Azure devops yaml template bugs

Over the past couple of days I have been investigating using Templates for Azure Pipelines. So far, I am not impressed. After some googling, it seems like there's not that many helpful blogs on the topic, so I'm writing this one to let you know you are not alone!

UI bugs

  • If the template is invalid, the pipeline will fail to run, which is great, however the "Run" button is then disabled - even after you fix the template. This is really confusing. But all you need to do is refresh the page and the button is enabled again. (Handy UI hint - if you're going to disable a button, you need to re-enable it again at some stage)
  • The syntax highlighting for the "resources: repositories" says my syntax is wrong when referencing a template. Even though it works perfectly fine.
  • The Azure Devops UI changes the capitalisation of my step names. Even though I explicity set them in my yaml with "display name". (Handy UI hint - if I have the option to set it, don't override it for me)
  • If I edit the template from within the Azure Devops UI, and click the commit button, the comment message is not highlightable. It seems like it's automatically popul...

Building a quiz application with youtube's player API

Update - It's up and running on my site, here's the link: -

After seeing Jimmy Carr's lockdown quiz, I thought it would be fun to film my own, except make it a bit more nerdy. So I filmed an episode:

… and then thought… hey, it would be great to have a leaderboard! And an easier way to enter responses on mobile.. and a way of keeping track of which episodes you've completed.

So being the nerd I am, I built a little nerd quiz web app.

Database Design

So what's the first step in building a great app? Getting the database schema designed properly. So here's attempt one:

database design attempt 1

One table for the quizzes. One table for the questions. One table for the answers. About as straig...

Optimise your app with Visual Studio's Profiler

Do you want to optimise your app so it run faster? Just read this.

But hang on... there's so much information! You could spend weeks optimising your app for nothing!

Stop The Guesswork!

Most people guess at what's slow, based on their previous experience. The problem is it's so easy to be wrong, and you can waste a huge amount of time fixing the wrong stuff. So how do you take the guesswork out and start making an actual, measurable difference?

Let's take this c# code sample:


Fixing my Dad's archtop

This is a photo of my Dad's 1981 Noyce archtop guitar:

As you can see, it's a beautiful thing. Sounds amazing and super easy to play. It's all fantastic, until you go to plug the guitar in, and you see this:

What the heck??

When the guitar was originally made, an active EMG pickup was installed. Apparently at the time EMG were a pretty new company! I asked on reddit and apparently I needed to look underneath the pickup to see what it was. So after a bit of screwing this is what I found:

I couldn't find anything about this pickup online, but I think "A" stands for Alnico.

Now because the pickup needed two 9v batteries, instead of adding a large cavity to the body of the guitar and risking reduced resonance, way back in 1981 a crafty solution was comprised.

Instead of the usual setup for an active pickup with one volume knob, which should look like this:

They decided to get rid of the ba...

Using Seq and Asp Dot Net Core

I am unabashed in how awesome I think Seq is. For troubleshooting stuff in production, this thing is a goldmine. Let's say I have some code:

public int Divide(int x, int y)
    int z = x / y;
    return z;

int result = Divide(10, 5);

With Seq it's extremely easy to add some logging that gives you all the information you need to troubleshoot this function when it's running in production:

I won't go into any more detail about Seq, you can read about it yourself, so here's how I set it up.

Setting up Serilog and Seq for Logging

We are going to use ASP.NET Core's standard logging, Serilog as the implementation, and Seq as a serilog sink. This gives us the most...

Throttling your API in ASP.NET

Can someone DOS attack your API and bring down your webservice? Could I hit your API at 100 requests a second and bring down your server? Or can you throttle your users like this?

Homer throttling Bart

Sorry, I couldn't resist. How about like this?

throttling animated gif

If the answer is no, the good news is that it's quite easy to do in ASP.NET. You can use the fully featured WebApiThrottle, or if you don't need something fancy you can build it yourself.


Deployments with Zero Downtime in ASP.NET

Did you know that you can have zero downtime deployments with your ASP.NET application?

You don't even need to be using AWS or Azure, or have a fancy load balancer or anything else clever and expensive! So how does this thing work?

The basic idea is that you have two instances of your app running in production. At any point in time your users are using only one of these instances, and when you do a deploy you update the instance that isn't being used. Then you switch the users over to the new instance. See that blue line? That's a reverse proxy.

Martin Fowler (genius) calls this Blue-green deployments.

So how do I do this?

Well, before we can proceed, perhaps there should be a few pre-requisites listed:


Setting up CI to setup your success

Build servers

Does your build save you time and effort? Or does everyone emit a collective groan whenever you hear the dreaded "Someone broke the build" ? A great build setup you will love, a bad setup you will hate. How do you get started and where do you want to end up?


Which one?

Well, a lot of it depends on your circumstances. If you're a Microsoft shop, you might already have TFS. If you're using Github you've got access to Travis. If you want to set up your own, Jenkins is free and fully featured. If you have a budget you can buy Team City. Or you could check out BuildBot. My recommendation is not to agonise over the decision, just pick one and get stuck in. If you don't have a server and you're not using a hosted source control solution, you could always install Jenkins on your local box in a VM. Remember, you don't need permission to be awesome.

So, what are the basics that your build server should do and in what order should you set them up?

Check ou...

Electron App vs native Winforms App

Like many other software developers I have a bunch of CI jobs that I need to monitor. If any of these jobs are failing I don't want to update my code and break everything. Recently I've been using an app named Catlight. It works great, it's simple, it looks nice:

But the CPU and memory usage?? For just a simple app (all it does is poll a JSON service every minute and displays some basic stats) check out the memory usage:

Yes, that's THREE processes running, and it's using, in total, 94 meg of memory!

Is this a problem? Perhaps not to you. Is it an affront to everything we believe in as software developers? Yes.

It's also worth noting that I'm running a Dell Latitude E6540, which is a great laptop, but it has a notorious fan problem. If you tax the CPU a little bit for longer than a few seconds, the incredibly annoying fan kicks in, whirrs for a second and then stops. Then repeats. It drives you mental.

As a little exercise I wanted to see what would happen if I wrote the equivalent program in a boring Winforms c# app. I came ...

Twenty Two Nerdy Things I Learnt This Week

You learn a lot when writing code.

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