But it works on my PC!

The random thoughts of Richard Fennell on technology and software development

Running CodeUI tests on a VM with on remote desktop session open as part of a vNext build

If you want to run CodeUI tests as part of a build you need to make sure the device running the test has access to the UI, for remote VMs this means having a logged in session open and the build/test agent running interactivally. Problem is what happens when you disconnect the session. UNless you manage it you will get the error

Automation engine is unable to playback the test because it is not able to interact with the desktop. This could happen if the computer running the test is locked or it’s remote session window is minimized

In the past I would use a standard TFS Lab Management Environment to manage this,you just check a box to say the VM/PC is running coded UI tests and it sorts out the rest. However, with the advent of vNext build and the move away from Lab Manager this seems overly complex.

It is not a perfect solution but this works

  1. Make sure the VM autologs in and starts your build/test agents in interactive mode (I used SysInternal AutoLogin to set this up)
  2. I connect to the session and make sure all is OK, but I then disconnect redirecting the session
    • To get my session ID, at the command prompt, I use the command query user
    • I then redirect the session tscon.exe RDP-Tcp#99 /dest:console, where RDP-Tcp#99 is my session ID
  3. Once I was disconnected my CodeUI test still run

I am sure I can get a slicker way to do this, but it does fix the immediate issue


This bit of Powershell code could be put in a shortcut on the desktop to do the job, you will want to run the script as administrator

$OutputVariable = (query user) | Out-String

$session = $OutputVariable.Substring($OutputVariable.IndexOf("rdp-tcp#")).Split(" ")[0]

& tscon.exe $session /dest:console

Nuget restore fails to restore all the files on VSTS build if using project.json files

We are currently working on updating a Windows 8 application to be a Windows 10 Universal application. This has caused a few problem on a TFS vNext automated build box. The revised solution builds fine of the developers box and fine on the build VM if opened in Visual Studio, but fails if built via the VSTS vNext build CI MSBuild process showing loads of references missing.

Turns out the issue was due to Nuget versions.

The problem was that as part of the upgrade the solution had gained some new projects. These used the new project.json file to manage their Nuget references, as opposed to the old packages.config file. Visual Studio 2015 handles these OK, hence the build always working in the IDE, but you need Nuget.exe 3.0 or later for it to handle the new format. The version of Nuget installed as part of my vNext build agent was 2.8. So no wonder it had a problem.

To test my assumptions I added a Nuget Installer task to my build and set an explicit path to the newest version of Nuget.


Once this was done my build was fine.

So my solution options are

  1. Don’t use the agents shipped with TFS 2015, get newer ones fro VSTS this has a current version of Nuget (just make sure your agent/server combination is supported. I have had issues with the latest VSTS agent and a TFS 2015 RTM instance)
  2. Manually replace the version of Nuget.exe in my build agent tools folder – easy to forget you did but works
  3. Place a copy of the version of Nuget.exe I want on each build VM and reference it s path explicitly (as I did to diagnose the problem)

The first option is the best choice as it is always a good plan to keep build agents up to date

ALM Rangers guidance on migrating from RM Agent based releases to the new VSTS release system

Vijay in the Microsoft Release Management product group has provided a nice post on the various methods you can use to migrate from the earlier versions of Release management to the new one in Visual Studio Team Services.

An area where you will find the biggest change in technology is when moving from on premises agent based releases to the new VSTS PowerShell based system. To help in this process the ALM Rangers have produced a command line tool to migrate assets from RM server to VSTS, it exports all your activities as PowerShell scripts that are easy to re-use in a vNext Release Management process, or in Visual Studio Team Services’ Release tooling.

So if you are using agent based releases, why not have a look at the tools and see how easy it makes to migrate your process to newer tooling.

Upgrading to SonarQube 5.2 in the land of Windows, MSBuild and TFS

SonarQube released version 5.2 a couple of weeks ago. This enabled some new features that really help if you are working with MSbuild or just on a Windows platform in general. These are detailed in the posts

The new ability to manage users with LDAP is good, but one of the most important for me is the way 5.2 ease the configuration with SQL in integrated security mode. This is mentioned in the upgrade notes; basically it boils down to the fact you get better JDBC drivers with better support for SQL Clustering and security.

We found the upgrade process mostly straight forward

  1. Download SonarQube 5.2 and unzipped it
  2. Replaced the files on your SonarQube server
  3. Edited the sonar.properties file with the correct SQL connection details for an integrated security SQL connection. As we wanted to move to integrated security we did not need to set the sonar.jdbc.username setting.
    Important: One thing was not that clear, if you want to use integrated security you do need the sqljdbc_auth.dll file in a folder on a search path (C:\windows\system32 is an obvious place to keep it). You can find this file on MSDN
  4. Once the server was restarted we ran the http://localhost:9000/setup command and it upgraded our DBs

And that was it, for the upgrade. We could then use the standard SonarQube upgrade features to upgrade our plug-ins and to add the new ones like the  LDAP one.

Once the LDAP plug-in was in place (and the server restarted) we were automatically logged into SonarQube with our Windows AD accounts, so that was easy.

However we hit a problem with the new SonarQube 5.2 architecture and LDAP. The issue was that with 5.2 there is now no requirement for the upgraded 1.0.2 SonarQube MSBuild runner to talk directly to the SonarQube DB, all communication is via the SonarQube server. Obviously the user account that makes the call to the SonarQube server needs to be granted suitable rights. That is fairly obvious, the point we  tripped up on was ‘who was the runner running as?’ I had assumed it was as the build agent account, but this was not the case. As the connection to SonarQube is a TFS managed service, it had its own security credentials. Prior to 5.2 these credentials (other than the SonarQube server URL) had not mattered as the SonarQube runner made it own direct connection to the SonarQube DB. Post 5.2, with no DB connection and LDAP in use,  these service credentials become important. Once we had set these correctly, to a user with suitable rights, we were able to do new SonarQube analysis runs.


One other item of note. The change in architecture with 5.2 means that more work is being done on the server as opposed the client runner. The net effect of this is there is a short delay between runs being completed and the results appearing on the dashboard. Once expect it, it is not an issue, but a worry the first time.

Finding it hard to make use of Azure for DevTest?

Announced at Connect() today were a couple of new tools that could really help a team with their DevOps issues when working with VSTS and Azure (and potentially other scenarios too).

  • DevTest Lab is a new set of tooling within the Azure portal that allows the easy management of Test VMs, their creation and management as well as providing a means to control how many VMs team members can create, thus controlling cost. Have a look at Chuck’s post on getting started with DevTest Labs
  • To aid general deployment, have a look that new Release tooling now in public preview. This is based on the same agents as the vNext build system and can provide a great way to formalise your deployment process. Have a looks at Vijay’s post on getting started with the new Release tools

Chrome extension to help with exploratory testing

One of the many interesting announcements at Connect() today was that the new Microsoft Chrome Extension for Exploratory Testing  is  available in the Chrome Store

This is a great tool if you use VSO, sorry VSTS, allowing an easy way to ‘kick the tyres’ on your application, logging any bugs directly back to VSTS as Bug work items.


Best of all, it makes it easy to test your application on other platforms with the link to Perfecto Mobile. Just press the device button, login and you can launch a session on a real physical mobile device to continue your exploratory testing.


Only down side I can see that that, if like me, you would love this functionality for on-premises TFS we need to wait a while, this first preview only support VSTS.

Why you need to use vNext build tasks to share scripts between builds

Whilst doing a vNext build from a TFVC repository I needed map both my production code branch and a common folder of scripts that I intended to use in a number of builds, so my build workspace was set to

  • Map – $/BM/mycode/main                                     - my production code
  • Map – $/BM/BuildDefinations/vNextScripts  - my shared PowerShell I wish to run in different builds e.g. assembly versioning.

As I wanted this to be a CI build, I also  set the trigger to $/tp1/mycode/main

The problem I found was that with my workspace set as above, the associated changes for the build include anything checked into $/BM and below. Also the source branch was set as $/BM



To fix this problem I had to remove the mapping to the scripts folder, once this was done  the associated changes shown were only those for my production code area, and the source branch was listed correctly.

But what to do about running my script?

I don’t really want to have to copy a common script to each build, huge potential for error there, and versioning issues if I want a common script in all build. The best solution I found was to take the PowerShell script, in my case the sample assembly versioning script provided for VSO, and package it as a vNext build Task. It took no modification just required the addition of a manifest file. You can find the task on my vNextBuild Github repo

This custom task could then be uploaded to my TFS server and used in all my builds. As it picks up it variable from environment variables it required so configuration, extracting the version number for the build number format.


If you wish to use this task, you need to follow the same instructions to setup your development environment as for the VSO Tasks, then

  1. Clone the repo https://github.com/rfennell/vNextBuild.git
  2. In the root of the repo run gulp to build the task
  3. Use tfx to upload the task to your TFS instance

Versioning a VSIX package as part of the TFS vNext build (when the source is on GitHub)

I have recently added a CI build to my GitHub stored ParametersXmlAddin VSIX project. I did this using Visual Studio Online’s hosted build service, did you know that this could used to build source from GitHub?

As part of this build I wanted to version stamp the assemblies and the resultant VSIX package. To do the former I used the script documented on MSDN, for the latter I also used the same basic method of extracting the version from the build number as used in the script for versioning assemblies. You can find my VSIX script stored in this repo.

I added both of these scripts in my ParametersXmlAddin project repo’s Script folder and just call them at the start of my build with a pair of PowerShell tasks. As they both get the build number from the environment variables there is no need to pass any arguments.


I only wanted to publish the VSIX package. This was done by setting the contents filter on the Publish Build Artifacts task to **\*.vsix


The final step was to enable the badge for the build, this is done on the General tab. Once enabled, I copied the provided URL for the badge graphics that shows the build status and added this as an image to the Readme.MD file on my repo’s wiki