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How to Build OpsNav Plug-ins Using Java

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Client Access’ Operations Navigator (OpsNav) is IBM’s graphical interface operations manager to the AS/400 that enables its users to perform a variety of work management functions such as application administration, database management, and security configuration. In fact, there’s very little in the way of work management on the AS/400 that you can do with a green-screen interface that you cannot do with OpsNav. You can open up OpsNav even further through the use of plug-ins. A plug-in is a self-contained module that performs a specific function, which you “plug into” the OpsNav GUI. IBM has enabled plug-in development by building all the hooks to the Windows operating system for you, leaving you the comparatively simple task of just developing code for your plug-in and attaching it to those hooks.

I’m going to detail for you the process you need to go through to develop your own plug-in using Java. To use this information, you need V4R4 of both OS/400 and Client Access Express, and you need Modification 2 of the AS/400 Toolbox for Java. (This version of the Toolbox comes standard with V4R4 of OS/400.) You also need the sample plug-in code available from IBM’s Web site at www.as400.ibm.com/clientaccess/toolkit/java.htm.

Getting Started

The easiest way to learn how to build your own plug-in is to take an example and modify it to see how it works. IBM has provided three examples of OpsNav plug-ins in its sample file. When you download the file containing the plug-in sample, install it to the root (C:) directory on your PC. The downloaded file contains several folders and subfolders, beginning with the parent folder, JVOPNAV. Drill down through the C:JVOPNAV folder until you get to the C:JVOPNAV COMIBMAS400OPNAV subfolder. In this subfolder, you’ll find three additional folders labeled MessageQueueSample1, MessageQueueSample2, and MessageQueueSample3. Each of these folders contains Java code for a particular plug-in sample.

There are several steps to go through to create your own plug-in, and, when you’re first learning, they can seem quite daunting. Hang in there. You’ll find that, as you become familiar with all the pieces, they’ll soon make sense. To make things as painless as possible, though, I’ll step through the process in a somewhat logical order. I’ll first look at the basic OpsNav interface and then identify the components required for a plug-in. After


that, I’ll step through modifying the sample code. To keep things as simple as possible, I’ll use only the first sample provided by IBM, MessageQueueSample1, shown in Figure 1. This plug-in displays a list of messages for the AS/400 user profile logged in with OpsNav and lets you add new messages to and delete messages from that user’s message queue.

The OpsNav Tree

If you look at the OpsNav GUI, you’ll see that it has a treelike interface. The left-hand pane displays all the branches of the tree. When you click one of these branches to expand it, you can see the leaves of the tree. Clicking a node either displays additional leaves or displays a list of objects in the right-hand pane of the GUI. All the functions available through the OpsNav client behave in exactly the same manner. Every plug-in you create must also conform to this basic framework of the OpsNav GUI.

This means that the plug-in must provide a branch on the OpsNav tree with an icon and a description to identify itself. When the user clicks the icon with the mouse pointer, it must either expand to display leaves underneath or build a list of objects in the right-hand pane. If a user right-clicks your plug-in node on the OpsNav tree, it must have the capability of displaying a context menu and then acting on the user-selected options found there.

Indentifying the Java Pieces

To ensure that each of these steps is followed, all plug-ins are broken down into various components. When using Java to create your plug-in, you have four basic Java classes:

• List Manager—manages the list (i.e., causes a list to be built or rebuilt as items are added or deleted)

• Actions Manager—handles context menu actions, such as adding or deleting

• Object Details—extracts individual item details

• Object List Interface—logic that builds the list (which is called from the List Manager)

If your particular plug-in requires more functionality, such as the ability to add an item to the list, you’ll need to create a Java class for those functions as well.

In the sample, the components are named MqMessagesListManager. java, MqActionsManager.java, MqMessage.java, and MqMessageQueue.java. Two additional components are used to add and delete messages: MqNewMessageBean.java and MqDeleteMessageBean.java.

GUI Builder

In addition to the object classes, the sample plug-in contains a couple of Java GUI panels: one to add new messages to the list and another to confirm the deletion of messages from the list. These interface panels were designed and generated as Panel Definition Markup Language (PDML) files from IBM’s GUI Builder utility. Many Java programmers are familiar with Program Call Markup Language (PCML), which is a subset of Extensible Markup Language (XML) and was created to ease the difficulty of interfacing with legacy data and applications. PDML is designed to ease the pain of developing and using Java GUIs.

GUI Builder is a set of Java classes that comes free with Modification 2 of the AS/400 Toolbox for Java. Using GUI Builder, you can design a Java user interface very quickly. Your interface can contain text fields, list windows, trees, buttons, and, in fact, pretty much any type of GUI component you can think of. After you have developed your


GUI panels, GUI Builder generates PDML source files and (optionally) skeleton Java code and HTML documentation.

Registering Your Plug-in

In addition to Java classes and PDML files, you will find a couple of *.REG files in each Samples directory. A *.REG file is a type of file that adds keys to the Windows Registry. When you create your own plug-in, you copy these *.REG files and modify them to suit your requirements. The MsgQueueSample1.reg file contains registration information for registering the Java plug-in to Windows when that plug-in resides on the PC’s hard drive itself. You also have the option, with Client Access Express, of distributing your plug-in from the AS/400 Integrated File System (AS/400 IFS) on your AS/400.

It works like this. You load all the pieces of your plug-in code (Java classes, PDML panels, and the *.DLL files and icons used by your plug-in) into a directory in the AS/400 IFS. When the user installs Client Access Express (either for the first time or using the Selective Install option), he sees your plug-in as an installable module under OpsNav and has the option of installing it from there, making distribution of your plug-in a snap. The MsgQueueSample1Install.reg file contains the registration set you need to install the plug-in from the AS/400.

Modifying the Sample Plug-in

As mentioned, the first sample plug-in displays a list of messages from the AS/400 message queue of the person signed on through OpsNav. The plug-in displays the text of the message as well as the date and time it was received. What you’re going to do is modify the basic Java code to also display the message ID and message type. This is a pretty simple modification, but it gives you a good idea of how the pieces fit together. For this modification, you need to change only two source files: MessageQueueGUI.pdml and MqMessagesListManager.java. You change the first one using GUI Builder, and you change the other using a Java editor. IBM was kind enough to add many extra methods in the other Java classes that enable you to extract much more of the message detail information than you’ll be going after here. If you want to expand on what you’re doing here, take a look at the MqMessage.java source file. You can see all the methods available for you to access.

Modifying the PDML File

The first thing you need to do is start GUI Builder. There isn’t enough room in this article to take you on a step-by-step tour of GUI Builder and how to use it. However, you can find a very good tutorial on GUI Builder in the AS/400 Toolbox for Java documentation at www.as400.ibm.com/toolbox; refer to that to get started with GUI Builder.

When GUI Builder starts, open the MessageQueueGUI.pdml file. For the modification, the only thing you need to change is the String Table entry, so double-click this node to open it for editing. A string table in PDML is nothing more than a set of character strings you can use to display error or informational text. You’re going to use these strings as column headings.

You’re going to add two new entries to the string table that will be used as new column headings for your plug-in. The first entry is for the message ID; the second is for the message type. When you open your sample string table, you will see two entries, column.msg.col1 and column.msg.col2. Add two more entries to this sequence by clicking the Add String icon. Add the entry column.msg.col3 with the text Message ID and the entry column.msg.col4 with the text Message Type. When you’re done, your sample should look like the one in Figure 2.

Now close the String Table panel, save your file, and close GUI Builder. When you do this, GUI Builder rebuilds the MessageQueueGUI.pdml file for you. Now you


need to modify the MqMessagesListManager.java source file to use these new strings and to retrieve values to display under them for each message in the user’s message queue.

Modifying the Java Program

Since this isn’t a tutorial on how to program in Java, I won’t go into the various tools and requirements for programming in Java on your PC. I’ll assume that you know how to edit and compile a Java source file. If you’re not familiar with these processes, check the references at the end of this article for some great resources to get you started.

Once you’ve opened the MqMessagesListManager.java source file, scroll through the source until you get to the method named ColumnDescriptor. In this method, you identify to the List Manager how many columns of data your plug-in has. In the sample program, two columns are identified for you, but you need to add two more columns. To do this, you need to increase the number of elements in the array named descriptors. Look for this line:

ColumnDescriptor[] descriptors = new ColumnDescriptor[2]

Change the value in the last instance of ColumnDescriptor in this line from 2 to 4. Just underneath this line, you’ll see a couple of lines that set the value for the elements in the descriptors array. Add the following two lines to the source file, just under the last line that sets the descriptors element values:

descriptors[2] = new ColumnDescriptor(

m_loader.getString(“column.msg.col3”), 30, 3);
descriptors[3] = new ColumnDescriptor(

m_loader.getString(“column.msg.col4”), 35, 4);

Doing this adds the two new columns to the class. Notice that the values in these columns are the same as the entries you made in the MessageQueueGUI.pdml file in GUI Builder.

Now scroll down until you find the method named getColumn-Data. Look for the following line:

sData = “”; sDataint = 0;

This variable is used to hold the numeric value of the message ID. The last thing you need to do is retrieve the values for the message ID and message type. Search for the “switch” control block in the getColumnData method. You need to add two more “case” statements to this block to get the required data. Under the last “case” block but before the “default” block, add the code shown in Figure 3 to your source file.

Msg.getID() is a method in the MqMessage Java class that retrieves the message ID from the message object on the AS/400. Msg.getType() is the method in MqMessage that retrieves the message type from the message object on the AS/400. That’s it; now you can compile the MqMessagesListManager.java source file and create the Java class.

Modifying the Windows Registry

The last thing you should be familiar with is the *.REG files. If you installed the sample source files to the C:JVOPNAV directory on your PC, you don’t need to modify anything in this file.


Just underneath it, add this line:

However, when you begin to create your own plug-ins, you need to copy these files to your new plug-in folder and modify them to fit your needs. The *.REG files can be edited with any text editor and contain some pretty good instructions on how to use them.

The last step in modifying the sample plug-in code is to register the plug-in to Windows. Double-click the MsgQueueSample1.reg file. You’ll be asked whether or not you want to add a key to the Windows Registry. Click the Yes box, and you’re done!

The Moment of Truth

Now that you’ve modified the GUI and Java source file and compiled everything, it’s time to see whether or not it all works. Open an OpsNav session on your PC and connect to your AS/400. Each time you start OpsNav, it will “scan” your AS/400 and the Windows Registry to see whether or not any new plug-ins have been added. It should find your new sample plug-in. Double-click the Java Message Queue Sample 1 node in the OpsNav GUI to display the message on the AS/400 associated with the user ID currently logged on. To see the new columns you added, scroll to the right in the right-hand pane of the resulting list. Cool, huh?

The Nasty Part

So far, you’ve worked with some pieces that any AS/400 green-screen programmer with a little Java experience should be able to handle. As new functionality and new plug-ins are developed, you may want to brush up a bit more on your Java skills, since the code can get complex very quickly. Relatively speaking, all of what you’ve done so far is fairly easy to do. If you don’t have a PC programming background, however, the next part may make you quail.

Every plug-in must have a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) file defined for it. At this point, your only choice for creating this DLL is to use a tool such as C++ or Visual Basic. Windows uses the DLL to find things such as the icons used by your plug-in as well as to determine version number and other relevant data. For the sample programs, you could get by with the DLL file that resides in the C:JVOPNAVWIN32MRI folder, but, when you create your own plug-in, you have to use one of the previously mentioned tools to create all the unique icons and DLL files for that plug-in.

Final Thoughts

The changes you’ve made to the sample plug-in are pretty minor but should give you a feel for how all these pieces fit together to create a plug-in. The best way to learn more about developing plug-ins is just to do it. For more information, visit the IBM AS/400 Information Center at www.as400.ibm.com/infocenter.

There’s no limit to what you can do with a plug-in. Creating plug-ins for the OpsNav client isn’t for the faint of heart, but, if you stick with it, you can provide your users with some rather unique functionality.

REFERENCES AND RELATED MATERIALS

• IBM AS/400 Information Center Web site: www.as400.ibm.com/infocenter
• IBM AS/400 Toolbox for Java and JTOpen Web site: www.as400.ibm.com/toolbox
• Zappie home page (includes AS/400 Java tutorials): www.zappie.net


How_to_Build_OpsNav_Plug-_ins_Using_Java06-00.png 397x251

Figure 1: The MessageQueueSample1 plug-in displays message text and the date and time it was created.

How_to_Build_OpsNav_Plug-_ins_Using_Java06-01.png 397x261

Figure 2: You modify the String Table entries used by the plug-in using the GUI Builder utility.

// Get the Message ID

case 3:

sData = msg.getID();

break;

// Get the Message Type

case 4:

sDataint = msg.getType();

if (sDataint == 1)

sData = “Completion”;

if (sDataint == 2)

sData = “Diagnostic”;

if (sDataint == 4)

sData = “Informational”;

if (sDataint == 5)

sData = “Inquiry”;

if (sDataint == 6)

sData = “Sender’s Copy”;

if (sDataint == 8)

sData = “Request”;

if (sDataint == 10)


sData = “Request with Copy”;

if (sDataint == 14)

sData = “Notify”;

if (sDataint == 15)

sData = “Escape”;

if (sDataint == 21)

sData = “Reply, not validity checked”;

if (sDataint == 22)

sData = “Reply, validity checked”;

if (sDataint == 23)

sData = “Message Default Used”;

if (sDataint == 24)

sData = “System Default Used”;

if (sDataint == 25)

sData = “Reply from System Reply List”;

break;

Figure 3: Add these lines of code to the getColumnData method.


Shannon O'Donnell
Shannon O'Donnell has held a variety of positions, most of them as a consultant, in dozens of industries. This breadth of experience gives him insight into multiple aspects of how the AS/400 is used in the real world. Shannon continues to work as a consultant. He is an IBM Certified Professional--AS/400 RPG Programmer and the author of an industry-leading certification test for RPG IV programmers available from ReviewNet.net.
 
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    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericMany business still depend on RPG for their daily business processes and report generation.Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stop re-keying data between IBM i and other applications? Or if you could stop replicating data and start processing orders faster? Or what if you could automatically extract data from existing reports instead of re-keying? It’s all possible. Watch this webinar to learn about:

    • The data dilemma
    • 3 ways to stop re-keying data
    • Data automation in practice

    Plus, see how HelpSystems data automation software will help you stop re-keying data.

     

  • The Top Five RPG Open Access Myths....BUSTED!

    SB_Profound_WC_GenericWhen it comes to IBM Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, there are still many misconceptions - especially where application modernization is concerned!

    In this Webinar, we'll address some of the biggest myths about RPG Open Access, including:

    • Modernizing with RPG OA requires significant changes to the source code
    • The RPG language is outdated and impractical for modernizing applications
    • Modernizing with RPG OA is the equivalent to "screen scraping"

     

  • Time to Remove the Paper from Your Desk and Become More Efficient

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericToo much paper is wasted. Attempts to locate documents in endless filing cabinets.And distributing documents is expensive and takes up far too much time.
    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally

     

  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic

    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days

     

  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.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. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine 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:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. 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:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot 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:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.