xamarin

[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

The documentation recommends using Effects when we just want to change properties on the underlying native control. I have begun to love Effects as they make my code more readable. With Effects, I always know that there is a platform-specific implementation attached, while that is not obvious when using a custom renderer. Nowadays, I always try to implement an Effect before a Renderer.


Update: I updated the sample project to also respect changes in the ImageButton‘s source. I recently ran into the situation to change the Source (Play/Pause) via my ViewModel based on its state and realized that the effect needs to be reapplied in this case. Please be aware.


The basics

Effects work in a similar way to Renderers. You implement the definition in the Xamarin.Forms project, which attaches it to the control that needs the change. The PlatformEffect implementation needs to be exported to be compiled into the application. Like in a Renderer, the platform implementation also supports property changes. In this new series #XfEffects, I am going to show you some Effects that have been useful for me.

Effect declaration

Let’s turn over to this post’s Effect. We will change the TintColor of an ImageButton to our needs. Let’s start with creating the class for our Effect:

    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : RoutingEffect
    {
        public ImageButtonTintEffect() : base($"XfEffects.{nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)}")
        {
        }
    }

All Xamarin.Forms Effect implementations need to derive from the RoutingEffect class and pass the Effect‘s name to the base class’ constructor. That’s pretty much everything we have to do for the Effect class itself.

Effect extension for passing parameters

The easiest way for us to get our desired TintColor to the platform implementation is an attached BindableProperty. To be able to attach the BindableProperty, we need a static class that provides the container for the attached property:

public static class ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions
{
    public static readonly BindableProperty TintColorProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("TintColor", typeof(Color), typeof(ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions), default, propertyChanged: OnTintColorPropertyChanged);
    public static Color GetTintColor(BindableObject bindable)
    {
        return (Color)bindable.GetValue(TintColorProperty);
    }
    public static void SetTintColor(BindableObject bindable, Color value)
    {
        bindable.SetValue(TintColorProperty, value);
    }
    private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
    {
    }
}

Of course, we want to set the TintColor property as Xamarin.Forms.Color as this will make it pretty easy to control the color from a Style or even a ViewModel.

We want our effect to only being invoked if we change the default TintColor value. This makes sure we are running only code that is necessary for our application:

private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
{
    if (bindable is ImageButton current)
    {
        if ((Color)newValue != default)
        {
            if (!current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
                current.Effects.Add(Effect.Resolve(nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)));
        }
        else
        {
            if (current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
            {
                var existingEffect = current.Effects.FirstOrDefault(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect);
                current.Effects.Remove(existingEffect);
            }
        }
    }
}

Last but not least in our Xamarin.Forms application, we want to use the new Effect. This is pretty easy:

<!--import the namespace-->
xmlns:effects="clr-namespace:XfEffects.Effects"
<!--then use it like this-->
<ImageButton Margin="12,0,12,12"
    effects:ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.TintColor="Red"
    BackgroundColor="Transparent"
    HeightRequest="48"
    HorizontalOptions="CenterAndExpand"
    Source="ic_refresh_white_24dp.png"
    WidthRequest="48">
    <ImageButton.Effects>
        <effects:ImageButtonTintEffect />
    </ImageButton.Effects>
</ImageButton>

We are using the attached property we created above to provide the TintColor to the ImageButtonTintEffect, which we need to add to the ImageButton‘s Effects List.

Android implementation

Let’s have a look at the Android-specific implementation. First, let’s add the platform class and decorate it with the proper attributes to export our effect:

using Android.Content.Res;
using Android.Graphics;
using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android;
using AWImageButton = Android.Support.V7.Widget.AppCompatImageButton;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.Droid.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.Droid.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

Remember: the ResolutionGroupName needs to be defined just once per app and should not change. Similar to a custom Renderer, we also need to export the definition of the platform implementation and the Forms implementation to make our Effect working.

Android controls like buttons have different states. Properties on Android controls like the color can be set based on their State attribute. Xamarin.Android implements these states in the Android.Resource.Attribute class. We define our ImageButton‘s states like this:

static readonly int[][] _colorStates =
{
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled },
    new[] { -global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled }, //disabled state
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StatePressed } //pressed state
};

Good to know: certain states like ‘disabled‘ are created by just adding a ‘-‘ in front of the matching state defined in the OS states list (negating it). We need this declaration to create our own ColorStateList, which will override the color of the ImageButton‘s image. Add this method to the class created above:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is AWImageButton imageButton)
        {
            var androidColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToAndroid();
            var disabledColor = androidColor;
            disabledColor.A = 0x1C; //140
            var pressedColor = androidColor;
            pressedColor.A = 0x24; //180
            imageButton.ImageTintList = new ColorStateList(_colorStates, new[] { androidColor.ToArgb(), disabledColor.ToArgb(), pressedColor.ToArgb() });
            imageButton.ImageTintMode = PorterDuff.Mode.SrcIn;
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine(
            $"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

This code works above the Android SDK 23, as only then the ability to modify the A-channel of the defined color was added. The Xamarin.Forms ImageButton translates into a AppCompatImageButton on Android. The AppCompatImageButton has the ImageTintList property. This property is of type ColorStatesList, which uses the states we defined earlier and the matching colors for those states.

Last but not least, we need to set the composition mode. If you want to get a deeper understanding of that, a great starting point is this StackOverflow question. To make things not too complicated, we are infusing the color into the image. The final step is to call the method in the OnAttached override as well as in the OnElementPropertyChanged override.

The result based on the sample I created looks like this:

iOS implementation

Of course, also on iOS, we have to attribute the class, similar to the Android version:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using UIKit;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.iOS;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.iOS.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.iOS.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

The underlying control of the Xamarin.Forms ImageButton is a default UIButton on iOS. The UIButton control has an UIImageView, which can be changed with the SetImage method. Based on that knowledge, we are going to implement the UpdateTintColor method:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is UIButton imagebutton)
        {
            if (imagebutton.ImageView?.Image != null)
            {
                var templatedImg = imagebutton.CurrentImage.ImageWithRenderingMode(UIImageRenderingMode.AlwaysTemplate);
                //clear the image on the button
                imagebutton.SetImage(null, UIControlState.Normal);
                imagebutton.ImageView.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.SetImage(templatedImg, UIControlState.Normal);
            }
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

Let’s review these code lines. The first step is to extract the already attached Image as a templated Image from the UIButton‘s UIImageView. The second step is to clear the Image from the Button, using the SetImage method and passing null as UIImage parameter. I tried to leave out this step, but it does not work if you do so.

The next step changes the TintColor for the UIButton‘s UIImageView as well as for the button itself. I was only able to get the TintColor changed once I changed both TintColor properties.

The final step is to re-attach the extracted image from step one to the UIImageButton‘s UIImageView, using once again the SetImage method – but this time, we are passing the extracted image as UIImage parameter.

Of course, also here we need to call this method in the OnAttached override as well as in OnElementPropertyChanged.

The result should look similar to this one:

Conclusion

It is pretty easy to implement extended functionality with a Xamarin.Forms Effect. The process is similar to the one of creating a custom renderer. By using attached properties you can fine-tune the usage of this code and also pass property values to the platform implementations.

Please make sure to follow along for the other Effects I will post as part of this new series. I also created a sample app to demonstrate the Effects (find it on Github). As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 0 comments
How to avoid a distorted Android camera preview with ZXing.Net.Mobile [Updated]

How to avoid a distorted Android camera preview with ZXing.Net.Mobile [Updated]

Update: The application I used to determine this blog post is portrait only, that’s why I totally missed the landscape part. I have to thank Timo Partl, who pointed me to that fact on Twitter. I updated the solution/workaround part to reflect the orientation as well.


If you need to implement QR-scanning into your Xamarin (Forms) app, chances are high you will be using the ZXing.Net.Mobile library (as it is the most complete solution out there). In one of my recent projects, I wanted to exactly that. I have used the library already before and thought it might be an easy play.

Distorted reality…

Reality hit me hard when I realized that the preview is totally distorted:

distorted camera preview

Even with that distortion, the library detects the QR code without problems. However, the distortion is not something you want your user to experience. So I started to investigate why this distortion happens. As I am not the only one experiencing this problem, I am showing to easily fix that issue and the way that led to the solution (knowing also some beginners follow my blog).

Searching the web …

.. often brings you closer to the solution. Most of the time, you are not the only one that runs into such a problem. Doing so let me find the Github issue above, showing my theory is correct. Sometimes, those Github issues provide a solution  – this time, not. After not being able to find anything helpful, I decided to fork the Github repo and downloaded it into Visual Studio.

Debugging

Once the solution was loaded in Visual Studio, I found that there are some samples in the repo that made debugging easy for me. I found the case that matches my implementation best (using the ZXingScannerView). After hitting the F10 (to move step by step through the code) and F11 (to jump into methods) quite often, I understood how the code works under the hood.

The cause

If you are not telling the library the resolution you want to have, it will select one for you based on this rudimentary rule (view source on Github):

// If the user did not specify a resolution, let's try and find a suitable one
if (resolution == null)
{
    foreach (var sps in supportedPreviewSizes)
    {
        if (sps.Width >= 640 && sps.Width <= 1000 && sps.Height >= 360 && sps.Height <= 1000)
        {
            resolution = new CameraResolution
            {
                Width = sps.Width,
                Height = sps.Height
            };
            break;
        }
    }
}

Let’s break it down. This code takes the available resolutions from the (old and deprecated) Android.Hardware.Camera API and selects one that matches the ranges defined in the code without respect to the aspect ratio of the device display. On my Nexus 5X, it always selects the resolution of 400×800. This does not match my device’s aspect ratio, but the Android OS does some stretching and squeezing to make it visible within the SurfaceView used for the preview. The result is the distortion seen above.

Note: The code above is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. However, it was updated last 3 years ago (according to Github). Display resolutions and aspect ratios changed a lot during that time, so we had to arrive at this point sooner or later.

Solution/Workaround

The solution to this is pretty easy. Just provide a CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate with your code setting up the ZXingScannerView. First, we need a method that returns a CameraResolution and takes a List of CameraResolution, let’s have a look at that one first:

public CameraResolution SelectLowestResolutionMatchingDisplayAspectRatio(List<CameraResolution> availableResolutions)
{            
    CameraResolution result = null;

    //a tolerance of 0.1 should not be visible to the user
    double aspectTolerance = 0.1;
    var displayOrientationHeight = DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Orientation == DisplayOrientation.Portrait ? DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Height : DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Width;
    var displayOrientationWidth = DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Orientation == DisplayOrientation.Portrait ? DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Width : DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Height;

    //calculatiing our targetRatio
    var targetRatio = displayOrientationHeight / displayOrientationWidth;
    var targetHeight = displayOrientationHeight;
    var minDiff = double.MaxValue;

    //camera API lists all available resolutions from highest to lowest, perfect for us
    //making use of this sorting, following code runs some comparisons to select the lowest resolution that matches the screen aspect ratio and lies within tolerance
    //selecting the lowest makes Qr detection actual faster most of the time
    foreach (var r in availableResolutions.Where(r => Math.Abs(((double)r.Width / r.Height) - targetRatio) < aspectTolerance))
    {
            //slowly going down the list to the lowest matching solution with the correct aspect ratio
            if (Math.Abs(r.Height - targetHeight) < minDiff)
            minDiff = Math.Abs(r.Height - targetHeight);
            result = r;                
    }

    return result;
}

First, we are setting up a fixed tolerance for the aspect ratio. A value of 0.1 should not be recognizable for users. The next step is calculating the target ratio. I am using the Xamarin.Essentials API here, because it saves me some code and works both in Xamarin.Android only projects as well as Xamarin.Forms ones.

Before we are able to select the best matching resolution, we need to notice a few points:

  • lower resolutions result in faster QR detection (even with big ones)
  • preview resolutions are always presented landscape
  • the list of available resolutions is sorted from biggest to smallest

Considering these points, we are able to loop over the list of available resolutions. If the current ratio is out of our tolerance range, we ignore it and move on. By setting the minDiff double down with every iteration, we are moving down the list to arrive at the lowest possible resolution that matches our display’s aspect ratio best. In the case of my Nexus 5X 480×800 with an aspect ratio of 1.66666~, which matches the display aspect ratio of 1,66111~ pretty close.

Delegating the selection call

Now that we have our calculating method in place, we need to pass the method via the CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate to our MobileBarcodeScanningOptions.

If you are on Xamarin.Android, your code will look similar to this:

var options = new ZXing.Mobile.MobileBarcodeScanningOptions()
{
   PossibleFormats = new List<ZXing.BarcodeFormat>() { ZXing.BarcodeFormat.QR_CODE },
CameraResolutionSelector = new CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate(SelectLowestResolutionMatchingDisplayAspectRatio)
}

If you are on Xamarin.Forms, you will have to use the DependencyService to get to the same result (as the method above has to be written within the Android project):

var options = new ZXing.Mobile.MobileBarcodeScanningOptions()
{
   PossibleFormats = new List<ZXing.BarcodeFormat>() { ZXing.BarcodeFormat.QR_CODE },
CameraResolutionSelector = DependencyService.Get<IZXingHelper>().CameraResolutionSelectorDelegateImplementation
}

The result

Now that we have an updated resolution selection mechanism in place, the result is exactly what we expected, without any distortion:

matching camera preview

Remarks

In case none of the camera resolutions gets selected, the camera preview automatically uses the default resolution. In my tests with three devices, this is always the highest one. The default resolution normally matches the devices aspect ratio. As it is the highest, it will slow down the QR detection, however.

The ZXing.Net.Mobile library uses the deprecated Android.Hardware.Camera API and Android.FastCamera library on Android. The next step would be to migrate over to the Android.Hardware.Camera2 API, which makes the FastCamera library obsolete and is future proof. I had already a look into that step, as I need to advance in two projects (one personal and one at work) with QR scanning, however, I postponed this change.

Conclusion

For the time being, we are still able to use the deprecated mechanism of getting our camera preview right. After identifying the reason for the distortion, I got pretty fast to a workaround/solution that should fit most use cases. As devices and their specs are evolving, we are at least not left behind. I will do another writeup once I found the time to replace the deprecated API in my fork.

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

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Title Image Credit

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, Xamarin, 9 comments
Handle AtomicPay’s webhook with Microsoft Azure (Part 3/3) – sending push notifications with Notification Hub

Handle AtomicPay’s webhook with Microsoft Azure (Part 3/3) – sending push notifications with Notification Hub

Series overview

  1. Handle the incoming notification with an Azure Function (first post)
  2. Verify the invoice state within the Azure Function, but store the API credentials in the most secure way (second post)
  3. Send a push notification via Azure Notification Hub to all devices that have linked a merchant’s account to it (this post)

Preparations…

With Azure Notification Hub, we have one of the most powerful tools for sending push notifications out to connected devices. It is designed to handle multiple platforms, so let’s create a new Notification Hub in the Azure Portal. After logging in, select ‘Create a resource‘, followed by ‘Mobile‘ and a final click on ‘Notification Hub‘:

Azure: create a new Notification Hub

Fill in the details of the new Hub. Remember to select your already existing Resource Group and the same region that is used for your Azure Function:

Azure: new Notification Hub creation details

After about a minute, your newly created Notification Hub is ready to use. Select ‘Go to resource‘ to open it.

Azure Deployment finished

Now we are already able to connect to our first platform. For this sample, I will focus on Android. Login to the Firebase console with your Google account. Select ‘Add project‘ and configure your Android app (or add your existing, if you have already one like I do):

Firebase: Add or select project

After following all (self-explanatory) steps, scroll a bit down in the General tab of your Firebase project. You will find an entry like this:

Firebase: download google-services.json file

Download the ‘google-services.json‘-file. We will need it later in our Android app. Now select the ‘Cloud Messaging‘ tab. You will be presented with two keys – copy the upper one:

Firebase: copy server key

Go back to the Azure portal and select ‘Google (GCM/FCM)‘ in ‘Settings’ . Paste the earlier copied key and hit the ‘Save‘-Button:

Azure: paste Firebase server key and save

Now we need to authenticate our Azure Function to the Notification Hub. Select ‘Access Policies‘ in the ‘Manage’ section of your Hub and copy the lower ConnectionString with the ‘Listen,Manage,Send permission:

Azure: copy server ConnectionString

Open your Azure Function in a new tab. In the ‘Application settings‘, add a new setting and paste the ConnectionString. Add another one for the NotificationHub’s name:

Azure Function add Hub name and ConnectionString to Application settings

Go back to the Notification Hub and save the upper ConnectionString locally, as we need that one in our Android application later on

Back to code…

Now that we have prepared the Notification Hub on Azure, let’s write some code that actually sends out our notifications once our Function verified our AtomicPay invoice. In the last post, we already rewrote some of the code in preparation of the final step, our push notifications.

Triggering push notifications

Before we will be able to modify our Function code to actually send the notification, we need to install an additional NuGet package: Microsoft.Azure.Webjobs.Extensions.NotificationHub. Please note that I only was able to get this all up and running with version 1.2.0, version 1.3.0 seems to be not compatible with v1 Functions.

Triggering push notifications can be broken down into these 3 steps:

  1. create a Hub client from the ConnectionString
  2. create the content of the notification
  3. finally send the notification

This translates into this Task inside our InvoiceVerifier class:

        private static async Task TriggerPushNotification(InvoiceInfoDetails invoiceInfoDetails, string accId)
        {
            //we need full shared access connection string (server side)
            var connectionString = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["NotifHubConnectionString"];
            var hubName = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["NotifHubName"];

            var hub = NotificationHubClient.CreateClientFromConnectionString(connectionString, hubName);

            var templateParams = new Dictionary<string, string>();
            templateParams["body"] = $"Received payment for invoice id: {invoiceInfoDetails.InvoiceId} ({invoiceInfoDetails.Status.ToString()})";

            var outcome = await hub.SendTemplateNotificationAsync(templateParams, $"accId:{accId}");

            _traceWriter.Info($"attempted to inform merchant {accId} of payment via push");
        }

We are loading the ConnectionString and the Hub’s name from our Function’s Application settings and create a new client connection using these two safely stored properties. To keep this sample simple, I am using a templated notification that can be used across all supported platforms. The receiver is responsible for the handling of this template (we’ll see how later in this post). Finally, we are sending out the notification to the native platforms, where they will be distributed (in our case, via Firebase Cloud Messaging). By including the accId:{accId}tag, we are sending the push notification only to the devices that were registered with that specific merchant account.

Of course, this nicely written method does nothing until we actually use it. Let’s update our Run method. we only need to add one line for our test in the switch that handles the returned invoiceInfoDetails:

switch (invoiceInfoDetails.Status)
{
	case AtomicPay.Entity.InvoiceStatus.Paid:
	case AtomicPay.Entity.InvoiceStatus.PaidAfterExpiry:
	case AtomicPay.Entity.InvoiceStatus.Overpaid:
	case AtomicPay.Entity.InvoiceStatus.Complete:
		log.Info($"invoice with id {invoiceInfoDetails.InvoiceId} is paid");
		await TriggerPushNotification(invoiceInfoDetails, accId);
		break;
	default:
		log.Info($"invoice with id {invoiceInfoDetails.InvoiceId} is not yet paid");
		//todo: this will trigger additional status handling in future
		break;
}

Publish your updated Azure Function. Our Azure Function is now connected to a Notification Hub and is able to send out push notifications. Of course, push notifications ending in Nomandsland are boring. So let’s go ahead.

Receiving the push notifications

Create a new Xamarin.Android app (with XAML or without, your choice). Of course, also here we have some additional setup to perform.

Import google-services.json

Add the google-services.json we downloaded before from Firebase to your project. Set its Build Action to GoogleServicesJson in the Properties window. I needed to restart Visual Studio to be able to select this option after adding the file.

VS-google-services-build-action

Installing NuGet packages

Of course, we also need to install some additional NuGet packages:

The second step involves some changes to the AndroidManifest, giving the Firebase package some permissions and handle its intents in the application tag:

<receiver android:name="com.google.firebase.iid.FirebaseInstanceIdInternalReceiver" android:exported="false" />
<receiver android:name="com.google.firebase.iid.FirebaseInstanceIdReceiver" android:exported="true" android:permission="com.google.android.c2dm.permission.SEND">
	<intent-filter>
		<action android:name="com.google.android.c2dm.intent.RECEIVE" />
		<action android:name="com.google.android.c2dm.intent.REGISTRATION" />
		<category android:name="${applicationId}" />
	</intent-filter>
</receiver>

Next, we will add a new constants class:

public static class Constants
{
	public const string ListenConnectionString = "<Listen connection string>";
	public const string NotificationHubName = "<hub name>";
}

On the client, we are only using the lower permission ConnectionString we copied earlier from the Azure Notification Hub.

Connecting to Firebase

As our Azure Notification Hub sends notifications via Firebase, Google’s native messaging handler, we need a service that connects our app. The service requests a token (the Xamarin library does all that complex stuff for us) that we’ll need to actually register the device for the notifications. Add a new class called PlatformFirebaseIidService and decorate it with the Service attribute. Besides that, we need to register our interest on the com.google.firebase.INSTANCE_ID_EVENT, which will call into the OnTokenRefresh() method we will override. We’ll end up like this:

[Service]
[IntentFilter(new[] { "com.google.firebase.INSTANCE_ID_EVENT" })]
public class PlatformFirebaseIidService : FirebaseInstanceIdService
{
	const string TAG = "PlatformFirebaseIidService";
	NotificationHub _hub;

	public override void OnTokenRefresh()
	{
		var refreshedToken = FirebaseInstanceId.Instance.Token;
		Log.Debug(TAG, "FCM token: " + refreshedToken);		
	}
}

Now that we hold a fresh Firebase instance token, we can register our app for receiving push notifications. To do this, we’re adding an new method:

void SendRegistrationToServer(string token, List<string> tags = null)
{
	// Register with Notification Hubs
	_hub = new NotificationHub(Constants.NotificationHubName, Constants.ListenConnectionString, this);

	if (tags == null)
		tags = new List<string>() { };

	var templateBody = "{\"data\":{\"message\":\"$(body)\"}}";

	//this one registers a template that can be used cross platform
	//just make sure the template is the same on iOS, Windows, etc.
	var registerTemplate = _hub.RegisterTemplate(token, "defaultTemplate", templateBody, tags.ToArray());
	Log.Debug(TAG, $"Successful registration of Template {registerTemplate.RegistrationId}");
}

Let me break this method down. Of course, we need to connect to our Notification Hub, which is responsible for the decision if our client is a valid receiver or not. If we add tags, they will get send together with the registration. We will add the merchant’s account Id to filter the receiver. As we are sending notifications using a template, we need to register for the template that gets filled by our Azure Function. One thing is left, calling this method after obtaining a token in the OnTokenRefresh override:

SendRegistrationToServer(refreshedToken, new List<string>() { "accId:<yourAccId>" });

Handling incoming firebase messages

Now that our client is registered with both Firebase and the Azure Notification Hub, of course we want it to be able to receive the pushed messages. To achieve this, we need another Service. Add a new class called PlatformFirebaseMessagingService and decorate it once again with the Service attribute. This time, we are interested in the com.google.firebase.MESSAGING_EVENT intent, so let’s add also this one. The service is responsible for parsing our payload and actually trigger a notification helper to send the notification. Here is the code of the service:

[Service]
[IntentFilter(new[] { "com.google.firebase.MESSAGING_EVENT" })]
public class PlatformFirebaseMessagingService : FirebaseMessagingService
{
	const string TAG = "PlatformFirebaseMessagingService";

	public override void OnMessageReceived(RemoteMessage message)
	{
		Log.Debug(TAG, "From: " + message.From);
		string title = "Azure Test message";
		string body = null;

		if (message.GetNotification() != null)
		{
			//These is how most messages will be received
			body = message.GetNotification().Body;
			title = message.GetNotification().Title;
			Log.Debug(TAG, $"Notification Message Body: {body}");
		}
		else
		{
			//Only used for debugging payloads sent from the Azure portal
			body = message.Data.Values.First();
		}

		var notification = NotificationHelper.Instance.GetNotificationBuilder(title, body);
		NotificationHelper.Instance.Notify(1001, notification);

	}
}

Of course, you are curious about the NotificationHelper class. Let’s have a look. Besides being a Singleton, we need to retrieve an instance of the system’s NotificationService. As we do not have multiple notification channels in this sample, it is enough to declare both the name and its id in two constants. In the constructor of the class, we are initializing the channel:

public class NotificationHelper : ContextWrapper
{
	private static NotificationHelper _instance;

	public static NotificationHelper Instance => _instance ?? (_instance = new NotificationHelper(Application.Context));
	
	const string NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_ID = "default";
	const string NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_NAME = "notif_test_channel";

	NotificationManager _manager;
	NotificationManager Manager => _manager ?? (_manager = (NotificationManager)GetSystemService(NotificationService));

	public NotificationHelper(Context context) : base(context)
	{
		var channel = new NotificationChannel(NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_ID, NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_NAME, NotificationImportance.Default);
		channel.EnableVibration(true);
		channel.LockscreenVisibility = NotificationVisibility.Public;
		
		this.Manager.CreateNotificationChannel(channel);
	}
}

Creating the Notifications involves the Notificiation.Builder class. We’re simplifying the process for us with this method:

public Notification.Builder GetNotificationBuilder(string title, string body)
{
	var intent = new Intent(this.ApplicationContext, typeof(MainActivity));
	intent.AddFlags(ActivityFlags.ClearTop);
	var pendingIntent = PendingIntent.GetActivity(this, 0, intent, PendingIntentFlags.OneShot);

	return new Notification.Builder(this.ApplicationContext, NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_ID)
		.SetContentTitle(title)
		.SetContentText(body)
		.SetSmallIcon(Resource.Drawable.ic_launcher)
		.SetAutoCancel(true)
		.SetContentIntent(pendingIntent);
}

To read more about creation notifications, have a look at the docs for local (= client side) notifications.

Last but not least, we need to inform the system’s notification service to show the notification. The final helper method to this looks like this:

public void Notify(int id, Notification.Builder notificationBuilder)
{
	this.Manager.Notify(id, notificationBuilder.Build());
}

To test the notification, we have two options – one is to send a test notification via the Notification Hub, the other is to use Postman once again to create to trigger our Azure Function. In both cases, your result should be a notification on your device (after you deployed and run the application without the debugger being attached).

atomicpay-webhook-notification

Conclusion

In this last post of the series, I showed you all steps that are needed to send out push notifications utilizing an Azure Notification Hub. It takes a bit of setup in the beginning, but the code involved is pretty easy and straight forward.

Now that the series is complete, you can have a look at the source code on Github. You need to add your own google-services.json file and your own keys as well to run the sample. As always, I hope this post, as well as this series, is helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Android, Azure, Dev Stories, Xamarin, 1 comment
Use NuGets for your common Xamarin (Forms) code (and automate the creation process)

Use NuGets for your common Xamarin (Forms) code (and automate the creation process)

Internal libraries

Writing (or copy and pasting) the same code over and over again is one of those things I try to avoid when writing code. For quite some time, I already organize such code in libraries. Until last year, this required quite some work managing all libraries for each Xamarin platform I used. Luckily, the MSBuild SDK Extras extensions showed up and made everything a whole lot easier, especially after James Montemagno did a detailed explanation on how to get the most out of it for Xamarin plugins/libraries.

Getting started

Even if I repeat some of the steps of James’ post, I’ll start from scratch on the setup part here. I hope to make the whole process straight forward for everyone – that’s why I think it makes sense to show each and every step. Please make sure you are using the new .csproj type. If you need a refresh on that, you can check my post about migrating to it (if needed).

MSBuild.Sdk.Extras

The first step is pulling in MSBuild.Sdk.Extras, which will enable us to target multiple platforms in one single library. For this, we need a global.json file in the solution folder. Right click on the solution name and select ‘Open Folder in File Explorer‘, then just add a new text file and name it appropriately.

The next step is to define the version of the MSBuild.SDK.Extras library we want to use. The current version is 1.6.65, so let’s define it in the file. Just click the ‘Solution and Folders‘ button to find the file in Visual Studio:

switch to folder view

Add these lines into the file and save it:

{
  "msbuild-sdks": {
    "MSBuild.Sdk.Extras": "1.6.65"
  }
}

Modifying the project file

Switch back to the Solution view and right click on the .csproj file. Select ‘Edit [ProjectName].csproj‘. Let’s modify and add the project definitions. We’ll start right in the first line. Replace the first line to pull in the MSBuild.Sdk.Extras:

<Project Sdk="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras">

Next, we’re separating the Version tag. This will ensure that we’ll find it very quickly in future within the file:

  <!--separated for accessibility-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <Version>1.0.0.0</Version>
  </PropertyGroup>

Now we are enabling multiple targets, in this case our Xamarin platforms. Please note that there are two separated versions – one that includes UWP and one that does not. I thought I would be fine to remove the non-UWP one if I include UWP and was precent with some strange build errors that where resolved only by re-adding the deleted line. I do not remember the reason, but I made a comment in my template to not remove it – so let’s just keep it that way.

  <!--make it multi-platform library!-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <UseFullSemVerForNuGet>false</UseFullSemVerForNuGet>
    <!--we are handling compile items ourselves below with a custom naming scheme-->
    <EnableDefaultCompileItems>false</EnableDefaultCompileItems>
    <KEEP ALL THREE IF YOU ADD UWP!-->
    <TargetFrameworks></TargetFrameworks>
    <TargetFrameworks Condition=" '$(OS)' == 'Windows_NT' ">netstandard2.0;MonoAndroid81;Xamarin.iOS10;uap10.0.16299;</TargetFrameworks>
    <TargetFrameworks Condition=" '$(OS)' != 'Windows_NT' ">netstandard2.0;MonoAndroid81;Xamarin.iOS10;</TargetFrameworks>
  </PropertyGroup>

Now we will add some default NuGet packages into the project and make sure our file get included only on the correct platform. We follow a simple file naming scheme (Xamarin.Essentials uses the same):

[Class].[platform].cs

This way, we are able to add all platform specific code together with the shared entry point in a single folder. Let’ start with shared items. These will be available on all platforms listed in the PropertyGroup above:

  <!--shared items-->
  <ItemGroup>
    <!--keeping this one ensures everything goes smooth-->
    <PackageReference Include="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras" Version="1.6.65" PrivateAssets="All" />

    <!--most commonly used (by me)-->
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Forms" Version="3.4.0.1029999" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Essentials" Version="1.0.1" />

    <!--include content, exclude obj and bin folders-->
    <None Include="**\*.cs;**\*.xml;**\*.axml;**\*.png;**\*.xaml" Exclude="obj\**\*.*;bin\**\*.*;bin;obj" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.shared.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

The ‘**\‘ part in the Include property of the Compile tag ensures MSBuild includes also classes in subfolders. Now let’s add some platform specific rules to the project:

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('netstandard')) ">
    <Compile Include="**\*.netstandard.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('uap10.0')) ">
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.NETCore.UniversalWindowsPlatform" Version="6.1.9" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.uwp.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('MonoAndroid')) ">
    <!--need to reference all those libs to get latest minimum Android SDK version (requirement by Google)... #sigh-->
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Annotations" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Compat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Core.Utils" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.CustomTabs" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v4" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Design" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.AppCompat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.CardView" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.Palette" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.MediaRouter" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Core.UI" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Fragment" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Media.Compat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.RecyclerView" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Transition" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.android.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('Xamarin.iOS')) ">
    <Compile Include="**\*.ios.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

Two side notes:

  • Do not reference version 6.2.2 of the Microsoft.NETCore.UniversalWindowsPlatform NuGet. There seems to be bug in there that will lead to rejection of your app from the Microsoft Store. Just keep 6.1.9 (for the moment).
  • You may not need all of the Xamarin.Android packages, but there are a bunch of dependencies between them and others, so I decided to keep them all

If you have followed along, hit the save button and close the .csproj file. Verifying everything went well is pretty easy – your solution structure should look like this:

multi-targeting-project

Before we’ll have a look at the NuGet creation part of this post, let’s add some sample code. Just insert this into static partial classes with the appropriate naming scheme for every platform and edit the code to match the platform. The .shared version of this should be empty (for this sample).

     public static partial class Hello
    {
        public static string Name { get; set; }

        public static string Platform { get; set; }

        public static  void Print()
        {
            if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(Name) && !string.IsNullOrEmpty(Platform))
                System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"Hello {Name} from {Platform}");
            else
                System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"Hello unkown person from {Device.Android}");
        }
    }

Normally, this would be a Renderer or other platform specific code. You should get the idea.

Preparing NuGet package creation

We will now prepare our solution to automatically generate NuGet packages both for DEBUG and RELEASE configurations. Once the packages are created, we will push it to a local (or network) file folder, which serves as our local NuGet-Server. This will fit for most Indie-developers – which tend to not replicate a full blown enterprise infrastructure for their DevOps needs. I will also mention how you could push the packages to an internal NuGet server on a sideline (we are using a similar setup at work).

Adding NuGet Push configurations

One thing we want to make sure is that we are not going to push packages on every compilation of our library. That’s why we need to separate configurations. To add new configurations, open the Configuration Manager in Visual Studio:

In the Configuration Manager dialog, select the ‘<New…>‘ option from the ‘Active solution configuration‘ ComboBox:

Name the new config to fit your needs, I just use DebugNuget which will signal that we are pushing the NuGet package for distribution. I am copying the settings from the Debug configuration and let Visual Studio add the configurations to project files within the solution. Repeat the same for Release configuration.

The result should look like this:

Modifying the project file (again)

If you head over to your project file, you will see the Configurations tag has new entries:

  <PropertyGroup>
    <Configurations>Debug;Release;DebugNuget;ReleaseNuget</Configurations>
  </PropertyGroup>

Next, add the properties of your assembly and package:

    <!--assmebly properties-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <AssemblyName>XamarinNugets</AssemblyName>
    <RootNamespace>XamarinNugets</RootNamespace>
    <Product>XamarinNugets</Product>
    <AssemblyVersion>$(Version)</AssemblyVersion>
    <AssemblyFileVersion>$(Version)</AssemblyFileVersion>
    <NeutralLanguage>en</NeutralLanguage>
    <LangVersion>7.1</LangVersion>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <!--nuget package properties-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <PackageId>XamarinNugets</PackageId>
    <PackageLicenseUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</PackageLicenseUrl>
    <PackageProjectUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</PackageProjectUrl>
    <RepositoryUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</RepositoryUrl>

    <PackageReleaseNotes>Xamarin Nugets sample package</PackageReleaseNotes>
    <PackageTags>xamarin, windows, ios, android, xamarin.forms, plugin</PackageTags>

    <Title>Xamarin Nugets</Title>
    <Summary>Xamarin Nugets sample package</Summary>
    <Description>Xamarin Nugets sample package</Description>

    <Owners>MSiccDev Software Development</Owners>
    <Authors>MSiccDev Software Development</Authors>
    <Copyright>MSiccDev Software Development</Copyright>
  </PropertyGroup>

Configuration specific properties

Now we will add some configuration specific PropertyGroups that control if a package will be created.

Debug and DebugNuget

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Debug' ">
    <DefineConstants>DEBUG</DefineConstants>
    <!--making this pre-release-->
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)-pre</PackageVersion>
    <!--needed for debugging!-->
    <DebugType>full</DebugType>
    <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='DebugNuget' ">
    <DefineConstants>DEBUG</DefineConstants>
    <!--enable package creation-->
    <GeneratePackageOnBuild>true</GeneratePackageOnBuild>
    <!--making this pre-release-->
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)-pre</PackageVersion>
    <!--needed for debugging!-->
    <DebugType>full</DebugType>
    <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
    <GenerateDocumentationFile>false</GenerateDocumentationFile>
    <!--this makes msbuild creating src folder inside the symbols package-->
    <IncludeSource>True</IncludeSource>
    <IncludeSymbols>True</IncludeSymbols>
  </PropertyGroup>

The Debug configuration enables us to step into the Debug code while we are referencing the project directly during development, while the DebugNuget configuration will also generate a NuGet package including Source and Symbols. This is helpful once you find a bug in the NuGet package and allows us to step into this code also if we reference the NuGet instead of the project. Both configurations will add ‘-pre‘ to the version, making these packages only appear if you tick the ‘Include prerelease‘ CheckBox in the NuGet Package Manager.

Release and ReleaseNuget

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Release' ">
    <DefineConstants>RELEASE</DefineConstants>
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)</PackageVersion>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='ReleaseNuget' ">
    <DefineConstants>RELEASE</DefineConstants>
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)</PackageVersion>
    <!--enable package creation-->
    <GeneratePackageOnBuild>true</GeneratePackageOnBuild>
    <!--include pdb for analytic services-->
    <DebugType>pdbonly</DebugType>
    <GenerateDocumentationFile>true</GenerateDocumentationFile>
  </PropertyGroup>

The relase configuration goes well with less settings. We do not generate a separated symbols-package here, as the .pdb-file without the source will do well in most cases.

Adding Build Targets

We are close to finish our implementation already. Of course, we want to make sure we push only the latest packages. To ensure this, we are cleaning all generated NuGet packages before we build the project/solution:

  <!--cleaning older nugets-->
  <Target Name="CleanOldNupkg" BeforeTargets="Build">
    <ItemGroup>
      <FilesToDelete Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.nupkg"></FilesToDelete>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Delete Files="@(FilesToDelete)" />
    <Message Text="Old nupkg in $(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration) deleted." Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

MSBuild provides a lot of options to configure. We are setting the BeforeTargets property of the target to Build, so once we Clean/Build/Rebuild, all old packages will be deleted by the Delete command. Finally, we are printing a message to confirm the deletion.

Pushing the packages

After completing all these steps above, we are ready to distribute our packages. In our case, we are copying the packages to a local folder with the Copy command.

  <!--pushing to local folder (or network path)-->
  <Target Name="PushDebug" AfterTargets="Pack" Condition="'$(Configuration)'=='DebugNuget'">
    <ItemGroup>
      <PackageToCopy Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.symbols.nupkg"></PackageToCopy>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Copy SourceFiles="@(PackageToCopy)" DestinationFolder="C:\TempLocNuget" />
    <Message Text="Copied '@(PackageToCopy)' to local Nuget folder" Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

  <Target Name="PushRelease" AfterTargets="Pack" Condition="'$(Configuration)'=='ReleaseNuget'">
    <ItemGroup>
      <PackageToCopy Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.nupkg"></PackageToCopy>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Copy SourceFiles="@(PackageToCopy)" DestinationFolder="C:\TempLocNuget" />
    <Message Text="Copied '@(PackageToCopy)' to local Nuget folder" Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

Please note that the local folder could be replaced by a network path. You have to ensure the availability of that path – which adds in some additional work if you choose this route.

If you’re running a full NuGet server (as often happens in Enterprise environments), you can push the packages with this command (instead of the Copy command):

<Exec Command="NuGet push "$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.symbols.nupkg" [YourPublishKey] -Source [YourNugetServerUrl]" />

The result

If we now select the DebugNuget/ReleaseNuget configuration, Visual Studio will create our NuGet package and push it to our Nuget folder/server:

Let’s have a look into the NuGet package as well. Open your file location defined above and search your package:

As you can see, the Copy command executed successfully. To inspect NuGet packages, you need the NuGet Package Explorer app. Once installed, just double click the package to view its contents. Your result should be similar to this for the DebugNuGet package:

As you can see, we have both the .pdb files as well as the source in our package as intended.

Conclusion

Even as an Indie developer, you can take advantage of the DevOps options provided with Visual Studio and MSBuild. The MSBuild.Sdk.Extras package enables us to maintain a multi-targeting package for our Xamarin(.Forms) code. The whole process needs some setup, but once you have performed the steps above, extending your libraries is just fast forward.

I planned to write this post for quite some time, and I am happy with doing it as my contribution to the #XamarinMonth (initiated by Luis Matos). As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. Feel free to clone and play with the full sample I uploaded on Github.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Helpful links:

Title image credit

P.S. Feel free to download the official app for my blog (that uses a lot of what I am blogging about):
iOS | Android | Windows 10

Posted by msicc in Azure, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 3 comments
A faster way to add image assets to your Xamarin.iOS project in Visual Studio 2017

A faster way to add image assets to your Xamarin.iOS project in Visual Studio 2017

While Visual Studio has an editor that shall help to add new image assets to the project, it is pretty slow when adding a bunch of new images. If you have to add a lot of images to add, it even crashes once in while, which can be annoying. Because I was in the process of adding more than a hundred images for porting my first app ever from Windows Phone to iOS and Android, I searched for a faster way – and found it.

What’s going on under the hood?

When you add an imageset to your assets structure, Visual Studio does quite some work. These are the steps that are done:

  1. creation of a folder for the imageset in the Assets folder
  2. creation of a Contents.jsonfile
  3. modification of the Contents.json file
  4. modification of the .csproj file

This takes some time for every image, and Visual Studio seems to be quite busy with these steps. After analyzing the way imagesets get added, I immediately recognized that I am faster than Visual Studio if I do that work manually.

How to add the assets – step by step

  1. right click on the project in Solution Explorer and select ‘Open Folder in File Explorer‘ and find the ‘Assets‘ folder  open_folder_in_file_explorer
  2. create a new folder in this format: ‘[yourassetname].imageset
  3. add your image to the folder
  4. create a new file with the name Contents.json   add_image_and_contents_file
  5. open the file (I use Notepad++ for such operations) and add this minimum required jsonto it:
    {
      "images": [
        {
          "scale": "1x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "scale": "2x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "scale": "3x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "idiom": "universal"
        }
      ],
      "properties": {
        "template-rendering-intent": ""
      },
      "info": {
        "version": 1,
        "author": ""
      }
    }
  6. go back to Visual Studio, right click on the project again and select ‘Unload Projectunload_project
  7. right click again and select ‘Edit [yourprojectname].iOS.csproj‘ edit_ios_csproj
  8. find the ItemGroup with the Assets
  9. inside the ItemGroup, add your imageset with these two entries:
    <ImageAsset Include="Assets.xcassets\[yourassetname].imageset\[yourimage].png">
      <Visible>false</Visible>
    </ImageAsset>
    <ImageAsset Include="Assets.xcassets\[yourassetname].imageset\Contents.json">
      <Visible>false</Visible>
    </ImageAsset>   
    
  10. close the file and reload the project by selecting it from the context menu in Solution Explorer

If you followed this steps, your assets should be visible immediately:
assets_with_added_imagesets

I did not measure the time exactly, but I felt I was significantly faster by adding all those images that way. Your mileage may vary, depending on the power of your dev machine.

Conclusion

Features like the AssetManager for iOS in Visual Studio are nice to have, but some have some serious performance problems (most of them are already known). By taking over the process manually, one can be a lot faster than a built-in feature. That said, like always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 1 comment
Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I: Command Chaining

Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I: Command Chaining

The problem

Sometimes, we want to invoke a method that is available via code for a control. Due to the abstraction of our MVVM application, the ViewModel has no access to all those methods that are available if we would access the control via code. There are several approaches to solve this problem. In one of my recent projects, I needed to invoke a method of a custom control, which should be routed into the platform renderers I wrote for such a custom control. I remembered that I have indeed read quite a few times about command chaining for such cases and tried to implement it. In the beginning, it may sound weird to do this, but the more often I see this technique, the more I like it.

Simple Demo control

For demo purposes, I created this really simple Xamarin.Forms user control:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<ContentView xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms" 
             xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml"
             x:Class="XfMvvmLight.Controls.CommandChainingDemoControl">
  <ContentView.Content>
      <StackLayout HorizontalOptions="FillAndExpand" VerticalOptions="FillAndExpand">
            <Label x:Name="LabelFilledFromBehind" Margin="12" FontSize="Large" />   
        </StackLayout>
  </ContentView.Content>
</ContentView>

As you can see, there is just a label without text. We will write the necessary code to fill this label with some text just by invoking a method in the code behind. To be able to do so, we need a BindableProperty (once again) to get our foot into the door of the control:

public static BindableProperty DemoCommandProperty = BindableProperty.Create(nameof(DemoCommand), typeof(ICommand), typeof(CommandChainingDemoControl), null, BindingMode.OneWayToSource);

public ICommand DemoCommand
{
    get => (ICommand)GetValue(DemoCommandProperty);
    set => SetValue(DemoCommandProperty, value);
}

The implementation is pretty straightforward. We have done this already during this series, so you should be familiar if you were following. One thing, however, is different. For this BindableProperty, we are using BindingMode.OneWayToSource. By doing so, we are basically making it a read-only property, which sends its changes only down to the ViewModel (the source). If we would not do this, the ViewModel could change the property, which we do not want here.

Now we have the BindableProperty in place, we need to create an instance of the Command that will be sent down to the ViewModel. We are doing this as soon as the control is instantiated in the constructor:

public CommandChainingDemoControl()
      {
          InitializeComponent();

          this.DemoCommand = new Command(() =>
          {
              FillFromBehind();
          });
      }

      private void FillFromBehind()
      {
          this.LabelFilledFromBehind.Text = "Text was empty, but we used command chaining to show this text inside a control.";
      }

That’s all we need to do in the code behind.

ViewModel

For this demo, I created a new page and a corresponding ViewModel in the demo project. Here is the very basic ViewModel code:

using System.Windows.Input;
using GalaSoft.MvvmLight.Command;

namespace XfMvvmLight.ViewModel
{
    public class CommandChainingDemoViewModel : XfNavViewModelBase
    {
        private ICommand _invokeDemoCommand;
        private RelayCommand _demo1Command;

        public CommandChainingDemoViewModel()
        {
        }

        public ICommand InvokeDemoCommand { get => _invokeDemoCommand; set => Set(ref _invokeDemoCommand, value); }

        public RelayCommand Demo1Command => _demo1Command ?? (_demo1Command = new RelayCommand(() =>
        {
            this.InvokeDemoCommand?.Execute(null);
        }));
    }
}

As you can see, the ViewModel includes two Commands. One is the pure ICommand implementation that gets its value from the OneWayToSource-Binding. We are not using MVVMLight’s RelayCommand here to avoid casting between types, which always led to an exception when I tested the implementation first. The second command is bound to a button in the CommandChainingDemoPage and will be the trigger to execute the InvokeDemoCommand.

Final steps

The final steps are just a few simple ones. We need to connect the  InvokeDemoCommand to the user control we created earlier, while we need to bind the Demo1Commandto the corresponding button in the view. This is the page’s code after doing so:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<baseCtrl:XfNavContentPage
    xmlns:baseCtrl="clr-namespace:XfMvvmLight.BaseControls" xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms"
             xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml"
             xmlns:ctrl="clr-namespace:XfMvvmLight.Controls;assembly=XfMvvmLight"
             x:Class="XfMvvmLight.View.CommandChainingDemoPage" RegisteredPageKey="{Binding CommandChainingDemoPageKey, Source=Locator}">
    <ContentPage.BindingContext>
        <Binding Path="CommandChainingDemoVm" Source="{StaticResource Locator}" />
    </ContentPage.BindingContext>

    <Grid>
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="*"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto"/>
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>

        <ctrl:CommandChainingDemoControl Grid.Row="0" DemoCommand="{Binding InvokeDemoCommand, Mode=OneWayToSource}" Margin="12"></ctrl:CommandChainingDemoControl>

        <Button Text="Execute Command Chaining" Command="{Binding Demo1Command}" Margin="12" Grid.Row="1" />

    </Grid>
</baseCtrl:XfNavContentPage>

One thing to point out is that we are also specifying the OneWayToSource binding here once again. It should work with normal binding, but it I recommend to do like I did, which makes the code easier to understand for others (and of course yourself). That’s all – we have now a working command chain that invokes a method inside the user control from our ViewModel.

Conclusion

Command chaining can be a convenient way to invoke actions on controls that are otherwise not possible due to the abstraction of layers in MVVM. Once you got the concept, they are pretty easy to implement. This technique is also usable outside of Xamarin.Forms, so do not hesitate to use it out there. Just remember the needed steps:

  • create a user control (or a derived one if you need to call a method on framework controls)
  • add a BindableProperty/DependecyProperty and set its default binding mode to OneWayToSource
  • instantiate the BindableProperty/DependecyProperty inside the constructor of the user control
  • pass the method call/code into the Action part of the newly created Command  instance
  • create the commands in the ViewModel
  • connect the Commands to your final view implementation

Like I wrote earlier, I came across this (again) when I was writing a custom Xamarin.Forms control with renderers, where I had to invoke methods inside the renderer from my ViewModel. Other techniques that I saw to solve this is using Messengers (be it the one from MVVMLight or the Xamarin.Forms Messenger implementation) or the good old Boolean switch implementation (uses also a BindableProperty/DependecyProperty). I decided to use the command chaining approach as it is pretty elegant in my eyes and not that complicated to implement.

The series’ sample project is updated and available here on Github. Like always, I hope this post is useful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!


all articles of this series

title image credit

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 7 comments
Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I: migrating the Forms project and MVVMLight to .NET Standard

Xamarin Forms, the MVVMLight Toolkit and I: migrating the Forms project and MVVMLight to .NET Standard

When I started this series, Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms did not fully support .NET Standard. The sample project for this series has still a portable class library, and as I wanted to blog on another topic, I got reminded that I never updated the project. This post will be all about the change to .NET Standard, focusing on the Xamarin.Forms project as well as the MVVMLight library, which is also available as a .NET Standard version in the meantime.

Step-by-Step

I have done the necessary conversion steps already quite a few times, and to get you through the conversion very quickly, I will show you a set of screenshots. Where applicable, I will provide also some XML snippets that you can copy and paste.

Step 1

step1_unload project

The first step is to unload the project file. To do so, select your Xamarin Forms project in Solution Explorer and right click again on it bring up the context menu. From there, select “Unload Project“.

Step 2

step2_edit_csproj

Next, right-click the selected Xamarin.Forms project again to make the context menu visible once again. From there select “Edit [PROJECTNAME].csproj” to open up the file.

Step 3

step3_replace_all

Now that the file is open, press “CTRL + A”, followed by “DEL”. Seriously, just do it. Once the file is empty, copy these lines and paste them into your now empty file:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">

  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFramework>netstandard2.0</TargetFramework>
  </PropertyGroup>

</Project>

Step 4

step4_open_packages_config

This step is not really necessary, but I want to point one thing out. The old PCL-project type has listed quite a bunch of libraries in the packages.config file. These are all NuGet packages necessary to make the app actually run (they get pulled in during the install of a NuGet package as dependencies). Now that we are converting, we are getting rid of the packages.config file. You can delete right away in the Solution Explorer. We will “install” the needed packages (marked with the arrows) in

Step 5

step5_changed_csproj

For “installing” NuGet packages into the converted project, we are adding a new ItemGroup to the XML-File. The Package System.ValueTuple is referenced – because in this series’ sample project we have some code in there that uses it. The absolute minimum you need to get it running is:

<!--
Template for Nuget Packages:
<ItemGroup>
  <PackageReference Include="" Version="" />
</ItemGroup>
-->

<ItemGroup>
  <!--MvvmLight has changed, so do we!-->
  <PackageReference Include="MvvmLightLibsStd10" Version="5.4.1" />
  <!--needed references-->
  <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Forms" Version="3.1.0.583944" />
</ItemGroup>

If you have other NuGet packages, just add them into this item group. They will get installed in the correct version if you follow this tutorial until the end.

You might have noticed that the MVVMLight package I am inserting here is not the same as before. This is absolutely true, but for a reason. Laurent Bugnion has published the .NET Standard version quite some time ago. If you want to read his blog post, you can find it here.

The second change I want to outline is DebugTypesettings. These are also not set in that way if you create a new project that is already .NET Standard. In order to enable debugging of your Xamarin.Forms code, however, you absolutely should also add these lines:

<!--these enable debugging in the Forms project-->
<PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Debug' ">
  <DebugType>full</DebugType>
  <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
  <GenerateDocumentationFile>false</GenerateDocumentationFile>
</PropertyGroup>
<PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Release' ">
  <DebugType>pdbonly</DebugType>
  <GenerateDocumentationFile>true</GenerateDocumentationFile>
</PropertyGroup>

These properties provide the debug symbols and the pdb-files a lot of analytic services are dependent on. Simple put, copy and paste them into your project. Hit the “Save”-Button and close the file.

Step 6

step6_delete_obj

Now that we have changed the project file, our already downloaded packages and created dll-files are no longer valid. To make sure we are able to compile, we need to delete the content of the obj folder in the Folder View of the Solution Explorer in Visual Studio.

Step 7

step7_delete_bin

Do the same to the content of the bin folder and switch back to the Solution View by hitting the Folder View-Button again

Step 8

step8_reload_project

Now we are finally able to reload the project as the base conversion is already done.

Step 9

step9_fix errors

Trying to be optimistic and hit the Rebuild button will result in these (and maybe even more) errors. The first one is one that we can solve very fast, while the second one is only the first in a row of errors.

Step 10

step10_delete_properties_folder

To solve the assembly attributes error, just go to the Folder View again and select the Properties folder. Bring up the context menu by right-clicking on it and select the delete option. Confirm the deletion to get rid of the folder. The new project style creates the assembly information based on the project file during build, which is causing the errors.

Step 11

step11_unneeded_reference

Now let’s face the next error. As the MVVMLight .NET Standard version does no longer rely on the CommonServiceLocatorlike before, we are able to remove this reference from our ViewModelLocator.

Step 12

step12_unneeded_instantiation

Of course, we now can also remove the instantiation call for the removed ServiceLocator.

Step 13

step13_replace_servicelocator_calls

In the ViewModel instance reference, replace ServiceLocator.Current with SimpleIoc.Default. Hit the save button again. You might have more errors to fix. Do so, and finally save your ViewModelLocator.

Step 14

step14_rebuild_succeeded

After all the work is done, we are now able to compile the .NET Standard version of our Xamarin.Forms project. If you fixed all of your errors in the step before, you should achieve a similar result like me and get a success message.

Final steps

Now that the Xamarin.Forms project is built, you might want to try to build all other projects in the solution as well.  The changed structure of the Xamarin.Forms project will have an impact also on the platform projects, that’s why I absolutely recommend deleting the contents of bin and object folders there, too. This will solve you a lot of work to get things to compile again.

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. If you have any questions, feel free to ping me on my social accounts or write a comment below. The next post in this series will involve again more code, so stay tuned –  it will be out soon.

Please find the updated sample project here on GitHub.

Happy coding, everyone!

title image credit

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 1 comment
Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: ensuring protection of sensitive data

Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: ensuring protection of sensitive data

Recap

Some of you might remember my posts about encryption for Android, iOS and Windows 10. If not, take a look here:

Xamarin Android: asymmetric encryption without any user input or hardcoded values

How to perform asymmetric encryption without user input/hardcoded values with Xamarin iOS

Using the built-in UWP data protection for data encryption

It is no coincidence that I wrote these three posts before starting with this Akavache series, as we’ll use those techniques to protect sensitive data with Akavache. So you might have a look first before you read on.

Creating a secure blob cache in Akavache

Akavache has a special type for saving sensitive data  – based on the interface ISecureBlobCache. The first step is to extend the IBlobCacheInstanceHelperinterface we implemented in the first post of this series:

    public interface IBlobCacheInstanceHelper
    {
        void Init();

        IBlobCache LocalMachineCache { get; set; }

        ISecureBlobCache SecretLocalMachineCache { get; set; }
    }

Of course, all three platform implementations of the IBlobCacheInstanceHelperinterface need to be updated as well. The code to add for all three platform is the same:

public ISecureBlobCache SecretLocalMachineCache { get; set; }     

private void GetSecretLocalMachineCache()
{
    var secretCache = new Lazy<ISecureBlobCache>(() =>
                                                 {
                                                     _filesystemProvider.CreateRecursive(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultSecretCacheDirectory()).SubscribeOn(BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler).Wait();
                                                     return new SQLiteEncryptedBlobCache(Path.Combine(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultSecretCacheDirectory(), "secret.db"), new PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider(), BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler);
                                                 });

    this.SecretLocalMachineCache = secretCache.Value;
}

As we will use the same name for all platform implementations, that’s already all we have to do here.

Platform specific encryption provider

Implementing the platform specific code is nothing new. Way before I used Akavache, others have already implemented solutions. The main issue is that there is no platform implementation for Android and iOS (and maybe others). My solution is inspired by this blog post by Kent Boogart, which is (as far as I can see), also broadly accepted amongst the community. The only thing I disliked about it was the requirement for a password – which either would be something reversible or causing a (maybe) bad user experience.

Akavache provides the IEncryptionProviderinterface, which contains two methods. One for encryption, the other one for decryption. Those two methods are working with byte[]both for input and output. You should be aware and know how to convert your data to that.

Implementing the  IEncryptionProvider interface

The implementation of Akavache’s encryption interface is following the same principle on all three platforms.

  • provide a reference to the internal TaskpoolSchedulerin the constructor
  • get an instance of our platform specific encryption provider
  • get or create keys (Android and iOS)
  • provide helper methods that perform encryption/decryption

Let’s have a look at the platform implementations. I will show the full class implementation and remarking them afterwards.

Android

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.Android.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private static readonly string KeyStoreName = $"{BlobCache.ApplicationName.ToLower()}_secureStore";

        private readonly PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper _encryptionKeyHelper;

        private const string TRANSFORMATION = "RSA/ECB/PKCS1Padding";
        private IKey _privateKey = null;
        private IKey _publicKey = null;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");

            _encryptionKeyHelper = new PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper(Application.Context, KeyStoreName);
            GetOrCreateKeys();
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block cannot be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block cannot be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }


        private void GetOrCreateKeys()
        {
            if (!_encryptionKeyHelper.KeysExist())
                _encryptionKeyHelper.CreateKeyPair();

            _privateKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPrivateKey();
            _publicKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPublicKey();
        }


        public byte[] Encrypt(byte[] rawBytes)
        {
            if (_publicKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_publicKey), "Public key cannot be null");
            }

            var cipher = Cipher.GetInstance(TRANSFORMATION);
            cipher.Init(CipherMode.EncryptMode, _publicKey);

            return cipher.DoFinal(rawBytes);
        }

        public byte[] Decrypt(byte[] encyrptedBytes)
        {
            if (_privateKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_privateKey), "Private key cannot be null");
            }

            var cipher = Cipher.GetInstance(TRANSFORMATION);
            cipher.Init(CipherMode.DecryptMode, _privateKey);

            return cipher.DoFinal(encyrptedBytes);
        }
    }

As you can see, I am getting Akavache’s  internal TaskpoolSchedulerin the constructor, like initial stated. Then, for this sample, I am using RSA encryption. The helper methods pretty much implement the same code like in the post about my KeyStore implementation. The only thing to do is to use these methods in the EncryptBlock and DecyrptBlock method implementations, which is done asynchronously via Observable.Start.

iOS

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.iOS.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private readonly PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper _encryptionKeyHelper;


        private SecKey _privateKey = null;
        private SecKey _publicKey  = null;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ??
                         throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");

            _encryptionKeyHelper = new PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper(BlobCache.ApplicationName.ToLower());
            GetOrCreateKeys();
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }


        private void GetOrCreateKeys()
        {
            if (!_encryptionKeyHelper.KeysExist())
                _encryptionKeyHelper.CreateKeyPair();

            _privateKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPrivateKey();
            _publicKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPublicKey();
        }

        private byte[] Encrypt(byte[] rawBytes)
        {
            if (_publicKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_publicKey), "Public key cannot be null");
            }

            var code = _publicKey.Encrypt(SecPadding.PKCS1, rawBytes, out var encryptedBytes);

            return code == SecStatusCode.Success ? encryptedBytes : null;
        }

        private byte[] Decrypt(byte[] encyrptedBytes)
        {
            if (_privateKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_privateKey), "Private key cannot be null");
            }

            var code = _privateKey.Decrypt(SecPadding.PKCS1, encyrptedBytes, out var decryptedBytes);

            return code == SecStatusCode.Success ? decryptedBytes : null;
        }

    }
}

The iOS implementation follows the same schema as the Android implementation. However, iOS uses the KeyChain, which makes the encryption helper methods itself different.

UWP

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.UWP.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private string _localUserDescriptor = "LOCAL=user";
        private string _localMachineDescriptor = "LOCAL=machine";

        public bool UseForAllUsers { get; set; } = false;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ??
                         throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block).GetAwaiter().GetResult(), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block).GetAwaiter().GetResult(), _scheduler);
        }


        public async Task<byte[]> Encrypt(byte[] data)
        {
            var provider = new DataProtectionProvider(UseForAllUsers ? _localMachineDescriptor : _localUserDescriptor);

            var contentBuffer = CryptographicBuffer.CreateFromByteArray(data);
            var contentInputStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();
            var protectedContentStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();

            //storing data in the stream
            IOutputStream outputStream = contentInputStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            var dataWriter = new DataWriter(outputStream);
            dataWriter.WriteBuffer(contentBuffer);
            await dataWriter.StoreAsync();
            await dataWriter.FlushAsync();

            //reopening in input mode
            IInputStream encodingInputStream = contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0);

            IOutputStream protectedOutputStream = protectedContentStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            await provider.ProtectStreamAsync(encodingInputStream, protectedOutputStream);
            await protectedOutputStream.FlushAsync();

            //verify that encryption happened
            var inputReader = new DataReader(contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));
            var protectedReader = new DataReader(protectedContentStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));

            await inputReader.LoadAsync((uint)contentInputStream.Size);
            await protectedReader.LoadAsync((uint)protectedContentStream.Size);

            var inputBuffer = inputReader.ReadBuffer((uint)contentInputStream.Size);
            var protectedBuffer = protectedReader.ReadBuffer((uint)protectedContentStream.Size);

            if (!CryptographicBuffer.Compare(inputBuffer, protectedBuffer))
            {
               return protectedBuffer.ToArray();
            }
            else
            {
                return null;
            }
        }

        public async Task<byte[]> Decrypt(byte[] encryptedBytes)
        {
            var provider = new DataProtectionProvider();

            var encryptedContentBuffer = CryptographicBuffer.CreateFromByteArray(encryptedBytes);
            var contentInputStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();
            var unprotectedContentStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();

            IOutputStream outputStream = contentInputStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            var dataWriter = new DataWriter(outputStream);
            dataWriter.WriteBuffer(encryptedContentBuffer);
            await dataWriter.StoreAsync();
            await dataWriter.FlushAsync();

            IInputStream decodingInputStream = contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0);

            IOutputStream protectedOutputStream = unprotectedContentStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            await provider.UnprotectStreamAsync(decodingInputStream, protectedOutputStream);
            await protectedOutputStream.FlushAsync();

            DataReader reader2 = new DataReader(unprotectedContentStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));
            await reader2.LoadAsync((uint)unprotectedContentStream.Size);
            IBuffer unprotectedBuffer = reader2.ReadBuffer((uint)unprotectedContentStream.Size);

            return unprotectedBuffer.ToArray();
        }
    }   
}

Last but not least, we have also an implementation for Windows applications. It is using the DataProtection API, which does handle all that key stuff and let’s us focus on the encryption itself. As the API is asynchronously, I am using .GetAwaiter().GetResult()Task extensions to make it compatible with Observable.Start.

Conclusion

Using the implementations above paired with our instance helper makes it easy to protect data in our apps. With all those data breach scandals and law changes around, this is one possible way secure way to handle sensitive data, as we do not have hardcoded values or any user interaction involved.

For better understanding of all that code, I made a sample project available that has all the referenced and mentioned classes implemented. Feel free to fork it and play with it (or even give me some feedback). For using the implementations, please refer to my post about common usages I wrote a few days ago. The only difference is that you would use SecretLocalMachineCacheinstead of LocalMachineCache for sensitive data.

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

Until the next post, happy coding!


P.S. Feel free to download my official app for msicc.net, which – of course – uses the implementations above:
iOS Android Windows 10

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 0 comments
Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: storing, retrieving and deleting data

Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: storing, retrieving and deleting data

Caching always has the same job: provide data that is frequently used in very little time. As I mentioned in my first post of this series, Akavache is my first choice because it is fast. It also provides a very easy way to interact with it (once one gets used to Reactive Extensions). The code I am showing here is living in the Forms project, but can also be called from the platform projects thanks to the interface we defined already before.

Enabling async support

First things first: we should write our code asynchronously, that’s why we need to enable async support by adding using System.Reactive.Linq;to the using statements in our class. This one is not so obvious, and I read a lot of questions on the web where this was the simple solution. So now you know, let’s go ahead.

Simple case

The most simple case of storing data is just throwing data with a key into the underlying database:

//getting a reference to the cache instance
var cache = SimpleIoc.Default.GetInstance<IBlobCacheInstanceHelper>().LocalMachineCache;
var dataToSave = "this is a simple string to save into the database";
await cache.InsertObject<string>("YourKeyHere", dataToSave);

Of course, we need a reference to the IBlobCacheinstance we have already in place. I am saving a simple string here for demo purposes, but you can also save more complex types like a list of blog posts into the cache. Akavache uses Json.NET , which will serialize the data into a valid json string that you can be saved. Similarly, it is very easy to get the data deserialized from the database:

var dataFromCache = cache.GetObject<string>("YourKeyHere");

That’s it. For things like storing Boolean values, simple strings (unencrypted), dates etc., this might already be everything you need.

Caching data from the web

Of course it wouldn’t be necessary to implement an advanced library if we would have only this scenario. More often, we are fetching data from the web and need to save it in our apps. There are several reasons to do this, with saving (mobile) data volume and performance being the two major reasons.

Akavache provides a bunch of very useful Extensions. The most prominent one I am using is the GetOrFetchObject<T>method. A typical implementation looks like this:

var postsCache = await cache.GetOrFetchObject<List<BlogPost>>(feedName,
    async () =>
    {
        var newPosts = await _postsHandler.GetPostsAsync(BaseUrl, 20, 20, 1, feedName.ToCategoryId()).ConfigureAwait(false);

        await cache.InsertObject<List<BlogPost>>(feedName, newPostsDto);

        return newPosts;
    });

The GetOrFetchObject<T>method’s minimum parameters are the key of the cache entry and an asynchronous function that shall be executed when there is no data in the cache. In the sample above, it loads the latest 20 posts from a WordPress blog (utilizing my WordPressReader lib) and saves it into the cache instance before returning the downloaded data. The method has an optional parameter of DateTimeOffset, which may be interesting if you need to expire the saved data after some time.

Saving images/documents from the web

If you need to download files, be it images or other documents, from the web, Akavache provides another helper extension:

byte[] bytes = await cache.DownloadUrl("YourFileKeyHere", url);

Personally, I am loading all files with this method, even though there are some special image loading methods available as well (see the readme at Akavache’s repo). The main reason I am doing so is that until now, I always have a platform specific implementation for such cases – mainly due to performance reasons. I one of the following blog posts you will see such an implementation for image caching using a custom renderer on each platform.

Deleting data from the cache

When working with caches, one cannot avoid the situation that data needs to be removed manually from the cache.

//delete a single entry by key:
cache.Invalidate("KeyToDelete");

//delete all entries with the same type:
cache.InvalidateAllObjects<BlogPost>();

//delete all entries
cache.InvalidateAll();

If you want to continue with some other action after deletion completes, you can use the Subscribe method to invoke this action:

cache.InvalidateAll().Subscribe(x => YourMethodToInvoke());

Conclusion

Even though Akavache provides more methods to store and retrieve data, the ones I mentioned above are those that I use frequently and without problems in my Xamarin.Forms applications, while still being able to invoke them in platform specific code as well. If you want to have a look at the other methods that are available, click the link above to the GitHub repo of Akavache. As always, I hope this blog post is helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 1 comment
Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: Initial setup (new series)

Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: Initial setup (new series)

Caching is never a trivial task. Sometimes, we can use built-in storages, but more often, these take quite some time when we are storing a large amount of data (eg. large datasets or large json strings). I tried quite a few approaches, including:

  • built-in storage
  • self handled files
  • plugins that use a one or all of the above
  • Akavache (which uses SQLite under the hood)

Why Akavache wins

Well, the major reason is quite easy. It is fast. Really fast. At least compared to the other options. You may not notice the difference until you are using a background task that relies on the cached data or until you try to truly optimize startup performance of your Xamarin Android app. Those two where the reason for me to switch, because once implemented, it does handle both jobs perfectly. Because it is so fast, there is quite an amount of apps that uses it. Bonus: there are a lot of tips on StackOverflow as well as on GitHub, as it is already used by a lot of developers.

Getting your projects ready

Well, as often, it all starts with the installation of NuGet packages. As I am trying to follow good practices wherever I can, I am using .netStandard whenever possible. The latest stable version of Akavache does work partially in .netStandard projects, but I recommend to use the latest alpha (by the time of this post) in your .netStandard project (even if VisualStudio keeps telling you that a pre release dependency is not a good idea). If you are using the package reference in your project files, there might be some additional work to bring everything to build and run smoothly, especially in a Xamarin.Android project.

You mileage may vary, but in my experience, you should install the following dependencies and Akavache separately:

After installing this packages in your Xamarin.Forms and platform projects, we are ready for the next step.

Initializing Akavache

Basically, you should be able to use Akavache in a very simple way, by just defining the application name like this during application initialization:

BlobCache.ApplicationName = "MyAkavachePoweredApp";

You can do this assignment in your platform project as well as in your Xamarin.Forms project, both ways will work. Just remember to do this, as also to get my code working, this is a needed step.

There are static properties  like BlobCache.LocalMachineone can use to cache data. However, once your app will use an advanced library like Akavache, it is very likely that he complexity of your app will force you into a more complex scenario. In my case, the usage of a scheduled job on Android was the reason why I am doing the initialization on my own. The scheduled job starts a process for the application, and the job updates data in the cache that the application uses. There were several cases where the standard initialization did not work, so I decided to make the special case to a standard case. The following code will also work in simple scenarios, but keeps doors open for more complex ones as well. The second reason why I did my own implementation is the MVVM structure of my apps.

IBlobCacheInstanceHelper rules them all

Like often when we want to use platform implementations, all starts with an interface that dictates the functionality. Let’s start with this simple one:

public interface IBlobCacheInstanceHelper
{
    void Init();
    IBlobCache LocalMachineCache { get; set; }
}

We are defining our own IBlobCacheinstance, which we will initialize with the Init() method on each platform. Let’s have a look on the platform implementations:

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformBlobCacheInstanceHelper))]
namespace [YOURNAMESPACEHERE]
{
    public class PlatformBlobCacheInstanceHelper : IBlobCacheInstanceHelper
    {
        private IFilesystemProvider _filesystemProvider;

        public PlatformBlobCacheInstanceHelper() { }

        public void Init()
        {
            _filesystemProvider = Locator.Current.GetService<IFilesystemProvider>();
            GetLocalMachineCache();
        }

        public IBlobCache LocalMachineCache { get; set; }

        private void GetLocalMachineCache()
        {

            var localCache = new Lazy<IBlobCache>(() => 
                                                  {
                                                      _filesystemProvider.CreateRecursive(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultLocalMachineCacheDirectory()).SubscribeOn(BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler).Wait();
                                                      return new SQLitePersistentBlobCache(Path.Combine(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultLocalMachineCacheDirectory(), "blobs.db"), BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler);
                                                  });

            this.LocalMachineCache = localCache.Value;
        }

        //TODO: implement other cache types if necessary at some point
    }
}

Let me explain what this code does.

As SQLite, which is powering Akavache, is file based, we need to provide a file path. The Init() method assigns Akavache’s internal IFileSystemProviderinterface to the internal member. After getting an instance via Splat’s Locator, we can now use it to get the file path and create the .db-file for our local cache. The GetLocalMachineCache()method is basically a copy of Akavache’s internal registration. It lazily creates an instance of BlobCache through the IBlobCacheinterface. The create instance is then passed to the LocalMachineCacheproperty, which we will use later on. Finally, we will be using the DependencyServiceof Xamarin.Forms to get an instance of our platform implementation, which is why we need to define the Dependency attribute as well.

Note: you can name the file whatever you want. If you are already using Akavache and want to change the instance handling, you should keep the original names used by Akavache. This way, your users will not lose any data.

This implementation can be used your Android, iOS and UWP projects within your Xamarin.Forms app. If you are wondering why I do this separately for every platform, you are right. Until now, there is no need to do it that way. The code above would also work solely in your Xamarin.Forms project. Once you are coming to the point where you need encrypted data in your cache, the platform implementations will change on every platform. This will be topic of a future blog post, however.

If you have been reading my series about MVVMLight, you may guess the next step already. This is how I initialize the platform implementation within my ViewModelLocator:

//register:
var cacheInstanceHelper = DependencyService.Get<IBlobCacheInstanceHelper>();
if (!SimpleIoc.Default.IsRegistered<IBlobCacheInstanceHelper>())
     SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IBlobCacheInstanceHelper>(()=> cacheInstanceHelper);

//initialize:
//cacheInstanceHelper.Init();
//or
SimpleIoc.Default.GetInstance<IBlobCacheInstanceHelper>().Init();

So that’s it, we are now ready to use our local cache powered by Akavache within our Xamarin.Forms project. In the next post, we will have a look on how to use akavache for storing and retrieving data.

Until then, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 1 comment