Everything old is new again (or the more things change, the more they stay the same)

Trends tend to go in cycles.  With computers, we’ve seen the old become the new back to the old, and back to the new.  Take the transformation from mainframes to PCs back to big servers.  Same thing has happened with computer languages.  One of the most notable things has been the rebirth of the command prompt…  In the dark ages, mainframe / Unix admins used the command prompt to manage the system because nothing else existed.  Then came the GUI tool.  Wonderful!  Visual!  Easy to see, easy to learn.  Unfortunately, difficult to automate.  For one or two servers, that wasn’t a problem.  As tools like Amazon’s Cloud computing, and Microsoft’s Windows Azure become more prevalent, though, managing by GUI becomes very difficult.  For Unix / Linux systems, there is a very rich scripting ecosystem.  But what about for Windows systems?

Enter Windows PowerShell

PowerShell started as a way manage systems via the command line using .NET, and has expanded to encompass everything from Exchange to SQL Server to Windows Azure.  The current version of PowerShell is vastly different from the original v1.0, with almost all commands being pipe-able and reusable.  The new remoting features are amazing.  There is even a built in web site to allow accessing the command line via a web server.  Yes, Unix/Linux admins will go ‘so what, this has all been done with Unix before’.  This is VERY true.  It’s just nice to have this built into Windows as a native component rather than as a third party add-in.  Also, PowerShell is built around .NET with all of the latest and greatest concepts such as fully dynamic objects and duck typing.

Having said all that, PowerShell is one of my top things ‘to learn’.  After checking out the initial Jump Start Course on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, I’ve been trying to ‘live in PowerShell’.  It certainly makes sense when working with multiple machines.  The remoting alone makes managing multiple web servers in a farm easier.

Fun stuff!

How I learned to stop worrying, and like Window 8.1.1 (Update 1)…

I had an interesting experience this evening…

One of my friends / family / customers was still running Windows XP on a 6 or 7 year old machine, and was concerned about Windows XP security support finally being cancelled.  The person loved the machine that I had built for them, but just wanted to upgrade.  So, my suggestion was to get a new SSD, and put Windows 8.1 Update 1 on it, as the person didn’t use many programs on the computer, mainly email, surfing, and some Microsoft Office.  The idea got approved, and I ordered a SanDisk Extreme II SSD and a copy of Windows 8.1.

Tonight, I was able to get by and install the new drive and software.  Challenge #1 turned out to be that the current hard drive in the computer was PATA!!!!  Have seen THAT in a LONG time.  I didn’t think that I had a SATA cable, but we were lucky enough to have the box from the original motherboard that did have the SATA cables in it.  Disaster #1 averted 🙂

After that, the install was *fairly* smooth.  The combination of Windows 8.1 and the SSD made the old computer MUCH faster.  Boot time dropped from over 2 to 3 minutes down to 23 seconds.  Plus, the screen looked a TON better.  The person had been running a 1920×1080 monitor / TV at a much lower resolution, so the screen looked terrible.  With Window 8.1, we were able to leave the resolution at 1920 x 1080, but change the scaling to 180%.  MUCH better!  The text was sharp but easier to read.  The system was faster and much more responsive.  Pinning the apps to the task bar felt very ‘mac like’ for some reason 🙂  Adding a network printer was so simple, it wasn’t even funny.  All in all, an excellent upgrade for a minimal amount of money.