Nick's .NET Travels

Continually looking for the yellow brick road so I can catch me a wizard....

NuGet does my head in….. No thanks to Xamarin.Forms

This is a bit of a rant with hopefully a fix that will help others. Firstly, the rant:

In my post on Building Cross Platform Apps I used the new project templates in Visual Studio 2017 to create a new Xamarin.Forms application that targets iOS, Android and UWP. What I didn’t mention is the time I wasted trying to upgrade NuGet packages in order to get the thing to build and run. Namely I get the following exception when attempting to build the newly created application.

Severity    Code    Description    Project    File    Line    Suppression State
Error        Exception while loading assemblies: System.IO.FileNotFoundException: Could not load assembly 'Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.RecyclerView, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken='. Perhaps it doesn't exist in the Mono for Android profile?
File name: 'Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.RecyclerView.dll'
   at Java.Interop.Tools.Cecil.DirectoryAssemblyResolver.Resolve(AssemblyNameReference reference, ReaderParameters parameters)
   at Xamarin.Android.Tasks.ResolveAssemblies.AddAssemblyReferences(DirectoryAssemblyResolver resolver, ICollection`1 assemblies, AssemblyDefinition assembly, Boolean topLevel)
   at Xamarin.Android.Tasks.ResolveAssemblies.Execute(DirectoryAssemblyResolver resolver)    App5.Droid           

I figured that there was something wrong with the Xamarin.Forms and/or Xamarin Android NuGet packages, so I thought I’d just go an upgrade the Xamarin.Forms NuGet package. Note: Don’t every try to upgrade the Xamarin Android packages independently – let the Xamarin.Forms NuGet package determine which versions of those libraries you need. Anyhow, unfortunately that just generates another exception:

Severity    Code    Description    Project    File    Line    Suppression State
Error        Unable to resolve dependencies. 'Xamarin.Android.Support.Compat 24.2.1' is not compatible with 'Xamarin.Android.Support.Design 24.2.1 constraint: Xamarin.Android.Support.Compat (= 24.2.1)'.            0   

At this point I was starting to get annoyed – it looks like there was already an inconsistency between the Xamarin.Forms package and the Xamarin Android packages included in the template. Luckily it was easier to fix than I thought it was. I opened up the packages.config file for the Android head project and delete the Xamarin.Android libraries.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<packages>
  <package id="Xamarin.Android.Support.Design" version="23.4.0.1" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />
  <package id="Xamarin.Android.Support.v4" version="23.4.0.1" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />
  <package id="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.AppCompat" version="23.4.0.1" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />
  <package id="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.CardView" version="23.4.0.1" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />
  <package id="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.MediaRouter" version="23.4.0.1" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />

  <package id="Xamarin.Forms" version="2.3.2.127" targetFramework="monoandroid60" />
</packages>

Then, I just upgraded Xamarin.Forms to the latest NuGet package and all was good again. Lastly, I upgraded all the other NuGet packages (excluding the Xamarin.Android packages) to the latest stable versions.

When I grow up I want to be a .NETStandard Library!

A month or so ago we made the decision to upgrade some of the portable libraries we use for projects from being based on PCL Profiles (eg profile 111 or profile 259) across to .NET Standard. To do this, we followed the upgrade prompt in the project properties page in Visual Studio.

image

After clicking the “Target .NET Platform Standard” you can then pick which .NET Standard you want. Where possible we try for .NETStandard 1.0, which aligns with PCL Profile 259, or .NETStandard 1.1, which aligns with PCL Profile 111 (see https://docs.nuget.org/ndocs/schema/target-frameworks). The theory being that a .NETStandard 1.0 library can be consumed by any .NETStandard library 1.0 and above, as well as any PCL profile library that is profile 259 – in other words, we’re aiming for maximum reach.

Take for example, BuildIt.General, which is a general purpose utility library. This is now a .NETStandard 1.0 library….. or so we thought. I was doing some testing on the current stable version of the library to make sure it could be added into a Xamarin Forms application. In my previous post I showed how easily you can create a new Xamarin Forms project that has a PCL that contains all the UI for the application, and then head projects for each target platform (iOS, Android, UWP). Before adding in BuildIt.General I upgraded all the existing NuGet references – always good practice when creating new project (disclaimer: this sounds easier than it is due to an issue with the current Xamarin.Forms template which makes it hard to upgrade – more on this in a future post).

Next I added a reference to the BuildIt.General NuGet package – I made sure it was added to all projects as it includes a UWP library that has some useful extensions such as converters that are specific to UWP. At this point everything was able to build and I was able to run the UWP application (I didn’t get round to running the other platforms but I assumed that they would also work since I hadn’t really modified anything from what comes out of the box). I then wanted to test that I could invoke functions from the BuildIt.General library, so I added the following into the MainPage.xaml.cs file within the Xamarin.Forms PCL library:

LogHelper.Log("test");

Now, when I attempted to build the library I got the following error:

The primary reference "BuildIt.General, Version=1.0.0.20, Culture=neutral, processorArchitecture=MSIL" could not be resolved because it was built against the ".NETPortable,Version=v5.0" framework. This is a higher version than the currently targeted framework ".NETPortable,Version=v4.5,Profile=Profile259".

This completely confused me….. what’s this reference to .NETPortable and what’s the difference between v5.0 and v4.5. Immediately I thought that it was an issue with Visual Studio 2017 but after a bit of investigating it turns out that it’s a more fundamental issue with the way that we, actually MSBuild/Visual Studio, is creating the BuildIt.General library. I came across this thread which includes this comment:

image

(Oren has one of the best explanations on the whole .NET Standard v’s PCL Profile discussion at https://oren.codes/2016/06/23/portable-is-dead-long-live-netstandard/)

Anyhow, I wondered whether our library was suffering from the same ill fate. Using ILSpy I took a look at what was included as the TargetFramework and sure enough it’s listed as .NETPortable, v5.0.

image

The workaround for this was listed in this changeset. In summary it requires a change to the project file to override the default generation of the Target Framework Moniker (See bold pieces in the following extract). There are two parts to the change: the first specifies the filename where the TargetFrameworkMoniker assembly attribute will be written to, and then included in the build of the application; the second overwrites the generated TargetFrameworkMoniker.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project ToolsVersion="14.0" DefaultTargets="Build" xmlns="
http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
  <Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\$(MSBuildToolsVersion)\Microsoft.Common.props" Condition="Exists('$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\$(MSBuildToolsVersion)\Microsoft.Common.props')" />
  <PropertyGroup>
    <MinimumVisualStudioVersion>14.0</MinimumVisualStudioVersion>
    ...
    <ProjectTypeGuids>{786C830F-07A1-408B-BD7F-6EE04809D6DB};{FAE04EC0-301F-11D3-BF4B-00C04F79EFBC}</ProjectTypeGuids>
    <TargetFrameworkProfile>
    </TargetFrameworkProfile>
    <TargetFrameworkVersion>v5.0</TargetFrameworkVersion>
   <TargetFrameworkMonikerAssemblyAttributesPath>$(IntermediateOutputPath)AssemblyTFMAttribute.cs.exclude</TargetFrameworkMonikerAssemblyAttributesPath>
    ...
  </PropertyGroup>
  ...
  <Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath32)\Microsoft\Portable\$(TargetFrameworkVersion)\Microsoft.Portable.CSharp.targets" />
  <Target Name="_SetTargetFrameworkMonikerAttribute" BeforeTargets="GenerateTargetFrameworkMonikerAttribute">
    <PropertyGroup>
      <RealTargetFrameworkMoniker>.NETStandard,Version=v1.0</RealTargetFrameworkMoniker>
      <RealTargetFrameworkMonikerDisplayName>$(RealTargetFrameworkMoniker)</RealTargetFrameworkMonikerDisplayName>
      <TargetFrameworkMonikerAssemblyAttributeText Condition="'$(RealTargetFrameworkMoniker)' != '' and '$(TargetingClr2Framework)' != 'true'">
        // &lt;autogenerated /&gt;
        using System%3b
        using System.Reflection%3b
        [assembly: global::System.Runtime.Versioning.TargetFrameworkAttribute(&quot;$(RealTargetFrameworkMoniker)&quot;, FrameworkDisplayName = &quot;$(RealTargetFrameworkMonikerDisplayName)&quot;)]
      </TargetFrameworkMonikerAssemblyAttributeText>
    </PropertyGroup>
  </Target>
</Project>

After making this change, and building a new version of the BuildIt.General library I can now see the correct Target Framework:

image

Out of interest, it appears that if you’re using the xproj project format targeting .NETStandard, it creates a library with the correct target framework. Hopefully this fix, will help you if you’re not.

Building Cross Platform Applications with Visual Studio 2017

Ok, before I jump into this, I want to point out a couple of things:

- Visual Studio 2017 is still in RC

- When you install the RC of Visual Studio 2017 and enable the options to install Xamarin, you will break any existing Xamarin support for earlier versions of Visual Studio (see https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/news/releasenotes/vs2017-relnotes#KIXamarin).

I noticed the other day when I was creating a throwaway project is that there’s a new dialog when creating cross platform applications within Visual Studio 2017. In the New Project dialog, select the Cross Platform node and there is a single Cross Platform App option.

image

Selecting this option presents you with some project templates – there are only a couple at the moment but I’m hoping that they provide more examples.

image

Unfortunately, and it’s a little hard to see in this screenshot, for the Master Detail template, you can only select Shared Projects. Without exploring the template, I can only assume it was setup this way to share UI code that has platform specific code that compiles based on conditional flags. I really like the way that you can switch between a Forms application and a Native (and no they don’t literally mean “native” (eg Objective-C/Swift or Java/C++), they mean traditional Xamarin where you have platform specific UI.

I opted for the “Blank App (XAML)” which requires Forms, I selected PCL, but unfortunately the “Host in the cloud” option was then disabled. After hitting Accept, the new solution was created and I was immediately able to build and run the application across iOS, Android and Windows (UWP). Very nice.

Adding Xamarin Components via Visual Studio

Sometimes you’ll want to use some of the components from the Xamarin component store. This can be done directly in Visual Studio. Right-click Components node within iOS or Android project and select Get More Components

image

Once added you’ll see the component listed in Solution Explorer under the Components node. However, the Components, like NuGet packages, are located at a solution level. This makes them easy to reference from other projects.

image

In this case the Xamarin.Mobile component can be referenced by our Universal, Windows Phone 8.0, iOS and Android projects. This will make performing operations such as selecting or capturing photos much easier. However, be aware that there are some APIs that aren’t supported across all platforms. For example whilst you can reference the component from the WP8.1 application, MediaPicker fails as it’s not supported.

A Simple ViewModelLocator for Spawning ViewModels for XAML Based Applications

There are numerous frameworks out there that provide mechanisms for instantiating view models. Long again, when I first started building XAML based applications and became familiar with MVVM, I stepped through a number of different ways of creating and wiring up view models. In this post I’m going to show a very basic implementation of a locator to instantiate view models. Into the Core library I will add a ViewModelLocator class which exposes a property, Main, that will return a new instance of the MainViewModel.

public class ViewModelLocator
{
    public MainViewModel Main
    {
        get { return CreateViewModel<MainViewModel>(); }
    }

    private T CreateViewModel<T>() where T:new()
    {
        return new T();
    }
}

I’m going to want a single instance of this class to be created and kept around for the duration of my application’s lifecycle. One option would be to instantiate it within my ApplicationCore class I introduced previously. However, I actually want the instance of the ViewModelLocator to be accessible via XAML, so for this reason it makes more sense to instantiate it as a XAML resource. In the WPF and Universal (Win/WP8.1) applications I can simply add this to the app.xaml file to the Application.Resource element.

<Application.Resources>
        <core:ViewModelLocator x:Key="Locator" />
</Application.Resources>

In the MainWindow (WPF) and MainPage (Universal) I can now specify the DataContext in the opening element, removing the need to create the MainViewModel in code in the codebehind file. Eg

<Window x:Class="RealEstateInspector.Desktop.MainWindow"
        xmlns="
http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
        DataContext="{Binding Main, Source={StaticResource Locator}}" >

The current implementation of Xamarin.Forms doesn’t seem to support creating Application resources in XAML. However, by tweaking the App constructor, I can add an instance of the ViewModelLocator:

public App()
{
    Resources = new ResourceDictionary();
    Resources.Add("Locator", new ViewModelLocator());

    MainPage =new MainPage();
}

The syntax in the MainPage of the XForms application is similar except BindingContext replaces DataContext:

BindingContext="{Binding Main, Source={StaticResource Locator}}"

There seems to be a quirk in XForms at the moment in that the Binding expression calls to the Main property repeatedly – since it gets a different instance of the MainViewModel back each time, it ends up in an endless loop trying to get a consistent value. To prevent this, we can add a view model dictionary to the ViewModelLocator and change the behaviour to always return the same instance of the view model.

private readonly Dictionary<Type, object> viewModels = new Dictionary<Type, object>();

private T CreateViewModel<T>() where T:new()
{
    var type = typeof (T);
    object existing;
    if (!viewModels.TryGetValue(type, out existing))
    {
        existing = new T();
        viewModels[type] = existing;
    }
    return (T)existing;
}

And there you have it – view model location across all applications.

Xamarin.Forms, Windows Phone, Azure Active Directory and iOS

In my previous post I thought that there was an issue with using the Azure Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL) and the updated Xamarin for iOS. This has been confirmed by the team at Microsoft responsible for ADAL with a view that it will be resolved in a future version (no specifics on which version or when). This is unfortunate as it means my iOS version will have to be put on hold for the timebeing.

On a different note I saw a mention in the forums that apparently Xamarin.Forms 1.4 will support Windows Phone 8.1 (and I hope as part of a universal app, also supporting Windows 8.1). Of course, there’s no timing on this one but does pose the question as to whether I should wait for the next iteration of Xamarin.Forms before proceeding with the sample apps. For the timebeing I’ll continue and see how far I get.

Active Directory Authentication with iOS with Xamarin.Forms

Essentially this doesn’t appear to currently work. Due to the alignment of iOS projects to the Unified APIs I think there is currently a compatibility issue between the ADAL prerelease library and the Xamarin.Forms implementation. I’ll come back to this once we have a resolution for this.

Adding Xamarin.Forms Support

So far I’ve only had support for the new Windows platform clients (ie Windows and Windows Phone) for my Real Estate Inspector sample app. However, to make it successful we need to target more platforms. To this end I’m going to add support for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.0 using Xamarin.Forms.

After installing the Xamarin tooling for Visual Studio, I added a new project using the Blank App (Xamrain.Forms Portable) template. This actually look multiple attempts as I hadn’t updated the Xamarin tooling prior to creating the projects. I would highly recommend upgrading the tooling first!

image

This will give you three target projects Driod, iOS and WinPhone, in addition to a PCL which contains the common code and ui for the applications. You should be able to build and run each of these targets – however, you’ll need to either register for a trial or have a Xamarin Business subscription. Since the UI is help in the PCL project, it’ll be the same across all the targets, although there may be platform rendering differences.

Now that we have these three targets, we’re going to have to connect up our Azure Mobile Service, work out how we’re going to deal with navigation and structure our solution to maximise code reuse across our Windows platform projects.