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Lucene, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="ElektroPost.Licensing, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="System.Data.OracleClient, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=B77A5C561934E089"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Wsrp, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.WebParts, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.UI, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> <add assembly="EPiServer.Web.WebControls, Version=5.1.422.122, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=8FE83DEA738B45B7"/> </assemblies> </compilation> </system.web> </configuration>

in my case only the 4th line referencing the EPiServer.dll was interfering with the editing working, but this can easily be trimmed to only first 3 options, so once you’re done with removing CMS5 entries it could look something like:

<configuration> <system.web> <compilation defaultLanguage="c#" debug="true"> <assemblies> <add assembly="System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/> <add assembly="System.Design, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=B03F5F7F11D50A3A"/> <add assembly="System.Web.Extensions.Design, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35"/> </assemblies> </compilation> </system.web> </configuration>

The root of the problem supposedly lies in EPiServer SDK integrated with Visual Studio and it’s Visual Studio that puts those lines there once you attempt to add a new element with one of its toolbars or use the Insert->New item… from File menu or context menu in Project Explorer.

Thanks to the guys on #epicode IRC channel for helping out quickly with the problem.

Posted in .Net Framework, ASP.NET, EPiCode, EPiServer, Software Development, Web applications
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The configuration of the module is a descendant of any EPiServer Virtual Path Provider configuration. This aspect is fairly well described on EPiServer pages.

A sample configuration for the TextImageVirtualPathProvider can look as follows

<configuration> <episerver> <virtualPath <providers> <add showInFileManager="false" virtualName="Text Images" virtualPath="~/TextImages/" bypassAccessCheck="false" name="TextImages" type="Cognifide.ImageVirtualPathProvider.TextImageVirtualPathProvider,Cognifide.ImageVirtualPathProvider" physicalPath="C:\temp\TextImages" allowedReferers="(localhost)" allowNullReferrer="false" replacementStrings="$colon$,:,$gt$,>,$dot$,.,$quot$,&quot;,$amp$,&amp;,$star$,*,$eol$,&#10;,"/> </providers> </virtualPath> </episerver> </configuration>

 

where:

  • physicalPath is where the cached version of images will be stored
  • shownInFileManager is “false” as there is nothing to present for the user in the file manager.
  • allowedReferrers is the regular expression containing the filter for sites that are allowed to access the path provider and get images. This has been added so that your server does not turn into the internet’s text-image open service :)
  • allowNullReferrer should be set to false in production environment but allows for testing by directly creating URL’s without using a page to fill in the referrer.
  • replacementStrings – this one actually turned out to be very useful since some characters are invalid and not even reaching the VPP if EPiServer or ASP detects them. so to allow for characters like colon or < or even a dot (which would make it hard to form regular expression if it was explicitly available) or * you need to create an escape token for them. The string is a coma separated list of token,value,token,value,…
  • virtualPath is something you need to change if you want your VPP to serve images under a different root level folder. (e.g. if you have a page with that name already)

 

Additionally for IIS6 (most common scenario) you need to add <location> node to configuration for the VPP to work.

<configuration>
  <location path=TextImages>
    <system.web>
      <!– Setup the StaticFileHandler for the wildcard mapping to work in IIS6–>
      <httpHandlers>
        <add path=* verb=GET,HEAD type=System.Web.StaticFileHandler validate=true />
      </httpHandlers>
    </system.web>
    <staticFile expirationTime=-1.0:0:0 />
  </location>
</configuration>


Unless you want to change the location of the virtual path provider can be found under, there is nothing you need to change here.

The code is accessible on EPiCode, but you can also download a compiled binary here. All you need to do then is to unzip the archive to the “bin” folder within your site and set the web.config values to your preference.

The module code is already available on Epicode SVN, the relevant wiki pages will be following as soon as documentation is complete.

The use case is as follows:

  • The client wants the site to look exactly as in a template provided as a image,
  • the text is using a non standard font that is not available on 60% of Windows machines,
  • the site does not use flash.
  • the site needs to be equally good looking in IE6 (more about it later)

The solution was to generate images, but how to do it the right way? This has presented us with a once-in-a-lifetime :) opportunity to create a virtual path provider, do something good and learn something new & cool in the process.

Creating a new virtual path provider.

this functionality in itself is fairly well documented on MSDN one thing to pay attention to is to remember to pass the control to the next provider in the provider queue if your provider does not want to serve the request, so in my case:

public override VirtualFile GetFile(string virtualPath) { if (IsPathVirtual(virtualPath)) VirtualFile file = new TextImageVirtualFile(this, virtualPath); return file; else return Previous.GetFile(virtualPath); }

this is necessary so you don’t have to have all-or nothing solution (your provider either serving everything the user requests or not being accessible at all) and honestly I’ve spent quite a while before I found out that… I was just being silly – thinking the technology by itself will resolve that ;)

If your Virtual path provider does not actually implement directories you don’t have to make the very provider to do a lot of complicated things. you are perfectly fine to limit the implementation to providing a custom constructor so that EPiServer passes you the configuration data and a couple of methods to tell whether a file is what you want to handle or not

// this one is actually really cool - whatever values you set in your web.config // will be passed to you in the collection so you can really make your VPP
// as configurable as necessary public TextImageVirtualPathProvider(string name, NameValueCollection configAttributes)
// This one resolves if the file can be generated public override bool FileExists(string virtualPath) { /* ... */ } // Pretty much only passes the info that directory was not found // found if the virtual path matches a path that we should handle public override bool DirectoryExists(string virtualDir) { /* ... */ } // Retrieves the virtual file that generates the image if the // Virtual path matches our pattern or disregards the request if it doesn't public override VirtualFile GetFile(string virtualPath) { /* ... */ } // Again this is only a pass through method as we don't support directories public override VirtualDirectory GetDirectory(string virtualDir) { /* ... */ }

Now that we have ASP passing the request to us we need to wonder how to format the request in a way that is intuitive to the user, I wanted the URL to be straightforward and follow the path of EPiServer’s friendly URL-S so that they are easily formed by editors. So how about:

http://my.server.com/color/font-name/font-size/The%20text%20i%20want%20to%20print.gif

Ok.. well…, that won’t fly for GIFs – the font will be plain ugly if I don’t use antialiasing and if I do I will have an ugly black background underneath it. The solution to that would be using translucent PNG (which the VPP supports) but IE6 does not support those with transparency without ugly hacks. So I need to replace the blacks with a hint so that it generates a background colour when it merges the background with the font for antialiasing. For the sake of this article let’s assume it was an easy switch (IT WASN’T!) and let’s extend the URL to:

http://my.server.com/color/antialias-hint-color/font-name/font-size/The%20text%20i%20want%20to%20print.gif

But I need the font to be bold! Ok… ok…

http://my.server.com/color/antialias-hint-color/font-name/font-size/font-formatting/The%20text%20i%20want%20to%20print.gif

Can I have the image rotated too? Sigh….

http://my.server.com/color/antialias-hint-color/font-name/font-size/font-formatting(optional)/transformatio(optional)/The%20text%20i%20want%20to%20print.gif

The image rotation follows the RotateFlipType enumeration so you can specify any string that is defined in the MSDN documentation for the enumeration.

A sample result for the URL:

http://my.server.com/TextImages/Blue/white/Courier%20New/40/BUI/rotate270flipnone/Hello$eol$from$eol$Cognifide!.gif

Will look as follows

Hello$eol$from$eol$Cognifide! 

For the curious

The final string format matching regular expression looks as follows:

Regex regex = new Regex( @"^(?<colour> # The first match - starting form the beginning of the string
([0-9a-fA-F]{3}|[0-9a-fA-F]{6}|[a-zA-Z]*)) # match either a 6 hex digit string or a name of a known color - this is for text color / # now we expect the first separating slash (?<hint> # next match group is about background hint for antialiasing ([0-9a-fA-F]{3}|[0-9a-fA-F]{6}|[a-zA-Z]*)) # match either a 3 or 6 hex digit string or a name of a known color - this is for antialiasing color hint / # again separating slash (?<font>[\w\s]*) # font family name - accept white spaces / # yet another separating slash (?<size>[\d]{0,3}) # font size / # oh noes! another slash! ((?<style>[BIUSRN\s]*) # font style Bold, Italic, Underline, Strikethrough /){0,1} # this group is optional. ((?<transform>[\w]*) # transformation name as specified with System.Drawing.RotateFlipType - this group is optional /){0,1} # this group is optional too. (?<text>[\s\S]*[^\.]) # the text to render - basically anything but a dot - use relacement strings for dots [\.] # separating dot - now that's a nice change! (?<extension>(png|gif)) # the file extension - so that we know whether to generate png or gif $ # everything comes to an end ", RegexOptions.Compiled | RegexOptions.IgnoreCase | RegexOptions.IgnorePatternWhitespace | RegexOptions.CultureInvariant);

 

Usability concerns

The Colours can be provided as both named Colours (red, green, etc..) or html hex formatted colours (e.g. ff00bb, fob, fff, badfoo) both 6 and 3 hex digits strings are accepted.

The URL accepts spaces, and whatever text string that cannot be passed as a part of the url or is invalidated by EPiServer can be escaped by defining a token for it in web.config so for example as you can see in the above url the end of line “\n” character has been escaped into $eol$.

Obviously the font selection is limited to what is installed on your server.

Performance concerns

The basic concern that comes to mind is – how does this impact the server performance if the image is generated every time? Even though the performance impact seemed to be negligible I’ve decided to cache content. These things simply pile up if you have a high load site so why take the chance? Once an URL is called it is saved on first generation asserting the uniqueness of each parameter. Colours like black and 000 will be treated as same colour and cached only once.

Security concerns

So what was done to prevent our server to be an open server for generating images for everyone on the Internet? The VPP only allows for the images to be generated if the request referrer is in a domain or a host that is specified in the web.config. Additionally for testing you can enable the referrer to be null (direct call to images, as opposed to referring to them from a page).

Also as a seconds line of defence, it’s wise to define the cache folder on a share with a quota so we don’t get our server filled up with images should the referrer limiting measure fail for some reason.