PowerShell: Update-Help via Scheduled Task in Group Policy Preferences

Introduction

If you’re like me, you probably like to ensure that all your computers have PowerShell updatable help updated on a regular basis. You can achieve this using a variety of methods, but since Group Policy Preferences are available out of the box using Windows 7 and later, I figured it would be the perfect tool to keep PowerShell help up-to-date! The following guide will show you how to implement a Windows Scheduled Task to update PowerShell version 3.0 help on a regular basis.

The following operating systems include Group Policy Preferences Client Side Extensions (GPP-CSE) out of the box:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012

You can also deploy the Windows Management Framework Core 3.0, and Group Policy Preferences Client Side Extensions to Windows Server 2008 non-R2 systems, however the equivalent client operating system, Windows Vista, does not support WMF 3.0.

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PowerShell: Embed binary data in your script

When writing automation scripts or modules, you might find that you frequently reference external binary data.

Binary data? Well, that accounts for all data!” you might say.

Yes, that’s true. But I’m talking about binary data as opposed to files containing simple ASCII or UTF-8 data. Maybe there’s some better terminology to describe that, but hey it works for now. Binary data could include things such as:

  • Word documents
  • Executable (Portable Executable format)
  • Code libraries (DLLs)
  • Registry files
  • etc.

In the case of executables, oftentimes they provide useful functionality that would take many lines of PowerShell code to replicate. Some developers, for better or for worse, elect to use these utilities instead of going through the effort of writing the necessary code to handle the function natively in PowerShell. This creates an additional dependency when porting the PowerShell code, as the author must be sure to include the utility with their code, or otherwise ensure (via documentation, for example) that the target user will already have it available.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to depend on the user having some executable pre-installed, just to get your script to work, though? Unfortunately the little topic of “software licensing” can sometimes prevent redistribution of software that you are not given explicit permission to copy, however there are also many cases where this is allowed (eg. open-source projects). The work-around in cases where redistribution is not allowed, is to either direct the user where to download the software from, or automate it for them.

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PowerShell: Tracert or Trace-Route?

UPDATE (2012-07-27): Justin Dearing (@zippy1981) sent me an updated version of the script, which improves on the following:

  • Has some comment-based help
  • Parameter checking

Grab it here: Invoke-TraceRoute.ps1


Any network or systems administrator is familiar with the good old tracert.exe utility that’s been included outof-the-box in Windows for years now. Tracert allows you to identify each “hop” (typically a router) between two IP endpoints on a network. Since this utility was developed long before PowerShell existed, and has been time-tested, it hasn’t been implemented yet as a PowerShell cmdlet. That being said, PowerShell folks often do not enjoy reliance on external dependencies, and prefer the flexibility of an API that can provide only the information that they want or need. To that end, I have developed a Trace-Route PowerShell advanced function (cmdlet) that emulates a limited set of functionality offered by tracert.exe.

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Forcibly installing the Android USB driver in Windows 7

If you are an Android mobile device user, with a tablet or phone, you may at some point desire to connect it to your Windows 7 computer over USB. Generally we do this so that we can use the debug interface with software utilities such as ADB.exe (Android Debug Bridge), which is included with the Google Android SDK.

Upon first connecting your Android device to your Windows 7 system, you might realize that there is no device driver available out-of-the-box to allow the debug interface to work properly. When you open Device Manager (devmgmt.msc) or Computer Management (compmgmt.msc) – which contains the Device Manager MMC snap-in – you might notice a generic icon representing an “Android Device” under the “Other Devices” category. Basically, this means that Windows 7 recognizes the presence of the device, but doesn’t know how to “talk” to it. To get Windows to talk to our Android device, we must install the Google USB driver.

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PowerShell: Backup documents on Dropbox securely with encryption

Like many other people out there, you’re probably looking for a way to backup your documents regularly, reliably, and securely on some sort of central storage service. Dropbox is a great option for this, since they provide a fair amount of storage for free, and their annual cost for additional storage is pretty fair. Unfortunately, … Read more PowerShell: Backup documents on Dropbox securely with encryption

Copy Filenames to Clipboard with PowerShell

Have you ever wanted to copy a large amount of data to the Windows clipboard, but haven’t known quite how to do it? How about this scenario: you have a folder full of files, and you want to get a list of the files’ full names / paths. That’s pretty easy to do with a … Read more Copy Filenames to Clipboard with PowerShell

Checking Status of a Windows 7 System Image

If you’re running Windows 7, you may periodically create a “System Image” which is essentially just a VHD backup of your system. When you invoke the task, you will be presented with a dialog box similar to the following, which shows the progress of the backup: If you are scripting something, and want your script … Read more Checking Status of a Windows 7 System Image

ConfigMgr: You Receive Error 0x80070490 in a Capture Task Sequence

If you ever work with Operating System Deployment (OSD) in Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM / ConfigMgr) 2007, you might build a task sequence that only performs an OS image capture (as opposed to an OS build & capture). You might think — logically — that you only need a single task sequence step to perform this action: a “Capture Operating System Image” step. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If you attempt to run a task sequence like this, you’ll probably receive a 0x80070490 error code, which means “element not found.”

image

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Restricting Settings by Active Directory Site with Only One GPO

Introduction

Have you ever wanted to configure a setting using a single Active Directory (AD) Group Policy Object (GPO), but have a different value for each logical AD “site” in your IT environment? Well, even if you haven’t, there are other folks out there that do. Here is a paraphrased version of an inquiry that I received recently:

“I am working on a Windows 7 deployment, and I would like to have custom wallpapers depending on the physical location. This I am able to do but there are 20+ Active Directory sites and can do it with a GPO assigned to each site. However, it would be easier to manage just a single GPO. Is this possible?”

In short, this person wants 20+ different wallpapers, but doesn’t want to have to create 20+ unique GPOs in order to configure the wallpaper. The most common suggestion in this case, at least historically, would probably be to write a custom user-based logon script (as opposed to a computer startup script) that checks the current AD site, and sets the wallpaper based on that. Granted, that would be a pretty solid solution, however with Group Policy Preferences (GPP), we have another option that requires no knowledge of scripting!

Let’s explore how to use Group Policy Preferences to consolidate multiple desktop wallpaper configurations (per AD site) into a single GPO!

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Silently Installing the Windows 7 AIK

So I’m working on some automated lab build “stuff” and I tried to silently install the Windows 7 AIK using a simple call to msiexec. Apparently there is something built into the Windows 7 AIK MSI package that prevents it from being installed non-interactively. This is a bit frustrating. Upon execution of the msiexec command, … Read more Silently Installing the Windows 7 AIK