If you have been writing web apps for a while, or other apps you more than likely have used SQL. SQL allows you to query a database and interact with your applications data. Instead of trying to find a users profile, what if we wanted to find out what a user was printing on their local machine? If there was an easy interface for that, it could make programming for a platform like Windows a lot easier. Well Microsoft years ago added this ability to Windows; the technology is called WQL. This was added with the other components of WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) at Windows ME. For Windows 9x and NT you can download the WMI core. This article will be a brief over view of what it can do and how you can play around with it.
First like when we looked at LDAP, we want a tool that will let us quickly play around with what is available, and then code that into our application. The tool I use is WMI Explorer, http://www.ks-soft.net/hostmon.eng/wmi/, it provides a easy interface to look at all the data available. With the WMI core it works with everything back to Windows 95! You can download and run the program for free, no installation required. Once open, there is a upper portion of the window that lists all the spaces you can access, these would be the ‘tables’ in SQL. Depending on your version of Windows, there will be separate options available. I have used this interface before for network cards (6to4 Cleaner) and printers.
For this example I will go over to the Win32 framework and access the Win32_Printer ‘table’. I get a list of printers the machine has installed, as well as attributes to each of these printers. Any administrator, or any program attempting to manager printers (I say attempting because printers can he a horrible experience) information – like what port the printer is using – is here, in addition what type of connection this machine has to the printer. At the bottom of the Window there is a Query that is building as you select different fields. This query can be moved into a application later to get the same data in code. WMI Explorer also allows for a user to write Queries directly without this interface; that is the second tab at the top of the window.
One downside I have found in using WMI is the setup process time, in C#/.NET using WMI is easy, but it takes time to start accepting queries. About a year or two ago I was working on querying network card information on Windows Vista. The first call could take a few seconds to respond, after that first call it would speed up, this is just something that has to be accounted for in the applications design. I found running WQL queries in a separate process, and starting them as soon as possible would allow the process to finish before the user needed the data.
I just wanted to get everyone started looking at what is available, in a later article I will go into more depth about programming with this and how you can interact with this data in a C#/.NET program.