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Microsoft mends minor scripting problems in Monad

Margie Semilof

Microsoft continues to make improvements to its anticipated scripting shell, Monad, with last week's release of two fixes to its current beta.

Monad, an interactive command-line and task-based scripting technology, makes its debut in Exchange 12 later this year. Last week, Microsoft released Monad 3.1, which made two repairs that developers need to build cmdlets (tools that perform specific functions). Microsoft said the fixes address an exception handling error and a pipeline error.

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The third Monad beta was released in late January. In that release, Microsoft included better start up and execution times for the Monad shell, a single shell feature that lets developers build cmdlets that run in a single shell rather than in private locked shells, a new Help Schema and new cmdlet authoring options.

Experts have been bullish about Monad because it gives some programming capability to individuals who don't necessarily program for a living. "If you're going to do one thing and you can't remember commands, a GUI is great because it guides you through the process," said Mike Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm. "But a lot of management is about doing things consistently over time and scripts are better for that," he said.

The problem with traditional command shells, experts said, is that everything is text input. So if an administrator wants to run a directory command in Windows and needs to see if a particular file is there, he would have to write a parser for it to find anything, said John Robbins, an application developer at Wintellect, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based consulting firm.

"Doing something simple can lead to a lot of work," Robbins said. "It's also a very error-prone way to do things."

If an administrator tries to add a user, scripting means dealing with a combination of WMI, VB script and others, which means, essentially, there are a lot of moving parts, Robbins said. "Ask WMI, with a get command, to give me current users, and it all becomes a simple .NET operation."

Monad key features are a simplified command-based navigation of the operating system, command extensibility that lets administrators quickly write scripts, customize commands and author their own shell tools. Monad also allows aliasing and output formatting capabilities and support for existing scripts and command-line tools.

Let's say someone changes your Exchange Server and you have to update all your desktops, Robbins said. "You can write a script at login and [you] don't have to visit all of your machines," he said.


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