Letters to Redmond
March Reader Letters: Goodbye to the GUI
In a recent IT Decision Maker blog post, "It's Official: The Windows Server GUI Is (Slowly) on the Way Out" (Jan. 12, 2012), Don Jones wrote that "Microsoft is trying to get us off the console for good... We have two choices: adapt or die." Readers respond:
No matter the size of your network, anyone who administers a server as their job should realize the tools are already inplace now to administer Windows without logging on to the console. I do my job almost in its entirety without logging in to the server. You will need to learn how to move data around via command line because the command line provides much greater functionality anyway. If you look at the trends, it's the IT person's job to follow them. You don't know how to use command line? Learn -- it's not that hard. And once you learn it, you'll wonder why you haven't been doing this the entire time.
This is a welcome move, in my opinion -- even more so if it filters out the truly competent techs from the charlatans that pose as professionals. I thought command lines were a pain at first, and then I experienced the alternative. Halfway through my MCSE classes, the swirling torrents of windows, dropdown menus, Microsoft Management Console snap-ins and thousands upon thousands of clicks had me longing for the blinking cursor that could accomplish the same task much more quickly and efficiently.
This has been done already … it's called Linux.
Minimal functionality on the console? Experienced Windows admins already know their way around Windows Management Instrumentation Command Line without having to reach for a mouse.
Speaking as an experienced Unix admin, if it can't be done from the shell, it can't be done. It's just going to take time for Windows admins to realize that starting a Secure Shell connection, identifying and fixing a problem, and moving on to the next server is a matter of a few seconds' or minutes' work that doesn't require pretty pictures. And that embracing the headless world also opens up opportunities for managing 1,000-plus servers from one laptop, and still staying sane.
Striking a balance will be important here. Yes, a good admin can work with the command line if necessary, but one of the things that made Windows NT 3.51 so widely adopted is that once it was up and running, a non-admin could do quite a bit with it and learn to do some administration as they went along. NetWare was not easily adopted by newbies when it had only a command console (Linux/Unix had the same for years) -- not to mention loading device drivers and other, more complicated tasks.
What would be great would be some form of dynamic loading (à la the NetWare Loadable Module?) that would allow loading and unloading of these additional GUI functions -- possibly with the option of requiring the admin password to be entered to allow it to happen for extra security.
Microsoft has been working to get rid of the restart, and according to Don Jones, the company is now building requirements around bringing it back big time (especially in an emergency, when it's often needed the most).
In his February 2012 column, "Survey: PowerShell Skills Matter," Don Jones urged company decision makers to invest in the automation skill sets of their employees. A reader responds to Jones' pro-Windows PowerShell argument:
Over the past few years I've been utilizing PowerShell in its simplest form, to pull quick data. These simple scripts save me hours a month. Recently I began taking the initiative of promoting PowerShell in my workplace. To my surprise, I received mixed results. Seems that people fear what they don't understand. If I have one snippet of advice, it would be: "Do not fear the Shell."
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