My website can still be found at, but I have not been posting on this blog as I've been primarily focused on - please head over there and take a look!

Sunday 19 November 2017

'How to create an Azure SQL Database programmatically' with less frustration

Microsoft's devs have done yet another "almost-but-not-quite-great" job with their sample code for creating an Azure database programmatically.

In addition to the headache of setting up an Azure subscription and Azure Active Directory correctly, it took a silly amount of investigation and trial and error before I could figure out what values the code was expecting as the variable names (almost predictably) don't match their counterparts as displayed in the Azure portal.
  1. Follow the instructions from the original code's page up to item 4 ("Add your variables to the program")
  2. Replace Program.cs with my modified code.
  3. Follow the instructions in the 4th item, using the modified code's documentation in case of confusion or ambiguity.
Once a database has been created, you can log in via SQL Server Management Studio using the server's fully qualified domain name ( and the server's admin credentials which were created along with the server. For this you will need to update the server's firewall to allow your client IP's connections.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

C# / OpenSSH RSA Encryption made easy


The struggle to uncover the secrets of importing from and export to OpenSSH keys with Microsoft's .NET RSACryptoServiceProvider is real. It's possible but not practical to do this without BouncyCastle, which may or may not be well-documented (navigating their website is far from a joyful experience), but after trawling the web and playing around I've created the following gists that should be of assistance to anyone who needs to do this in a straightforward manner.
And if you want to share RSA keys between JavaScript and .NET platforms, well, you're going to need to do this.
Import and export RSA Keys between C# and PEM format using BouncyCastle
And just because the actual encryption and decryption are always annoying:
Simple RSA Encryption to and Decryption from Base64 encoded strings in C#

Friday 12 May 2017

connecting node.js to the azure table storage emulator

Once again, solid software is rendered useless by a lack of documentation. I've just wasted way too much time connecting my node app to an emulated table, so I'm going to spell it out for you so that you don't have to do the same.
  1. The npm azure-storage package instructions are found here, the emulator software is found here and the storage explorer is found here.
  2. Once the emulator has been installed, you'll need to start it. The init operation worked fine for me (I'm running SQL Server 2012 Express anyway), but the start operation failed and it took a while to realize that ports 10000 - 10002 (or is that 3?) need to be available; the software blocking could be anywhere from backup software or bittorrent to malware.
    Good to know.
    There doesn't appear to be any way to customize the ports used.
  3. To verify that your emulator is running correctly, connect using the storage explorer.
    1. Select "Use a storage account name and key"
    2. Set the account name and authentication key (see point 6 below)
    3. Set the storage endpoints domain to "Other" with a value of
    4. Select "Use HTTP"
  4. The emulator runs on http NOT https, which shouldn't affect you once you've got your connection configured correctly. For some people the authentication requires setting your system time to UTC / GMT, for others it's setting the environment variable NODE_TLS_REJECT_UNAUTHORIZED to 0; the latter can be done in node.js with
  5. There are two ways to instantiate a table service object. Assuming
    var azure = require('azure-storage');
    1. var tableSvc = azure.createTableService(account, key, '');
    2. process.env.AZURE_STORAGE_ACCOUNT = account;
      process.env.AZURE_STORAGE_ACCESS_KEY = key;
      process.env.AZURE_STORAGE_CONNECTION_STRING = connectionString;
      var tableSvc = azure.createTableService();
  6. The account name, authentication key and connection string are public, invariable and for emulation purposes only:
    Account name: devstoreaccount1

    Authentication Key:

    Connection String: UseDevelopmentStorage=true

Sunday 23 April 2017

How to code Entity Framework programmable migrations

The internets are eerily quiet when it comes to running Entity Framework's migrations through code, which is odd because Entity Framework's Code First migrations are extremely powerful and calling them (or rolling them back) through the code seems an obvious choice to someone like me, who prefers to reduce the amount of complexity for the poor IT people handling deployment.

(And for poor me, too, I'm very lazy and I like being able to just press a button to make magic happen.)

The most important quirk of running migrations programmatically that you'll need to know before we begin is that the DbMigrator class, for reasons unclear, requires the Entity Framework Configuration class but uses it in a way that's incompatible with the Update-Database and Add-Migration scripts, even after manually configuring the ContextType and ContextKey properties. We'll set those anyway for consistency, but no matter where you store your migrations and however diligently you inform the DbMigrator (the MigrationsDirectory property was ignored too) you're going to be stuck with automatic migrations. And while we're fiddling with the Configuration class, be sure to make the internal Configuration class public.

Automatic migrations ignore the explicit migration files and detect changes between the context's models and the database. As with the Update-Database script, the database will be created if it hasn't been already. It will not function reliably unless the AutomaticMigrationDataLossAllowed property is set to true, and you'll also need to update the OnModelCreating method of your context class to allow for database calls when the models are out of sync to give you a chance to run the migrations:

Migrating up and down

Using automatic migrations to update your database is great, but what do you do if you need to roll back? DbMigrator requires a migration name to update to, and unlike the case with explicit migrations, the migration name is not established by the developer but is unique to the database in question.

Fortunately, the DbMigrator includes the GetDatabaseMigrations method, which returns a list of applied migrations; so while you won't be able to roll back to a predefined named state, you will be able to roll back to a previously run migration. Here it is important to note that the order of the migrations returned is not guaranteed, but the names begin with a timestamp so they're not too difficult to sort.

So rolling back the first of that list is as simple as


Seeding must be performed manually after calling DbMigrator.Update(). The Configuration class' Seed method is protected, so add the following wrapper method to your Configuration class

and call it once the migration is complete.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Passing data from C# to Node.js via Edge.js

Edge.js is a phenomenal tool, but its documentation is a hit and miss.  Sending data to C# from Node.js is straightforward, and the JSON object is translated to a dynamic object automatically:

public async Task<dynamic> Invoke(dynamic input) {
   // echo input message
   await doSomething(input.message);

Returning data is not trivial, however, because any kind of complex object I tried to return caused unreported exceptions.

Until now!

It turns out that Edge .js returns associative arrays if and only if they're correctly JSON formatted. I don't recall seeing this documented anywhere, but it makes perfect sense (20/20 hindsight). So in order to return an associative array to Node.js, make sure to use a Dictionary object where the first element type is a string; if you want to send a list of usernames with their IDs, for example, you would either use

Dictionary<string, string>

with the ID cast to string for transmission or

Dictionary<string, int>

with the ID / username columns switched from their normal positions.

Of course, one could go about creating more intricate objects using the dynamic type, but that's beyond the scope of this post.

Friday 13 January 2017

Web Worker callback design pattern

I couldn't find a way to post messages to a callback and define a handler for each individual message, and the following is what I've come up with. If you have suggestions or a better solution, let me know!

UPDATE: my goodness, looking back at my original post I wonder if I wasn't having a stroke. I've rewritten it and used gist to make it readable: