Posted on 26. July 2014

'Error while copying content to a stream' when pushing to Git

Whilst pushing a recent commit on SparkleXRM I recieved the following error:

An error was raised by libgit2. Category = Net (Error). Error while copying content to a stream.

I turned it off again (rebooted), and used fiddler to trace what was going with no luck. In a last ditch attempt I changed the networking on my virtual machine from NAT to Bridged and hey presto it worked agiain.

So it seems that Git doesn't like NATed connections from Virtual Machines.

Hope this helps someone else!

 

Posted on 26. July 2014

Creating a Contact Card List Web Resource with Images

Sparkle XRM provides a great way of creating grids and forms that look and work similar to Dynamics CRM but sometimes you need to create a responsive user interface that is a little different. Luckily there is a wealth of jQuery plugins out there that provide a great starting point. For this post I'm going to show you how to use FreeWall to create a dynamic grid layout of contact cards but the same approach would apply for any other plugin that isn't included in the core Sparkle XRM dependencies library. This sample creates an HTML web resource that lays out your contacts in a responsive grid that resizes depending on the size available.

Create the Script# Import

Whenever we need to use an external library from Sparkle XRM, the external API must be defined as imported classes. For FreeWall we must import the jQuery plugin and the configuration options class. Notice that the [ScriptName("Object")] is used on the configuration options so that although our Script# class uses a strongly typed class, the JavaScript compiled uses an anonymous type so as not to create unnecessary class prototypes.

Create the View Model

It is a good idea to start with the View Model since this defines all the functionality that the View must expose as well as communicating with the server. For this sample we have a simple view model that simply loads a list of contacts into a list so that FreeWall can be bound to it to display our contact cards. It also provides a function to get the Image Url of the contact and return a placeholder image if no image is defined. The contact image can be found by returning the attribute with logical name 'entityimage_url'

Include the library JS

Once you've selected the library you want to use, you'll need to include it in your Crm Solution project under the js folder, and give it a UniqueName and Display Name similar to dev1_/js/freewall.js

Create the HTML View

The HTML View should be added to the html folder and must contain the scaffolding to hook the jQuery library into and initialise the View code. The data binding is done using Knockout's built in templating engine using the 'template' binding.

Create the View Class

The view class's job is to instantiate the View Model and initialise the binding.

Notice the OnAfterRender call back – this is called every time a new contact card is rendered because of the binding afterRender: Client.InlineSubGrids.Views.ContactCardView.onAfterRender in the HTML. If this is not done then the freewall grid will not layout until the window is resized.

The result is a nice and responsive layout that optimises the fill the available space and has variable height blocks.

@ScottDurow

Posted on 9. June 2014

Multi Entity Search for CRM2013

I've just published an update to my Multi-Entity Search Solution (after being encouraged by my friend and fellow Dynamics CRM MVP Gus Gonzalez!).

Features:

  1. Search across multiple entities at once.
  2. Uses the same configuration as the mobile client 'Quick Find' (Settings->General ->Set Up Quick Find). This allows you to select which entities you would like to search across.
  3. Virtual Scrolling with new records loaded as you scroll rather than all loaded at once.
  4. Shows the primary entity image of returned records (if there is one) in the search results.

In the new version you'll find:

  1. A search button added to the top navigation bar* rather than using a Command Bar button.
  2. Auto searching as you type the search term
  3. Mouse Wheel horizontal scrolling support

*Since there is no supported way of doing this, I've had to do a little DOM shenanigans to get this to work the way Gus wanted!

To try it out you'll need to install the following 2 managed solutions:

If you like this, you might also like to check out my Start Menu Navigation for CRM2013!

@ScottDurow

Posted on 6. June 2014

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

I once heard someone say that "the great thing about Dynamics CRM is that it just looks after itself" Whilst CRM2013 is certainly very good at performing maintenance tasks automatically, if you have a customised system it is important to Monitor, Monitor, Monitor! There are some advanced ways of setting up monitoring using tools such as System Center but just some regular simple monitoring tasks will go a long way for very little investment on your part:

1) Plugin Execution Monitoring

There is a super little entity called 'Plugin-in Type Statistics' that often seems to be overlooked in the long list of advanced find entities. This entity is invaluable for tracing down issues before they cause problems for your users and as defined by the SDK it is "used by the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online platforms to record execution statistics for plug-ins registered in the sandbox (isolation mode)."

The key here is that it only records statistics for your sandboxed plugins. Unless there is a good reason not to (security access etc.) I would recommend that all of your plugins be registered in sandbox isolation. Of course Dynamics CRM online only allows sandboxed plugins anyway so you don't want to put up barriers not to move to the cloud.

To monitor this you can use advanced to show a sorted list by execution time or failure count descending:

If you spot any issues you can then proactively investigate them before they become a problem. In the screen shot above there are a few plugins that are taking more than 1000ms (1 second) to execute, but their execution count is low. I look for plugins that have a high execution count and high execution time, or those that have a high failure percent.

2) Workflow & Asynchronous Job Execution Monitoring

We all know workflows often can start failing for various reasons. Because of their asynchronous nature these failures can go unnoticed by users until it's too late and you have thousands of issues to correct. To proactively monitor this you can create a view (and even add to a dashboard) of System Jobs filtered by Status = Failed or Waiting and where the Message contains data. The Message attribute contains the full error description and stack trace, but the Friendly message just contains the information that is displayed at the top of the workflow form in the notification box.

3) Client Latency & Bandwidth Monitoring

Now that you've got the server-side under control you should also look at the client connectivity of your users. There is a special diagnostics hidden page that can be accessed by using a URL of the format:

http://<YourCRMServerURL>/tools/diagnostics/diag.aspx

As described by the implementation guide topic, "Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed to work best over networks that have the following elements:

  • Bandwidth greater than 50 KB/sec
  • Latency under 150 ms"

After you click 'Run' on this test page you will get results similar to that shown below. You can see that this user is just above these requirements!

You can read more about the Diagnostic Page in Dynamics CRM. You can also monitor the client side using the techniques I describe in my series on Fiddler:

If you take these simple steps to proactively monitor your Dynamics CRM solution then you are much less likely to have a problem that goes un-noticed until you get 'that call'!

@ScottDurow

Posted on 1. June 2014

My top 3 fixes in CRM2013 SP1

There are great many new features shipped in CRM2013 SP1 but let's not forget there are some eagerly awaited fixes as well (as described by http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=2941390) Since there has already been plenty of coverage of the new features, I thought I would pick out my top 3 fixes that I've been particularly waiting for…Queue up the charts count-down soundtrack!

In at Number 3: Matching Connection Roles

Connections are a great way of providing users with an overview of a contact's involvement with all areas of your business. Right from within a contact record users can see the roles that the contact has across different record types such as accounts, cases, and opportunities. Roles are specified on each side of the connection and in many cases you need to have the same role on both sides. In CRM2011 this was possible but strangely with CRM2013 the same role could not be specified as the matching role with the issue being described by the KB article as "In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, users are unable to set a Matching Connection Role to the same Connection Role." Up until now the work around was to create a different role but with the same name but I've tested this in SP1 and I'm pleased to report that it now works the same as it did in CRM2011.

New at Number 2: Importing solution fails when plugins attached to custom actions

The addition of custom actions to CRM2013 was fantastic for creating custom server logic that is called from JavaScript. Unfortunately when you attached a plugin to a custom action message and imported a solution containing that plugin it would fail (See the Microsoft Connect article for this issue). I have held back from using this feature up until now due to the pain it created during deployments but now that it is fixed in SP1 I'm going to be making a lot more use of Custom Action plugins!

UPDATE: Actually, the connect item for this issue is not entirely correct - this will be fixed in one of the next Update Rollups of CRM 2013 SP1

…and this Service Pack's Number 1 Fix is: "Found more than one RibbonDiff entity"

This message is likely a very familiar message to anyone who has made customisations to the Ribbon with CRM2011 (as described by http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2503029). The message was shown when importing customisations and was usually down to there being more than one element in the ribbon xml that had been given the same ID. When CRM2013 was released the message started popping up far more frequently. Initially I was worried it was due to an issue with Ribbon Workbench but eventually I tracked it down to the fact that elements were being duplicated when a solution was exported from CRM2013. The Ribbon Workbench resolves duplicate IDs automatically so the issue only caused problems when transferring a solution between environments through an export/import but what was more confusing is that the issue would only happen on the second import. There is a line in the KB article for SP1 that describes the issue as:

"When we import, the import logic creates two values for each entry within the RibbonDifBase. But When we export the application ribbon we do not have any check for this and we export 2 values directly from the DB to the XML. This if imported to a new org will create 4 values in the table RibbonDiffBase. If the solution is imported again to the same org causes an error"

The Microsoft Connect item for this issue is still marked as active but I've tried to reproduce the issue in SP1 and so far so good! Well done Dynamics CRM Product team!

Poptastic!

@ScottDurow

Posted on 29. May 2014

And then there were seven!

If you've updated to the CRM2013 Spring '14 Wave (Service Pack 1) I think you'll agree that it contains some pretty awesome features.

You can read a good roundup of the developer features in the SDK (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg309589.aspx#BKMK_NewInSpring2014) but have you noticed that there is a little less white space across the top of your forms? This is because the Command Bar now shows 7 rather than 5 buttons before buttons are added to the ellipses overflow.

It is worth noting that the number of buttons that are displayed before the overflow is not (yet?) configurable and nor can you revert back to displaying only 5 (pre SP1). That said, I really appreciate this little change that is a result of the product team listening to feedback from users. What's more it has no impact on the Ribbon Xml or Ribbon Workbench.

You might like to read more about the Command Bar in my post from way back when CRM2013 was first released.

@ScottDurow

Posted on 8. May 2014

Sparkle XRM Code Snippets

If you are doing Sparkle XRM development then you'll find these code snippets I've created for VS2012 very useful. You can grab them from the master repository:
https://github.com/scottdurow/SparkleXrm/tree/master/Snippets
To start using these snippets you simply need to copy the contents of the Snippets directory and paste it into your profile directory at Users\<username>\Documents\Visual Studio 2012\Code Snippets

Using the snippets in Visual Studio is easy – When you are creating a new view HTML page just select all the default code and then type 'sparkle-view-page' followed by TAB. This will add the page snippet and allow you to TAB around the highlighted variable parts of the template which in this case are the name of your Client library (default Client.js) and the name of your View Class:


Once you've finished updating the parameters press Escape to exit the snippet edit.

You can then move the cursor to the line marked <!--TODO--> and add in your form by typing 'sparkle-view-form'. This allows you to enter the name of your view model instance and the title of your form section. Now you're ready to move to the TODO line and add the fields by typing the name of the field snippet and again pressing TAB and filling in the parameters.

Here is a list of all the snippets included:

  • sparkle-view-page – Adds the standard HTML View template
  • sparkle-view-form – Adds the standard Sparkle XRM Form scaffolding
  • sparkle-view-grid – Adds a Sparkle XRM grid
  • sparkle-view-text – Adds a text field
  • sparkle-view-numeric – Adds a numeric field and allows setting the max/min to a constant or view model field.
  • sparkle-view-optionset – Adds a optionset field and allows specifying the entity and attribute to grab the optionset metadata from.
  • sparkle-view-datetime – Adds a datetime field
  • sparkle-view-lookup –Adds a lookup field and allows specifying the search command to return the available records to select. The sparkle-viewmodel-searchcommand can be used to create the search command in the ViewModel Script# code.

There are also some snippets to add a View and ViewModel:

  • sparkle-view-class – Used to create a template view class that is referenced by your html view page.
  • sparkle-viewmodel-searchcommand – Used to create a command that is used to bind to a sparkle-view-lookup to be used when searching within the lookup field.

You'll find that using this snippets will speed up writing your code and reduce errors. Hope it helps!

@ScottDurow

Posted on 5. May 2014

Create a command bar button for your custom activities

When creating a new custom activity entity you are presented with a great many checkboxes to choose from. One of these checkboxes is 'Display in Activities Menus' that will ensure that the activity type is included in the Activities Menu on records

The Custom Activities flyout menu is a dynamically generated menu so that if you load up an entity in the Ribbon Workbench and expand this button you won't see any menu items. This has been the subject for confusion for users who are trying to move this button out of the sub menu and put it on the main Command Bar as a short cut for uses. Since the menu is created dynamically at run time there is no button to customise and move. This post shows you how to create a custom activity button on the opportunity form.

1. Determine the Entity Type Code of your custom activity.
Each custom entity has an Entity Type code. This integer value is different to the entity logical name and could be different on each organization you deploy your solution. We need to know this entity type code in order to create a new record of a specific entity type.

To find the value, create a new record for your custom entity in Internet Explorer and press Ctrl-N (opens a new window with Url visible) and copy the URL. This should look something like:

http://server/Org/main.aspx?etc=10005...

You need to note the etc number for later.

2. Install Ribbon Workbench

You'll need to install the Ribbon Workbench as described by 'Getting started with the Ribbon Workbench'

3. Create and open a solution containing the Opportunity Entity

The Ribbon Workbench requires a solution to load that contains the entities that you wish to work on. Since we are adding the new button to the opportunity entity, add it to the solution – only add the entities you need to speed up the solution load/publish time. When you first open the Ribbon Workbench it will allow you to select your new solution.

4. Click on the 'Ribbon' tab and change drop down in the top right to 'Form'

We need a template command to use and so we select the 'Ribbon' view rather than the Command Bar view so to locate the 'Task' button on the Form ribbon.

5. Select the 'Add' tab and then right click on the 'Task' button and select 'Customise Command'

The Task button is located on the 'Add' tab. Using 'Customise Command' creates a copy of the add task command that we can change to reference our custom acitivty.



6. Expand the Commands node to see the customised command and select 'Mscrm.AddTaskToPrimaryRecord'.
7. Rename the command to be something like 'Mscrm.AddCustomActivityToPrimaryRecord'

By renaming the command we are creating a new command specifically for our new button, rather than customising the existing one.

8. Expand the Command and JavaScript command and change the Int value to be the Entity Type Code of your custom activity

Remember that the entity type code is unique to your custom entity – but it could change between deployments.

9. Right click on the command and select 'Edit Display Rules' and Remove the 'HideOnCommandBar' rule

Since the Task button only shows on the legacy ribbon, we need to change the command so it also shows on the command bar by removing this display rule.

10. Select the 'Command Bar' tab and drag a button onto the Form command bar

11. Set the Command to be your new custom command (e.g. Mscrm.AddCustomActivityToPrimaryRecord)

12. Set the image16 to be /_imgs/ribbon/AddActivity_16.png (or a custom image you have for your entity)

13. Expand the 'Display Rules' and set the 'IsCore' property to 'True' on each Display Rule.

14. Expand the 'Enable Rules' and set the 'IsCore' property to 'True' on each Enable Rule.

By setting the 'IsCore' property to true, we only reference them rather than redefining them.

15. Publish your customisations

16. Test the new button on the opportunity form!

Posted on 15. April 2014

Fiddler2: The tool that gives you Superpowers – Part 4

This post is the fourth and final post in the series 'Fiddler – the tool that gives you superpowers!'

Ice Man

Perhaps Ice Man is the most tenuous super power claim but it's regarding a very important topic – HTTP Caching. Having a good caching strategy is key to having good client performance and not over-loading your network with unnecessary traffic. Luckily Dynamics CRM gives us an excellent caching mechanism – but there are situations where it can be accidently unknowingly bypassed:

  1. Not using relative links in HTML webresources
  2. Loading scripts/images dynamically without using the cache key directory prefix
  3. Not using the $webresource: prefix in ribbon/sitemap xml.

Luckily we can use Fiddler to keep our servers running ice cold by checking that files that are not being cached when they should be. There are types of caching that you need to look for:

Absolute expiration

These web resources will not show in Fiddler at all because the browser has located a cached version of the file with an absolute cache expiration date and so it doesn't need to request anything from the server. By default CRM provides an expiration date of 1 year from the date requested, but if the web resource is updated on the server then the Url changes and so a new version is requested. This is why you see a request similar to /OrgName/%7B635315305140000046%7D/WebResources/somefile.js. Upon inspection of the response you will see an HTTP header similar to:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: public
Content-Type: text/jscript
Expires: Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:18:35 GMT

Once the web resource is downloaded on the client it is requested again until April 14 2015 unless a new version is published where CRM will request the file using a new cache key (the number between the Organization name and the WebResources directory). You can read more about this mechanism on my post about web resource caching.

ETAG Cached files

These resource are usually images and static JavaScript files that are assigned an ETAG value by the server. When the resource changes on the server it is assigned a different ETAG value. When the browser requests the file it sends the previous ETAG value if it hasn't been modified then the server responds with a 304 response meaning that the browser can use the local cached file.

Files that use ETAG caching will show in grey in Fiddler with a response code of 304:

During your web resource testing it is a good idea to crack open Fiddler and perform your unit tests – you should look for any non-304 requests for files that don't need to be downloaded every time they are needed.

Another way to ensure that your servers are running cool as ice is to look at the request execution length. Occasionally code can be written that accidently returns much too much data than required - perhaps all attributes are included or a where criteria is missing. These issues don't always present themselves when working on a development system that responds to queries very quickly, but as soon as you deploy to a production system with many users and large datasets, you start to see slow performance.

There are a number of ways you can test for this using Fiddler:

Visualise Request Times

The order in which your scripts, SOAP and REST requests are executed in can greatly affect the performance experienced by the user and so you can use Fiddler's Time line visualizer to see which requests are running is series and which are running in parallel. It also shows you the length of time the requests are taking to download so that you can identify the longest running requests and focus your optimisation efforts on those first.

  •  

    Simulate Slow Networks

    If you know that your users will be using a slow network to access CRM or you would just like to see how the application responds when the requests start to take longer because of larger datasets you can tell fiddler to add an artificial delay into the responses. To do this you can use the built in Rules->Performance->Simulate Modem Speeds but this usually results in an unrealistically slow response time. If you are using Auto Responders you can right-click on the Rule and use set Latency – but this won't work for Organization Service/REST calls. The best way I've found is to use the Fiddler Script:

    1) Select the 'Fiddler Script' Tab

    2) Select 'OnBeforeRequest' in the 'Go to' drop down

    3) Add the following line to the OnBeforeRequest event handler.

    This will add a 50 millisecond delay for every kB requested from the server which assuming there was no time server time would result in ~160 kbps downloads.

    If you've not used Fiddler for your Dynamics CRM Development yet I hope these posts are enough to convince you that you should give it a try – I promise you'll never look back!

    @ScottDurow

    Posted on 15. April 2014

    Fiddler2: The tool that gives you Superpowers – Part 3

    This post is the third post in the series 'Fiddler – the tool that gives you superpowers!'

    Faster than a Speeding Bullet

    If you have done any development of Web Resources with Dynamics CRM then I'm certain that you'll have become impatient whilst waiting to first deploy your solution and then publish it before you can test any changes. Everytime you need to make a change you need to go round this loop which can slow down the development process considerably. Using the Auto Responders I described in my previous post (Invisibility) you can drastically speed up this development process by using Fiddler to ensure changes you make to a local file in Visual Studio are reflected inside Dynamics CRM without waiting for deploying and publishing. You make the changes inside Visual Studio, simply save and refresh your browser and voilà!

    Here some rough calculations on the time it could save you on a small project:

    Time to Deploy

    15

    seconds

    Time to Publish

    15

    seconds

    Debug iterations

    20

     

    Number of web resources

    30

     

    Development Savings

    5

    hours

    Time to reproduce live data in test/development

    1

    hour

    Number of issues to debug in live

    10

     

    Testing Savings

    10

    hours

         

    Total Savings for small project

    15

    hours

     

    What is perhaps more important about this technique that it saves the frustration caused by having to constantly wait for web resource deployment and ensures that you stay in the development zone rather than being distracted by the latest cute kitten pictures posted on facebook!

    Do remember to deploy and publish your changes once you've finished your development. It seems obvious but it is easily forgotten and you're left wondering why your latest widget works on your machine but not for others!

    More information can be found on this at the following locations:

    @ScottDurow