TicketDesk 3 Dev Diary – Getting TicketDesk 2 back in shape

TicketDesk 2 LogoWhen developing a new version of an existing product, it really helps if you can run the old version and use it as a reference.

TicketDesk 2 works well, but it was designed for MVC 2 running on .Net 4, which would be fine if I still maintained a local development environment compatible with the old code. But I’ve ditched Visual Studio 2010 and 2008 entirely.

So, the first order of business is migrating TicketDesk 2 to the newer asp.net webstack.  I’d also like to update the source on codeplex so others can use it with current dev tools too.

I will not be upgrading the application to use MVC 4 or .Net 4.5 specific technologies or techniques; I’m not switching it to the razor view engine or upgrading to EF 5. The goal is to just get it running on current platforms with as few changes as possible.

The first step was finding the asp.net MVC 2 to MVC 3 project converter. Once I tracked that down, and did a bit of tweaking to get it to work, the conversion ran without a problem. This allowed the project to open  in VS 2012 at least, though it wouldn’t build or run.

Next I moved the web project up to MVC 4, and re-targeted both projects to compile against .Net 4.5. Re-targeting was just a matter of switching the setting in the project properties dialog. Then I just pulled down the asp.net MVC 4 NuGet packages, along with the three dependent packages. TicketDesk uses the old ASPX view engine, and doesn’t use WebApi or anything fancy, so I didn’t need most of the other NuGet packages that you’d see in most MVC 4 applications.

TicketDesk 2 used MEF 1. This was probably the riskiest decision I made when building it originally. MEF 1 was intended for Silverlight development, and I had a LOT of trouble getting it to work correctly for asp.Net MVC (I wrote about those issues at length here and here). Had my only need been dependency injection, I would have switched to Ninject. In the end though, I did get MEF to work for TicketDesk 2. But to be honest, the experience was not very inspiring. Since then, I’ve stuck with Ninject, and been the happier for it.

Now we have MEF 2, but it is nearly impossible to find coherent guidance on how to use it with web apps. There are tons of articles, blog posts, and discussions all over the net, but they all use different techniques, none of the examples actually work beyond demo land (most don’t work there either), and most of the info is based on obsolete pre-release versions. The MSDN docs are of particularly low quality, and frustratingly out of date too.

I’m sure MEF 2 is amazing, but if MS doesn’t do something serious about cleaning up the documentation and providing some coherent guidance appropriate for real world applications, then I doubt it’ll get much use among the asp.net developer community.

I spent several hours working with the best example of MEF 2 with MVC that I could find. In the end though, I still couldn’t get it to play nice with TicketDesk 2. But I got lucky and was able to get what I had built originally to work with very few changes. I’m sure the old pattern misses out of some nice MEF 2 specific improvements, but the goal here is to get TicketDesk 2 working again not optimize it for the new platforms.

I’ll probably take a deeper look at MEF 2 for TicketDesk 3 before I decide if I’ll switch to Ninject, or give the new MEF another shot.

I no longer have SQL Express installed locally. I am using SQL 2012 localdb, and have a full instance of SQL 2012 developer edition. So, I switched the TD 2 connection strings to localdb, and have had no problems with it. I’ll put them back to SQL express before I merge the code back into the default branch, and there are no databases changes for the new build.

This got me to up a working version of TicketDesk 2 that can run on MVC 4 using the .Net 4.5 framework. Mission accomplished!

Once I had it working though, I went ahead and upgraded the jQuery stuff. I just couldn’t resist. This required a tiny tweak to the corners plug-in to fix a compatibility problem with the newer jQuery releases; but overall it seems to work great.

At this point, I have what appears to be a fully functional update of TicketDesk 2. All that remains it to put it through some live testing, and update the documentation. Then I will merge the new code in source control, and push it up to codeplex along with a new downloadable release.

Best of all, I now have a working local copy I can use as a reference while I build TicketDesk 3.