Power to the (Microsoft) people

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SHELL GAME: Is Microsoft's new Shell environment finally on par with those shells long enjoyed by Unix gurus?

With little fanfare ' which is in itself unusual for the company ' Microsoft Corp. has introduced a powerful new program, called Windows PowerShell, that could redress a serious and long-standing imbalance of power between Windows administrators and Unix ones.

A shell is little more than a command line interface, though it has been a source of great utility in the hands of a Unix guru. Historically, Microsoft has only offered the most rudimentary shell. But Unix admins can string together commands so that the output of one job can be an input for another, a technique called pipelining. They can easily create scripts that execute complex functions no commercial program could even begin to address.

'Most Unix administrators used to love to say to a Windows person that, 'We have the shell. We can do everything in this shell and more than you can do in your visual environment.' ' said Anthony Hebert, principal technology architect for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority in Reno, Nev. 'Well, they can't say that anymore with PowerShell.'

A cursory tour through Windows PowerShell finds that it offers not only pipelining but a complete set of Unix shell commands as well. Like Unix, PowerShell commands have a consistent parsing structure, which minimizes having to remember the peculiarities for each command. And as a bonus for Microsoft gurus, PowerShell lets administrators reach into their Microsoft .Net programs to tap specific functions. To download PowerShell, go to GCN.com GCN.com/727.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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