LINQ to SQL support for POCO by ThinqLinq

LINQ to SQL support for POCO

One of the strengths that LINQ to SQL has over the upcoming Entity Framework is its support for POCO, or Plain Old Class Objects. With LINQ to SQL, the framework doesn't require any particular base classes, interfaces or even reliance on the 3.5 framework for the resulting objects. I demonstrated this in the talk I did at the Teched Tweener weekend. Download the demo project to see this in action.

In this sample, I created two separate projects. The first class library project, I created only targeting the 2.0 framework. As a result the project can not use any LINQ specific techniques. This will also allow us to consume the resulting objects in projects that do not have access to the newer framework, or to all of the namespaces. This is particularly important in cases like Silverlight. To call attention to the differences in the projects, I declared the 2.0 project in C# and the LINQ enabled project in VB.

The 2.0 class library project consists of a single class file. This represents the Subject entity from the Linq In Action database.

namespace UnmappedClasses
    public class Subject
        public Guid ID { get; set; }
        public string Name { get; set; }
        public string Description { get; set; }

Notice here, there are no interfaces, base classes or custom attributes. Excluding the attributes is critical here because the standard <Table> and <Column> attributes reside in the System.Data.Linq.Mapping namespace which would not be supported in the 2.0 framework.

Admittedly, it consists of three auto-implemented properties. Auto-implemented properties are used for brevity here and are consumable by the .Net 2.0 Framework because it relies on compiler features rather than runtime features.

Because we can't allow the class structure to include the attributes, we can't use the LINQ to SQL designer classes or SQL Metal to generate our classes. We do need to have a way to indicate the mapping to our data store. Here is where the XML Mapping file comes in handy.

When instantiating the DataContext, we can either rely on the inline attributes, or an external mapping file. Luckily, the XML mapping file's structure is concise and very similar to the attributes that would have been applied to the class otherwise. The main difference we need to do is indicate the Type that is used for a given table since we are not directly annotating the class itself. The other difference you may notice is that I don't include the Storage attribute. While there is nothing to stop me from using that in a Mapping source, we can't identify the backing field when using auto-implemented properties.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Database Name="lia" xmlns="">
  <Table Name="dbo.Subject" Member="Subject">
    <Type Name="UnmappedClasses.Subject">
      <Column Name="ID" Member="ID"  DbType="UniqueIdentifier NOT NULL" IsPrimaryKey="true" />
      <Column Name="Name" Member="Name" DbType="VarChar(100) NOT NULL" CanBeNull="false" />
      <Column Name="Description" Member="Description" DbType="VarChar(200)" />

Now, with that out of the way, we can get to the LINQ portion of the work. Actually, that is quite easy. In our 3.5 enabled project, we will create a XmlMappingSource, pass it into the constructor of the DataContext and then fetch the object from this context as we would any other LINQ enabled class.

Dim map = XmlMappingSource.FromXml(XDocument.Load("C:\Projects\LINQ\AdvancedLinqToSql\WinformDemo\").ToString)
 Using dc As New DataContext(My.Settings.liaConnectionString, map)
    Me.SubjectBindingSource.DataSource = dc.GetTable(Of UnmappedClasses.Subject)()
 End Using  
This example happens to bind the results to a Winform object binding source, but you could expose it to ASP directly, through an encapsulation layer, like a repository pattern, or a service interface.
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