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Book Review: IBM System i APIs at Work, Second Edition

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API expert Bruce Vining delivers the only comprehensive guide to APIs.

 

Although I have rarely had problems using the C-style APIs from RPG, for some strange reason, the system APIs have always intimidated me. Perhaps it is the arcane terminology that IBM uses to describe them. Perhaps it is the lack of good RPG examples in the manuals. Or perhaps I'm simply API-phobic. Whatever the reason, I have often turned to the experts when I needed to use an API. During my time with IBM, I quickly learned that the expert was Bruce Vining. Bruce was not only involved in the design and implementation of many of the APIs, he was also one of the few in the Rochester Lab who was RPG- and COBOL-literate and could therefore "translate" the arcane terminology of the documentation into something that we mere humans could understand.

 

Bruce's knowledge of APIs is unparalleled, and over the years he has added to that knowledge the ability to communicate it effectively to others. In recent years, Bruce has authored a number of articles for various publications, and we were thrilled when he agreed to become a featured speaker at our RPG and DB2 Summit conferences. As a result of these activities, together with his contributions to various Internet lists, many more have been able to benefit from Bruce's knowledge and teaching skills. But it is only with the publication of this book that his expertise becomes available to an even wider audience, as and when they need it.

 

It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive guide to APIs than that contained between these covers. From list APIs, to Telnet, to encryption, Bruce covers them all and does so in an informative and entertaining fashion. Not content simply to detail their naked operation, Bruce also demonstrates the usage of these APIs as the foundations for a number of utility programs that most shops will soon spot a use for in their daily operations. Even better, the examples are terrific demonstrations of the power of the RPG IV language. If you were to purchase this book for no other reason than to study the examples, you would get excellent value for your money. Hopefully, some of the folks involved in producing IBM documentation will read this book and take the hint!

 

COBOL users are not left out either; Bruce provides COBOL versions of all of the code.

 

At well over 700 pages, this is indeed a weighty tome, but unlike so many others, there's no "fat" here, just solid content that will satisfy your hunger for knowledge.

 

One last comment: This is labeled as a "second edition," but it really is a completely new book. Those of you who have the original in your collection should treat this not as a revision but as "part 2."

 

If you have any interest in making your AS/400, System i, i Series, i5, or whatever you want to call it really sing, then buy this book. You won't regret it!

Jon Paris

Jon Paris's IBM midrange career started when he fell in love with the System/38 while working as a consultant. This love affair ultimately led him to joining IBM.

 

In 1987, Jon was hired by the IBM Toronto Laboratory to work on the S/36 and S/38 COBOL compilers. Subsequently, Jon became involved with the AS/400 and in particular COBOL/400.

 

In early 1989, Jon was transferred to the Languages Architecture and Planning Group, with particular responsibility for the COBOL and RPG languages. There, he played a major role in the definition of the new RPG IV language and in promoting its use with IBM Business Partners and users. He was also heavily involved in producing educational and other support materials and services related to other AS/400 programming languages and development tools, such as CODE/400 and VisualAge for RPG.

 

Jon left IBM in 1998 to focus on developing and delivering education focused on enhancing AS/400 and iSeries application development skills.

 

Jon is a frequent speaker at user group meetings and conferences around the world, and he holds a number of speaker excellence awards from COMMON.

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