Scripting database changes

On my team we use SQL Server Database Projects to version our databases. We previously used EF6 for our data layer, but recently started using EF Core which gave me the opportunity to optimize my workflow. Here are the steps we would manually take to modify the schema.

  1. Open the database project and alter the schema.
  2. Build the project.
  3. Publish the project to a local test database.
  4. Make the corresponding change in the EF Core model.

I decided to script it and add the script as a shortcut in Launchy. Here is my script.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Enterprise\MSBuild\Current\Bin\msbuild.exe" C:\code\prism\DB\PrismDB.sln /property:Configuration=Release

if %errorlevel% neq 0 exit /b %errorlevel%

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\150\DAC\bin\SqlPackage.exe" /Action:Publish /SourceFile:"C:\path\to\sql\project\bin\Release\MyDatabase.dacpac" /TargetServerName:localhost /TargetDatabaseName:MyDatabase /p:AllowIncompatiblePlatform=True /p:BlockOnPossibleDataLoss=False /TargetTimeout:120 /p:ScriptDatabaseOptions=False

if %errorlevel% neq 0 exit /b %errorlevel%

pushd C:\path\to\sql\project

dotnet ef dbcontext scaffold "Server=localhost;Database=MyDatabase;Trusted_Connection=True;" Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer --output-dir ../Data/Entities --context Entities --force --project Data.Dummy

if %errorlevel% neq 0 exit /b %errorlevel%

My workflow with the script is:

  1. Open the database project and alter the schema.
  2. Press Alt+Spacebar and type database to execute my script.
  3. Go back to coding in Visual Studio and everything is up to date.

To improve the error experience, you can create a second script that calls the above script with the /k switch to prevent the command shell from closing at the end.

cmd /k "Database Run All Inner.bat"

Custom metric in Application Insights

Tracking custom metrics in Application Insights is easy. I wanted to track how long our cash register takes to print receipts so I could compare performance across hardware and make better recommendations to our sales team and diagnose customer issues related to printing speed.

You will need a TelemetryClient instance. Use the GetMetric() method to get or create a metric by name. You can use the overloads to provide names for additional custom dimensions. In this case I am tracking the receipt number and the number of images printed on the receipt.

Call TrackValue() to add a new measurement. The TelemetryClient will aggregate the metrics over time and report them to Application Insights.
The default interval appears to be 54 seconds.

In my case, aggregation is not doing much since each printed receipt has unique dimensions and a register is not likely to print more than one receipt every 54 seconds.

var metric = _telemetry.GetMetric("PrintReceiptDurationMs", "ReceiptNumber", "ImageCount");
metric.TrackValue(sw.ElapsedMilliseconds, receipt.ReceiptNumber, imageCount.ToString());

In Log Analytics you can now query for the results.

| where name == 'PrintReceiptDurationMs'
| extend receipt_number = tostring(customDimensions.ReceiptNumber)
| extend image_count = todouble(customDimensions.ImageCount)
| project value, receipt_number, image_count
| order by receipt_number desc

Or you could plot a chart.

| where name == 'PrintReceiptDurationMs'
| summarize avg(value) by todouble(customDimensions.ImageCount)
| render barchart

You can query across all metrics if they share common custom dimensions.

| where customDimensions.ReceiptNumber == 'RC-00092261-7'
| project name, value, timestamp 
| order by name

Prototype: Generating Vue forms from JSON

I’m fascinated with generated code. I love to write code, but when it comes to repetitive CRUD screens, nothing beats a template. Being able to quickly generate screens builds confidence with clients and gets you right into the meat of the application.

I used to build applications primarily in ASP.NET MVC. Recently I’ve started using Vue and immediately missed having input and form builders. Since I still use a C# Web API on the back end, I had to creatively get the C# model from server to client. I did this using a modified JSON Schema. I tried several libraries, but was not very happy with the extensibility of any of them. This proof of concept uses NJsonSchema.

You’re probably here for the client side. Here’s a demo. The code is in the second and third tab.

This form requires two objects from the server. A schema object describing the form and an object containing the form data.

The type attribute comes from the C# property type. When I was limited by NJsonSchema, I added an xtype attribute so I could pick how to render DateTimes and option lists. Select list options come from a property on the formData object mapped from optionsFromProperty in the schema.

You can find the (currently) very ugly server side model here:


For simplicity I published the demo as a single component, but I did break it into several components in my own code.

I will probably end up writing my own schema generator so I’m not constrained by the assumptions of existing ones. JSON Schema is designed for validating JSON data, not building UIs so I’m really stretching the use case here. I would prefer to use the DataAnnotations attributes whenever possible since many tools, like EF, Newtonsoft, and ASP.NET data validation, are already capable of generating and interpreting them.

I couldn’t generate enum drop downs in this demo because NJsonSchema renders them as $ref properties which I didn’t want to interpret client-side.

It would also be great to have sensible default attributes so you can build a form directly from a plain class or EF table object without manually defining labels and enum/list data types.

In a production build scenario, you could precompile the schema as a dependency json file so only the form data is downloaded at run-time.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what features would be useful to you.

Discovering connections in code via Reflection, part 2

Ayende has a really neat post about about using an AST visitor to generate workflow diagrams from code. I used that as inspiration to modify my previous pub/sub documentation generator to output GraphViz syntax. It was a trivial change.

Console.WriteLine($"{messageUsage.Publisher} -> {handler}");

I copy the output into the demo at and it generates a diagram of all the messages passed in my application.

In the future, I may import the GraphViz nuget package and generate the diagram inside my own code.

A Start menu alternative

I recently installed Launchy on my machine to automate common actions. Launchy is a program that lets you quickly execute shortcuts via the keyboard. To activate it, press Alt+Spacebar then type your shortcut. It has autocomplete and defaults to the last shortcut you ran.

It indexes your Start Menu and Quick Launch. I created an additional index and added frequently visited Chrome bookmarks as well as some batch and Powershell scripts that I regularly use.

Some of my shortcuts:

  • JIRA (link to current sprint)
  • Backlog (link to backlog)
  • Pull Requests
  • Prod Insights (my production activity monitor)
  • Script Out DBs (batch file regenerates EF Core files from a SQL DB)
  • Vue Debug (launches a background Vue compiler and watches for changes)
  • ES6 cheat sheet