Friday, September 3, 2010

Windows Wizardistrating

Today I'm getting my first real taste of administrating a Windows server and I have to say WTF?

There must be a better way to go about changing and adding configuration settings in Windows. What I feel like is that I'm naturally lead to menus and GUIs off of the Admin Tools or Manager windows. Sometimes this leads me through little wizards (inspiration for the title of this post) that don't seem to do anything except split up a few real options across several mouse clicks. I must just be assuming that this is the natural way to do these things in Windows from prior experiences, because I do find that some of this can be managed by command line. Of course even those commands don't seem very useful sometimes.

I think a lot of this frustration comes from the fact that I have more experience administrating a Linux box then a Windows one. In Linux you are naturally led to the command line. If you need to get a little dirtier (which I also find is easier sometimes) you find out what daemon (service for you Windows people) controls what you want and find it's configuration file located in a fairly consistent why under /etc directory. I should add that these configuration files are generally plain text and in a human editable and readable format (imagine that a configuration files meant for us). The mature ones (most are) will have excellent documentation on how to work with these files, whose formats are generally consistent as well.

There are some interesting side effects from the Linux way of server administration. You don't necessarily need a GUI at all, all tasks can be automated, finding configuration files is easy, and backing up or restoring a server's configuration is extremely easy. I have even seen using a source control tool such as Bazaar to keep your server's configuration change history for easy reverting or tracking how the environment has been changed. In Windows I have no idea where most of these configuration settings are being stored nor if it is easily backed up or rolled back without a system backup/restore.

Another thing that bugs me is that there seems to be no easy way of searching and scanning the Windows Event Logs. The searching/filtering abilities in that GUI are pretty lame and it turns out that the log isn't stored in a series of simple plain text files. It's a bit irritating that I can't just do a multi-file grep to find the lines I'm interested in, awk them into a different format, grep for the awk output in another log, and see how different events in the system are linked together.

I suppose I need to just spend more time with Windows and Powershell so I can get past in mismatch between how I expect things to work (Linux) and how they actually work.

Anyway I just wanted to vent a bit of frustration.

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