Windows NT Shell Scripting

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Windows NT Shell Scripting is a comprehensive reference for network professionals. It is the only book available on the practical use of the Windows NT shell scripting language. The book begins with a high-level introduction to the shell language itself, then describes the shell commands that are useful for controlling or managing different components of a network, i.e. file management, etc. The second part of the book is a comprehensive reference of all the commands, organized by function, for easy reference by the reader.

The command line isn’t dead–far from it. Administrators of big Windows NT networks know that the best way to accomplish a difficult task frequently involves using the console interface rather than the graphical user interface. By writing batch routines, it’s relatively easy to perform fancy tasks on local computers and distant ones. In Windows NT Shell Scripting, Tim Hill has done a service by explaining how to write and use scripts under Windows NT.

He begins at the beginning, explaining what scripting is and how command lines come to exist under Windows NT. The reader gets full information on virtual DOS machines and how programs started by scripts are instantiated. There’s also some useful information on redirecting script output–handy when using batch files to create HTML documents, for example.

If you think the way batch files handle subroutines, variables, and pretty much everything else involves some weird syntax, you’re right. Hill decrypts it all, explaining the mechanics of the Windows NT batch-scripting language very clearly. After he explains how to script academically, he provides some examples. There’s a script that automates the creation of user accounts, another script that monitors print activity, another that keeps an eye on disk usage, and one that does backups. A few more scripts round out the selection. Many of the scripts refer to a library of functions that’s also listed and explained. Unfortunately, there’s no companion disk, so readers have to get the samples from the Macmillan Web site.

It would be nice if this book contained some coverage of the new Windows Scripting Host, which you can use to write scripts in VBScript, JavaScript, and (in the future) other languages like Perl and Python. But that’s cutting-edge stuff that hasn’t yet been fully figured out, and what this book contains is great. All harried sysadmins, particularly those who came on line after the age of DOS had begun to wane, will be grateful for the guidance Hill provides. –David Wall

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