I have blogged before about this Excel Nuget package where you don’t need to use interop and have Excel installed on the server. And my journey to start this Azure Function. This is because the most recent Excel format uses xml under the cover in a zipped file stored as a file with an xlsx extension. Since you do not have hard disk access in a serverless environment like Azure Functions you need to generate the Excel in memory (or store stuff in blob storage). I chose the in memory to leave no footprints or take up space in the cloud.

I wanted to use an Azure function to have it run in the cloud. Not being dependent on a Server which needs updates, reboots etc. Since the database already is in the Azure Cloud (Azure SQL) this seems a good/perfect fit.

I got the option to go for Azure function v1 or v2 which is in preview. So this was a nice opportunity to use the v2 and .Net Core/Standard. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-functions/functions-versions

The v2 also has support for the Office365 Graph. But that was out of (my) scope.

I took a timer based project because I wanted it to send an overview of invoices on a monthly basis. The Timer based project has a timer as data annotation based on CRON scheduling. There is however a small difference. Instead of 5 “fields” the Azure function has 6. It also let’s you schedule the seconds.


So not just: minutes, hours, day of month, month, day of week, year but seconds, minutes, hours, day of month, month, day of week, year. Of course the order is really important. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-functions/functions-bindings-timer#cron-expressions

I used this Nuget for the Excel export https://www.nuget.org/packages/EPPlus/

it has .Net Core support and will work perfectly.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Data;
using System.Data.SqlClient;
using System.IO;
using System.Net;
using System.Net.Mail;
using Microsoft.Azure.WebJobs;
using Microsoft.Azure.WebJobs.Host;
using OfficeOpenXml;

namespace MonthlyMailInvoices
    public static class Function1
        public static void Run([TimerTrigger("10 0 0 1 * *")]TimerInfo myTimer, TraceWriter log)
            log.Info($"C# Timer trigger function executed at: {DateTime.Now}");

            var com = new SqlCommand("SELECT * FROM [dbo].[INVOICES] where invoicedate > @startdt and invoicedate < @enddt");

            com.Parameters.AddWithValue("startdt", DateTime.Now.AddMonths(-1));
            com.Parameters.AddWithValue("enddt", DateTime.Now.AddDays(-1));

            var dt = new DataTable();

            using (var con = new SqlConnection("connectionstring goes here"))
                com.Connection = con;
                var da = new SqlDataAdapter(com);

                log.Info($"start: {DateTime.Now.AddMonths(-1)} and end { DateTime.Now.AddDays(-1) } gave {dt.Rows.Count}");

            using (var wb = new ExcelPackage())
                wb.Workbook.Worksheets.Add("Our company");
                var ws = wb.Workbook.Worksheets[0];

                FillData(ws, dt, "Our company B.V.");

                var msg = new MailMessage();
                msg.Subject = "Montly invoices";
                msg.From = new MailAddress("the@cloud.com");
                msg.Body = $"Invoices from {DateTime.Now.AddMonths(-1)} to { DateTime.Now.AddDays(-1) } in the Excel attachment.";
                var ms = new MemoryStream(wb.GetAsByteArray());
                ms.Position = 0;

                //msg.Attachments.Add(new Attachment(ms, "Invoices.xlsx", "application/vnd.ms-excel"));
                msg.Attachments.Add(new Attachment(ms, "Invoices.xlsx", "application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet"));
                var smtp = new SmtpClient
                    Host = "smtp.gmail.com",
                    Port = 587,
                    EnableSsl = true,
                    Credentials = new NetworkCredential("my@gmailaccount.com", "incorrectpassword")

        private static void FillData(ExcelWorksheet ws, DataTable dt, string title)
            ws.Cells[1, 1].Value = title;

            ws.Cells[2, 1].Value = "Invoice nr";
            ws.Cells[2, 2].Value = "Invoice date";
            ws.Cells[2, 3].Value = "Amount inc. VAT";
            ws.Cells[2, 4].Value = "VAT";
            ws.Cells[2, 5].Value = "Amount exc. VAT";

            int row = 3;

            foreach (DataRow dr in dt.Rows)
                ws.Cells[row, 1].Value = dr[0].ToString();
                ws.Cells[row, 2].Value = dr[1].ToString();
                ws.Cells[row, 3].Value = dr[2].ToString();
                ws.Cells[row, 4].Value = dr[3].ToString();
                ws.Cells[row++, 5].Value = dr[4].ToString();

I could not test it locally because I had some issues with logins for my localdb. So I hit publish to deploy it on Azure. However republishing failed. I found the answer (as always) on StackOverflow. I had to add “MSDEPLOY_RENAME_LOCKED_FILES” and set it to 1 (true).


Tony gave the correct solution.

I also had issues with the Excel generating in memory and having the Memorystream to a byte array and providing the right Mime type. Found that too on SO.

The last bit was to automate deployment. I had my code in VSTS (git) and configured a CI/CD pipeline (build + release) But had issues to grant myself (personal account) global admin rights from our company account in order to be able to access Azure resources to deploy. It was a matter of time before the Azure rights/roles changes are active. It’s a nice small serverless function which you can (should) add to source control and ci/cd to automate the latest builds to a test or production environment in the cloud.

Good luck!

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I have written powershell scripts in Azure runbooks in Azure Automation. It’s not a new concept. It’s even from back in 2014


I started to use it because there is no SQL Agent in Azure SQL databases. I relied on SQL Agent to perform Ola’s database maintenance scripts. I use the Azure automation with Runbooks now for a long time to build reports from Azure SQL and have them send to people by SMTP.

The problem is that I string concatenate HTML in the powershell script and just put the results in an HTML enabled Email message. It is still a good option… Until a coworker requests an Excel attached to the mail…

Excel in Azure Runbook (Powershell)

I did build the powershell locally first.


When using the Azure Automation ISE add-on for Windows PowerShell ISE it hit me. The cloud probably has no Excel com/interop…

So I found this module to work with Excel in Powershell without Excel on GitHub. It uses Epplus. Which I mentioned in my post from 6 years ago.

But I realised that I could also just use Azure Functions and code in C# and have a time trigger. This enables me to write my beloved C# rather then scripting Powershell. I can also just use the Epplus nuget package.

The Azure functions v2 are now in preview and have .Net Standard support (which is great!)

The Visual Studio dialog can be unclear if you visit it for the first time and have no clue that the schedule uses CRON notation. Maybe they will change it, but now you know.

Good luck!

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The current CEO of Microsoft (which caused a huge rise on the stock market) wrote a book called Hit Refresh. This post is a nice summer holiday post with linked resources for you to re-think your productivity and hit refresh yourself!

Let’s start with a 42 minute video from Scott Hanselman back in 2012 at WebStock. He is blogging for years and has more about productivity.

Webstock '12: Scott Hanselman - It's not what you read, it's what you ignore from Webstock on Vimeo.

Here are the books that I have read and recommend:

Pomodoro technique – schedule tasks in small blocks of x uninterrupted minutes

Hit Refresh – The book written by the CEO of Microsoft about their transition of the company

Deep work – A book guiding you to concentrate more

Getting things done – Title says it all. Prioritize tasks and create a system

4 Hour Workweek – Work smarter with these tips and life hacks

And the blogs that I have read:

http://sourcesofinsight.com/the-rule-of-3/ – pick 3 things to focus on. A bit like Warren Buffets advice

https://www.hanselman.com/blog/ScottHanselmansCompleteListOfProductivityTips.aspx – summary of the video from the start of this post.

With these sources I came up with my own subset of productivity tools/habits:

  1. Use Microsoft OneNote to collect data
  2. Use Microsoft To-Do on mobile and desktop to create your daily to-do
  3. Sync to paper to schedule Pomodoro’s
    • I have added the rule of 3 there but divided for personal and work goals


Here is my personal offline weekly sheet. You can download the Excel from my OneDrive account with this link:


Let me know if you have suggestions and what works for you.

Good luck!

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Yeah! I am exited! Passed the MVC 70-486 this morning.

You can see it instantly on my Acclaim page or just view the screenshot below:


I want to earn an MCSD cert. So I am following the app builder path:


According to my learning dashboard I have just passed 1 of 2 requirements for the app builder cert. But when I click details, it shows I have both… that’s strange, but I have asked @MSLearning so I will have an answer soon.

I am already looking forward to the next exam and next cert.

If I would pass 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and after that, will study for 70-535 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, then I’d get the:

MCSA: Cloud Platform Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate

What is your certification path for 2018?

Good luck!

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I got lucky and was picked to test a Nissan Leaf for 3 days. I was already interested in this car due to the 4% tax for private use of a company car. So in 2018 the Dutch rules are rather simple: all cars are 22% unless they are full electric. So a full electric car is attractive due to the low additional tax liability.

For instance, a Ford Focus is about € 28.000,-. Take 22% (€ 6.160,-) and multiply your tax scale. For easy calculation, take half. That’s what it costs you a year. So that’s 3k.

A Leaf is about € 40.000,-. Take 4% (€ 1.600,-) take half and that’s € 800,-. So a car that’s about 10k more, costs you € 2.200,- less a year.

That is what makes the Leaf a good company car.

First impression

I only googled it once, so I had never seen a Leaf in real life, but my first impression was: looks good! The trunk had more space then I expected (coming from a station car). It even seemed that the backseat had more leg space then my current car. The test car came with seat heating, steering wheel heating, climate control etc. It has great features. I really liked the adaptive cruise control on the highway and all the cameras while parking.


No noise! It’s obvious of course, but at some points while driving, you actually notice that there is no engine sound and it is strange at the beginning. Probably because you are used to the sound for all your life.

This was also the first car that had a DAB radio. While driving, I noticed that the coverage of digital radio is not great yet in the Netherlands. So you notice the switch/fallback between digital and analogue radio. It even has a partial replay of the sound when switching. I don’t know much about the technical details, but perhaps they can fix it with some software? Would be nice.

The handbrake is a pedal… This was new for me. I have seen cars that had a small switch on the place where the normal handbrake was. Like a VW Golf. It’s rather common. The pedal can be confusing when you are not used to automatic gears and you think you need to hit a clutch. This did not happen thankfully.

It’s really a joy to drive one. You only have to get used that you do not put your feet down instant when you want to accelerate. With great power comes great responsibility. So accelerate gently. It’s better for the battery, but more important your co-drivers.

The E-pedal, it’s great, it’s true

This might sound like an expression that could be made by the current president of the USA, but it’s not. Some people can’t get used to the e-pedal so there is a button to opt-out, but I love it! Coming from driving stick, you have 3 pedals. Driving automatic has 2 pedals and this e-pedal makes sure that you don’t even need the brake. You can brake by gently lifting your feet from the gas. This is for real lazy effective people. Like software developers. Like me.


This is the tricky part. This is the biggest change. Having the car for 3 days gave me the opportunity to charge it. Regular test drives take only 30 minutes so that you can never experience the full electric-car-experience. My first charge was with a normal plug in a power outlet in my garage. It’s not fast, but I just wanted to experience it and it’s the easiest option for me to charge it. There are public locations to charge electric cars within about 100 meters from my house.

I got a special card (NFC?) to charge it. It was a New Motion one. Their website is really nice. You can use this slightly hidden gem https://my.newmotion.com/ to see the locations across Europe. Living in the Netherlands seems perfect for an electric car owner.


If you like speed, like me, you want to use a fast charger. So I checked out the fastned website.


They even have 4 locations in the Netherlands with a 175kW connection at the moment. So I always thought that if an electric car had the fast charging capability that it would charge to 80% of the battery in about 20 minutes. That’s not true. #fakenews The Nissan Leaf can “fast” charge to 80% in between 40 – 60 minutes. imageThere is this news item from about a month ago that there is a fast charging issue with the Leaf.

I fast charged it at the A12 and tried to use the card which failed. It appeared that I needed a FastNed account. Because the card was not linked yet. I have read about sharing a card/account. It comes down to the fact that your card needs to be linked. Several people before me tested the car and card, but apparently I was the first to use the card for FastNed. I needed to install an app from either the Google play or Apple app store. I have a Windows 10 Mobile phone…. So luckily my codriver had an iPhone and was willing to install the app and create an account on my name, on his phone, with the card which came with the car. That’s suboptimal, but it worked. The lady on the FastNed customer service was patience and helped us out great. She explained that this was the only way and told us that the car would charge up to 80% in 20 minutes (because it was not completely empty).


It was a nice experience which you would not get when you would try out an electric car at the dealer. In a 30 minutes test-drive you cannot have a full electric driving experience. So I am grateful that I could test it for several days. Because if I would pick this car. I will have to drive it for about 5 years.

A few years back there was this Dutch news about someone who had the previous Nissan Leaf and sued Nissan for having a battery that would degrade in capacity and could not get the mileage that they advertise with. I understand that batteries have less capacity in cold weather. Heating the car drains it faster and driving over 100 km/h drains it even more. The range is important to me because I have family living about an hour away.

A small side note I found on zap-zap.com the regular charging method has a cap at 6.6 kW/h so if your location has 10, 11, 22 or even 43. It’s capped at 6.6 kW.



I checked it out after the test drive but there are some differences between the current range tests of electric cars as you can see here:


source: https://www.nissan.nl/voertuigen/nieuw/leaf/bereik-opladen.html

I drove a Connecta I think. So you can see that according to some tests it’s range is between 270 and 390 km that has a 120 km gap! I drove on the highway, some parts even 130 km/h and had my family in it. It was hot, so the air-conditioning was on. And on a single trip of 84 km the FastNed app predicted (I had to select the type of car) that it would use over 50% of the battery.


My goal was to check if I could drive it like I would normally drive a petrol car and see if I could make it back home without charging. If I would pull it of and have sufficient battery left, I’d choose this car. But as I said before, batteries degrade over time and have less capacity in cold weather. There is no data yet about the degradation of electric car batteries, only from Tesla. But I can imagine that in 5 years, in a winter with the heating on I would have to charge a lot in order to get back home.

It’s a great car. Loved to drive it! But due to the current range, it’s just not for me (yet). I have heard about a 60kW battery, which makes it more interesting for me. But that version is not yet available. So is the Tesla model 3. So I will have to stick to petrol for at least a year.

I would like to thank Riemersma Leasing and Nissan Nederland for making this possible. They really gave me the possibility to fully experience driving the new and amazing Nissan Leaf! I really recommend the car (if you have relatives living closer).

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