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XML Schema validation from Powershell - and how to keep your Tridion content delivery system neat and tidy

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 12, 2009 10:55 PM |
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I don't know exactly when it was that Tridion started shipping the XML Schema files for the content delivery configuration files. For what it's worth, I only really became aware of it within the last few months. In that short time, schema validation has saved my ass at least twice when configuring a Tridion Content Delivery system. What's not to like? Never mind "What's not to like?" - I'll go further. Now that the guys over at Tridion have gone to the trouble of including these files as release assets - it is positively rude of you not to validate your config files.

Being a well-mannered kind of guy, I figured that I'd like to validate my configuration files not just once, but repeatedly. All the time, in fact. Whenever I make a change. The trouble is that the typical server where you find these things isn't loaded down with tools like XML Spy. The last time I validated a config file, it involved copying the offending article over to a file share, and then emailing it to myself on another machine. Not good. Not easy. Not very repeatable.

But enter our new hero, Windows 2008 Server - these days the deployment platform of choice if you want to run Tridion Content Delivery on a Windows box. And fully loaded for bear. At least the kind of bears you can hunt using powershell. Now that I can just reach out with powershell and grab useful bits of the .NET framework, I don't have any excuse any more, or anywhere to hide, so this afternoon, I set to work hacking up something to validate my configuration files. Well - of course, it could be any XML file. Maybe other people will find it useful too.

So to start with - I thought - just do the simplest thing. I needed to associate the xml files with their relevant schemas, and of course, I could have simply done that in the script, but then what if people move things around etc., so I decided that I would put the schemas in a directory on the server, and use XMLSchema-instance attributes to identify which schema belongs with each file.

xmlns:xsi="" xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="schema.xsd"

OK - so I'd have to edit each of the half-dozen or so configuration files, but that's a one-off job, so not much trouble. The .NET framework's XmlReader can detect this, and use it to locate the correct schema. (although if it isn't correctly specified, you won't see any validation errors even if the file is incorrect. I'll hope to fix that in a later version of my script.)

I created a function in powershell, like this:

# So far this silently fails to catch any problems if the schema locations aren't set up properly
# needs more work I suppose. Until then it can still deliver value if set up correctly
function ValidateXmlFile {
    param ([string]$xmlFile       = $(read-host "Please specify the path to the Xml file"))
    "Validating $xmlFile using the schemas locations specified in it"
    $settings = new-object System.Xml.XmlReaderSettings
    $settings.ValidationType = [System.Xml.ValidationType]::Schema
    $settings.ValidationFlags = $settings.ValidationFlags `
            -bor [System.Xml.Schema.XmlSchemaValidationFlags]::ProcessSchemaLocation
    $handler = [System.Xml.Schema.ValidationEventHandler] {
        $args = $_ # entering new block so copy $_
        switch ($args.Severity) {
            Error {
                # Exception is an XmlSchemaException
                Write-Host "ERROR: line $($args.Exception.LineNumber)" -nonewline
                Write-Host " position $($args.Exception.LinePosition)"
                Write-Host $args.Message
            Warning {
                # So far, everything that has caused the handler to fire, has caused an Error...
                Write-Host "Warning:: Check that the schema location references are joined up properly."
    $reader = [System.Xml.XmlReader]::Create($xmlfile, $settings)

With this function in place, all I have to do is have a list of lines like the following:

ValidateXmlFile "C:\Program Files\Tridion\config\cd_instances_conf.xml"
ValidateXmlFile "C:\Program Files\Tridion\config\live\cd_broker_conf.xml"

If I've made typos or whatever, I'll pretty soon find them, and this can easily save hours. My favourite mistake is typing the attributes in lower case. Typically in these config files, attributes begin with a capital letter. Once you've made a mistake like that, trust me, no amount of staring at the code will make it obvious. You can stare straight at it and not see it.

So there you have it - as always - comments or improvements are always welcome, particularly if anyone knows how to get the warnings to show up!

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