Category: DevOps

PowerShell in Visual Studio, Finally, At Last… Almost

Even if you don’t like Microsoft or .Net, you have to admit that Visual Studio is a boss IDE. After being thrust into the world of scripting and PowerShell, it was disappointing to find the PowerShell support in Visual Studio to be lacking. Well, today I received a notice that Microsoft joined Adam Driscoll’s open source project, PowerShell Visual Studio Tools (PVST). They announced a release of a new version and I am ready to give it another go.

Adam makes note that Microsoft submitted a large pull request full of bug fixes and features. This project provides pretty nice PowerShell support inside my favorite IDE including:

  • Edit, run and debug PowerShell scripts locally and remotely using the Visual Studio debugger
  • Create projects for PowerShell scripts and modules
  • Leverage Visual Studio’s locals, watch, call stack for your scripts and modules
  • Use the PowerShell interactive REPL window to execute PowerShell scripts and command right from Visual Studio
  • Automated Testing support using Pester

You can download it for free from the Visual Studio Gallery. A quick double click install of the visx file you download and your ready.

My first test was to create a PowerShell project. In the Visual Studio New Project window there’s a new project template type, PowerShell. Inside of it are two templates: PowerShell Module Project and PowerShell Script Project.

Scripting and Debugging

I start with a script project and bang out a quick Hello World script to see debugging in action.

$myName = "Charles Bryant"
$myMessage = "How you doin?"

function HelloWorld($name, $message) {
  return "Hello World, my name is $name. $message"

HelloWorld $myName $myMessage

It feels very comfortable… like Visual Studio. I see IntelliSense, my theme works and I can see highlighting. I can set breakpoints, step in/over, see locals, watches, call stack, console output… feeling good because its doing what it said it can do and scripting PowerShell now feels a little like coding C#.

REPL Window

What about the REPL window. After a little searching, I found it tucked away on the menu: View > Other Windows > PowerShell Interactive Window. You can also get to it by Ctrl + Shift + \. I threw some quick scripts at it… ✓, it works too.

Unit Testing

Last thing I have time for is testing unit testing. First, I install Pester on the solution. Luckily there’s a NuGet package for that.

>Install-Package Pester

Then I create a simple test script file to test my Hello World script.

$here = Split-Path -Parent $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Path
$sut = (Split-Path -Leaf $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Path).Replace(".tests.", ".")
. "$here\$sut"

Describe "HelloWorld" {
 It "returns correct message" {
   HelloWorld "Charles Bryant" "How you doin?" | Should Be "Hello World, my name is Charles Bryant. How you doin?"

Houston there’s a problem. When I open the Test Explorer I can see a bunch of tests that come with Pester, but I don’t see my little test. I try to reorganize the tests in the explorer and it freezes. Not sure if this is a problem with PVST, Pester, NuGet, Visual Studio, or user error… oh well. I can’t say it is a problem with PVST because I didn’t try to find out what was wrong (I still have work to do for my day job).


OK, unit testing isn’t as intuitive as the other operations, hence the Almost in the title. It will feel complete when I get unit testing working for me, but none the less, I like this tool a lot so far. I will definitely be watching it. If I see something up to my skills that I can contribute, I will definitely pitch in as this is something I can definitely use.

IIS 8 Configuration File

Note to self

The IIS 8 configuration file is located in %windir%\System32\inetsrv\config\applicationHost.config. It is just an XML file and the schema is well known. You can open it, edit it (if you are brave), and otherwise do configuration stuff with it. You can diff it from system to system to find inconsistencies or save it in a source code repository to standardize on a base configuration across web server nodes, if your project needs that kind of thing. Lastly, you can manage it with Powershell… you can manage it with Powershell… you can manage it with Powershell DSC!

The possibilities are endless so stop depending so much on the IIS Server Manager UI like you are in Dev preschool. You are a big boy now, remove the training wheels, but you might want to wear a helmet.

I don’t want to have this discussion again!

Blameless RCA

Let ye without failure cast the first stone.

I am involved in a workgroup at work that is exploring Root Cause Analysis in the hopes that we can come up with a way to help everyone improve their RCA process and procedures.

I believe it is important in our RCA recommendations to strive to build a culture around RCA. To borrow from a theme brought up by a workgroup member, culture building should be extended to retrospectives and all of our continuous improvement processes in general.

Just Culture

For RCA to be most effective we should instill the idea of the “blameless postmortem” into how we envision RCA. Blameless postmortem is an awesome concept that defines a culture around failure called a “Just Culture” that was introduced to me in a blog post by John Allspaw, Web Operations guru at Etsy. It’s a way to encourage team members to own their failures without fear in the hopes that a less hostile environment towards failure will encourage fast, detailed, feedback in active issue resolution and postmortems. We want team members to volunteer to report an issue as soon as they see it or cause it.

Owning Failure

In terms of RCA, this boils down to instilling the idea that finding who’s at fault, what team missed this or that, is not important. The only thing important is how, when, and why an issue was leaked and “who” is not under investigation. Granted who is at fault will most likely come out, and it should, but there should be no condemnation or negative side effect to owning a failure. We want “who” to come from failure owners themselves, not a lot of intricate detective work. We want the team to freely offer their actions that may have contributed to a failures in hopes that we can compile a timeline of multiple narratives of the failure from various perspectives. When we can freely own failure without retribution we are more apt to own up to a failure and share details that led to the failure so that it can be corrected.

Remove Managerial Blockages on RCA

There are managers that want to know who to blame so that they can monitor who is causing issues. If there is a problem with someone continuously failing, it will be evident without having to expose personal failures in the RCA process formally or as a part of team culture. Root cause is usually deeper than one person or team’s failure There are usually multiple stories that contribute to failures. There are managers that use hindsight to amplify the negative effect of failure to try to shame someone into being better. Highlighting what should have been done is not helpful as it doesn’t lead to change. Often times hindsight is disguised as a solution without ever understanding why the actions were taken that caused the failure or even how the manager’s mismanagement may have contributed to the failure. I only add this because I have seen many RCA or postmortems fail because of a manager trying to place blame and using their limited hindsight to declare the problem solved.

And More

There is a lot of good that comes from a Just Cause Culture. Since I saw some things in the RCA practices at work that may lead to the blame game, I thought that a blameless postmortem should be explicitly built into our RCA process in the hopes that it affects the culture. Just something to think about if you are going down this same road.

Orphaned Powershell PSDrive

I received this strange error while executing a script that creates a new PSDrive.

New-PSDrive : The local device name has a remembered connection to another network resource

I tried to use Remove-PSDrive, but

Remove-PSDrive : Cannot find drive. A drive with the name 'S:' does not exist.

I was able to fix this issue with the “net use” command.

First, I ran it to see if the drive was still mapped. I am still unsure how it is there between Powershell sessions, I must have missed something.

PS C:\> net use
New connections will be remembered.

Status Local Remote Network
Unavailable S: \\node1\d$ Microsoft Windows Network
Unavailable I: \\node2\it Microsoft Windows Network
OK P: \\public Microsoft Windows Network
The command completed successfully.

Then I ran “net use” with the delete parameter to remove the orphaned drive.

PS C:\> net use /delete S:
S: was deleted successfully.

I love it when a plan comes together.

What is this CIM I keep running into in Powershell?

I keep having to use CIM in my scripts, but what is it? I understand how to use it, but where did it come from and what does it stand for. Like every developer I know, a search engine is the best tool to solve this mystery.

There is an industry standards organization called DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) that defined a standard named Common Information Model. By the way, this is the same group that defined MOF (Managed Object Framework) which is the standard below the covers of DTC. CIM is defined in the MOF standard and is a cross platform common definition of management information for systems, networks, and applications and services that allows for vendor extensions. How was that for acronym soup?

Mystery Solved.

Update PSModulePath for Custom PowerShell Module Development

I am in the process of a deep dive into DSC and I want to store my custom modules and DSC Resources in source control. To make it easy to run PowerShell modules you have to import them or have them on the PSModulePath environment variable. Since I don’t want to point a source repository to the default PowerShell module path, I want to add my custom module path to PSModulePath. This will save me some time when it comes to having to import modules and module changes. This means I will always be running the most recent version of my modules even the buggy ones, so if you do this, understand the implications.

It’s actually pretty easy to automate this with PowerShell. Since I already have some experience updating environment variables with PowerShell I just created a new script to add my custom module path to PSModulePath.

$currentModulePath = [Environment]::GetEnvironmentVariable("PSModulePath", "Machine")
$customModulePath = "C:\_DSC\DSCResources"
$newModulePath = $currentModulePath + ";" + $customModulePath
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("PSModulePath", $newModulePath, "Machine")

I complicated this script a bit so it is more self evident on what is happening (code as documentation – no comments necessary).

I can envision someone needing to also remove a path from PSModulePath, but this is enough to get started so I will leave it up to you, until I have a need for that :).


When running this script in an Invoke-Command on a remote session the modules aren’t immediately available if I tried to use modules in the new path. This is because the path is not updated on the remote session. A quick workaround for me was to remove the session and recreate it.

Get-PSSession | Remove-PSSession;

This removes all sessions so you may not want to do this. Since I don’t care about sessions I like it. This was just a one line change in my workflow script and it didn’t cause too much latency in the script execution. I know there are some other solutions that involve messing with the registry, but this is a one time deal so resetting the remote session works for me.

GoCD: Agent Running Web Driver Test Hangs After Test Failure [SOLVED]


I had a nagging issue were some tests were failing the build on our GoCD server, but the agent was not reporting the failure to the server. We are using NAnt to run NUnit tests that in turn call Web Driver to exercise web pages. There were some test failures that correctly returned a non-zero value that failed the build in NAnt. Also, the failure is captured in the log and saved in a text file. Yet, the agent didn’t report the build failure or send the artifacts to the server.


After a 2 day search for answers and a deep dive into the bowels of GoCD I discovered that a Web Driver process was kept open after the test fails the build. Specifically, the process is IEDriverServer.exe. This process was being orphaned by improper cleanup in the tests that resulted in the Web Driver and browsers staying open after the test failure.

When I ran the tests again, I watched for the failure then manually killed Web Driver and the agent magically reported to the server. I am still unsure why Web Driver would prevent the GoCD agent from reporting to the server. They are both Java processes, maybe there is something going on in the JVM or something… not sure.


My work around at the moment is to run a task killer on failure in the test script. Here is the relevant portion of the nant script that drives the tests:

<property name="nant.onfailure" value="test.taskkiller" />
<target name="test.taskkiller">
 <exec program="taskkiller.bat" failonerror="false">

The taskkiller.bat is just a simple bat file that will kill Web Driver and open browsers.

taskkill /IM IEDriverServer.exe /F
taskkill /IM iexplore.exe /F

Now this is just a band-aid. We will be updating our test framework to handle this. Additionally, killing all the processes like this isn’t good if we happen to be running tests in parallel on the agent, which may be a possibility in the future.

Using GitHub Behind a Proxy (Windows)

At work I am connected to the internet through a proxy. The proxy prevented me from connecting to repositories on GitHub because authentication isn’t handled properly. A co-worker recommended using the CTNLM proxy ( to handle the authentication.

CNTLM works well, but he said he was having a problem with slow connections. He said he found an issue where the proxy would try multiple times to connect and would timeout and finally connect to the Git server. He noticed that it was trying to connect to local host as with ::1, like a funky empty IPv6 address. He said that adding a proxy to .gitconfig (global or systemwide config) would cause it to connect faster without having to wait for all the different connection try and failures:

proxy =
proxy =

Why does this work? I don’t have enough geek cred to know this yet, but it works and I wanted to save it here for the time I have to setup a new computer and I forget what I did.

GoCD: Versioning .Net Assemblies

I recently updated my versioning on my build server to help separate CI builds from builds that are being publicly distributed. My versioning scheme for CI builds looks like 5.4.4-239CI37380 following SemVer 2.0 this gives me Major.Minor.Patch-PreRelease. My PreRelease is the “Go Counter” + “CI” + “Source Revision Number”.

Unfortunately, assembly versions use a different scheme, Major.Minor.Build.Revision and are only allowed to have numbers and no dashes (AssemblyVersionAttribute). So, I ended up keeping the CI version for file names, but changed the assembly to just use the Major.Minor.Patch for the assembly Major.Minor.Build (you with me?). Then for to help identify different assemblies I added the Go Counter to the end.

The lesson is to only use numbers in your .Net assembly version numbers.

Deploying NuGet Packages Instead of Zips

I was on a project to improve an application deployment process that used zip files for packaging the applications. Zips are good. They allow you to package and compress files into one bit sized file, but there is so much more to be had with a dedicated package solution.  Maven, gem, wheel, npm, cpan, rpmdebnuget, chocolatey, yum… the list goes on and with so many options to provide an improved package for deployment its hard to justify using plain old zips.

Since this was a .Net project I focused on NuGet. NuGet is itself a zip file, but a zip on steroids. Zip provides the compression and NuGet adds additional meta data and functionality.

  1. Standard package meta data and file layout.
  2. Versioning ala
  3. Package manager to control install, upgrade, and uninstall.
  4. Dependency management.
  5. Having a package manage file deployment means you have a repeatable process as opposed to manual where one missed file can kill you. Also, when I deploy the same package multiple times the system is in the same state after each deployment, idempotent.

Enough of the sales pitch. Actually, one problem that I had with using NuGet alone was no easy way to validate the package through checksum. So, in addition to NuGet, using a dedicated artifact repository solution like Artifactory gives an added layer of comfort. A good paper, although biased, on Artifactory can be found here.

Happy Packaging!