Category Archives: tools

extend visual studio with simple scripts

There’s this neat feature in Visual Studio called External Tools that’s underrated. What it does is allow you to run any external tool and pass in stuff from Visual Studio and do something cool with that. For example the current file in your editor, or the currently selected text.

This means that you can write a PowerShell script that gets some input from the command line, and for example edit a file (the current file in VS), or search for a substring (selected text) in other files, or a database.

I’ve used this to do a complex number of find-replaces on the current file in a single run. I also use this to quickly find the source code of a stored procedure that’s used in code, by selecting the stored procedure’s name and running the script.

How do you set this up?
In Visual Studio, in the menu click Tools, then External Tools.
There you click Add and give the thing a title.
The command can be a bit tricky, but the easiest thing is to use a .cmd script, like test.cmd.


Then you create this cmd file, and make sure it’s in your path. You can also use the full path to the script for your command instead.
Now pick your arguments from the arrow at the right of the Arguments input box. I’m using ItemFileName here, but there’s plenty of options.

You’re all set.

As a test script you can use this gem:

@echo off
echo ** Command line parameters **
echo %*
pause

If you want to wrap a more advanced PowerShell script, you can use this:

@powershell.exe -nologo -noprofile -file c:\tools\do-something-awesome.ps1 %*

If you run this from a file now, you’ll see the passed in parameters in the script’s output. Like this:

With this technique you can easily and quickly extend your Visual Studio setup to do some mundane tasks a lot faster, using PowerShell, Node.js, Python or whatever your favorite scripting language is.

wake up Windows automatically using a scheduled task

This seems easy at first, but it turns out to be a lot harder than expected, due to various OS and power settings that get in the way. The idea is simple: you want to have your Windows 10 machine start up at a specific time using a task set in the task scheduler.

When you create a new task in the Task Scheduler, there’s a setting for this, so it looks so easy. It’s on the conditions tab. You activate the option to wake the computer to execute your task, and you’re done. Right? Well, if you’re really lucky that might work straight out of the box.
In case it doesn’t work, here are some things you can fiddle with to try and get it going.

  1. Create a wake-up tasks that doesn’t really do anything. Just run a command like this:
    cmd /c echo %date%
    For a more detailed guide on how to set up a task and the wake timers check this excellent article.
  2. Create a second task that does what you want it to do in a batch script but 10 minutes later than the first. That gives your computer ample time to start up, install any potential updates, or do whatever it sometimes does that takes so damn long.
  3. Deactivate Fast Startup. It messes with your hibernation mode and causes it not to startup again afterwards.
  4. Always hibernate your machine. If you just do a plain shutdown it doesn’t seem to automatically start up again. You can do this with the command below. This is also handy if you want to shut your machine down again, after your task has finished:
    shutdown /h
  5. Enable wake timers in your Power Options advanced settings. See the link below for instructions.
  6. For laptops make sure your Power Options are configured correctly. Mind closing the lid in that case. A closed lid will prevent the laptop from starting up in my case for example. Laptops will also not startup when they are running on the battery by default.
  7. Reboot your machine after fiddling with these settings if it still doesn’t work. This makes sure your settings stick.
  8. If you tried everything and it still doesn’t work, check your BIOS settings and see if there might be a power option in there that might prevent it from starting up automatically.

Give your machine a few minutes if you’re testing this. Yes, it’s annoying to wait, but if you set it too fast, it might not be powered down fast enough to be able to start up again, and miss the timer. That way you won’t be able to tell if it’s actually working.

Hopefully you can now use your desktop or laptop to run some nightly scheduled jobs, without having to have a dedicated always-on machine around. Saves you time and money on power consumption, hardware and maintenance!

automatically delete emails with IMAP Cleanup

Let’s say you have this IOT device like a motion detection camera. Which sends you emails. Emails you keep in a separate IMAP mailbox. Lots of emails. So you want to delete those emails in some automated fashion, because doing that daily is oh so boring (remember, lots of emails).

Wouldn’t it be great if there was like some handy command line tool that would delete the oldest emails and keep like a 1.000 or 500 of them only? Well yes, that way I could script that annoying job and run it daily.

I didn’t find something that already did this. So I figured I’d be able to whip something up in an hour or so using PowerShell, or maybe a small .NET console application using an existing IMAP library.

Well, 3 different IMAP libraries and about 4 hours later I did have something rudimentary that finally did what it was supposed to do. Delete the oldest email, and leave the most recent 1000 (or whatever number you want) behind. That took longer than expected, so to regain as much time spent on this as possible I threw the ImapCleanup tool on GitHub, including binary downloads. I hope someone else will find this useful as well.

Beware though. This tool deletes emails. Be careful which mailbox you point this at, and make sure you test it in advance on a dummy mailbox. Maybe your email server behaves differently than mine, and important emails get digitally shredded by mistake.

download cover art for all your albums, with powershell

Album covers are nice eye candy when you’re using a media player like Foobar2000 which automatically picks up a cover.jpg file in an album folder. The problem is that I have a lot of mp3 albums I ripped from my CD’s from way back and those don’t have any fancy cover art files.

I looked around for some tools that could automagically download covers for my albums but didn’t find anything handy. Since my music is structured in sub-folders like \ I thought this should be easy enough to parse and get pictures for.
If only there was a service that could easily provide those…

I tried the Musicbrainz API’s but that turned out to be hard to use and didn’t give me any covers for some test albums either. Then I thought of Last.fm. They have a lot of cover art, and their URL structure is the same as my folder structure… hmmm.

And here it is, a Powershell script which runs over your folder structure, tries to get the album page from Last.fm and then saves a cover.jpg image from the album page metadata.

A few things to know:

  • Your mp3’s are expected to be in a folder structure like (artist)\(album)\*.mp3
    E.g. The Prodigy\The Fat of the Land
  • If a folder contains any JPG or PNG image, it will be skipped. So that means you can run the script multiple times, and it will only download images once.
  • The “Various artists” folder is skipped by default because it didn’t fit the search pattern. If you store these type of albums in another folder, you might want to update that line with the correct folder name. If it does happen to process that folder in your case because of a different name, nothing will go wrong. It simply won’t find any album matches.

To use it, copy the code below in a file called get-albumart.ps1, or whatever name you fancy. Then run it as follows to get those pretty cover albums:

.\get-albumart.ps1 d:\music

And as always, this script comes as is, without any kind of warranty and you’re free to try it at your own risk. I wrote and used it and it worked great for me. I hope it works for you too. If Last.fm sues you because you’re downloading every image they have on the site because of your huge album collection? You didn’t get this script from me OK. Nope. Not me. ;-)

param ([Parameter(Mandatory=$true)][string]$path)

$progressPreference = 'silentlyContinue'
pushd
cd $path
$artistFolders = ls -directory | where { $_.name -ne "Various artists"}

foreach ($artistFolder in $artistFolders)
{
    $artist = $artistFolder.name
    write-host "::: $artist :::" -foregroundcolor green

    cd -Literalpath $artistFolder
    $releaseFolders = ls -directory
    
    foreach ($releaseFolder in $releaseFolders)
    {
        $release = $releaseFolder.name
        write-host "$release" -foregroundcolor cyan
        cd -literalpath "$releaseFolder"

        if ((test-path *.png) -or (test-path *.jpg))
        {
            write-host "- Images found, skipping."
        }
        else
        {
            $url = "https://www.last.fm/music/$($artist)/$($release)"
            $r = $null

            try 
            {
                $r = invoke-webrequest $url -usebasicparsing
            }
            catch 
            {
                write-host "- Release not found, skipping: $artist - $release" -foregroundcolor red
            }

            if ($r -ne $null)
            {
                $s = $r.content -split "`n" | where { $_ -like "*`"og:image`"*"} 
                $img = ($s -split '"') | where { $_ -like "*https*.jpg*" }

                if ($img -ne $null)
                {
                    write-host "- Downloading image for $artist - $release from $url"
                    invoke-webrequest $img -outfile cover.jpg
                }
                else
                {
                    write-host "- No image for $artist - $release from $url" -foregroundcolor yellow
                }
            }
        }
        cd ..
    }
    cd ..
}

popd
$progressPreference = 'Continue'