2013 Scripting Games – Learning points from Event 3

The 2013 Scripting Games started April 25th, and event 3 is now open for voting. As I did in the previous events, I will pick out two entries from each event and provide some learning points to highlight both good and bad practices.

Before reading my comments, you might want to download the event instructions:

The first entry I will comment on is from Beginner 3:

  • Two pieces of information is required for this event, which we typically find in WMI. Since the instructions clearly stated that both CIM and WMI is available, and we do not have to think about authentication or firewalls, I find leveraging CIM a good practice. CIM is the newest technology, based on standards based management. It also requires just one firewall port to be open, compared to WMI which requires a lot more. Although, I would not give less points if WMI was leveraged in this event, since this is also a valid option in the instructions. In the real world however, we would typically need to think about authentication and firewalls in addition to other considerations, such as legacy systems. If Windows 2000 was still present, CIM would not have worked against WMI on that system without specifying the DCOM protocol for the CIM session.
  • Filtering is performed on the server side, which speeds up the query. A bad practice would have been skipping the –Filter parameter, and performed the filtering on the client side using Where-Object.
  • Extracting the data required by the instructions is done using Select-Object. What I also like is that formatting the data is done in the same operation. The –f operator is used to format the data, and PowerShells built-in constants for converting values to MB and GB is leveraged.
  • PowerShell has built-in capabilities to convert objects to HTML, in the form of the ConvertTo-Html cmdlet. This is leveraged in a way that meets the goals for the event instructions: The 3 properties needed is specified, and a header and a footer is added with the required data. However, a bonus point would have been added if the computer name was added to the header as specified in the event instructions. This is an example of how important it is to read the instructions carefully. I would recommend you to read through the instructions one more time before submitting your entry, as you might miss things like this.
  • The FilePath parameter is omitted on Out-File. This works fine since the parameter is positional. However, I prefer to use full parameter names when sharing scripts or even one-liners with others.
  • The instructions required a one-liner. Many people takes this literally, and place everything on one line. That is very bad for readability. This submission leverages the pipeline symbol, the comma and the back tick to continue on the next line. This is fully counted as a one-liner. However, the semi-colon as some people used does not qualify for a one-liner. This is simply a statement separator, and will break the pipeline.

The second entry I have decided to comment on is from Advanced 3:

This entry does produce a nice looking HTML-report with the required data. However, there are some bad practices I would like to highlight as learning points:

  • A ping function is created. This is not required, as PowerShell has a Test-Connection cmdlet giving the same functionality.
  • The naming of the function is not very descriptive for the end user sitting at the helpdesk.
  • The HTML code is created in a here-string rather than leveraging PowerShells ConvertTo-Html cmdlet. This makes it harder than necessary.
  • Aliases is used. This is ok when working interactively when you want to type fast, but not in a script or function you will share with others (think readability).
  • Write-Host is used (dont kill puppies), use Write-Verbose to output additional information. Alternatively, output an object even if the computer could not be contacted. You could add a “Connectivity” property to inform the user whether the computer was reachable or not, and add this to the report.

There have been many great suggestions in this event. Keep up the good work, and good luck with event 4 – “An Auditing Adventure”.

Update 2013-05-21: The good thing about the Scripting Games is that everyone learns something, including the judges. I havent been using here-strings for creating HTML, but as Rob Campbell (@mjolinor) stated on Twitter: “Here strings are an AWESOME tool for creating HTML or XML documents. ” -Jeffrey Snover. (link). Of course, this implies that you know HTML. On the topic of HTML, I would also like to recommend Don Jones` free ebook “Creating HTML Reports in PowerShell“. Available with the book is also a PowerShell module for working with HTML. In addition, there is also a very good session recording from the 2013 PowerShell Summit by Jeffrey Hicks called “Creating HTML Reports With style“.

3 thoughts on “2013 Scripting Games – Learning points from Event 3

  1. Pingback: Jan Egil’s Event 3 Learning Points | PowerShell.org

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