Thu, Jun
3 New Articles

Book Review: Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times


Today, it's all about input and output. Getting data into the IBM i from non-traditional sources and then displaying it back out again in varied formats. But where can you go to learn all that you need to know about this critical skill?


Read a good technical book lately? Normally, I would have said "Me either," but I just finished Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i by Rafael Victoria-Pereira, and I give it an enthusiastic two thumbs upfine winter fun!


I guess the first thing I should say is that I don't really know this dude (Rafael V-P) except by reputation. I've seen his articles on MC Press, and while I did once do him a favor, it was kind of a no-brainer for me that took about 15 minutes total. I just want you to know that this is not a "buddy" piece. The dude's really got skills, and this book does an excellent job of showcasing them to the reader's benefit.


The book looks at a topic that very few others have tackled: the myriad ways that RPG connects (or can connect) to the outside world and to other technologies on both the inbound and the outbound side. This is a critically important issue today with RPG trying to interface with everything on the planet and finally, there's a book devoted to this topic. Kudos on just realizing that. Plus there are several things that I really like about it.


First, I just flat out like his writing style. It's clear, it's friendly, it's easy to follow. Nothing makes a book more unapproachable than an obfuscated writing style, and nothing opens a book up for easy digestion better than clarity and flow. Technical writing can be difficult because some topics are so complex that they can't be easily divided into small segments. To counteract this, a writer should try to at least keep paragraphs small so the reader has a fighting chance to consume the book at their leisure rather than swallowing it whole. The ability to write concisely and yet in detail is a real talent, and Rafael does a fine job with that. But, if you've read his MC Press articles, you already know that.


Second, I totally love the fact that all of his RPG examples use /Free. I just don't get doing a book on advanced RPG functionality and then using positional RPG to get your point across, but you see that everywhere in books and articles. It's just a pet peeve of mine, and I find it much easier to digest examples when they are in /Free.


Third, I like the way he does his code examples (and there a plenty of them). I am used to seeing about 100 lines of code and then having to refer back to that 10 pages later, but as much as possible, Rafael breaks his code up into snippets and displays them as he is talking about those particular lines. Makes it much easier to follow, don't you know?


But mostly, there are just some really killer topics in here, topics that are at the very top of the list of what many people are being asked to do on the i today, topics related to the many ways in which you can link your i to the outside world. And Rafael does it all with RPG and open-source tools (including POI, which he does a very good job of covering), which is way cool.


Among the topics he tackles are automating file transfers, creating/reading/writing files on the IFS from an RPG program, correcting user's errors on CSV input files, sending emails from an RPG program, dealing with GPS, creating interactive charts directly from RPG, integrating your RPG programs with the beast (Microsoft Windows), picking up some open-source tools that help with this process, and, maybe most important, through the examples he presents, helping each of us expand on what he has done to create our own solutions for the problems that are uniquely ours.


In the end, if you're seriously interested in expanding your ability to deal with the world beyond the i, then this book belongs on your shelf. Buy it, read it, live it. 'Nough said.


David Shirey

David Shirey is president of Shirey Consulting Services, providing technical and business consulting services for the IBM i world. Among the services provided are IBM i technical support, including application design and programming services, ERP installation and support, and EDI setup and maintenance. With experience in a wide range of industries (food and beverage to electronics to hard manufacturing to drugs--the legal kind--to medical devices to fulfillment houses) and a wide range of business sizes served (from very large, like Fresh Express, to much smaller, like Labconco), SCS has the knowledge and experience to assist with your technical or business issues. You may contact Dave by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (616) 304-2466.

MC Press books written by David Shirey available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC 21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC
Boost your productivity, modernize your applications, and upgrade your skills with these powerful coding methods.
List Price $69.95

Now On Sale



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: