Add New SSH Login to Azure Linux VM

Some time ago, I created an Ubuntu virtual machine in Azure using a password-based login. Over time, I got annoyed with having to enter the password each time I logged in, so I decided to switch over to using SSH public keys. Unfortunately, the Azure documentation regarding such a scenario assumes only that you will be creating a new virtual machine from scratch to create a public key based login. Have no fear. I have figured out how to do this without having to recreate your virtual machine.

Requirements

  • Linux-based client (your computer)
  • Linux-based virtual machine in Azure with password-based login (Azure)

Create the RSA Keys on Your Computer

Azure requires RSA keys with 2048-bit encryption, so you should do this:

Just press ENTER when asked where to store the file unless you really want to put it somewhere other than the default. In most cases, the default is fine. After you pick the location, enter a good password to unlock the private key when prompted during login.

Transfer the Keys from Your Computer to Your Server

In order to copy your keys to the server on which you want to login, you will need to have a password-based login already setup. If this is your case, do the following:

Enter your server’s password-based login when prompted to begin the copying process.… Continue reading

The Woes of Windows Store App Submissions

I recently submitted a Windows 10 / Windows Phone app to the Windows Store named Data Viewer for Dota 2. I’m here to warn the world just how awful the process of submission can be.

Microsoft first created the concept of the Windows Store with the release of Windows 8, Windows RT, and Metro Apps — I mean Windows Store Apps — I mean Universal Windows Apps. Whatever you want to call them, the store quickly became an unregulated messy disaster full of copycat and scam apps. Many, many apps were nothing more than front ends to scamming websites, copies of things like Facebook, or general do-nothing apps with a price tag and description which made it seem like a good purchase.

In order to address this problem, in normal Microsoft fashion, Microsoft decided to wait 3 years and come up with a new process of submitting the app. Every app would be held to “rigorous” standards which would guarantee all apps were clearly named and labeled to prevent confusion and scams. There are several guideline posts out there from Microsoft, and you can rest assured that all of them are vague and barely helpful.

So how did this affect my app? Originally, the app was named “Dota Database” after its sister site and had the same icon as appears on that site. The first submission resulted in this super helpful message: The app name and icon do not accurately represent the features.

Uh…OK? I’m not sure it could even get more vague than that.… Continue reading

How to Rename Your App in Windows Store

This applies to the Windows Store and Windows Dev Center as of March 1, 2016 and assumes you are uploading a Windows 10 Universal Platform App.

The Windows Dev Center started out badly back in Windows 8, and it hasn’t improved too much since then. I have to be honest when I describe it, because it’s sometimes nothing short of painful. One of those pain points is the UI and poor documentation regarding the concept of the “App Name”.

In order to submit to the store, you need to create “App Packages”. Each package has metadata associated with it that you define in your “App Manifest” (Package.appxmanifest in your project). This manifest is where the app’s name must match exactly with whatever names you have reserved in your Dev Center for that app.

Creating the App Name

When you create an app submission, you have to pick an “App Name”. This is the name that is displayed across your Dev Center Dashboard and the Windows Store. This name also has to match exactly in your app’s created manifest. That secret bit of information isn’t documented well and seems to only appear in tiny text when you are creating an app package through Visual Studio.

Changing the App Name

If your app has not yet been submitted to the store, then you can change the name by reserving a new one in the Dev Center, changing the manifest to that name, creating an app package, and then uploading that package. Don’t try to rename directly from the Dev Center (that’s where I kept looking).… Continue reading

Share a Generic XAML ListView, ItemsSource, and DataTemplate with UserControls in Windows Universal Apps

This post applies to Windows Universal Apps specifically. These techniques probably won’t work with WPF or Windows 8/8.1 Apps because the XAML hierarchy and namespaces are different.

The title is certainly a mouthful, but stick with me to understand where this scenario can be useful.

Let’s say you want to re-use a ListView without copy and pasting everything about it wherever you need it. Simple enough, right? Just put it in a UserControl! Not so fast. What if you want to define the ListView’s ItemsSource from one level above the UserControl? It gets a little more complicated. This is especially true if you want to take advantage of a VisualStateManager with the ListView’s ItemTemplate.

CustomListView

For example, I had a UserControl which allowed users to scroll left/right on a ListView by clicking buttons left/right instead of using a scrollbar. I wanted to share this ListView in multiple places,  but didn’t want to restrict the UserControl to a single ItemsSource by hard coding it in the UserControl itself. I wanted to “pass in” the ItemsSource and DataTemplate to define the layout of the items from one level above the UserControl. Additionally, I wanted the layout to change based on the width of the screen to work with phones, tablets, and wide layouts.

So here’s what I did after a few hours of struggling through wildly varying documentation across WPF, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows Universal Apps.

Creating the DataTemplate UserControl

We first need to define the lowest level of the chain to determine what and how the data will be displayed in each data bound ListViewItem.… Continue reading

Don’t Bother with WordPress on Windows/IIS

I’ve written in the past about how to setup WordPress on an Azure App Service and about connecting that WordPress instance to MySQL in an Azure VM. While these articles do contain some useful information about setting up WordPress and its interaction with Azure services, I’ve come to the conclusion that WordPress simply doesn’t function as nicely when hosted on IIS.

For about 1-2 years, I hosted several WordPress blogs in Azure App Services which connected to MySQL instances on an Azure VM (exactly as described in my articles above). I struggled endlessly with strange plugin issues and constant timeouts when attempting to connect to MySQL. For example:

  • Certain caching plugins complained that certain settings could not be applied due to IIS
  • WordPress.com and JetPack integration sometimes didn’t detect plugin and WordPress updates properly
  • When attempting to update plugins from WordPress.com or JetPack, it would simply fail with no error messages
  • Random and intermittent “Database connection” failures would occur even though I could guarantee the username/password/connection information was correct (especially since connections would succeed and then fail 30 seconds later)

I tried debugging these issues for months including monitoring incoming traffic on the VM to diagnose MySQL connection timeouts but was ultimately unsuccessful in determining a solution. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I did come up with a solution. I stopped using WordPress on Azure App Services.

So what to use then? I decided on using my existing VM to host the classic LAMP stack. It was already running Linux and MySQL, so I just had to add Apache and PHP.… Continue reading

A Quick Reference to Azure Key Vault via Powershell

Azure Key Vault has been generally available in certain regions since June 2015. You can’t use the Azure Portal to work with the key vault yet, so you have to drop down into Azure Powershell and run a few commands. It’s a little confusing to get started since development is ongoing and Azure Powershell itself changes frequently.

Here’s how I have been achieving some simple Azure Key Vault commands via Azure Powershell. I’m using Azure Powershell version 0.9.8, so keep that in mind if you’re comparing these commands to the Getting Started guide linked previously in this article.

Check Your Azure Powershell Version (optional)

If you don’t know what version of Azure Powershell you’re using, try this:

Switch to AzureResourceManager Mode if Necessary (optional)

Since you’re using version 0.9.8 like me, you need to switch into Azure Resource Manager mode.

Login to Azure

Login to your Azure account and enter your credentials in the popup window. It seems kind of odd that it wouldn’t just make you login via Powershell parameters.

Create a Resource Group (optional)

You need an Azure Resource Group to add the Azure Key Vault to. If you don’t have one already, create it now. If you already have one, skip this step.

Create a Key Vault

Now create the Azure Key Vault.… Continue reading

A Quick Reference to Creating NuGet Packages

All of the following commands should be executed in the folder containing the project from which you want to create a package.

nuget spec – Create a .nuspec file which contains meta-data about the package such as author, description, and title. You will need to edit some of the values in this file when you first create it.

nuget pack <.csproj file name> -Prop Configuration=Release – Create a .nupkg file containing the compiled contents of the project specified in the first parameter. Optionally target a specific configuration.

nuget push <.nupkg file name> – Push the NuGet package up to your NuGet.org account.

More complete documentation here.… Continue reading

How to Rollback Entity Framework Code First Migration

The code first approach to using the Entity Framework can be extremely helpful in creating a new database while staying entirely within your C# code base. If you’re more comfortable with creating plain old class objects (POCO) and then having those translated into SQL driven structures, code first is for you. That said, the process by which updates to the code base are pushed to the database (migrations) can be a bit frustrating to use at times. Not all SQL Server features are supported in a code first approach. In addition, migrating your structures in Azure has its own set of problems.

If you want to roll back to a previous migration due to an error in the current migration or wanting to rewind and start over, the following command can be used from the Package Manager Console in Visual Studio. This will rewind and undo any migrations between the current and the “migration-name” migration.

For example, if you have the following history of migrations in your project where the * indicates the current migration:

  • 201506042221067_RemoveColumn1
  • 201507031735200_AddColumn2
  • 201507044516322_CreateNewPersonTable
  • *20150731124746_SomeBrokenMigration

Use this command to roll back to the “AddColumn2” migration. Notice that the timestamp on the migration name is not included in the command.

The migration history will then look like:

  • 201506042221067_RemoveColumn1
  • *201507031735200_AddColumn2
  • 201507044516322_CreateNewPersonTable
  • 20150731124746_SomeBrokenMigration

Notice that the migrations which were rolled back were not deleted. The next time you perform an update-database command, the migrations will be re-executed.… Continue reading

Remove and disable “Get Windows 10” icon

Microsoft seems to have pushed an automatic update to Windows 7/8/8.1 machines with an annoying popup in the notification tray exclaiming that you need to reserve your copy of Windows 10 immediately. If you’re like me, you wanted to figure out how to kill this thing for good. There’s a few ways you can do it. There’s a temporary until reboot way and a permanent way.

Temporary

On Windows 8.1, go to the Task Manager (right click the Task Bar, click Task Manager) or CTRL+ALT+DEL and then click Task Manager. The process you want to kill under the “Details” tab is called GWX.exe. Once you stop that process, the icon will go away. Be warned that it will come back when you reboot your machine.

Permanent

  1. Open the Control Panel and click Windows Update.
  2. Click Installed Updates in the lower left.
  3. Find the update named “KB3035583”, right click it, and uninstall.
  4. Go to “C:\Windows\System32\” in an Explorer window
  5. Right click the “GWX” folder, click Properties and then the Security tab
  6. Click Advanced and then click the “Change” button next to the Owner
  7. Change the user to your account or group that you use on the computer
  8. Click OK/Apply and then delete the “GWX” folder

Your computer is now free from that annoying popup, but make sure to hide the update in the Windows Update window if it ever comes back asking to be installed. This is a good time to remind everyone that they should set their Windows Update settings to Manual Installation so that you don’t get stuck with these botched updates automatically.… Continue reading

Custom authorization with ELMAH and ASP.NET Identity Framework

If you’re using any of the most recent ASP.NET MVC 5 project templates with authentication and authorization built in, then you’re probably using the ASP.NET Identity Framework. With any ASP.NET project, it’s smart to add references to the ELMAH library just in case any unhandled exceptions occur. You can use both of these libraries together to restrict access to the remote ELMAH page with custom authorization.

First, install the Elmah.MVC package from NuGet. This should download the correct libraries and add the necessary lines to your web.config.

Substitute the “your_user_name” entry with your own username that you’ve setup in the ASP.NET Identity Framework backend. For example, the AspNetUsers table in SQL Server contains your usernames. It appears that ELMAH does get the authentication information from the current thread principal, which the ASP.NET Identity Framework will establish on your behalf upon login.… Continue reading