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Deploying from ASP.Net MVC to GitHub Pages using AppVeyor part 2

"Automation, automation, automation." Those were and are Tony Blair's priorities for keeping open source projects well maintained.

OK, that's not quite true... But what is certainly true is that maintaining an open source project takes time. And there's only so much free time that anyone has. For that reason, wherever you can it makes sense to AUTOMATE!

Last time we looked at how you can take an essentially static ASP.Net MVC site (in this case my jVUNDemo documentation site) and generate an entirely static version using Wget. This static site has been pushed to GitHub Pages and is serving as the documentation for jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native (and for bonus points is costing me no money at all).

So what next? Well, automation clearly! If I make a change to jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native then AppVeyor already bounds in and performs a continuous integration build for me. It picks up the latest source from GitHub, pulls in my dependencies, performs a build and runs my tests. Lovely.

So the obvious thing to do is to take this process and plug in the generation of my static site and the publication thereof to GitHub pages. The minute a change is made to my project the documentation should be updated without me having to break sweat. That's the goal.

GitHub Personal Access Token#

In order to complete our chosen mission we're going to need a GitHub Personal Access Token. We're going to use it when we clone, update and push our GitHub Pages branch. To get one we biff over to Settings / Applications in GitHub and click the "Generate New Token" button.

The token I'm using for my project has the following scopes selected:


With our token in hand we turn our attention to AppVeyor build configuration. This is possible using a file called appveyor.yml stored in the root of your repo. You can also use the AppVeyor web UI to do this. However, for the purposes of ease of demonstration I'm using the file approach. The jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native appveyor.yml looks like this:

# general configuration #
# version format
version: 1.0.{build}
# environment configuration #
# environment variables
GithubEmail: [email protected]
GithubUsername: johnnyreilly
secure: T4M/N+e/baksVoeWoYKPWIpfahOsiSFw/+Zc81VuThZmWEqmrRtgEHUyin0vCWhl
- master
- ps: choco install wget
verbosity: minimal
- ps: ./makeStatic.ps1 $env:APPVEYOR_BUILD_FOLDER
- ps: ./pushStatic.ps1 $env:APPVEYOR_BUILD_FOLDER $env:GithubEmail $env:GithubUsername $env:GithubPersonalAccessToken

There's a number of things you should notice from the yml file:

  • We create 3 environment variables: GithubEmail, GithubUsername and GithubPersonalAccessToken (more on this in a moment).
  • We only build the master branch.
  • We use Chocolatey to install Wget which is used by the makeStatic.ps1 Powershell script.
  • After the tests have completed we run 2 Powershell scripts. First <a href="">makeStatic.ps1</a> which builds the static version of our site. This is the exact same script we discussed in the previous post - we're just passing it the build folder this time (one of AppVeyor's environment variables). Second, we run <a href="">pushStatic.ps1</a> which publishes the static site to GitHub Pages.

We pass 4 arguments to pushStatic.ps1: the build folder, my email address, my username and my personal access token. For the sake of security the GithubPersonalAccessToken has been encrypted as indicated by the secure keyword. This is a capability available in AppVeyor here.

This allows me to mask my personal access token rather than have it available as free text for anyone to grab.


Finally we can turn our attention to how our Powershell script pushStatic.ps1 goes about pushing our changes up to GitHub Pages:

param([string]$buildFolder, [string]$email, [string]$username, [string]$personalAccessToken)
Write-Host "- Set config settings...."
git config --global $email
git config --global $username
git config --global push.default matching
Write-Host "- Clone gh-pages branch...."
cd "$($buildFolder)\..\"
mkdir gh-pages
git clone --quiet --branch=gh-pages https://$($username):$($personalAccessToken) .\gh-pages\
cd gh-pages
git status
Write-Host "- Clean gh-pages folder...."
Get-ChildItem -Attributes !r | Remove-Item -Recurse -Force
Write-Host "- Copy contents of static-site folder into gh-pages folder...."
copy-item -path ..\static-site\* -Destination $pwd.Path -Recurse
git status
$thereAreChanges = git status | select-string -pattern "Changes not staged for commit:","Untracked files:" -simplematch
if ($thereAreChanges -ne $null) {
Write-host "- Committing changes to documentation..."
git add --all
git status
git commit -m "skip ci - static site regeneration"
git status
Write-Host "- Push it...."
git push --quiet
Write-Host "- Pushed it good!"
else {
write-host "- No changes to documentation to commit"

So what's happening here? Let's break it down:

  • Git is configured with the passed in username and email address.
  • A folder is created that sits alongside the build folder called "gh-pages".
  • We clone the "gh-pages" branch of jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native into our "gh-pages" directory. You'll notice that we are using our GitHub personal access token in the clone URL itself.
  • We delete the contents of the "gh-pages" directory leaving it empty.
  • We copy across the contents of the "static-site" folder (created by makeStatic.ps1) into the "gh-pages".
  • We use git status to check if there are any changes. (This method is completely effective but a little crude to my mind - there's probably better approaches to this.... shout me in the comments if you have a suggestion.)
  • If we have no changes then we do nothing.
  • If we have changes then we stage them, commit them and push them to GitHub Pages. Then we sign off with an allusion to 80's East Coast hip-hop... 'Cos that's how we roll.

With this in place, any changes to the docs will be automatically published out to our "gh-pages" branch. Our documentation will always be up to date thanks to the goodness of AppVeyor's Continuous Integration service.

Deploying from ASP.Net MVC to GitHub Pages using AppVeyor part 1

There's a small open source project I'm responsible for called jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native. (A catchy name is a must for any good open source project. Alas I'm not quite meeting my own exacting standards on this particular point... I should have gone with my gut and called it "Livingstone" instead. Too late now...)

The project itself is fairly simple in purpose. It's essentially a bridge between ASP.Net MVC's inbuilt support for driving validation from data attributes and jQuery Validation's native support for the same. It is, in the end, a collection of ASP.Net MVC HTML helper extensions. It is not massively complicated.

I believe it was Tony Blair that said "documentation, documentation, documentation" were his priorities for open source projects. Or maybe it was someone else... Anyway, the point stands. Documentation is supremely important if you want your project to be in any way useful to anyone other than yourself. A project, no matter how fantastic, which lacks decent documentation is a missed opportunity.

Anyway I'm happy to say that jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native has documentation! And pretty good documentation at that. The documentation takes the form of the jVUNDemo project which is part of the jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native repo. jVUNDemo is an ASP.Net MVC web application which is built on top of the jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native helpers. It demonstrates the helpers in action and documents how you might go about using them. It looks a bit like this:

When I first put jVUNDemo together I hosted it on Azure so the world could see it in all it's finery. And that worked just fine. However, there's something you ought to know about me:

I'm quite cheap#

No really, I am. My attention was grabbed by the essentially "free" nature of GitHub Pages. I was immediately seized by the desire to somehow deploy jVUNDemo to GitHub Pages and roll around joyfully in all that lovely free hosting.

"But", I hear you cry, "you can't deploy an ASP.Net MVC application to Git Hub Pages... It only hosts static sites!" Quite right. Sort of. This is where I get to pull my ace of spades: jVUNDemo is not really an "app" so much as a static site. Yup, once the HTML that makes up each page is generated there isn't any app like business to do. It's just a collection of text and 1 screen demo's really.

That being the case, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to make use of GitHub Pages. So that's what I decided to do. Whilst I was at it I also wanted to automate the deployment process. When I tweak jVUNDemo I don't want to have to manually push out a new version of jVUNDemo to wherever it's being hosted. No, I'm a developer so I'll automate it.

I've broken this up into 2 posts. This first one will cover how you generate a static site from an ASP.Net MVC site. The second will be about how to use AppVeyor to ensure that on each build your documentation is getting republished.

You Wget me?#

So, static site generation. There's a well known Unix utility called Wget which covers exactly that ground and so we're going to use it. It downloads and saves HTML, it recursively walks the links inside the site and grabs those pages too and it converts our routes so they are locally browsable ("Demo/Required" becomes "Demo/Required.html").

You can use Chocolatey to get a copy of Wget. We're also going to need IIS Express to host jVUNDemo whilst Wget converts it. Once jVUNDemo has been built successfully you should be be able to kick off the process like so:

cd C:\projects\jquery-validation-unobtrusive-native
.\makeStatic.ps1 $pwd.path

This invokes the makeStatic Powershell script in the root of the jQuery Validation Unobtrusive Native repo:

$jVUNDemo = "$($buildFolder)\jVUNDemo"
$staticSiteParentPath = (get-item $buildFolder).Parent.FullName
$staticSite = "static-site"
$staticSitePath = "$($staticSiteParentPath)\$($staticSite)"
$wgetLogPath = "$($staticSiteParentPath)\wget.log"
$port = 57612
$servedAt = "http://localhost:$($port)/"
write-host "jVUNDemo location: $jVUNDemo"
write-host "static site parent location: $staticSiteParentPath"
write-host "static site location: $staticSitePath"
write-host "wget log path: $wgetLogPath"
write-host "Spin up jVUNDemo site at $($servedAt)"
$process = Start-Process 'C:\Program Files (x86)\IIS Express\iisexpress.exe' -NoNewWindow -ArgumentList "/path:$($jVUNDemo) /port:$($port)"
write-host "Wait a moment for IIS to startup"
Start-sleep -s 15
if (Test-Path $staticSitePath) {
write-host "Removing $($staticSitePath)..."
Remove-Item -path $staticSitePath -Recurse -Force
write-host "Create static version of demo site here: $($staticSitePath)"
Push-Location $staticSiteParentPath
# 2>&1 used to combine stderr and stdout
wget.exe --recursive --convert-links -E --directory-prefix=$staticSite --no-host-directories $servedAt > $wgetLogPath 2>&1
write-host "lastExitCode: $($lastExitCode)"
cat $wgetLogPath
write-host "Shut down jVUNDemo site"
stop-process -Name iisexpress
if (Test-Path $staticSitePath) {
write-host "Contents of $($staticSitePath)"
ls $staticSitePath

The above Powershell does the following:

  1. Starts up IIS Express serving jVUNDemo on http://localhost:57612/
  2. Waits 15 seconds for IIS Express to get itself together (probably a shorter wait time would be sufficient)
  3. Points Wget at jVUNDemo and bellows "go!!!!"
  4. Wget downloads and saves the static version of jVUNDemo to a directory called "static-site"
  5. Stops IIS Express
  6. Prints out the contents of the "static-site" directory

When run, it pumps something like this out:

jVUNDemo location: C:\projects\jquery-validation-unobtrusive-native\jVUNDemo
static site parent location: C:\projects
static site location: C:\projects\static-site
wget log path: C:\projects\wget.log
Spin up jVUNDemo site at http://localhost:57612/
Wait a moment for IIS to startup
Create static version of demo site here: C:\projects\static-site
wget.exe : --2014-12-29 07:49:56-- http://localhost:57612/
Resolving localhost...
Connecting to localhost||:57612... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response...
200 OK
..... lots of HTTP requests.....
Downloaded: 30 files, 1.0M in 0.09s (10.8 MB/s)
Converting static-site/Demo/CreditCard.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Number.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Range.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Email.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/AdvancedDemo/CustomValidation.html... 35-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Date.html... 36-0
Converting static-site/Home/License.html... 27-0
Converting static-site/index.html... 29-0
Converting static-site/AdvancedDemo/Dynamic.html... 35-0
Converting static-site/Demo/MaxLengthMinLength.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Required.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/AdvancedDemo.html... 32-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Remote.html... 35-0
Converting static-site/Demo/EqualTo.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/AdvancedDemo/Globalize.html... 38-0
Converting static-site/Demo/Url.html... 34-0
Converting static-site/Demo.html... 37-0
Converting static-site/Home/GettingStarted.html... 29-0
Converting static-site/Home/Download.html... 27-0
Converting static-site/AdvancedDemo/Tooltip.html... 34-0
Converted 20 files in 0.03 seconds.
Shut down jVUNDemo site
Contents of C:\projects\static-site
Directory: C:\projects\static-site
Mode LastWriteTime Length Name
---- ------------- ------ ----
d---- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM AdvancedDemo
d---- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM Content
d---- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM Demo
d---- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM Home
d---- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM Scripts
-a--- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM 5967 AdvancedDemo.html
-a--- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM 6802 Demo.html
-a--- 12/29/2014 7:47 AM 12862 favicon.ico
-a--- 12/29/2014 7:50 AM 8069 index.html

And that's it for part 1 my friends! You now have a static version of the ASP.Net MVC site to dazzle the world with. I should say for the purposes of full disclosure that there are 2 pages in the site which are not entirely "static" friendly. For these 2 pages I've put messages in that are displayed when the page is served up in a static format explaining the limitations. Their full glory can still be experienced by cloning the project and running locally.

Next time we'll take the mechanism detailed above and plug it into AppVeyor for some Continuous Integration happiness.