FAQ
After trying out
http://mnaoumov.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/powershell-add-directory-to-environment-path-variable/
I realized it's smart enough to:

1. Read the old PATH value from the registry (thus getting around the
facter path problem)
2. Only add the new dir if it's not already in PATH
3. Broadcast PATH change to new cmd prompts without reboot

So now everything is working just as desired. I've written a a Puppet
defined type that takes a zip file and the desired home directory and home
env var name, does the unzip, sets the home env var,and adds home\bin to
PATH. Using it to automate install of groovy, gradle, and so on.

Really appreciate your help.

Jeff

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