Updatable Help

3 minute read

PowerShell has provided a way to update the help files for modules since version 3.0.

Since creating my first two modules, I have tried adding updatable help support, but came across a few issues. Tonight, I finally resolved them for my module PoShEvents.

GitHub Bad, GitHub Pages Good

My module repository is in GitHub, and I originally thought that I could simply use the Raw view for my updatable help. After all, I was successfully serving the online help version using the markdown files straight out of GitHub.

GitHub, as it turns out, hosts their files in a way that is not compatible for updatable help.

I am now using GitHub Pages for this blog and I wanted to give updatable help another try. This method of hosting works as intended.

Building Updatable Help

Like most others, I have opted to use the module platyPS to create my help files.

This post focuses on solving the issues I had with updatable help. For instructions on how to use platyPS see any of these sites.

I had already created the markdown files that I was serving via GitHub for online help and moved those into my blog repository structure. I used Update-MarkdownHelp to update them and noticed that my Jekyll front matter was largely untouched – some entries were out of order.

When I originally created the help files, I did not include the -WithModulePage switch. I ran the New-MarkdownHelp and generated a clean set of help files into a temp folder just to harvest the module page. After placing the file into the correct path, I updated the front matter for Download Help Link, Help Version, and Locale.

Note: I also added additional front matter YAML to be used by Jekyll, namely layout, classes, and permalink.

As the content for the help files had previously been updated, I didn’t have to do that again. If you’re starting from a clean or initial run of New-MarkdownHelp, you will need to update the content manually.

Then, I recreated the external help file.

New-ExternalHelp -Path .\powershell.anovelidea.org\modulehelp\PoShEvents -OutputPath .\PoShEvents\PoShEvents\en-US\ -Force

Testing Updatable Help

Once you have created the necessary help files, you will need to test that it will successully update the module help.

Local Source

First, let’s see if we can Update-Help from the local source.

Update-Help -Module PoShEvents -SourcePath .\powershell.anovelidea.org\modulehelp\PoShEvents\ -Force -Verbose
VERBOSE: Performing the operation "Update-Help" on target "PoShEvents, Current Version: 0.2.1, Available Version: 0.2.1, UICulture: en-US".
VERBOSE: PoShEvents: Updated C:\PowerShell\GitHub\PoShEvents\PoShEvents\en-US\about_PoShEvents.help.txt. Culture en-US Version 0.2.1
VERBOSE: PoShEvents: Updated C:\PowerShell\GitHub\PoShEvents\PoShEvents\en-US\PoShEvents-help.xml. Culture en-US Version 0.2.1

This proves that the updatable help works when pulling from the local source.

Online Source

If the local source test is successful, you will need to upload the *HelpInfo.xml, *HelpContent.cab, and *HelpContent.zip help files to the location indicated by the module’s HelpInfoUri. After this is done, you should verify that you can access the URL successfully by using Invoke-WebRequest. Ideally, the StatusCode should be 200.

$ModInfo = Get-Module -Name PoShEvents | Select-Object -Property Name,Guid,HelpInfoURI
(Invoke-WebRequest -Uri "$($ModInfo.HelpInfoUri)$($ModInfo.Name)_$($ModInfo.Guid)_HelpInfo.xml").StatusCode

My result was not ideal.

Invoke-WebRequest : The request was aborted: Could not create SSL/TLS secure channel.

I wished that I could say I immediately tested with Invoke-WebRequest. That would have saved me about an hour going down the rabbithole of trying to trace the Update-Help command. It would really be nice if Update-Help revealed more internal workings when you use the -Verbose switch.

TLS

Checking the security protocol that my default PowerShell session used, I saw why my testing failed. I included the TLS 1.2 protocol and tested the URL again successfully.

[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol
Ssl3, Tls
[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls,[Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls11,[Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12

A quick search revealed that on February 8, 2018, GitHub discontinued the use of TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1.

Update-Help -Name PoShEvents -Verbose -Force
VERBOSE: Resolving URI: "https://powershell.anovelidea.org/modulehelp/PoShEvents"
VERBOSE: Your connection has been redirected to the following URI: "http://powershell.anovelidea.org/modulehelp/PoShEvents/"
VERBOSE: Performing the operation "Update-Help" on target "PoShEvents, Current Version: 0.2.1, Available Version: 0.2.1, UICulture: en-US".
VERBOSE: PoShEvents: Updated C:\PowerShell\GitHub\PoShEvents\PoShEvents\en-US\about_PoShEvents.help.txt. Culture en-US Version 0.2.1
VERBOSE: PoShEvents: Updated C:\PowerShell\GitHub\PoShEvents\PoShEvents\en-US\PoShEvents-help.xml. Culture en-US Version 0.2.1

Setting Strong Cryptography for .Net Framework

Setting [Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol, as I did, only applies to the current PowerShell session. To make the change permanent, I updated the registry.

# set strong cryptography on 64 bit .Net Framework (version 4 and above)
Set-ItemProperty -Path 'HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\.NetFramework\v4.0.30319' -Name 'SchUseStrongCrypto' -Value '1' -Type DWord

# set strong cryptography on 32 bit .Net Framework (version 4 and above)
Set-ItemProperty -Path 'HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\.NetFramework\v4.0.30319' -Name 'SchUseStrongCrypto' -Value '1' -Type DWord

Conclusion

By using GitHub Pages, platyPS, and the appropriate TLS protocol, I’m finally serving updatable help for my module PoShEvents.

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