Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Questions: with Jeffery Hicks

Jeffery Hicks


There are no doubt a lot of computer-related "scripting" languages in the world today, which is only a subset of the "programming" languages that exist.  Among the standouts today are the venerable Windows-platform related names like Batch, KiXtart, VBscript, JavaScript, as well as cross-platform names like Perl, Python, and one the came onto the IT scene relatively late:  PowerShell.

Microsoft may take a few lumps along their way from one success to another, but they've so far managed to earn the trust and respect of the majority of developers, administrators and engineers with PowerShell.  Now in its third version of existence, it has gained quite a lot with regards to both functionality and maturity.

Among the short list of people renown for pushing ahead in this newer realm are names like Jeffrey Snover, Don Jones, and one that I've come to know better in recent years: Jeffery Hicks.

Author, speaker, and an all-around nice guy, Jeff is another example that we don't have to shed our personality in order to master a new technology.  He remains very active on multiple web sites and forums; offering advice and help to both the experienced and the noobs.  One thing I will say is that if you get any PowerShell-related advice from Jeff, you should consider it.

Jeff's Profile (from his web site)

Jeffery Hicks is a Microsoft MVP in Windows PowerShell, Microsoft Certified Trainer and an IT veteran with 20 years of experience, much of it spent as an IT consultant specializing in Microsoft server technologies. He works today as an independent author, trainer and consultant. Jeff writes the popular Prof. PowerShell column for and is a regular contributor to SMB IT Simplified and the Petri IT Knowledgebase.

Jeff is a regular speaker at conferences such as TechMentor, TechEd and WinConnections, often speaking about PowerShell, Active Directory, Group Policy and anything else than can make IT Pros more efficient and productive.

Jeff's Books include:

If he isn't writing books then he's most likely recording training videos for companies like TrainSignal .

You can keep up with Jeff  at his blog, on Twitter and on Google Plus

The Questions

Dave: Your name is very well known in the circles of PowerShell programming. What other programming languages do you like to work with (if any)?

Jeff:  I started with automation way back in the dark days of DOS 3.3 and batch files. From there it was to VBScript and eventually PowerShell. Back in the day I was a master of WordPerfect 5.1 macros!

Dave:  PowerShell seems to be mix of both powerful features and enough complexity to give some IT folks a bit of pause. What do you feel is the most misunderstood aspect of that language?

Jeff:  People think it is a scripting language like VBScript, or they think the blue console that they see is PowerShell. PowerShell is a management engine that is hosted by applications like CMD.EXE or the PowerShell ISE. It can be experienced interactively or the language can be scripted.

Dave:  If you were put in charge of the architecture and development of PowerShell, both as a language, and the associated tools and services, back in the "early days", would it be: (a) pretty much the same as it looks now, (b) a little bit different, but not radically different, or (c) radically different? If (c): how so?

Jeff:  Jeffrey Snover is famous for saying "to ship is to choose" so I'm not sure what else could have been done differently. Sure, remoting would have been nicer to have early on. The only other thing I might have done differently is not allow cryptic aliases like % and ?. But that's a personal taste issue more than anything. I know people see PowerShell examples using all sorts of cryptic aliases and think that they can never learn it.

Dave:  In the course of your travels, are there any particular places that rank as your "favorite" or those that you'd rather not return to?

Jeff:  Most of my favorite places probably come down to a great food scene like Las Vegas, Seattle and San Francisco. I also like places with great public transport, especially from the airport like Portland, OR. Also a good foodie city. And certainly training in places like Australia have to rank up there as a favorite destination.

Dave:  Where do you see PowerShell in five or ten years from now? Bigger and Fatter (with respect to features and capabilities, not bloat), or more Modular? Are you aware of any "huge" changes or improvements coming in the near future? (you don't have to give details)

Jeff:  I have no personal knowledge of anything that isn't already publicly available in PowerShell 4.0, but one area that I think we'll see a change is the ability to use PowerShell everywhere in the enterprise with the ability to manage more than just Windows servers. We want to be able to manage switches, routers, *nix boxes and more from our Windows 10 desktop using PowerShell vX. This doesn't take into account some new disruptive technology that barely exists now. The "cloud" as we know it today barely existed when PowerShell 1.0 was released.

Dave:  Are you the kind of geek that prefers to write code with music or TV in the background, absolute quiet, or something else?

Jeff:  I can't do TV or anything visual because I'm too easily distracted. But sometimes I'll put music on. I work at home so there are times I need music to mask what else is happening in the rest of the house.

Dave:  If you could merge any other programming or scripting language, or parts of it, into PowerShell, what would it be?

Jeff:  I don't think I have enough developer background to really answer this. PowerShell works just great for managing Windows systems because it is based on technologies, like the .NET Framework, that make Windows work in the first place.

Dave:  If you had never stepped into the world of computers and software, what do you think you would likely be doing for a living today?

Jeff:  Theater directing. Seriously. I have a MFA from Syracuse University but as they say, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

Dave:  How do you feel the rising interest in "cloud" services will affect or impact the scripting world?

Jeff:  I think there will be more of a demand. If your compute environment is in Azure or your users are locked into Office 365 and you want to manage everything efficiently, you'll need an automation engine like PowerShell. The days of going into the datacenter to logon to a server, or even using a remote desktop connection should be behind us. If they are not, you are most likely working harder than you need to.

Dave:  What do you feel the open source world could learn from the Microsoft world as it pertains to purely technological aspects? What about the reverse??

Jeff:  Again, not having much a developer background I'm not sure what I can add here. I don't think it is a matter of saying that one is better than the other or that one produces superior code. My take on open source is that if there is a problem, or someone wants to innovate, that it can happen much faster.

It also seems to me that many open source projects don't try to be everything to all people and accomodate all situations. Microsoft is often forced, in my opinion, to develop products and code that are backwards compatible. What could Microsoft create if they said, here's the new server and operating systems invented anew with noties to anything that came before.


I hope you enjoyed this second installment of "10 Questions" as much as I did.  If you are interested in learning more about Jeff's offerings, I encourage you to explore the links below.  Thank you!

JDH IT Solutions

Book: PowerShell Deep Dives (Manning Press, 2013)
Book: Windows PowerShell 2.0: TFM (SAPIEN Press 2010)
Book: Advanced VBScript for Windows Administrators  (Microsoft Press 2006)
Book: WSH and VBScript Core: TFM (SAPIEN Press  2007)
Book: Managing Active Directory with Windows PowerShell 2.0: TFM 2nd Ed. (SAPIEN Press 2011)

Jeff's Blog
Google Plus

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