Category Archives: Scripting Games

Design the Next Scripting Games

We have some folks working on the next Scripting Games… but we want some feedback from the community to make sure we’re offering something of value.

The current plan is to run a series of events, with both Beginner and Intermediate tracks. There will be no “advanced” track; the feeling is that, if you’re advanced, you should be helping out by judging ;). Events will be constructed as a combination of puzzles and real-world tasks, meaning some things will simply test your PowerShell skills, while others will test them in a more production-applicable way.

What we need from the community is some sense of what you want to get from the Games. However, before you reply, understand what is NOT on the table: we will not be running an event where every entry gets personal commentary or feedback from an expert judge. It simply isn’t practical – everyone doing the judging has a full-time job, and offering personal feedback just isn’t feasible.

What COULD be on the table is offering a numeric score from a judge, based on the completeness of your entry and what the judge thinks of it. However, if it’s a low score, you’re not going to be told why (“no commentary,” see above). So we’re not sure that numeric scores are useful.

One proposal has been to post the events, and have judges select both good ones and less-good ones to write about. In other words, provide commentary on the outstanding entries, but not EVERY entry. Individual entries wouldn’t receive a score, but you could certainly compare what you did to the outstanding ones that did receive commentary. The idea here is to give you a task on which to test your skills, and to provide some educational feedback on some representative entries. The fact is that, in any given task, we tend to see a lot of similar-looking entries anyway, so hopefully taking some of them and commenting (both positively and constructively) will help everyone “judge” their own entries and improve their skills.

After trying numerous approaches to the Games over the past years, and after listening closely to people’s feedback, we’re trying to come up with something that is both useful and do-able.

What do you think of that proposal? Or, would you offer another proposal for us to build the Games around? Keep in mind – any proposal that suggests “expert commentary on every entry” will simply have to be turned down outright. After major discussion, we simply can’t commit to it. We’ll leave this open for the month of February 2015 – discuss away!

Add to the discussion in the Forums. Login required; not accepting comments on this post.

UCS Power Scripting Contest – Unleash the Power of Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS servers (both managed by UCS Manager and standalone rackmount servers) can be managed with PowerShell scripts. Cisco is running a contest looking for the best PowerShell scripts that manage, automate, monitor, and perform tasks like inventory gathering about UCS Servers and other connected infrastucture, like hypervisors, applications, and operating systems. The Cisco UCS Power Scripting Contest is now open and will run until May 11th, 2014. A winner will be announced in the DevNET Zone at Cisco Live on May 20th at 5PM PT. Head over to the contest site for more details on how to win great prizes, our celebrity judging panel and support your fellow community members! For more information head to:

UCS Scripting:
UCS Communities:
UCS Developed Integrations:

About UCS PowerTool

Cisco UCS PowerTool for UCS Manager is a PowerShell module that helps automate and manage configurations within UCS Manager including service profiles, policies, pools, equipment, and network and storage management. Cisco UCS PowerTool for IMC is a PowerShell module that helps automate and manage configurations within a standalone C-Series rackmount server including BIOS settings, boot order, firmware updates, and administrative settings such as LDAP, syslog, SNMP, etc. Cisco UCS PowerTool enables easy integration with existing IT management processes and tools. The PowerTool cmdlets manipulate on the Cisco UCS Manager’s Management Information Tree (MIT). These cmdlets allow you to create, modify, or delete actions on the Managed Objects (MOs) in the tree.

Julie’s Comments: The Scripting Games – Winter 2014

This post comes to us from Julie Andreacola, one of the members of team Kitton Mittons, who won The Scripting Games – Winter 2014. You’re welcome to submit your thoughts about the Games as well!

The 2014 Scripting Games are over and once again, it was a terrific experience. This was my third scripting games and I was blown away with all that I learned.

The team approach was very appealing to me as I have been the PowerShell expert at my workplace so I was hoping to find a team where someone knew more than I did as I’m only intermediate in PowerShell skills. I struggled to put a team together from our local PowerShell user group for the practice event, but it just didn’t work out due to the timing and workload of potential team members. I took to Twitter to find a team that had an open spot and found the Kitton_Mittons.

The team was just what I needed. We had no expectations to win and we acknowledged that some weeks, people would not be able to participate. All of the team, but myself was located in Northern Virginia, so we arranged for a Google Hangout each evening around 7 p.m. We also had a shared repository on GitHub. Both of these tools were new for us, but were invaluable for our team collaboration. I think we only had one night with everyone in attendance. The sessions varied from discussion of elements of the script, screen sharing (nice Google Hangout feature), and general geek conversation. Two of the team traveled to Charlotte NC to join me in PowerShell Saturday 007 where we met and gained another team member for the final few events.

The learning benefits happened immediately. The first week I learned more about parameters and using them to validate inputs. I immediately began implementing them in my scripts at work, making them more robust and easier to hand off to others as I was transitioning to a new job. A couple days later, our team made our first module. I knew it was easy, but had never done it and now my script at work had a module. One of our team members made an install script that put the files and modules in the correct places. I realized the advantage of this especially when turning scripts over to users unfamiliar with PowerShell. I was able to take the same installer script and quickly customize for use in my workplace. The following weeks included getting more experience with efficiencies of script blocks and better error checking. Although many of my evenings were being taken up with PowerShell, I found the nightly sessions invaluable as our team leader, Jason Morgan, took the time to teach and explain the more complex aspects of the scripts.

The 2014 Scripting Games exceeded my expectations and truly advanced my skills. I also have a new network of System Center IT Pros. I’m starting a new job this week and I know what I learned and gained over the last 4 weeks will help me to excel in this new position. A big thank you to my team mates, coaches, judges, and the PowerShell community. Learning can be fun!

Closing the Games

The judging is complete for the fourth and final event in the 2014 Winter Scripting Games.
This Games was something very different in that we presented 4 we complex scenarios that were designed to be as close as possible to the type of tasks you may have to perform at work. The solutions required multi-file answers – there’s no way you could solve these with a one liner!

All of the teams that submitted entries rose to meet the hardest challenge I’ve seen in a Scripting Games – and I’ve taken part of judged all but the first Games.

All entries were scored by 2 judges with the judges being rotated to ensure that all judges scored each team in at least one event.

I’d like to thank the judges for their hard work and also thank the coaching team put together by Mike Robbins – most of all I’d like to thank all of the teams that entered for taking part.

In any Games we have winners and the winning teams from these Games are:
1.Kitton Mittons with 19.375 points (8 of 8 scores received)
2.TecHaH with 18.75 points (8 of 8 scores received)
3.Schnipersons with 18.5 points (8 of 8 scores received)

Congratulations to Kitton Mittons for winning the 2014 Winter Scripting Games – if a representative from the winning team could please contact Don Jones or myself we’ll see about getting your prizes to you .

The Games are closed. .
Until the next time.

What Should The Scripting Games Look Like Next Time?

If you’ve been following along with The Scripting Games over the past couple of iterations, you know that we’ve been trying some different, new things. This Winter Games, we did a team-based series of events that threw some really complex scenarios at you. However, we know some folks would like to see the next Summer Games include a less-complex track that perhaps includes a focus on one-liners.

(Not that one-liners are an essential part of a work environment, but they’re fun and a good competitive thing – this is games, after all.)

So we’re looking for your ideas. Drop a comment, and tell us how you think the next Games should be structured.

However, before you comment, understand that judging by official, expert judges gets extremely difficult. Multiple 10 events across 250 entries and you’ve got a metric butt tonne of work for our volunteers to do. Quite frankly, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to provide a score-per-entry with that kind of volume. The folks who do judging just can’t take that much time off work. Seriously, even if a judge only had to look at an entry for 2 minutes, that can easily be more than 80 hours of work to look at every entry. It just isn’t do-able.

So, in your comment, include some thoughts on what you’d like to see for the judging/scoring side as well, keeping in mind the desire of judges to also have family lives and jobs. What’s your real goal in participating in the Games? To get community feedback (comments) on what you’ve done? We can arrange that. Is it perhaps educational to have judges pick out “noteworthy” (both good and bad) entries and comment on them, as a learning guide? Or are you solely after having a “known” expert offer commentary on your entry – which isn’t something we can guarantee if there are a large number of entries?

Help us understand what you’re in it for, and give us some ideas for creating a Summer event that’s fun, as well as educational.

Testing for the Presence of a Registry Key and Value

There are a number of different ways to test for the presence of a registry key and value in PowerShell. Here’s how I like to go about it. We’ll use an example key HKLM:\SOFTWARE\TestSoftware with a single value Version:

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Using PowerShell Parameter Validation to Make Your Day Easier

A number of entries in the Winter Scripting Games use parameter validation, but some that I have seen may not be using it correctly or to its full potential.

Writing functions or scripts require a variety of parameters which have different requirements based on a number of items. It could require a collection, objects of a certain type or even a certain range of items that it should only accept.

The idea of parameter validation is that you can specify specific checks on a parameter that is being used on a function or script. If the value or collection that is passed to the parameter doesn’t meet the specified requirements, a terminating error is thrown and the execution of the code halts and gives you an error stating (usually readable) the reason for the halt. This is very powerful and allows you to have much tighter control over the input that is going into the function. You don’t want to have your script go crazy halfway into the code execution because the values sent to the parameter were completely off of the wall.

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Winter Scripting Games 2014 – Clarifications on Rules and Clarifications

As a note, because we’ve had a couple of requests, there are two things to remember about The Scripting Games.

Clarifications on Event Wording

Event authors, judges, and other officials are prohibited from providing further explanations or clarifications on the event scenarios. You’ll have to go on what’s in the document. if it isn’t clear, then they probably don’t care about it in terms of judging. Try to document – in your comment-based help – what you did and why, and cross your fingers.

The reason for this is that not everyone is reading these posts or the Scripting Games forum. Therefore, any response would not be seen by all competitors and would therefore un-level the playing field.

We’re a lot more interested in seeing you code creatively, consistently, and in accordance with best practices. So don’t sweat the little details.

Rebuttal to the Judges

Judges are not going to respond to requests like, “why did you judge our entry in such-and-such a way?” Judges’ scores are final, and cannot be changed. As in all competitions, everywhere, always, judges sometimes make a mistake or two. It happens. It’s also possible that a judge didn’t like the way in which you did something, and that’s why you lost a point or something. Regardless, we’re extremely appreciative of the judges’ time, and we’re not going to ask them to get in online arguments with people.

On the other hand, you’re more than welcome to solicit peer feedback on your entry. If the world agrees that the judge done you wrong, then you’ll regain your sacred honor and feel better. Or, perhaps peer feedback will grant you some new perspective.

Scripting Games event 1 close

Event 1 is over and the judging is complete.
First off congratulations to every team that posted an entry – the events in these games are different and we’ve tried to up the challenge level to account for it being a team based.

The high scorers for event 1 are:
1.Troll Bait with 22 points
2.Kitton Mittons with 22 points
3.Aliens with 20 points
4.PhillyPosh with 20 points
5.Thanks4TheInvite with 17 points
6.TecHaH with 17 points
7.Bengals with 17 points
8.TPUG THUGS with 16 points
9.DuPSOGD2 with 16 points
10.Hogans Heroes with 16 points

Congratulations to them.
Good luck to everyone with the remaining events

Reporting On Installed Windows Programs Via The Registry

Quite a common request for working with Windows machines is to report the software installed on them. If you don’t have a centralised system for reporting on client software (many places don’t) then you may turn to some form of scripted method to obtain this information.

Most people tend to head to Add / Remove Programs when thinking about what software is installed in Windows. However, not all applications will always populate information in there, depending on how they have been installed. Additionally, to query that information you would typically query the WMI class Win32_Product, however this can lead to performance issues.

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The Scripting Games Winter 2014 – Update on Event 1 Scores

Note that scorecards for the first event will not be accurate immediately on Sunday when judging closes; we have the scores in the database, but they’re not tagged in a way the system can find them. The bug has been fixed, but I need to go through and manually re-tag the first day’s scorecards, and it’s going to take a couple of days. This also affect the leaderboard display. I hope to have it fixed over the weekend. Thanks for your patience!

PowerShell Tip from the Head Coach of the 2014 Winter Scripting Games: Design for Performance and Efficiency!

There are several concepts that come to mind when discussing the topic of designing your PowerShell commands for performance and efficiency, but in my opinion one of the items at the top of the list is “Filtering Left” which is what I’ll be covering in this blog article.

First, let’s start out by taking a look at an example of a simple one-liner command that’s poorly written from a performance and efficiency standpoint:

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Adding and Removing Items from a PowerShell Array

Adding and removing Items from a PowerShell array is a topic which can lead to some confusion, so here are a few tips for you.

Create an array and we will note the type System.Array:

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Testing for Admin Privileges in PowerShell

Sometimes when running a PowerShell script you may need to test at the beginning whether the process it was called from had Windows admin privileges in order to be able to achieve what it needs to do. Prior to PowerShell v4 I had used something along the lines of the following to test for this condition – not the most obvious piece of code ever to be fair:

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Winter Scripting Games 2014 Tip #2: Use #Requires to let PowerShell do the work for you

In Version 2 of PowerShell, you had the ability to use #Requires –Version 2.0 to ensure that your scripts/functions would only run at a specified PowerShell version to prevent folks running an older version from wondering why things weren’t working that well.

In this article, I will show you a couple of new additions to the #Requires statement that will make your life easier when writing functions that require specific pre-requisites rather than coding your own methods

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