Visual Studio 2015 - Fixing "Dependencies npm not installed" from fsevents with node on Windows

Datetime:2016-08-23 04:26:38          Topic: Visual Studio           Share

Maria and I were doing some work together on Thursday and I did a clone of one of her ASP.NET Core repositories and opened it in Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition on my local machine. Some of the JavaScript tool libraries didn't load so I went back into Solution Explorer to see if there was a problem and I saw this weird error that said (or at least, I read it as) "npm not installed."

That's weird, since I have npm installed. I dropped out to the command line and ran:

C:\Users\scott>npm --version
3.10.5

I also ran "where" to see where (and how many) npm was installed. Side note: WHERE is super useful and not used as often as it should be by y'all.

C:\Users\scott>where npm
C:\Program Files\nodejs\npm
C:\Program Files\nodejs\npm.cmd
C:\Users\scott\AppData\Roaming\npm\npm
C:\Users\scott\AppData\Roaming\npm\npm.cmd

This looks OK as two of those npms are shell scripts and not run on Windows. Just to make sure you have the version of npm you want, Felix made a VERY useful npm-windows-upgrade utility that you run like this, ironically with npm.

npm install --global --production npm-windows-upgrade
npm-windows-upgrade

I've used this tool many times with success. It also lets you choose the exact version you want and it's very smart.

However, then I realized that Visual Studio wasn't saying that npm wasn't installed, it was saying a dependency in the npm tree below wasn't installed . That hyphen - is intended to mean something. For the record, I think this is not intuitive and is a poor UX. Perhaps it should say "package(s) not installed" but you get the idea now.

I started manually opening the tree up one item at a time looking for the bad package - while quietly swearing to myself - until I realized that the Solution Explorer tree nodes are searchable .

This is UX issue number two, for me. I think the "broken" library should also include the BANG (!) or warning icon over it. Regardless, now I know I can quickly do a string search.

So what's up with the fsevents library?

I can check the Visual Studio Output Window and I see this:

npm WARN install Couldn't install optional dependency: Unsupported
npm WARN EPACKAGEJSON asp.net@0.0.0 No description

I dropped out to the command prompt into to the project's folder and run " npm ls " to see an ASCII tree that effectively is the same tree you see in Visual Studio. Note the screenshot with the ASCII tree below.

What's that "UNMET OPTIONAL DEPENDENCY?" for fsevents?

Looks like fsevents is a package that is only used on OSX, so it's an optional dependency that in the case of Windows is "unmet." It's a WARNING, of sorts. Perhaps it's more an "INFO" or perhaps, one could argue, it doesn't need to be shown at all on Windows.

A quick google shows that, well, the entire world is asking the same thing. So much so that it got pretty heated in this GitHub Issue asking a similar question .

Regardless, it seems to me that something inside Visual Studio really doesn't appreciate that warning/info/notOKness and says, "hey it's not installed." The part that is missing is that, well, it doesn't need to be installed, so Visual Studio should relax.

A Fix

Here's where it gets super interesting. Visual Studio (consider it from their point of view) needs to keep things consistent so it tests with, and ships with, a version of npm.

I can check that like this:

C:\>"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External\npm.cmd" --version
3.3.4

Again, this makes sense. That way when working in a large group we can all be sure we're on the same version of stuff. When you get a new version of the Web Tools for Visual Studio, presumably this version of npm gets updated. This also means that unless you tell Visual Studio otherwise, the npm and node you get when running a build in VS is gonna be different than if you do it outside - if you stick with the default settings.

Fear not. It's easily updated. I went over to Tools | Option in Visual Studio:

See the Web\External there? I added my node installation like this and made sure it was at the top.

Then I right click on npm and Restore Packages and all is right with the world as now I'm using npm 3.10.5 rather than 3.3.4.

The Output Window for 3.10.5 shows this different output, which apparently stresses Visual Studio out less than npm 3.3.4. (Actually I think VS is calling an npm library, rather than shelling out and parsing the " npm ls --json " payload, but you get the idea.)

npm WARN optional Skipping failed optional dependency /chokidar/fsevents:
npm WARN notsup Not compatible with your operating system or architecture: fsevents@1.0.14

Adding my global npm/node folder fixes this issue for me and I can move on.

The Weird

BUT.In my fix I'm using npm globally - it's in my %PATH%. The change I made affects all Visual Studio projects on my machine, forever.

Maybe I need to be smarter? Maybe Visual Studio is already being smart. Note the second option there in the list? It's pointing to .\node_modules\bin . That's a LOCAL node-modules folder, right? Ah, I can just add specific version of npm to packages.json there if need be on a project by project basis without affecting my entire system OR changing my Visual Studio settings, right?

However, when I run my build, it's ignoring my project's locally installed npm!

PATH=.\node_modules\.bin;C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External;%PATH%;C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External\git
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External\npm.CMD" install
npm WARN install Couldn't install optional dependency: Unsupported
npm WARN EPACKAGEJSON asp.net@0.0.0 No description
npm WARN EPACKAGEJSON asp.net@0.0.0 No repository field.
npm WARN EPACKAGEJSON asp.net@0.0.0 No license field.

How can I be sure it's ignoring that relative path? I can temporarily hardcode my local node_modules, like this. Note the PATH *and* the newer output. And it works.

PATH=D:\github\sample-NerdDinner\NerdDinner.Web\node_modules\.bin;node_modules\.bin;C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External;%PATH%;C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Web\External\git
"D:\github\sample-NerdDinner\NerdDinner.Web\node_modules\.bin\npm.CMD" install
npm WARN optional Skipping failed optional dependency /chokidar/fsevents:
npm WARN notsup Not compatible with your operating system or architecture: fsevents@1.0.14
npm WARN asp.net@0.0.0 No description
npm WARN asp.net@0.0.0 No repository field.
npm WARN asp.net@0.0.0 No license field.

In this screenshot below I have npm 3.10.6 installed in my project, locally, but it's not being used by Visual Studio if the path remains relative.

I am 99% sure that the relative path ".\ node_modules\.bin " that's prepended to the PATH above either isn't being used OR is interfering in some way.

Am I misunderstanding how it should work? Perhaps I don't understand npm enough?

I'm going to continue to dig into this and I'll update this post when I have an answer. For now, I have a fix given my globally installed npm.

I've also passed my feedback/bug report onto the Visual Studio team in the form of an email with a link to this blog post. I hope this helps someone!

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