Wednesday 23 April 2008

And for my next trick, lets Mingle


Thoughtworks has recently released version 2.0 of their Agile Project Management tool, called Mingle. Apart from some new features and ways to manage the large amount of information a project usually produces and consumes, version 2.0 brings about one very interesting capability: REST APIs, accessed via http.

After spending about 1 hour before figuring out that "basic_auth_enabled: true" is different from "basic_auth_enabled:true", I was ready to at last work on a small app to use as a dashboard for a small "game" we play at weListen.

And what better way to do it than to try out the new features of .net 3.5 (and beyond), including LINQ and the ASP.Net MVC framework. Since this will be an internal project, it is an excellent chance to try them out.

For reference, here some example code to fetch the list of users from mingle:

public static List<User> getUsers() {
    String url = "";
    HttpWebRequest req = (HttpWebRequest) WebRequest.CreateDefault(new Uri(url));
    String username = "john.doe";
    String password = "secret";
    byte[] credentials = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(username + ":" + password);
    String base64Credentials = Convert.ToBase64String(credentials);
                    string.Format("Basic {0}", base64Credentials));
    StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(req.GetResponse().GetResponseStream());
    var users = (from node in XDocument.Load(reader).Descendants("user")
                 select new User
                                Username = node.Element("login").Value,
                                Id = int.Parse(node.Element("is").Value),
                                Name = node.Element("name").Value,
                                Email = node.Element("email").Value
    return new List<User>(users);

Most if it is rather straightforward, taking advantage of linq to iterate through the xml to fetch user's data and transform it to a business object. The User class here is just a container for the information, for now, and I use c#'s new property assignments in the constructor mainly to get a feel for it. Linq to me seems like a variant on python's list comprehensions, which is a good thing. It creates terse code, and abstracts away the cycle to focus on what you do with the information. To me this is a huge gain in c#'s expressiveness.

For me, the trickiest part was in getting the authorization correct. I now wonder if the problem was really with the code or mingle's not being correctly configured. I'll try a couple of other approaches to see if we can move away from having to encode manually the header and use .net's credentials' api.

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