Report from the battlefield #2 - amount of data matters a lot


In the next post from the Report from the battlefield series I'll wrote about a serious mistake that is quite common according to my experience. I'm thinking about a situation when a developer assumes that all data from a database can be processed on the client side. I'll give you 2 examples that I encountered during my reviews.

Case 1

A developer was asked to implement the paging functionality. He created a single page Web application. It looked nice and the paging was working correctly at first glance. I decided to check how it was implemented under the hood. I examined a web service that was used by the application and I was surprised. Why? I didn't find a web method responsible for returning pages. The next step was to dig into a java script code. Unfortunately, I discovered that the paging was implemented only on the client side i.e. the application initially downloaded all data from a database (via Web Service).

Case 2

In the another project the paging was implemented correctly on the server side but a developer made a more subtle mistake. An application had a shopping cart function. Of course it was possible to add and remove products to and from a cart. To do so a web service used by the application had a method GetCart. This method was responsible for retrieving a current content of a cart from a database.

However, it was strange that this method returned only identifiers of products. What's more there was no GetProductDetails web method. It made me curious how the application displays products details to users only knowing its identifiers. It turned out that at the initiation the application was reading details of all products from a database. Having all products on the client side it was easy to find details of a product based on its identifier.


In both cases applications were fast enough because of a small amount of data. In the case of real-life databases they will not. I think that we should always be prepared for the worst case. Especially, when we participate in a recruitment and we want to show ourselves from the best side. An evaluator shouldn't guess whether we know something or not.


Merry Christmas!


Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

Giving wishes in a foreign language can be challenging so my wishes will be simple but very sincere. I wish you a Merry, Peaceful Christmas and an Amazing 2016. Let it be at least as good as the past year.

Best wishes,
Michał Komorowski


Report from the battlefield #1 - EF and DTOs


Some time ago, I started doing code reviews of various projects for the recruitment company. It is an interesting experience and I'm learning a lot by this occasion. I also observed that some mistakes are repeated by different authors. Other are not so common but are not obvious. So I came up with the idea to start a new series of posts under the title "Report from the battlefield". In this series I'll describe my observations and findings from my reviews.

Let's start. Recently, I reviewed a project created with AngularJS + ASP.NET Web API + Entity Framework. The code was neither very good nor very bad. However, I noticed that the author decided to use a class generated from the EDMX model as DTO (Data Transfer Object). The reasoning behind this decision was simple - this class had all properties required on the client side so why not to use it. Well there are a few reasons why it is not a good idea.
  • With dedicated DTOs it is less possible that changes on the server side will affect the client side.
  • With dedicated DTOs we can easily control what will be send to the client side and in what format.
  • With dedicated DTOs the server side model can be completely different from the client side model.
  • By exposing EF classes to the client side we effectively expose the database model to the client side!
You may agree with my points or not. So, I'll give you a practical example what could happen if we use EF classes as DTOs. Let's assume that there is EDMX model with 3 types of entities:
  • Customer with Orders navigation property.
  • Orders with Customer and Products navigation properties.
  • Products with Orders navigation property.
Now we want to read only 1 customer from a database, serialize it to JSON and send the result to the client side. What could go wrong? Well, because of the navigation properties the JSON serializer that is used by ASP.NET Web API will read from the database and convert to JSON the whole graph of customers, orders and products! To be more specific, I saw 0.5 MB response which should have a few kilobytes for a very small database (it contained small dozens of records in all tables)! I can bet that in the case of a production database a response would have hundreds of megabytes.


Interview Questions for Programmers by MK #6


Question #6
What is the arithmetic overflow and how is it handled in .NET?

Answer #6
It is a situation when the result of an arithmetic operation exceeds (is outside of) the range of a given numeric type. For example the maximum value for byte type in .NET is 255. So in the following example, an operation a+b will cause an overflow:
byte a = 255;
byte b = 20;
byte c = a + b;
The final result depends on the used numeric types:
  • For integer types either OverflowException will be thrown or the result will be trimmed/cropped (the default behaviour). It depends on the compiler configuration and usage of checked / unchecked keywords.
  • For floating point types OverflowException will never be thrown. Instead the overflow will lead either to the positive or the negative infinity.
  • For decimal type OverflowException will be always thrown.
var b = byte.MaxValue;
//The result will be zero because:
//b = 255 = 1111 1111 
//b++ = 256 = 1 0000 0000
//The result has 9 bits so the result will be trimmed to 8 bits what gives 0000 0000
 b = byte.MaxValue;
 //Exception will be thrown 

var f = float.MaxValue;
//The result will be float.PositiveInfinity
f *= 2;  

decimal d = decimal.MaxValue;
//Exception will be thrown


TransactionScope and multi-threading


It's my third post about TransactionScope. This time I'll write about using it with multi-threading. Let's start with the following code:
using (var t = new TransactionScope())
   var t1 = Task.Factory.StartNew(UpdateDatabase);
   var t2 = Task.Factory.StartNew(UpdateDatabase);
   Task.WaitAll(t1, t2);

private static void UpdateDatabase()
   using (var c = new SqlConnection(connectionString))


      new SqlCommand(updateCommand, c).ExecuteNonQuery();

private static void WriteDebugInfo()
   Console.WriteLine("Thread= {0}, LocalIdentifier = {1}, DistributedIdentifier = {2}",
It seems simple but it doesn't work. The problem is that a connection that is created in UpdateDatabase method will not participate in any transaction. We can also observe that WriteDebugInfo will write empty transaction identifiers to the console. It happens because in order to read an ambient transaction (the transaction the code is executed in) TransactionScope uses Transaction.Current property which is thread static (i.e. specific for a thread).

To overcome this issue we have two possibilities. The first one is to use DependentTransacion. However, I'll not show how to do it because since .NET 4.5.1 there is a better way - TransactionScopeAsyncFlowOption enum. Let's try.
using (var t = new TransactionScope(TransactionScopeAsyncFlowOption.Enabled))
Unfortunately, there is a big chance that this time we will get TransactionException with the message The operation is not valid for the state of the transaction. in the line with ExecuteNonQuery. The simplified stack trace is:

at System.Transactions.TransactionStatePSPEOperation.get_Status(InternalTransaction tx)
at System.Transactions.TransactionInformation.get_Status()
at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand.ExecuteNonQuery()
at Sandbox.Program.UpdateDatabase(Object o)

I read a lot about this but nobody was able to explain why it happens. I also looked into the source code of TransactionStatePSPEOperation class. It was instructive because I learned what is PSPE - Promotable Single Phase Enlistment. However, it also didn't give me an exact answer.

So, I played a little bit with the code and I noticed that the problem occurs when:
  • One thread tries to run ExecuteNonQuery.
  • Another thread waits for the opening of the connection.
However, when both connections were already opened then the exception wasn't thrown.

At this point it is worth reminding one thing - when there are 2 or more connections opened in a transaction scope at the same time then a transaction is promoted to a distributed one. I'm not 100% sure but I think that the problem occurs because it is not allowed to use a connection which participates in a transaction which is in the middle of promotion to the distributed one. So, the solution is to assure that a transaction will be distributed from the beginning. Here is a fixed code with a magic line (I found it here):

using (var t = new TransactionScope())
   //The magic line that makes a transaction distributed

   var t1 = Task.Factory.StartNew(UpdateDatabase);
   var t2 = Task.Factory.StartNew(UpdateDatabase);
   Task.WaitAll(t1, t2);
Nonetheless, the more I think about this the more convinced I'm that using TransactionScope with multi-threading is asking for problems.