Where to start with PowerShell – Christmas 2009 edition

I’ve been working with PowerShell for a good while now, but for the millions of people who haven’t dipped their toes into it, where should you start? I posted a list of resources back in March, but as of writing this in December 2009 there are loads more great resources to help you get up to speed. All of the items that I’m listing here are free too!


Ebooks


It doesn’t do any harm to do a bit of reading before diving in to PowerShell and these are great places to get some background and start learning. The first one is a great book from Sapien Press – since they’re releasing a PowerShell 2.0 edition of this book, they’ve made the PowerShell 1.0 edition available as a free download, which is very nice of them since most of the content is still very relevant in a PowerShell 2.0 world!


Powershell TFM V1 eBook


In PowerShell TFM, Don Jones and Jeff Hicks (both PowerShell MVPs) cover a lot of ground from the basics to some pretty advanced uses of PowerShell, with plenty of examples that can make you productive right away. I was recommending the 1st edition two years ago and it’s still as good today for someone starting out.


Another MVP, prolific author and all-round good guy, Dr. Tobias Weltner has also published a free ebook on his excellent site, PowerShell.com, where you will also find video tutorials and a rather good PowerShell tip of the day. You can either read the chapters online, or download the whole book as a PDF file:


Mastering PowerShell


Microsoft’s TechNet Script Center has a load of resources for learning and using PowerShell (including a Getting Started Guide). Although it’s not as comprehensive as the two ebooks above, you should take a look at their Windows PowerShell Owner’s Manual.


I also mustn’t forget the original free PowerShell ebook by Frank Koch of Microsoft Switzerland.


Cheat Sheets


Many folk will advise you to just start to use PowerShell in place of cmd.exe to gain hands-on experience (because most of the stuff you do in cmd.exe will work in a similar way), and that’s a pretty decent approach, although I would suggest checking out one of the ebooks first. If you do want to dive in at the deep end and try to swim though, I’d recommend you print a PowerShell cheat sheet and pin it up somewhere near your monitor so you can quickly refer to it.


PowerShell Cheat Sheet (by Ben Pearce)


Refcardz PowerShell Cheat Sheet(by Bruce Payette)


PowerShell 2 for Dummies Cheat Sheet(by Steve Seguis)


PowerShell 1.0 Desksheet(by Mike Fourie)


And, if you have a specific requirement for using PowerShell with…


…Active Directory


Active Directory PowerShell Quick Reference (by Jonathan Medd)


…Exchange


Exchange Management Shell Quick Reference


…VMWare


PowerCLI Quick Reference Guide(by Alan Renouf)


Check out PowerShell podcasts


There are two popular podcasts dedicated to PowerShell, one from the US and one from the UK. The PowerScripting Podcast, presented by Jonathan Walz and Hal Rottenberg, is nearly up to 100 episodes as I write this, so they’ve covered a lot of ground. Jonathan Medd and Alan Renouf have put out 14 episodes of their Get-Scripting Podcast to date.


Since both podcasts started out at a low level and are now somewhat more mature in their PowerShell coverage, I’d suggest listening to a recent episode of each and then going back to earlier episodes and working forward.


If you’re into listening to podcasts (like I am), or if you have your first taste with these and decideyou want to try more, you’ll find that other tech podcasts do cover PowerShell from time to time, like Show #190 of Scott Hanselman’s excellent podcast, which is definitely worth a listen.


Join a User Group


There are a rapidly growing number of PowerShell user groups and script clubs popping up around the world. Don’t worry if there isn’t one close enough to you; some groups do online meetings, so you can see the presentations from anywhere, and you certainly don’t have to be a proficient user to join a user group. I’m trying to maintain a list of the groups on this site.


Directory of PowerShell User Groups


What else?


That’s just a few pointers for getting started with PowerShell in December 2009. You’ll find loads of people blogging about PowerShell (including the PowerShell Team). There are lots of example scripts available from the TechNet Script Center, and elsewhere. If you’re on Twitter, just asking a question that includes the word “PowerShell” will usually result in a response from an MVP or some other enthusiastic PowerShell user, and if you can’t fit a question into 140 characters, you’ll also get good responses on the official PowerShell newsgroup.

First Look at Office 2010

If you’re looking forward to the release of Office 2010 next summer (and let’s face it, who isn’t?!), then you probably already know about the availability of the public beta. If you’ve tried it, then it would be great if you could share your favourite features in the comments for others to share in your experience.


My personal favourite feature (so far – there are some things that I’m looking forward to trying in Outlook in conjunction with Exchange 2010, when we have that running) is the Backstage view in all the applications. This is the bit that you access via the “Office Button” in Office 2007, which is now accessed through a coloured “File” tab next to the ribbon’s default “Home” tab.


What I particularly like about Backstage is that they’ve brought the live-preview that was such a good addition in Office 2007 to the Print dialogue. You no longer have to look at print settings and print preview separately as they sit side by side. When you make a change to the setting, you see it reflected in the preview immediately. It makes formatting your printouts much more straight forward and will benefit pretty much everyone who uses Office.


I’ve been using Office 2010 since early on in the Technical Preview stage, before the Beta, but even so I haven’t come across all the tweaks in these new versions on the applications, so I was pleased to see that Microsoft Press have released a free ebook “First Look: Microsoft Office 2010″. At that price it’s a no-brainer to download it!


I wish Microsoft hadn’t discontinued these products…

Now I’m not the sort to get sentimental over software. In fact the opposite is usually true. Something newer and more shiny comes along and I forget about all the old stuff. I can’t think of many long-gone products that I wish would come back, software or otherwise. However, I got thinking about this over the weekend when I was using one of my favourite applications that Microsoft has ever produced.


Digital Image Suitewas a photo editor, which had previously gone by the name Picture It!, along with image library management. The reason that I liked it so much was that the barrier to entry for a large number of tasks was really low, but you could add functionality for more complex operations because it supported the use of PhotoShop plugins.


Microsoft discontinued the product, stating that many of the features are available in new Microsoft titles, which is true, but many is not all. It’s fair to say that Windows Live Essentials is one of the first things that I install on a fresh copy of Windows, and I like its included Windows Live Photo Gallery, but it’s no Digital Image Suite.


As I was manipulating some photos to print for family members as Christmas presents, I had to hunt out my copy of Digital Image 2006 Anniversary Edition (the last release, which supported Windows Vista and fortunately continues to run on Windows 7) because Photo Gallery was just too basic for what I needed to do.


Now I’m sure that everyone, especially all my photography buddies, will tell me that I should be using PhotoShop, but it’s expensive and significantly more complex than the Digital Image editor. I dare say there will come a day when I’ll have to move on to something else, but until then I’ll keep on with my favourite old package from 2006!


While I’m a big fan, I can understand that the Digital Image Suite may not have been a great product for Microsoft in revenue terms. Not being a market leading package, I get why it was cut. I find it harder to understand why you’d get rid of another product that was doing ok in terms of revenue and was clearly a market leader…


Microsoft Flight Simulator pre-dates even Windows and was easily the most popular consumer flight simulator. It was damn good too. I remember very clearly my first experience of Flight Sim 98 along with Microsoft’s marvellous SideWinder force feedback joystick (also sadly no longer with us) – having recently spent some time flying a Cessna thanks to the RAF, I was amazed at how real the experience was. Of course that was before the graphical improvements, real-world weather and ATC in the later versions.


It’s fair to say that for a bunch of years, the reason that I kept upgrading my PC hardware was to continuously be able to turn up graphic detail and milk more performance out of Flight Sim. Each new version that came out was like a gift that kept on giving (or taking, depending on how you look at it). I spent a crazy amount of time experiencing different aircraft and airports, knowing that it translated well to the real world (even though that’s experience I’ve never taken advantage of since). I’ve flown helicopters and gliders too in the past, and Flight Sim did as good a job of modelling them as it did light aircraft or airliners (I’m guessing, since I’ve never flown one of them). Overall, I’d say that Flight Sim could well beat Elite as my most played game ever.


When the studio behind Flight Sim became a victim of Microsoft’s cuts in early 2009, I know that I wasn’t the only, or the most, disappointed fan of the series. Hopefully the team members, who have formed an independent studio, will be able to release a product worthy of the legacy.


You never know, it being the festive season, perhaps Microsoft will announce that they’re re-launching these products, along with the other item on my Microsoft Christmas list – releasing BitLocker To Go as an update for every SKU of Windows 7 (not restricting it to Enterprise and Ultimate), because the world will be a better place if everyone can easily encrypt their USB keys!

9th December, Newcastle: Windows Azure – What’s In The Cloud

Microsoft’s Simon Davies will look at what Windows Azure provides, how to use it and some of the common usage scenarios. This session will cover some of the new details of which were announced at the Professional Developers Conference in November.

 

Venue: Room 118, Claremont Tower, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, GB


Time: 18:45


Price: FREE