Automated Builds – Getting started

The Intro

A couple of years ago I got started scripting my builds using NAnt. I considered that to be a great opportunity to increase the quality of my builds and to get all those manual steps done, which might otherwise be skipped – due to dullness.

So after getting the build al straightened up, the logical next step was to get someone else to actually do the building of the app. Since the build-script was up and running, this wasn’t that hard to accomplish. So I found CruiseControl.Net.

This was already way back in 2004 – so way before Microsoft release TeamFoundationServer.

Since then CCNet served me very well, but to be honest I didn’t really kept up with latest developments in CCNet.

So I will show a little bit, of I used CCNet to improve my build process and how to get going with continues integration.

Prep’ing the project

First of, in order to take full advantge of CCNet you need to have a working build-script to automate the build of the project.

Well, starting with Visual Studio 2005 the project files are based on MSBuild – so you will already have a working build-script in place. Either you stick with this script, or you decide to roll your own. That’s what I chose, but sticking with MSBuild is fine as well. Just out of personal preference I use NAnt for my builds. But to be honest – to actually do the compiling and stuff, I use the MSBuild-Task of the NAnt Contribution project, which in turn utilizes the MSBuild script of Visual Studio.

So my super-simple NAnt file looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<project xmlns="" name="Pizza">
    <target name="Compile">
        <msbuild project="Pizza.sln"  >
            <property name="Configuration" value="Debug"/>

Setting up a new server

So it’s way overdue to pay some respect to the recent 1.5.0 CTP release of CCNet.

OK, let’s take the the new CTP for a spin. I just downloaded the ZIP file, extracted it into a common location and then take a deep dive into the config. This is one of the biggest downturns of CCNet – the hugh chunk of XML configuration. Well, anyway.

Since we want to start out simple, we’ll stick with a really simple ccnet.config as well. So you should have a servers folder, which contains a ccnet.config file. This holds all you ccnet configuration.

<cruisecontrol xmlns:cb="urn:ccnet.config.builder">
    <project name="Pizza">
        <sourcecontrol type="svn">
          <intervalTrigger seconds="900" />
          <nant description="main build">
          <xmllogger />
          <modificationHistory />
        <state type="state" directory="d:\ccnet\repositories\Pizza" />

This configuration checks every 900 seconds my local, file-based SVN-repository for changes. If any changes were found, or a build was forced, the target “Compile” of the script is being executed.

This is pretty cool. So now we’ve build our self a very basic build-server, which checks regularly for any modifications and if needed creates a new build. This way I can make sure that whenever I check something into the SVN repository I still get a working – or at least building – application.

Accessing the Build-Server

But wait, event though we’ve got our builds automated we haven’t yet any way to access the output of the build; or at least see what CCNet is actually doing and getting to know of any errors that where encountered during the build.

Basically there are two “interfaces” to CCNet. Either through the web-dashboard or via a little windows-app. For the web-dashboard you need to have IIS installed as well as ASP.Net. To get the web-dashboard up and running just create a new virtual web and point it to your location of CCNet. There should be a sub-folder “webdashboard”, that’s where you want to point your virtual directory. That’s already all you need to get going.

You should then see the dashboard, which will tell you whether your build succeed or in the case of a failure what went wrong during the build.


I think for now, this is working quite well. I kinda have get the feeling, that I’ll soon write some more about how to evolve your build-experience … 🙂

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