Sunday, 17 August 2008

Painting competition entry

On September 25th 2008, Compendium Games of Burnley (epicentre of the universe) will be holding their 2nd annual painting competition in association with Games Workshop.

Last year the Stirpe clan did well. Max (7) won the under 12s category 'The Scouts' with his Chaos Warrior.

Alex (12) didn't get placed in the 12 to 16 category 'Space Marines' with his Troll but this was by far the most populous category and he had a lot of competition. He did learn however, the value of making an effort with the basing.

I came second in the over 16s category 'The Veterans'. I had been confident of a win but the judges voted against me because the other guy had hand painted his figure's battle standard.

Well the gloves are off. I have finally settled on what I am going to paint this year but I can't say anything just yet as I don't want to give the opposition any inside information.

Here are some photographs of my 2007 entry.


Now you are probably wondering at this point, "when is he going to get around to drawing a parallel between his painting competition entry and something related to IT such as Silverlight or WCF ?".

Well sorry to disappoint you. I have nothing to say today about IT. It is Sunday you know!

Here's a thought. As I am primarily writing blog entries on behalf of my employer and I have managed to include technical references such as Windows Workflow and Visual Studio 2008 in order for this page to show up in search engines, I think it's only fair that I claim the cost of the wargames figures on expenses.

If that works, expect a posting on the renovation of a Massey Ferguson tractor next week.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

How easy is it to change the bindings of a WCF service from Http to tcp?

I have written a number of posts looking into the basics of Windows Communication Foundation - WCF. I have provided an overview of the technology (and wargaming), shown you how to create a simple WCF service and client. I have also looked into hosting services. I think it’s about time I covered bindings.

So I have written my flight service for QA Airways and it is called by client applications over the intranet.

In the short term we will only use the service on the intranet and the administrator feels that we would get better performance if we used tcp instead of Http.

Notice that I said administrator. I have moved on to other things. I am currently developing an Eco Cycle Grader © (the name needs a little work). It is a piece of equipment that helps me keep my sand arena free of weeds. Anyway that story is for another day.

Back to the administrator. It is out of the question for me to change the bindings as I am busy. It would also be impractical and probably foolish to permit the administrator to use Visual Studio 2008 to complete the task.

So instead we give them the Windows Service Config Editor (svcconfigeditor.exe). This is the same tool that can be launched from within Visual Studio 2008 and it is a more convenient way to edit config files.

Change the service bindings

The administrator runs svcconfigeditor.exe and opens up the App.config file for the service.


They change the binding of the service's endpoint to netTcpBinding.


And then change the base address to start with net.tcp rather than http.


Finally they save the config file as their work here is done.

Change the client bindings

In WCF it is essential that client bindings match those of the service they are calling. After all there would be no point using http to call into a service that only uses tcp.

So the administrator uses svcconfigeditor.exe to open up the App.config on each client in turn.

In a future post I will look at alternatives to having an administrator actually have to update multiple client config files!

They change the binding of the service's endpoint to netTcpBinding.


And then change the address to start with net.tcp rather than http.

Note that the configuration name (WSHttpBinding_IFlightService) was generated when the service's reference was added to the client application originally and was derived from the service's App.config. It would be better to have used a more generic name in the service's App.config file before discovery.

However it is doing no harm here and so we will leave the name alone.

Is that it?

Yep. That's it. Simply change the binding and address in each config file and the applications keep on working.

So, how easy is it to change the bindings for a WCF service?


Training ?
Should you require training in WCF we currently offer the following course: 

Building Effective Windows Communication Foundation applications using Visual Studio 2010


See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

How to host a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) service

If you launch your service from within Visual Studio 2008 it is hosted by WcfSvcHost. However, when you deploy your service you will want something else to do the hosting.

For example, you could use a Windows application, a Windows service or IIS. For simplicity, I am going to host my service using a Console application.

Create the self hosting project

In Visual Studio 2008 I add a new Console Application called FlightServiceHosted to my solution (the FlightService solution from my earlier posting).


I then copy the following files from the FlightService project into the FlightServiceHosted project.

As I shall be using a self hosting service, I no longer need the FlightService project. And so I remove it from the solution.

As the files (App.config, IService1.cs and Service1.cs) contain references to a namespace called FlightService that no longer exists, I rename all instances of FlightService in these files to FlightServiceHosted.

I ensure that the FlightServiceHosted project contains a reference to System.ServiceModel.

In the Main method in Program.cs, I declare a variable of type ServiceHost and instantiate it with the type of my service (FlightServiceHosted.FlightService).

I complete the Main method to call both the Open and Close methods of my ServiceHost. To permit an administrator/user to start and stop the service I added WriteLine and ReadLine prompts.

Note: in a production environment you would be most unlikely to use a Console application. Rather, you might use IIS or a Windows service to host your WCF service.

The service is just about ready to go. However, I want to change the endpoint that was auto generated in my previous post when the FlightService was first created.
And so, I update the endpoints in both the App.config file in the FlightServiceHosted project and the App.config file of the WinClient project as follows:
FlightServiceHosted: App.config

WinClient: App.config

Time to test

That's it. My self-hosted service and it's client are good to go.
However, I shan't run them from within Visual Studio 2008 as I don't want the WCFScvHost to launch and I also want to illustrate their independence from Visual Studio 2008.
Firstly, I use Windows Explorer to locate and execute FlightServiceHosted.exe in the FlightServiceHosted/bin/debug folder.

Once the console application launches, I press Enter to start the service.

Now that my self-hosted service is now running, it is time to run the client application.
I use Windows Explorer to locate and execute WinClient.exe in the WinClient/bin/debug folder.

Once the client application launches, I enter two airports and invoke the service which returns the appropriate flight details.

That's it. How simple was that ?
As long as FlightServiceHosted.exe is executing and the service is running, the WinClient will be able to call it's methods.
When I'm done, all I need to do is close the client application and then press Enter once again within the console application in order to terminate the service.

What else ?

In my next post, I will show you how easy it is for you (or better still and administrator) to change a service's bindings.

Training ?
Should you require training in WCF we currently offer the following course: 

Building Effective Windows Communication Foundation applications using Visual Studio 2010


See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Friday, 1 August 2008

How to write a simple Windows Communication Foundation - WCF service and client

In an earlier post, I provided an overview of Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and likened it to wargaming. Well I have finally got around to write a series of posts detailing how to write and configure WCF services. Better late than never!

I needn't worry about how and where my service will be hosted, how clients will connect to it or indeed what protocol will be used. It doesn't matter, because at the moment I only want to think of my service in terms of its interface and implementation. i.e. What does it look like and what does it do?

I plan to write a flight information service that will be used by internal clients here at QA Airways. It is likely that our employees based at remote airports will need to access the service and so Http is likely as a protocol. In time we could share (and charge for) this service with business partners such as travel agencies.

Some form of authentication will no doubt be called for. However, as I have already said, I do not want to get bogged down in protocols and hosts. With WCF it needn't impact on how I write my service.

So I have decided to paint an army, ahem, write a WCF service.

Let's get started

Alright then, I'll simply dive in.

In Visual Studio 2008, there are several templates for WCF. For now, I will simply choose WCF Service library.

The resulting project contains a number of files that hold the key ingredients for my WCF service.

The file IService1.cs contains my interface (or Service Contract) called IService1. I shall be making some changes here so that the service contract defines methods that I require for my service.


The file Service1.cs contains the implementation of my service contract called Service1. Once my service contract has been updated, I shall make changes here to properly implement my service.


The file IService1.cs contains a class CompositeType which is a Data Contract. I have no need for a custom/complex type yet as I shall be using primitive types to pass data back and forth. So I will remove the entire CompositeType class.


The App.config file is perhaps the most important part of the project. This is where I will control what interface(s) will be used, where the service will be deployed and what protocol(s) it will use. However, it is too early for that.


The story so far

I have created a WCF Service project.

It comprises the following files:
  • IService1.cs
  • Service1.cs
  • App.config

IService1.cs contains an interface (Service Contract) IService1 and a class (Data Contract) CompositeType.

I deleted CompositeType.

Service1.cs contains a class Service1 that implements IService1.

Define the contract

Obviously, I don't want an interface called IService1 nor a service called Service1. So I use Edit / Find and Replace / Replace in files to rename every instance of IService1 to IFlightService and Service1 to FlightService.

In case you are wondering why I don't use Refactor to do the renaming, it is because Refactor does not 'do' config files and my interface and service class are referred to in App.config. I don't want to miss any!

I remove the GetDataUsingDataContract method from both IFlightService and FlightService.
Finally I replace the GetData method in both the interface and class with GetFlights as follows:


As you can see, the GetFlights method simply returns a string of contrived flight numbers. In fact we would probably query a data source at this point.

OK, the service is good to go. All we need to do now is test it before sitting down to write a client application.

Test the service

You'll like this bit!
In Visual Studio 2005, you would have to write a client application in order to test your service which was time consuming and delayed the 'inevitable' runs first time moment. However, in Visual Studio 2008 you are able to use the built in test client. WcfTestClient.exe is launched automatically whenever you run a WCF service.

This is thanks to a /client command line argument:

So in order to test my service I simply press F5.

The test client loads up and shows me that there is only one method and allows me to interactively invoke it with sample/test data.

It works!


One other point.

When you create web services, you rely on IIS to host your service for you. With WCF you are free to implement your own host. For example you could write a console application host, a Windows application host or possibly even a Windows service host. In fact you could even have IIS do it for you just like with web services.

None of this is necessary for now though because by default, WCF services are hosted by the built in WCF host WcfSvcHost when launched from within Visual Studio 2008.

What about the bindings ?

As I mentioned earlier, once I have written the service I want to leave decisions such as the transport to use up to the administrator. So the more that can be achieved with the App.config file, the better.

Let's look at some key elements.

Firstly there is the service name:

This is the name of the service class. It is declared within a services element.

Note that you can define more than one service in this section.

Each service may have more than one end point. For example, one for tcp clients and another for clients using http. These endpoints might share the same base address. So by default, a baseAddress section is added to the config file for each service class.


By default each service is given two end points. One that uses wsHTTP binding for all clients and another that uses Mex binding. The Mex binding endpoint is used by Visual Studio 2008 when adding a reference to a WCF service. The Mex endpoint permits discovery.

One last point of interest regarding config files is/are behaviours. These are named combinations of options/settings that you can assign to one or more services.

The behavior FlightServiceBahavior below is used by the FlightService service.


Write a client application

And finally ..

Time to write the client.

I add a new Windows Forms Application project called WinClient to the solutions and create a simple UI:


I now need to add code to my client that acts as a proxy to my service. To do that, I select Add Service Reference from the Solution Explorer. When I click Discover, my service is located thanks to the Mex binding endpoint defined in the config file.

All I do now is simply give my proxy class a better namespace e.g. Flights and click OK.

The first thing to do in my Search button is instantiate the proxy class.


This class FlightServiceClient represents the proxy for the FlightService class in the WCF service. This proxy will contain all the methods (just GetFlights for now) that exist in the actual service. However, they do not contain the same code. Rather, they contain the code necessary to call the methods remotely.
I now write the code to call my service and receive the result.


Finally, I set the StartUp Project to my WinClient project and hit F5 one last time.

I type in two airports, click Search and wait for the FlightService to return me a list of flight numbers.

Turn off discovery

Now that I have written my client application, I no longer need a Mex endpoint enabled. In fact it desirable to remove the Mex endpoint once your client is written so that your service cannot be 'discovered' by unscrupulous developers.

I remove the mex endpoint and change the httpGetEnabled property in my FlightServiceBehavior to False.

In conclusion

So there you have a very simple WCF service and client.

I have written a WCF service and in the process looked at Service Contracts, EndPoints in config files. Mex binding to allow discovery and the creation of a service proxy class.

In a future posting I will show how easy it is to change the bindings for a WCF service.

Training ?
Should you require training in WCF we currently offer the following course: 

Building Effective Windows Communication Foundation applications using Visual Studio 2010


See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"