Work Item query by category

This is a really old functionality of TFS, but it turns out that sometimes some people missed it. When you create a query, you can add a condition on Work Item Type.

This image shows combo box rendered by the ui when you are using the equal operator

Figure 1: Add condition to Work Item Type

As you can see, you can require the Work Item Type to be equal to specific value, and the UI renders a nice combo box with all permitted values to help the user choose right value.

You can also use the in operator, to specify a comma separated list of allowed types.

In operator in Work Item Query allow to specify a comma separated query of values

Figure 2: The in operator in Work Item Query

Finally TFS has a nice concepts called Work Item Category to group togheter all Work Item Types that shared some common behavior. As an example, all types that represents a concept of requirement are shown on the Backload Board, while Work Items that represents a Task are represented in the Task Board. If you choose the in operator to specify a condition on Work Item Type, you can choose from Work Item Categories.

If you choose In Group operator you can choose between Work Item Categories instead of types

Figure 3: Query with the “in group” operator  allows you yo choose between Work Item Categories

There are many use case for this functionality, Microsoft Test Manager used Requirement category to create a generic query that lists “requirements” and is valid for all template. You can use this feature if you need to create query that spans multiple project with different project template.

image

Figure 4: Query for requirements on multiple Team Project

In Figure 4 I represented a simple query to list all requirements associated to me for every Team Project. As you can see from the result, I got Work Item Type “Requirement” from a CMMI Project and “Product Backlog Item” from a Scrum project.

Gian Maria.

Managing tags with Tag Admin for VS 2013

Tags management in Team Foundation Server is a really good way to add custom information to Work Items without the need to customize process template. The downside of this approach, is that every person is able to add whatever tag to work items with the risk of misspelling and duplication.

As an example if the team is doing T-Shirt sizing for User Stories, we can have people using tag S to identify a Small Story, then people decides to change to SIZE_S to better indicate the purpose of the tag. Now you have some User Story with S and other one with SIZE_S. Mispelling is another typical problem, even if TFS is suggesting you tags in edit with drop down, there is always the risk that someone write a slightly different tag.

An optimal solution to cope with these problem is installing an extension of Visual Studio that allows you to manage tags

image

Figure 1: Tag Admin For Visual Studio 2013 in Visual Studio Gallery

This extension adds a nice link in your team explorer to manage your tags. If you open it, you are immediately prompted with a complete list of all of your tags, with a counter that identify how many work items are associated with each tag.

image

Figure 2: List of tags of team project.

If some tags are not associated to any work item and you wonder why they are listed there (you see 0 as work item count) the reason is that TFS Still not cleared the Tag from the tag cache. After a tag is not used by any work item for some days, TFS decides that the tag should not be available anymore for suggestion.

In this example I have a misspelling problem between delighter and deligter so I can click mispelled tag, and a nice Action buttons appears in the UI allowing for some actions.

image

Figure 3: Available actions for tag

You can view a list of work items that contains that tags, you can delete that tags, effectively removing that tags from any Work Item and you can also Rename Tag. The actual version of the tool does not allow to rename a tag giving a name that already exists, and this prevent us to effectively using the tool to “merge” mispelled tag into a single tag, but it is still really useful because it allow an administrator to immediately spot mispelled tag, that can be fixed manually.

Actually you can simply click “View Linked Workitem” and then from the standard web interface apply the fix changing tags accordingly.

Gian Maria.

Manage Artifacts with TFS Build vNext

Artifacts and Build vNext

Another big improvement of Build vNext in TFS and VSO is the ability to explicitly manage the content of artifacts during a build. With the term Artifacts in Continuous Integration we are referring to every result of of the build that is worth publishing together with build result, to be further consumed by consumers of the build. Generally speaking think to artifacts as build binary outputs.

The XAML build system does not give you much flexibility, it just use a folder in the build agent to store everything, then upload everything to the server or copy to a network share.

To handle artifacts, vNext build system introduces a dedicated task called: Publish Build Artifacts.

Publish Build Artifacts options

Figure 1: Publish artifacts task

The first nice aspect is that we can add as many Publish Build Artifacts task we want. Each task requires you to specify contents to include with a  default value (for Visual Studio Build) of **\bin to include everything contained in directories called bin. This is an acceptable default to include binary output of all projects, and you can change to include everything you want. Another important option is the ArtifactName, used to distinguish this artifacts from the othter ones. Remember that you can include multiple Publish Build Artifacts tasks and Artifact Name is a simple way to categorize what you want to publish. Finally you need to specify if the artifact type is Server (content will be uploaded to TFS) or File Share (you will specify a standard UNC share path where the build will copy artifacts).

Artifacts browser

With a standard configuration as represented in Figure 1, after a build is completed, we can go to the artifacts tab, and you should see an entry for each Publish Build Artifacts task included in the build.

List of artifacts included in build output.

Figure 2: Build details lists all artifacts produced by the build

You can easily download all the content of the folder as a single zip, but you can also press button Explore to explore content of the artifacts container directly from web browser. You can easily use Artifacts Explorer to locate the content you are interested into and download with a single click.

With artifacts browser you can explore content of an artifacts directly from browser and download single contents.

Figure 3: Browsing content of an artifact

Using multiple Artifacts Task

In this specific example, using **\bin approach is not probably suggested approach. As you can see from previous image, we are including binaries from test projects, wasting space on server and making more complex for the consumer to find what he/she needs.

In this specific situation we are interested in publishing two distinct series of artifacts, an host program and a client dll to use the host. In this scenario the best approach is using two distinct publish artifacts task, one for the client and the other for the host. If I reconfigure the build using two task and configure Contents parameter to include only the folder of the project I need, the result is much better.

Multiple artifacts included in build output

Figure 4: Multiple artifacts for a single build output

As you can see from previous image, using multiple task for publishing artifacts produces an improved organization of artifacts. In such a situation it is simple to immediately locate what you need and download only client or host program. The only drawback is that we still miss a “download all” link to download all artifacts.

Prepare everything with a Powershell Script approach

If projects starts to become really complex, organizing artifacts can start to become a complex task. In our situation the approach of including the whole bin folder for a project is not really good, what I need is folder manipulation before publishing artifacts.

  • We want to remove all .xml files
  • We want to change some settings in the host configuration file
  • We need to copy content from other folders of source control

In such a scenario, Publish Artifacts task does not fulfill our requirement and the obvious solution is adding a Powershell Script in your source code to prepare what you are calling a “release” of artifacts. A real nice stuff about PowerShell is that you can create a ps1 file with the function that does what you need and declare named parameters

Param
(
    [String] $Configuration,
    [String] $DestinationDir = "",
    [Bool] $DeleteOriginalAfterZip = $true
)

In my script I accepts three parameters, the configuration I want to release (Debug or Release), destination directory where the script will copy all the file, and finally if you want the script to delete all uncompressed files in DestinationDirectory.

The third option is needed because I’d like to use 7zip to compress files in output directory directly from my script. The two main reason to do this are

  • 7zip is a better compressor than a simple zip
  • It is simpler to create pre-zipped artifacts

Using Powershell script has also the great advantage that it can be launched manually to verify that everything goes as expected or to create artifact with the exact same layout of a standard build, an aspect that should not be underestimated. Once the script is tested on a local machine (an easy task) I have two files in my output directory.

Content of the folder generated by PowerShell script

Figure 5: Content of the output folder after PowerShell script ran

One of the biggest advantage in using PowerShell scripts, is the ability to launch it locally to verify that everything works as expected, instead of standard “modify”, “launch the build”, “verify” approach needed if you use Build Tasks.

Now I customize the build to use this script to prepare my release, instead of relying on some obscure and hard to maintain string in Publish Artifact Task.

Include a Powershell Task in the build to prepare artifacts folder

Figure 6: PowerShell task can launch my script and prepare artifacts directory

Thanks to parameters I can easily specify: current configuration I’m building (release, debug), DestinationDir (I’m using the $(build.stagingDirectory) variable that contains the staging directory for the build). You can use whatever destination directory you want, but using standard folder is probably the best option.

After this script you can now place a standard Publish Build Artifacts task, specifying $(build.stagingDirectory) as the Copy Root folder, and filtering content if you need. Here is the actual configuration.

Publish build artifacts taks can be used to publish Powershell output

Figure 7: Include single Publish Build Artifacts to publish from directory prepared by PowerShell script

The only drawback of this approach is that we are forced to give an Artifact Name that will be used to contain files, you cannot directly publish pre-zipped file in the root source of build artifacts. If you want you can include multiple Publish Build artifacts to publish each zipped file with a different Artifact Name.

Build artifacts contains a single artifacts with all zipped file

Figure 8: Output of the build

But even if this can be a limitation, sometimes can be the best option instead. As you can see from previous image, I have a primary artifact and you can press the Download button to Download Everything with a  single click. Using Artifact Explorer you can download separate packages, and this is probably the best approach.

Artifacts browser permits you to download single zip files

Figure 9: Artifact browser shows distinct zip file in the output

If you use a Script to create one separate pre-compressed package for each separate artifacts, your publish experience will probably be better than any other approach.

Conclusions

Build vNext gives us great flexibility on what to publish as artifacts, but even if we can manage everything with dedicated task, if you want a good organization of your artifacts, using a PowerShell script to organize everything and pre-compressing in single files is usually the best approach.

Gian Maria.

Unable to debug dll source code with symbol server

I’ve blogged in the past about using a Symbol server and I recommend to all people to use symbol servers whenever possible, to helping people troubleshooting problem on dependencies. Basically with a symbol server you can reference a dll in your project, but you can debug original source code as if you have the original project linked instead of having the dll.

Sometimes this process just don’t work. Recently I’have a customer that had problem with this scenario, and the real strange stuff is: I’m able to step in dll source code without problem from any machine, but noone of the customer’s developers are able to make it work. After I’ve sent them detailed instruction it worked, and we were able to track down the problem.

Visual Studio has a nice option to cache symbols in local directory to avoid downloading each time from the server. Here are my usual settings.

Visual Studio options to use local folder as a symbol cache

Figure 1: Visual Studio symbols settings

Developers in customer sites decided to use a subfolder of %TEMP% directory and this was the cause. As soon as they moved symbol cache to something like c:\symbols everything starts working. The underling cause is probably due to long paths.

If you have problem using symbol server, try using a really short path for your Symbols Local Cache directory.

In this specific situation we are using free symbols server in conjunction with MyGet nuget package feeds. In my machine here is the location for a source file during debugging.

Z:\Symbols\src\pdbsrc\MyGet\alkampfer\11111111-1111-1111-1111-111111111111\BIGEND\GianMariaRicci\Jarvis.Framework.Kernel\2C5AB5CBD1C74688974B2DDB55F51EDA1\Jarvis.Framework.Kernel\ProjectionEngine\ConcurrentProjectionEngine.cs

Usual %TEMP% variable is something like c:\users\gianmaria.ricci\appdata\local\temp (this is my system and it is long 44 characters), so it is not a good idea to use it for symbol source cache.

Since it is really easy to have really long path for your source when you use a symbol server, it is always a good idea using a short path for symbols cache directory, something like x:\SymSrc is probably the best solution.

If this does not solves your problem, another suggestion is using Fiddler to inspect the traffic between your Visual Studio and the Source Server to understand what is happening.

Gian Maria.

Git for windows, getting Invalid username or password with Wincred

If you use Https to communicate with your git repository, Es, Github or VisualStudioOnline, you usually setup credential manager to avoid entering credential for each command that contact the server. With latest versions of git you can configure wincred with this simple command.

git config --global credential.helper wincred

This morning I start getting error while I’m trying to push some commits to GitHub.

$ git push
remote: Invalid username or password.
fatal: Authentication failed for 'https://github.com/ProximoSrl/Jarvis.DocumentS
tore.git/'

If I remove credential helper (git config –global credential.helper unset) everything works, git ask me for user name and password and I’m able to do everything, but as soon as I re-enable credential helper, the error returned. This problem is probably originated by some corruption of stored credentials, and usually you can simply clear stored credentials and at the next operation you will be prompted for credentials and everything starts worked again. The question is, where are stored credential for wincred?

If you use wincred for credential.helper, git is storing your credentials in standard windows Credential Manager

You can simple open credential manager on your computer,

image

Figrue 1: Credential manager in your Control Panel settings

Opening Credential manager you can manage windows and web credentials. Now simply have a look to both web credentials and windows credentials, and delete everything related to GitHub or the server you are using. The next time you issue a git command that requires authentication, you will be prompted for credentials again and the credentials will be stored again in the store.

Gian Maria.