I keep migrating my build scripts into CakeBuild system. And I keep running them on VSTS. Because mostly VSTS build system is awesome, it is free for small teams and has a lot of good stuff in it.

But working with NuGet on VSTS is for some reason a complete PITA. This time I had trouble with restoring NuGet packages:

'AutoMapper' already has a dependency defined for 'NETStandard.Library'.
An error occurred when executing task 'Restore-NuGet-Packages'.
Error: NuGet: Process returned an error (exit code 1).
System.Exception: Unexpected exit code 1 returned from tool Cake.exe

This is because Automapper is way ahead of times and VSTS uses older version of nuget.exe. If I run the same code locally, I don’t get this error. So I need to provide my own nuget.exe file and rely on that. This is how it is done in Cake script:

    .Does(() =>
        var settings = new NuGetRestoreSettings()
            // VSTS has old version of Nuget.exe and Automapper restore fails because of that
            ToolPath = "./lib/nuget.exe",
            Verbosity = NuGetVerbosity.Detailed,
        NuGetRestore(".\MySolution.sln", settings);

Note the overriding ToolPath – this is how you can tell Cake to use the specific .exe file for the operation.

Ladies and gentlement, I’m glad to present you NSaga – lightweight saga management framework for .Net. This is something I’ve been working for the last few months and now can happily annonce the first public release. NSaga gives ability to create and manage sagas without having to write any plumbing code yourself.

Saga is a multi-step operation or activity that has persisted state and is operated by messages. Saga defines behaviour and state, but keeps them distinctly separated.

Saga classes are defined by ISaga<TSagaData> interface and take messages. Messages are directed by a SagaMediator. Comes with an internal DI container, but you can use your own. Comes with SQL server persistence, but others will follow shortly.

Basic saga will look like this:

public class ShoppingBasketSaga : ISaga<ShoppingBasketData>,
    public Guid CorrelationId { get; set; }
    public Dictionary<string, string> Headers { get; set; }
    public ShoppingBasketData SagaData { get; set; }

    private readonly IEmailService emailService;
    private readonly ICustomerRepository customerRepository;

    public ShoppingBasketSaga(IEmailService emailService, ICustomerRepository customerRepository)
        this.emailService = emailService;
        this.customerRepository = customerRepository;

    public OperationResult Initiate(StartShopping message)
        SagaData.CustomerId = message.CustomerId;
        return new OperationResult(); // no errors to report

    public OperationResult Consume(AddProductIntoBasket message)
        SagaData.BasketProducts.Add(new BasketProducts()
            ProductId = message.ProductId,
            ProductName = message.ProductName,
            ItemCount = message.ItemCount,
            ItemPrice = message.ItemPrice,
        return new OperationResult(); // no possibility to fail

    public OperationResult Consume(NotifyCustomerAboutBasket message)
        var customer = customerRepository.Find(SagaData.CustomerId);
        if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(customer.Email))
            return new OperationResult("No email recorded for the customer - unable to send message");

            var emailMessage = $"We see your basket is not checked-out. We offer you a 85% discount if you go ahead with the checkout. Please visit https://www.example.com/ShoppingBasket/{CorrelationId}";
            emailService.SendEmail(customer.Email, "Checkout not complete", emailMessage);
        catch (Exception exception)
            return new OperationResult($"Failed to send email: {exception}");
        return new OperationResult(); // operation successful

And the saga usage will be

    var correlationId = Guid.NewGuid();

    // start the shopping.
    mediator.Consume(new StartShopping()
        CorrelationId = correlationId,
        CustomerId = Guid.NewGuid(),

    // add a product into the basket
    mediator.Consume(new AddProductIntoBasket()
        CorrelationId = correlationId,
        ProductId = 1,
        ProductName = "Magic Dust",
        ItemCount = 42,
        ItemPrice = 42.42M,

There is some documentation and all hosted on GitHub.

Have a look through samples, add a star to the repository and next time you need a multi-step operation, give it a go!

I’ve been using TFS for most of my professional career. I mean if it is a paid project – it was on TFS. Surely there was a bit of SVN as well, but not too much. In university I did try CVS. For projects where I picked version control, I tried mercurial and git. But anyway, most of the work I’ve done on .Net was with TFS. And I mean TFS was the source control system – never used it for ticketing and task managing, so can’t comment on that. From now on if I say TFS I mean version control system.

Recently we had time to move from TFS to git. I mean we moved that big-ass mahusive project with over 200K lines of code that was in active development for over 5 years. That was hard work to move it and preserve the history. And to be honest my team-mate has done most of the migration himself, I stood by and made sure I don’t interfere.

And I tell you one thing – moving to git was a good decision. Well worth the time/effort investment. So now I’ll try to explain why I’m so happy with git.

TFS is Horrible

If you don’t believe that TFS as a version control is horrible – Google for it. There will be a lot of articles explaining why you should never touch TFS. Probably most of them are true. I’ll list my reasons why I hate TFS:

  • Need to be connected all the time. Can’t checkout/modify files if your local connection is down. Or TFS server is down.
  • Locks files for read-only (no longer the case in latest TFS, but was in v2010). Makes it almost impossible to change files outside of Visual Studio.
  • Projects need to be mapped to folders on your drive and this is very flaky. Many hours was wasted on this quirk.
  • Really flaky when trying to work with previous check-ins. One of the things I run into was moving files. You can’t do anything with a file in an old check-in if in later check-ins it was moved/renamed/deleted. I mean you are time machine TFS, I want to meddle with history, I don’t care that this file does not exist 20-check-ins later. Nope.
  • SLOW. All the file operations need to go over the network.
  • Workspaces. WTF?
  • Branching is so bad, it really can be written off the table. More on that later.

Git is Horrible

Same as above, if you Google for this, you will get a number of articles explaining why git is horrible. Most of them are true. Probably. I’ve not tasted most of them, here are my gripes with git:

  • Different line endings. It is 2016 for fire-sake! Just bloody ignore them by default. All of you: git, merge tools, editors, etc. I don’t care, I don’t want to know that somebody commited file with different line endings. Just work!
  • Complexity of some commands. Remember your first try of interactive rebase?
  • Hard to learn. I’m learning a lot of new things every time I get stuck with git.
  • Hard to remember commands – I google a lot for stuff I need to do. Can never remember all the options.
  • Git is HARD. But there is always git reset --hard HEAD.


I’ve re-read the description above and seems like we’ve replaced QUIRKY with HARD.

I can’t work with quirky – so much wasted time and effort just to overcome the quirkiness.

I can deal with hard – I’ve completed BSc and MSc courses in Computer Science after all – that was HARD. But git has soooooo many books/tutorials/articles now that I always found an answer to my problem within the first page of Google search results.


No the biggest benefit (apart from escaping from quirky system) of moving from TFS to git is branching. In TFS branching is so bad it is a write-off. It takes forever to do branching, it must be literally in the other folder, you need to restart VS to switch to another branch. If you have IIS pointing to a web-site inside of your solution, you’ll have to reconfigure IIS to switch to another branch. Basically branching is TOO EXPENSIVE in TFS.

And it is not an issue until you used cheap branching in real life.

If you never used git-branded branching, you are used to not doing branching. So if you have any risky development, you tend to be very careful with it, so it does not spoil the rest of the code. You hide it behind a toggle, you don’t really commit it, you comment out your breaking code before checking in. And use a lot of other dirty tricks to not break your existing stuff. That does not always work well and you tend to be shy with potentially breaking changes. This leads to development stagnation because some changes are so global it is impossible to hide them. And you just don’t do them. That leads either to code quality problems or your product suffers from lack of good features.

Also lack of experimental space kills a lot of innovation. I’ve gone through that recently: “hm… what if I add a generic parameter here.. that will actually propagate into a lot of places in the codebase.. nope, can’t afford to possibly break everything in case this does not work out. Not going to try that”. But if there was cheap branching available you can just make a new branch and break stuff all you like. If it does not work out – just abandon the branch – you have tried.

Cheap Branching

Git is all about branches and makes them really cheap to implement/use. In fact, git is pointless without branches – you might as well use SVN instead.

With availability of cheap branches in git, I found that I’m following through with more risky ideas. A lot of them work out and give me good results. If you have a feature that takes a while to implement, you move the development in a branch and don’t disturb your main release – your customers won’t get half-baked code, you won’t need to hide new stuff behind a feature toggle. You merge it back into the mainstream when it is ready – no magic.

This promotes experiments without a risk of them leaking into your production. If experimental code does not work out – it is still there in a branch, just not merged anywhere – you can come back to it later, no need to delete anything. Experiments lead to a better development cycles and in turn gives you a better product.


If git is not making you more money with a resulting better product, it definitely saves you time when you don’t have to maintain a million of toggle for unfinished features.

Dump TFS, move to the dark side, use git.

I see and use badly written software every day. Examples are all over the place. Yesterday I had to login to my pension provider system and they allow to pick your own username, but they HAVE to have it uppercase and prefix 001. Why? Who came up with this crappy restriction?

I’ve seen database structures where information about people was stored in table called _job. And information about jobs was in table _jobs. Just because.

And don’t get me started on home-grown user/password security solutions where you can only have passwords of maximum 8 characters. You see them everywhere.

And plain-text password storage? There is a ton of systems that do that. There is a dedicated shaming site Plain Text Offenders. It’s a poor state of industry when we have such sites.

I can go on forever about shitty software written by clue-less developers or pressed for time/requirements by even more clue-less managers. It is everywhere. But I realise the problem is with us. And we can fix it.

Next time you write any code – think a bit harder. Next time your manager comes up with some requirement that does not make sense – push against it a bit harder. Next time a clue-less developer comes to you (or on Stack Overflow) for advice – try a bit harder to explain the best practices. Next time you start a new tech-stack – read the docs a bit longer. Next time you hit a bug – write a regression unit test. Next time write better software.

I’m a big fan of unit tests. But not everything can and should be unit tested. Also I do love CQRS architecture – it provides awesome separation of read and writes and isolates each read from the next read via query classes. Usually my queries are reading data from a database, though they can use any persistence i.e. files. About 90% of my queries are run against database with Entity Framework or with some micro ORM (currently I’m a fan of PetaPoco, though Dapper is also grand).

And no amount of stubs/mocks or isolating frameworks will help you with testing your database-access layer without actual database. To test your database-related code you need to have a database. Full stop, don’t even argue about this. If you say you can do unit-tests for your db-layer, I say your tests are worth nothing.

A while ago I’ve blogged about integration tests and that article seems to be quite popular – in top 10 by visitors in the last 2 years. So I decided to write an update.

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Cake Build system has an integration point with most build systems like Team City, AppVeyor, Bamboo, etc. But there is not much for Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS). There is a Cake Build Task that facilitates execution of Cake script on VSTS build agent, basically a wrapper around build.ps1.

But if you need to reach into any of the VSTS build process variables or call any of their API – you are on your own. And we are migrating our grand-project to be built on Cake and with VSTS.

And one of the pain points were NuGet feeds. We are consuming private nuget feed from VSTS and we are pushing a NuGet package into a private VSTS feed. Both of these actions require feed authentication. And VSTS authentication is painful.

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I’ve been converted to Cake. Not that I did not like a cake before, but this Cake is a build scripting system. The best thing about it – it is C# with all it’s might.

I’ve been using build servers for a long while, but never before I had a script that done completely in one go, one step. It has always been some snag that prevented this from happening.

For a long while I knew that it is a good practice to have all your build activities have scripted in one place. It is good for various reasons I’m not going to explain here. But every time I tried to implement this approach, there was something preventing me from getting the entire build process working from a single script, so every time I had to rely on different steps on a build server.

Bring on Cake Build

Gary Park a.k.a. @gep13 have been bragging about this system for a while and he is one of the main contributors on this project. Knowing Gary personally I decided to give this a go. And it worked magically for me!

All the factors that were preventing me implementing a build script as a single execution have been removed. Cake build script is basically a C# script with a lot of additions. And because it is C# – I know how to handle and work with it.

In addition to being C#, Cake also knows how to get and use NuGet feeds and anything you can do in your console application, you can do in Cake build script. For example if you wish you can get Newtonsoft.Json NuGet package for you build script and use JsonConvert.SerializeObject(obj); inside your build script. You add packages via preprocessor directives. This is very powerful.


There are a lot of addins that are available as NuGet packages. And they are getting downloaded on the execution – you don’t need to worry about them, Cake engine will take care of them – all you need to do is to add #addin nuget:?package=Cake.Foo.

Addins are so cool, I even built one myself for stuff that I used in my build scripts: Cake.SqlServer – small addin to aid working with SQL Server. It started as a refactoring exercise and then I decided to publish it as a nuget – it would be easier for me to share it between my scripts.


Cake is a cool build system for people who don’t want to learn XML or a special build scripting language. The only problem – it is not that widespread and sometimes finding an answer to problem is hard.

Today in a conversation with a customer I came up with a metaphor to explain some concepts about web-sites and hosting in Azure. I think this can be useful, should be recorded and developed further:

  • Think of a web-site as a Book. Pages in a book are web-site pages with text. Easy enough and translates well.
  • Web-sites to run need a server. Server is a Book-shelf that can have many books (sites).
  • You can have a book-shelf (server) in your office or in a Library. Library is a data-centre or a cloud that contains many book-shelves and many books. Somebody cares about the library for you, but you pay for the space on a shelf to keep you books there.
  • Domain Name is a Library Card that by name of a domain knows what shelf/location the required book(site) sits.
  • DNS server is a Librarian that keeps library cards organised and provides you with the right card when you ask for you site.
  • I also was explaining about having 2 publishing slots on Azure: production and staging. Production is the current book that is served to clients. Then when you publish new version of a book(site) – it is placed next to the current book(site) and then you swap these books around. Making the new book(site) to be currently in production.

Though this worked really well for me this morning, this metaphor does not explain well how on-premises hosting will work (your own tiny private library?). Or how web-sites fetch data from databases and if you swap sites/book they still serve the same data from the same database? Perhaps database can be a filing cabinet and every book contains a reference section on how to fetch data from the filing cabinet, but this is getting more complex than I like.