Systems Administration & Operations: IBM Gives Us a Better AS/400 Webserver Search Engine

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I remember when I first learned to program in BASIC. Man, I couldn’t believe how cool that language was and all the neat stuff I could do with it. Then I got onto the AS/400 and learned RPG and thought, “Wow! Now this is really the cat’s pajamas.” That love of RPG has lasted for many years, but it’s quickly going by the wayside. Now that I’m learning Java, I’m ready to chuck all my RPG skills and move to Java instead. It’s so much better than anything available in RPG that I wish I’d have found it first! That’s the way it goes, though. You find something you like, and then, after awhile, someone comes along and improves upon the idea and comes out with something better. That’s what happened between the releases of OS/400 V4R3 and V4R4.

In the August 1999 issue of Midrange Computing, I told you about a tool, available from IBM, that would let you search your AS/400-based HTML documents from a Web browser. Called Net.Question, this licensed program, which became available with V4R3 of OS/400, used .txt files as its index. The bad thing about these text files was that you were responsible for manually building them by using some kind of word processor and keying in the names of all the AS/400 HTML forms you wanted to be searched. It was these text files then that were searched by the user entering his search criteria into some provided predefined search templates. While there’s no doubt that Net.Question is a valuable and useful tool, its Qshell interface left many AS/400 administrators looking for something a little more familiar and easy to use. Apparently, IBM felt the same way. With the release of V4R4 of OS/400, IBM gave us the new AS/400 Webserver Search Engine. After taking a look at it, I’m inclined to agree that the Webserver Search Engine is a superior tool to use with your AS/400-based HTML documents. Actually, anything that helps me avoid working with a UNIX-style interface is a plus.

What It Is

The Webserver Search Engine comes free of charge as part of the licensed program HTTP Server for AS/400 with V4R4 of OS/400. It allows you to perform full text searches on HTML files stored on your AS/400 from pretty much any Web browser. What’s more, the HTML files it searches don’t have to be in the AS/400 Integrated File System (AS/400 IFS) only. Webserver Search Engine will also build indexes over and search HTML files stored in the QSYS.LIB library file system. Of course, it’s not really a good design practice to keep HTML documents in QSYS.LIB, but the option is there if you want it.

Basically, this AS/400 Webserver Search Engine replaces Net.Question, although both can be used concurrently. Why you’d want to do that is beyond me, since you can use your existing Net.Question index files within Webserver Search without modifying them. However, the option is there for you should you desire to use it. One caveat is that you cannot use your newly created Webserver Search indexes with Net.Question, so keep that in mind when you’re evaluating whether or not to keep the Net.Question tool.

How It Works

Webserver Search Engine works like this: You load your HTML documents into one or more directories on your AS/400 and then access the HTTP Server configuration on your AS/400 through a Web browser (using the URL http://yourserver:2001/) to create the index and build the document list. The index and the document list make up a collection of all the selected documents in the chosen directory on your AS/400. That is, every HTML document you wish to be searched makes up the index. One immediate advantage you’ll find with Webserver Search Engine over Net.Question is that Webserver Search Engine automatically builds and updates your indexes for you. With Net.Question, you are responsible for doing all of this by hand. If you have thousands of HTML forms, that’s a pretty hefty task!

Next, you modify some included skeleton HTML code provided by IBM to indicate what your search form will look like. (It’s fully customizable, so add those pictures of your CEO hamming it up at the office Christmas party if you want!) You can also specify whether or not you want to provide basic, advanced, or both types of searches. You can prompt the user for such advanced search techniques as word stemming, fuzzy searches, and precise word matches. Webserver Search Engine can also use Net.Data macros (although it’s not required), so you can really make this tool sit up and sing if you want. That, in a nutshell, is all there is to it. Of course, there are other things you can or may need to do to make it a perfect custom fit for your installation, but, in general, you should have this up and running in under an hour. It’s that simple.

Add Some Pizzazz!

If you’re looking for an easy way to add a dash of professional pizzazz to your AS/400-based Web site, you couldn’t do much better than the Webserver Search Engine from IBM. This free tool may be just what you need to make your AS/400 Internet or intranet the hottest pick on the ’net. For more information, see IBM’s AS/400 Webserver Search Engine Web page (