ChatR: just another chat application using SignalR

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Update (30 November, 2012): David Fowler (SignalR co-creator) has made ChatR into an example application downloadable via Nuget to show SignalR beginners how to quickly build a chat web app.
He forked the project on GitHub and updated the code base to the latest version of the library, 1.0Alpha2, and then sent me a pull request that I accepted and merged into the master branch.
Therefore the code that you see now in the latest commit on the master branch is slightly different than the one shown in this post, but this is not a problem, you just need to go back in time in the history of the commits to find exactly what is shown here if you really want to, otherwise just dive into the new code!

Update (17 November, 2012): this blog article is related to version 0.5.2. In these days the SignalR team is working on version 1.0 and has released an Alpha. There are quite a lot of significant changes in the API, but the concepts at the basis still apply.
I hope to be able to post an update article when 1.0 is released.

There’s a lot of buzz these days around SignalR (http://signalr.net/) and more in general around real time communication techniques for the web (http://www.webrtc.org/).
There are many scenarios where real time can be embedded in web applications in a way that is actually useful for the user, but the most easy to understand scenario is the good old chat 🙂
That’s why today I’m going to write about…

Goal

A chat web application! Yes, I know it’s not the most original example, but it’s still a good starting point to excercise the fundamentals of the framework.
The user will be able to choose a username and then join the (single room) chat, where he/she will be able to chat with the others and see a list of currently connected users.
This list will obviously update itself everytime someone joins or disconnect the chat.

Source code and demo

As always the code for this tutorial is published on GitHub at https://github.com/vgheri/ChatR
A working demo is deployed on the fantastic AppHarbor at http://chatr-1.apphb.com  (if you want to run a test, simply load up new tabs… SignalR is not relying on Sessions so it will be safe). 

Frameworks

This project relies on Asp.Net MVC 3 for the general architecture and the basic client-server communication.
As anticipated, I’ll be using SignalR for real time client-server communication, Twitter’s Bootstrap for basic UI layout and CSS and Knockout Js (knockoutjs.com) to automatize the view.

Before starting, I’d like to spend a few words about SignalR: it’s growing up as a solid library to use in order to build production code and it’s dead easy to use (https://github.com/SignalR/SignalR/wiki) once you grasp the fundamentals (which I’ll cover later on). It not only gets the job done, but also sports an awesome client-server async communication pattern, that makes really easy to invoke methods from Js to C# and viceversa (there is even someone who proposed to use it for general purpose communication http://www.novanet.no/blog/yngve-bakken-nilsen/dates/2012/7/clean-up-your-mvc-app-with-signalr/)
If you are interested in understanding more about the internals, I suggest you clone the repository on GitHub (https://github.com/SignalR/) and read something like http://ayende.com/blog/93185/reviewing-signalrndash-part-ii.

Implementation

This application will feature a 1-click process to join the chat:

Step 1: landing page with a form to enter username
Step 2: chat page

The landing page is really simple, just a few text elements and an HTML form with an input text and a submit button that will trigger a HTML POST handled by the server via a MVC action.

Models

I’m going to use 2 objects as Domain models and 1 repository object to store users currently connected to the system.
Let’s see them briefly:
ChatUser has two properties, Id and Username. The former uniquely identifies a client during a session and is assigned by SignalR.
ChatMessage is super easy and has a minimal set of properties: username (I could have used the ChatUser object, but because I’m displaying just a username and not the user id, I chose to transfer the minimum set of information), content and timestamp.
InMemoryRepository implements the Singleton pattern and helps clients retrieve the list of users.

Basic UI structure

Super simple and clean: a title bar on the top of the page that holds the name of the app, a container on the left that holds the usernames of currently connected users, a container, side by side with the previous one, that holds the chat messages and below an input box to enter a message with a submit button.
All the client-server communication round-trips here are handled by SignalR.
To dynamically update the UI, I’ve used Knockout Js and its data-binding declarations.

Javascript namespace and Knockout view models

I chose to create a separate Js file to declare a namespace and the Knockout viewmodels.
Therefore I created a separate folder called “Js” and a javascript file called chatR.js.
The code is pretty straightforward, as you can see:

The rest of the javascript code is inside chat.cshtml as I needed to access the Model binding engine to retrieve the username chosen by the user.

SignalR

Server side code

Let’s start with the server side part of SignalR.
Do  you remember what I mentioned earlier in the post, that this library sports a great communication pattern that makes really easy to call C# methods from Javascript and viceversa? Well, the C# methods that we can call from the client side are those declared (as public) in the so called Hub.
What is a Hub? Well, a Hub is an abstraction that, to cite the Wiki,  “provides a higher level RPC framework over a PersistentConnection. If you have different types of messages that you want to send between server and client then hubs is recommended so you don’t have to do your own dispatching”.
SignalR offers two options to build a RTC app, leaving to the developer the choice between two built-in objects: Persistent Connections and Hubs.
It took me a while to fully understand what are the differences between these two, and why choose one over another.
Basically Hubs allow you to dispatch whatever object you want to the server, taking care of JSON serialization and deserialization, integrate model binding and are easier to setup, as you won’t have to write additional code to manually register additional routes (the SignalR specific routes). (You may want to read this question on SO, with words from David Fowler, creator of SignalR:  http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9280484/signalr-why-choose-hub-vs-persistent-connection).
I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you are writing a common web application or .Net application, you’ll be fine with Hubs.

N.B It’s imporant to note that Hubs are created on a “per request” basis, so no static stuff in it should be declared.

To start with, create a Hubs folder and create a new class that derives from Hub.
Here I called mine “ChatHub” and I defined the methods that will be used by the clients:
GetConnectedUsers: retrieves the list of currently connected users
Joined: fired when a new client joins the chat. We add the user to the repository and notify all the clients (even the newly joined) that this new client connected.
Send: broadcasts the message to all the clients (plus some extra work, like formatting links and youtube urls embedded in the messages, showing them as active links and embedded video player respectively. This part is mostly taken by the Jabbr codebase, thanks again David Fowler 🙂 )

Here’s the code:

As you can see, there’s something more: this class implements an interface called IDisconnect, part of SignalR, which allows us to handle the Disconnect() event fired when a user leaves the application. Again what we do here is remove the user from the repository and notify the other clients of the event.
There is another interface, called IConnected, that allows us to catch connection events like Connect and Reconnect, but I chose not to use them because unfortunately (at least in Connect) the round-trip state (see https://github.com/SignalR/SignalR/wiki/SignalR-JS-Client-Hubs) is not available, therefore I cannot access the state set on the Hub with information like the username set on the client that caused the event to fire.
Later on I’ll explain in more detail with code.
This is also the reason why I have a Joined event handler, because I need an event handler, fired after the Connect event, where I can access the round-trip state. Just for the record, Jabbr uses the same philosohpy, not implementing IConnected.
Finally, as you can see almost all of the methods have a void return type, but one: GetConnectedUsers has a ICollection<ChatUsers> return type and this means that only the client invoking the method will get the data back and furthermore the library will handle the JSON serialization and deserialization of the collection.
Alternatively I could have used Caller.callback and set a void return type to the method.

Client side code

On the client side, the first important thing to note is the order of the script references:
1) jQuery 2) jQuery.signalR 3) <script src=”signalr/hubs” type=”text/javascript”></script>

The last one is important because navigating to /signalr/hubs will dynamically generate the script based on the hubs declared on the server. Each hub on the server will become a property on the client side $.connection, e.g. $.connection.myHub.

Let’s see now how to hook up the client and the server:

It’s important to note that all Hub names (methods and class name) are in  camelCase, so for example
var chatHub = $.connection.chatHub;   is creating the proxy to invoke server code.

The next statement,
chatHub.username = currentUser.username;
is setting the round-trip state on the Hub, in this case I’m setting the username so that it will be accessible from the server and I’ll be able to add this user to the list of currently connected clients.

Following we have client-side event handlers, as invoked by the server (remember? Clients.onMessageReceived(message); )

We also apply knockout bindings so that the UI will start updating itself as the ViewModels change.
Finally we have the code block to start the SignalR connection and invoke two Hubs method:

// Step 1: Start the connection
// Step 2: Get all currenlty connected users
// Step 3: Join to the chat and nmotify all the clients (me included) that there is a new user connected
$.connection.hub.start()
            .done(function () {
                  chatHub.getConnectedUsers()
                              .done(function (connectedUsers) {
                                   ko.utils.arrayForEach(connectedUsers, function (item) {
                                      users.contacts.push(new chatR.user(item.Username, item.Id));
                                   });
                               }).done(function () {
                                    chatHub.joined();
                               });
             });

method $.connection.hub.start provides two callbacks, done and fail.
So in the code above I’m saying that if the connections is successfully estabilished, we can now try to retrieve the list of connected users and if this worked too, we can notify all the clients that this new client connected via chatHub.joined().
At this point the round-trip state will be available and therefore we will be able to register a new User, along with its connection ID and username.

One final note: by default DateTime is serialized by SignalR using ISO8601 format (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601), which is ok to parse for Chrome and latest browsers, but, guess what?, not for IE 9 and older versions. That’s why I had to search the web for a nice and quick solution, that you can find in the source code on GitHub.

Useful links

ChatR on GitHub: https://github.com/vgheri/ChatR
ChatR on AppHarbor: http://chatr-1.apphb.com
SignalR Wiki: https://github.com/SignalR/SignalR/wiki/Hubs
Hubs vs Persistent Connections: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9280484/signalr-why-choose-hub-vs-persistent-connection
Useful tutorial: http://www.amazedsaint.com/2011/11/introduction-ksigdo-knockout-signalr-to.html
Jabbr on GitHub: https://github.com/davidfowl/JabbR

Excel 2010 automation with Asp.Net, on top of a Windows Server 2008 R2 64 with IIS 7.5

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Anyone who ever tried working with Office automation on Windows Server 2008 64bit knows that it is a nightmare to make it work as expected.
For a web application I’m currently working on, I need to access an Excel 2010 file, write some data in it, run a VBA macro and read the results out of it.
To make this workflow successfull, there are 3 problems to cope with:
1) create an Excel application

var excelApp = new Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.Application();

2) open and save files

excelApp.Workbooks.Open(...)

3) run a VBA macro stored into the Excel file

excelApp.Run(...)

Now, problems 1 and 2 have been successfully addressed in the past, see for example http://www.bloing.net/2011/01/how-to-make-iis7-play-nice-with-office-interop/
or
http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/innovateonoffice/thread/b81a3c4e-62db-488b-af06-44421818ef91?prof=required
or
http://hopschwiiz.blogspot.fr/2011/02/automating-excel-2007-on-windows-server.html

for a complete overview.

But I couldn’t find anything about problem number 3! My application was simply stuck when trying to run the macro and the only solution was to kill the Excel application to take back control of it. After two days spent troubleshooting, changing every possible configuration options, I’ve finally found the solution. Open IIS Manager, select the Application Pool used for the application you want to deploy and then click on “Advanced Settings”. Once the window opens, set the option “Load User Profile” to true, like shown in the image below.

Interop fix

Set Load User profile to true

That’s it, this was enough to make my application work as expected, being able to run the Excel VBA macro!
I hope this helps.

KnockoutJS data-bind for a set of drop down lists

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In my current project I’m building a Single Page Application using Asp.Net MVC 3, jQuery and KnockoutJS.
As part of the UI, I had to build a part of it where the number of dropdown lists associated to a certain product are not known at design time, as the Model is based on an XML resource.
So I was facing the problem of keeping track of all the selected values (and the state of the rest of the UI as well) for each dropdown and without the possibility to use the MVC Model Binding feature because I had to use Ajax (no form submit and thus page re-loading).
After taking a look at what is currently out there to help the developer in this task, I decided to try knockout.js, a nice MVVM javascript framework, to help me keeping track of the state of the UI without writing lot of javascript code.
I’m not going into the concepts behind this framework, neither into details for beginners because they have a great tutorials on their website and nice documentation too, so I couldn’t do better even if I would.

Let’s see a simple example that shows how I solved this problem (I had to ask a question on stackoverflow to seek help as I was stuck. If you are interested, here is the link)

Controller:
Nothing special here, the controller is just injecting some dummy data into the ViewData to fill in the drop down lists and give the illusion that the number of menus is not fixed.

        public ActionResult Index()
        {
            var numberOfDropDownMenus = 5;
            for (var i = 0; i < numberOfDropDownMenus; i++)
            {
                var selectList = new SelectList(this.GetDummyItems(i), "Id", "Name", -1);
                ViewData["Options_" + i] = selectList;
            }
            ViewData["DropDownMenus"] = numberOfDropDownMenus;
            return View();
        }

View:

Let’s start with the knockout view model: for this specific page I’m just interested in the selected value for each ddl, nothing else, so my view model will be just as simple as this:

var initialValues = [];
    var n = @Html.Raw(Json.Encode(ViewData["DropDownMenus"]));
    for (var i = 0; i < n; i++) {
        initialValues.push(ko.observable());
    }

var viewModel = {
        selectedValues: ko.observableArray(initialValues)
};

The above code means that our view model has only one item, selectedValues, which is an observable array of observables (initialValues is in fact an array of observables).

Why not simply use an observableArray? Because we want each item of the array to reflect the currently selected value for a specific DDL, and therefore it must be an observable value so that knockout can automatically update its value whenever the user changes something.

It will be clearer if we look at how we data-bind each DDL to an observable value into the observable array:

@for (var i = 0; i < (int)ViewData["DropDownMenus"]; i++)
{
    @Html.DropDownList("DropDown_" + i, (SelectList)ViewData["Options_" + i],
                                new { data_bind = "value: selectedValues()[" + i + "]" })
}

The trick here is to use a positional databinding:

new { data_bind = “value: selectedValues()[” + i + “]” }

If i is 0, this will be evaluated for example as
new { data_bind = “value: selectedValues()[0]” }

The currently selected value for the first DDL will be stored in the first position of the observable array!

User interface and test output

User interface and test output

In the screenshot above we can see that the array is changing accordingly with the changes applied to the UI.
(To show the test output, I used the following syntax: <div data-bind=”text: ko.toJSON(selectedValues)”></div> It’s important to use ko.toJSON since selectedValues contains observables, not simple values)

Then, if we want to send data to the server (and we want), we can do like the following

$(document).ready(function () {
        $("#fakePost").click(function () {
            var viewModelToJSON = ko.toJSON(viewModel); //Serialize the viewmodel
           $.post("/Home/MyAction", { JSONviewModel: viewModelToJSON }, myCallback);
        });
        ko.applyBindings(viewModel);
    });

And on the server we can deserialize the string using our own favourite library.
For the sake of simplicity I used the built in javascript serializer:

public JsonResult MyAction(string JSONviewModel)
        {
            var jss = new JavaScriptSerializer();
            var selectedValues = jss.Deserialize(JSONviewModel);
            return Json("Ok");
        }

where ViewModel is a simple C# object useful for easy de-serialization and to communicate with an hypothetic Application Layer

public class ViewModel
    {
        public List selectedValues { get; set; }
    }

That’s all!
Obviously this is a super simplified example, but I hope it helps if someone has to face the same problem as me in the future.

Cheers,

Valerio

About the mass assignment vulnerability in Asp.Net MVC framework

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Following what happened to github in the past days (someone was able to hack a github repository exploiting a Ruby on Rails vulnerability to proof the point that this is in fact a vulnerability of the framework and a very dangerous one) there has been a lot of buzz and discussion in the web about  it and also about Asp.Net MVC framework, if it suffers from the same vulnerability and if it is to be considered a vulnerability in the first place.

What could actually happen using Asp.Net MVC model binding feature is explained very well in this blog article by Josh Bush, so I won’t repeat it.

A good solution to this problem is already offered by the framework, DataAnnotations! I’m using the same ViewModel as in Josh Bush’s example, with an extra row at the beginning:

[Bind(Exclude = "IsAdmin")]
public class User {
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string UserName { get; set; }
    public string FirstName { get; set; }
    public string LastName { get; set; }
    public bool IsAdmin { get; set; }
}

By using the Bind attribute, [Bind(Exclude = “IsAdmin”)], we are explicitly asking the framework not to update the value of property IsAdmin when we use the UpdateModel(user) instruction.

So even if the attacker will attempt to change the query string in the URL, the Model Binder will simply not use it for this particular property and your system will be “safe”!

Valerio

Custom Unobtrusive jQuery Validation with Data Annotations in MVC 3

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MVC 3 introduced what is called Unobtrusive Client Validation. This feature relies on jQuery and HTML5 custom data attributes. It is very powerful and not so hard to use… with the right tutorial to follow 🙂
It’s also very useful because it leverages the power of Data Annotations,  a clean way to express View Model rules in my opinion.
Let’s start the tutorial with a bit of theory (if you’re not interested, you can skip it and go straight to the paragraph “The tutorial”  and download the source code from https://github.com/vgheri/DateCustomValidationExample)

What is a custom data attribute

“As per HTML 5 draft specification a custom data attribute is an attribute in no namespace whose name starts with the string “data-“, has at least one character after the hyphen, is XML-compatible, and contains no characters in the range U+0041 to U+005A (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A to LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Z). Custom data attributes are intended to store custom data private to the page or application, for which there are no more appropriate attributes or elements. These attributes are not intended for use by software that is independent of the site that uses the attributes. It would be inappropriate, however, for the user to use generic software not associated with that music site to search for tracks of a certain length by looking at this data. This is because these attributes are intended for use by the site’s own scripts, and are not a generic extension mechanism for publicly-usable metadata. Every HTML element may have any number of custom data attributes specified, with any value. JavaScript libraries may use the custom data attributes, as they are considered to be part of the page on which they are used.”

This means that any attribute whose name starts with “data-” will be treated as a storage area for private data.
This allows you to write valid HTML markup (passing an HTML 5 validator) while, simultaneously, embedding data within your page.

MVC 3 + jQuery

MVC3’s new jQuery Validation mechanism links jQuery Validation and Validation Attributes Metadata. The magic happens in the jquery.validate.unobtrusive file that takes all data- attributes and works with them.
To exploit this mechanism, we need to create our own Custom Validation Attributes as we’ll see in this article.

How MVC generates the data- attributes:

The custom data attributes are generated by helpers methods like Html.TextBoxFor(), as it knows already all the Data Anotations that the field needs, and if Unobstrutive setting is true (by default in MVC 3) it will generate all data- that he needs.
For each client validation rule(we’ll get there), an attribute is added with data-val-rulename=”message”. Then, for each parameter in the client validation rule, an attribute is added with data-val-rulename-paramname=”paramvalue”.

The tutorial

In this tutorial we will create a custom validation that checks if a certain date is greater than another date entered by the user in a form. For the purpose of this tutorial we will create a model consisting of one class, Project, that obviously has a start date and an end date. Our goal is to force the user to enter an end date greater than the start date of the project.
To better clarify how to create a custom validator, this tutorial is divided in two steps: first we will provide server side validation, and on top of that we will add client side validation.

Step 1: Server side validation

First we create the model

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations;
using System.Web.Mvc;

namespace DateCustomValidationExample.Models
{
    public class Project
    {
        public string Name { get; set; }

        public string ProjectManager { get; set; }

        [DisplayName("Start date")]
        [DisplayFormat(DataFormatString = "{0:MM/dd/yyyy}", ApplyFormatInEditMode = true)]
        public DateTime StartDate { get; set; }

        [DisplayName("Estimated end date")]
        [DisplayFormat(DataFormatString = "{0:MM/dd/yyyy}", ApplyFormatInEditMode = true)]
        [DateGreaterThan("StartDate", "Estimated end date must be greater than the start date of the project")]
        public DateTime EndDate { get; set; }
    }
}
Note that we already added our custom data attribute data annotation even if it’s not yet created. In my opinion this helps us to think more about how we want to use it rather than how it should be built.
Ok, we defined how we want to use the attribute, now we must create it:
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web;
using System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations;
using System.Web.Mvc;

namespace DateCustomValidationExample.Models
{
    [AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Property, AllowMultiple=true)]
    public class DateGreaterThanAttribute : ValidationAttribute
    {
        string otherPropertyName;

        public DateGreaterThanAttribute(string otherPropertyName, string errorMessage)
            : base(errorMessage)
        {
            this.otherPropertyName = otherPropertyName;
        }

        protected override ValidationResult IsValid(object value, ValidationContext validationContext)
        {
            ValidationResult validationResult = ValidationResult.Success;
            try
            {
                // Using reflection we can get a reference to the other date property, in this example the project start date
                var otherPropertyInfo = validationContext.ObjectType.GetProperty(this.otherPropertyName);
                // Let's check that otherProperty is of type DateTime as we expect it to be
                if (otherPropertyInfo.PropertyType.Equals(new DateTime().GetType()))
                {
                    DateTime toValidate = (DateTime)value;
                    DateTime referenceProperty = (DateTime)otherPropertyInfo.GetValue(validationContext.ObjectInstance, null);
                    // if the end date is lower than the start date, than the validationResult will be set to false and return
                    // a properly formatted error message
                    if (toValidate.CompareTo(referenceProperty) < 1)
                    {
                        validationResult = new ValidationResult(ErrorMessageString);
                    }
                }
                else
                {
                    validationResult = new ValidationResult("An error occurred while validating the property. OtherProperty is not of type DateTime");
                }
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                // Do stuff, i.e. log the exception
                // Let it go through the upper levels, something bad happened
                throw ex;
            }

            return validationResult;
        }
    }
}

Notice how the attribute extends ValidationAttribute and overrides IsValid method, in which we perform the custom validation.

Now we need aController and aView to test the validation.

Create a HomeController with a simple Index action method, build the project and then add a strongly typed View bound to our model, choosing the “Create” item into the scaffolding  menu.
To simplify user interaction, we will use the standard  jQuery datepicker component to let the user choose the dates.
In order to use it, we must add the following references to our page (or into the master layout page)
<script src="../../Scripts/jquery-1.x.x.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="../../Scripts/jquery-ui-1.x.x.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<link href="../../Content/themes/base/jquery.ui.all.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
Where x.x is the version you currently have installed.
To bind the datepicker method to our input fields, we use the following jquery code
<script>
    $().ready(function () {
        $("#StartDate").datepicker();
        $("#EndDate").datepicker();
        return false;
    });
</script>

Then, in order to use server side validation, we need to add the following code to our HomeController to handle form submit

// POST: /Home/
[HttpPost]
public ActionResult Index(Project model)
{
   return View(model);
}
If we run the project and inspect the HTML emitted, this is what we see:
HTML5 emitted  with the server side validation

HTML5 emitted with the server side validation

As expected there is no custom data attribute related to our custom rule.

Then we can insert two dates that will trigger the error message and we get the error message as we expected
Validation error message

Validation error message

That’s it for server-side validation.

Client side validation

Now on to the second part of this tutorial, where we will achieve client side validation.
Before we start, a few important notes (taken directly from the blog  of one of the developers of Asp.Net MVC 3)

jQuery Validate requires your input elements to be inside of a <form> element in order to be validated. In addition, MVC 3 requires that you have called Html.BeginForm() to render this form, so that it can find its book-keeping object to help render the HTML attributes.

Writing a client-side validator involves two steps:

  1. adding one more method to our DateGreaterThanAttribute
  2. writing some jQuery code to create a validation rule and what is called an adapter, which takes the parameter values from the HTML attributes and turns it into jQuery Validate metadata.
Note that we need to write a custom adapter since the default collection doesn’t come with what we need! Otherwise, there is an adapter collection available at jQuery.validator.unobtrusive.adapters.
Let’s go back to our DateGreaterThanAttribute class and modify it so that it implements the IClientValidatable, which, as MSDN says, provides a way for the ASP.NET MVC validation framework to discover at run time whether a validator has support for client validation.
Since we are implementing it, we need to write the method GetClientValidationRules like the following:
public IEnumerable<ModelClientValidationRule> GetClientValidationRules(ModelMetadata metadata, ControllerContext context)
        {
            //string errorMessage = this.FormatErrorMessage(metadata.DisplayName);
            string errorMessage = ErrorMessageString;

            // The value we set here are needed by the jQuery adapter
            ModelClientValidationRule dateGreaterThanRule = new ModelClientValidationRule();
            dateGreaterThanRule.ErrorMessage = errorMessage;
            dateGreaterThanRule.ValidationType = "dategreaterthan"; // This is the name the jQuery adapter will use
            //"otherpropertyname" is the name of the jQuery parameter for the adapter, must be LOWERCASE!
            dateGreaterThanRule.ValidationParameters.Add("otherpropertyname", otherPropertyName);

            yield return dateGreaterThanRule;
        }

Important: The metadata expressed for this rule will be used by the runtime to emit the HTML5 data-val custom attributes!

Now we need to create the jQuery validation function and the jQuery adapter.
We can create a separate .js file, thus we can reuse the code.
Let’s create a new Folder into /Scripts and call it “Custom”, then let’s create a new script called CustomValidation.js.
Let’s see the code:
/* File Created: January 16, 2012 */

// Value is the element to be validated, params is the array of name/value pairs of the parameters extracted from the HTML, element is the HTML element that the validator is attached to
$.validator.addMethod("dategreaterthan", function (value, element, params) {
    return Date.parse(value) > Date.parse($(params).val());
});

/* The adapter signature:
adapterName is the name of the adapter, and matches the name of the rule in the HTML element.

params is an array of parameter names that you're expecting in the HTML attributes, and is optional. If it is not provided,
then it is presumed that the validator has no parameters.

fn is a function which is called to adapt the HTML attribute values into jQuery Validate rules and messages.

The function will receive a single parameter which is an options object with the following values in it:
element
The HTML element that the validator is attached to

form
The HTML form element

message
The message string extract from the HTML attribute

params
The array of name/value pairs of the parameters extracted from the HTML attributes

rules
The jQuery rules array for this HTML element. The adapter is expected to add item(s) to this rules array for the specific jQuery Validate validators
that it wants to attach. The name is the name of the jQuery Validate rule, and the value is the parameter values for the jQuery Validate rule.

messages
The jQuery messages array for this HTML element. The adapter is expected to add item(s) to this messages array for the specific jQuery Validate validators that it wants to attach, if it wants a custom error message for this rule. The name is the name of the jQuery Validate rule, and the value is the custom message to be displayed when the rule is violated.
*/
$.validator.unobtrusive.adapters.add("dategreaterthan", ["otherpropertyname"], function (options) {
    options.rules["dategreaterthan"] = "#" + options.params.otherpropertyname;
    options.messages["dategreaterthan"] = options.message;
});

Let’s look at it in more details:
$.validator.addMethod("dategreaterthan", function (value, element, params) {
    return Date.parse(value) > Date.parse($(params).val());
});
The first parameter for addMethod is the name that identifies the rule and can be different from what we used inside GetClientValidationRules => dateGreaterThanRule.ValidationType = “dategreaterthan”;
In this example is the same, but you can change it.
The second parameter is the actual validator, in this case simply a comparison between two dates.

The adapter instead is tightly coupled with GetClientValidationRules implementation, therefore the first parameter must match the name we used in the code of our custom attribute for the validationType.

The second parameter is an array of parameters name.

In our case we only added one parameter

dateGreaterThanRule.ValidationParameters.Add("otherpropertyname", otherPropertyName);
so our array will have only one parameter. Should we have more, it would look like [“param1”, “param2”, ….]
The third parameter is a function which is called to adapt the HTML attribute values into jQuery Validate rules and messages.
options.rules["dategreaterthan"] //"dategreaterthan", the key to identify the rule, must match what we used in the addMethod as first parameter.
options.rules["dategreaterthan"] = "#" + options.params.otherpropertyname;

we use the # so that the value stored will be something like “#StartDate”, that is ready to be consumed by the validation rule previously wrote to get the value out of the StartDate field.

The javascript is done! Now let’s go back to our View because we need to add all the references we need to run the unobtrusive validation:
<script src="../../Scripts/jquery.validate.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="../../Scripts/jquery.validate.unobtrusive.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="../../Scripts/MicrosoftMvcAjax.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="../../Scripts/Custom/CustomValidation.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Everything’s done and now we can run the app. If we inspect the HTML that has been emitted this is what we see

HTML emitted with client side validation

HTML emitted with client side validation

and if we run the application we will see the same error message as before, with no form submit!

The source code is available on my github at the following URL: https://github.com/vgheri/DateCustomValidationExample

That’s all for the unobtrusive custom validation with MVC 3.

I hope this helps,

Valerio