Technology

PowerShell: Get Computer Software and Version

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Something that I have found useful in getting a hard copy of is a computers installed software, vendor and version. Today I’m just going to work with the local computer. In another post I will talk about the ability to get all software installed on a group of computers. In PowerShell there are a few ways to do what I am going to show you. The one I prefer is Get-CimInstance. I use this over Get-WMIObject becasue it gets me more information and Get-WMIObject is actually the older way from PS 2.0. It has really been replaced with Get-CimInstance. If you go to Introduction to CIM Cmdlets (MSDN Blog) you will find this quote:

“Getting/Enumerating instance of a class is the most commonly performed operation. We wanted the new Get-CimInstance Cmdlet to have better performance and even better user experience as compared to the old Get-WmiObject cmdlet. To achieve these goals we made the following design decisions:”

So, how do I write the code?

Get-ciminstance Win32_Product

or

Gcim Win32_Product (gcim is the alias for Get-Ciminstance)

That just spits out the information in the ugly format below:

PS_Capture

I like my data so I can read it properly and with all the data I really want. Lets add a Piped command:

| Format-Table name, version, vendor

This gives you the results below:

PS_Capture1

Okay, so that’s nice, but how about in a CSV file that I can print or look at later? Cool, lets do it:

Gcim Win32_Product | Select-Object name, version, vendor | Export-Csv C:\software1.csv

I know, your saying wait you changed the second line from Format-Table to Select-Object and you would be correct. Why did I change it, well format-Table is for output to the console, not for something you are piping to Export-CSV. You have to Select the Objects you want to send to the CSV file to get proper data. Go ahead and try to use the Format-Table once to see you get nothing you can use in the CSV file. The output you get when you use the Select-Object is below. That’s how I would like it, how about you?

PS_Capture3

The Power in PowerShell

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This afternoon I updated a piece of software we use for instruction and classroom management on 37 servers. The software is actually a service, while its teacher and student versions are installed on the individual classroom machines via an auto update function within the service. 

In a situation that many of us as Systems Administrators have been in, I would have normally did an RDP to each server, copied the service install, the teacher and student install to the server and ran the service MSI to install it. That would be on average 5 minutes on each server for a total time of just over 3 hours. 

To avoid that we now have PowerShell and the Power of PowerShell. I wrote a script, tested it on a Dev server until I felt comfortable that is was debugged and then ran it on the production servers. The writing of the script took a half hour, testing a half hour and running it to completion from my desk in a PowerShell console took 4 minutes. 

Yes, that’s 4 minutes to run the script to completion on all 37 servers. Add the writing and testing time and you get a total of one hour and four minutes. In my field, educational K12 we have maintenance Windows that run after school and district hours to avoid as much interruption to learning as possible. If I was to do the updates the manual method I would have had to start at 4:30pm on a Friday for 3 hours. While that would have been overtime, I would rather not stay after already working an eight hour day on a Friday if I don’t have to. 

The Power of PowerShell made it so that my total time invested in the actual update was less than 10 minutes which includes the four the script took. The hour of writing and testing the script was during my normal work day so they don’t count. Because school is out, I was able to get the school based technology support personnel to agree to not be using the servers to let me start at 4pm instead of 4:30pm at the end of our day. 

That means I was able to update a major tool of our classroom learning and IT software management during the work day in 4 minutes without any real disruption to anyone. Now that is what I consider good time management. 

Overall, I saved the district 3 hours of overtime. At the same time I saved myself from an extra 3 hours at work on top of the eight I was already working and I was able to use them with my family. I also now have a script that I can use with a multitude of software installs to save even more time. That’s the Power of PowerShell. 

Before I close I want to address the people that say I’ve hurt my value, made something that can replace me, or left pay in the bosses pockets. Well, to me those thoughts are from people who are insecure with themselves and are only looking out for themselves. I helped my value by making something that lets me spend more time on a different project that will help the students who I’m working for. I’ve also saved the district money that can be spent somewhere else that will help the students who I’m working for. We have a job not because of ourselves, but because of the end user. PowerShell makes that possible for me. 

Can’t Control It All

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controlAs a Systems Administrator I am always working on applications and different projects that affect many different systems and end users. I am always focused on getting the job done on time and for the students who depend on what I do for their education. Sometimes my plans or the set goals for a project depend on other people.

It’s at that time that I have just recently found that I can’t control the outcome. Even though the project is mine as the technology lead, I can’t do it all and I cannot always make decisions that need to be made, happen when I want them to happen. This has led to a change in my thought process on how I am going to approach projects in the future. What am I going to do?

I’m going to do my part, lead to where I can then pass on the direction to the other parts of the project that I cannot control. When those parts are complete I will take the project back up to completion. I can’t be the person always prodding or emailing that this or that needs to be done.