Working with TFS in IntelliJ IDEA via VSTS Plugin

Recently Microsoft released a plugin for JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA in order to integrate this IDE with VSTS and TFS. Although Microsoft did a good job describing on how this plugin should be installed and described some basic settings, there are many non covered questions by the documentation provided. This is especially true when it comes to TFS and HTTPS. I will show you what is necessary in order to setup a connection for both Git and TFVC repositories on TFS.

Installing the plugin

In order to install the plugin, in the main screen of IDEA, choose Plugins from Configure menu:

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Once the plugin window opens, choose Browse repositories

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In browse repositories search for Visual Studio

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If the Visual Studio Team Services plugin is not found, your connection may not be setup correctly. In case you are, as I am, behind a proxy, you need to click on HTTP Proxy settings button in the same screen (bottom left) and you will be presented with the following dialog

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Here you need to setup the necessary parameters (Auto detect proxy settings worked for me) and test your connection by clicking on Check connection button. Once done you will be prompted to enter an address that is behind the proxy so that internet connection can be verified. I used http://www.google.com/ for my test.

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After confirming, you should see the following message

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Now, back to Browse repositories screen, the Visual Studio Team Services plugin now should be found. Click on install and after the procedure finishes you will be asked to restart IntelliJ IDEA. Do so, restart the IDE.

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The plugin is now installed. In case this is not sufficiently clear, you can also follow the Microsoft guide Visual Studio Team Services Plugin for IntelliJ IDEA and Android Studio.

Be also sure that you have at least version v1.111.0 installed as I encountered issues with TFVC and previous versions of the plugin.

Importing the certificate

In case you are not accessing TFS through SSL connection you can skip this part. For Visual Studio Team Services plugin to connect to the TFS via https, that is using a self-signed certificate, no matter if you do intend using Git or TFVC, you need to import the certificate in the IntelliJ IDEA certificate store. To do so, export your certificate in the Base-64 encoded X.509 format. You can read about this in one of mine previous posts, Installing self-signed certificates into Git cert store.
Once you exported your certificate and let’s say saved it in C:\temp folder under the name tfs.cer, you need to open the command prompt and position yourself under the folder containing keytool.exe application. You can find it in the IntelliJ IDEA install folder, which in my case is C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition 2016.3.1\jre\jre\bin.

Once there you will then execute the following command

keytool -keystore "C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition 2016.3.1\jre\jre\lib\security\cacerts" -importcert -alias TFS -file "C:\temp\tfs.cer"

You will be then prompted for the keystore password. If you haven’t changed it, the default password is

changeit

After typing the password you will see the details about the certificate you are trying to import, and again you will be prompted to confirm that you trust this certificate. Type yes and you are done. Your screen should look like this

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Visual Studio Team Services plugin and Git

Before we even start, we need to be sure that a Git client is installed on our machine. From the Welcome screen choose Configure then Settings.

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In the settings window move to Version control -> Git pane and test the path to your Git client

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In case all is good you should get back the version of your Git client

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If this is not the case, or the path is wrong (change it and try again) or the Git client is not present on your machine. You can install Git for windows and you will find the necessary here.

In case you are using the https connection with TFS and it is based on a self-signed certificate do not forget to add that certificate into the Git cert store. This is something different then adding it to the Java cert store that I described in the previous chapter. You will need to do both of these steps. As I already described this procedure in detail, you can follow my other blog post Installing self-signed certificates into Git cert store.

Once the Git client is installed and certificate is imported, we can continue setting up the Visual Studio Team Services plugin. Get back to the welcome scree of IntelliJ IDEA and in the version control drop down choose Team Services Git

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At this point a new dialog will be presented to you.

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Move to the Team Foundation Server tab and specify the address of your TFS server, then click connect. You will now be prompted for the credentials and if everything is ok, you will be show the list of available repositories

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You are now able to clone the repository of your choice and start working with it directly from IntelliJ IDEA.

Visual Studio Team Services plugin and TFVC

Before starting with TFVC, as for Git, we need an external tool. The tool in question is TF command line tool. It ships with the Microsoft Team Explorer Everywhere 2015 and you can download it here.
The file we are interested in is TEE-CLC-14.0.3.zip. Download it and unzip it in a folder of your choice. You should end up with something similar to this.

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Now, open the command prompt, move into the folder where you have extracted the TF command line tool and run the following:

tf eula /accept

If command succeeded and you haven’t received any error, you are good to go.

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Now back to IDEA. Open the settings panel.

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and move to Version Control -> TFVC pane. In the select path to executable field, enter the exact path to the tf.cmd command file located in TF command line tool folder.

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Once done, press the test button and you should see the following message

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Confirm all of the open windows and get back to the IDEA welcome page. Now you are ready to choose Team Services TFVC (Preview) version control.

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At this point, same as for Git, you will be prompted about the connection towards your TFS. The following dialog will be shown.

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Move to the Team Foundation Server tab and specify the address of your TFS server, then click connect. You will now be prompted for the credentials and if everything is ok, you will be shown the list of available TFVC repositories.

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You can now create a new workspace directly from IDEA and start working with your TFVC repositories.

Troubleshooting

There are a couple of common issues you may encounter in following what I just described. I will tell you about the most common ones and how to overcome those.

In case you see the message in the following screenshot

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You are probably facing some issues with the certificate. Make sure that you exported/imported the certificate correctly.

During the test of the TF command line utility, you may encounter the following exception

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In may case it turned out to be a problem with allocating the heap memory from TF process. I could clearly see in the log file the following:

2016-12-22 13:14:08,949 [ 17642] INFO - ugin.external.commands.Command - 167680800(ns) - elapsed time for add -noprompt -?
2016-12-22 13:15:46,592 [ 115285] INFO - lugin.external.ToolRunnerCache - getRunningToolRunner: toolLocation={0}
2016-12-22 13:15:46,592 [ 115285] INFO - lugin.external.ToolRunnerCache - getRunningToolRunner: slow version - null
2016-12-22 13:15:46,592 [ 115285] INFO - alm.plugin.external.ToolRunner - ToolRunner.start: toolLocation = C:\Utils\TEE-CLC-14.0.3\tf.cmd
2016-12-22 13:15:46,592 [ 115285] INFO - alm.plugin.external.ToolRunner - ToolRunner.start: workingDirectory = null
2016-12-22 13:15:46,592 [ 115285] INFO - alm.plugin.external.ToolRunner - arguments: add -noprompt -?
2016-12-22 13:15:46,716 [ 115409] INFO - ugin.external.commands.Command - CMD: Error occurred during initialization of VM
2016-12-22 13:15:46,717 [ 115410] INFO - ugin.external.commands.Command - CMD: Could not reserve enough space for 2097152KB object heap
2016-12-22 13:15:46,731 [ 115424] WARN - ugin.external.commands.Command - CMD: parsing output failed
com.microsoft.alm.plugin.external.exceptions.ToolBadExitCodeException: KEY_TF_BAD_EXIT_CODE
at com.microsoft.alm.plugin.external.tools.TfTool.throwBadExitCode(TfTool.java:109)
at com.microsoft.alm.plugin.external.commands.Command$1.completed(Command.java:155)
at com.microsoft.alm.plugin.external.ToolRunner$ListenerProxy.completed(ToolRunner.java:289)
at com.microsoft.alm.plugin.external.ToolRunner$ProcessWaiter.run(ToolRunner.java:327)

A workaround for this issue is to modify the tf.cmd file by specifying a lower -Xmx parameter. By default it is set to 2014MB however a 1024MB also worked well for me.

Another issue with this version of Visual Studio Team Services plugin is in changing in between the Team Services TFVC (Preview) and Team Services Git, or viceversa. You can read more about it here, TfsAuthenticator hangs the IDE.

No matter the issue, you can always find more information about it in the log file. The log file is located in my case in C:\Users\majcicam\.IdeaIC2016.3\system\log. Adapt this path to your case. The log file name is idea.log.
Visual Studio Team Services Plugin settings can be found in vsts_settings.xml file under C:\Users\majcicam\.IdeaIC2016.3\config\options folder.

Useful links

On visualstudio.com you can read more about this topic and see some useful how-to video.

  1. Installing Visual Studio Team Services Plugin for IntelliJ IDEA and Android Studio
  2. Using Visual Studio Team Services Plugin for IntelliJ

With all of these information I do hope you can get on going with the plugin and boost your productivity.

Happy coding.

Installing self-signed certificates into Git cert store

Introduction

Since it’s introduction, Git repositories in TFS became quite a popular choice. Most of early adopters used the integrated Visual Studio tooling to interact with their repositories. It is all straight forward, simple and easy, clone your repository are you are ready to go. Now, if you ever tried to use the command line Git client or another IDE as Visual Studio Code (which relies on the command line tool), and communication with your Git repositories is based on SSL connection (https), you may have noticed that things do not work out of the box. Visual Studio will take care of certain things for us, as authentication and certificates (Windows cert store), and make it transparent (in case certificates are distributed via domain). If we intend to use the Git client we need to set a couple of things up. I will illustrate here how to retrieve your TFS certificate and install it in the Git certificate store.

Certificates

Often, in the enterprise environments, access to Team Foundation Server is made possible only through Transport Layer Security cryptographic protocol. This means that the client will need to validate a certificate before establishing the connection. Often the certificate is a self-signed and if you try to clone a repository you are going to receive the following error:

SSL certificate problem: unable to get local issuer certificate

This is due to the fact that the root certificate which vouches for the authenticity of your SSL certificate is private to your organization. That root certificate is distributed to all domain-joined machines in your organization via group policy, and it is stored in the Windows certificate store for your machine.

Any application written to use the Windows crypto APIs will have access to that root certificate, and will consider your TFS deployment to be trusted. Applications using the Windows certificate store include Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Visual Studio and others. However, Git for Windows (git.exe) uses OpenSSL for its crypto stack, and the Git for Windows distribution includes a set of trusted root certificates in a simple text file. Your organization’s root certificate is not in this list, and if you try to use git.exe to perform network operations against your TFS server, you’ll get the error specified above.

In order to solve this problem we need to include our self signed certificate in the list of certificates used by Git.

Retrieve the TFS root certificate

In order to get the certificate I will use IE 11. However you can achieve the same result in multiple ways, following different steps.

First open your TFS portal in IE and once opened, click on the lock icon in the address bar:

select-certificate

Choose to view the certificate by clicking on the View certificates button. A new window will open showing the certificate details. Move to the Certification path tab as show here:

certification-path

Make sure that the top level certificate is selected, same as in this screenshot and click on View certificate button. Another certificate details window will now open. In it, choose the Details tab:

certification-details

Now, choose Copy to file option and follow the wizard that you will be presented with. You will need to export the certificate as Base64 encoded:

export-base64-certificate

Save the certificate somewhere on your disk, name it lets say tfs.crt and close all of the open windows. Now we have the certificate in a format that we need, next step is adding it to the certificate store used by git.

Add TFS certificate to Git certificate store

On most of modern computers since the Git for Windows version 2.5, the certificate store is located in the following directory:
C:\Program Files\Git\mingw64\ssl\certs

Note that in some cases the folder may be located here:
C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Programs\Git\mingw64\ssl\certs

In case that you are using an older version this can differ. In that case an upgrade is advised.
Open the above mentioned directory and you should find a file called ca-bundle.crt.

certs-folder

Now, first open our certificate file, tfs.crt, with a text editor of your choice, select all content and copy it.

tfs-cer

Then open the ca-bundle.crt file with the same text editor and position yourself at the end of the file. Now paste the previously copied content, save and close the all files.

Try again to clone a repository in TFS via git.exe. You should not receive the error message anymore and you should be prompted about credentials. By entering correct credentials the operation should succeed.

Monitoring TFS 2015 availability from F5 LTM

Introduction

If redundancy and performance are the thing you are looking for your TFS application tier setup, for sure you stumbled upon the term Network Load Balancing (NLB). Microsoft describes the benefits of such a setup and prerequisites in the document named How to: Create a Team Foundation server farm (high availability), thus I will not go in the details about these topics. However, in the documentation, Microsoft encourages you to setup the NLB feature that is integrated in the Windows Server operating system. In many situations that is not an option due to the network restrictions or company policies and the only choice is to use preexisting networking appliances. Reasons for using a hardware based NLB can also be a performance as it offloads the AppTier machines from this task that, for how minor it can be on today’s machines, it adds some load.

Monitoring

In case of using the Windows NLB feature, nodes participating in the pool of the machines used for the load distribution are monitored directly by the system itself, meanwhile for the hardware based solutions we need to setup a health monitor. This is essential as the load balancer needs to know if the node is available and in healthy state, otherwise it is excluded from the pool and the traffic is not sent towards that node.

Now, what is the best practice when it comes to the health status of TFS? Googling around you can’t find much, there are some pointers towards a SOAP method called GetServerStatus exposed, however it doesn’t bring the necessary information.
Luckily there is a non documented rest resource that is exposed on TFS 2015 and beyond and you can reach it at the URL

http(s)://your.tfs.address:port/tfs/_apis/health

It will return just a simple current time stamp by default using the JSON notation. Accessing this resource still requires the user to be authenticated.

When it comes to the F5 in particular, you need to create HTTPS Health Monitor (Local Traffic > Monitors > Create…)

f5-health-monitor

The most important fields to set are Send and Receive string. Here we will send a request towards TFS at the above mentioned address and expect a status code 200 in the response. We can ignore the time stamp in the response body.
The send string will be:

GET /tfs/_apis/health HTTP1.1\r\nHost: your.tfs.address:port\r\n

meanwhile the receive string should be set to:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK

A simple check that the request succeeded (we are not interested in the timestamp in this case).

Do not also forget to provide a username and password of the account that has sufficient rights to access this resource on your TFS server. Username needs to be provided in the form of DOMAIN\UserName. A bare minimum of access rights are necessary for accessing this resource and a View instance-level information permission on the server level is more than sufficient. You can set server-level permissions from the Team Foundation Administration Console or using the TFSSecurity command line tool. Now assign the newly created health monitor to your NLB pool and you are ready to go.

In case you are trying to do so from a script for some of your custom dashboards, I wrote a CmdLet that will return true or false based on the response received from the call to the above mentioned REST resource.

It is sufficient to invoke this cmdlet by passing in the URL of your TFS instance and eventually the credentials. If no credentials are provided, current process credentials will be used.

A simple solution is now in place that will keep other tools informed about the availability of our TFS instance.

Good luck!