Windows 8…reimagined?

March 6, 2012 4 comments

The series of releases of client versions of Microsoft Windows seems to suffer all too much the same fate as Star Trek movies have in the past.  This concept has already been discussed before, and there are even blog posts about it, such as Ewan Spence’s comparison of Windows releases between versions 3.0 and Windows 7 to the Star Trek movies from “The Motion Picture” to “First Contact”.  Windows 7 did indeed end up being a very impressive version of Windows, much like First Contact was a very impressive movie in the Star Trek franchise, and now we’re watching with anticipation since Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available and Microsoft is marching steadfast towards its release.

Following the analogy that Windows releases are like Star Trek movie releases then, and that the success of Windows 7 was analogous to that of Star Trek: First Contact, it would seem that next two releases of Windows should be pretty much flops.  Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis were both pretty forgettable films, offering very little to get excited about.  Maybe Microsoft has picked up on these intertwined fates, inspiring them to try to skip over these failures by fast forwarding to the very successful “reboot” of the Star Trek movie franchise by picking coming out with what they call a “reimagined” Windows.  Did they succeed in making this jump?  Is Windows 8 a truly inspiring, innovative, reimagining of the Windows OS?

Only time will tell what the outcome will be.  First impressions really count though.  Today, based on experiences with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Windows 8 appears as if it will show off very well on a tablet device, where the new UI makes more sense.  For business users like me though that rely heavily on their keyboard and mouse to get work done, I’m really afraid that they’ve gone and hidden all of the great features it includes behind a completely different UI paradigm that just doesn’t jive with the needs of a business worker.  It may work well for casual computing at home, but so far it looks to me like businesses might want to consider skipping this one for their non-touch devices like laptops and desktops, at least until they can reconfigure it more like Windows 7 by removing the whimsical metro UI elements such as tiles, charms and “magic” corners.

What do you think?  Is the reimagined Windows living up to your expectations?  Do you think the new metro UI has a place in business computing?  Or do you wish you had your start menu back?

I’m curious if I’m alone in my perspective or not.  My gut tells me I’m not going to be alone in this perspective.  Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.

Kirk out.

Technorati Tags: ,
Categories: Off-topic Tags: ,

PowerSE 2.7 KB: PowerShell profile does not load on startup

January 25, 2012 1 comment

Note: This blog post refers to an issue identified in PowerSE 2.7.0. It has been corrected in PowerSE 2.7.1, which is now available.

With the release we published yesterday, both PowerSE and PowerWF received a new feature: product-specific profiles.  This feature allows you to have profile scripts that you only want run in PowerSE or PowerWF run there so that you don’t have to use if statements to check the host name in your profile scripts.  With this feature we also created the initial PowerSE and PowerWF profile scripts such that they dot-source the native PowerShell profile script by default so that what runs in PowerShell also runs in PowerSE.

Unfortunately there is one small detail that was left out of the PowerSE installer for this feature: the installation of the initial PowerSE-specific profile. As a result, if you download PowerSE 2.7, your PowerShell profile won’t run right away.  Fortunately the fix is simple.  All you need to do is invoke this script from inside PowerSE 2.7:

if (-not (Test-Path -LiteralPath $profile)) {
    Set-Content -Path $profile -Value @’
if (Test-Path -LiteralPath $profile.CurrentUserPowerShellHost) {
    . $profile.CurrentUserPowerShellHost
}
‘@
}

Once you have run that script, your PowerSE profile will exist and it will be defined to load your PowerShell profile.  Restart PowerSE 2.7 and you’ll have your PowerShell profile loaded by default again.

Note that this does not apply to PowerWF users, the profile scripts were added correctly to the installer for that release.

My apologies for the inconvenience.  We hope to have this resolved in the product itself very soon.  In the meantime this short script should work around the issue for you.

Kirk out.

PowerWF and PowerSE 2.7 are now available

January 24, 2012 2 comments

This morning PowerWF and PowerSE 2.7 were released to the web and they can now be downloaded from http://www.powerwf.com.  These releases offer a lot of new value to PowerWF and PowerSE users, as follows:

PowerWF 2.7 Highlights

New Start Page with New Workflows

The start page in PowerWF has been completely redesigned to provide immediate value out of the box for PowerWF customers.  The new design highlights the Workflow Library that is included with PowerWF, allowing customers to play workflows in the library without opening a workflow or script document.  Users can also customize the workflows on the start page and add their own groups of workflows for easier runbook automation.  This immediate out of the box value is included for PowerWF customers to allow them to leverage the power of Workflows and PowerShell in their environments without requiring any knowledge of PowerShell or Workflows.

New Management Packs for System Center Service Manager (SCSM)

PowerWF for Service Manager has always included several useful management packs for SCSM in the product.  In this release, even more management packs for SCSM have been added.  Now, with a click of a button you can deploy management packs that automatically close resolved incidents, expire inactive problem announcements, cancel pending activities for closed change requests, identify problems from incident trends, notify incident authors about unresolved incidents, and get SCSM statistics.  These management packs are only available for licensed users of PowerWF for Service Manager.

Improved Toolbox Search

The search engine in the Activity toolbox just got better!  Now you can search using command names or keywords and PowerWF will return the best matches based on the terms you provided.  This includes searching with keywords that are only referenced in activity documentation and not in the command name itself.  For example, if you’re a VMware administrator, simply entering “vMotion” into the search box will reveal the MoveVM activity that is necessary to perform vMotion tasks.

Product-Specific Profile Support

PowerWF now uses its own product-specific profile support, and it updates the $profile variable to include the paths to each of the relevant profiles that you use. By default the PowerWF profile dot-sources the native PowerShell console profile, however you can change this behaviour as required by simply modifying the profile yourself in PowerSE.

PowerSE 2.7 Highlights

Easier Breakpoint Management

Breakpoint management in PowerSE just got a lot easier.  PowerSE now includes a Breakpoints pane to allow you to see all breakpoints you have set in your scripting environment, and you can now manage breakpoints using the breakpoint cmdlets and see the breakpoints you have created in the Breakpoints pane.  This gives you easy creation of line breakpoints using the Toggle Breakpoint feature or command and variable breakpoints using the Set-PSBreakpoint cmdlet (or sbp alias for short).

Breakpoints Preserved Across Sessions

Breakpoints are now automatically preserved across sessions, allowing you to continue debugging your scripts from one session to the next.  They are also preserved when you close a file, so you won’t have to reset breakpoints each time you return to a script you were working on.  You can still remove breakpoints of course, using the Toggle Breakpoint feature or the Remove-PSBreakpoint cmdlet.

Improved Help Search

PowerShell help topic files are now included in the help search pane, allowing you to search for help for integral keywords like if or foreach, or for topics like “Advanced functions”, or you can learn more about remoting by searching for “Remote”.  Also, if no results are found when you search, PowerSE will now include a keyword search in command descriptions to allow for users to discover commands using related terms, such as “vMotion”.

Product-Specific Profile Support

PowerSE now uses its own product-specific profile support, and it updates the $profile variable to include the paths to each of the relevant profiles that you use.  By default the PowerSE profile dot-sources the native PowerShell console profile, however you can change this behaviour as required by simply modifying the profile yourself in PowerSE.

And that’s not all!

This shows you a few of the highlights of this release, but of course there were plenty of bug fixes, some performance improvements, and a few other minor enhancements that were included as well.  Whether you’re a current PowerWF or PowerSE customer, or someone who is looking for great tools for working with PowerShell, Workflow, and Management Packs, I strongly encourage you to give this release a try and let us know what you think.

Kirk out.

Essential PowerShell: To alias, or not to alias, that is the question

January 5, 2012 10 comments

Recently there was a discussion between community experts and a product team about a module they are working on.  The topic being discussed was cmdlet aliases: whether or not they should provide aliases for their cmdlets out of the box and if so, how they should be provided.  Aliases are great for ad-hoc PowerShell work, which is what most PowerShell users do at this point, and incredibly useful when you’re trying to put out a fire and managing your infrastructure using PowerShell.  However, there are many important things that module authors need to consider when planning aliases for their cmdlets, as follows:

1. There are many cmdlets out now, and more and more every month.  Coming up with a vsa (very short alias) that is unique is a challenge at best, and the more time goes by the more tla’s (three-letter aliases) will get used up.  The likelihood of an alias conflict is already high, and increasing all the time given the number of commands that are available both from Microsoft and from third party vendors.

2. The land grab with alias names is worse than it is with functions or cmdlets.  With functions or cmdlets, you can have multiple modules loaded with conflicting names and access either command using the fully qualified command name.  With aliases though you are not provided this same capability – there can be only one.  Aliases are simply commands set to a single value and they cannot be qualified using a module name qualifier to disambiguate if a name conflict arises.

3. Depending on how careful (or not) that developers are, it is very easy for a module author to completely take over (overwrite) an existing alias with no warning or message indicating that this has happened, resulting in potential command hijacking between module teams.  A simple call to Set-Alias does this without warning.  On the flipside, if developers don’t hijack aliases, then some of the aliases they would otherwise create may simply not be defined.

4. When aliases are hijacked, unloading a module doesn’t correct the problem because an alias that was overwritten by a module alias will simply become completely unavailable when the alias is removed as the module is unloaded.

As far as I am aware, this situation does not improve with the next version of PowerShell either, so it’s years away from getting better.

Believe it or not, even with these things in mind, I’m actually still pro aliases.  I just think that some extra care/thought needs to be put into their definition.  There is no real standard here that both satisfactorily addresses the issues identified above and that allows for consistency across companies/teams at this time.  Given that is the current state of affairs, if you are considering aliases for your module I recommend one of the following approaches:

1. [SAFEST] Rather than trying to come up with something that can be shipped despite these issues, at this time I think aliases would be best addressed in a "tips and tricks" type of blog post, proposing a short script that defines some useful aliases for the module/snapin in question in order to allow admins to be able to deal with fires quickly using ad-hoc PowerShell commands via some aliases.  Such a script should generate warnings whenever a name conflict is discovered so that users are aware when an alias either cannot be created or is overwritten.

2. [EXPERIMENTAL] Ship aliases with your module, but try to make sure they really are unique.  For example, if you’re a vendor whose company name starts with Q, you could prefix all of your aliases with "q".  This is attractive because there are no verbs that start with "q", so right from the start you’ve dramatically reduced the chance that you’ll have a conflict, setting yourselves up better to have aliases that belong to you.  Then you would only have to coordinate within your company to make sure the aliases used across teams are unique.  This isn’t foolproof though because there may be multiple products/vendors that adopt the same standard, and if the name of your company or product starts with G, the likelihood of a conflict would be much higher (the alias prefix used for "get-*" cmdlets is "g") so you may want to choose a pair of letters instead.  Regardless, you’ve likely reduced the risk, and you could generate a warning whenever you run into a conflict that prevents an alias from being created.

3. [RECOMMENDED] Lots of 1 and a little bit of 2: use unique alias names that work for your product team/company, but don’t ship them with the module.  Instead, push them out as a value add on a blog post, and see how the community responds.  At the same time work with MVPs and Microsoft to get these issues addressed such that a shorthand system for command names does work.  Some MVPs, already proposed a few things to the Microsoft PowerShell team that could help here (aliases for module names for one — think PS\gsv for a core PowerShell version of Get-Service or EX\gu for the Get-User cmdlet that comes with the Microsoft Exchange module or AD\gu for the Get-User cmdlet that comes with the Microsoft Active Directory module, and so on), but more discussions need to happen and this will take more time.

I recommend the third option because given the current issues with alias hijacking and with no support for disambiguation, it seems to be the best solution for now (from my perspective at least).  If you have come up with other alternatives that resolve these issues, please share them with the community so that this improves going forward.

Hope this helps,

Kirk out.

PowerShell MVP for 2012

January 4, 2012 4 comments

Every year around Christmas I anxiously await the New Year to see if I receive the Microsoft MVP award again that year.  Well that email came on January 1, 2012, and I’m quite thrilled about this one because it’s a milestone this time (year 5 as a PowerShell MVP).  Thanks to the community for being so great to work with, and thanks to Microsoft both for recognizing individual efforts with the MVP program and for creating such great products like Windows PowerShell!  Work has never been so much fun!

Kirk out.

PowerSE 2.5.3 is now available

October 14, 2011 4 comments

A little over a week ago we released PowerSE 2.5.3 to the web.  You can download the latest release here.  This release includes many great improvements to the PowerSE product, many of which were requested by you, so thanks for your feedback and please keep it coming!

No time limit for freeware

With this release, we’ve removed the requirement to re-download this product every 60 days.  This was our number one feature request since we made PowerSE a freeware product.  Now when you download PowerSE 2.5.3, it is truly freeware and you can use it as long as you like!

PowerVI Integration

Since PowerVI has joined the Devfarm family of products, we have now improved the integration between PowerVI and PowerSE and PowerWF. This enables easier authoring and testing of VMware automation scripts and workflows before you publish them to be integrated in the vSphere client, and it highlights one of the greatest values of the Devfarm products – the rich integration between them that make everything much easier.

Tabs to spaces support

We’ve added support for configuring how tabs are used in the PowerSE Script Editor.  If you want spaces inserted when you press the Tab key while editing scripts, all you need to do is to set $psise.Settings.AutoConvertTabsToSpaces to $true in the embedded console.  If you want the tab size to be something other than the default value of 4, you simply set $psise.Settings.TabSize to the number of spaces you want to use for tab characters.  These only need to be set once, so you can simply make the calls in the embedded console and then you’ll always have it configured that way going forward.

Enhanced history pane

The history pane in PowerSE has always been useful, but now it’s much better!  With the history pane in PowerSE 2.5.3, you can identify which commands were successful and which were not, all at a glance by looking at the icon.  You can also tell which commands were allowed to run to completion and which were cancelled.  Most importantly, you can identify the duration of any command that you run, so if you are trying to get the most performance from your scripts, this is an easy way to compare the performance for several related commands so that your scripts run as fast as they can.

Greatly improved support for international environments

In previous releases of PowerSE, there were a number of defects preventing international keyboard layouts (i.e. those other than “US English”) from working properly in the embedded console.  Those defects have been fixed, so now you can use the embedded console with international keyboards just fine.

We also added support for Unicode characters to the embedded console, making it easier for customers to get the output they expect regardless of where they happen to be.

Multi-select support in the File|Open dialog

With PowerSE 2.5.3, you can open multiple files in one folder at once by simply selecting the files you want before you click on the Open button.  This can be a big timesaver when you are working with modules containing many files!

Smarter variable Intellisense

When you enter a variable name in a script, it can be difficult to determine if you are entering the name of an existing variable or if you are creating a new variable.  Previous releases would sometimes complete a variable name incorrectly when you were in fact creating a new variable name.  This shouldn’t be a problem any longer, because we now allow you to enter new variable names and the auto-completion should only happen when you want it to happen.

Proper ps1xml file support

In PowerSE 2.5.3, if you are working with ps1xml files, you will now get proper Intellisense as well as auto-completion of xml elements as you would expect.

Fast clearing of the embedded console window

In today’s era of PowerShell, we all want to do more in less time, so much so that even typing in cls in the embedded console and pressing Enter can be cumbersome when you do it repeatedly.  PowerSE 2.5.3 allows you to clear the embedded console window at any time by simply pressing Ctrl+Del.

And more…

This is just a short list of some of the key changes we have made in this release.  There are others that I want to talk about, but I’m going to save a few for follow-up blog posts.  We’ve been spending a lot of time on PowerSE recently, and between our hard work and your great feedback, we’ve built a fantastic, best-in-class PowerShell script editor!  If you write PowerShell scripts, I encourage you to give this release a try, and be sure to let us know what you think!  Also, if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a note on my blog or pop over to www.devfarm.com and ask us directly in the chat window.  We’re always listening!

Thanks,

Kirk out.

Seasons of change: new Product Manager for PowerWF™ and PowerSE at Devfarm Software

September 6, 2011 15 comments

I always enjoy this time of year.  There is something about the transition that happens over Labour Day weekend that always gets me excited.  Maybe it’s a lingering feeling of anticipation over the new year at school or university from years gone by, a feeling that I can still appreciate these days as I watch my kids getting excited about their education and the new activities they will sign up for this fall.  Regardless, it’s always a fun time of year for me.

This year though I have some extra reasons of my own to be even more excited.  As of this morning, I am now working as Product Manager for the PowerWF and PowerSE products at Devfarm Software!  I am absolutely thrilled about this new position!  Devfarm has a great team and a great set of products, and I’m really happy to be able to help them drive those products forward.

With this news, today marks the end of a month that included some vacation time, some time to step back and refocus, and some time for reflection on what to do next.  During this time I received a ton of support from friends and followers in the PowerShell community, and for that I am very grateful.  This support helped one particular sentiment that I came across stay with me:

You know for a (while) I (wondered if) going back to the amazing experience of (PowerShell) wouldn’t be a good idea, but really now I’ve come completely around because (software can be) stressful and hard to make but ultimately what makes (it) fun is the people that you work with, and the fact that (I’m) going to be working with a lot of the old gang, with a lot of friends, and obviously making some new friends is really the point of being here, so I’m extremely thrilled.1

This really represents how I have felt since my departure from my last job as Product Manager for PowerGUI.  I really love PowerShell as a technology, but as great as that technology is, it just wouldn’t be the same without the community that surrounds it.  PowerShell is blessed to have a tremendous community, and I am very, very proud to be able to continue to participate in that same community as a Product Manager for some really cool products that use PowerShell, as a PowerShell MVP, and as a geek who fell in love with technology a long time ago.

Now that I’ve found my new direction and focus, it’s time to get down to business.  Whether you’re a current user of PowerWF or PowerSE or someone who is interested in trying PowerWF or PowerSE, I’d love to connect with you to hear what you like (or don’t like) about these products as well as what you would like to see added to them in the future.  Feel free to reach out to me at any time either in my blog comments or by using the Contact Me form on my blog.  I’m really looking forward to working with you.

Kirk out.

1 Paraphrased from Peter Jackson’s speech on the first day of filming for “The Hobbit”; his exact speech can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqzJ1LFh6x0&hd=1&t=9m15s.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers