Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Getting Display Names from User Names in a hostile SharePoint environment

I recently ran into a nasty situation where I needed a reliable way to get a list of user Full Names (or Display Names) from a list of usernames in a SharePoint process.

The short answer was easy…  The code runs server side so…

SPUser theUser = web.EnsureUser(username);
string DisplayName = theUser.Name;

//Right?

Well, under normal circumstances, sure.  

In this circumstance, I was checking a list of lists of user names, a condition where I might need to check hundreds of items, each of which could have a list of users to check.

No biggie, just add a lookup table and cache the results over multiple calls so that I only ever have to look a user up once in my process.

Now here’s the real kicker.  In my target environment, EnsureUser comes back instantly if the username is a valid, active user in Active Directory.  If the user is not a valid user?   The command takes over 40 seconds per call to fail!

My solution was two-fold.  

1)  use the aforementioned cache strategy, which I have in my sample code below as _nameMap.
2)  Use a simple worker thread.  Give it two seconds to succeed.  Kill the thread if it takes longer than that for any reason.

I initially made the mistake of using SPContext.Current.Web in the thread, but that can *sometimes* produce a threading violation.   The code below creates a whole new instance of SPSite/SPWeb on every pass, but that’s a lot safer and better performing than a lot of alternatives.

private Dictionary _nameMap = new Dictionary();  

private string GetUsersWithTempCacheAndTimeoutEnforcement(string rawUsers)
{
string result = string.Empty;
SPContext.Current.Web.AllowUnsafeUpdates = true;
foreach (string aUser in rawUsers.Split(';'))
{
try
{
string addUser = string.Empty;
string checkUser = aUser.Split('#')[1];
if (checkUser.Contains("\\"))
{
lock (_nameMap)
{
if (_nameMap.ContainsKey(checkUser))
{
addUser = _nameMap[checkUser] + "; ";
}
else
{
SPUser userResult = null;
SPContext context = SPContext.Current;
string webUrl = context.Web.Url;

System.Threading.ThreadStart st = new System.Threading.ThreadStart(
() =>
{
try
{
using (SPSite site = new SPSite(webUrl))
{
using (SPWeb web = site.OpenWeb())
{
userResult = web.EnsureUser(checkUser);
}
}
}
catch (Exception)
{ }
});
System.Threading.Thread workThread = new System.Threading.Thread(st);
workThread.Start();
workThread.Join(2000);
if (workThread.IsAlive)
{
workThread.Abort();

}
if (userResult == null)
{
_nameMap[checkUser] = checkUser;
addUser = checkUser + "; ";
}
else
{
_nameMap[checkUser] = userResult.Name;
addUser = userResult.Name + "; ";
}
}
}
}
result += addUser;
}
catch (IndexOutOfRangeException)
{
}
catch (Exception ex)
{
}
}
return result;
}

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Time to Remodel the Kitchen?

A few good reasons to consider keeping your IT infrastructure up to snuff…

http://edgewatertech.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/time-to-remodel-the-kitchen/

(I’m honored to have the post accepted & published on Edgewater’s blog.)  🙂 

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows Phone Live Tiles… What’s happening right now?

The first thing you see when you see a Windows Phone is the start display.  In fact, it’s so distinct, that it becomes the most identifiable feature of a Windows Phone at a distance.  Typically, the start display is populated with a number of application icons…  only on Windows Phone (and Metro) they’re all square or rectangles and are called Tiles.  

On second glance, you start to notice that many of these tiles have some form of light animation to them, typically communicating basic information.  The Tiles that open messaging apps indicate the number of new messages, for example.

When I first started playing with my Windows Phone, the live tiles seemed like a nifty gimmick… important for messaging features, but not really useful for anything else.

As I’ve dug in on app development for Windows Phone, I’ve come to see the Live Tiles as a really under-leveraged feature, communicating with users on a level that previously couldn’t be achieved.  They’re terribly simple, but terribly engaging.  I now see that they are the addictive component of Facebook’s classic “What’s on your mind?” status updates… statuses provided by the apps on your phone. 

In some cases, this literally translates to status update from your friends, since Tiles can be put on your start display for any contact.  (Since contacts are linked via the People Hub to their Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In…  voila!  one tile gets status updates for that individual covering all the bases.)

What’s really cool is that, like I said before, getting status updates is not limited to contacts.  I’ve got apps that have live tiles that… display current weather conditions including radar maps.  …show stock quotes & notifications.  …display photos from various sources.  … even shows your XBox avatar fully animated.

I’m in the process of adding a new feature to my hobby project, Jimmy Sudoku, to make use of live tiles to show the progress of the “current” puzzle.  

A new hobby project I’m working on has to do with the Granite State (NH) SharePoint Users Group that I am a principal organizer of.   This app will eventually be a hub for group information, offering member users easy access to schedules, speaker info, weather delay notifications, registration info, and even Power Point presentation slides.   Interestingly enough, a key feature will be to provide a live tile which will poll a webservice to get updates… the live tile will then let the user know they have important information to review, thus engaging the user.  (Sure, push technology’s available, but in this case, polling will be sufficient.)

The uses for this being able to re-engage a user after they’ve “quit” the application itself are significant.   I can easily imagine a time when the marketing significance of them makes building Windows Phone apps far more attractive to companies than iPhone or Droid apps.  Even if companies aren’t trying to hock a specific product…  imagine corporate “investor information” apps, for example, that provide easily accessible information about a company… but most importantly, providing “status updates” to investors to re-engage interest.

I’ll admit, at some level, this reminds me of electronic kids toys that attempt to re-engage kids in play after the kid has put it down and walked away by flashing a few lights & making a little noise.  There’s reasons those kids toys do that, though, and anyone paying attention with a mind for marketing will get what they are.

This is another Non-App for Windows Phone… one of the many cool features built into the device in an accessible, but non-cluttering way… and another reason I keep seeing Windows Phone as the IBM Compatible of smart phones.

So the above is why you want Live Tiles…   Here’s a code snippet that illustrates how:

using Microsoft.Phone.Shell;

… 

public static void UpdateAppTile(JimmySudoku4.Puzzles.SudokuState state)

{
    ShellTile appTile = ShellTile.ActiveTiles.First();

    if (appTile != null)
    {
        StandardTileData data;
        if (state.GetElapsedTime().Ticks == 0)
        {
            data = new StandardTileData()
                {
                    BackContent = “Game Complete”,
                    BackTitle = “Try again!”, Count = 0
                };
        }
        else
        {
            int completeCellCount =
                state.MasterList.Where(c => c.Value != 0).Count();
            int percent = (int)((decimal)((decimal)completeCellCount / (decimal)81)
                * (decimal)100);
            if (percent < 100)
            {

                data = new StandardTileData()
                    {
                      BackContent =
                            string.Format(“Elapsed Time:\n{0:hh:mm:ss}”,
                                 state.GetElapsedTime()),
                        BackTitle = string.Format(“{0}% complete”, percent)
                    };
            }
            else
            {
                data = new StandardTileData()
                    {
                        BackContent = string.Format(“Completion Time:\n{0:hh:mm:ss}”,
                            state.GetElapsedTime()),
                        BackTitle = “You Won!”
                    };
            }
        }

        appTile.Update(data);
    }
}

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Code Generation

I’ve been evangelizing code generation since the work I did at Providus / FRS Global…

One of my arguements on the topic got published by Edgewater

I love the picture on it… 🙂

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Anonymous Form Submission to Form Library with InfoPath in MOSS

Here’s a bit of a trick I ran across while helping to develop some MOSS2007 solutions.

I needed to configure InfoPath so that it could submit documents to a site that the submitter would not be able to access. In SharePoint, this is not directly possible.

A common work-around is to set up incoming email for the target list, and submit by email to that. Unfortunately, my client is part-way through a Notes to Exchange migration, so this wasn’t practical in the given time frame.

The solution… create two sites, one that is accessible to the submitter, and the other that is not. On the accessible site, create a new, “hidden” list that the user can submit to. Add an event receiver to that list, such that whenever a new item is added, the item is moved to the real intended target using elevated privileges.

Using VSeWSS extensions, create a List Definition project that has something like this in the ItemEventReciever.cs file:

 

using System;
using System.Security.Permissions;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using Microsoft.SharePoint;
using Microsoft.SharePoint.Security;
using Microsoft.SharePoint.Utilities;
using VSeWSS;

namespace AutoForwardingFormLibrary
{
[CLSCompliant(false)]
[TargetList("38aea319-af78-4489-9059-d124c68bf9fe")]
[Guid("9d0f139b-d9ed-4b6c-b0ba-2353cb3bad85")]
public class AutoForwardingFormLibraryItemEventReceiver : SPItemEventReceiver
{
private SPListItem addedItem = null;

///
/// Initializes a new instance of the Microsoft.SharePoint.SPItemEventReceiver class.
///

public AutoForwardingFormLibraryItemEventReceiver()
{
}

///
/// Asynchronous after event that occurs after a new item has been added to its containing object.
///

///
/// A Microsoft.SharePoint.SPItemEventProperties object that represents properties of the event handler.
///
public override void ItemAdded(SPItemEventProperties properties)
{
addedItem = properties.ListItem;
if (addedItem == null)
{
throw new ArgumentNullException("properties.ListItem");
}
SPSecurity.CodeToRunElevated moveItem = moveItem_Elevated;
SPSecurity.RunWithElevatedPrivileges(moveItem_Elevated);
}

private void moveItem_Elevated()
{
addedItem.CopyTo(SPUrlUtility.CombineUrl("http://targetserver/sites/jimw/docs/formlibrary", addedItem.Name));
addedItem.Delete();
}
}
}


Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Application Platform Infrastructure Optimization

In doing some research for a client on workflow in SharePoint, I came across this interesting article about the differences between BizTalk 2006 and the .NET Workflow Foundation (WF).

The article itself was worth the read for its main point, but I was also interested in Microsoft’s Application Platform Infrastructure Optimization (“APIO”) model.

The “dynamic” level of the APIO model describes the kind of system that I believe the .NET platform has been aiming at since 3.0.

I’ve been eyeing the tools… between MS’s initiatives, my co-workers’ project abstracts, and the types of work that’s coming down the pike in consulting. From the timing of MS’s releases, and the feature sets thereof, I should have known that the webinars they’ve released on the topic have been around for just over a year.

This also plays into Microsoft Oslo. I have suspected that Windows Workflow Foundation, or some derivative thereof, is at the heart of the modeling paradigm that Oslo is based on.

All this stuff feeds into a hypothesis I’ve mentioned before that I call “metaware”, a metadata layer on top of software. I think it’s a different shade of good old CASE… because, as we all know… “CASE is dead… Long live CASE!”