Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Powershell, history and community

I can't see behind the Microsoft curtains but, all the same, I wanted to share today my vision of the Powershell Community as it appears to me, so that any newcomer on the subject can quickly get a grasp on it.

Let's start with a brief introduction. Windows Powershell is a scripting language and command-line environment aimed at managing and administering any Windows functionality from the shell, as opposite to the use of a Graphical User Interface (GUI).

If we go back a bit, in the beginning there was MS-DOS, which is the black window most of you remember. You can see in the following screenshot a virtual machine running MS-DOS 2.11 I have in my home lab. Of course no Powershell in those forgotten lands:
What?! No Powershell in MS-DOS 2.11?!!

Then the GUI came and everything seemed so simple that many devs started to administer their own servers.

Windows early history:
  • 1975 – “Microsoft” formed by “Bill Gates”
  • 1980 – Xenix (Unix based OS) released by Microsoft
  • 1981 – MS-DOS 1.0 released with new IBM PC
  • 1985 – Windows 1.0 released
  • 1992 – Windows 3.1 Released
  • 1993 – Windows NT 3.1 released
  • 1995 – Windows NT 3.5.1 and 95 released
  • 1996 – Windows NT 4.0 released
Most of today Windows sysadmins started using MS-DOS 6.22, then switched over to Windows 3.1 and so on. Then one day came and they recycled their mouse-clnking skills on Windows NT4. Some came from the NetWare world, but they also moved on to NT4 when Microsoft conquered Novell after a long marketing war. Windows NT was at the time a general-purpose OS that natively spoke TCP/IP and it had the familiar Windows user interface, as opposed to the remote-server-console admin of NetWare.

Then there was Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows 2008 and its R2 refurbishment. And Powershell came on the show.
Powershell is born (by Lee Holmes)
First version 1.0 in 2006, then version 2.0 in 2009. The word started to spread and some Windows admins started to migrate their vbs script to ps1 (which is the default extensions for Powershell scripts). In 2011 came Powershell 3.0, with its generous amount of improvements, then, more or less three weeks ago, Microsoft released the Preview of Blue, codename for Windows 8.1 (for the client part) and Windows 2012 R2 (for the server part). With this last version of the kernel, Microsoft released its last FrameWork containing Powershell 4.0, 32 years after the first release of the command prompt!

It's evident that today Microsoft is trying to change the way of thinking of Windows sysadmins: the Server GUI is (slowly) on the way out, to be replaced by a shell that looks so much like the original MS-DOS (they even use a similar font) but it's exponentially more powerful.
Powershell latest release in 2013: V4

This story cannot continue without giving proper recognition to the Powershell founders: the initial design was made by three people, Jeffrey Snover, Bruce Payette and James Truher. They received the LISA award for PowerShell, "for bringing the power of automated system administration to the Windows environment, where it was previously largely unsupported. Unlike most historic scripting languages, PowerShell does so with particular elegance, weaving the Lambda Calculus into the language, without forcing the developer to have an advanced degree in computer science to be able to use it. PowerShell has been a landmark success, exceedingly popular with system administration users, having a very high impact on the automation of Windows administration."(source: https://www.usenix.org/lisa/awards/outstanding)
Award for Powershell invention

Today you can follow Jeffrey Snover (Microsoft Distinguished Engineer/ Lead Architect for Windows Server and System Center Datacenter/ PowerShell Architect) at @jsnover He is giving a Powershell fast-paced training on Microsoft Virtual Academy on July, 18th 2013 which anybody interested in Powershell should register for: http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/liveevents/PowerShell-JumpStart

Microsoft Academy on Powershell 3.0

Bruce Payette (@BrucePayette) has written probably the best advanced book I have ever read on Powershell: Windows Powershell in action. As somebody commented, "There are countless places in the book where I thought, "I didn't know you could do that". I absolutely recommend it, both for IT Pros and Developers." I can't wait to read the next edition on Powershell 3.0 if it's ever published!

That's all for the story. Let's now see what's been happening in the Community and who are the people/events that brought Powershell to the limelight.

Let's start with Ed Wilson (his blog is here), as well as with his wife Teresa. They have done a great deal of work around Powershell in the last years, pushing it farther and higher, both for beginners and advanced users. I have been following their daily articles on the Hey, Scripting Guy! blog and kept learning new stuff every single day. For more information on Ed check the Powershell.org website.

Say hello to Dr. Scripto
I mentioned Powershell.org. This is the website that took over the organisation of the Powershell Scripting Games this year and that is in charge of organising the Powershell summits. Behind the scene there are  Don Jones (@concentrateddon), Richard Siddaway, Kirk Munro, Jeffery Hicks, and Jason Helmick.

Don Jones is definitively one of the leading voices in the Community, so I deeply suggest subscribing the Powershell.org TechLetter which is sent out by him approximately once a month.

Don Jones is the first one to my knowledge who started talking about the latest cool feature of Powershell: Desired State Configuration (DSC). He is also planning a European Powershell Summit, which should take place next year, in September. Actually there is a poll under-run to choose the city that will host the event, so everybody is invited to vote here. For the moment it looks like that UK/Netherlands/Germany are doing great in the polls. This is because Southern Europe seems to be less involved in that 'Powershell change' Microsoft is hoping for.

If there are readers from Italy, France, Greece or Spain, I invite you to sign in on Twitter and join the Powershell Community so that we grow our influence factor. There are in particular a few people to follow on Twitter: myself, Fabien Dibot, Fabrice Zerrouki (MVP), Pascal Sauliere and Arnaud Petitjean, not to mention the French Powershell community. In Italy there is one person in particular who has been awarded the Powershell MVP: Efran. He has a blog on .NET wonders, and is the owner ot the Italian Powershell Community (Powershell.it).

On the international scene there are today alot of people who are proficient on Powershell and which you can get in touch with.

Let's start with the winners of the 2013 Powershell Scripting Games. There is the advanced category winner Mike F Robbins (@mikefrobbins, mikefrobbins.com) who recently organised a one-liner contest that I won and who is extremely active on the show, as you can check here. He was also on the last Powersscripting Live last week.

Then there is Taylor Gibb (@taybgibb), who earned his MVP award winning in the beginner category. He lives in Durban, South Africa and has a blog (taylorgibb.com).


Other good profiles to follow are:
They are all proficient in Powershell and are keeping the Community alive with their tweets, blog posts, articles, contests, deep-dives, and so on.

If you are interested in getting proficient on Powershell for VMWare (PowerCLI), then get in touch with Luc Dekens (@lucd22). He definitively does the best scripts to handle your virtual infrastructure and has been deservedly awarded the Powershell MVP this year for the first time.

Last but not least, yesterday a new Powershell competition has started. It's called Powershell Golf and you can follow it on twitter with the hashtag #psgolf. It's being organised by Robert (@muisak) and the rules for the game are here. There are 18 holes in this Powershell contest and each hole must be solved in less or equal the stated Par.

People playing Powershell Golf in 2013
As you can see the Powershell Community is indeed very active. The 'Powershell' word is mentioned almost 20 millions times on Google and it's growing and growing.
Powershell getting famous
Powershell trends since 2006
 And the first jokes are out (source):
Powershell joke

VBS joke

That's all for a general introduction Powershell and its community. Do not hesitate to leave your advice, feedback or if you want your name to be added/removed, or to be mentioned, just ask! Retweet also if possible!

UPDATE - July 22nd, 2013: For a list of blogs mantained by well-known Powershell MVP, check this post by Peter on www.admin-source.de. Thanks Peter for sharing!

UPDATE - July 2014: Windows Powershell 5.0 (contained in WMF 5.0) is available for download. You can read more about it here and here.

2 comments:

  1. Good Article !
    But too much Twitter stuff.
    Hard worked Articles are Posted on Blogs not on Twitter ;-)

    Here is my PowerShell List of PowerShell Blogs to follow ( subscribe to RSS feeds):
    http://www.admin-source.de/BlogDeu/mvp-blogroll

    Cheers
    Peter Kriegel
    http://www.admin-source.de

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Peter!

    My opinion is that Twitter is now leader in exchange of information, especially after Google Reader has been shut down.

    There are alternatives to Reader, but none that fast and reliable.

    I like your list of Powershell MVP blogs! I hope someday mine will be there ;-) I am going to add a link to it in the meantime!

    On your side, do you mind sending me a little introduction to the German Powershell Community, explaining how it all started and who are the leaders, so that I can update the article? You can find my e-mail in the about_me section: http://www.happysysadm.com/p/about-me.html
    I would have done it myself but since I don't speak German, it would havee bee way too hard!

    Danken!!!
    Carlo

    ReplyDelete

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