Abstract form

Canvas Intellisense in Visual Studio

Posted in Coding, Internet, JavaScript by Homam Hosseini on February 18, 2010

I was playing with HTML5 Canvas element to see how it could be useful in future web based game developments. I like that it is easier than GDI. I haven’t yet done much performance testing but it is definitely faster than making games by animating DOM elements.

Recently I had some free time so I decided to create vsdoc documention for Canvas element interface for Visual Studio. I added intellisense (auto competition) and some helps and tips.

Download canvas-vsdoc.js and canvas-utils.js from CodePlex.

It is tuned to work with VS2010, but we can make it work with VS2008 too.

canvas-vsdoc.js contains the intellisense documentation.

canvas-utils.js has a few utility functions (like detecting if the browser supports Canvas) and some enumeration types for things like Line Joins, Repeations, Text Aligns, etc.

To use the intellisense you need to reference canvas-vsdoc.js in the beginning of your JavaScript file, like this:

/// <reference path=”canvas-vsdoc.js” />

Note you can just drop the .js file and Visual Studio will write the reference.

Then use a utility method to get a reference to canvas element:

var canvas = Canvas.vsGet(document.getElementById("canvas1"));

Canvas.vsGet(element) receives a HTML element and returns the given element itself if it is in runtime. But in design time it returns Canvas.vsDoc.VSDocCanvasElement object that contains the documentations.

Then you can use the canvas element as usual:

var ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");
ctx.arc(50, 50, 25, 0, Math.PI, true);
…

Please note canvas-vsdoc.js must not be included  in runtime but canvas-utils.js should be included (if you want to use Canvas.vsGet() and other utilities).

In VS2008 you should trick the environment by assigning the variable that refers the 2D context to Canvas.vsDoc.Canvas2dContext, by something like this:

var ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");
if (typeof DESIGN_TIME != "undefined" && DESIGN_TIME)
ctx = Canvas.vsDoc.Canvas2dContext;

DESIGN_TIME global variable is defined inside canvas-vsdoc.js. In runtime it should be undefined or false.

Just a note: if you still want to work in IE, you will find this Google extension very interesting: http://code.google.com/chrome/chromeframe/

Update: Visual Studio 11 natively supports canvas intellisense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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iframe Cookies in Safari

Posted in Coding, Development by Homam Hosseini on February 10, 2010

Older Hyzonia games depend on session and authentication cookies. This dependency has been fixed in the newer games by storing session ID in JavaScript variables. The cookie independent services explicitly require a session ID to be sent by their clients.

In this post I am not going to dig into the details of session management in Hyzonia platform, I just want to highlight a series of problems in the old schema that led us to redesign the session management behavior.

Hyzonia games can be embedded in publishers websites using a piece of code we call Hyzobox. Hyzobox basically renders an iframe in the webpage. The internet domain where the actual game is hosted could be different from the publisher’s domain. If you have ever tried this before you know that we gonna have a lot of cross site security issues.

To address cross site scripting issues we developed Hyzobox In/Out API. A publisher can control certain things in the game and be notified about the events that are occurring inside the game using In/Out. It is a JavaScript based solution and strangely is widely supported in all major browsers. The In/Out API is not made public yet, but we are using it extensively in www.hyzogames.com. For instance whenever you win in a game Hyzogames.com will be notified about this event (winning) and may show you a message box.

But cookies are another issue. Different browsers have way different behaviors when it comes to handling cookies in iframes.  For starters for it  to works in IE you need a P3P header like this:

CP=”IDC DSP COR ADM DEVi TAIi PSA PSD IVAi IVDi CONi HIS OUR IND CNT”

There’s a lot to say here, I have a long standing view that P3P is generally useful but this kind of usage is pointless. Anyway for now just add it in your response and relax.

But still Safari rejects the cookies that iframes try to write. The rationale here is that Safari only wants to write cookies from websites that the user directly visits. It’s not a bad idea for privacy. Let’s assume that you are visiting a fan website for The Grudge! thegrudgefans.com is using  Google AdSense  (put any evil multibillion dollar internet ad service instead of Google :D) to display you some ads or even just in the background. The AdSense is running inside an iframe and it writes a cookie on your computer indicating you’re a fan of nonsense horror teen movies. Now it is written on your face that you’re a fan of The Grudge. AdSense can use this cookie anywhere else in the internet. OK you got the idea.

The problem was this privacy feature in Safari was causing our Hyzobox User Integration (a kind of Single Sign On service) to break. Safari users can always turn on a checkbox in the preferences to accept all cookies. But it’s not the case by default. The workaround is that the page that writes the cookies must be initiated as a result of a direct user request. Literally meaning that prior to writing any cookie you have to provide a hyperlink (an explicit anchor tag) in your iframe that takes the user to the page that writes the cookie.

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Unfollow people who are not following you

Posted in Coding by Homam Hosseini on November 1, 2009

Last week I learnt that one well known way to increase the number of followers in Twitter is to follow as many people as you can. Chances are that finally a ratio of them (in our experiment something around one third) will follow you back.

The problem is that you cannot hide the truth, anybody who visits your Twitter page, will see the number of following is much bigger than the followers.

SocialOOMPH has a tool that automatically unfollows people who unfollow you. Assuming that some of our followers are using this tool, we should not unfollow our followers. But it seems to be perfectly safe to unfollow people who are not following you.

I spent an hour or so in the weekend to take a look at Twitter API and write a small program that does this job. I quite amazed by the simplicity of Twitter API, now I wonder why aren’t we in our company spending time to study it in more details. It’s interesting that it seems the guys in Twitter have had similar naming problems to ours. For example in the API terminology the people who you are following, are your ‘friends’.

My program is a simple C# Console application and you need .NET Framework 3.5 to run it. Download Unfollow people who are not following me program here.

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Accessing Remote ASP.NET Web Services using JSONP

Posted in Coding, Development, JavaScript by Homam Hosseini on October 12, 2009

The problem:

You cannot call remote ASP.NET web service methods from a JavaScript, AJAX client.

Example:

You have a web service, at this address: http://a.com/service.asmx and you’ve configured the service to work with AJAX clients:

[WebService
(Namespace = "http://www.hyzonia.com/gametypes/PopNDropLikeGame/WS2")]
[WebServiceBinding(ConformsTo = WsiProfiles.BasicProfile1_1)]
[System.Web.Script.Services.ScriptService]
public class GameService : System.Web.Services.WebService
{
    [WebMethod(EnableSession = true)]
    public GameSessionResponse CreateGameSession(Guid questId)
    {
...
    }
}
}

And it works fine when you call its methods from a web page that is in this address: http://a.com/page.htm:

$.ajax({
        type: "POST",
        url: "GameService.asmx/CreateGameSession",
        data: "{questId: '" + questId + "'}",
        cache: false,
        contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8",
        dataType: "json",
        success: function(response) {
            Game._onSessionGot(response.d);
        }
    });

But the very same client-side code doesn’t work from this address: http://b.clom/page.htm

The problem in depth:

At first I cannot hold myself and not say that it is a silly problem. web services are meant to be called by remote clients. The fact that browsers block access to web services by AJAX calls is clearly contrary to the purpose of web services.

Interestingly browser extensions like Flash and Silverlight also by default block remote web services, but they provide a work around. Unfortunately no browser by date supports this work around for XMLHTTPRequests. This “security measure” seems odder when we notice that it is perfectly correct to import a JavaScript code snippet from another domain by a script tag:

<script
src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.3.2/jquery.min.js"
type="text/javascript"></script>

 

The solution:

As it was said, Flash and Silverlight both support remote calls. You just need a clientaccesspolicy file to be hosted at the root of a.com (http://a.com/clientaccesspolicy.xml):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<access-policy>
  <cross-domain-access>
    <policy>
      <allow-from http-request-headers="SOAPAction">
        <domain uri="*"/>
      </allow-from>
      <grant-to>
        <resource path="/" include-subpaths="true"/>
      </grant-to>
    </policy>
  </cross-domain-access>
</access-policy>

This file allows remote calls to be made from any other domain.

But in many situations we want to call the web service methods directly by AJAX clients. This need was the cause of to the development of JSONP (JSON with padding) protocol. As it was discussed it is correct to have a <script> element that loads a script from another domain. On the other hand you may know that it is possible to load scripts dynamically by a simple JavaScript trick (writing<script> tags) or using this jQuery plug in. Now the bulbs are flickering! The solution is to access the JSON web service by the src attribute of a <script> element. This is the whole idea behind JSONP.

But there are a couple of problems needed to be solved for ASP.NET ASMX web services before we can use them in a JSONP scenario.

  1. ASP.NET web services by default only accept POST requests, a <script src=””> element, produces a GET request.
  2. The result of the web method call must conform to JSONP, and you guess, ASP.NET 3.5 by default doesn’t support it.

The solution to the first problem may seem trivial, we can easily enable GET calls to web methods using [ScriptMethod(UseHttpGet = true)] attribute. The immediate problem is that when we mark a web method by this attribute it only can be called by GET requests. And remember, other clients (actually anything other than JSONP clients) are supposed to communicate with the web service by POST requests. I usually end up inheriting from the original web service and marking web methods by [ScriptMethod(UseHttpGet = true)] attribute in the derived class. Therefore I will have two ASMX web services, one using the original class (expecting POST request) and the other using the derived class (expecting GET requests).

[WebMethod(), ScriptMethod(UseHttpGet = true)]
public override GameSessionResponse CreateGameSession(Guid questId)
{
   return base.CreateGameSession(questId);
}

Note you may need to add this code snippet in web.config:

<system.web>
 <webServices>
   <protocols>
     <add name="HttpGet"/>
   </protocols>
 </webServices>
…
</system.web>

There’s another problem to be addressed in the client side. The client should call the web method by a correct URL (it has to pass a correct query string that could be deserialized back to .NET objects in the server side). In case of POST requests, I’m used to JSON2 library to post data to ASP.NET ASMX web services. Jquery $.AJAX method (when it is configured to use JSONP, by dataType: “jsonp”) creates query string parameters for the data object it receives. But the result is not usable for ASMX web services.

Luckily there’s a ready to use JQuery plug in (jMsAjax) that has the required algorithms for serializing a JavaScript object into a query string that can be parsed by ASP.NET web services.

Using the plug in I created this function to serialize JavaScript objects into query strings:

$.jmsajaxurl = function(options) {
    var url = options.url;
    url += "/" + options.method;
    if (options.data) {
       var data = ""; for (var i in options.data) {
       if (data != "")
         data += "&"; data += i + "=" + msJSON.stringify(options.data[i]);
       }
       url += "?" + data; data = null; options.data = "{}";
   }
   return url;
};

You will need jMsAjax for this code snippet to work.

Finally this is a sample of a client side code using JQuery that calls an ASMX web service using JSONP:

var url = $.jmsajaxurl({
    url: "http://hiddenobjects.hyzonia.com/services/GameService3.asmx",
    method: "Login",
    data: { email: "myemail@mydomain.com", password: "mypassword" }
});

$.ajax({
    cache: false,
    dataType: "jsonp",
    success: function(d) { console.log(d); },
    url: url + "&format=json"
});

Or equivalently:

$.getJSON(url + "&callback=?&format=json", function(data) {
    console.log(data);
});

When you call an ASP.NET web service method (that is configured to receive GET requests) using a code similar to the above, it returns in XML. The problem is that the web service expects to receive a request that has a content type of “application/json; charset=utf-8” and <script> element simply doesn’t add this content type to the request. There’s a little thing we can do at the client side. The easiest way to resolve this problem is to use a HTTP module. The HTTP module should add this content type to the requests before they are processed by the web service handler.

On the other hand a JSONP client expects that the web service return the call by a string like this:

nameOfACallBackFunction(JSON_OBJECT_WEB_METHOD_RETURNED)

nameOfACallBackFunction must be given to the server by a parameter in the query string. Different JSONP compatible web services use different names for this parameter, but usually it is named ‘callback’. At least this is what $.ajax() automatically adds to the request in JSONP mode.

I grabbed this HTTP module from a post in elegantcode.com.

public class JsonHttpModule : IHttpModule
{
    private const string JSON_CONTENT_TYPE = "application/json; charset=utf-8";

    #region IHttpModule Members
    public void Dispose()
    {
    }

    public void Init(HttpApplication app)
    {
        app.BeginRequest += OnBeginRequest;
        app.ReleaseRequestState += OnReleaseRequestState;
    }
    #endregion

    bool _Apply(HttpRequest request)
    {
        if (!request.Url.AbsolutePath.Contains(".asmx")) return false;
        if ("json" != request.QueryString.Get("format")) return false;
        return true;
    }

    public void OnBeginRequest(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        HttpApplication app = (HttpApplication)sender;

        if (!_Apply(app.Context.Request)) return;

        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(app.Context.Request.ContentType))
        {
            app.Context.Request.ContentType = JSON_CONTENT_TYPE;
        }
    }

    public void OnReleaseRequestState(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        HttpApplication app = (HttpApplication)sender;

        if (!_Apply(app.Context.Request)) return;

        app.Context.Response.Filter = new JsonResponseFilter(app.Context.Response.Filter, app.Context);
    }
}

public class JsonResponseFilter : Stream
{
    private readonly Stream _responseStream;
    private HttpContext _context;

    public JsonResponseFilter(Stream responseStream, HttpContext context)
    {
        _responseStream = responseStream;
        _context = context;
    }

    public override bool CanRead { get { return true; } }

    public override bool CanSeek { get { return true; } }

    public override bool CanWrite { get { return true; } }

    public override long Length { get { return 0; } }

    public override long Position { get; set; }

    public override void Write(byte[] buffer, int offset, int count)
    {
        var b1 = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(_context.Request.Params["callback"] + "(");
        _responseStream.Write(b1, 0, b1.Length);
        _responseStream.Write(buffer, offset, count);
        var b2 = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(");");
        _responseStream.Write(b2, 0, b2.Length);
    }

    public override void Close()
    {
        _responseStream.Close();
    }

    public override void Flush()
    {
        _responseStream.Flush();
    }

    public override long Seek(long offset, SeekOrigin origin)
    {
        return _responseStream.Seek(offset, origin);
    }

    public override void SetLength(long length)
    {
        _responseStream.SetLength(length);
    }

    public override int Read(byte[] buffer, int offset, int count)
    {
        return _responseStream.Read(buffer, offset, count);
    }
}

This HTTP module will be applied to each request to a .asmx file that has a format=json in its query string.

Note that you have to update web.config:

<system.web>
…
  <httpModules>
    …
    <add name="JSONAsmx"/>
  </httpModules>
</system.web>

For IIS6 and

<system.webServer>
  <modules>
  …
    <add name="JSONAsmx"/>
  </modules>
  …
</system.webServer>

For IIS7.

Now to test is open your web service in your browser, in my example:

http://hiddenobjects.hyzonia.com/services/GameService3.asmx/Login?email=e@e.com&password=p

It should return in XML

And

http://hiddenobjects.hyzonia.com/services/GameService3.asmx/Login?email=”e@e.com”&password=”p”&format=json&callback=myCallBackFunc

Will return:

myCallBackFunc({"d":{"__type":"HLoginResponse",
"isSuccessful":false,"error":false,"authSessionId":null,"nickName":null,"score":0}});

Don’t worry about myCallBackFunc, JQuery nicely manages it, so that the whole business is behind the scene and you can use $.ajax success callback the very same way you use it for a normal AJAX call.

We should note that JSONP has its own problems, especially… yes… in IE! All versions of Internet Explorer has a 2083 character limit for the URL of a request. It means that you cannot send large data in GET requests to the server. Sometime this limitation leaves us with no choice but to use Flash or create a proxy to the remote web service in the local domain.

Service Provider Pattern Part II

Posted in Architecture, Coding, Development by Homam Hosseini on May 29, 2009

Read the first part

At first I found it is generally a good advice to store the configuration in a static, read-only property somewhere. And there’s no better place other than the configuraiton class itself:

static MyServicesConfigurationSection _Value;
public static MyServicesConfigurationSection GetValue()
{
   if (_Value == null)
   {
     _Value = (MyServicesConfigurationSection)
        System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.GetSection("myServices");
   }
   return _Value;
}

Here we assume that we always define the matching element to be “myServices” in the configuration file. It makes sense because it makes it easier for us to find the element in different configuration files. We can always access the value using:

var config = Configuration.MyServicesConfigurationSection.GetValue();

Modularizing is the obvious upgrade we are goging to make to the Service Provider Pattern Part I. I can find three distinct components:

Service-Provider-Pattern-Ar 

  • Service Provider Pattern contains all the logic required by the pattern to work. You alway reference it everywhere you want to use the pattern.
  • Service Definitions is where we define our services.
  • Implementation of the Services contains  concrete classes and implementations of (some of) the services that have been defined in Service Definitions module. In a real application you may end up with many Implementation components each containing the implementation of a one or few number of services.

As before the configuration file of the Host Application maps the definitions (abstract services) to implementations (concrete services).

It’s clear that using this architecture we can have host applications that are hosting different implementations of the services.

Configuring the Services

Till now the only purpose of the configuration file was to store the mapping between the definitions and the implementations. But we can use it in order to actually configure the services. For an example it’s very likely that the FTPFileStorageService that we defined in the previous part, needs a FTP account credential to work. In this case the <add> element (that maps FileStorageService to FTPFileStorageService) may look like:

<add def="MyServiceDefinitions.FileStorageService"
     impl="MyServiceImplementations.FTPFileStorageService,
                                      MyServiceImplementations"
     host="ftp://ftp.wingooli.com" username="wingooloi"
                                         password="password" />

Both the abstract service definition and the concrete implementation can implement IServiceBase interface:

public interface IServiceBase
{
    void Initialize(Configuration.ServiceProviderSettings settings);
}

This interface just has one method, Initialize, that takes a ServiceProviderSettings (the <add> element). We can read the additional attributes of the <add> element using a code like this:

settings.Properties["host"]

The logics in the Service Provider Pattern component automatically call the Initialize method if this interface has been implemented in the definition the  implementation of the service.

Here is the design:

Service-Provider-Pattern

Now our Service Provider Pattern has nothing less than ASP.NET Provider Pattern but it is easier to implement.

Using all these modules we can reduce the code needed to instantiate a service (this code snippet should be placed in the abstract service definition class):

static FileStorageService _Instance;
static object _InstanceLocker = new object();
public static FileStorageService Instance
{
 get {
    if (_Instance == null) {
      lock (_InstanceLocker) {
        _Instance =  ServiceModel.ServicesHelper
                       .GetServiceInterface<FileStorageService>();
      }
    }
    return _Instance;
  }
}

Because it is a repeatable pattern and to make it all more developer friendly, I created a C# code snippet that generates a similar code automatically.

You can download the whole things here.

Service Provider Pattern, Part I

Posted in Architecture, Coding by Homam Hosseini on May 20, 2009

Read the Second and final part

Hyzonia is made of dozens of services running in many machines and app domains all over the internet. One problem we faced early in designing Hyzonia was the need to have different implementations for the a service and the ability to switch between the implementation as the need arises in the run time.

ASP.NET has already had a well-established Provider Pattern. But soon it turns out that it is not the best solution in our case. It seems ASP.NET Provider Pattern is not that developer friendly especially when you have dozens and increasing number of service definitions; because you have to code a new configuration class, create an abstract class, its implementation and a static helper class and it means you have to write the same methods in at least three places.

I wanted to let our developers to be able to add new services very fast. Here is a description of the provider pattern I came with.

Here I assume that services are stateless singleton objects, that is a true assumption in the context of Hyzonia and most of service oriented applications. That’s also true about ASP.NET providers. The main reason lies in the SOA paradigm, as in service oriented architecture we think of an operation as something that when it is given its required input arguments it does all the job and returns a success or a failure message. When a client calls an operation it passed all the job to the service and basically it disconnects and waits until the operation returns. The operations that perform an a business object should perform a meaningful business process. It means that those operations must transfer a business object to consistent state.

It is guaranteed that by obeying such those rules you will have a clear separation between your service/business logic and the clients (that are the users of the services).

How to

For adding a new service you need to create the service definition that is an abstract class. Here as a rule we store the service definitions in a seperate assembly that could be shared among many app domains. For our pattern to work we need to add a static getter member to the abstract definitions, just like what you may do for creating a singleton object. Let’s name it Instance, that is a getter-only property of the type of the abstract class itself. It’s obvious that we are going to load, instantiate and return the concrete implementation here. Let’s talk about it a bit later.

For an example, suppose that we are building a File Storage Service. There’s no doubt that the main functionalists of such this service are Storing and Deleting the files. So here is the service definition:

public abstract class FileStorageService {
   public static FileStorageService Instance {
     get { // I told you, we talk about it later }
   }
   public abstract string Store(Byte[] bytes, string extension);
   public abstract bool Delete(string url);
}

Suppose we have a FTP implementation the service: FTPFileStorageService:

public class FTPFileStorageService : FileStorageService {
//...
}

Now if we want to instantiate the FTPFileStorageSerivce in a host application, we need to modify the configuration file of the host app in a way to relate the service definition to our desired implementation. Here is the way we do it:

<service def="FileStorageService" impl="FTPFileStorageService"/>

Now let’s back to where we left our discussion about the static Instance property in the service definition class. We need to somehow read the configuration file, find the active implementation, instantiate and return it here. Here is the code:

static FileStorageService _Instance;
public static FileStorageService Instance {
  get {
    if (_Instance == null)
    {
        var name = (typeof(FileStorageService)).FullName;

        var myAppConfiguration =
            (MyApp.Configuration.MyAppServiceConfigurationSection)
            System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager
                              .GetSection("myAppConfig");

        var services = myAppConfiguration.Services;

        ServiceProviderSettings config = null;

        foreach (var s in services)
        {
            var serviceConfig = (ServiceProviderSettings)s;
            if (serviceConfig.Definition == name)
            {
                config = serviceConfig;
                break;
            }
        }

        if (config == null)
            throw new Exception(@"A service mapping is
                        missed in the configuration file");

        var type = Type.GetType(config.Implementation);
        _Instance = (FileStorageService)Activator.CreateInstance(type);
    }
    return _Instance;
  }
}

You may want to download a demo project here.

If you’re new to .NET configuration you’ll find the download a good demonstration for starting working with custom configuration classes.

In the second and the final part of this discussion you’ll see how we convert a good idea to a working one. The most obvious issue with the code above is here

System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.GetSection("myAppConfig")

where we are coupling the abstract class (the service definition) and the configuration of the host application. I’m advocating the idea that service definitions must be and are in nature independent of their host.

I will talk about such these issues and making the whole thing more developer friendly in the next part. We will also add more features and try to make it really like a pattern.

Read the Second and final part

Rainy Dubai

Posted in Coding, Dubai by Homam Hosseini on December 4, 2008

Dubai sunny skies is one of the reasons I like it.
But it is the third consecutive day that it is raining.

IMAGE_00159-2 

I took this picture behind the office window looking toward Sheikh Zayed Road. The streets are muddy, but now that I’m writing a glimpse of sunshine is shimmering the city. This is something that I enjoy watching.

Anyway, yesterday I read about MIX 09, 10K Coding Challenge, I generally like the idea as long as it does not make developers to start shortening variable and class member names and obscuring the self-descriptive nature of the code. You know I am a fan of long variable names and code files that look like a story book.

These days I have a boring job implementing services for Dig and Win. These services are meant to make the up-to-date data accessible to Islands and Global Services Host clients.

There’s no doubt that I enjoy designing the services but after all time I spent on Dig and Win, it is a pain to look after all the detailed implementations. I die for somebody whom I could sit and talk with about the software philosophy of Dig and Win service oriented architecture.

Here Omid is working on some landforms, I like his works and I hope to put these new ones in an island as soon as this afternoon.

 

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