Extensible processing classes using reflection

I recently wanted to build an extensible set of processing classes. Each class can process certain objects it is provided.

I decided the simplest way to do this was to create an processor interface. The set of processing classes then is all classes that implement this interface. I use reflection to then find all the processors: that is, all implementations of the processor interface.

Assuming all processing is done on the object itself, the processor interface looks like this

public interface IProcessor
{
	bool CanProcess(ITarget target);

	void Process(ITarget target);
}

One of the processor implementations could look something like this

public class UpdateTotalProcessor : IProcessor
{
	public bool CanProcess(ITarget target)
	{
		return target.Items.Any();
	}

	public void Process(ITarget target)
	{
		target.Total = target.Items.Sum(item => item.Value);
	}
}

To utilise the processors, you’d end up with code similar to the following

private static readonly IEnumerable<IProcessor> Processors = InstancesOfMatchingTypes<IProcessor>();
		
private static IEnumerable<T> InstancesOfMatchingTypes<T>()
{
	Assembly assembly = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly();
	return TypeInstantiator.Instance.InstancesOfMatchingTypes<T>(assembly);
}

public void Process(ITarget target)
{
	foreach(IProcessor processor in Processors.Where(p => p.CanProcess(target)))
		processor.Process(target);
}

Note that with this implementation, multiple processors can potentially match, and therefore process, a target. Also note that there is no ordering; adding ordering would be an easy extension.

With this scheme, adding new processors is dead easy. Simply add a new implementation of IProcessor to the assembly, and it will be automatically picked up and used.

Providing classes that derive one type from another is also simple using this scheme.

public interface IDeriver
{
	bool CanDerive(ITarget target);

	IDerived Derive(ITarget target);
}

public class SampleDeriver : IDeriver
{
	public bool CanDerive(ITarget target)
	{
		return true;
	}

	public IDerived Derive(ITarget target)
	{
		return new Derived(target);
	}
}

Obviously applying more than one deriver makes no sense in this context

private static readonly IEnumerable<IDeriver> Derivers = InstancesOfMatchingTypes<IDeriver>();
		
private static IEnumerable<T> InstancesOfMatchingTypes<T>()
{
	Assembly assembly = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly();
	return TypeInstantiator.Instance.InstancesOfMatchingTypes<T>(assembly);
}

public IDerived Derive(ITarget target)
{
	IDeriver deriver = Derivers.FirstOrDefault(deriver => deriver.CanDerive(target));
	return deriver == null
		? null
		: deriver.Derive(target);
}

Once again ordering is undefined so if you have your derivers defined in such a way that more than one matches, you will end up with unpredictable results.

Text of my Summer of Tech Android talk

Here is the text of my Talk about Android at the Summer of Tech Mobile Developers Panel tonight.

I skipped the section telling businesses to think twice before deciding they needed a mobile application however, as there didn’t appear to be any business people in the audience. I was interested to find that during the panel discussion it was suggested to build mobile websites instead of mobile applications, and in discussion with individuals afterwards, the theme came up again. It’s clear that a number of developers in attendance agreed with me that mobile applications are looked at too readily, instead of options such as the mobile web or SMS.

Representing Android on SoT Mobile Panel, 8th Feb in Wellington

I’m going to be talking about Android for the Summer of Tech Mobile Developers Panel on the 8th of February. This is going to be my first public speaking engagement, and I’m really looking forward to it. Come and support, the discussion should be interesting and informative, and there’s pizza and beer! You need to RSVP on Lil’ Regie. All the Summer of Tech events I’ve attending have been great. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be busy preparing for the next week, a new blog post will be forthcoming sometime after the panel.

Updating the registry using .NET and LogParser

I have discovered a need to be able to search and replace registry values. I originally thought about using Powershell but after reading this blog post about Powershell performance with the registry, I decided to use .NET. I quickly encountered the idea of using LogParser to read the registry at high speed, and decided this was a fruitful avenue.

The background to this need is that when you use a custom profile location, you can only use Chrome as your default browser by editing the registry. I did this manually once. Then when I found the keys had reset themselves, I decided coding something to update the registry for me would be interesting.

The first stage was to get the LogParser COM interop built. This was pleasantly easy. As simple as running tlbimp "C:\Program Files (x86)\Log Parser 2.2\LogParser.dll" /out:Interop.MSUtil.dll, adding the DLL as a reference to my project, adding using statements to Program.cs, and then writing some code. I started by getting the search going.

using System;
using System.Linq;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using LogQuery = Interop.MSUtil.LogQueryClass;
using RegistryInputFormat = Interop.MSUtil.COMRegistryInputContextClass;
using RegRecordSet = Interop.MSUtil.ILogRecordset;
using System.Diagnostics;
using Microsoft.Win32;
using System.Collections.Generic;

namespace FreeSpiritSoftware.ChromeRegistryCustomProfile
{
	public class Program
	{
		private const string DefaultChromeCall = @"""C:\Users\sam\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe"" -- ""%1""";

		public static void Main(string[] args)
		{
			RegRecordSet rs = null;

			Stopwatch stopWatch = new Stopwatch();
			stopWatch.Start(); 
			try
			{
				LogQuery qry = new LogQuery();
				RegistryInputFormat registryFormat = new RegistryInputFormat();
				string query = string.Format(@"SELECT Path, ValueName from \HKCR, \HKCU, \HKLM, \HKCC, \HKU where Value = '{0}'", DefaultChromeCall);
				rs = qry.Execute(query, registryFormat);
				for (; !rs.atEnd(); rs.moveNext())
				{
					string path = rs.getRecord().toNativeString(0);
					string valueName = rs.getRecord().toNativeString(1);
					Console.WriteLine(path);
					Console.WriteLine(valueName);
					Console.WriteLine("--");
				}
			}
			finally
			{
				rs.close();
			}
			stopWatch.Stop();
			Console.WriteLine(stopWatch.Elapsed.TotalSeconds + " seconds");
			Console.ReadKey(false);
		}
	}
}

You’ll see I explicitly reference the five registry keys in the FROM statement of the query I give LogParser, even though I’m searching the whole registry. This is because when I tried FROM /, I got two results per root key of the registry, one using the abbreviated root key name, one using it’s full name (e.g. I’d get HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command and HKCR\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command).

So once I had the code above working, the next step was to actually access and update the keys using Microsoft.Win32.Registry. This proved to be more complex than I had expected as (a) you have to access the root keys as static properties of Registry, and (b) from a particular key, you can only access its immediate subkeys. I’m sure there are libraries that make matters simpler, but working around was easy enough.

To deal with the root keys, I created a dictionary to use to look up root key abbreviations from LogParser, and return the root key objects. I created a recursive function to move through subkeys to finally access the subkey referenced by a path.

private static readonly IDictionary<string, RegistryKey> RegistryLookup = new Dictionary<string, RegistryKey>
{
	{ "HKCR", Registry.ClassesRoot },
	{ "HKCU", Registry.CurrentUser },
	{ "HKLM", Registry.LocalMachine },
	{ "HKCC", Registry.CurrentConfig },
	{ "HKU", Registry.Users },
};

private static RegistryKey GetSubKey(IEnumerable<string> splitPath)
{
	RegistryKey rootKey = RegistryLookup[splitPath.First()];
	return GetSubKey(rootKey, splitPath.Skip(1));
}

private static RegistryKey GetSubKey(RegistryKey key, IEnumerable<string> splitPath)
{
	var theRest = splitPath.Skip(1);
	return theRest.Any()
		? GetSubKey(key.OpenSubKey(splitPath.First()), splitPath.Skip(1))
		: key.OpenSubKey(splitPath.First(), writable: true);
}

So for HKCR\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command and HKCR\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command, it’ll split off HKCR and get the root key, call GetSubKey(Registry.ClassesRoot, { "ChromeHTML", "shell", "open", "command" }) which will get the ChromeHTML subkey within HKCR, and call GetSubKey(ChromeHTML, { "shell", "open", "command" }), and so on, until it calls with GetSubKey(open, { "command" }), and which point recursion ends, and the “command” key is opened writable and returned.

From this point things were easy. The only other complication was that LogParser represents the default key as "(Default)", whereas Microsoft.Win32.Registry represents it as string.Empty.

The final code looks like this. Parameterisation, tidying, etc is left as an exercise for the reader.

using System;
using System.Linq;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using LogQuery = Interop.MSUtil.LogQueryClass;
using RegistryInputFormat = Interop.MSUtil.COMRegistryInputContextClass;
using RegRecordSet = Interop.MSUtil.ILogRecordset;
using System.Diagnostics;
using Microsoft.Win32;
using System.Collections.Generic;

namespace FreeSpiritSoftware.ChromeRegistryCustomProfile
{
	public class Program
	{
		private const string DefaultChromeCall = @"""C:\Users\sam\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe"" -- ""%1""";
		private const string ReplacementChromeCall = @"""C:\Users\sam\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe"" --user-data-dir=""E:\settings\chrome-profiles""  -- ""%1""";
		private static readonly char[] PathSeparator = new[] { '\\' };
		private static readonly IDictionary<string, RegistryKey> RegistryLookup = new Dictionary<string, RegistryKey>
        {
            { "HKCR", Registry.ClassesRoot },
            { "HKCU", Registry.CurrentUser },
            { "HKLM", Registry.LocalMachine },
            { "HKCC", Registry.CurrentConfig },
            { "HKU", Registry.Users },
        };

		public static void Main(string[] args)
		{
			RegRecordSet rs = null;

			Stopwatch stopWatch = new Stopwatch();
			stopWatch.Start();
			try
			{
				LogQuery qry = new LogQuery();
				RegistryInputFormat registryFormat = new RegistryInputFormat();
				string query = string.Format(@"SELECT Path, ValueName from \HKCR, \HKCU, \HKLM, \HKCC, \HKU where Value = '{0}'", DefaultChromeCall);
				rs = qry.Execute(query, registryFormat);
				for (; !rs.atEnd(); rs.moveNext())
				{
					string path = rs.getRecord().toNativeString(0);
					string valueName = rs.getRecord().toNativeString(1);
					if (valueName == "(Default)")
						valueName = string.Empty;
					Console.WriteLine(path);
					Console.WriteLine(valueName);
					String[] splitPath = path.Split(PathSeparator);
					RegistryKey key = GetSubKey(splitPath.Take(splitPath.Length));
					Console.WriteLine(key.GetValue(valueName));
					key.SetValue(valueName, ReplacementChromeCall);
					Console.WriteLine(key.GetValue(valueName));
					Console.WriteLine("--");
				}
			}
			finally
			{
				rs.close();
			}
			stopWatch.Stop();
			Console.WriteLine(stopWatch.Elapsed.TotalSeconds + " seconds");
			Console.ReadKey(false);
		}

		private static RegistryKey GetSubKey(IEnumerable<string> splitPath)
		{
			RegistryKey rootKey = RegistryLookup[splitPath.First()];
			return GetSubKey(rootKey, splitPath.Skip(1));
		}

		private static RegistryKey GetSubKey(RegistryKey key, IEnumerable<string> splitPath)
		{
			var theRest = splitPath.Skip(1);
			return theRest.Any()
				? GetSubKey(key.OpenSubKey(splitPath.First()), splitPath.Skip(1))
				: key.OpenSubKey(splitPath.First(), writable: true);
		}
	}
}

(Note: I’m aware that there are aliases within the registry so I’m performing duplicate searches, I was happy to just use a brute-force search).

Tidy IEqualityComparer with GenericEqualityComparer

Whilst looking through a codebase, I saw implementations of IEqualityComparer<>. After thinking to myself that the need to create an entire implementation of IEqualityComparer<> per use creates quite a bit of boilerplate for such a small amount of signal, I realised that creating a generic implementation of IEqualityComparer<> that takes a definition of equality in its constructor would be very simple.

public class GenericEqualityComparer<T> : IEqualityComparer<T>
{
	private readonly Func<T, T, bool> mEqualsFunc;
	private readonly Func<T, int> mGetHashCodeFunc;

	public GenericEqualityComparer(Func<T, T, bool> equalsFunc, 
		Func<T, int> getHashCodeFunc)
	{
		if (equalsFunc == null)
			throw new ArgumentNullException("equalsFunc");
		if (getHashCodeFunc == null)
			throw new ArgumentNullException("getHashCodeFunc");

		mEqualsFunc = equalsFunc;
		mGetHashCodeFunc = getHashCodeFunc;
	}

	public bool Equals(T x, T y)
	{
		return mEqualsFunc(x, y);
	}

	public int GetHashCode(T obj)
	{
		return mGetHashCodeFunc(obj);
	}
}

Creating and using an instance of this class is as simple as

public class TestClass
{
	private static readonly GeneralEqualityComparer<Foo> mFooComparer = 
		new GeneralEqualityComparer<Foo>(
			(x, y) => x.Id == y.Id,
			obj => obj.Id);

	public void GetDistinctFoos(IEnumerable<Foo> foos)
	{
		return foos.Distinct(mFooComparer);
	}
}

However, I was a bit embarrassed when I told my boss, Tony Beveridge, about this great use of generics and Funcs I had thought of, and he told me he had actually implemented exactly the same class some months ago.

Its worth noting that EqualityComparer<T>.Default provides a default implementation using the Equals() and GetHashCode() functions of T.

If you wanted to extend GenericEqualityComparer so you don’t have to provide an implementation for GetHashCode(), you can default mGetHashCodeFunc to always return zero. This will force the Equals function to always be called.

Autosaving of form fields in browsers

I’ve once again lost a decent sized chunk of text in a textarea, due to a browser crash. I’ve started wondering about whether browsers should implement autosaving for textareas. Our usage patterns have got to the point where we use browsers to write large chunks of text on a regular basis.

Generally when I’m writing an extended chunk of text, I will do so in a text editor, and only copy the text into a website when I have to. However, this is a poor workaround.

Some websites implement their own autosaving. Whilst this is a great move on their part, I think that it’s time to look at how autosaving could be supported at the browser level in a standard fashion. Browsers already maintain a significant amount of state after a crash, tabs, positions within tabs, etc. Extending this to include form entries shouldn’t be challenging.

The main difficulty with this proposal is the privacy and security implications. But these are not insoluble.

Firstly, when a browser first considers autosaving a field, it could ask you whether to enable it, with options like Yes once, Yes always, Yes for entire site, and the equivalent No options.

Secondly, an extension of the idea of autocomplete="false". Replace the autocomplete attribute with private="true". I like this as it specifies intent rather than behaviour. The browser can then interpret that private fields shouldn’t have autocomplete, that they shouldn’t autosave, and other behaviours that are meaningful for the private field.

I think this is something that’d be worth W3C consideration. Or alternatively one of the browsers should pick this feature up as a point of difference. I’ve already lost more text than I’d like because of browser crashes.

IEnumerable, ReadOnlyCollection, and the missing interface

I’ve been thinking on and off about the appropriate return signature for a method that returns an immutable list of objects, sparked off by reading Eric Lippert’s article, Arrays considered somewhat harmful, and my belief that the value of functional program and growth of parallelism means that immutability is desirable most of the time.

However, once you decide to return an immutable collection, what type do you return?

IEnumerable is not really appropriate. The problem is that an IEnumerable may possibly be only evaluable a single time, or may cost for every evaluation of it you perform. This means that you end up with consumers of your method having to use ToList() or ToArray() to flatten the IEnumerable before consuming it, which is wasteful when your method is returning a bounded collection.

So the only choice you have with .NET is ReadOnlyCollection. Which is okay, but not ideal, I believe.

Firstly this involves specifying a return signature as a concrete type. I prefer my method signatures to be interfaces when primitives are not being used, so they only specify behavour. This also means that you can’t return an object that doesn’t use ReadOnlyCollection as a base class.

The second issue is that ReadOnlyCollection implements ICollection and IList. Whilst the implementation of methods such as Add are explicit, the fact ReadOnlyCollection implements interfaces with methods that are invalid for it creates a class of bugs only findable at run time. Have a look at the following code.

public ReadOnlyCollection<object> GetReadOnly()
{
	ReadOnlyCollection<object> readOnly = new List<object>().AsReadOnly();
}

public void ShowIssue()
{
	ReadOnlyCollection<object> readOnly = GetReadOnly();
	// The next line prevented at compile time
	// readOnly.Add(new object());

	// However this code compiles, unfortunately
	IList<object> iList = GetReadOnly()
	iList.Add(new object()); // Fails with an exception at runtime
}

I think that it would have been sensible for .NET to have had an interface that inherits IEnumerable, that represents a readonly bounded collection, called something like IReadOnlyCollection. It would have a Count and allow read only access to the elements by index. ICollection and IList would both inherit this interface, and ReadOnlyCollection would be the implementation of it.

Update: Firstly, this article doesn’t really cover the differences between immutable and read only. The ReadOnlyCollection doesn’t provide any methods to change the collection membership. However ReadOnlyCollection is only a wrapper around the List, and it does not guarantee that the underlying list is not changed.

Links that may be of interest:

Using Policy Injection and Attributes to preempt calls to non-functioning systems

It’s a waste of processor cycles and user time to make web service calls to systems that are not currently functioning. I was involved in building a solution that allows code that depends on non-functioning systems to be skipped entirely. Code simply needs to be attributed with the systems it uses. Then a policy injection handler will throw an exception without even calling that code if a system is known to be unavailable.

I document the parts of the system I built in this article. The moving parts of involved in this solution are:

  • Agents. The agents are the classes that make web service calls to external systems.
  • FunctionalArea attributes. Agent interfaces are marked up with these attributes to indicate dependencies on external systems.
  • FunctionalAreaUnavailableException – thrown to indicate an agent method call has been made involving an unavailable system.
  • SystemStatusAgent. This service keeps track of the unavailability of systems, by receiving information from the application when a FunctionalAreaUnavailableException is thrown, and through its own monitoring. I don’t document it in this blog post.
  • The InterceptorBehavior. Policy injection causes this to be ran before each agent method call. It throws a FunctionalAreaUnavailableException when an attributed agent has a web service exception, or instead of a method call involving a system the SystemStatusAgent considers unavailable.
  • Global exception handling. Catches FunctionalAreaUnavailableExceptions, notifies the SystemStatusAgent of them, and shows the user an error indicating the system they are trying to work with is currently unavailable. I don’t document it in this blog post.

I was able to policy inject all Agents as they were constructed in our AgentFactory. I wished to use configuration based injection. But (if my memory serves me right) with Unity 2.0 policy injection, you can’t use configuration to generated an injected object that is of a concrete type. I had to specify interception behaviours (Unity synonym for policy handler) in code to use the required interceptor, TransparentProxyInterceptor.

PolicyInjectionHelper makes injection simple for us.

public class PolicyInjectionHelper
{
	private ReadOnlyCollection<Type> mInterceptorTypes;

	/// <summary>
	/// Construct a new interception helper that will provide objects with 
	/// policy injection, using interceptors of the given types, in the
	/// given order.
	/// </summary>
	/// <param name="interceptorTypes">
	/// Type of the interceptors - all must derive from IInterceptionBehavior
	/// </param>
	public PolicyInjectionHelper(IEnumerable<Type> interceptorTypes)
	{
		DBC.Assert(
			interceptorTypes.All(typeof(IInterceptionBehavior).IsAssignableFrom),
			"All interceptors must derive from IInterceptionBehavior");
		mInterceptorTypes = interceptorTypes.ToList().AsReadOnly();
	}

	/// <summary>
	/// Derive a policy inject object from the provided object
	/// </summary>
	public T PolicyInject<T>(T obj) where T : class
	{
		T result = obj;
		if (mInterceptorTypes.Any())
			result = Intercept.ThroughProxy<T>(
				result,
				new TransparentProxyInterceptor(),
				ConstructInterceptorInstances());
		return result;
	}

	private IEnumerable<IInterceptionBehavior> 
		ConstructInterceptorInstances()
	{
		return mInterceptorTypes.
			Select(type => Activator.CreateInstance(type) as IInterceptionBehavior);
	}
}

I utilised this in our AgentFactory as this simplified and abbreviated code shows. The PolicyInjectionHelper means that whilst the interception behaviours couldn’t be specified in config, they are easy to see in code (RequiresFunctionalAreaPolicyHandler below).

public class AgentFactory {
	private static readonly PolicyInjectionHelper mPolicyInjectionHelper = 
		mFunctionalAreaPolicyHandlerEnabled
		? new PolicyInjectionHelper(
			new List<Type> { typeof(RequiresFunctionalAreaPolicyHandler) })
		: new PolicyInjectionHelper(Enumerable.Empty<Type>());
				
	// Snipped singleton code

	// Real construction is more complex
	public T ConstructAgent<T>()
		where T : IBaseAgent
	{
		T agent = GetAgent<T>();
		return mPolicyInjectionHelper.PolicyInject(agent);
	}
}

A pair of FunctionalArea attributes allow agent interfaces and methods to be attributed to indicate dependencies

/// <summary>
/// Decorate agent interfaces and agent interface classes with this attribute to indicate
/// that they require a particular functional area to be available.
/// When decorated methods, or methods within a decorated interface are
/// called, a FunctionalAreaUnavailableException is thrown if
/// the area is unavailable, or if a SoapException occurs during
/// the method
/// </summary>
[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Interface | AttributeTargets.Method, AllowMultiple = false, Inherited = true)]
public class FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute : Attribute 
{
	public FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute(FunctionalArea pArea)
	{
		Area = pArea;
	}

	public FunctionalArea Area { get; private set; }

	public bool Equals(FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute other)
	{
		return !ReferenceEquals(null, other) && 
			   (ReferenceEquals(this, other) || Equals(other.Area, Area));
	}

	public override bool Equals(object obj)
	{
		return !ReferenceEquals(null, obj) &&
			   (ReferenceEquals(this, obj) || Equals(obj as FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute));
	}

	public override int GetHashCode()
	{
		return Area.GetHashCode();
	}
}

/// <summary>
/// Decorate methods with this attribute to indicate that the functional
/// area requirements of their containing class should be ignored
/// </summary>
[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Method, AllowMultiple = false, Inherited = false)]
public class IgnoreRequiredFunctionalAreaAttribute : Attribute { }

Here is an example of how the attributes are used

[FunctionalAreaRequired(FunctionalArea.SystemX)]
public interface IAnAgent : IBaseAgent
{
	void AMethod();

	[IgnoreRequiredFunctionalArea]
	void NotThisMethod();
}
	
public interface IAnotherAgent : IBaseAgent
{
	[FunctionalAreaRequired(FunctionalArea.SystemY)]
	void AMethod();

	void NotThisMethod();
}

The FunctionalAreaUnavailableException itself is very simple.

public class FunctionalAreaUnavailableException : ApplicationException
{
	private const string MessageTemplate = 
		"Functional area {0} unavailable";

	public FunctionalAreaUnavailableException(FunctionalArea area, 
		Exception ex = null)
		: base(string.Format(MessageTemplate, area), ex)
	{
		Area = area;
	}

	public FunctionalArea Area { get; private set; }
}

I introduced a BaseInterceptionBehavior as I quickly found all my IInterceptionBehavior implementations had commonalities.

public abstract class BaseInterceptionBehavior : IInterceptionBehavior
{
	#region IInterceptionBehavior members

	/// <summary>
	/// Returns a flag indicating if this behavior will actually do anything when invoked.
	/// </summary>
	public bool WillExecute { get { return true; } }

	/// <summary>
	/// Check if an intercepted method invocation should be processed, and process it if
	/// interception is required.
	/// </summary>
	public IMethodReturn Invoke(IMethodInvocation input, 
		GetNextInterceptionBehaviorDelegate getNext)
	{
		return IsInterceptionRequired(input)
			? ProcessInvocation(input, () => getNext()(input, getNext))
			: getNext()(input, getNext);
	}

	/// <summary>
	/// Returns the interfaces required by the behavior for the objects it intercepts. 
	/// </summary>
	public virtual IEnumerable<Type> GetRequiredInterfaces()
	{
		return Enumerable.Empty<Type>();
	}

	#endregion

	/// <summary>
	/// Should this method invocation be intercepted?
	/// </summary>
	protected virtual bool IsInterceptionRequired(IMethodInvocation input)
	{
		// !input.MethodBase.IsSpecialName means properties 
		// aren't intercepted, and also ToString et. al.
		return input.MethodBase.IsPublic && 
			!input.MethodBase.IsSpecialName;
	}

	/// <summary>
	/// Process the intercepted method invocation
	/// </summary>
	protected abstract IMethodReturn ProcessInvocation(IMethodInvocation input, 
		Func<IMethodReturn> processNext);
}

This is the interception behaviour that throws FunctionalAreaUnavailableException as previously described.

/// <summary>
/// Provides agents with functional area enhancements. 
/// If an agent or method is attributed as requiring a functional area:
/// - Call to methods for which the System Status agent considers a 
///   functional area unavailable will throw a 
///   FunctionalAreaUnavailableException exception without the method 
///   being invoked.
/// - SoapExceptions in methods will be wrapped in a 
///   FunctionalAreaUnavailableException for the attributed functional area
/// </summary>
/// <remarks>
/// An assumption is made only methods should have this behaviour - 
/// it uses the standard BaseInterceptionBehavior.IsInterceptionRequired 
/// criteria
/// </remarks>
public class RequiresFunctionalAreaPolicyHandler 
	: BaseInterceptionBehavior
{
	protected override IMethodReturn ProcessInvocation(
		IMethodInvocation input, Func<IMethodReturn> processNext)
	{
		MethodBase method = input.MethodBase;
		FunctionalArea? area = GetFunctionalAreaRequired(method);
		IMethodReturn result;
		if (area.HasValue && !SystemStatus.IsOperational(area.Value))
		{
			// Don't even call the method if
			// the FunctionalArea is unavailable
			result = input.CreateExceptionMethodReturn(
				new FunctionalAreaUnavailableException(area.Value));
		}
		else
		{
			result = processNext();
            Exception ex = result.Exception;
			Type areaExType = typeof(FunctionalAreaUnavailableException);
			if (area.HasValue &&
				ContainsException(ex, typeof(SoapException)) &&
				!ContainsException(ex, areaExType))
			{
				result = input.CreateExceptionMethodReturn(
					new FunctionalAreaUnavailableException(area.Value, 
						ex));
			}
		}

		return result;
	}

	private static FunctionalArea? GetFunctionalAreaRequired(
		MethodBase pMethod)
	{
		return IgnoreRequiredAttributes(pMethod)
			 ? (FunctionalArea?)null
			 : GetAttrs(pMethod).
				 Select(attribute => attribute.Area).
				 SingleOrDefault();
	}
	
	private static IEnumerable<FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute> GetAttrs(
		MethodBase pMethod)
	{
		var methodAttrs = pMethod.
			GetCustomAttributes<FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute>();
		var typeAttrs = pMethod.DeclaringType.
			GetCustomAttributes<FunctionalAreaRequiredAttribute>(
				true, true);
		return methodAttrs.Union(typeAttrs);
	}

	private static bool IgnoreRequiredAttributes(MethodBase pMethod)
	{
		return pMethod.
			GetCustomAttributes<IgnoreRequiredFunctionalAreaAttribute>().
			FirstOrDefault() != null;
	}

	private static bool ContainsException(
		Exception pException, Type pSearch)
	{
		return pException != null && 
			(pSearch.IsAssignableFrom(pException.GetType()) ||
			ContainsException(pException.InnerException, pSearch));
	}
}

And that’s that.

Policy Injection has its costs. Apart from the additional complexity that policy injection introduces to your code, the usage of the proxy class introduces some overhead to every usage of a policy injected object. And you should be sure that a requirement is a cross cutting concern – do some reading about Aspect-oriented programming for some ideas about how policy injection should be used.

System availability is a cross-cutting concern for agents, which are defined as the set of classes that provide access to external systems in the application I’m dealing with. And the cost of accessing agents through a proxy is fractional compared to the cost of the actual web service calls involved.

This work resulted in a better user user experience when systems are down by providing fast failure, rather than making users wait for timeouts known to be inevitable. The SystemStatusAgent also provides monitoring of the health of the systems the application depends on. I found Unity policy injection wasn’t entirely intuitive. But I’m pleased with the outcome.

Android is the mobile platform of the moment

If you’re going to choose a single mobile platform to develop for in the next year, there are three main alternatives: Android; iPhone; and Windows Phone 7. It’s my belief Android is the platform for developers new to mobile.

Colleagues I talk to are surprised about my opinion. iPhone has the Apple design x-factor, and appears to still be the in thing around my office. And Windows mobile has a new, effective and quite unique design aesthetic applied to its user interface.

However there are reasons that Android looks like the best of the bunch.

The most immediately important reason is price. The cheapest Android phone I can find on Pricespy is an LG GT540 Optimus at NZ$281. The HTC Tattoo and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini are similar prices. The cheapest iPhone on there is an iPhone 3G 8GB for NZ$599. Whilst I can’t find any pricing for Windows Phone 7 at the moment, the high minimum specifications lead me to conclude it’s prices will be in the iPhone price range.

Gadget fetishists will spend a lot of money to have a really nice piece of kit that’s well designed. But Android phones are starting to get cheap enough to appeal to consumers who are looking for just a little more than a vanilla mobile. As consumers start to realise that smartphones are finally priced within their reach, a whole new audience is going to be available to Android developers.

But longer term there’s another important factor. As an open platform, Android is going to be used as the basis of more and more non-phone devices. I can’t make my points more eloquently than this article: Tipping Points and The Future of Electronics. But I’ll leave you with a quote from it: “But that’s beside the point, which is this: saying that Android is fragmented as a phone platform by comparing it to the iPhone is like saying the iPhone App Store is closed by comparing it to the PC. It’s the wrong comparison. Instead, think of it this way: Android is the most unified electronics device platform in the industry’s history.”.

I think Android is going to become a bigger market than the other two platforms, both for applications, and for skills. Android is a great platform to be involved in for a software engineer. I’m excited to be learning it.