Identity Server: Sample Exploration and Initial Project Setup

This post will be a continuation of my exploration around Identity Server which was started with this post which was more of an overview of the space and my motivations for learning about Identity Server. There were a lot of things that were unclear to me as I first started looking through the samples so this post is going to communicate so of those issues and hopefully clear them up for you as well.

After this post, the follow-up post should be more focused on one thing instead of trying to cover so much information in on go.

Typical Sample Solution Structure

I started my exploration with the IdentityServer4.Sample repo specifically in the Quickstarts folder. For me, this was a mistake as I didn’t have a good enough grasp on the larger concepts for the code to provide proper guidance. Big surprise here, but using the docs and actually walking through the project creation was very helpful.

The code associated with this blog can be found here. The solution contains three projects.

  • ApiApp – Backend for the application and is a resource that is will require authorization to access. The API will be an ASP.NET Core Web API.
  • ClientApp – Frontend application that will be requesting authorization. This is an ASP.NET Core application that is hosting an Angular (4) app.
  • IdentityApp – This is ASP.NET Core application that is the IdentityServer and will end up authorizing users and issuing tokens for resources.

Identity Application

For the Identity application, create an ASP.NET Core Web Application using the empty template targeting at least ASP.NET Core 1.1. Next, using NuGet install the IdentityServer4 NuGet package.

Now that the IdentityServer4 NuGet package is installed open up the Startup class and add the following to the ConfigureServices function.

The above registers IdentityServer with ASP.NET Core as a service available via dependency injection using temporary and in-memory components as a stand in for testing. The Config class used here will be added a bit later.

Next, the Configure function should look like the following.

The above is a basic Configure function.  app.UseIdentityServer() is the only the only bit related to IdntityServer and it is adding it to the application’s pipeline.

The final part of this application is the Config class which is used to define the in memory test resources for this application. As you can see below it is defining both API resources and Clients. In the future theses, items would be pulled from a datastore.

API Application

For the API application, create an ASP.NET Core Web Application using the Web API template targeting at least ASP.NET Core 1.1. Next, using NuGet install the IdentityServer4.AccessTokenValidation NuGet package.

Ater the above NuGet package installed open up the Startup class. In the Configure function, the IdentityServer middleware needs to be added to the application pipeline before MVC using the app.UseIdentityServerAuthentication function. The following is the full Configure function.

Notice that the address of the of the authority must be specified (this will need to be the address the Identity Application is running on) as well as the ApiName matches the API Resource we added in the Config class of the Identity Application.

Next, in following the IdentityServer quickstart docs add a new IdentityController to the project. Just to be 100% clear this is just a test endpoint to show how to require authorization on a controller and isn’t something that is required to use IdentityServer. The controller has a single Get that returns the type and value of all the user’s claims.

The [Authorize] attribute on the class is the bit that requires calls to this endpoint to have authorization. Keep in mind that the same attribute can be left off the class level and added to specific functions if the whole controller doesn’t require authorization.

Adding the [Authorize] attribute means that the IdentityServer middleware we added in the Startup class will validate the token associated with the request to make sure it is from a trusted issues and that it is valid for this API.

Client Application

For the Client application, I deviated from the samples a bit. Instead of just creating a new MVC application I used JavaScriptServices to generate an Angular (4) application. If you want detail on how that is done you can check out this post (yes it says Angular 2, but the newest version of JavaScriptServices now outputs Angular 4 and the steps haven’t changed). An Angular application is my end goal and why I made this deviation from the samples.

After the Client application has been created use NuGet to add the IdentityModel package. This package is to make interacting with the Identity Application simpler.

For this first go instead of actually interacting with the Identity Application from Angular I will be using it from MVC instead. The detail of interaction from Angular will come in a later post. The IdentityController is what does the interaction with both the Identity Application and the API Application interactions in this version of the client application. The following is the full IdentityController class.

In the above, you can see the IdentityModel in action. Using the DiscoveryClient means the client application only needs to know about the root address of the Identity Application. TokenClient is being used to request a token from the Identity Application for the clientApp using the client secret which in this case is actually the word secret. Keep in mind in a real application secrets should be kept using the ASP.NET Core Secrets manager, see this related post. Also, take note that clientApp and secret are the values that were defined in the Config class of the Identity application.

The rest of the code is taking the token response and making a call to the API application with the response from both of those calls being stored in ViewData for display on the view associated with the controller.

The view is just an Index.cshtml file in the path Views/Identity. The following is the full view.

It isn’t pretty, but the whole point of this controller and view is just for verification that the three applications are properly communicating with each other.

URL Configuration

In this setup, it is important that the URL for the Identity Application and API Application be fixed so they can be accessed by the client. In a more production level application, these values would at a minimum need to be in configuration. The following is the setup used for this solution.

  • Identity Application – http://localhost:5000
  • API Application – http://localhost:5001
  • Client Application – http://localhost:5002

There are a couple of ways to configure test values. The first is to open the project properties and select the Debug tab and set the App URL.

The second option is to go to the Program class for each project and add a UseUrls to the WebHostBuilder like the following.

Wrapping up

After going through the above process I now have a much better understanding of how the very basic setup using Identity Server should work. I hope if you made this far you found some helpful bits.

There is a bit of strangeness using Visual Studio to try and launch all three applications and can result in an error message if multiple of the projects are run in debug mode. For the most part, this can be worked around by only debugging one application at a time. It is a bit annoying at the beginning stages, but once an applications gets past that point I imagian that the Identity Application won’t require much debugging.

If there are any questions please leave a comment and I would be happy to try and help. The finished code can be found here. This basic example will be expanded over time and all the related entries can be found in the IdentityServer category.

Duplicate ‘System.Reflection.AssemblyCompanyAttribute’ attribute

As part of my research into IdentityServer4 I forked their samples repo, but I ran into the following issue trying to build the solution for the Client Credentials quickstart.

CS0579    Duplicate ‘System.Reflection.AssemblyCompanyAttribute’ attribute

CS0579    Duplicate ‘System.Reflection.AssemblyConfigurationAttribute’ attribute

CS0579    Duplicate ‘System.Reflection.AssemblyProductAttribute’ attribute

Searching the project each of these attributes only exists only in the AssemblyInfo.cs file found under properties. It turns out the file that is causing the issues only exists as a result of the build process and is found in the \obj\Debug\netcoreapp1.1\{ProjectName}.AssemblyInfo.cs file.

In this case, the client project is a console application so I created a new console application and the template no longer generates an  AssemblyInfo.cs file for .NET Core. It turns out that as part of the move back to csproj most of the information that was in the AssemblyInfo.cs can now be set on the project its self. Open the project properties and select the Package tab to see the new settings.

Resolution

I found this issue on GitHub where there were a couple of options to resolve this issue which I am going to cover here plus a third option I tried not mention in the issue.

Option one is to remove the conflicting items from the AssemblyInfo.cs file. For example, the following would allow the project I am working with to build.

Option two is to edit the csproj and turn the generation of the attributes causing the issues off.

The third option is to total delete the AssemblyInfo.cs file if your project doesn’t need it. This is the option I chose to go with. For a reason, you might want to keep the file around and just use option one see the “AssemblyInfo.cs is partially dead” section of this post by Muhammad Rehan Saeed. Side note: if you are interested in ASP.NET Core and you aren’t following Rehan you really should be.

Wrapping up

This is an issue that you will really only face when converting an older project to .NET Core. The fix is simple enough once you know what is going on. I opened an issue on the IdentityServer samples if you want to track if this has been fixed yet.

First talk retrospective

I made it through my first lightning talk at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. If you want some background you can check out this post on my preparation for the talk.

This post is going to be mostly for me to look back on in the future in case I decided to attempt another talk, but I am sure if someone is a new speaking it could be a useful as well.

Retro

Overall the talk went OK. There was no huge epic failure, but it far from a good talk. I was extremely nervous which lead to me be locked to the podium and flying through the talk way faster than I should have. I am pretty soft spoken and didn’t project as much as I really needed to. As a result of that is my points weren’t as clear as I would have liked.

David Neal was right that the audience does want you to succeed. There were a couple of questions at the end of my talk which made me feel that my point wasn’t totally lost. I got feedback for some of the audience members and other speakers which I included in the previous paragraph. All the feedback was presented to me in a kind manner which I greatly appreciated.

The future

In the future, if I try speaking again I have a lot of things I can improve on. I know that sounds negative, but I am looking at it as an opportunity to grow. I now know that I will need more time during the prepping stage to practice out loud and in front of people.

I love technology and sharing what I learn with others. That is one of the reasons I write this blog every week. Speaking may or may not be part of the future way I get to share with other, but I am happy to now know it is something I can do. It would require a ton of work, but it is no longer something I can’t ever see myself doing.

Visual Studio 2017 Error: The project doesn’t know how to run the profile IIS Express

I have a couple of computers I work between for the samples I use on this blog and when switching to between of them I got the following error last week.

The project doesn’t know how to run the profile IIS Express.

I verified the project would still run on the other computer with no issues. I also verified that on the computer with the issues the project would still work using  dotnet run from the command line still worked.

Next, I went to verify the project properties. Here I noticed a strange thing on the computer with the error the Debug tab of the project properties was missing a lot of setting. The following is a screen shot of the computer with the issues.

And here is the same tab on the same project, but from a different computer.

The cause

After more time that I would like to admit I was able to track down the issue. On the computer with the issue, I often work on projects that are very large which tend to slow down Visual Studio pretty bad. In an effort to speed things up a bit I when through and disabled all the extensions that I could including the Microsoft Azure App Service Tools. Turns out that disabling the previous extension caused the Microsft ASP.NET and Web Tools extension to be disabled as well (with no warning).

The solution

The only way I was able to get the project to work properly was to enable both the Microsft ASP.NET and Web Tools extension AND the Microsoft Azure App Service Tools extension. I am not sure why the Microsft ASP.NET and Web Tools extension need the Microsoft Azure App Service Tools extension but based on my experience they are related in some way.

Setting Up Visual Studio Code for Debugging ASP.NET Core

Visual Studio Code is a cross-platform source code editor from Microsoft. Out of the box, Code’s language support includes JavaScript, TypeScript, and Node. Using Codes extension system support is available for almost any language you want to use including C#, F#, Elixir, SQL, Swift, and Java. As of this writing, there are 734 language extensions available.

I have been using VS Code since it was first released after Build in 2015, but I have only been using it as an editor never taking advantage of the Debugging capabilities it has available. In this post, I am going to walk through everything that is needed to get a new ASP.NET Core with an Angular front end to run via VS Code’s debugger.

Test application

The first thing I did was to create a new application using JavaScriptServices specifically for this post. For instructions on how to use JavaScriptServices to generate an application check out this post.

On Windows, after the application has been generated and you are in the application directory you can use the following command to open the directory in VS Code.

I am sure there is something similar on Linux and Mac, but I don’t have the environments to try on.

VS Code Overview

When VS Code opens you will see a view close to the following.

The icons down the left side of the screen are for Explorer (shows currently open directory and files), Seach, Source Control (git support is built in), Debug, and Extensions.

Debug

The Debug tab will be our focus so click on it which will take you to the following view.

Using the gear with red circle select .NET Core as the environment for the project.

If you don’t see .NET Core listed click More… and click install for the C# option.

After selecting an environment VS Code will add a  launch.json file to the project. This file defines what happens when the start button is clicked in the debugger. At this point clicking the start button to run the application using the debugger will result in an error that  Could not find the preLaunchTask 'build'.

Next, click the Configure Task Runner option and select .NET Core.

This will add a task.json file with a build command that the launch.json is looking for. At this point, I had to restart VS Code to get it to properly pick up the new files. This seems to be an issue that will be fixed with the next release of VS Code and can be tracked using this issue.

After restart and trying to run the debugger again I ran into the error  Run 'Debug: Download .NET Core Debugger' in the Command Palette or open a .NET project directory to download the .NET Core Debugger.

I ended up having to uninstall and reinstall the C# extension and then opening a C# file to get the debugger to download. If you are having this problem make sure and open a C# file before going as far as reinstalling the C# extension.

Hitting run in the debugger now give the error  launch: launch.json must be configured. Change 'program' to the path to the executable file that you would like to debug.

To fix this issue click  Open launch.json and you will find two places with the following.

Change both places to point to the dll your application builds. In the case of my project named  DebugTest the final version ended up being the following.

Wrapping up

Debugging now works! Based on this post it would seem like debugging in VS Code is a big pain, but really after you get it set up once it just works. For new projects, you just have to let it add the

For new projects, you just have to let it add the launch.json and tasks.json and then set the path to your project’s assembly in launch.json. After that, you are ready to go.

I wait too long to figure this process out. I hope this helps you get started with debugging in VS Code.

Identity Server: Introduction

In the SPA based sample applications, this blog has used so far user authentication has either been completely ignored in order to keep the examples simpler or the sites have used ASP.NET Core’s built in identity to encapsulate the whole SPA. In this post (or series of posts) I am going to share what I learn along the way of creating an Angular (2+) application that utilizes ASP.NET Core as its host/API/backend.

This post isn’t going to cover any code it is just going to be a lot of the information I gathered in the process of learning more about Identity Server.

Identity Server

According to their docs IdentityServer4 is an OpenID Connect and OAuth 2.0 framework for ASP.NET Core which enables Authentication as a Service, Single Sign-on, API Access Control and a Federation Gateway.

Obviously, that covers a lot of scenarios. The two that I am interested in are Authentication as a Service and the API Access Control which has driven my research which means that the other aspects of IdentityServer4 will not be included.

Official Samples

The IdentityServer GitHub account has a samples repo that contains a ton of examples. I have found the quickstart area of the repo to be the most helpful when starting out.

Based on all the quickstarts samples it looks like a typical setup involves a minimum of three projects. One for the API, one for the client and one for Identity Server. As you go through the samples the number of projects increase, but that is because of a wider range of scenarios that the sample is trying to cover.

References for learning

Damienbod has a whole series of blog posts related to IdentityServer4 and code to go along with it which can be found here. As a side note if you are interested in ASP.NET Core and you aren’t following damienbo you should be he has a ton of great content.

Blog posts
Videos

Identity Server Alternatives

Identity Server isn’t the only way to go there is a number of Software as a Service options that cover a lot of same scenarios. The following are some examples.

Auth0 – Check out the .NET Core related blogs by Jerrie Pelser
Stormpath
Amazon Cognito

Wrapping up

Obviously, I didn’t get a lot covered on how to actually do something with IdentityServer, but I wanted to share my starting point. This is an area I am going to continue digging it to and sharing information about as I learn more.

If you have any resources in this area please leave a comment below.

Preparing for my first talk

I will be doing an intro lightning talk on JavaScriptServices at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. The meeting will be over by the time this post comes out, but I wanted to share my outlook on it before hand.

Background

This will be the first time I have done any sort of talk since the required speeches I did in grammar and high school. In college, all the required speaking was attached to some sort of group work in which I was happy to do some extra legwork if another group member was willing to do the presentation.

Based on what I have written so far I am sure you have picked up on the fact that speaking is terrifying to me. Although I have forced myself into more social situations in the last few years it has done nothing to alleviate my fear of speaking to a group of people.

Motivation

Trying speaking is something that has been in the back of my mind for a few years. Speaking is an area I have always shied away from, but over the last few years listening to people like Scott Hanselman, Cory House, Jeremy Clark and David Neal among others and their take on speaking/giving back to the community planted a seed that speaking is something I need to try at least once.

David Neal’s talk on Public Speaking without Barfing on Your Shoes was especially encouraging to me. Here is a recording of the talk from the last Nodevember.

Preparation

I decided on JavaScriptServices because it has provided a great amount of value to personally and I want more people to be aware of it. With the topic in hand, I moved on to making an outline of what I want to cover. Since this talk should max out at 10 minutes my initial outline ended up needing to be scaled back.

The next thing I did was to create a checklist of all the thing I need to do before the talk. The following is an example of where it stands at the moment.

  • Flesh out the outline
  • Add important items for each point in the outline
  • Create and test demo
  • Test demo offline
  • Create a couple of slides
  • Practice out loud

Of the above having to practice out loud is the one I dread the most. I am not sure what it is about hearing one’s own voice, but it is always disconcerting.

 Wrapping up

I am still in the prepping stages and ever day that the talk gets closer the more nervous I get. There is also a level of excitement to see if this could be something I enjoy. It would be fun to have a new way to share my enjoyment and lessons learned outside of this blog.

I will post an update here or a full new post after the talk with how I felt it went. I will also hopefully have the feedback of a few others as well.

Communication Issues

My wife recently had an interesting experience with her cell phone company and this experience reiterated to me the importance of communication. This post is going to cover some high-level issues I encounter regularly.

For a bit of background here is a description of out experience with the cell phone company. First level support was awesome. They were responsive, kind, and mostly knew what they were talking about. Our case ended up getting passes to second level support and this is where things went bad.

Under communication

This company’s second level support was a perfect example of under communication. It was impossible for us to communicate with a second level support person we had to just sit around and wait for them to email us. In fact, even a first level support person could actually talk to a second level support.

The response took days of sitting around and hoping that our issues haven’t fallen through the cracks. The lack of communication ended with use changing cell providers based on the level of under communication. Had we been able to get a status or be told where the issue stood things would have turned out different.

It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with your family, customers or coworkers make sure to communicate what you are doing, what your expectations, what issues you are facing, etc. by providing this information everyone will be on the same page and have good expectations of each other.

Noisy communication

This issue comes up when you are communicating, but the idea being communicated is lost due to an unfocused message. Make sure that each of your points is concise and to the point.

To extend the cell phone example above a noisy version of describing the problem would be describing to the support person how angry the issues is making you, why the weather make you angry, the problem with the cell service, the cool new trick your dog did yesterday.

In the above, the really important bit is the problem with your cell service and the rest of it distracts and obscures what the actual point of the communication.

Dishonest communication

Intentionally providing wrong information for me is the worst communication offense. Missing leading someone either through omission of facts or a full blown lie is a sure way for any process to break down. I feel people try and make the best choices they can, but when making choices based on false or missing information the results aren’t good.

Another big issue with dishonest communication is when someone finds out that you have been dishonest with them if changes all future interactions in a very negative way.

Wrapping up

I have only listed three communication issues here that I seem to deal with for the most, but there are tons of more issues. Take time to evaluate your day to day communication and make sure your communication isn’t unclear for some reason. Don’t let some of this issues cost you customer, employees or friends.

Upgrading a JavaScript Services Application

As part of the ASP.NET Core Basics series of posts, JavaScript Services was used to create a couple of front end for a basic contacts API using Aurelia and Angular 2. Theses applications were created a few months ago and JavaScript Services has kept moving since then. This post is going to look at one strategy for taking an application created on an older version of JavaScript Services and update it to match the current version. This post will be following the upgrade of the Angular project from ASP.NET Core Basics repo with the starting point of the code being from this release.

The strategy

One of the considerations when doing this upgrade was getting the changes that happen on the ASP.NET Core side of the application and not just the JavaScript bits. In order to make sure that nothing was missed I decided to use JavaScript Services to generate a new application and use that to compare with the implementations in the existing application.

Create comparison application

This is going to assume JavaScript Services is already installed. If it isn’t this page has instructions or this post has sections that deal with creating a new application using JavaScript Services.

The update

Following is the files that changed during this update. This is also the list of files I would check anytime an upgrade needs to be done.

There were a fair amount of changes in the files listed above and instead of posting the code the differences can be found here. The previous diff didn’t contain the webpack.config files and those diffs can be found here and here.

After all the files have been updated make sure to run the following command from a command prompt in your project directory to make sure webpack has vendor related items regenerated.

Wrapping up

This post is a lighter on the details that I do most of the time, but this type of upgrade would just have been a wall of code and not been overly useful and the commits on GitHub are a much better guide to what the upgrade looked like. My feeling is that over time the number of changes going forward may end up being smaller and easier to integrate.

Both the Aurelia and Angular projects have been upgraded and the final version of the code can be found here.

Entity Framework Core with SQLite Migration Limitations

This is part of what has turned into a series on Entity Framework Core with SQLite. The other parts can be found below.

Entity Framework Core with SQLite
Entity Framework Core Errors Using Add-Migration
Entity Framework Core with SQLite Scaffolding

The starting point of the code for this post can be found here.

Migration Limitations when using SQLite

SQLite’s ALTER TABLE is limited which in turn limits what Entity Framework Core can do via a migration. The official docs on the subject can be found here. These limitations are on the Entity Framework Team’s list of issues as an open enhancement and can be tracked here.

As long as you are just adding new tables or columns you would never notice the limitation, but if you have spelling problems like I do then the need to rename a column can be important. Thankfully things like ReSpeller (link is to the pro page, but a free version is available in ReSharpers extension manager) help with my spelling issues.

Unsupported example with a column rename

As an example of how to handle a migration that isn’t supported, we are going to rename the State property of the Contact class to Subregion.

Rename property on the model

Open the Contact class which can be found in the Models directory and make the following change.

Add a migration

With the property name change using the following command in the Package Manager Console to create a new migration.

Which produces the following migration class.

Error trying to apply the migration

As expected when an attempt to apply the above migration results in the following exception.

System.NotSupportedException: SQLite does not support this migration operation (‘RenameColumnOperation’). For more information, see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=723262.

Modify migration to manually rename the column

Searching for how to rename a column in SQLite will turn up a lot of results including this from the official docs and answers like this on StackOverflow. The gist of the how to do a rename is to create a new table with the desired schema, copy the data from the original table, drop the old table, and finally rename the new table to match the original name.

Now knowing the process the migration above can be modified to apply SQL directly instead of using Entity Framework Core to generate the SQL. This can be done by using the Sql function of the MigrationBuilder class. The following is the resulting migration.

You will notice that I didn’t bother doing the Down function, but the same idea would apply when trying to undo a migration. SQLiteStudio or similar tools can be used to generate the SQL above if SQL isn’t something you want to deal with.

Fix other references to the renamed field

This isn’t really the topic of this post, but I wanted to throw in a reminder that after a rename like this there are places that will need to be updated that the tooling may not have picked up. For example, make sure all your views are using the new column as well as any bind statements in your controllers.

Wrapping up

The first time I hit the need to rename a column and it resulted in an exception it was extremely frustrating. Over time as I learned what the tooling around SQLite provides it has become less of an issue. I look forward to seeing what the Entity Framework team does in the future around this issue. The finished code can be found here.