2012 PowerShell Scripting Games

Today the Microsoft Scripting Guys have officially announced the 2012 PowerShell Scripting Games.

Long-time readers of this blog will know that every year I recommend taking part in the Scripting Games as a great way to learn PowerShell through completing some real-world tasks.

The exciting thing about this year’s games is that you can use a pre-release version of PowerShell v3 to take part, so even if you’re already familiar with PowerShell, you can challenge yourself to use some of the new features in your solutions.

I’m definitely going to be taking part when the events start in April, and by then I’d expect the North East PowerShell Script Club to be up and running, so we’ll perhaps look at some of the challenges together.

Keep an eye on the Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog for more info.

Imagine Cup North East

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been helping behind the scenes with Imagine Cup North East. If you’ve never heard or the Imagine Cup it’s an annual student competition run by Microsoft to build technology solutions to address real-world problems, and this year two great local organisations promoting digital industries, Codeworks and Sunderland Software City, have teamed up to run a regional heat.

This week students from Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Durham and Teesside universities and local colleges will be attending taster and information events (in Newcastle and Middlesbrough), where Microsoft’s Ben Nunney will be on hand to discuss the finer points of the competiton.

The competition is a great opportunity for students to work on a project outside of their studies (looks good on the CV, etc) and it should be good fun too, with a 36 hour hack event later in the month. Of course there’s also the possibility of a trip to the global finals in Australia to aim for too!

If you’re a current student (or graduated in the last year) there’s still time to get involved, and if you aren’t eligible to take part, you should still be able to support the teams at a future NEBytes event. Head to the Imagine Cup North East site, the Facebook page, and follow @ImagineCupNE on Twitter to keep up with all the goings-on.

What’s New in PowerShell v3 – the slides

This is the deck that I used at my presentation to the NEBytes user group last night. The audience was mixed IT pro/developer; 1/4 people who have used PowerShell to some degree; 2/3 had at least some awareness. The aim of the presentation was to show existing PowerShell users some of the exciting new features/directions, and persuade the rest that PowerShell has come of age and is a technology that they should be exploring.


At the end there was a discussion about books to help you get started with PowerShell. There are some really good books out there, but to reduce the cost of entry, I’d suggest you start with some free ebooks. You can check out this post which links to some resources, and you may also find PowerShell cheat sheets useful (I did when I was getting used to the syntax). Also, look out for announcements around the public availability of the Microsoft Script Explorer for Windows PowerShell.

I also asked whether anyone would be interested in a North East (England) PowerShell Script Club? I want to discuss with those who might want to take part about how they’d like it to work for them, but one idea is to meet for half an hour before the normal NEBytes meetings so that we can share challenges we’ve faced or successes we’ve had, with the aim that we all get better through sharing our experiences. If that’s of interest to you, drop me an email to jonathan at nebytes.net or @jonoble on Twitter.

IE6 Migration Roadshow touring England

Please stop using IE6.

If you haven’t yet, then you might want to attend one of these events. This comes direct from Microsoft…

We are thrilled to extend the invitation to you to attend our series of Internet Explorer 6 Migration Roadshow events!

With support for Windows XP coming to an end on the 8th April 2014 and IE6 standing in so many people’s way of migration, what better time to start taking the leap to a more modern browser? Problem applications are all too often the blocker, so Microsoft have teamed up with CamwoodCitrix Systems and Quest Software, all application compatibility experts, to help jump-start your move.

Join us at a date below for a packed agenda discussing the technical challenges faced by IT departments when migrating their users off of IE6. We will establish:

·         Why you should go through the trouble of migrating;

·         How you go about identifying those problem applications;

·         What you can do about them.

There are a range of dates to choose from, each offering a slightly different spin and all promising to be thoroughly informative! Take your pick and use the links below to register with our partners.

Who, Where & When?
Tues 21st February

Microsoft & Quest Software 
Manchester United Football Ground (Old Trafford) 
09:30 – 14:00 (+Stadium Tour!)
More Information & Registration

Thurs 22nd March 
Microsoft & Citrix Systems (Including newly acquired AppDNA)
Chalfont St. Peter (Easy access via the M40 & M25 as well as rail)
09:00 – 16:00
More Information & Registration

Tues 3rd April 
Microsoft & Camwood 
London, Cardinal Place 
More Information & Registration TBC

Thurs 19th April 
Microsoft & Quest Software 
Reading Football Ground (Madejski Stadium) 
09:30 – 14:00 (+Stadium Tour!)
More Information & Registration

On behalf of all the team at Microsoft, we hope to see you there!


In case you’re wondering, I’m usually a Chrome user myself. I’m not one for adding multiple extensions to a browser, so I like the way that Chrome natively syncs my bookmarks, etc, and has Flash and PDF reading funtionality built right in. So that’s IE6 and Adobe’s Flash and Reader that I no longer use. Three birds, one stone.

Why I hope Windows 8 ARM tablets don’t have a full desktop

There has been a significant amount of speculation and rumour surrounding the existance of a full desktop experience on Windows 8 devices powered by ARM processors. These are the lower priced tablets that are going to exist in the same market as the iPad and various Android tablets, like those make by Samsung and Asus. Before anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with this has a panic, there’s going to be a normal Windows desktop on fully-fledged laptop and desktop PCs, but on tablets it makes less sense as a user interface. It’s not like you could just take your favourite desktop application that you’re running on Windows 7 and put it on a Windows 8 device that’s using some SoC (system on chip) architecture anyway – it would need to be recompiled to work with those systems.

The main reason that I don’t want the desktop is because I don’t want developers, including (especially) Microsoft, to be able to treat the Metro UI as a skin that you can just scratch away to reveal something that they designed 10 years ago. It’s not that the 10 year old design isn’t perfectly functional on a desktop, but on a device with a touch interface it’s going to be fiddly at best.

What I want is for everyone who is developing for Windows 8, especially tablets, to have to think about the user experience using touch. The Metro design language works particularly well for this (some would say to the detriment of the traditional keyboard and mouse user), so for goodness’ sake, let’s please make sure that it’s used consistenly.

I’ve had far too many experiences in the past, particularly with smartphones, which are in some ways more closely related to tablets than PCs are (which is why Apple and Google have taken the opposite approach to Microsoft), where you have a really nice skin up front, only to find that you’re only two taps away from something that looks like my A-Level Computing project in Borland Delphi!

PowerShell v3 at NEBytes’ 2nd birthday

This month’s event marks 2 years since we started the North East Bytes user group and the start of what is bound to be an exciting year with some major new Microsoft products on the horizon. I’m happy to be able to give a presentation on the 18th January to talk about the “glue” that’s going to bind a lot of those things together.

My session, “What’s New in PowerShell v3, and Introducing Script Explorer” aims to give some insight into what’s coming in the Windows 8 timeframe for those who have already started their PowerShell journey, and also to help those who are yet to take the plunge by looking at the soon-to-be-released Microsoft Script Explorer for Windows PowerShell.

We’re fortunate enough to have another interesting presentation on the night from Gary Short, another MVP and an excellent speaker, about data mining the social web.

You can see all the details, and register for this free event at Eventbrite. I hope to see you there!

Don’t believe the Mayans. 2012 is going to be good!

I’ve got mixed feelings about the year that just ended – 2011 had some real contrasts for me.

I enjoyed more travel than any other year of my life, to Malaysia and Singapore twice, Ibiza, Florida and exotic Reading. I got to feed my theme park addiction at Universal Studios Singapore and all of the Disney, SeaWorld and Universal parks in Orlando, including the amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter (I’d never seen any of the films until 3 weeks before I went; watched all 8 in the space of a week and loved them!).

Unfortunately I was also the most ill I’ve been in a single year. I was off work for all of August when acute reactive arthritis in my left ankle and knee left me unable to walk. Some time after that was resolved, I was found to have “quite a collection” of gallstones, which did a sterling job of keeping me from getting much sleep for weeks. Rubbish.

Professionally I had the great experience of setting up the IT infrastructure at a “green field” site. Getting the new campus up and running at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia was the most interesting project I’ve ever worked on.

I spent eleventy million hours reading the five books of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, having been gripped by HBO’s Game of Thrones. Can’t wait for books 6 and 7. With that and Harry Potter, 2011 was the year that I discovered that I don’t dislike all fantasy, just Lord of the Rings.

Anyway, that’s all in the past. 2012 is only three days old, but I’m already enjoying it.

New Year’s Day brought the news of a Most Valuable Professional Award from Microsoft. I’m really glad to be a PowerShell MVP again, simply because the other people in that group are some of the best people I’ve ever had the fortune to interact with. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the interactions that are to come over the next 12 months.

Partly because of my recently renewed appreciation of my legs, I’m going to spend more time being active this year. I may actually get round to using my gym membership for more than taking my son to the pool, although that in itself has already yielded results – on the first swim of 2012, James finally overcame his attachment to his armbands and is now swimming at a pace that feels like exercise!

If I can find some time inbetween the PowerShell projects I want to work on, putting on NEBytes user group events, and having a life away from tech, I might even get round to building one of the Windows Phone app ideas I’ve got sitting in OneNote.

It’s going to be a busy year!