NuGet Package Restore error with TFS Build (Online)

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

The Issue

After several months of successful builds using the online TFS build server (part of Visual Studio Online) I encountered a new issue with NuGet Package Manager that had me frustrated for some time this week. The build worked great on my machine, but consistently failed on the build server.

This project references NuGet package(s) that are missing on this computer. Enable NuGet Package Restore to download them. For more information, see

The error message contains a link (also available here) to more information about the root cause for this error – but the proposed work around for use with a hosted TFS / CI environment didn’t leave me with any obvious actions to fix this problem.

This solution doesn’t address build server / continuous integration (CI) scenarios. In order to successfully use package restore on the build server, you have two options:

  1. Check-in the .targets file.
  2. Explicitly run NuGet package restore prior to building your project/solution.

Unfortunately this article didn’t lead me to an obvious resolution;

  • Adding the .targets file to source control above looked easy enough, but after a quick search the application directories for an appropriate .targets file no obvious candidates were found. There were a number of .targets files within specific packages, however none seemed to immediately stand out as the one being referred to.
  • Some basic investigation into the option of forcing TFS to run the NuGet Restore also failed to lead to any way to execute the NuGet packages from within the hosted environment.


It turned out that a number of folders within the NuGet Packages folder were not correctly in source control, including a number of Application Insights folders and the Microsoft.Bcl.Build package.

Adding all NuGet package folders to source control may have been overkill … but it has solved the problem. Admittedly this is simply a brute force approach to perform the action recommended by the MSDN article (several .targets files were checked in as part of this operation), but the upshot is that although the article does technically describe the action required it still took over a month worth of TFS Build credits to move past the error.

I’m still unclear on the exact change that caused the issue, but my suspicion is that this was caused by a corrupted project file as a result of a couple of TFS Rollback operations.

Modelling with Domain-Specific Languages

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment


With the entire industry moving as quickly as it has been for the past few years, it is not surprising that every once in a while you discover a technology or capability that has been around for a number of years yet has escaped your attention.

Domain-Specific Languages (specifically the implementation within Visual Studio) has been one of those cases for me, but over the past few weeks I’ve been spending my spare time playing with the models and considering its role in the production (primarily) of design documentation. I’m always on the look-out for ways to improve communication with members of the customer’s team and one thing is obviously true – it doesn’t matter whether they are managers, business users, or analysts – pretty pictures do a great job of communicating complex ideas simply.

I can almost hear you saying now ‘but Domain-Specific languages have been around for years (since VS2005 in fact) … so how is it that this is new to you!’ Well I was feeling pretty embarrassed about that, until I presented the concept internally to some of my colleagues at work and found that no-one else had investigated DSL either. Now I don’t feel so bad.

So for those readers who haven’t used DSL in the past, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve at least used the models produced using the toolkit. The DSL modelling SDK is responsible for many of the graphical designers within Visual Studio, such as;

  • The Visual Studio Architecture Tools
  • The Entity Framework designer
  • The BizTalk ESB Toolkit Itinerary designer
  • The Web Services Software Factory designer

Why I’m Excited

Generating a nice diagram is well and good – but the fact is Visio can do that. The power of the DSL SDK comes with the extensibility – some of the features that have me interested are;

  • Customized Rules and Validation. This is key to help new team members understand the model
  • Model Generated meta-data generation. A lot of data we deal with is meta-data that ultimately needs to be loaded into a database, or system of some form.
  • Model Generated design documentation. I’m quite excited about the idea of transforming (using the Visual Studio’s T4 templates) the model xml into Word XML or similar.
  • Distributable. As most models can be executed within Visual Studio Shell, they could easily be shared with business analysts and customer representatives who might not already have Visual Studio.

On top of this, model development is fast! Without writing any code at all it doesn’t take long to produce a model. Models could easily be built for short-lived project requirements.

Getting Started

As with any technology that has been around for seven years already, there is some good material on the internet for getting started, and I’m not trying to replicate that in this post.

A Basic Example

As an example, consider for a moment the process of defining document libraries in a SharePoint environment. This often involves defining a Content Type for the library, configuring the document library (possibly with additional library-specific columns), and possibly adding an approval workflow.

The Domain Class model below outlines three core types (note I’ve hidden some of the relationships from simplicity here);

  • Content Types, including;
    • Embedded relationship to Columns
  • Document Libraries, including;
    • Embedded relationship to Columns
    • Reference relationship to Content Type
    • Reference relationship to Workflow
  • Workflows, including;
    • Several Domain Properties defining attributes for workflow configuration

Each of these Domain Classes have been mapped to Component Shape and Connector elements to support the visualization of the model.

The resulting model allows users to graphically model the Content Types, Document Libraries and Workflows required for the solution, resulting in the following diagram. In this case I’ve shown Content Types in purple, Document Libraries in orange and Workflows in lime green. As you can see, this provides a high-impact top level view of the domain model, and is well suited to including in design documentation communicating the solution to customers, developers and maintenance teams alike.

While the design process is being conducted, it is often simpler to capture any additional details required for the solution being developed at the same time – this is where diagrams in Visio start to fall short a little. Since the DSL model is hosted within Visual Studio, we have full access to the property grid – so all custom Domain Properties can be captured simply.

To extend this example a little further, consider the possibilities of artifacts that could be generated from this model such as;

  • Automation of web service calls to implement the content types / libraries and workflows directly from the model
  • Generation of Word tables containing the properties stored against each Domain Class. This could include the detailed attributes from the property grid that are not shown in the visualization.

Programmatically finding a Stored Query Definition within TFS2010

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I’m building a small utility and have a requirement to execute a stored work item query from within Team Foundation Server 2010. Previously I’d used the StoredQueries collection on the Project instance to find a query by name … however it would appear that this was depreciated as part of the TFS2010 release.

I was surprised to find that there doesn’t seem to be a simple replacement for finding a specified stored query by name – part of me thinks I must be missing a simpler solution, however if anyone else is encountering the same issue I hope that the following code snippet will be of use.

Required namespaces:

  • Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Client
  • Microsoft.TeamFoundation.WorkItemTracking.Client

/// <summary>
/// <para>Find the TFS QueryDefinition for a specified Team Project</para>
/// <para>Note that if multiple queries match the requested queryName
/// only the first will be used</para>
/// </summary>
/// <param name=”tfsUrl”>URL to the TFS project, including the
/// collection name (Eg, http://tfsserver:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection)</param>

/// <param name=”projectName”>Name of TFS Team Project</param>
/// <param name=”queryName”>Name of Stored Query. Note if multiple
/// exist the first found will be used</param>

/// <returns></returns>
public static QueryDefinition FindQueryItem(string tfsUrl, string projectName, string queryName)

// Setup the connection to TFS
TfsTeamProjectCollectionprojectCollection = TfsTeamProjectCollectionFactory.GetTeamProjectCollection(new Uri(tfsUrl));

WorkItemStore workItemStore = projectCollection.GetService<WorkItemStore>();

Project project = workItemStore.Projects[projectName];

return FindQueryItem(queryName, project.QueryHierarchy);


/// Recursively find the QueryDefinition based on the requested queryName.
///<para>Note that if multiple queries match the requested queryName
/// only the first will be used</para>
///<param name=”queryName”>Name of Stored Query. Note if multiple exist
/// the first found will be used</param>

///<param name=”currentNode”>Pointer to the current node in the recursive search</param>
private static QueryDefinition FindQueryItem(string queryName, QueryItem currentNode)


// Attempt to cast to a QueryDefinition
QueryDefinitionqueryDefinition = currentNode as QueryDefinition;

// Check if we’ve found a match
(queryDefinition != null && queryDefinition.Name == queryName)

return queryDefinition;

// Attempt to cast the current node to a QueryFolder
queryFolder = currentNode as QueryFolder;

// All further checks are for child nodes so if this is not an
// instance of QueryFolder then no further processing is required.

(queryFolder == null)

return null;

// Loop through all the child query item
foreach (QueryItem qi in queryFolder)

// Recursively call FindQueryItem
ret = FindQueryItem(queryName, qi);

// If a match is found no further checks are required
(ret != null)

return ret;


return null;


BizTalk 2006 and Versioning GAC’d Dependencies


Recently I found myself working on a BizTalk 2006 project that had been pre-configured to use a number of referenced assemblies that ultimately would be deployed to the GAC on the target BizTalk machine. Unfortunately I found that managing the versions and deployments of this configuration to be ‘problematic’ at best, so I’ve been giving some thought to how this might be done differently.

My basic requirements for this process are as follows:

  • The process must allow for assemblies built in a separate solution
  • The process must be easy for developers
  • All environments (including developers machines) must be installed the same way
  • Deployed assemblies must be versioned

This post describes how I went about achieving these goals – though I’m sure there must be other ways to do this as well.

Setting up the new Development / Deployment Process

Step 1 – Create a new Setup project

Create a new Visual Studio Installer project within your solution, and configure the following properties (along with any others you may feel you want to change).

Property Value
RemovePreviousVersions True
Version 1.0.0 (then increment for each build)

The real key for me here is the RemovePreviousVersions option. If this is set to “False” then the developers will need to manually uninstall the previous package – regardless of whether they are installing an upgrade.

By setting this to “True”, we are encouraging the development team to remember to increment the version of the setup package every upgrade. Changing the version of the setup package at this stage may also prompt the developer to increment the assembly version as well.

Step 2 – Add all project output to the GAC

In the “File System” setup, add a new target folder for the Global Assembly Cache. This is done by simply right-clicking on “File System on Target Machine”, then selecting “Add Special Folder”, then “Global Assembly Cache Folder”.

Now that the GAC folder is included in the installation folders list, add the “Primary Output” of your assemblies.

Step 3 – Add all project output to the Application Folder.

Technically this step is not really required – BizTalk only reads the assemblies from the GAC, so why bother putting them in the application folder as well …

There is a reason though – Visual Studio 2005 doesn’t allow you to reference a custom assembly directly from the GAC, so in order to allow the BizTalk Solution references to be upgraded each time a new copy of the assemblies is installed it is much easier to copy the output to the file system as well as the GAC.

Step 4 – Compile the Installation File, and install on your BizTalk environment

Not much to be said about this step really: compile the installation file and install onto the BizTalk development environment. I found I was doing this step fairly frequently through the day as incremental changes to the assemblies were made – so it pays to keep a network share to the installation folder open if possible.

Note that if the developer forgets to increment the version number of the installation package the installation will be blocked at this point. This is the desired result, as we always want the version incremented!

Step 5 – Add assembly references to your BizTalk solution

Open your BizTalk solution and add references to the new assemblies directly from the application installation folder (typically c:\program files\your company\your product).

Step 6 – Deploy to TEST and PROD environments the same way

Now that we have a consistent package for the assemblies don’t forget to maintain that consistency across all deployment environments … not just your dev box!

Resulting Development Process

After the changes above have been implemented, the development process for on-going changes.

Other Approaches?

I’d be quite keen to hear about how others have approached this problem. I’m unsure what is considered a pragmatic best practice in this space – and I can already hear the developers shouting about the extra steps introduced here! Is there a better way to do this while still meeting the requirements listed at the top of this post?

Adding Integration Tests to TFS Build Workflow

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment


In my last post I described how to deploy web applications to a build integration server using Team Foundation Server 2010. The next logical step once the build is successfully deploying to the integration server is to trigger a set of integration tests to verify the deployment. In this post I will describe the changes to the Default Template build workflow to execute Integration Tests separately from the existing Unit Tests.

Unit Tests

It is important to consider at this stage why we would run integration unit tests, as opposed to the unit tests executed as part of the assembly build process.

Unit tests executed as part of the build are intended to verify the individual components are functioning correctly, and often would use mocked interfaces to ensure that only the specific functions being tested are executed. Unit tests are typically not reliant on deployed components and therefore can be run as soon as the assemblies have been built.

Integration tests on the other hand are intended to run against the fully deployed environment to ensure that the individual components successfully execute together. Integration tests therefore need to be executed after the application components have been deployed to an integration server. Failures in integration testing might indicate breaking changes such as database changes, missing data, or changed interfaces into other components of the system.

Note that running the deployment and integration tests adds to the duration required to execute a built. Rather than performing this action every time something in the solution changes it might be more pragmatic to have one Build Definition to build and run unit tests on a per-check-in basis, while another is configured for the full integration tests on a nightly basis.

Modify the Build Workflow

Workflow Sequence Overview

The integration tests have to run within the context of a build agent, to the activity needs to take place at the end of the Run On Agent activity, directly after the packages have been deployed to the build integration server within the Deploy Packages activity.

Changing variable scopes

Because we are going to borrow heavily from the existing “Run Tests” activity, but the execution will be outside the “Try Compile, Test, and Associate Changesets and Work Items” activity, we need to modify the scoping of the following variables. This is easiest done by editing the xaml directly in your favourite xml editor.

  • outputDirectory – copy from the “Compile and Test for Configuration” activity up a level to the “Run On Agent” activity.
  • treatTestFailureAsBuildFailure – copy from the try block of “Try Compile, Test, and Associate Changesets and Work Items” to the “Run On Agent” activity.

Add new Integration Tests workflow arguments

The parameters being added are as follows:

  • Integration Tests Disabled (Boolean). I’m not a fan of negative argument types (eg, Disabled, rather than Enabled), however have decided to keep this consistent with the existing Tests Disabled argument.
  • Integration Test Specs (TestSpecList).

The default value for the Integration Test Specs argument provides the defaults for filtering the unit tests to only the integration tests. Ideally I would have liked to be able to filter this to *test*.dll with a test category of Integration, however based on some rudimentary experimentation it appears that the Test Assembly Spec constructor can only set the assembly name filter. In the end I’ve used the following TestSpecList definition as the default value:

New Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.Activities.TestSpecList(

New Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.Activities.TestAssemblySpec


Note: Don’t forget to change the Metadata property to ensure the new arguments are displayed in a suitable category in the Build Definition editor.

Add the Run Integration Tests Activity

Follow the following steps to add the new Run Integration Tests activity to the workflow

  1. Add a new foreach activity after the Deploy Packages activity, but still within the Run on Agent activity. This activity will be used to iterate through the project configurations defined in the build definition.
    <ForEach x:TypeArguments=mtbwa:PlatformConfiguration DisplayName=Run Integration Tests Values=[BuildSettings.PlatformConfigurations]>
    <ActivityAction x:TypeArguments=mtbwa:PlatformConfiguration>
    <DelegateInArgument x:TypeArguments=mtbwa:PlatformConfiguration Name=platformConfiguration />

  2. Create a copy of the existing activity titled “If Not Disable Tests” into the foreach statement created above
  3. Modify the copied workflow to use the added workflow arguments
    • Use Integration Tests Disabled instead of Disable Tests
    • Use Integration Test Specs instead of Test Specs

Configure the Build Definition

Configuring the filters for your integration tests is a matter for personal preference, though I’ve found the following approaches fairly simple;

  • Define all integration tests in a separate project and utilise the Test Assembly Filespec filter
  • Add a Test Category of Integration to each of the tests and use the Category Filter.
  • Configure a custom testsettings file to allow for accurately specifying the order tests should be executed

What’s Next?

Having the integration tests successfully executed is all fine and good however you will find that it is necessary to configure the endpoints in the app.config file of your unit tests project to always point to the integration server, which causes some inconvenience if you wish to run the same tests locally on a development environment.

In a future post, I will have a look at how to perform transformations on the app.config file as part of the deployment, similar to the way web.config is transformed as part of the deployment package creation.

Simplifying Web Package Deployment with TFS Build

March 8, 2011 4 comments


In my last post several months ago I described some of the work we’ve been doing to automate web package deployment using MSDeploy and Team Foundation Server 2010 Build Server. In that post I introduced a number of “hard coded” customisations to the Default Template workflow script that is used to drive the TFS Build.

Recently I’ve been refining this script further to allow the reuse of the unmodified workflow scripts between projects through the use of XAML arguments, and thought I might share the output.

Parameterising the MS Deploy activity

This post will focus on modifications to the standard workflow template to allow for an MS Deploy activity to be invoked based purely on the build definition, rather than customising the workflow for each team project.

Step 1: Add parameters to the Default Template xaml file

I did take one shortcut at this stage – the ‘ideal’ approach to collecting the deployment parameter information would be to create a strong typed object structure, then import that into the build process. I’m trying to avoid this at the moment, as we don’t currently need any custom assemblies for the build process and I’m trying to avoid adding extra dependencies.

Therefore I have used the very limited approach of defining a single set of deployment arguments, as opposed to a nice and tidy collection of strongly typed objects we could loop though.

The parameters being added are as follows:

  • Deploy Package 1 (default false)
  • Deploy Package 1 Package Path
  • Deploy Package 1 Script
  • Deploy Package 1 Script Args

Step 2: Setup the metadata to group the deployment arguments

By default, all the added arguments will be added to the “Misc” category in the Build Definition Editor. Once you’ve added more than a couple of customizations this becomes fairly confusing so it is important to setup the metadata as you go.

  1. Find the Metadata argument within the Arguments list
  2. Click the ‘…’ button top open the dialog editor
  3. Add a new entry for each new argument added
  4. Ensure that the Category is the same for each parameter to ensure they are grouped together

Step 3: Modify the Invoke Process activity to use the arguments

For this demonstration I’ve chosen to trigger the deployment immediately after the “Try Compile, Test and Associate Changesets and Work Items block”. This is convenient, since it is directly after the output directories are populated – though I am not yet sure that this step will stay here once the integration tests are plugged in.

The parameterized activity results in the following xaml being produced.

<If Condition=[DeployPackage1]DisplayName=If Deploy Package 1
<Sequence DisplayName=Deploy Package 1tbwt:BuildTrackingParticipant.Importance=Low>
<mtbwa:InvokeProcess Arguments=[DeployPackage1ScriptArgs]DisplayName=Deploy Package 1
FileName=[String.Format(&quot;{0}\{1}&quot;, BuildDetail.DropLocation, DeployPackage1Script)]

You’ll note that I’ve wrapped the old Invoke Process activity in a new If block – the primary purpose of this is to allow us to use this workflow even for projects that do not use the build features.

Note: Don’t forget to check-in your xaml changes at this point – otherwise you will not be able to set any of your new arguments in the build definition editor!

Step 4: Setup the Build Definition

Note that this assumes you have already prepared your destination server to allow for remote deployments. See my previous post on Using TFS Build Server for Continuous Integration for help with this configuration if necessary.

 The final step is to setup the build definition.

  1. Create a new Build Definition
  2. On the Process tab, note that a new category for “Deploy Package 1” is now displayed
  3. Enter the path to your deployment package, relative to the output directory. Typically this is _PublishedWebsites\MyProject_Package.
  4. Enter the name of the generated command script file.
  5. Enter the arguments required for the command script file. Typically this is /y /M:ServerName /u:UserName /p:Password.
  6. Change the Deploy Package 1 flag to true.

Step 5: Trigger a build, and watch it work!


Whats Next?

There are a number of changes that we have introduced to the standard workflow, that I will endeavour to describe in my next few posts;

  • Cleaning up the Output Directory to include only packages
  • Running Integration tests post-deployment
  • Using transformations on the integration test app.config file to modify the target endpoints for testing

TFS Automated Deploy – Avoid MSDEPLOY Deleting Log Files

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Last weekend I posted the details of how we are using TFS Build Server in conjunction with the Web Deployment Toolkit to enable automated build and deploy of some of our internal development environments.

One piece of feedback that I received from the previous post was that the configuration by default will delete all files in the deployment destination location. Normally this is perfectly acceptable behaviour – but in other cases less than ideal. Specifically, one of the solutions that we are building logs output to a logging folder within the application directory, and we do not want to lose the logs each time a build is deployed.

This is easily solved when deploying using the one-click publishing functionality in Visual Studio 2010 by selecting the “Leave Extra Files on Destination” option on the Publish dialog for a web application (the Publish dialog can be accessed by right clicking on the web application project in Solution Explorer, then selecting Publish) – but the solution is less obvious when using MSDEPLOY or the TFS 2010 build packages directly.

After some time searching through Google I came across this thread that describes the MSDEPLOY parameter –enablerule:DoNotDeleteRule. This parameter can be added to the Windows Workflow script used by TFS2010 for a build definition by modifying the InvoiceProcess activity used in my previous post as follows (change marked in red):

Arguments=”/y /M:YourServer /u:UserName /p:Password

&quot;-setParam:’IIS Web Application Name’=’IISSite/VirtualDirectory‘&quot; -enablerule:DoNotDeleteRule
DisplayName=”Deploy Web Service”
FileName=”[String.Format(&quot;{0}\YourProjectName\YourProjectName.deploy.cmd&quot;, BuildDetail.DropLocation)]”>