Data Annotations

Validation via data annotations in .NET is a great feature that is simple to implement. Here is an example model class that is using data annotations.

using System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations;

namespace Contacts.Models
    public class Contact
        [StringLength(50, MinimumLength = 4)]
        public string Name { get; set; }
        public string State { get; set; }
        [Display(Name = "Zip Code")]
        public string ZipCode { get; set; }

First step in using data annotations is to add a using statement for the System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations namespace. This namespace allows you to add validation attributes to the properties that require validation and contains helper classes to run validate on attributed models.

In the example above Required, StringLength and Display are all validation attributes. For the most part the attributes are self-explanatory, but be aware most attributes also have options to give you more control of the validation. For example required attribute has an AllowEmptyStrings property that if set to true will allow an empty string to pass validation. String length is another example which has options for minimum and maximum lengths for the property being validated.

This is just a small sample of the built-in attributes that exist. Other built-in attributes range  from credit card and email address validation to file extension and range validation. If a built-in validation does not meet your needs then a custom attribute a can be created by deriving from ValidationAttribue.

MVC has a lot of great functionality built around data annotations. For instance as long as a client has JavaScript turned a form will not allow submission until the model passes all the validation conditions. On the server-side inside of a controller to run validation all it takes is to run ModelState.IsValid.

With winforms the story is not quite as simple, but still pretty straight forward. The following is a simple example of calling validation on a model.

private void ValidationExample()
    var contact = new Contact { Name = "Bob", State = "TN" };

    var context = new ValidationContext(contact);
    var errors = new List<ValidationResult>();

    if (!Validator.TryValidateObject(contact, context, errors))
        foreach (ValidationResult result in errors)
            //act on error

Validator.TryValidateObject takes the model to be validated, a validation context (created with the model to validate) and an empty list of type ValidationResult. The function call returns false if any properties fail validation. In the example above the validation would fail since name only contains three characters the minimum length is set to four characters.

Duplicate Records from Migration Seed

I am writing a contact management application as a vehicle for my ASP.NET MVC learning using Entity Framework 6. To pre-load some test data I utilize the Seed method found in Migrations\Configuration.cs which gets added when migrations are enabled for a project.

When testing the contact creation process I noticed that I forgot to add a property for contact’s state. Easy enough to fix. I opened up the Contact class, added the missing state property and updated all the related views. Then I ran the app to test my change and was greeted with this error:ContextChanged

Of course the model backing my DbContext has changed since the database was created, I just added a new property to the model. Being new to entity framework workflow I often see this error when I forget to update the database before running the app to try out a change. It is easy to fix by using the package manager console to Add-Migration and then Update-Database.

After updating the database I ran the app to verify my changes. What I saw when my contact list load was that all my seed data had been duplicated. The jest of my seed function was something like this:

context.Contacts.AddOrUpdate(c => c.Id,
    new Contact
        Id = 0,
        Name = "Eric",
        State = "TN"
    new Contact
        Id = 1,
        Name = "Tommy",
        State = "ND"

To track down the duplication issue the first thing I did was to view the data in the database to make sure the table a primary key set. The Id field was an integer identity column and was the primary key. Next I viewed all the records in the table which looked like this:

Id Name State
0 Eric TN
1 Tommy ND
2 Eric TN
3 Tommy ND

The Id lookup I defined as the first parameter to AddOrUpdate seemed to be my issue. From my tests it seems that AddOrUpdate will always perform an add when trying to match on an identity type column. By changing from c => c.Id to c => c.Name no data is duplicated.

LocalDB v11.0 or MSSQLLocalDB

I have just started learning ASP.NET MVC 5. As a jumping off point I am working though Rick Anderson’s Getting Started with ASP.NET MVC 5. I am completely new to ASP.NET and Entity Framework and Rick’s tutorial has been a great introduction. Everything was going great until I got to the Add a New Field section.

The tutorial is using entity framework 6 to interact with an instance of SQL Express LocalDB. As part of adding a new field to an existing model Rick walks the reader through enabling code first migrations, creating an initial migration and deleting the existing database file. I completed all the steps without any issues.

The next step was to run Update-Database from the package manager console. This command failed with the message “Cannot attach the file ‘path to .mdf’ as database ‘name of database'”. After some searching I found out that using the solution explorer to manually deleting a mdf file from the App_Data directory has been known to cause problems. I restored my mdf from the recycle bin and fired up Visual Studio’s SQL Server Object Explorer and connected using a connection string of “(LocalDB)\v11.0” which I had been using in my application.

As you can see from this screenshot the only databases in this instance of LocalDB are system localdbv110databases. I ran the application and to my surprise it was working again after the restore the mdf file. I tried disconnecting LocalDB and reconnecting with the same results. I tried using the package manager to stop and delete LocalDB. None of this cleared up the problems I was having with the Update-Database command. Some of the post I can across suggested using a different database name in the application’s connection string so that a completely new database would be created, but I was only going to use that tactic as a last resort.

After more searching I came across a post that was using a different connection string localdballfor LocalDB. Instead of “(LocalDB)\v11.0” that I had seen referenced in all of the examples I had seen so far this person was using “(LocalDB)\MSSQLLocalDB”. As it turns out “(LocalDB)\MSSQLLocalDB” is the connection string used for SQL Express 2014 and “(LocalDB)\v11.0” is used for SQL Express 2012. I have both the 2012 and 2014 version installed on my machine. I am not clear on why my database was being created in the 2014 version of SQL Express when my application was using the 2012 connection string. As a fix I have updated all the connection strings in my application to the 2014 version and all is now working without any more problems.