I’ve been meaning to write a blog post or three about some of the programming-related stuff that I’ve been doing at work recently. But I keep putting it off. I’ve got some energy today, and a little spare time, so I’m going to try to write up some random notes.
A while back, we had an old SharePoint 2013 page stop working. The page uses a control that I wrote in C#. The control really has nothing to do with SharePoint; it’s basically an old-fashioned ASP.NET web form that makes some web service calls, populates some controls, gathers user input, then makes another web service call, then redirects the user to another page. The only reason it’s in SharePoint is… well, that’s complicated. Let’s not get into that!
Anyway, fixing the page would take about five minutes. I’m pretty sure all I needed to do was increase a timeout, and increase the max receive size on a certain web service call. But… my SharePoint development VM got nuked in our security incident back in July. So the actual time to fix the error would be more like several days, since, at this point, I have no clue how to build a SharePoint 2013 development machine from scratch. I’m pretty sure I could do it, but it would take a lot of time and effort.
So I decided to just rebuild the page as a single-page ASP.NET Razor Page project, which seemed like it would be a fun thing to do, and might be a good model for moving some other stuff out of SharePoint. At the time, I wasn’t too busy. Of course, that changed, and now I kind of regret diving into this. But I did, and managed to learn enough about Razor to get the page done and into production.
I’d known a bit about Razor already, and had messed around with it on and off over the last few years. But most of my recent ASP.NET work has been web services, so there’s no need for Razor there. First, I was surprised to realize that Razor has been around since 2010. Scott Guthrie’s blog post announcing it is from July 3, 2010. I’ve still been thinking about it as “new,” but I guess it’s not. Heck, I guess it could even be considered “legacy” by some folks. (I guess maybe Blazor is what the cool kids are using now?)
Since it’s been around awhile, there are some reasonably good resources out there for learning it. But, also since it’s been around awhile, a lot of it is scattershot, or out of date, or not really relevant to what I was doing. The best resource I found is the Learn Razor Pages site. I almost bought the related book, ASP.NET Core Razor Pages in Action, but before I got around to it, I was pretty much done with the project, and had to move on to other stuff.
So, with the changes that are going on at work, it looks like I’ll have to be doing a lot more work with Dynamics 365. D365 is a pretty big topic. It looks like I’ll probably be mostly concerned with Dynamics 365 Sales (formerly known as CRM). I took a three-day class on Power Platform back in 2020, which is kind of the underlying technology for D365. Power Apps and Dataverse in particular are important. (The terminology on this stuff is really annoying. When I took that class two years ago, Dataverse was called “Common Data Service” and some of the other related terminology was different. It’s hard to keep up…)
I now have Pluralsight and LinkedIn Learning access via work, so I watched some videos on those sites, and on Microsoft’s Learn site, to refresh my memory from previous efforts to learn this stuff, and pick up on the new stuff. I guess I’m now almost at the point where I could be useful…
VSTO and EWS
Related to all that, I’ve been assigned to work on an Outlook plugin that ties into D365, and a console app that does some back-end processing related to the plug-in. So now I also need to learn VSTO, which is how the add-in was built, and EWS, which is used in the console app.
VSTO is a bit out of date, but not yet deprecated. If I was going to do a major rewrite on the plug-in, I’d probably switch to Office Add-Ins, which is a bit more modern, I guess.
And EWS is also out of date but not yet deprecated. If I wanted, I could probably move from that to the Graph API.
The main thing I need to do with these projects is to get them to work with Exchange Online. (We’re in the middle of migrating from on-prem right now.) I think I won’t actually have to change the plug-in at all, since it’s working with the Outlook object model, and I don’t think that cares if the email came from Exchange Online or on-prem. There might be a “gotcha” or two in there, though, so I need to at least test it.
For the console app, EWS still works with Exchange Online, but I know I’ll have to change a few things there, including switching over to OAuth for authentication.
And both apps seem to need some cleanup in terms of logging and error-checking. I know that if I make changes to these apps, then people are going to start coming to me with support questions, so I’ll need to make sure I have enough logging to provide support.
There’s actually been a lot of overhead involved in getting up and running on this project. These programs were originally under a different dev group, part of which has gotten moved into my group, so they’re using some conventions and utilities and stuff that I don’t know, and need to learn (and in some cases, gain access to). And I don’t have Outlook on my dev VM, since that’s not normally allowed (for security reasons). And I can’t get to the Exchange Online version of EWS, since that’s blocked (for security reasons). And I need to set up a new app registration, so I can access EWS with OAuth, and that needs to be approved by a global admin. And so on.
Was there a point to this?
If there’s a point to all this, I guess it’s just that I need to keep learning new things and being flexible. I saw a funny comic strip recently about an old man whose doctor tells him that he can help keep his memory sharp by learning new skills. And the old man says that his memory isn’t good enough for him to learn new skills. And of course I can’t remember where I saw that strip now, so I can’t link to it here. It was probably on GoComics, which I recently re-subscribed to, after canceling my subscription almost a decade ago. I’ve decided that reading the comic strips every morning is healthier than browsing Facebook and Twitter, so that’s why I re-subscribed. (I may also sign up for Comics Kingdom too, but that’s a subject for a different blog post.) Anyway, since I can’t find the strip I was looking for, here’s a different one, along similar lines.