AL Object ID Ninja v1.2.0 – plus some Azure lessons learned

First things first. Yesterday evening, I’ve released AL Object ID Ninja v1.2.0 and there is really nothing new that you’d care about, functionally speaking. Check the changelog if you will, but trust me, you won’t be really blown away. But yes, unfortunately, it did merit a full minor version rather than just a patch number increase.

That’s it. If you only care about what’s new, then this is where you stop reading. But if you care to know what kind of a rocky ride I’ve had yesterday wrestling with Azure and fighting like mad to keep this service free, then read on.

I won this fight, by the way 😎

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AL Object ID Ninja v1.1.0 released

I have just released version 1.1.0 of AL Object ID Ninja. Here’s what’s new.

Merge synchronization

In previous versions, you could only synchronize full information. This type of synchronization simply recorded in the back end whatever it finds in the front end. For example, if the back end had object IDs 50100..50105, and the front end only has object IDs 50104..50106, then the full synchronization, will drop whatever was recorded previously, and will replace it with 50104..50106.

This type of synchronization may be good enough for teams who are only just starting development in AL, and have no existing repos. They can just start assigning numbers, and then synchronize later as needed.

However, if you are an active team with dozens of developers working in different branches, and you start using AL Object ID Ninja after objects already exist in your repo, if you only run synchronization from master branch, then any of object IDs already assigned in those other development branches will not be visible to AL Object ID Ninja. Instead of preventing object ID collision, AL Object ID Ninja would lead you right into it in this case.

For all these scenarios, you have Update synchronization.

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AL Object ID Ninja

One of the biggest obstacles to AL team development (is there any other kind?) is object IDs. IDs are supposed to be easy: just pick the next free one and off you go. AL Language even helps by suggesting the next available one through IntelliSense. But you are most likely not the only developer on your team. As soon as you add another developer to equation, and both of you use the built-in AL IntelliSense auto-suggest feature, you are inevitably heading towards object ID collision. The more developers there are, the more active your repository is, the more likely the collision.

Obviously, without some kind of a back-end that coordinates object ID assignment – preferably in real time – is absolutely necessary. And teams have come up with various solutions to this problem. They include:

  • “Who cares!”: the most heroic one, no object ID collision will ruin your day. Bring it on – you say! I’ll handle you – you say! These teams spend a lot of time resolving collisions post-factum.
  • Object “reservations”: you create an empty object of the desired type, push just that, create a PR that does nothing by that, and launch into the Hail Mary mode until your PR gets merged. The slower your validation pipeline is, the more likely it is that more than one developer will be saying their Hail Marys at the same time, and guess what – Mary will help one of them.
  • “Hey, folks”: you yell to announce to everyone that you are about to take an object ID. Or, in more advanced teams, you run a Teams team (uh, did I mention “team?”). This approach is not too robust, but generally yields better results than the above two.
  • Excel: the ways this tool gets used, geez. It’s a spreadsheet calculator, for Pete’s sake, but people have been using it for everything ranging from shopping lists to, well, object ID assignment sheets.
  • “When you have a hammer, every problem you see is a…” BC! The ways this tool gets used, too! Well, heck, yeah, isn’t it so freaking obvious that people will just create a BC app and deploy it internally so that everyone can use it. BC has nearly all facilities you need (that none of the above approaches does): primary key validation and concurrency. This is a very advanced stage in the evolution of object ID collision management solutions.
  • Automation. Yeah, baby! Now that there is a BC back end, and BC has APIs, let’s build an API that gives you next number, and then let’s do some front-end that fetches that from the back end, and then let’s somehow embed into VS Code. There is at least one tool that I know of, that does exactly this. And good that I didn’t know of it that Saturday morning nine days ago, because I would have zero motivation to take this evolution one big step further.

This is where AL Object ID Ninja joins the show! It’s zero-configuration, crazy-fast, mind-bogglingly simple solution for no-collision object ID assignment in AL. If you haven’t already (and if you are using Waldo’s AL Extension Pack, chances are you already have) go fetch yourself a copy.

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Git storage – SHA1

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If you have ever worked with Microsoft’s Team Foundation version control tools, it wasn’t easy to switch to Git. That’s not because Git was complicated – no, nothing like that at all! It was simply because you had to forget almost everything you thought you knew about version control, and then learn it anew.

There are many fundamental differences between Git and TFVC, and one of the more obvious ones to any newcomer to Git is this:

If it wasn’t obvious on the first go, TFVC is on the left, Git is on the right

No, it’s not about the caption here. Indeed, TFVC calls individual snapshots of changes “changesets” and Git calls them “commits”, but that’s just terminology – the term in itself is not a fundamental difference. I am after something else here.

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