Jun 05

IBM i Mobile with IBM i Access for Web

We have been resistant to implement anything to do with the IBM HTTP server for a number of reasons, the main one being that we feel Linux is a better option for running any HTTP services on. However when we heard that IBM was now providing a mobile interface for the IBM i as part of the 7.2 release we felt we should take a closer look and see if it was something we could use. To our surprise we found the initial interaction very smooth and fast.

Installation was fairly simple other than the usual I don’t need to read the manuals part! We had installed 7.2 last week with the intention of reviewing the mobile access, unfortunately we did not realize that there were already Cum PTF’s and PTF Groups available. Our first try at the install stopped short when we thought Websphere was a requirement, as it turns out it can be used but is not a prerequisite. Thanks to a LinkedIn thread we saw and responded to our misconception was rectified and we set about trying to set up the product again. We followed all of the instructions (other than making sure the HTTP PTF Group was installed :-() and it just kept giving us a 403 Forbidden message for /iamobile. Took a lot of rummaging through the IFS directories to find out that when the CFGACCWEB command run it logged the fact that a lot of directories were missing (even though the message sent when it completed stated it completed successfully, maybe IBM should look at that?) so we reviewed all of the information again. It turns out the Mobile support is delivered in the PTF Group so after downloading and installing the latest CUM plus all of the PTF Groups we found the interface now works.

As I mentioned at the beginning I am surprised at just how snappy it is, we don’t have hundreds of users but our experience of the Systems Director software for IBM i made us very wary about actually using anything to do with the IBM i HTTP servers so we had no high expectations of this interface. We saw no lag at all in the page requests and the layout is very acceptable. When the time came to enter information the screen automatically zoomed into the entry fields (I like that as my eye sight is not what it used to be). We looked at a number of the screens but have not gone through every one. I really like the ability to drill down into the IFS and view a file (no edit capability) which will be very useful for viewing logs in the IFS.

Here are a few of the screen shots we took, the first set is from an iPod the second is from the iPad, we were going to try the iPhone but the iPod is the same size output so jsut stuck with testing from the iPod (yes we like Apple products, we would get off our Microsoft systems if IBM would release the much rumored RDi for the MAC). I think IBM did a good job in the page layouts and content.

iPod Display of file in IFS.

iPod Display of file in IFS.

iPod display of messages

iPod display of messages

iPod SQL output

iPod SQL output

iPod sign on screen shield7

iPod sign on screen shield7

iPod 5250 session

iPod 5250 session

iPod initial screen

iPod initial screen

The iPad screens.

iPad Display of messages on Shield7

iPad Display of messages on Shield7

iPad 5250 session, note how it is connected to another system (shield6)

iPad 5250 session, note how it is connected to another system (shield6)

iPad SQL output

iPad SQL output

iPad List of installed Licensed Programs

iPad List of installed Licensed Programs

iPad initial page

iPad initial page

Clicking on the images will bring up a larger one so if like me you are a bit blind you can see the content. Also take notice of the 5250 connection to the Shield6 system, Shield6 is not running the mobile access or the HTTP server so we were surprised when we could start a session to the Shield6 system using the mobile access from the Shield7 system. I definitely think this is a big improvement on anything else we have seen in terms of speed using the IBM HTTP server.

If you don’t have the Mobile support installed do it now! the fact that it is PTF’d all the way back to V6R1 is a big benefit. We will certainly be adopting this as our preferred access method from our mobile devices especially to provide support from our mobile devices while we are away from the office.

Chris…

May 31

Bob Cancilla’s off the mark!

I thought Bob Cancilla was actually changing his position on the need to pull away from the IBM i, but it looks like he has had yet another episode! You can find a copy of his latest rant here
http://planet-i.org/2013/05/29/continued-decline-of-the-ibm-i/

Here are my views on his comments.

1. Yes the IBM i install base is dwindling, but that is not because of the platform not being supported by IBM. Companies Merge so the server technology changes and generally decreases through consolidation. Companies go bust and close their doors meaning the servers are no longer needed, if you haven’t noticed the last 5 – 10 years have not been growth years.

2. The fact that COMMON Europe cancelled its conference is not a sign that there are no IBM i installs out there, the economy in Europe is bad and budgets have been cut for everyone! He does not mention what other conferences for his platforms of choice have seen in terms of attendance etc. Having a conference in an exclusive French resort which is very expensive is not the best idea COMMON Europe made. IBM pulled out because sending people to Europe is expensive and the location chosen is obviously a major factor in their decision, especially when no one else was going!

3.The Nordic numbers are not backed up by the graphic in the link, so I assume the reduction in numbers is something he has from some other source? If there were 10,000 customers running IBM i was that systems or was that an actual customer count? Why concentrate on the Nordics as an indicator for the rest of the world? As I have said the numbers must be dwindling, but some of that has to be to do with the power of the newer systems. I personally had 3 systems running for our business until we purchased a new Power 6 system, all of them were in the P05 tier group! I now have a single system running 3 Partitions each of which are probably 3 – 4 times faster than the previous Power 5+ i515 system alone so I need a lot less systems to deliver better user experiences. If I went to a Power 7 this would be increased exponentially again!!! Others have obviously done the same as I did and reduced the number of servers.

4. IBM is getting out of hardware and has been since I worked at IBM Havant in 1975 – 1993, nothing has changed there. The fact that they are selling the x86 business is good for Power, if Power was the problem they would be getting rid of it! Yes IBM invested in Linux, but obviously not for x86 hardware (they are desperately trying to get out of that) so again it was probably for the Power hardware, so why are they doing that if it is being dropped. There are many other reasons such as services revenue and software licensing (Linux is not free at the Enterprise level) so it is a mix of everything above.

5. RPG locks you into the platform so it is bad, hmmmm then why not use one of the other languages available on the platform? You have a choice of many languages on the IBM i and my very personal opinion is that anyone who is just using RPG is cutting their own throat! RPG is just a tool in the toolbox, so pick the best tool for the job. If I am going to have to rebuild my entire application just to change the language why would I ever add a new platform and all of the complexities of the OS into the mix? I could train a ‘C’ developer on Linux to develop in ‘C’ on the IBM i a lot faster than I could train an RPG developer to develop in C on Linux, that goes for any language and the IBM i supports them all (especially Java). Even though RPG is a key tool on the IBM i we need to reduce the emphasis placed on it and start to push the other languages just as hard.

We are being told CLOUD is the next leap in faith for the IT community. If you are to believe the hype it means you are not interested in how the result is delivered and what produced it just that it is available all the time and at a lower cost. As usual there are lots of ideas on what this means in terms of application delivery and many of them are a new set of acronyms for the same technologies that refused to fly years ago. I have doubts if the Cloud is the answer and I am sure that before too long we will have a new word for it! Having said that, if the Cloud is the next evolution of IT delivery why does this do anything but create the need for stable, dependable, highly available, flexible systems (oh did I just explain what the IBM i is???). So while I appreciate Bobs right to keep trying to build his business using scare tactics and bluff, I for one will keep an open mind about dumping IBM i in favor of moving to something new.

Just to set the record straight, I run Windows, MAC, Linux, AIX and IBM i. I have spent a lot of time developing on Windows, Linux and IBM i (IBM i the most) and all in a single language ‘C’ (or the related object version). In my view IBM i is the simplest for many reasons, not least the integration of everything you need to build a total solution. I use PHP for interface building (80 column screens just don’t hack it for me) and prefer to run the Web Services from Linux or Windows, but the IBM i can perform as a web server if needed.

So if you do as Bob says and take a deep and meaningful look at your IT infrastructure, consider changing the development language before jumping to a new development language, platform, OS and development tool set! Remember with ILE you can build the solution out of many languages and they will all work in harmony so you can steadily replace older programs with new ones.

Chris…

Feb 07

Move to Mac

I finally made the jump to the Apple Mac! Not that I was needing to move for any other reason than I decided to have a look at what all the fuss was about. I did also get a new system with Vista just to check out the differences..

Installation of the Mac was a snip just started up after entering my information! Vista was a different story, that took me about 6 hours because the drivers didnt work with the old air card I have! I managed to get it working after trawling through the web though.

So do I think the Mac is better? well in some ways I like it a lot however like all systems it does have a few problems! The biggest problem was the lack of support from IBM for the Client Access product. I finally got a copy of the Mocha terminal emulator from http://www.mochasoft.dk which does help. The only real problem is the annoying buy me dialog box which keeps coming up! It stops the emulator from connecting but the emulator sits in front of the dialog box so you can just sit there waiting for something to happen. I will go out and buy it once I have done a bit more testing, another issue I have found is the use of the function keys in MacX which interferes with the emulator. I keep pressing F10 to list detailed messages iin the job log only to have the screen change, F12 makes the dashboard appear! Then pressing F9 will bring all open pages to the desktop and size them for viewing? I am sure there is a fix out there to stop this but I have not had a chance to search for it.

There are bugs in the applications, I tried to import the address book into the Microsoft Mac Office and it just adds all of the information into the notes fields, totally useless but then again it is the Microsoft Office running on the Mac. The Mac mail program didnt do much better until I loaded the Address book importer from homepage.mac.com/sroy/addressbookimporter/which was very clean and easy to use. Just make sure you map the fields correctly and your on the way to having all your contacts in the mail address book. I now have to get them into the MS Entourage still….

Another problem I had was the Dreamweaver product! My advice to anyone considering dealing with this bunch of wasters is dont! I had been using the product on my Windows box for a couple of years and decided that if I was going to make the jump I would go all the way. So I went to the PC and un-registered the software as instructed and then installed the software on the Mac, I tried to activate as per the instructions via the web only to get a screen saying it had been activated too many times (I had moved it from system to system as I upgraded my PC so I can understand that) and that I should contact Customer Service. Well after 4 hours on the phone with the clowns I ended up speaking with a guy called “JEFF” who refused to give me his full name or support id or anything else that would identify him from the rest of them. He told me that I had to upgrade the product to allow me to use it on a Mac as I had already used it on a PC! He was a real piece of work and even said he would put the phone down unless I changned my attitude (I did say it was absolute BS no not “bull sh*t” just BS). So I asked to speak to his supervsor, he didnt want to let me speak with him at first saying he could not do more than he can! After about 5 minutes of protesting he agreed and said he would transfer me! So after 20 minutes I put the phone down. 4 hours on the phone only to be told I had to pay $649 US to upgrade a product that I didnt want to upgrade to allow me to use it on the Mac. I did fill in a web form stating my dissatisfaction which said I would get a response in 24 hours, guess what no response! however I did get an email asking me to fill in a survey about my experience so when I get a few hours spare I will fill that in! Dreamweaver is now back on the PC and registered so I can use it. I am looking for alternatives!

iTunes was a small problem as the iPod was registered to the PC, iPodRip fixed that for me on the Mac but my sons iPod on Vista cant be done because the program abends with an internal error! he is really miffed about that!

I have a lot of passwords so I downloaded the Paster product to try Here and will see if it does what I need.

FTP was also a challenge, I am very used to the PC products so some of the Mac products were very alien, however Cute FTP Mac pro does the job nicely http://www.globalscape.com/cuteftpmac2

I have installed Zend Studio for System i5 on the box and while the studio does work there are a few ruffles with the Zend Platform for the i5 which I am trying to resolve.

Skype runs just the same and I have MSN messenger as well so now I have all that I need to carry on. Early days yet but I a learning new things all the time! The biggest problem I have found so far is a lack of documentation with anything! The keyboard is different for a start and some keys work in some applications and not in others (the end key does not take me to the end of the line in this editor but does in word!). Installing applications and removing them is a scary thing! Most of the applications I have seen dont have an un-install program! Some of the ones that do dont work that well? But overall I am getting to like it.

I think the biggest problem is the lack of ‘Free’ Software which I was used to getting for the PC. Not that that should be a problem but the lack of options is.

If I find something spectacular I will post it here.

Chris…