Running dotnet core web application in Ubuntu Core

For a current project I am looking into running a dotnet core web application in Ubuntu Core this does require some extra work compared with running in docker or on bare metal. To illustrate the project I will use a simple dotnet webapi and a fresh install of Ubuntu 17.10 the snap will be deployed and used in the same operating system. In an effort to ensure consistent build we will be using an lxc container for our builds. This makes the process less dependend on operating system, the guide should be usable with only minor adjustments on other linux distros.


It is possible to do the entire development process in a continer, however for this purpose i prefer to develop on my active OS and only deploy to a snap. That means that we will need to install dotnet core on our system. The process for this varies slightly depending on your distribution and I will limit this guide to Ubuntu. If you are using another distro Microsoft have documentation on how to install on all supported distributions.

Dotnet Core

The following commands should install dotnet core sdk on a system running Ubuntu 17.04 or 17.10 if you are running an alternative version the Microsoft documentation have repository links for other versions.

curl | gpg --dearmor > microsoft.gpg
sudo mv microsoft.gpg /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/microsoft.gpg

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] zesty main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dotnetdev.list'
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y dotnet-sdk-2.0.0

LXC containers

To have a clean build environment we need to install and prepare an lxc container. The following commands should install lxc and create a container with dotnet Core sdk and snapcraft tools.

sudo apt-get install -y lxc
sudo lxc launch ubuntu:16.04 snapcraft -c security.privileged=true
sudo lxc config device add snapcraft homedir disk source=/home/$USER path=/home/ubuntu
sleep 5 # wait for container to initilize
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- apt update 
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- apt install -y snapcraft curl
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- sh -c 'curl | gpg --dearmor > /home/ubuntu/microsoft.gpg'
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- sudo mv /home/ubuntu/microsoft.gpg /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/microsoft.gpg 
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] xenial main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dotnetdev.list'

sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- apt update 
sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- apt install -y dotnet-sdk-2.1.3

The commands in the rest of this project will assume that you have Visual Studio Code installed on your system. If you prefer another editor you can replace all calls to code with your editor of choice.

Project definition and build config

As previusly mentioned we will create a basic webapi and use that as an example for our snap.

The following commands will initialise a basic webapi in the folder dotnetSnap/src it will also create a Makefile and open that in Visual Studio Code.

mkdir -p dotnetSnap/src
cd dotnetSnap/src
dotnet new webapi
touch Makefile
code Makefile

Since snapcraft's make plugin calls make all we need to ensure that make all runs our build step. In this case we want our dotnet project to be published as a self-contained application targeting x64 Ubuntu. After snapcraft runs make all it will run make install which copies the binaries to a folder under bin in the snap.

all: build

    @dotnet publish --self-contained -o bin/publish \
    -c Release --runtime ubuntu.16.04-x64 
    @mkdir -p $(DESTDIR)/bin
    @cp -r bin/publish $(DESTDIR)/bin/
    @rm -rf bin

With our dotnet project ready for deployment we will shift our focus towards Snapcraft. The setup required here is fairly limited and the following commands should create a new snap project in your dotnetSnap folder.

cd ..
snapcraft init
code snap/snapcraft.yaml

The snapcraft defintion needs some minor editing to make it usable for our purpose. Mainly we need to add an app that runs the application which have the default name of src we also need to define a part which include our build step.

We are using the make plugin which calls:

make all
make install

This will compile and publish our project to the snap's binary folder. We also add libunwind8 and libicu55 which are required for the dotnet application to function properly.

Our snapcraft.yaml will look like this:

name: Dotnet_snap # you probably want to 'snapcraft register <name>'
version: '0.1' # just for humans, typically '1.2+git' or '1.3.2'
summary: A simple example snap for dotnet in snaps
description: A simple example snap for dotnet in snaps
grade: devel # must be 'stable' to release into candidate/stable channels
confinement: devmode # use 'strict' once you have the right plugs and slots

    command: bin/publish/src

    plugin: make
    source: src/
      - libunwind8
      - libicu55

Building installing and running

When we have configured our application we use the following command to build the project.

sudo lxc exec snapcraft -- sh -c "cd /home/ubuntu/dotnetSnap; snapcraft"

This will create Dotnet_snap_0.1_amd64.snap which can be installed on your system using:

sudo snap install Dotnet_snap_0.1_amd64.snap --devmode

We should now be able to run our api using

sudo Dotnet_snap.testapi

Hopefully this guide have provided some help in running your dotnet core applications in a snap, the code from my project is available on github.

35 pictures from a year with a x100t

Roughly a year ago I sold my trusty k7 dslr and replaced it with a x100t with the intention of challenging myself to stick with one focal length for a year. 
With a year gone by and my replacement dslr arriving I thought I would sum up my experience with a few examples.

I will begin with my impressions from the x100t, which have served me exceptionally well during the last year. It is a small mirrorless "advanced" point and shoot with a fixed 23mm lens which due to the aps-c sensor makes it a 35mm equivalent. 
The camera is a joy to use and even though it's somewhat soft on large apertures it does render beautiful colours. The autofocus is a bit slower than dslr alternatives but it's still usable. The lack of speed does cause  some issues when photographing moving subjects.

The few minor niggles with the camera is more than made up for with it's simplicity, it's pocketable size and it's tactile interface. It's the first camera I've managed to bring with me on a daily basis allowing me to capture countless moments which I otherwise would have walked pass.   It's also been a perfect companion during the first year of my sons life although as he grows up he have started to outrun the autofocus causing some issues.

To summarise my experience with the x100t id say that it is an excellent all-round camera and a perfect way to capture family events and trips. Even though there are some small issues with it I will keep my x100t as a lightweight travel companion.

This finally brings me to the last year which have been captured in a much greater extent than I would have thought. Here are 35 examples in chronological order which hopefully will highlight the cameras versatility.

Moving to Squarespace

I do realise that most of my previous posts have been about hosting changes and to continue the tradition this post will discuss my recent move to SquareSpace.

This change is another step in my ongoing process of simplifying my online presence. SquareSpace will allow me to use one host for everything apart from source code. I will continue to use a combination of bitbucket and github as hosting solutions.

The move will replace my current solution which consist of a static blog hosted on s3 and a photography portfolio on smugmug. The benefits of this setup is it's adaptability and the level of control. However since I seldom use these benefits a simple managed solution will lower the threshold for posting.

Another major benefit with moving is having a web frontend for editing and publishing, something that further simplifies the process. I do believe that I could achieve similar results using a completely self hosted solution, however I personally don't feel that I have the time or the interest to build such a solution.

Once I had decided on moving to a managed solution I was somewhat spoiled for choice since there are a lot of alternatives. I ended up with Squarespace for a few reasons, mainly I found that the service included all the things I required. It's also a reputable hosting service with a lot of support from photographers and influencers that I follow.

So after a few days of testing the Squarespace platform I decided to make the move, this entailed a fairly limited amount of work. Mainly moving relevant old posts to this new system and deciding on good way to display my pictures.
There are two things I will miss with this move, a complete solution for syntax highlighting and a nice way to display my book reviews. I am however looking further into these things to try and find a solution for that.

Photography hosting

You might have noticed the extra link in the menu point towards photography. The link is pointing towards my newly created photography gallery which I have decided to host and create on SmugMug. I’ve been thorn between creating a generator to host the photographies directly on this site and using a service. But as I have decided I though it might be a good idea to go through some of the reasons for my choice.

The main reason is simplicity, I am at best a amateur photographer and even though I enjoy fiddling with websites I don’t really have the time to perfect a portfolio gallery for my hobby. So with a simple hosted solution I do get more time to actually take pictures instead of fine tuning javascript. Another reason is cost, hosting pictures requires bandwidth and storage space both of which could easily cause trouble for a hobby site. Finally using a fairly large provider like smugmug me to have a very simple work-flow. Now I can publish new images directly from my editor, instead of having to run separate scripts to regenerate a static gallery.

There are of course some drawbacks, mainly the fact that visitors to my page now gets transferred to another host to view my images. There will also be an inevitable difference in the general style of the photography page and this one which could cause some confusion. With third party hosting I have less control over the amount of tracking that my visitors is subjected to. On this site I only use the basic analytics from cloudflare, while I believe that smugmug adds some extra tracking as well. Another issue is the amount of javascript smugmug deems necessary to handle the hosting, which of course is caused by the general nature of there themes.

Hopefully this change will allow me to get better at sharing my pictures with the world.

UPDATE 2017-06-12

After writing this article I have been asked (by to bluemelon) look into there service. And even though there service is in some ways limited in comparison with smugmug they have compensated this with a more flexible price. This makes bluemelon interesting alternative especially if you are looking for a smaller initial solution without making major sacrifices in core functionality.

My quest for productivity

My struggle to implement a working productivity system is summarized by the following image.


It shows my progress in David Allen's "Getting things done" after several months. No matter how hard I try I have been unable to bring myself to any of the necessary habits. I believe that the system works. I have just been unable to motivate myself enough for the changes required.

I believe that my failure to adhere to the "gospel" is caused by a lack of need. Through all my life I have tried to improve my own productivity always with little or no results.

This have never caused any issues since I have been lucky enough to have worked with small and well-defined projects. Even though I was involved in some extracurricular activities during my school years. None of them have been taxing enough to force me to improve my productivity. And the story continues in my post university years.

  • I work with little or no pressing need for long term plans.
  • I live close enough to both the store and work to not have to manage my commute.
  • My side projects have been small enough in scope to not disturb my work.
  • I seldom plan my leisure activities ahead of time.

All this have held me back in my quest to improve my own productivity. But recent developments in my life (I've become a father) have forced me to rethink my efforts.

Now I will have to manage my time to be able to both be a dad and continue to learn new things. To get myself on the right track I have decided to start with one system and a tool.

Zen To Done which is a twist of the GTD system focusing on a limited set of habit changes. Hopefully it will be easier to get started with this system. It focuses on making small  changes instead of the massive overhaul that GTD preaches. The system also seems to shift focus from capturing to doing. The adaptations seems to have made GTD accessible and useful for "normal" people.

Bullet journal which is a structured way of keeping tabs on daily activities and events.
Previously I have been able to implement and maintain a bullet journal for short hectic periods but I have never been able to stick with it when things cool down.
One of the major issues for me have been a desire to separate work events from daily life events.
This constant shifting makes it hard to trust the capture tool which in turn leads to a loss of focus.

One of the major issues I have faced in trying to implement these systems is the "capture" step.
I am having trouble finding a stylish and convenient way of making sure that I always carry my capture tool.
My dress-code at work is probably considered formal for Norway but it is business-casual in the rest of the world.
This together with the fact that I have no need to carry anything to work creates an issue when I want to carry a notebook around.

I am stuck in the grey-zone between being formal enough to wear a suit (which would facilitate a notebook) and being casual enough to have pants equipped with large pockets. To get around this issue I have decided to take the advice
of The Goldman Sachs Unofficial guide to being a man, especially advise number 3.

Rebel from business casual. Burn your khakis and wear a suit or jeans.

The simple act of wearing a jacket to work every day should improve my chances of success.
Apart from giving me the space to carry my capture system it will has the added benefit of moving my daily wardrobe up a notch.
My goal is fairly simple, I want to be able to continue to develop my skills while still being able to spend a lot of time with my family.
As a part of the process I will write down my experiences in implementing these systems as well as how I work around any issues that might rise.

What you should be told on the first day of any CS course

I can't count the number of times that I've been told that for developers the tools don't matter, just give us a prompt, a basic text editor and away we go.

The idea that the tools you use is inconsequential is at least as I see it one of the worst misconceptions about development, especially since it's spread by old developers and university teachers to fresh minds looking to write their first lines of code.

As an example current projects include a lot of back and forth between python, excel and mssql, as you can imagine this leads to good deal of semi manual string manipulation.

The work pattern of copying large amount of strings around while making minute changes to the order of characters is nothing specific to the projects I am currently working on, id say it's one of the cornerstones of any development project. 

At the very least you should refactor your code before finishing a project.

These situations doesn't necessarily require a decent text editor but I think anyone that have tried refactoring a reasonably sized program in nano would agree that it's not fun.

However this task done in a fully equipped advanced text editor like sublime, emacs, vi or atom is relatively joyous.

Finally even though I dislike the notion that advanced tools is unnecessary for developers I do believe that the choice of these tools is up to each of us.

I do for example use sublime for almost all of my development with the sole exception of C# which I write in the frankly excellent Visual Studio.

To sum up the advice I would have liked to have been told my first day at CS would be:

"Start this first day with trying out emacs,vi or sublime and use one of them for the next 3 years." 

I believe that the single best thing I've done for my development skills and workplace sanity is to use an advanced text editor.