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

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.


Jan 31

UK Presence

We have finally bit the bullet and set up a UK presence. The UK company will be responsible for all European sales and support for our products plus a focus on integration and management of the Microsoft line of products. It is early days but we feel it is important that our European customers are able to receive a local service and support our Business Partners in the area.

As soon as the company details are finalized will will provide details.


Jan 14

Strange Problem with Windows7 and Logitech Mouse & Keyboard

I was experiencing a lot of problems with my system after a recent upgrade to Windows7. A lot of the applications would not respond to mouse clicks and the application would fail to show some of the content such as tree views would start to miss folders and files??

I had suspected the mouse and keyboard drivers because it would only happen on the one system. I searched for any fixes and found a new set of drivers etc for the SetPoint product. They even had a specific driver set for 64bit so I thought that should fix the problems! It didn’t, if fact it got worse and I now started to have strange actions occur when using the Microsoft Web 3 application. Eventually I decided to replace the mouse and keyboard with an old Microsoft set I have and now everything works perfectly.

So my advice is if you have Windows7 and Logitech Devices and you start to see problems replace them until Logitech comes out with a better set of device drivers.. I will be keeping an eye out as the Logitech devices I have are pretty high end with a superb functionality and feel.. I am missing them already!


Oct 29

Vista Business Connected to IBM ‘i’ NetServer

After many months of trying to connect to the Netservers and giving up in frustration I have finally managed to work out what to do. For those others who have the same issues here is a quick guide on how I achieved it! The Netshares were perfectly accessible from XP systems and we could connect to other SMB shares on other systems, just the IBM ‘i’ gave us problems! Go figure…

First of all start a DOS session and enter Secpol.msc this should result in the following screen:

Security Policy Editor

Security Policy Editor

Once here you need to select the Local Policies/Security Options folder from the left window then select the Network Security: LAN Manager authentication option as shown here:

Select the Security Options

Select the Security Options

Now all you have to do is set it to use the Send LM & NTLM – use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated which is done by right clicking the option and selecting the properties option which will show the setting panel, use the drop down to select the correct option as described above.

Authorization Level

Authorization Level

Once you have done this sue the Apply buttons etc to make the changes before rebooting your computer. When it is back up you should be able to browse the IBM ‘i’ netshares you have defined….

Hope this helps others who like us became frustrated with the Vista – IBM ‘i’ support..


Oct 09

First trial with Look Software sucessful!

We have recently teamed up with LookSoftware to use their products for Application Modernization, something which I am sure is going to be a key activity for the IBM ‘i’ community in the coming months/years.

One area which we are really keen to take a look at (no pun intended) is Web services using IBM ‘i’ data. Look Software has a LookServer product that runs on a IIS based server that allows Web Services to be exposed using the IBM ‘i’ data and screen content. The use of the screen content is something which is really interesting, we saw a demo on how it can transactionalize (not a real word) the IBM ‘i’ screens and provide some or all of the data from those screens via a Web Service!

Let’s say you had a requirement to display some data that is stored in your database, you don’t have access to the programs to bring out that data but your users regularly require the information to carry out another process. The normal method of getting the data is to sign onto the IBM ‘i’ and go through a number of screen before finding the information, writing it down and closing all of the screens before going into another application. With the Transaction recorder available in LookSoftware you can take all of those screens passing in any required data and return the data back to the user in a single request. That data can be displayed in another application or it can be exposed as a Web Service to anyone that needs it.

The initial requirement to test out the process is to set up IIS, we had a Vista 64bit install which we thought we could use, unfortunately IIS doesnt like 64bit Vista so we had to come up with a separate PC running Vista 32bit and IIS. That’s a whole other story, but I have to say Windows and 64bit is a nonsense, support in the applications supplied by ISV’s and Microsoft does not always play together as they should!

Installing the LookServer was easy and connection to the IBM ‘i’ was a breeze. We now have a web browser based interface to most of the IBM ‘i’ applications we run without any further changes. I say most because some applications that do not follow CUA guidelines cannot be rendered correctly using the web interface. Fortunately all of our products are CUA compliant due to our use of UIM which enforces CUA compliant screens and menu’s!

Our next project will be to create our first web service using the data and applications we have on the IBM ‘i’, but in the meantime we thought we would see just how cool the LookServer is.
I have an iPod touch that I obviously use for playing music etc, it comes with a WiFi connection so I thought I would see if I could connect via the LookServer to the IBM ‘i’, the iPod doesn’t come with a 5250 emulator so I thought I would give it a try and it worked immediately. I can now sign onto the IBM ‘i’ via the LookServer using my iPod touch and use the GUI interface provided by LookServer to access my programs and products. I could have set up the IBM ‘i’ graphical interface using the IBM provided tools, but this is definitely an option which works well.

This is early days for us and LookSoftware, but the initial response we have is very favorable. if you are interested in application modernization and would like us to discuss the product let us know, we will be happy to discuss the options with you and if possible show you what it can do with your applications.


Jan 11

IE 7 does not work like other Browsers!

We have been developing the new website for sometime now but had only ever looked at the results using the Firefox browser. This morning we decided to look at it using IE7 just to make sure the layouts were not ‘buggered up’ when we used other browsers. To our surprise the sign-in functions stopped working altogether and we were dumped back into a view of the directory!

After hours of reprogramming and pulling every piece of code apart and rebuilding it we started to doubt the logic used. Its the same logic we had used in other sites, so we pulled up the other sites and checked the functions worked. They did so we just couldn’t understand why it works in one site and not the other. The php logs had no errors, apached reported no problems and the system logs were devoid of any reason behind the problem.

After hours of trawling through the web, we came across a couple of notes from other programmers saying they had similar problems associated with the use of session variables, but we could show the variables in the page just not in the following pages? So we started to look closely at what we were doing and started to dump all of the variables! No session variables were being stored in following pages!

So we set about looking for similar problems on the web, after a couple of red herrings we found out the problem is caused because we had put in an underscore ‘_’ in the base URL (www.whatson_test.local). IE7 will not process any session variables if the URL has an underscore in it! Because we were running a test server we had appended test with an underscore.

So we renamed the site (without the underscore www.whatson-test.local) restarted everything, mapped the IP in the host files and now it all works!

Why does MS have such a poor regard for the world we live in? If the other browsers all correctly support the URL forms why doesn’t IE???

If you come across the same problem don’t spend the hours we did looking for what is really a stupid problem..


Feb 28

Does Microsoft actually do anything with the reports it collects after problems?????

I have been having problems with Explorer not closing on a frequent basis, I have to go in and use task manager to force the end of the job! Everytime I do that I get the request, do I want to supply Microsoft with the information that is collected? I always say yes , they must have seen thousands of reports now? (Yes it crashes that often). My question is this, when I signed up to allow the collection of the data it was all about the Customer Satisfaction/Experience Program and how its important for Microsoft to collect this information to allow them to provide better solutions to their customer! How come after all of these reports is it still doing it? Is it really worth taking the time to follow the process or should I just ignore it?

I don’t see any customer experience improvement so far!