Use the RethinkDB C# driver in PowerShell on Linux

PowerShell is a scripting and command line shell built on top of the .NET runtime. Although it was originally created for Windows, Microsoft recently introduced an open source version of PowerShell powered by the cross-platform compatible .NET Core. Users can now download and run PowerShell on Linux and Mac OS X.

One of PowerShell’s strengths is its interoperability with the .NET ecosystem. PowerShell can load types and methods from .NET assemblies, making it possible for PowerShell scripts to incorporate functionality that is implemented in practically any C# library. That capability also makes PowerShell a great environment for interactively exploring C# APIs.

When Microsoft announced the availability of PowerShell on Linux earlier this month, I tried it out in a Docker container on my home Ubuntu server. As an experiment, I had it load up the C# RethinkDB driver developed by Brian Chavez. Using the driver, I was able to instantiate a RethinkDB database connection and perform queries from the comfortable confines of the interactive PowerShell command line environment.

Initial Setup

The PowerShell open source project provides binaries for several platforms. Their binaries conveniently bundle a complete .NET Core stack so that you don’t have to install a lot of additional dependencies. I followed their Ubuntu installation instructions and used their provided DEB package.

I downloaded a zip archive with the latest release of Brian’s RethinkDB client library from GitHub and extracted its contents into my home directory. The zip archive includes compiled assemblies for several different .NET environments. The dnx_build/netstandard1.3 directory has DLLs that are compatible with the .NET Core environment that comes bundled with the PowerShell binaries on Linux. In addition to the RethinkDB.Driver assembly, I also needed Microsoft.Extensions.Logging.Abstractions, which I grabbed from NuGet.

Using the RethinkDB driver in PowerShell

At the PowerShell command line, I used the Add-Type command to load the assemblies:

PS> Add-Type -Path ./lib/netstandard1.1/Microsoft.Extensions.Logging.Abstractions.dll
PS> Add-Type -Path ./RethinkDb.Driver/dnx_build/netstandard1.3/RethinkDb.Driver.dll

To access a static class in PowerShell, you enclose the name in square brackets. After loading the RethinkDB.Driver DLL, I was able to use the bracket notation to access the RethinkDB driver’s top-level class and its R singleton. I assigned it to a variable for convenience:

PS> $R = [RethinkDB.Driver.RethinkDB]::R

Next, I used the R.Connection method to create a database connection that I could use for queries. You can optionally use the Hostname and Port methods to specify where the client library should look for the database server:

PS> $conn = $R.Connection().Hostname("localhost").Connect()

To perform a query, you can write a ReQL expression and run it on the saved connection instance. The following is a simple example that generates a random number within a range, adds five to the generated number, and then displays the returned result.

PS> $R.Random(1, 10).Add(5).Run($conn)

In my RethinkDB database, I have a table called fellowship that contains the nine members of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. Each document contains a name property that contains the name of the individual member. The following query fetches all of the documents in the table and displays the names:

PS> $R.Table("fellowship")["name"].Run($conn)

To display the contents of the table in PowerShell’s signature column format, I have the query output a raw JSON string that I can pipe into PowerShell’s ConvertFrom-Json command.

PS> $R.Db("test").Table("fellowship").CoerceTo("array").Run($conn).ToString() | ConvertFrom-Json

id                                   name    species
--                                   ----    -------
1b4a665c-4063-41da-af93-d761696de6ef Gandalf istari
6b66adf3-f7dc-4a3e-8b99-2729b1b146a4 Gimili  dwarf  
3b569c3d-573a-45ce-99a6-fb973de41c22 Aragorn human  
df504a52-433c-4d1b-bb11-6b1a8af13ce4 Frodo   hobbit
15e726c9-7255-44de-913d-188dd3e52cbb Sam     hobbit
62e732ea-ec4c-47c4-a23a-9f38103da6e3 Merry   hobbit
a11d4612-c031-423d-ab1c-9026687b7bd2 Boromir human  
d5ad62ed-6b24-4018-b523-8bb966b87026 Legolas elf    
253f2be1-c964-4d2f-8e76-af72ecf54edb Pippin  hobbit

I tested filtering, record insertion, and a few other common ReQL operations. Most of the client library’s API surface works as expected in PowerShell. PowerShell’s @{} notation for describing object literals is useful for inserting new database records and filtering:

PS> $R.table("fellowship").filter(@{"species" = "hobbit"})["name"].Run($conn)

> $R.table("fellowship").insert(@{"name" = "Somebody"; "species" = "Whatever"}).Run($conn).toString()

  "deleted": 0,
  "errors": 0,
  "generated_keys": [
  "inserted": 1,
  "replaced": 0,
  "skipped": 0,
  "unchanged": 0

Changefeeds in PowerShell

RethinkDB changefeeds make it possible to build applications that react to changes in the database. The RethinkDB driver’s Changes method, which attaches a changefeed to a query, works largely as expected inside of PowerShell:

PS> $R.Db("rethinkdb").Table("stats").Changes().Run($conn) | foreach {Write-Host $_.toString()}

  "new_val": {
    "id": [
    "query_engine": {
      "client_connections": 10,
      "clients_active": 6,
      "queries_per_sec": 0.640447762,
      "read_docs_per_sec": 0,
      "written_docs_per_sec": 0

The changefeed query runs synchronously, which means that the PowerShell environment runs it in the foreground until the user hits ctrl-c to terminate the command.

Next steps

Passing the output of ReQL database queries into local PowerShell commands could be really useful for automated scripting and interactive data exploration. You can install RethinkDB if you’d like to try out the examples in this blog post yourself.