Monday, February 20, 2017

Ramp up your PowerShell knowledge in 2017 with these books

For once I am going to write a blog post which is not focused on a technical subject, and for a reason. As far as I have been able to observe, there is still a great amount of IT administrators who aren't using Windows PowerShell as their main tool for server administration even do Microsoft has been pushing it with all of its strength. Sometimes the reason is that IT guys simply lack of time. Sometimes they can't find motivation from the surrounding environment, because procedures and tools are already in place. Sometimes they are scared by the extent of the change that comes from switching away from a GUI-based server administration.


What I think, is that often the best starting point is a good book to take on the challenge, like the one of learning PowerShell: a good book helps you to move your first steps with the language, and then to get a solid understanding of its capabilities. It will teach you how it works, how it binds to the operating system and how you can best benefit from its usage. And it will keep your motivation high by giving real world examples that you can start using straight away.

Now, if you look, say, on Amazon, you'll find tons of PowerShell books: 662 items on 56 pages, and if you're a novice, you might very well get stuck here because you don't know the authors and you can't make a choice of what book is the best for you.

That's why I have decided to write a post to mention the books that in 2017 will be a must for the modern system administrator. Most of them are still work-in-progress, but will be achieved in 2017 and will definitively be worth their price not only because they will be focused on the most recent PowerShell version (5/5.1), but also because their authors are well-renowned book writers and conference speakers that know not just how to teach a technical subject, but also how to stimulate you interest in the language. What's more, some of them, through their initiatives, have been the real engine behind the widespread of PowerShell as the vital skill to have in 2017: I am thinking for instance to Bruce Payette (principal author of the language) and Don Jones (founder of just to name two.

Let's now have a look at this list of books.


With 14 out of 19 chapters already available and planned to be published in April 2017, the must-have book in 2017 is the one by Bruce Payette and fellow MVP Richard Siddaway titled Windows PowerShell in Action, Third Edition (ISBN 9781633430297 - $59 for the printed version) which Manning makes available through the MEAP program. This is program that allows buyers to have access to the book chapters as soon as they are ready, so that their content is not locked up by a long writing and publishing process.

This book, which in its second edition already boasted 983 pages, has the advantage of being the most complete book around on this subject. This third edition covers massively some pretty hot topics such as PowerShell Classes, Workflows and Desired State Configuration (aka DSC) and should therefore be used by the system administrator who already uses PowerShell and who wants to build a rock-solid knowledge of the language. Furthermore, being Bruce Payette a founder of the language, you will get an insight of many design decisions that the PowerShell Team has had to make.

Here's a sample screenshot from the free sample of this book, just to show you the level of detail in its first pages:

It's also worth noticing that Manning did the smart move of providing a forum where you can give feedback on the content on the book as it's being written. You can access it here.


The second must-have book is for sure the one by Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks titled The PowerShell Scripting and Toolmaking Book. We already know Don Jones for being the co-founder of and the author of the blockbuster Learn PowerShell in a month of lunches. Jeffery Hicks is also a well-known author of PowerShell books (whose listing you can find on his blog).

As you can see when you follow the link above, they have chosen LeanPub to publish their book. LeanPub is a platform that allows technical authors to ship chapters in a Agile-manner, like you would on a blog, similarly to the MEAP program we presented above.

For the moment, their book is 80% complete and they set a target selling price at $60, but you can freely decide to pay it anything between $40 and $120. The price could seem a bit high, especially if compared to the book by Bruce Payette and Richard Siddaway, but you can be assured of two things: the first one is that Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks are excellent authors that know how to teach a subject. The second one, is that their books comes as a 'forever edition', meaning that all the updates that the authors will make to the content in the future are included in that price.

Concerning the content, the book is going to provide you with in-depth information on how to build advanced functions that include professional-grade parameter management, error handling, and built-in help, like real cmdlets. Other hot topics in this book are Unit Testing with Pester, Source Control, PowerShell ClassesPowerShell Script Analyzer and Just Enough Administration (aka JEA), just to mention a few. It will also teach you other interesting things such as how to publish to the PowerShell Gallery, as you can see from the screenshot taken from the free sample:

Same as with MEAP, LeanPub gives you the possibility to give feedback to Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks on the content of the book through a specific web page which you can find here.


The third book I want to talk about and which will be published in 2017, is the one by Mike F Robbins. Mike is a former PowerShell MVP and now a Cloud and DataCenter Management MVP. He has already co-authored some books like PowerShell Deep Dives and Windows PowerShell TFM 4th Edition. Not to mention that is the winner of the advanced category in the 2013 PowerShell Scripting Games. So he knows his subject as you can see if you follow his blog.

The title of the book is PowerShell 101 – The No-Nonsense Beginner’s Guide to PowerShell and is published through LeanPub, just like the book by Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks. For the moment the first two chapters have been published and a third one is almost ready, so I am fully confident Mike will be able to complete it by the end of 2017 with highly valuable content.

Concerning the content, my understanding is that this book is aimed at Windows administrators that want to enter the PowerShell arena but with a focus on real world scenarios: this is a key point that will make the learning process smoother for those moving their first steps away from the GUI. Here's a screenshot from the free sample of the book:

Notwithstanding the fact that this book starts with real simple examples, like the one above, doesn't mean that you won't find a lot of very good hints on how to improve your scripting skills: Mike has a reputation for being able to write real complex functions that are extremely easy to reuse and, believe me, you won't be deceived by this book that has the added values of being sold at a very low price, $11.99.

Like for the others LeanPub books, you can find the feedback page for Mike's book at this link.

If you want to embrace PowerShell and develop your automation skills, these are the books to step up your game and add value to your career in 2017. Just choose one and skyrocket your performance.

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