Aug 07

Virtualization of our non IBM i server and EasyCom

One of the tasks we had been considering for a long time was the virtualization of the main server to be able to run multiple Linux and Windows servers at the same time. Over the last couple of weeks we have successfully migrated to a server with is running ProxMox as the virtualization platform with multiple 64 and 32 bit Debian servers and a Windows Server Client.

Set up was pretty easy using the templates provided by Proxmox for the Debian servers including a Sugar CRM server, the windows server was a little different because it had to be installed from the CD’s we had but it did work once we got used to the network setup. Most of what we did comes from a similar setup we did for the local TeenRanch which is a local Christian Camp where we have been supplying support for a network and hotspot set up for the camps etc. They needed the ability to provide internet connectivity over a wide area with lots of trees and obsticles to work around plus they needed to be able to control the access and reduce the problems they had with bandwidth limitations. The now have a fully redundant WiFi network with both 2 and 5 Ghz back hauls to the relevant buildings. We also set up a Hotspot solution to allow the users to pay for some access where required. Our set up was much easier as we simply needed to have the Linux and Windows servers available for test and development work particularly with the EasyCom solution.

The server responses are a less than we used to get with a single operating system running but the difference is acceptable. The disks are all raid 5 protected and we think the card which is a lower level one is affecting the speed of the server somewhat? Eventually the server will be replaced with a new one running the newer chipsets which should improve the response times plus additional memory will help a lot as we only have 4GB on the system today. So far we have been impressed with what we have achieved, we can now take snapshots of the servers so recovery back to a known state is definitely going to be a lot easier.

We use the server mainly for demonstrations such as the EasyCom server running from Linux and Windows. We have also set up a Windows implementation which is actually running on a Windows 7 Thinkpad because we needed the ability to show how the PHP interface can be run an any Apache/PHP server linking back to the IBM i for the data even while we are travelling (We can VPN back to the IBM i and it works really well). The Linux servers are also running 32 and 64 bit versions so we have the relevant EasyCom modules installed with multiple PHP websites running on each again something which was important as we move forward with our relationship with Aura Equipment and EasyCom.

The next challenge will be to virtualize the IBM i to run multiple copies of i/OS and possible a Linux/AIX partition just for fun… That will probably have to wait until we buy the next Power 7 system which should happen either late this year or early next.

If you want to see EasyCom running without the IBM HTTP server on IBM i please let us know, we will be happy to show what we have achieved with the product so far, our intention is for our next product releases to all have the EasyCom server bundled as part of the solution. The cost of the EasyCom server is so attractive in comparison to the Zend Server (EasyCom is used to provide all of the i5 toolkit functions even on Zend Server installs!) that it makes a lot better financial sense than going for the IBM i/Zend Server solution which is free for the first year but has a fairly hefty cost for support thereafter.


Jun 24

IBM i data being served through to a ZendServer CE edition install on Windows 7

We now have a fully functioning DR4i interface running on the laptop with the data being pulled from the IBM i via the EasyCom server!

Took a couple to tries due to a small issue with one of the EasyCom dll’s and our downlevel ZendServer CE install, but it is all working and we can use it for demo’s to prospective customers to show the power of our solution working in conjunction with the EasyCom server.

We can take our webserver with us and access any IBM i which is running the EasyCom server and our product. Everyone should be taking a look at this technology, it removes a lot of the headaches of installing on the IBM i such as making sure you have all of the pre-requisites like 5761SS1 etc.. We are hoping others will see the benefits of having the great processing capabilities of the IBM i with the http services being run elsewhere..


Jun 23

PHP extension running on Windows 7 ZendServer

I have a a Zend Community Edition install on my laptop and was wondering if I could use it as the source for my IBM i PHP scripts. Not that it is a suitable solution for many others but I can take my laptop to any customer, set up DR4i and run the PHP interface directly from my laptop to the IBM i. If the customer is already running Zend on the IBM i I can install a temporary key to access the EasyCom server or install the EasyCom server directly on the IBM i (takes about 5 minutes) and remove it when I am finished! I could also install a Linux setup but this is a much simpler option.

The first challenge was how to get the extension loaded to my laptop installation, going through the Zend control interfaces did show a list of extensions and would allow me to manipulate them but I could not find any method of installing additional extensions. The obvious answer would be to edit the php.ini file directly and add the new extension, but I was unsure what effect this would have. So I contacted EasyCom and asked for details on how this could be achieved, they sent me a link to a download that would install the correct DLL and set up the php.ini file automatically.

The install seemed to go well but when I started the ZendServer interface it told me the extension did not install correctly! Another call to EasyCom and they shipped me an updated dll to replace the one previously downloaded.

This is the error it generated:

[23-Jun-2010 12:15:31] PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Easycom For PHP v3: Unable to initialize module
Module compiled with build ID=API20090626,NTS,VC9
PHP compiled with build ID=API20090626,NTS,VC8
These options need to match
in Unknown on line 0

After I installed the updated dll it did load and it now successfully connects to the IBM i EasyCom server and builds the pages. It did leave a couple of lines in the display which need to be removed (I need to work that out) but overall it is working correctly except for one small issue which I know about, EasyCom needs to update the client to support long long variables. Once they fix that I am ready for the road and can demonstrate the new PHP basedDR4i interface on demand (well with a bit of additional configuration on the IBM i).

We have just agreed to be a distribution and support representative for Aura Equipments for North America, so if you wish to discuss the possibilities for running PHP in your IBM i environment without the complexity of setting up the IBM i HTTP server and ZendServer let us know, we will be more than willing to share our experiences.


Mar 25

Ops Console issues with new Power 6 box

We have been struggling with the Ops Console set up with the new Power 6 system we just purchased and thought it might be worth sharing the experience. We had set up a direct connect console but as V7R1 will be dropping support we thought moving to LAN Ops console might be a worthwhile exercise.

The first system we move (i515) went without problem and we were able to connect the console using OpsConsole running on Windows 7 straight away. That accomplished we decided to move the recently purchased system to a LAN Ops Console. This is where we started to see some issues, in fact it took a lot of work to get it up and running successfully!

Just as a bit of background, we had the two LAN ports configured and had the communications all set up and running with out issue from the day we installed the system. One port was connected to our 1GB Ethernet switch and the other was connected to our 10/100 switch, this is where we wanted to assign the console as it provides us the ability to isolate the console connections.

To move the port to the Ops Console we had to ensure the port to be used as the Ops Console port would be the correct one, we had to move the line configurations around to have our 1GB Ethernet connection connected to the 2nd port on the adapter. All that worked fine and everything came back up and was working. Next we removed the 10/100 LAN connection and its interface from the configuration before using SST to set up the adapter to run as the Ops Console port. Again following the instructions provided by IBM (even though they are very confusing to say the least) we configured the port correctly and issued a restart of the port through the OPSCONSOLE macro in SST. Thats when everything went backwards! The port was reporting a hardware error in SST through the OPSCONSOLE macro.

The port would not light up at all, none of the lights on the port or the switch would illuminate so we called IBM and logged a hardware problem, after a short call it was then passed onto Software support as it was felt the hardware was fine but the configuration was incorrect. for 2 days we conferred with IBM support and ran lots of tests and log dumps to see what was wrong. Eventually after spending a whole day installing PTFs and re-ipl’ing the system numerous time Software support said the card needed to be changed. We have a 3rd system which we set up using the same process and it worked perfectly as well! That made us think that maybe this really is a hardware issue, the nagging thought we had was why only one port? when hardware fails its normally both ports which would fail!

IBM was pretty quick at getting a new card out and the engineer installed the card but the problem remained. We kept on changing the cables to the switch and nothing, then he decided to connect a crossover cable directly to the port. While we could not attach to the system using the cable it did have the effect of lighting the port up on his laptop and the system. Moving the cable from his PC to the switch extinguished the lights again and moving to known good ports on the switch cables did not work. Then he connected the cable from the 1GB switch to the port and it lit up! Somehow the card would not connect to the 10/100 switch, his Laptop had a 1GB switch and our 1GB switch worked as well!

So having determined that the problem was definitely not hardware the engineer set off and I logged the problem back with IBM as a software error.

In the meantime I decided to try a few changes, first of all I removed the LAN Ops Console configuration completely and set up a normal LAN connection using the same port as used for the Ops Console. If I set it up as *AUTO for the LINK speed the link would not activate, however I configured the LAN connection as 100M and FULL duplex and the connection worked with the same cable as before and to the 10/100 switch. So my next test was to configure the Ops Console using the same parameters, it made sense that if I could configure the LAN connection the Ops Console connection should configure in the same way? Unfortunately it failed to link, I had no lights on the system or the switch. I re-ipl’d the system again in the hopes that it would clear up any issues, Nothing! But when the system was powered off the link would flash on the switch? as soon as the ipl started it went out?

I knew configuring the port via the 1GB switch would work so thats what I would try, The Ops Console connected perfectly and I could now use a LAN Ops Console… That is only part of the fix, I then decided to just reset the parameters on the Ops Console port to allow it to connect as a 100M link (AUTO link speed and FULL Duplex). Having changed the configuration I restarted the port using the OPSCONSOLE macro and it linked up again, I was now connected at 100M via the 1GB switch. Next I thought I would simply switch the cables from the 1GB switch to the 10/100 switch, it worked! So I now have the exact set up I wanted, yes it not really a solution but at least I now have the Ops Console up and running to the Windows7 PC via the 10/100 switch!

Now I need to get IBM to fix the LIC to allow the *AUTO linkspeed to work correctly with a 10/100 switch and fix up why the process I went through results in the desired effect while using the direct route even with the same parameters appears to fail?

I hope others can make sense of what we did, maybe IBM will fix up the problem with a PTF, but in the meantime if you are having similar problems this post may help you get things working?


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!


Jan 11

Upgrading to Windows7

We have finally taken the plunge and moved most of our PC’s to the Windows7 operating system. Some of the systems were previously running Vista Business 64bit so moving to Windows7 64bit Ultimate was fairly simple to carry out because we could use the upgrade process. We didnt try upgrading from 32bit Vista to 64bit Windows7 yet but that is in the list!

When we inserted the CD to start the upgrade process we took the defaults for making the upgrade such as checking online for the latest version of the installer, one PC had to be restarted due to a new config file but all of the others simply started the upgrade. The upgrade seems to have worked perfectly and all of the settings and programs with a few exceptions worked without any changes.

The biggest problems we had were with IBM software particularly Client Access, the first problem was due to IBM shipping old .hlp files so we had to go to the Microsoft site and download a couple of fixes to allow the old help files to be displayed. Then we tried to start Operations Navigator which just ended with a dialogue box stating it had ended abruptly? No further details? So we decided to bring down the latest PTF from IBM for V6R1 and install it, this failed because we had to bring down some addition fixes from IBM and Miscrosoft before it would install. After installing the fixes we then managed to install the latest fix pack for Client Access without any further problems.

We had to re-install the Lenovo Thinkvantage software as it didn’t work but after a couple of updates it is working in the main, we still can’t do backups but we will log that with Lenovo support later.

There are a couple of features which don’t work within some of the products, many of them already described in various forums around the web so we expect they will be fixed soon? One scary thing occurred after a couple fo Microsoft updates downloaded (9 in total), the Laptop had to be rebooted to complete the install which came back up with the blue screen of death. We were in the middle of writing down the specifics when the system restarted automatically again and came up normally? We have not seen the BSoD again so we hope it was just a minor glitch?

We have a number of trials to carry out to make sure all of the software stack works, but overall the experience was quite acceptable as system upgrades go!