Implementing the Undo feature for Jasema

This article describes the undo feature implementation for Jasema 2 using the PostSharp framework.  For a simple introduction, this is my article about AOP using PostSharp. You can also read an article on compile time validation of custom aspects on this blog.
In the previous post, we looked at how PostSharp’s CompileTimeValidate method can be overridden to make sure that it has been applied correctly in the code. What we did not do, however, was to look at the context in which these aspects can be used.

The example given previously is straight out of the source code for Jasema‘s undo feature. This sort of functionality is very, very, very useful in applications involving complex tasks such as drawing, or editing a document, but they can also be a pain to write – not only do you need to maintain a log of each action, but you also have to make sure that each log entry has a way of being rolled back. What follows is a brief description of the route we took when writing the implementation used in Jasema. It is essentially a bastardised command pattern implementation, with a fair sprinkling of AOP thrown in for extra added fun and games. Continue reading

Validating attribute usage with PostSharp Aspects

This post expands on my previous article on PostSharp. If you haven’t already, read it here.

Most of January has flown by with just one post, effectively shooting down my resolution to blog more often. In my defence, I have to state that I’ve just moved on to newer pastures, with all the re-settling in that involves.

Apart from that, I also spent a few hours twiddling with the Jasema sources, so I do have something to post about at least. :)

The .net attribute architecture supports an Attribute Usage definition, which is itself an attribute that can be applied to attributes. AttributeUsageAttribute determines whether said attribute can be applied to fields, methods, classes, assemblies, or any combination thereof. This allows you to identify, at compilation time, whether the attributes you have specified are used correctly, which is great.

There are situations, however, where you might want to enforce some more detailed constraints on an attribute; for example, you might want to make sure that it is only used by classes that implement a given interface, or check what parameters have been defined for it.

It is possible to implement this as a runtime check within the attribute itself, however this is not always a very elegant solution. If you check the constraints every time the attribute is invoked in some way, you’re incurring a performance hit, however slight. If one considers that PostSharp aspects may be called every time data changes in a given field, or every time a method (or even any method in an assembly is called), this may add up to quite a bit, depending on what sort of checking you’re doing.

By making this sort of check at run time, you’re also depriving yourself of compile time checking. Even if you have unit tests in place to make sure you catch incorrect behaviour. it can still take time to run the suite; wouldn’t it be a lot nicer if the compiler could be instructed to raise an error when an attribute is given the wrong parameters, or is used with the wrong sort of class?

While PostSharp aspects don’t allow you to give such instructions to the compiler, they do allow you to do something that’s so similar that the difference, to someone like me, is purely academic (so, flame me). These aspects define an OnCompileValidate method, which can be overridden in your custom aspects. Continue reading

AOP using PostSharp LAOS

Recently, I came across PostSharp, an excellent open source framework for .net. Among the great set of toys which it brings along is LAOS, an Aspect Oriented Programming solution which works very neatly.

Aspect oriented programming is quite a tricky subject to explain in short, so I won’t. While it’s an oversimplification, for the purposes of this post, we will just say that it is a technique where you intercept the control flow as it passes from one block to another, and attach non-default behaviour at these points.

PostSharp provides a mechanism which lets you define attributes to specify this behaviour; you can then decorate an assembly, class, method or field with these attributes. The specific methods you overload will then be triggered accordingly. Continue reading