08 Dec 2009

T-34 days and counting...

image001This morning I got up for a quick cycle and as I road up the last big hill before I got home the sun really started to beat down on me and the swet changed from cooling moist to dripping. This is all at 6am, which is normal for a South African summer day, in fact our winters, in Johannesburg, aren’t too bad too. It normally is around single digits in winter at night and the days go up to 14 or so degrees. I guess that is why Willy-Peter decided to send me this picture – it’s a warning that better go shopping for a jacket or nine.

02 Dec 2009

T-40 days and counting...

In 40 days I will be starting a very exciting adventure, that being flying to Canada and America for 3 weeks of what is being referred to as the Rangers Sabbatical. The what? you may be asking yourself, I have posted previously on my Microsoft VSTS Rangers project involvement. Well in January I will be heading to hang out with with Willy-Peter Schaub at the MCDC (Microsoft Canada Development Centre) in Vancouver Canada and then Chuck Sterling at Microsoft Corp HQ in Redmond, USA.

I am hoping to be able to blog a lot about this trip, although I doubt that I will be allowed to share photo’s of that central server that Microsoft runs that all traffic on the internet run though which is built on Linux (that is a joke for those with humour issues), since this will be the first time I will be going to north America and so this is really going to be an exciting adventure.

18 Nov 2009

Note worthy

I have been very focused during the day on a project and my evenings have been taken up a lot with VSTS Rangers work so the blog has lagged a bit so here are some things you should be aware of (if you follow me on Twitter, then you probably have heard these in 140 characters or less):

I was awarded the title of VSTS Rangers Champion - this is a great honour since it is a peer vote from VSTS External Rangers (no Microsoft Staff) and MVP’s for involvement in the VSTS Rangers projects.

The VSTS Rangers shipped the alpha of the integration platform for TFS 2010 - this is important for me because it means some of the bits I have worked on are now public and I am expecting some feedback to get them better for beta and release next year. It is also important since my big contribution to the integration platform, which is an adapter I will cover in future blog posts, has a fairly stable base.

Dev4Dev’s in coming up in just over a week. This is one of my favourite events because it really is event for passionate developers since they have to give up a Saturday morning for it (no using an event to sneak off work). I will be presenting on Visual Studio 2010! Which should be great, based on my first dry run to an internal audience at BB&D last week. Two more of my BB&D team mates will be presenting Zayd Kara on TFS Basic and (if memory serves me) Rudi Grobler on Sketchflow!

The Information Worker user group is really blowing my mind with it’s growth, on Tuesday we had 74 people attend our meeting. For a community that only had a 100 or so people signed up on the website at the beginning of the year that is brilliant. Thanks must go to my fellow leads: Veronique, Michael, Marc, Zlatan, Hilton and Daniel. We will be having a final Jo’burg event for the year on the 2nd and it will be a fun ask the experts session.

20 Oct 2009

VS2010/TFS2010 Information Landslide Begins

image001 Yesterday (19th Oct) the information landslide for VS2010 & TFS2010 began with a number of items appearing all over:

27 Aug 2009

VSTS Rangers - Using PowerShell for Automation - Part II: Using the right tool for the job

PowerShell is magically powerful - besides the beautiful syntax and the commandlets there is the ability to invoke .NET code which can lead you down a horrible path of trying to do the super solution by using these, writing a few (hundred) lines of code and ignoring some old school (read: DOS) ways of solving a problem. This is similar to the case of when you only have a hammer everything is a nail - except this is the alpha developer (as in alpha male) version where you have 50 tools but 1 is newer and shiner so that is the tool you just have to use.

So with the VSTS Rangers virtualisation project we are creating a VM which is not meant for production (in fact I think I need to create a special bright pink or green wallpaper for it which has that written over it), and so we want to make it super easy for connections and the users of this VM. So one example of where the PowerShell version of the command and the DOS version is so much easier is allowing all connections in via the firewall.

So in there is a command line tool call netshell (netsh is the command) and if you just type it you get a special command prompt and can basically change every network related setting. However the genius who designed this (and it is so well designed) is that you can type a single command at a time or chain commands up in the netsh interface (which makes it easy to test) and then when you have a working solution you can provide it as a parameter to the netshell command. So to allow all connections in the command looks like:

netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="Allow All In" dir=in action=allow

Once I had that - I slapped that into a PowerShell script, because PowerShell can run DOS commands and viola another script to the collection done, in 1 line :)

Another example of this is that I need the machine hostname for a number of things that I use in PowerShell and in DOS there is a create command called hostname. Well you can easily combine that with PowerShell by assigning it to a variable:

$hostname = hostname

Now I can just use $hostname anywhere in PowerShell and all works well.

20 Aug 2009

VSTS Rangers - Using PowerShell for Automation - Part I: Structure & Build


As Willy-Peter pointed out, a lot of my evenings have been filled with a type of visual cloud computing, that being PowerShell’s white text on a blue (not quiet azure) background that make me think of clouds for the purpose of automating the virtual machines that the VSTS Rangers are building.

So how are we doing this? Well there is a great team involved, it’s not just me and there are a few key scripts we are trying build which should come as no surprise it’s configuration before and after you install VSTS/VS/Required software, tailoring of the environment and installing software.

The Structure

So how have structured this? Well since each script is developed by a team of people I didn’t want to have one super script that everyone is working on and fighting conflicts and merges all day and yet at the same time I don’t want to ship 100 scripts that do small functions and call each other - I want to ship one script but have development done on many. So how are we doing that? Step one was to break down the tasks of a script into functions, assign them to people and assign a number to them - like this:

*Note this is close to reality, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent team members and tasks at this point.

Task Assigned To Reference Number
Install SQL Team Member A 2015
Install WSS Team Member B 2020
Install VSTS Team Member C 2025

And out of that people produce the scripts in the smallest way and they name them beginning with the reference number - so I get a bunch of files like:

  • 2015-InstallSQL.ps1
  • 2020-InstallWSS.ps1
  • 2025-InstallVSTS.ps1

The Build Script

These all go into a folder and then I wrote another PowerShell script which combines them into a super script which is what is used. The build script is very simply made up of a number PowerShell commands that get the content and outputs it to a file, which looks like:

Get-Content .\SoftwareInstall\*.ps1 | Out-File softwareInstall.ps1

That handles the combining of the scripts and the reference number keeps the order of the scripts correct.

As an aside I didn’t use PowerShell for the build script originally, I used the old school style DOS copy command - however it had a few bugs.

The Numbering

What’s up with that numbering you may ask? Well for those younger generation who never coded with line numbers and GOTO statements it may seem weird to leave gaps in the numbering and should rather have sequential numbering - but what happens when someone realises we have missed something? Can you image going to each file after that and having to change numbers -EEK! So leaving gaps is leaving the ability to deal with mistakes in a non-costly way.

Next why I am starting with 1015? Well each script is given a 1000 numbers (so pre install would be 1000, software install 2000 etc…) so that I can look at script and know what it’s for and if it’s in the wrong place. I start at 15 as 00, 05 and 10 are already taken:

  • 00 - Header. The header for the file explaining what it is.
  • 05 - Functions. Common functions for all scripts.
  • 10 - Introduction. This is a bit of text that will be written to the screen explaining the purpose of the script and ending with a pause. The pause is important because if you ran the wrong script you can hit Ctrl+C at that point and nothing will have been run.

So that is part I. In future parts I will be looking at some of the scripts and learning's I have been getting.

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