OK. It's time to finally load V2R1 onto the old AS/400. Yes, I know it's March of 1992 and this is not really leading-edge stuff these days, but the rough edges should be smoothed out by now. The clients I worried about supporting since I can only save back one prior release are now moving up, so let's go for it. I can't wait to get at those new capabilities touted at seminars and user's groups last spring.
The manuals arrived, the tapes are here (well, they never really got here and I had to borrow them from the branch, but that's another story). I burned a full day saving, loading and applying the current cumulative PTFs. I don't even want to deal with the assumptions Operational Assistant made about how my user profiles wanted to use the machine!
Let's try out those new DDS windowing keywords. Not all of the manuals ship with the new version and DDS is one of the ones that did not ship. No problem--I'll just use the search index. Hey, there seems to be nothing in the search index on the keywords, even though I know what they are from last spring's COMMON conference notes. Let's just hop into SDA and see where they put them. SDA doesn't seem to know they are there. The SDA manual shipped with Version 2 certainly doesn't have any mention of them.
I can take a look in the information directory, which has a nice listing of all the available manuals, to see if maybe there is a new one. Unfortunately, the information directory wasn't one of the manuals that shipped with the update, so my only copy is for V1R3. I'll give up on the windowing keywords for a while.
So let's move on to the User Interface Manager. I should now be able write help text that appears in windows much like IBM's help text, with hypertext links, ugly syntax, underlining, lists, etc. Again I find no reference in the search index and no manuals. I am now beginning to doubt my sanity. Which of these functions was supposed to be in V2R1 announced last spring and available much of last year, and which belong to V2R1.1 announced last fall and available in March? I'm not trying to get way out on the leading edge here. I expect a release that's been generally available for eight months to be reasonably tight and well-documented by now. What are the rumors I am hearing about the next release after V2R1.1? There seems to be something wrong here!
Frantically, I search for documentation on Query Management Facility. It's available now, isn't it? I can't find anything on it, based upon what I've been shipped. How about PC/Support running under Windows? It's not in the table of contents or the index or the search index, but I have a "Red book" that explains that it was written a year ago.
I called the branch, but they don't have most of the new manuals either. They said I could order them and quoted me what it would cost to get the ones I wanted. I asked if either the branch or a local customer had a CD-ROM reader with the BookManager Read software set-up so that I could see how it worked, but they couldn't locate one. Maybe I can hold this CD-ROM up to the light and see if I can read it.
I think you can see some of what's wrong with this picture. I want advancements made to the AS/400 just like anybody else (referential integrity please!) But we can't have a cycle where new versions/releases are announced every eight months, are generally available six months after the announcement, and are typically installed 12 months after announced. Some of these capabilities are made available before their scheduled release if you put on the right PTFs for "hardship" cases.
We're seeing seminars that are way ahead of the available software, "Red books" ahead of the software, manuals behind the software, on-line help text incomplete or out of date, OS/400 functions not yet supported by the tools. The AS/400 is being stretched into so many diverse directions at once that even someone who is well founded in the architecture cannot keep abreast.
I am beginning to have concerns about the stability of the product. As observed above, the packaging is certainly no longer complete or current. I may have griped a lot about some of the early manuals and help, but I don't recall this type of problem where whole capabilities and functions are altogether missing. In order to use many of the new features, the community is forced to use "Red books," seminar notes, trade publications and bulletin boards. These are all fine sources of information, but this isn't what we should be forced to do.