Sep 19

Chinese Domain name scam still ongoing!

I have been getting a number of emails about Chinese companies trying to register our domain with a Chinese registrar and that we should act now to register before they can! As always, I am ignoring them as they are scam! Today I received an email from the European Domain Center asking if we would post a link to their page which explains the scam and provides a list of the offenders, so I checked it out and sure enough they have a good explanation of the scam plus a long list of the perpetrators along with emails etc.

Here is the link to the page here

Check it out and if you get any emails from them make sure you DO NOT reply to them, they also spend the time to call and put pressure on you to sign up!

Chris…

Dec 18

New features added to HA4i

A couple of new features have been added to the HA4i product as a result of customer requests. Auditing is one area where HA4i has always been well supported but as customers get used to the product they find areas they would like to have some adjustments. The object auditing process was one such area, the client was happy that the results of the audits were correct but asked if we could selectively determine which attributes of an object are to be audited as they have some results which while they are correct are not important to them.

The existing process was a good place to start so we decided to use this as the base but while were making changes improve the audit to bring in more attributes to be checked. We determined a totally new set of programs would be required which would include new commands and interfaces, this would allow the existing audit process to remain intact where clients have already programmed them into their schedulers and programs. The new audits would run by retrieving the list of parameters to be checked from a control file and only compare configured parameters. The results have been tested by the client and he has given us the nod to say this meets with his approval. We also added new recovery features which allow out of sync objects to be fully repaired more effectively.

Another client approached us with a totally different problem, they were having problems with errors being logged from the journal apply process due to developers saving and restoring journaled objects from the production environment into test libraries on the production system. This caused a problem because the objects are automatically journaled to the production journal when they are restored, so when the apply process finds the entry in the remote journal it tries to create the object on the target system and fails because the library does not exist. To overcome this we amended the code which supports the re-direction technology for the remote apply process (It allows journal entries for objects in one library to be applied to objects in another library) to support a new keyword *IGNORE. When the apply process finds these definitions it will automatically ignore any requests for objects in the defined library. NOTE:- The best solution would have been to move the developers off the production systems and develop more HA friendly approaches to making production data available, but in this case that was not an option.

We are always learning and adding new features into HA4i, many of them from customer requirements or suggestions. Being a small organization allows us to react very quickly to these requirements and provide our clients with a High Availability Solution that meets their needs. If you are looking for an Affordable High Availability or Disaster Recovery Solution or would like to ask about replacing an existing solution give us a call. We are always happy to look at your needs and see if HA4i will fit your solution requirements and budget.

Chris…

Nov 23

Interesting discussion about XMLSERVICE and big data

I sometimes worry about how we perceive the Open Source products and what we as developers should expect from it. I like to keep a watch on what is happening within the IBMi/PHP eco system so I tend to watch the various forums looking at what people are doing. I had not been following the Zend forums for sometime as I was told that my opinions were not welcome, but had a bit of time to spare so took a quick look at what is going on. I came across the following post which raised a couple of questions Working with multiple occurrence data structures.

This seems to be the source of another post, Toolkit errors after update where at the bottom of the thread is a comment which had the following statement.

Frankly, I find your whole rant tiresome, but very well …

You are completely missing the point here Timo. Unlike some other toolkits, XMLSERVICE does NOT REQUIRE proprietary software “connection”, therefore you can use all manner of 1-tier (IBM i-2-IBM i) and 2-tier (any-2-IBM i) connection transports. PHP Toolkit / XMLSERVICE cannot control the behaviour of each and every connection possible, and in fact, there are 2-tier connections that don’t have any idea what a LIBL would be because this is a truly unique feature of IBM i. IN ANY EVENT, you can simply call CHGLIBL in any staeless or staefull XMLSERVICE job and change the state of the LIBL.

I read through the whole thread looking for the OP’s rant? I could not find it so I went through the previous post from the same OP which is where I found the possible source of the irritation. Basically the OP’s had mentioned that they did not have the performance issues when they ran with the Easycom Toolkit from Aura, I did not think it was said in a bad way, but simply that they saw better performance from the Aura toolkit than they were seeing with the new XMLSERVICE despite many improvements. That is not the point of this post as we have already said in many previous posts what our feelings are about the performance, instead I would like to mention a few things I would take away from this.

1. This is open source and as such if you have any problems with the way it runs you should be willing to pitch in and develop it to meet your needs. Alan and Roger have done a great job so far.
2. Don’t blame the test data, the problem is in the XMLSERVICE technology not the data or the amount generated. We all see applications we feel could be better designed and developed.
3. Comparison should be expected from clients, they took a decision based on the information they were given. Zend/IBM have said the XMLSERVICE is the way forward for PHP on IBMi we don’t but oh well! :-).
4. What is the cost of the effort so far in making the migration? Would it not have been more cost effective to stick with the original toolkit and paid for Aura to work it out?
5. Emotional responses should be avoided, I did not see any significant reason from the OP to justify the responses. But its free so don’t expect anything else.

Open source is a great option as long as you have the ability to change it to meet your requirements. Before you charge into a project which uses open source technology make sure it will meet all of your requirements before making it the standard, or be prepared to spend a lot of time adjusting the code to meet your needs. Sometimes paying for someone else to maintain and develop new features for the technology is much more cost effective than doing it yourself. Aura may seem to be forcing your hand with the original i5_toolkit functions by requiring you to pay for it, but if you look at the technology and what it offers it’s a very small price to pay for the benefits it brings. Plus you can always ask for improvements under the maintenance agreement which Aura would develop for free if they deemed it worthy.

We are still working with Aura and offer support and licensing for their products here in North America. If you need help in licensing the product or would like to know more about how we have implemented the PHP technology in our products let us know, we are very happy to help guide you to the light :-)

Happy PHP’ing

Chris…

Nov 13

IBMi eco system.

I was reading a number of articles in the press this morning about the IBMi (i5,iSeries,AS/400 and the rest) and the possible install base. The articles suggests that there are around 35,000 “active” IBM customers but around 110,000 customers who are still running the system but not on any maintenance or support? The articles also suggests that this number can be doubled in terms of systems because the average customer has 2 systems.

The articles then goes on to ask why are these customers who are loyal to the platform still running old releases of the software/hardware and suggests that this could be in part be due to the fact that the system is so robust and secure they have no need to do anything with it. I think some of that has merit, but in the same breath I think the pricing practices of IBM have contributed to that position. The second hand market is still very strong and many customers are still changing up their systems to later ones without any maintenance or support from IBM, so maybe this may point to the pricing of support by IBM? I stopped hardware maintenance simply because it did not make financial sense for the size of system we run! It was better to throw out the system and get another one if a major component failed (not that they do that often).

Here is a suggestion for IBM, I have a number of older systems which I do not run. What about allowing those customers who are running on systems where the CPU(s) was pegged at a certain percentage have the ability to upgrade these old system to run the FULL CPU capabilities. I have a 515 and 520 which are limited to 20% of the CPU. The processing power of these system was a lot less than my new system yet they cost me a lot more to purchase, if IBM allowed that processor to be opened up as long as I had them on maintenance maybe I and some other customers would take up such an offer? Maybe you could even make it an annual fee so you have to keep up with the changes in the OS, maybe that would remove the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” mentality. It would also add value to paying for maintenance which customers could relate to, and it would be IBM maintenance not third party..

So you ask why would IBM do that, after all they wont get much revenue even if a large proportion took them up? Well maybe it would help those customers who are sitting in the dark ages move towards the new technology. They could stipulate a minimum requirement in terms of OS to get the new keys which would force many to look at the system they run today. Maybe it would even get those customers who see the system as being old in a new light (what other system offers the ability to get 5X the processing power just by upgrading the OS?). It will enable them to look at the newer capabilities which were not available because the CPU restriction made them too slow and cumbersome. How many customers who are putting up with multi second response times use this as a confirmation that this system is old and needs replacing? Short term IBM does not make a lot of money because the customers will only pay a small fee to get the upgrade, but those customers may then see the system in a new light and develop the system further? If you are not having to invest in something it has no value, that is the problem with the IBMi.

If you are running crippled systems that have a lot more power than IBM has released talk to your IBM representative, maybe if enough ask IBM may sit up and listen? But expect to pay something even if it is a requirement to have that system on maintenance.

Chris…

PS: I am talking about opening up those P05 systems which were crippled at a % of the CPU, today’s P05 systems have much higher CPW rates for less cost, just allowing the CPU to reach its full potential without matching the newer systems capabilities is what I am asking for. There should be plenty of other reasons to move to the latest hardware technology.

Oct 19

Playing around with LOB objects

As part of the new features we are adding to the HA4i product we needed to build a test bed to make sure the LOB processing we had developed would actually work. I have to admit I was totally in the dark when it comes to LOB fields in a database! So we had a lot of reading and learning to do before we could successfully test the replication process.

The first challenge was using SQL, we have used SQL in PHP for a number of years but to be honest the complexity we got into was very minimal. For this test we needed to be able to build SQL tables and then add a number of features which would allow us to test the reproduction of the changes on one system to the other. Even now I think we have only scratched the surface of what SQL can do for you as opposed to the standard DDS files we have been creating for years!

To start off with we spent a fair amount of time trawling through the IBM manuals and redbooks looking for information on how we needed to process LOB’s. The manuals were probably the best source of information but the redbooks did give a couple of examples which we took advantage of. The next thing we needed was a sample database to work with (if we swing between catalogues, libraries, tables, files too often we are sorry!) which would give us a base to start from. Luckily IBM has a nice database they ship with the OS that we use could for this very purpose, it had most of the features we wanted to test plus a lot more we did not even know about. To build the database IBM provides a stored procedure (CALL QSYS.CREATE_SQL_SAMPLE (‘SAMPLE’)), we ran the request in Navigator for i (not sure what they call it now) using the SQL Scripts capabilities and changed the parameter to ‘CORPDATA’. This created a very nice sample database for us to play with.

We removed the QSQJRN set up as we do not like data objects to be in the same library as the journal and then created a new journal environment. We started journaling of all the files to the new journal and added a remote journal. One feature we take advantage of is the ability to start journaling against a library which ensure any new files created in the library are picked up and replicated to the target. The whole setup was then replicated on the target system and configured into HA4i.

As we were particularly interested in LOBs and did not want to make too many changes to the sample database we decided to create our own tables in the same library. The new files we created used the following SQL statements.

CREATE TABLE corpdata/testdta
(First_Col varchar(10240),
Text_Obj CLOB(10K),
Bin_Obj BLOB(20M),
Forth_Col varchar(1024),
Fifth_Col varchar(1024),
tstamp_column TIMESTAMP NOT NULL FOR EACH ROW ON UPDATE AS ROW CHANGE TIMESTAMP)
CREATE TABLE corpdata/manuals
(Description varchar(10240),
Text_Obj CLOB(10K),
Bin_Obj BLOB(1M),
tstamp_column TIMESTAMP NOT NULL FOR EACH ROW ON UPDATE AS ROW CHANGE TIMESTAMP)

We will discuss the tstamp_column fields later as these are important to understand from a replication perspective. We checked the target and HA4i had successfully created the new objects for us so we could now move onto adding some data into the files.

Because we have LOB fields we cannot use the UPDDTA option we have become so fond of, so we needed to create a program that would add the required data into the file. After some digging around we found that C can be used for this purpose (luckily as we are C programmers) and set about developing a simple program (yes it is very simple) to add the data to the file. Here is the SIMPLE program we came up with which is based on the samples supplied by IBM in the manuals.


#include
#include
#include
#include

EXEC SQL INCLUDE SQLCA;

int main(int argc, char **argv) {
FILE *qprint;

EXEC SQL BEGIN DECLARE SECTION;
SQL TYPE IS BLOB_FILE bin_file;
SQL TYPE IS CLOB_FILE txt_file;
EXEC SQL END DECLARE SECTION;

EXEC SQL WHENEVER SQLERROR GO TO badnews;

qprint=fopen("QPRINT","w");
/* set up the link */
strcpy(bin_file.name,argv[1]);
strcpy(txt_file.name,argv[2]);
/* length of the file names */
txt_file.name_length = strlen(txt_file.name);
bin_file.name_length = strlen(bin_file.name);
/* SQL Option */
txt_file.file_options = SQL_FILE_READ;
bin_file.file_options = SQL_FILE_READ;

EXEC SQL

INSERT INTO CORPDATA/TESTDTA
VALUES ('Another test of the insert routine into CLOB-BLOB Columns',
:txt_file,
:bin_file,
'Text in the next column',
'This is the text in the last column of the table....',
DEFAULT);

EXEC SQL COMMIT WORK;
goto finished;

badnews:

fprintf(qprint,"There seems to have been an error in the SQL?\n"
"SQLCODE = %5d\n",SQLCODE);

finished:
fclose(qprint);

exit(0);
}

The program takes 2 strings which are the paths to the CLOB and BLOB objects we want installed into the table. This program is for updating the TESTDTA table, but is only slightly different to the program required to add records to the MANUALS table. As I said it is very simple, but for our test purposes it does the job..

Once we had compiled the programs we then called the program to add the data, it doesn’t matter how many times we called it with the same data so a simple CL script in a loop allowed us to generate a number of entries at a time. The :txt_file and :bin file are references to the objects we would be writing to the tables, the manuals have a very good explanation on what these are and why they are useful.

Once we had run the program a few times we found the data had been successfully added to the file. The LOB data however, does not show up in a DSPPFM but is instead represented by *POINTER in the output as can be seen below.

Here is the DSPPFM output which relates to the LOB/CLOB Fields.

…+….5….+….6….+….7….+….8….+….9….+….0.
*POINTER *POINTER

The same thing goes for the Journal entry.

Column *…+….1….+….2….+….3….+….4….+….5
10201 ‘ ‘
10251 ‘ *POINTER *POINTER ‘

We have an audit program which we ran against the table on each system to confirm the record content is the same, this came back positive so it looks like the add function works as designed!

The next requirement was to be able to update the file, this can be accomplished with SQL from the interactive SQL screens which is how we ecided to make the updates. Here is a sample of the updates used against one of the files which updates the record found at rrn 3.

UPDATE CORPDATA/MANUALS SET DESCRIPTION =
'This updates the character field in the file after reusedlt changed to *no in file open2'
WHERE RRN(manuals) = 3

Again we audited the data on each system and confirmed that the updates had been successfully replicated to the target system.

That was it, the basic tests we ran confirmed we could replicate the creation and update of the SQL tables which had LOB content. We also built a number of other tests checked that the ALTER table and add of new views etc would work but for the LOB testing this showed us that the replication tool HA4i could manage the add, update and delete of records which contained LOB data.

I have to say we had a lot of hair pulling and head scratching when it came to the actual replication process programming, especially with the limited information IBM provides. But we prevailed and the replication appears to be working just fine.

This is where I point out one company who is hoping to make everyone sit up and listen even though it is nothing to do with High Availability Solutions. Tembo Technologies of South Africa has a product which we were looking at initially to help companies modernize their databases, moving from the old DDS based file system to a new DDL based file system. Now that I have been playing with the LOB support and seen some of the other VERY neat features SQL offers above and beyond the old DDS technology I am convinced they have something everyone should be considering. Even if you just make the initial change and convert your existing DDS based files into DDL the benefits will be enormous once you start to move to the next stage of application modernization. Unless you modernize your database the application you have today will be constrained by the DDS technology. SQL programming is definitely something we will be learning more about in the future.

As always, we continue to develop new features and functionality for HA4i and its sister product JGQ4i. We hope you find the information we provide useful and take the opportunity to look at our products for your High Availability needs.

Chris…

Feb 22

Scam or not?

We recently received the following email.

Dear CEO,

(If you are not in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks)

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Shanghai, China. On Feb 20, 2012, we received an application from Hantong company requested “shieldadvanced” as their internet keyword and China (CN) domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China?

Kind regards

Edward Wang
Office Manager
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road,
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86-21-6191-8696
Mobile: +86-182-2195-1605
Fax: +86-21-6191-8697

So we thought this was a sincere attempt to stop a company from registering our domain with a Chinese (CN) registration. We responded with the following note suggesting that we had no affiliation with the company and that we felt they should not register the .CN domain for the company.

Edward

We do not have any partners in China so this is not a valid request from the Hantong company. We thank you for your attention in this matter and hope you can resolve the questions with that company.

Chris..

The today we received the following message.

Dear Chris,
Based on your company having no relationship with them, we have suggested they should choose another name to avoid this conflict but they insist on this name as CN domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword on the internet. In our opinion, maybe they do the similar business as your company and register it to promote his company.
According to the domain name registration principle: Domain name and internet keyword which applied based on the international principle are opened to companies as well as individuals. Any companies or individuals have rights to register any domain name and internet keyword which are unregistered. Because your company haven’t registered this name as CN domains and internet keyword on the internet, anyone can obtain them by registration. However, in order to avoid this conflict, the trademark or original name owner has priority to make this registration in our audit period.
If your company is the original owner of this name and want to register these CN domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword to prevent anybody from using them, please inform us. We can send you an application form with price list and help your company register them.

Kind regards

Edward Wang
Office Manager
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road,
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86-21-6191-8696
Mobile: +86-182-2195-1605
Fax: +86-21-6191-8697

It appears to be a scam where the Registrar is scouring the .com domains and sending this note out to hundreds if not thousand of them! I found the following link to a post about a similar request from the same person.

Just as a further push I did receive a note from a Lee Gareth email gareth@live.cn with the following content.

Dear Sirs,
We are Hantong company based in China. We will register the “shieldadvanced” as internet keyword and CN domain names .cn, .com.cn, .net.cn, .org.cn. We have handed in our application and are waiting for Mr. Edward Wang’s approval. We think this name is important for our products in Chinese market. Even though Mr. Edward Wang advises us to change another name, we will persist in this name.
Best regards
Gareth Lee

So if you are sent a note about a company trying to register your domain in China with a follow-up offer to sell it to you to protect your rights its probably going to be a scam. Not sure if anything can be done about this or even if it is legal to carry out this kind of fraudulent activity. We are going to ignore the request, if they do sell our domain to another company we can deal with that when it happens.

Chris…

Sep 27

ITJungle publishes announcement of distributor status for ‘EASYCOM for PHP’

ITJungle published an article about Shield Advanced Solutions becoming a distributor for EASYCOM for PHP. They extracted information from our Blog and website without any interviews with us. They seem to have hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’ and bring up a number of important messages about EASYCOM for PHP and the current Zend situation. We are not saying Zend is a bad thing, just that we have an alternative that you should strongly consider.

I think you will see a lot more from AURA Equipments around PHP for the IBMi as the year progresses. We are certainly seeing a lot of new technology and improvements to the existing i5 tookit which have not been integrated into the Zend PHP stack and probably never will be. Separation from IBM and Zend may be the best thing that has happened to AURA? Only time will tell..

Chris…

Sep 27

14 Years and counting Shield Advanced Solutions.


I have just realized that I have now been running Shield Advanced Solutions for over 14 years! What happened? It seems like a few years ago we first arrived in Canada to settle and make a new life for ourselves. The company was meant to be a duplicate of the UK company re-selling HA products, but having eventually sold the UK company (after running it for 10 years) we decided to concentrate on the development side with our JobQGenie product. A lot has changed in that time and so has the market place, but we are still here and so is the IBM i(AS/400,Systemi,iSeries etc). HA4i and DR4i are gaining momentum in the market place which is ensuring we can continue to develop and support products for the IBMi market, but we are also very excited about the new EASYCOM for PHP product which allows us to spread our wings into new platforms and areas of expertise.

So here is to the future and hoping the IBMi platform continues to exist….

Chris…

Mar 17

Canadian Banking system is one to base your own on! Not according to the Royal Bank..

I had to laugh at this, after all the press and puffing and blowing of smoke about just how good the Canadian banking system is I get this response from the Royal Bank after requesting a wire transfer made in error is returned to the sender 3 days ago.

“Unfortunately it can take a minimum of 20 days to return the funs.”

So the reason our banking system is one to model your own on is because we refuse to send your money back :-) 20 days to electronically transfer funds between banks has got to be as bad (and probably worse) as a Third World bank! The sender sent the wire and one day later it appeared in our account, somehow it takes us 20 days (or more!) to do the same in reverse! Being a computer literate person this is mid boggling and absurd. Even the mail (and Canada Post is not a model to follow either) gets there quicker than that. I could have drawn the funds, created a new wire transfer and it would have been there a lot quicker, and probably cost the sender less overall.. Its shameful! Royal Bank you should be ashamed…

Chris…