Tag Archives: Virtualbox

Test PowerShell scripts with VirtualBox

I’m at the point where I am going to deploy some PowerShell scripts to my end-users, and I want to test the scripts on a fresh installation of Windows before trying them on the user’s workstations.

I use VirtualBox to create virtual machines for Powershell testing. Virtual box works on Linux, Mac and Windows host machines. My 8 gig Win 7 box works fine with one or two “guest OS’s”. On my 4 gig (ancient) iMac, it works, but its pretty slow.

One thing that I find amazing, is you have to run updates on all those Windows Virtual machines. Don’t expect to be fully productive on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, when Microsoft sends out Windows updates. It isn’t unusual for updates to run for an hour or more.

Be sure to install the VirtualBox “guest additions” within your Windows VM, once you’ve got your Windows VM up and running. You may also want to change the network settings to “bridged”, so that your VM is on the same network subnet as your host machine.

One other disconcerting thing; your Windows 7 desktop may come up with a black background depending on whether you are running the aero interface and other such fripperies. You can turn all this stuff on if you want; but it will slow down the performance.

More details on setting up VirtualBox are located  here and here.

winvm

If you have installed Windows 7, you may find that it has come with Powershell V.2 out of the box. You can test that by starting a PowerShell session from the command box (just type Powershell.exe).  Once Powershell is up, issue the following command at the prompt:

get-host | select-object version 

If it isn’t 4.0 or later, download the latest version of the Windows Management Framework from Microsoft.

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Web Services, REST, Shopify and Brightpearl Part I

Part I.

Background:

I am currently working on a project which involves a Shopify online web store, and the Brightpearl Inventory and CRM system. Both of these cloud-based systems have an Application Programmer’s Interface, (API) which provide a programmatic way to query and manipulate the data that has been entered via the normal web interface. They use these APIs to talk to each other and make them available to programmers who want to create custom functionality or plugins for the systems. Communication with these APIs can be done using a REST compatible client written in PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, or a host of 3rd-generation languages like C# and Visual Basic.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer. This is the most recent flavor of network programming, similar to SOAP, XML, and XML-RPC, and even good old remote procedure calls.

Use-Case:

I’m looking into a way to extract data from the Brightpearl inventory system; I want to query for each day’s purchases and extract the order number, customer name and shipping information. I want to take this information and format it as an .DBF file for use by the UPS WorldShip program. Note that in this example, I’m interested in being a client of an existing web service, and, for the moment I really just need to query the service for existing data, I don’t need to add or delete records on the server.
To start this odyssey, I’m using my Windows workstation. I’m thinking eventually if I need to have a web server for testing (to run PHP or RAILS for example), that I’ll spin that up as a virtual machine using VirtualBox on Windows with Ubuntu Server as my guest OS with a mySQL backend.
The Brighpearl documentation suggests several tools that can be used to send requests to the API. Perverse as it sounds. I found it was helpful to install no less than three add-ons for FoxFire and Chrome to send the API requests, which enabled learning the mechanics of the process a little easier.
For Chrome:
For FireFox:
Each of these three add-ons allow you to send requests to a web server. Each is slightly different. The Chrome add-on includes a parser for JSON data, which is really helpful when you are working with JSON…which is the case with Brightpearl.
Brightpearl also suggests a book from O’Reilly called RESTful Web Services by Leonard Richardson and Sam Ruby. The book was published in 2007, so although it has some useful information, it is somewhat dated. There is nothing about oAuth in it for example.
 
To get started with the Brightpearl API, you have to make sure that your user account is authorized to work with the API. This is done by accessing the “Staff” under Setup, and making sure that there is a green checkmark next to the user’s name in the API access column. 
Get an Authorization Token
Brightpearl requires that you obtain an authorization token prior to accessing any other requests.  The request for the authorization token takes the form of  a POST request  which includes your user name and password in the request payload. The URI of the payload includes two variables,  your brightpearl server location, the name of your BrightPearl account and a Content-Type of text/xml
Content-Type: text/xml
where
use=”US East”
“microdesign”, is the name of your Brightpearl account id
The user name and password are passed as JSON name pairs to the apiAccountCredentials variable:
{

    apiAccountCredentials:{
        emailAddress:”myname@mydomain.com”,
        password:”mypassword”
    }

}
Note that the double quotes enclosing the eMail address and password are also present.
So, if you look at the raw request that is sent, the full request looks like this:
POST https://ws-use.brightpearl.com/microdesign/authorise
Content-Type: text/xml
{
apiAccountCredentials:{
emailAddress:”myname@mydomain.com”,
        password:”mypassword”    }
}
If the request is successful, you’ll receive a hexedicimal number back which is your authorization token.
{“response”:” xxxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxx”}
Once you have the authorization token, it is used in subsequent requests as a substitute for your user name and password. The token expires after about 30 minutes of inactivity…so you’ll have to issue another authorization request and obtain a new token after that time. 
Once you have gotten the authorization token, you can start making requests. The basic request is a “resource search” which is a query of the Brightpearl data. Resource searches are issued with GET requests, and must include the API version number. The authorization code is sent as a header along with the request. 
 
As a reminder, the authorization request is a POST, and the resource query is a GET.
(More on resource searches in Brightpearl).
GET https://ws-use.brightpearl.com/2.0.0/microdesign/warehouse-service/goods-note/goods-out-search
brightpearl-auth: xxxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxx
This request returns a list of the current goods-out notes (Brightpearl’s nomenclature for a packing slip or pick-list).
Example with results: 
The folllowing GET request shows the current orders.
brightpearl-auth: xxxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxx
This returns a list of current orders, in JSON format. The format shows the structure of the data first, and then the actual records.  Note that there are only three orders!
{“response”:{“metaData”:{“resultsAvailable”:3,”resultsReturned”:3,”firstResult”:1,”lastResult”:3,”columns”:[{“name”:”orderId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”IDSET”,”required”:false},{“name”:”orderTypeId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”referenceData”:[“orderTypeNames”],”required”:false},{“name”:”contactId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”required”:false},{“name”:”orderStatusId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”referenceData”:[“orderStatusNames”],”required”:false},{“name”:”orderStockStatusId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”referenceData”:[“orderStockStatusNames”],”required”:false},{“name”:”createdOn”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”PERIOD”,”required”:false},{“name”:”createdById”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”required”:false},{“name”:”customerRef”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”STRING”,”required”:false},{“name”:”orderPaymentStatusId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”INTEGER”,”referenceData”:[“orderPaymentStatusNames”],”required”:false}],”sorting”:[{“filterable”:{“name”:”orderId”,”sortable”:true,”filterable”:true,”reportDataType”:”IDSET”,”required”:false},”direction”:”ASC”}]},”results”:[[1,1,207,4,3,”2014-09-18T14:15:50.000-04:00″,4,”#1014″,2],[2,1,207,1,3,”2014-09-29T13:20:52.000-04:00″,4,”#1015″,2],[3,1,207,1,3,”2014-09-29T13:25:39.000-04:00″,4,”#1016″,2]]},”reference”:{“orderTypeNames”:{“1″:”SALES_ORDER”},”orderPaymentStatusNames”:{“2″:”PARTIALLY_PAID”},”orderStatusNames”:{“1″:”Draft / Quote”,”4″:”Invoiced”},”orderStockStatusNames”:{“3″:”All fulfilled”}}}
If you use the “Advanced REST Client Application For Chrome, it will decode the above so that it is readable:
{
response:

{
metaData:

{
resultsAvailable3
resultsReturned3
firstResult1
lastResult3
columns:

[

9]

0:  

{
name: “orderId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “IDSET
requiredfalse
}
1:  

{
name: “orderTypeId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
referenceData:

[

1]

0:  orderTypeNames
requiredfalse
}
2:  

{
name: “contactId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
requiredfalse
}
3:  

{
name: “orderStatusId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
referenceData:

[

1]

0:  orderStatusNames
requiredfalse
}
4:  

{
name: “orderStockStatusId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
referenceData:

[

1]

0:  orderStockStatusNames
requiredfalse
}
5:  

{
name: “createdOn
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “PERIOD
requiredfalse
}
6:  

{
name: “createdById
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
requiredfalse
}
7:  

{
name: “customerRef
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “STRING
requiredfalse
}
8:  

{
name: “orderPaymentStatusId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “INTEGER
referenceData:

[

1]

0:  orderPaymentStatusNames
requiredfalse
}
sorting:

[

1]

0:  

{
filterable:

{
name: “orderId
sortabletrue
filterabletrue
reportDataType: “IDSET
requiredfalse
}
direction: “ASC
}
}
results:

[

3]

0:  

[

9]

0:  1
1:  1
2:  207
3:  4
4:  3
5:  2014-09-18T14:15:50.000-04:00
6:  4
7:  #1014
8:  2
1:  

[

9]

0:  2
1:  1
2:  207
3:  1
4:  3
5:  2014-09-29T13:20:52.000-04:00
6:  4
7:  #1015
8:  2
2:  

[

9]

0:  3
1:  1
2:  207
3:  1
4:  3
5:  2014-09-29T13:25:39.000-04:00
6:  4
7:  #1016
8:  2
}
reference:

{
orderTypeNames:

{
1: “SALES_ORDER
}
orderPaymentStatusNames:

{
2: “PARTIALLY_PAID
}
orderStatusNames:

{
1: “Draft / Quote
4: “Invoiced
}
orderStockStatusNames:

{
3: “All fulfilled
}
}
}

ClearOS: A Linux-based Windows SBS Replacement

In my ongoing project of trying to clone a Redhat Linux server, I ran across a help file that was written for an operating system called ClearOS. I assumed that this was another Linux distribution, and ignored it at first but then, while waiting for another installation, I spent some time reading the web pages.

ClearOS is a combination of a core Linux distribution based on Red Hat and CentOS. It includes a complete set of applications to provision an entire office. Perhaps the main advantage is that it takes what are usually a number of several different disparate Linux-based programs, and it puts a slick web-based management front-end them. ClearOS is very modular; you can make things as sophisticated or simple as you want.

To get a closer look, I downloaded and installed the ClearOS Virtualbox demo. (The only glitch was a problem with the 64-bit demo; I re-downloaded the 32-bit version and that installed perfectly on Virtualbox on my iMac.)

Setup is accomplished by a wizard that walks you through a sequence of steps to install the software, connect to the internet, configure the firewall and configure additional services.

If you want to see how ClearOS looks without worrying about the installation, you can “manage” a virtual server with a Live-Demo.

The screenshot shows options for backing up local workstations.

ClearOS offers a number of different versions and support levels. You can download and run the community edition for free, a choice that I might consider to replace a Windows SBS 2011 server if there are no processes on the server that are dependent on Windows. You can install it and run it on your own dedicated hardware. (They don’t recommend running the whole thing in a single virtual machine).

Or you can run it on a ClearOS hybrid appliance. These require the ClearOS Professional version which is a subscription-based support plan. The supported version can also be run on your own hardware. It includes certified and tested versions of all of the applications so that they are guaranteed to work together.

Years ago there was the Cobalt Qube, a single box which provided eMail, file and print services in a single cute box. (You can still find them on eBay). It was a great way to get an “instant network”, and I was sorry to see it discontinued. The ClearOS options provide a similar instant network, and would be suitable anywhere a Windows Small Business Server might be considered.