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Book review: Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches

Author: Don Jones

Publisher: Manning

ISBN: 978-1617290213

Don Jones is a well-known PowerShell MVP, trainer, author and blogger. This is his latest book on PowerShell. It sets out to teach a complete new comer to PowerShell how to use the language and commands to get stuff done. That is an important point – the book is about learning PowerShell so that you can use it to automate your administrative tasks.

The book is not an abstract look at PowerShell as a language but treats it as a tool you want to learn. It assumes you will be reading the chapters in order (which I would strongly recommend) and that you will be performing the exercises and running the code examples. Please make sure you do as it’s the only way you will get the maximum benefit from the book.

As I have stated in other reviews I have three main criteria for judging a book:

· Is it technically accurate?

· Does deliver the material it claims to deliver?

· Is worth the cost of purchase and the time I spend reading it?

The first one is easy to deal with. Yes it is technically accurate. Don is an expert on the subject of PowerShell and more importantly for a book of this sort he is an expert on how to teach it. The book has been reviewed by a number of PowerShell experts and I performed the final technical review. It’s as accurate as it can be!

The book has the following chapters:

1. Before you begin

2. Running commands

3. Using the help system

4. The pipeline: connecting commands

5. Adding commands

6. Objects: just data by another name

7. The pipeline, deeper

8. Formatting—and why it’s done on the right

9. Filtering and comparisons

10. Remote control: one to one, and one to many

11. Tackling Windows Management Instrumentation

12. Multitasking with background jobs

13. Working with bunches of objects, one at a time

14. Security alert!

15. Variables: a place to store your stuff

16. Input and output

17. You call this scripting?

18. Sessions: remote control, with less work

19. From command to script to function

20. Adding logic and loops

21. Creating your own “cmdlets” and modules

22. Trapping and handling errors

23. Debugging techniques

24. Additional random tips, tricks, and techniques

25. Final exam: tackling an administrative task from scratch

26. Beyond the operating system: taking PowerShell further

27. Never the end

28. PowerShell cheat sheet

Each chapter is designed to be read, and the exercises performed, in an approximately one hour lunch break. They are short, concise and very much to the point. Don has a very easy writing style that stops the topics being dry. The humour comes through in places to liven things up.

This is a book about doing. If we look at chapter 17 for instance – this is where scripting is introduced as the previous chapters show what you can do with PowerShell just from the command line. The chapter has 7 solid examples plus a lab. There are two callouts urging you to try the code and a list of ideas to try at the end of the chapter. All of this in 12 pages!

As well as the basics of the PowerShell language the book covers what might be considered more advanced topics such as remoting and PowerShell jobs.

In a nutshell this book teaches you how to use PowerShell. If you work through the chapters and labs you can’t fail to learn how to use PowerShell. Will it make you an overnight expert? No it won’t but it will provide a very solid foundation for you to progress and discover more about PowerShell yourself.

Don is a teacher and that comes through the way the book is written and constructed. In terms of my last two questions:

· Does it deliver the material it claims – YES. There were a couple of points in the book that made me think about me assumptions about PowerShell.

· Is it worth the money to buy and the time to read – YES.

On the back cover there’s a quote of mine “The book I wish I’d had when I started PowerShell”. That sums it up for me. It’s an excellent introduction to PowerShell itself and achieves exactly what it states it will do.

If you are new to PowerShell, or want to get started with it I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. Buy it. Read it. Use it.

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