Ramping up with PSake

September 8, 2009

I’ve been tetering back and forth with PSake and my trusty NAnt scripts for quite a while now.  For those not familiar with PSake, it’s build automation that makes you drunk—but in a good way. ;)  You can read James Kovacs’ original post here or check out the repository here for the latest bits.

I originally looked at rake scripts (after exposure working with Fluent NHibernate) as PowerShell is loathed in our organization—or was.  That mindset is slowly changing (being able to show people how to crank out what was originally scoped at a week in two lines of PowerShell script helps out); so I’m using PSake as further motivation.

My prior PSake scripts were a bit tame.  Launch msbuild, copy a few files.  With the latest release of xUnit 1.5 hitting the wires over the weekend (and a much needed x86 version for my poor, cranky Oracle libraries), I decided to bite the bullet and dig in to PSake.

I had two goals:

  1. Build a reliable framework “default.ps1” file that I could drop into almost any project and configure with little or no effort.
  2. Compile, test, and rollout updates from a single PSake command task.

I borrowed the basic layout from Ayende’s Rhino Mocks PSake; however, I couldn’t get msbuild to run correctly simply by calling it.

Here’s what I ended up with for our internal core library.  The core library, isn’t so much a “utilities” container, but just as it sounds—the framework all of our applications are built on to keep connections to our various applications (HR, student systems, data warehouses, etc) consistant as well as hold our base FNH conventions.

CODE: Full code available on CodePaste.NET


The properties area holds all of the configuration for the PSake script.  For me, it’s common to configure $solution_name, $libraries_to_merge, and $libraries_to_copy.  With our naming standards, the $test_library should be left unchanged.  I also added in the tester information so we could change from XUnit to MBUnit (if Hell froze over or something)).

properties {


  # ****************  CONFIGURE ****************

       $solution_name =           “Framework”

       $test_library =            “$solution_name.Test.dll”


       $libraries_to_merge =      “antlr3.runtime.dll”, `

                                  “ajaxcontroltoolkit.dll”, `

                                  “Castle.DynamicProxy2.dll”, `

                                  “Castle.Core.dll”, `

                                  “FluentNHibernate.dll”, `

                                  “log4net.dll”, `

                                  “system.linq.dynamic.dll”, `

                                  “xunit.dll”, `

                                  “nhibernate.caches.syscache2.dll”, `

                                  “cssfriendly.dll”, `

                                  “iesi.collections.dll”, `

                                  “nhibernate.bytecode.castle.dll”, `



       $libraries_to_copy =       “system.data.sqlite.dll”


       $tester_directory = “j:\shared_libraries\xunit\msbuild”

       $tester_executable = “xunit.console.x86.exe”

       $tools_directory =         “$tools”

       $base_directory  =         resolve-path .

       $thirdparty_directory =    “$base_directory\thirdparty”

       $build_directory =         “$base_directory\build”

       $solution_file =           “$base_directory\$solution_name.sln”

       $release_directory =       “$base_directory\release”


Clean and easy enough.  You’ll notice that $libraries_to_merge and $libraries_to_copy are implied string arrays.  That works out well since string arrays end up as params when passed to commands… and our $libraries_to_copy can be iterated over later in the code.

Tasks – Default

task default -depends Release

The default task (if just running ‘psake’ without parameters) runs Release.  Easy enough.

Tasks – Clean

task Clean {

  remove-item -force -recurse $build_directory -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | Out-Null

  remove-item -force -recurse $release_directory -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | Out-Null


Clean up those build and release directories.

Tasks – Init

task Init -depends Clean {

    new-item $release_directory -itemType directory | Out-Null

    new-item $build_directory -itemType directory | Out-Null

    cp $tester_directory\*.* $build_directory


Restore those build and release directories that we cleaned up; then copy in our unit testing framework so we can run our tests (if necessary).

Tasks – Compile

task Compile -depends Init {

       # from http://poshcode.org/1050 (first lines to get latest versions)

       [System.Reflection.Assembly]::Load(‘Microsoft.Build.Utilities.v3.5, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a’) | Out-Null

       $msbuild = [Microsoft.Build.Utilities.ToolLocationHelper]::GetPathToDotNetFrameworkFile(“msbuild.exe”, “VersionLatest”)


       # adding double slash for directories with spaces. Stupid MSBuild.

       &$msbuild /verbosity:minimal /p:Configuration=”Release” /p:Platform=”Any CPU” /p:OutDir=”$build_directory”\\ “$solution_file”


Compile is a bit tricky.  As noted in the code, I ended up using a SharePoint example from PoSH code to get MSBuild to behave.  The standard exec methodology provided by PSake kept ignoring my parameters.  Maybe someone has an good reason.. but this works.

You also see that my OutDir has TWO slashes.  It seems that directories with spaces require the second.  I’m sure this will somehow bite me later on, but it seems to be working for now.😉

Tasks – Test

task Test -depends Compile {

  $origin_directory = pwd

  cd $build_directory

  exec .\$tester_executable “$build_directory\$test_library”

  cd $origin_directory       


I want to thank Ayende for the idea to dump the origin directory into a parameter—brilliant.  This one is pretty simple—just calls the tester and tests.

Tasks – Merge

task Merge {

       $origin_directory = pwd

       cd $build_directory


       remove-item “$solution_name.merge.dll” -erroraction SilentlyContinue

       rename-item “$solution_name.dll” “$solution_name.merge.dll”


       & $tools\ilmerge\ilmerge.exe /out:”$solution_name.dll” /t:library /xmldocs /log:”$solution_name.merge.log” `

              “$solution_name.merge.dll” $libraries_to_merge


       if ($lastExitCode -ne 0) {

              throw “Error: Failed to merge assemblies!”


       cd $origin_directory


Merge calls ILMerge and wraps all of my libraries into one.  Do I need to do this?  Nah, but for the framework, I prefer to keep everything together.  I don’t want to be chasing mis-versioned libraries around.  Again, since $libraries_to_merge is a string array, it passes each “string” as a separate parameter—which is exactly what ILMerge wants to see.

I also have ILMerge generate and keep a log of what it did—just to have.  Since the build directory gets blown away between builds (and isn’t replicated to source control), then no harm.  Space is mostly free.😉

Tasks – Build & Release

task Build -depends Compile, Merge {

       # When I REALLY don’t want to test…



task Release -depends Test, Merge {

       copy-item $build_directory\$solution_name.dll $release_directory

       copy-item $build_directory\$solution_name.xml $release_directory


       # copy libraries that cannot be merged

       % { $libraries_to_copy } | %{ copy-item (join-path $build_directory $_) $release_directory }



Build provides just that—building with no testing and no copying to the release directory.  This is more for testing out the scripts, but useful in some cases.

Release copies the library and the xml documentation out ot the release directory.  It then iterates through the string array of “other” libraries (non-manged code libraries that can’t be merged, etc) and copies them as well.




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