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How to host a code file on Github as Gist to use in your application

How to host a code file on Github as Gist to use in your application

What the h*** is a Gist?

In case you never heard of Gist, it is an easy to use way to share code files hosted by Github. Everyone with a user account can use this feature, and now that also the premium features are free (thanks to the acquisition by Microsoft), you can even share them secretly.

Where do I find my Gists?

This one is for the beginners. If you know this already, move on. Once you have logged into your Github account, click on your user name. This will open a menu where you can see an option called ‘Your gists’. Once you clicked that one, you will see a page similar to mine (maybe with no gists in it):

gist_overview_gists

How to create a new Gist?

Well, that’s pretty easy. You just click on the ‘+’-button besides your user avatar in the top right corner:

gist_menu_add_new

This will bring up a new gist window. Enter your description, file name and fill in the content of your file or even add more files and hit the ‘Create public gist’ button to create your new gist. If you intend to host multiple files in your gist, please note that you will need the following steps on every single file you add (as each one has its own url).

gist_add_new

How to use this Gist in my app?

Luckily, both files in Github repos as well as in gists can be viewed in the so called ‘Raw’ view. You will find a corresponding button on every code file in the top right corner. Click on it, and you will see a plain-text representation (here is a sample from the one that led to this block post. It is styled by a browser extension that makes json more readable (every developer should already have one of this type installed, btw)):

gist_raw_view

Now we are close to be able to fetch this file into our applications. If you are sure that this file will never change, just use this file. If you know that this file is subject for future changes, you will need to perform a little trick.

Getting always the latest version of our Gist

If you analyze the url, you will notice that there is a unique id between the ‘raw’ part and the file name:

gist_remove_this_id

This id represents the current revision of your Gist. To make sure we always get the latest version of our gist, we need to remove this id. The url must end with ‘raw/yourfile.extensions‘, as you can see here:

gist_always_latest_revision_url

This way, you can update the file and implement an update mechanism into your app that fetches always the latest revision of that file. To fetch the file content into your app, you just need to perform a GET request against that url, without the overload of using Github’s API.

Conclusion

Instead of hosting configuration or data files on a private web server, one can utilize existing infrastructure like the one of Github. Like always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 0 comments

How to create a folder in Windows Phone 8.1 Pictures Library (and save/read files into/from it)

Some of you might have noticed that UniShare has its own folder in your devices picture library. Also some other apps like WhatsApp or Tweetium have it. The advantages of your app’s own folder are clear:

  • easier to get images into your app
  • user can always reflect which pictures come from your app
  • another presence of your app within the OS
  • higher remember rate for your app at the user site (which leads to more frequent usage of your app)

This post will show you how easy it is to generate a folder into the Pictures Library as well as save and read files into/from this folder.

Preparation

First, you need to add this using statements to your app:

using Windows.Storage;
using Windows.Storage.Streams;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Media;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Media.Imaging;

Next, add the Picture Library capabilities to your app’s Package.appmanifest.

image

If you have a 8.1 Silverlight app, you need to add it to both the Package.appmanifest as well as the WMAppManifest.xml:

image

Then we are already able to generate our folder with this single line of code (counts for both Silverlight and Runtime apps):

StorageFolder appFolder= await KnownFolders.PicturesLibrary.CreateFolderAsync("myCustomAppFolder", CreationCollisionOption.OpenIfExists);

You should always use the CreateFolderAsync method together with the CollisionOption ‘OpenIfExists’. This way, your app will open it every time you are going to save a file, but creates the folder if it does not exist yet. If you now go to your pictures library, you will not see your folder yet, although it is there (use a File Manager app to check it if you want). Folders do only get populated when they have content. This is what the next step is about.

Save an image file

Saving an image is also pretty straight forward. First we are generating a StorageFile within our folder:

StorageFile myfile= await appFolder.CreateFileAsync("myfile.jpg", CreationCollisionOption.ReplaceExisting);

This generates a File Container that we can write our image to. To save the image we are going to asynchronously write the Stream of our image into it:

//asuming we have an Image control, replace this with your local code
var img = myImage.Source as WriteableBitmap;
//get fresh drawn image 
img.Invalidate();

using (Stream stream = await myfile.OpenStreamForWriteAsync())
{
   img.SaveJpeg(stream, img.PixelWidth, img.PixelHeight, 0, 100);
}

This code works for both a Windows Phone 8.1 Silverlight and Runtime apps. If you now go to your Pictures library, you will see your app’s folder as well as your saved image. Pretty easy, right?

Read images from our app’s folder

Reading an image file is pretty easy as well. Here is the code:

//open the picture library
StorageFolder libfolder = KnownFolders.PicturesLibrary;
//get all folders first
IReadOnlyList<StorageFolder> folderList = await libfolder.GetFoldersAsync();
//select our app's folder
var appfolder = folderList.FirstOrDefault(f => f.Name.Contains("myCustomAppFolder"));
//get the desired file (assuming you know the file name)
StorageFile picfile = await appPicturesFolder.GetFileAsync("myfile.jpg");
//generate a stream from the StorageFile
var stream = await picfile.OpenAsync(FileAccessMode.Read);
//generate a new image and set the source to our stream
BitmapImage img = new BitmapImage();
img.SetSource(stream);

//todo: work with the image

To get our generated folder, we need to fetch a list of folders in the library using the StorageFolder.GetFoldersAsync() method. We then query this list for our app’s folder. If you want to get a list of all pictures in your folder, you can use the StorageFile.GetFilesAsync() method. What I have done above is to load our saved single file. Finally, I opened a stream from this file and assigned it to a new BitmapImage, which can be used in our app.

There are also a lot of other options one can do with these folders and files, this is a very common scenario.

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Posted by msicc in Archive, 0 comments

How to load a list of a user’s twitter friends/followers in your Windows Phone app

TwitterFriendsList_WP_Blog During the last days, I was adding a new function to UniShare that suggests users the Twitter handles while typing in some text. The base of this new function is a list of the user’s twitter friends. In this post, I am going to show you how to generate this list and save it for further use. First thing I need to talk about: you can only load a maximum of 3000 friends at once due to the rate limit on Twitter’s part. At the end of the post, I’ll give you also an idea how to continue this after the first 3000 users were loaded. For the most scenarios, 3000 should be enough to cover the major part of your users. To be able to load all friends we first create a Task that fetches 200 entries of our user’s friends list. To be able to perform paging through all entries, Twitter uses so called cursors, which are 64-bit signed integers (long). You can read more about that here on Twitter’s API documentation. Let’s have a look on this Task:

        private async Task<string> TwitterFriendsListString(long twitterCursor)
        {
            ShowProgressIndicator("generating mention suggestion base...");

            //needed for generating the Signature
            string twitterRequestUrl = "https://api.twitter.com/1.1/friends/list.json";

            //used for sending the request to the API
            //for usage of the url parameters, go to https://dev.twitter.com/docs/api/1.1/get/friends/list
            string twitterUrl = string.Format("https://api.twitter.com/1.1/friends/list.json?cursor={0}&screen_name={1}&count=200&skip_status=true&include_user_entities=false", twitterCursor, App.SettingsStore.twitterName);

            string timeStamp = GetTimeStamp();
            string nonce = GetNonce();

            string response = string.Empty;

            //we need to include all url parameters in the signature
            //IMPORTANT: Twitter's API demands them to be sorted alphabetically, otherwise the Signature will not be accepted
            string sigBaseStringParams = "count=200";
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "cursor=" + twitterCursor;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "include_user_entities=false";
            igBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_consumer_key=" + twitterConsumerKey;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_nonce=" + nonce;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_signature_method=HMAC-SHA1";
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_timestamp=" + timeStamp;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_token=" + App.SettingsStore.twitteroAuthToken;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "oauth_version=1.0";
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "screen_name=" + App.SettingsStore.twitterName;
            sigBaseStringParams += "&" + "skip_status=true";
            string sigBaseString = "GET&";
            sigBaseString += Uri.EscapeDataString(twitterRequestUrl) + "&" + Uri.EscapeDataString(sigBaseStringParams);

            string signature = GetSignature(sigBaseString, twitterConsumerSecret, App.SettingsStore.twitteroAuthTokenSecret);

            string authorizationHeaderParams =
                "oauth_consumer_key=\"" + twitterConsumerKey +
                "\", oauth_nonce=\"" + nonce +
                "\", oauth_signature=\"" + Uri.EscapeDataString(signature) +
                "\", oauth_signature_method=\"HMAC-SHA1\", oauth_timestamp=\"" + timeStamp +
                "\", oauth_token=\"" + Uri.EscapeDataString(App.SettingsStore.twitteroAuthToken) +
                "\", oauth_version=\"1.0\"";

            HttpClient httpClient = new HttpClient();

            httpClient.DefaultRequestHeaders.Authorization = new HttpCredentialsHeaderValue("OAuth", authorizationHeaderParams);
            var httpResponseMessage = await httpClient.GetAsync(new Uri(twitterUrl));

            response = await httpResponseMessage.Content.ReadAsStringAsync();

            return response;
        }

As you can see, we need to create our signature based on the url parameters we are requesting. Twitter demands them to be sorted alphabetically. If you would not sort them this way, the Signature is wrong and your request gets denied by Twitter. We are overloading this Task with the above mentioned cursor to get the next page of our user’s friends list. If you need the GetNonce() and GetSignature() methods, take a look at this post, I am using them for all requests to Twitter. Now that we have this Task ready to make our requests, lets load the complete list. First, declare these objects in your page/model:

        public List<TwitterMentionSuggestionBase> twitterMentionSuggestionsList;
        public long nextfriendlistCursor = -1;
        public string friendsResponseString = string.Empty;
        public string friendsJsonFileName = "twitterFriends.json";

Then we need to create a loop to go through all pages Twitter allows us until we are reaching the rate limit of 15 requests per 15 minutes. I using a do while loop, as this is the most convenient way for this request:

            //to avoid double entries, make sure the list is we are using is empty
            if (twitterMentionSuggestionsList.Count != 0)
            {
                twitterMentionSuggestionsList.Clear();
            }
            //starting the do while loop
            do
            {
                //fetching the Json response
                //to get the first page of the list from Twitter, the cursor needs to be -1
                friendsResponseString = await TwitterFriendsListString(nextfriendlistCursor);

                //using Json.net to deserialize the string
                var friendslist = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<TwitterFriendsClass.TwitterFriends>(friendsResponseString);
                //setting the cursor for the next request
                nextfriendlistCursor = friendslist.next_cursor;

                //adding 200 users to our list
                foreach (var user in friendslist.users)
                {
                    //using the screen name ToLower() to make the further usage easier
                    TwitterMentionSuggestionsList.Add(new TwitterMentionSuggestionBase() { name = "@" + user.screen_name.ToLower() });
                }

                //once the last page is reached, the cursor will be 0
                if (nextfriendlistCursor == 0)
                {
                    //break will continue the code after the do while loop
                    break;
                }
            }
            //the while condition needs to return true if you would set up a Boolean for it!
            while (nextfriendlistCursor != 0);

As long as the cursor is not 0, the loop will load the json string with 200 entries. The class you’ll need for deserializing can be easily generated. Just set a breakpoint after the call of our Task, copy the whole response string and go to http://json2csharp.com to get your class. The TwitterMentionSuggestionBase class only contains a string property for the name and can be extended for you needs:

    public class TwitterMentionSuggestionBase
    {
        public string name { get; set; }
    }

Of course we need to save the list for further use. The code I use is pretty much the same you’ll find when you search for “saving json string to file” with your favorite search engine and works with Windows Phone 8 and 8.1:

            //saving the file to Isolated Storage
            var JsonListOfFriends = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(twitterMentionSuggestionsList);
            try
            {
                //getting the localFolder our app has access to
                StorageFolder localFolder = ApplicationData.Current.LocalFolder;
                //create/overwrite a file
                StorageFile friendsJsonFile = await localFolder.CreateFileAsync(friendsJsonFileName, CreationCollisionOption.ReplaceExisting);
                //write the json string to the file
                using (IRandomAccessStream writeFileStream = await FriendsJsonFile.OpenAsync(FileAccessMode.ReadWrite))
                {
                    using (DataWriter streamWriter = new DataWriter(writeFileStream))
                    {
                        streamWriter.WriteString(JsonListOfFriends);
                        await streamWriter.StoreAsync();
                    }
                }
            }
            catch
            {

            }

This way, we can easily generate a friends list for our users, based on their Twitter friends. Some points that might be helpful:

  • users with more than 3000 friends will receive an error after reaching this point on our task. Catch this error, but continue to save the already loaded list. Save the latest cursor for the next page and prompt the user to continue loading after 15 minutes to continue loading.
  • if you want to have a list with more details about a user’s friends, extend the TwitterMentionSuggestionBase class with the matching properties.
  • this code can also be used to determine the followers of a user, you just need to change the url parameters as well as the signature parameters according to the matching Twitter endpoint

As always, I hope this is helpful for some of you. Until the next post, happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Archive, 3 comments