Twitter Reply – A Desired State Configuration Print Book

First things first: This post has been written for quite some time. It’s that I’ve been somewhat apprehensive about publishing it. Well, I’m tired of waiting, I’ve read it too many times now, and I just need to get it over with already. These are my opinions, and I’m smart enough, and big enough, to admit when my opinions are wrong.

It’s one thing to leave an opinion on Twitter, and another to have to explain why you “said” what you did. On Tuesday, August 25th, I tweeted about wanting a print DSC (Desired State Configuration) book, and mentioned Don Jones, Steve Murawski, and Jeffery Hicks — a well-qualified team to make something like that happen.

Both Don and Steve expressed the same sentiment: “DSC is likely to change faster than the print cycle can keep up,” and “agree with Steve. Print can’t keep up.” Okay, I could have left it there (because I trust those guys are probably right), and probably would have, until Don asked a follow up question: “curious why print is important for you.” Oh… well, now I needed an organized approach as to why I wanted a print DSC book, more than just to say, “Uh…, because.”

Besides “because,” I’ve organized my reply into a few different points. I certainly don’t think this will change the minds of people like Don and Steve, or get the Manning folks running around the office doing high tens, while chanting my name (it’s Tommy Maynard, just in case). An awesome visual, but not likely.

The de facto standard in Windows PowerShell publishing was written by Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks, and printed by Manning Publications. Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches has become the book to use, to learn PowerShell. Mentions of it are everywhere. It comes up on Reddit every couple weeks, I see it on Microsoft TechNet, PowerShell.org (of course), and (also, of course) hear it mentioned on the PowerScripting Podcast. People that use those forums are always asking: how do I learn?, where do I learn?, and more often than not, this print book title comes up. It comes up even when people aren’t even asking for a PowerShell resource. I’ve said it myself: “You’d being doing yourself a favor by reading this book…,” after seeing that they’ve asked a question the book directly answered: “Why can’t I use Get-Process right after Get-Service?” — I just read this one again, somewhere.

Every religion needs a bible, and so DSC needs start to finish guide — a single, bound resource using PowerShell 4.0 and 5.0, that highlights those differences, as it walks people though DSC, that already have an understanding of PowerShell. If “DSC is the ultimate outcome of PowerShell,” (http://powershell.org/wp/2014/03/03/dsc-must-have-or-just-nice-to-have) then how can we skip the progression that is Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches and Learn PowerShell Toolmaking in a Month of Lunches?

After reading the Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches and Toolmaking book, I came to realize that I could have easily decreased the time it took to learn PowerShell, had I not done it on my own. These books explained things I ended up learning all over the place. I learned with help files and about topics, by reading questions and answers in various forums, and by finding random blogs on Twitter to consume. This bounce around, sporadic method of learning left holes, and it wasn’t something I realized until after I read those two titles. See, my specific reason to read those two books was to help fill in any cracks I may have missed — and there were plenty. To not have a trustworthy source to do the same thing with DSC concerns me.

I’m aware that Microsoft has online resources, but equally so, that books are written in a way that educates the user, not written for an existing expert that needs a reminder or refresher, or to clarify something that they almost already know. I recently read Jason Helmick‘s IIS book and I am a few chapters into Richard Siddaway‘s Active Directory book. I expect the same thing to happen: I’m going to read things, that I already know — lots of it. But still, in the end, I’ll feel confident I gave myself a thorough run down of the topic. It’s impossible to know that I’m not missing something when bouncing from blog to whitepaper to forum.

I know nothing about the time and involvement in getting a published book to market, but I can appreciate that it’s a long and involved process. You don’t have to read too many acknowledgement pages to understand that it takes a good number of people, a good amount of work, over a good amount of time. The timing just seems right here. We’re getting into PowerShell 5.0 heavily now. It comes with new cmdlets, and new declarations for DSC. There’s new DSC resources all time. I can’t think of a better time to ensure the community members — those coming from PowerShell, and even those joining fresh — have a beginning to end DSC walk though and print reference. Just as the MoL (Month of Lunches) PowerShell books are a good starting place, even when they reference PowerShell 3.0 (two versions back), DSC needs a print beginning.

In closing, I think it should be reiterated that even in 2015, where I never have to be away from cat pictures, idiotic Facebook political posts that indicate the education level of old high school “friends,” and instant news updates, we should have a print book on Desired State Configuration. Give me something to recommend, let me make sure I don’t miss anything in my continued effort to learn, and help me take advantage of the relative newness of this topic. Feed us the fundamentals of DSC — how much are those going to change? If we can end up where we are now with the MoL PowerShell books, then why don’t we start the progression with DSC? Jeffery Hicks, when asked why there aren’t updates to MoL, says, “the fundamentals haven’t really changed since PowerShell 3.0. In fact some fundamentals are unchanged since v2” http://jdhitsolutions.com/blog/powershell/4478/updating-month-of-lunches. How much of the current fundamentals of DSC are going to change in PowerShell 6.0 (DSC 3) and 7.0 (DSC 4)? It’s moving faster than print, I can appreciate that, but is it going to veer so severely that a print book won’t work?

It was a special day when I was able to enforce a registry setting via DSC, even though it’s so small and simple. Give me more; walk me though more defining moments. Help make me the expert. Prepare me for a career in DevOps. Help me ensure I have a complete understand of Desired State Configuration, and if it moves too fast, then align yourself with Microsoft. Ask them to partner in the effort to include everything up to the point of publication. Snover loves this community; his favorite conference is the PowerShell Summit (unless he says that about all the conferences he attends).

In closing (really this time, I promise), I want to mention the DSC eBook provided by PowerShell.org. It’s bound to come up. I’m certainly aware of its existence and that print copies were distributed at the last TechEd, or first Ignite — I don’t remember which one, and I wasn’t there for either. I’ve downloaded it and used it. I was a great first step, but when I first downloaded it, it seemed written out of order, only helped with minimal deployment scenarios (Windows backup), and seemed to lack a full walk though of the product. I went to grab it now, and the PDF version on Penflip wasn’t a complete version. It stopped after the “Where to find Resources” chapter. I think this was part of my frustration, although it seems isolated to the pdf version. The text and Word versions included the other chapters.

Thanks to anyone that read these opinions. Again, that’s all they are, and really, I’m not sure how influential they really are, or if I even really made much of a case for print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.