Thursday, June 25, 2009

NumericUpDown validation

Today I had the problem that I had to set up input validation on an edit form. Among other controls there was also a NumericUpDown (NUD) control and I thought: well if I specifiy the min value and the max value then the user is not able to input a wrong value;
This code prints the current value of the NUD to a message box:
You can see an example for this in the following screenshot:

This works fine, but there is one exception. It is also possible to leave the NUD blank. If you show then the value of the NUD again with the above code then you get the last value that was present in the NUD control; as shown below:

This can also be explained. The value property of the NUD control is of type decimal in order to deal with the different types of numbers. The problem is that it is of type decimal and not decimal? (this is the nullable version of decimal) and therefore it has to have value. Now is the question which value to set if the control is empty: 0, -1, decimal.MinValue or decimal.MaxValue?? None of these value really expresses what the user has entered; namely nothing.
In a forum in the internet I read that a workaround for this issue is to check the Text property of the NUD control; but as you can see below the NUD control does not have such a property!!

Fortunately there exists a solution to this problem. If you want to check if the user has entered a number into the NUD control you can use this code to check this:
if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(((Control)this.numericUpDown1).Text))
/* the user entered nothing */
/* the NUD contains a valid number */

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

HTML parsing

In a very small personal project I needed to parse an HTML page. I thought that HTML = XML and so I tried to load the response string into an XDocument; but I was too optimistic. I got a lot of errors from the XDocument.Parse() method. I read on the internet that it is only possible to do this if the web page is XHTML and follows all the standards. But there are a lot of web pages out there which never heard nothing about standards. A good example are pages from Microsoft. This page of the Sysinternals Suite for example produces 53 errors and 14 warnings when validating it with the W3C validator!!

There is a solution to the HTML parsing problem for C#. There exists a project called HTML Agility Pack on CodePlexx which provides a mechanism to parse an HTML string and to navigate it like ian XmlDocument. It works great but it does not provide support for LINQ queries which is very nasty if you are accustomed to it (like me :-))
But also for this exists a solution. Since the source code of the HTML Agility Pack is open for everyone Vijay Santhanam created the ToXDocument() method, which converts the HtmlDocument to XDocument. This is then queryable with LINQ to XML. The post about this and a link to his project can be found here.

It would be nice if they would add direct LINQ support to their HtmlDocument class but maybe they will do so in the future...

Thursday, June 18, 2009


While trying to speed up an application I searched the internet for information about reflection. I use reflection quite often when I have to write a special XML serializer or when I have to write a simple OR mapper. The problem is that it is slow. I understand now also because you have to specify the type when you use the XmlSerializer of the .Net framework. Internally it generates IL code which speeds up the serialization a lot because the intermediate code is much faster than direct reflection.
Regarding this problem I found a very interesting blog post which you can check out here.
There a comparison is made between the direct reflection, reflection by using Reflection.Emit and by caching Reflection.Emit operations. As you can see there from the test results the cached reflection is about 8 times faster!! This may not be of importance if you serialize only 100 objects but if you serialize thousands or millions of objects than this makes a big difference.
I tried his code in a project of mine where I use quite a lot reflection and indeed the operation finished about 6 times faster!

If you do a lot of reflection in your projects you should definitely give a look at this code. It's worth...

Monday, June 15, 2009


Today I had to solve a common problem. The customer sad that the application is too slow; substantially the data import from an XML file into the object model is too slow. As every developer knows, performance problems are very nasty and it means also that you have to break your nice object oriented structure to gain some performance boosts :-(
So I searched in the imort routine for code parts which can be optimized. I was able to change some code but that brought only a very small performance gain.
After some time I decided to switch off the logging that states how many percent of the elements were already imported. That message was written to the console window and since the operation required about 15 seconds it was interesting to see at which point the import is.
Then the surprise. After switching off the logging the data was imported in about 1,3 seconds. I knew that writing to the console is slow but that it is so slow...
To solve this problem now I tried first to use an asynchronous event logging. It worked also quite well, but when the data was already loaded and displayed the logger wrote for some seconds longer to the console by indicating that 97% of the data was loaded now.
This was also not a choice. Then I decided that it would be a good idea to switch off logging when running in release mode and turn it on when running in debug mode. So I have all informations on hand whenn looking for errors and the performance for the customer.
To realize this I implemented in my logger a the method "LogDebugEvent" and "decorated" it with the "Conditional" attribute:
public void LogDebugEvent(LogLevel logLevel, string message, params object[] args)
/* some code here*/

This means that the compiler decides if the method call is executed or not. If you compile in Release mode than all calls to this method are removed from the code as if they do not exist. If you run in Debug mode then all calls are executed. This can be very usefull especially if you have code which slows down your program and is only for debug purposes.
Important is that it matches exactly the constant that you want to use. It is casesensitive!! In the case of debug it is as you can see in the example above "DEBUG".

More informations about the ConditionalAttribute can be found here and here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The facts of life

Recently I heard a very interesting song. It is called "The facts of life - Lazy Boy".
This are the facts that impressed me most:
  • 3 people die every year, testing if a 9 volt battery works on their tongue
  • The 'Guinness Book Of Records' holds the record for being the most stolen book in public libraries
  • The worlds best known word is 'okay', the second most well-known word is 'Coca-Cola'
  • Charles Chaplin once won 3rd prize in a 'Charles Chaplin look-a-like contest'
  • Only one book has been printed in more copies than the Bible - the IKEA-catalogue
  • Did you know that originally a danish guy invented the burglar alarm? - unfortunately it got stolen
Here you can find the whole song text in english... :-)

And this is the video of the song (in italian):