So, I’ve been a really happy CSLA.NET user for a while, but I’ve been finding thatgenerating the code has becoming tedious and my development velocity has been slowingdown on my CSLA libraries. And so, rather than getting back involved with blood sacrifice,I figured I’d experiment with another layer in there. I’m currently working up somecode with LLBLGen Pro (becausellblgen lite is for suckers!), and it’s working great….but Rocky made it so easyto do forms authentication with CSLA. It was just a couple’a pages in the book andit worked just fine and ….well…. I don’t understand how it works. Now that I’mnot including his framework, I need to figure it out.
So, follow along with me as we figure it out. Here’s how it’s done.
Step 1: Some configuration
First thing I tried was putting a Label on a form and assigning HttpContext.Current.User.ToString()to it. The result? “System.Security.Principal.WindowsPrincipal”
Right. My application is still out-of-the-box set to Windows authentication (Kerberos.ActiveDirectory. NSA Backdoor.) Let’s change that.
Good. What’s in that label now? “System.Security.Principal.GenericPrincipal” Muchbetter.
Step 2: The Password is ‘Joshua’!
This step is a big one. There are 27 members defined in the MembershipProvider contract,so go get some coffee, lithium, and a rotisserie chicken, and we’ll get started.
Make a new class, call it MyMembershipProvider.cs. Make it extend MembershipProvider:
Go ahead and let Visual Studio define all of the inherited members. We’re only goingto change one:
Now we’ve got another little configuration change to make.
Go head and drop a Login control and a LoginStatus on the form and try it out. Itlogs you in! No matter what you enter! Sure, you could put in some code that checksagainst your database to see if people are allowed in or not, but that’s just elitist,isn’t it? Creating an ‘In-group’ and an ‘Out-group’ and segregating them? Next thing,you’ll be wanting to beat up blue eyed people because they prefer Lord of the Ringsto Star Wars. Well, if you’re going to put in some authentication code, go for it.I won’t stop you.
Step 3: The Principal’s Orifice
Ok. So there’s a little gotcha at this point. If all you’re looking for is a loginand password check…then it’s time to feed your brain to the zombies, ’cause youwon’t need it anymore. But if you want more than just a username logged in, we’vego some stuff to do. Forms auth never gives you anything but the GenericPrincipal.It will be marked ‘IsAuthenticated’ if it is…and you can use the Roles providerto fill in the roles if you want. It also looks like it’s possible to fill in theroles manually using an event handler in Global.asax.
But here’s the thing. While I really dig on the login functionality of ASP.NET Membership,I’m not so convinced that Roles or Profiles provide a meaningful, robust implementationthat’s useful for more than a toy web forum. Can you give the branch manager for theSalem office full privileges to the customers there without letting him check on PresidentObama’s secret pornography transactions at the Hillsboro branch? With just IsInRole(string)?It sure doesn’t seem like it. The major advantage of Profiles seems to be that youcan use web.config to define the fields….which is great until the point where youwant to find all users within 50 miles of Denver….and then you’re stuck in an abandonedwarehouse with the vampires. Serialized XML doesn’t query too very well. There’s probablysolutions to these problems, but not out-of-the-box and why work really hard to havea decoupled design with a provider model that is so customized and complicated toimplement that you won’t ever be swapping it out?
This is a job for a Custom Principal. That’s what it is. Implement just enough tomake the ASP.NET controls happy and then add the real meat to your own object. Theprincipal also encapsulates an IIdentity object. You could go ahead and implementboth of these, but since I’m lazy and want to go play Rock Band, I’m going to do bothin onefell swoop. (Note that this is untested, and may put cracks in your DilithiumCrystals requiring embarrassing compromises with pimps.
I accept that you and your fascist friends will probably want to do more passwordchecking than making sure that the user typed a letter. Goodfences make good neighbors, right? The real point is that you can put your ownCrazy User Code in here and have it available when your pages want to use it.
Now we can fix the Membership Provider to use our new shiny principal object!
Give it a try!
Step 4: Dammit!
I set Current.User to my Principal. I did. I did. I did. Why doesn’t my damn labelchange from GenericPrincipal when I log in? It’s cheesin’ me off here!
The problem here is the Forms Authentication uses it’s own principal and sets thecontext to it on each page load. This is what it’s supposed to do, but we want better!We’re going to add a few methods and fix the problem. One caveat here (and why dopeople want to eat caves? And which Cave are you At when that happens? Where’s mylithium?): I’m going to trust the forms authentication cookie. I think that’s enoughof a ticket to bypass password authentication. If you don’t, you might want to jumpthrough some extra hoops. I’m also trusting that my developers won’t use the bypassmethods to create secret login backdoors and the like. I figure if you can’t trustthe coders then…well, you work at my office. But anyways….
To the principal!
And in Global.asax!
Step 5: And now for a magic trick.
Happy Day! Kill Ugly One-Horned Mule!
My cheap and dirty Membership implementation works. Now I can put this in my Form_Loadmethod:
Sweet! You can find out if you’re logged in. And if you’re dead. All at the same time.
Next Steps: Drunk on Cookie Magic
Obviously we’re going to need some code to check passwords. Probably fetching againstthe database. No problem. I’m planning on encapsulating my DTOs from LLBLGen intomy principal. That way I can expose read access to user objects for the logged-inusers. I can also put in complex permissions right there. I’m going it my way.Sweet!
It’s worth noting that this implementation goes off to the DB for each page load.That can sure suck up the performance points under a real load. However, a littlebit of effort can store the principal in the session object and then you get it back,deserialized, instead of requiring a round-trip. Just remember to code for the casewhere the session expires, but the forms cookie does not.
until next time, remember: the skin is the best part.