I love PowerShell. I even dream about it sometimes. That’s not actually true, but sometimes when I’ve spent hours trying to script some task with PowerShell the line between the real world and what’s going on inside my head can become a bit blurred.
The problem is, it’s taken me a long time to become even a half-decent writer of PowerShell scripts. In fact, it’s probably even an exaggeration to say that I’m half-decent at doing this, which is why I spent hours sometimes struggling with getting the bugs out of a simple script that just won’t do what I want it to do.
So I’ve been thinking lately that there must be an easier way to becoming an PowerShell warrior, someone who is an expert at writing PowerShell scripts. Of course, if I was simply young and single I could lock myself up in my basement room with a pizza and a jug of root beer and soak up PowerShell knowledge like young boys used to guzzle root beer back then. I’m talking A&W Root Beer, of course.
But how to elevate my creaky old brain today up to the stratospheric heights of PowerShell warrior nirvana? There must be a way, and being unable to find it I finally decided to ask an expert. Ashley McGlone is a Microsoft Premier Field Engineer (PFE) and a frequent speaker at PowerShell events all around the United States. He has a terrific blog called the GoateePFE (yes, he has a goatee beard) and you can find his Twitter and LinkedIn social links on his blog here. Ashley has often contributed PowerShell tips for issues of my newsletter WServerNews, which is published by TechGenix and goes out to more than 200,000 IT pros around the world each week. So naturally I turned to Ashley for some advice on how I can boost my PowerShell chops, and this short interview I had with him outlines some of his advice.
MITCH: Ashley, do you get a lot of asks from admins and other IT pros who want to know how they can learn more about PowerShell?
ASHLEY: Yes, as someone who teaches PowerShell, I am frequently asked about books and online learning resources!
MITCH: Where do you recommend that they start?
ASHLEY: Start here: Use Get-Help built into PowerShell. Run Update-Help about_ as admin to get the latest content, then type Get-Help to find the conceptual topics you need to learn about.
MITCH: Yep, I’ve been there and have done that (sorry for being verbose). What else can I do to become a PowerShell warrior? I should tell you first that I’m basically a visual sort of guy, so I learn easily by watching other people do stuff. Give me a box of something from Ikea, though, and leave me trying to follow the instructions usually ends up badly.
ASHLEY: Haha! Well the Microsoft Virtual Academy has a wide assortment of great training videos. You can find these here.
MITCH: I’ve seen a few of those MVA videos on PowerShell and some of them rock! Some are boring, though, but maybe that’s just me. Are there any other good free videos out there I can check out?
ASHLEY: Well, beyond that you can search YouTube for the PowerShell Summit videos, which go deeper into niche areas.
MITCH: Yes, I see that the PowerShell.org channel on YouTube has a number of videos from different summits and other events. I’m a big fan of PowerShell.org and have often found help for some problem by lurking through their forums. Don Jones has done quite a job with that site as President and CEO of PowerShell.org.
ASHLEY: Yes he has, which brings me to my next recommendation of the best beginner book: “Learn PowerShell in a Month of Lunches” by Don Jones and Jeff Hicks, which is available from Manning Publishers.
MITCH: Hey, I have an earlier edition of that book! I’ll have to check out the Third Edition as I’m sure I can learn a lot from Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks and their vast expertise with the subject. Speaking of Jeffrey, he actually contributed a guest editorial once to my WServerNews newsletter on the topic of Say No to PowerShell in the Enterprise, where he teases readers with some reasons why they may want to avoid learning how to use PowerShell for administering their environments. Of course he was just being ironic to get his points across of why PowerShell can be tremendously useful for administrators.
MITCH: What if you’re already past the beginner stage and you want to get into some advanced stuff with PowerShell? Are there any good books you can recommend in that case? I personally like to learn from a book and not a website because I don’t like taking my laptop into the bathroom.
ASHLEY: Haha! Well, the best advanced [reference] book in my opinion is “PowerShell in Action” by Bruce Payette and Richard Siddaway, which is also available from Manning Publishers.
MITCH: OK, I haven’t seen that one yet so I guess I better order it! Or maybe I’ll just ask the publisher for a sample copy so I can review it in my newsletter.
MITCH: What about staying on top of things with how PowerShell is evolving? I know there’s the PowerShell site on MSDN with its gallery and documentation and community links but it’s rather overwhelming for a guy like me whose focus is mainly in the system administration area and not the developer area. And PowerShell seems to be evolving so fast these days. It seems to have grown into more than just a simple command and scripting language.
ASHLEY: Yes indeed! Well, to keep up with the most recent developments in PowerShell I strongly encourage folks to follow #PowerShell on Twitter. You will find a constant stream of blog posts and announcements to keep your skills fresh.
MITCH: Great suggestion! So I guess I better man up and connect my brain to the firehose, right?
ASHLEY: Yep. Part of working in IT is constant learning. Enjoy!
MITCH: Thanks, Ashley!
Photo credit: Shutterstock