A recent article by Jon Paris and Susan Gantner tells the story of an IBM i user who embarrassingly confessed having to use "the DOS window." It's worth a read.
Green-screens? What is this, the 1980s?
When I see green, I see red. User perceptions of our systems are that important. We should ensure that those perceptions are that we run modern systems. An easy way to do that is to present users with a modern interface. A simple way to do that, rather than display a traditional green-screen, is to deploy a solution like IBM i Access for Web.
Are green-screens easier to deploy? Not a chance. I can point Web users toward a URL, and they're on the system with no client installation—from a desktop, a laptop, an Apple iPad, a BlackBerry Playbook, or any other device with a Web browser.
Are green-screens more effective for "heads-down data entry?" I'd argue against that. I believe that the benefits of a Web interface outweigh the minor adjustments users have to make in their data-entry muscle memory.
We need to change our perceptions. IBM i Access for Web is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to do it.
IBM i Access for Web is a lightweight solution for accessing IBM i content via a Web browser. If you already have IBM i Access for Windows, you have entitlement for IBM i Access for Web because it's covered under the IBM i Access Family license. If you don't already have it installed on your system, please restore the licensed program and ensure you're up to date on your Program Temporary Fixes (PTFs).
Ready? Let's go!
Simplicity in Configuration
Before you configure anything for IBM i Access for Web, you may want to define a specific IP address on your IBM i and an Active Directory DNS entry to handle Web requests for it. This ensures a clean URL via the use of a standard HTTP port. Please see my previous article about IBM Integrated Web Application Server, where I give instructions on how to set that up. For the purpose of this example, let's assume we pick 192.168.1.25 as the IP address, and a corresponding DNS entry for that IP will be ibmiweb.myserver.com.
First, we'll create an IBM Integrated Web Application Server instance by logging into the IBM Web Administration for i at http://yoursystemname:2001/HTTPAdmin and selecting the Setup tab.
Click on Create Application Server.
On the Create Application Server page, click the Next button.
Under IBM integrated web application server for i, select the option button next to 8.1 or 7.1 (depending on what version you have installed). Click the Next button.
On the Create Integrated Web Application Server page, change the Application Server Name to IWAIAS and click the Next button.
In the First port in range field, take the default port. Click the Next button.
On this screen, enter IWAIAS as the HTTP server name. For the IP address, pick the IP address you defined earlier (192.168.1.25) and select port 80. Click the Next button.
This screen will prompt you for a default user. Leave the default QLWISVR as is. Click the Next button.
Click the Next button again. Wait for the IWAIAS server to be created and come to a running state.
Second, we'll configure IBM i Access for Web to use the IWAIAS Integrated Web Application Server. On a 5250 command line, enter the following command:
QIWA2/CFGACCWEB2 APPSVRTYPE(*INTAPPSVR) INSTANCE(IWAIAS)
Wait for a successful completion message. If you receive an error, check the /QIBM/UserData/Access/Web2/logs directory and review the cmds.log cmdstrace.log files.
The IWAIAS instance must be restarted in order for it to pick up the new configuration. Go back to the IBM Web Administration for i interface and restart the IWAIAS instance by clicking the red "stop" button. Wait for the instance to be stopped and then click the green "start" button. Wait for the server instance to come to a status of "Running."
Now, you can go to http://ibmiweb.myserver.com/webaccess/iWAHome to see IBM i Access for Web in action.
On the left side of the screen, you can see all the great features available from the Web interface (you can easily customize access based on user/group, by the way). For the purposes of this example, the most obvious tool this interface can replace is the traditional green-screen 5250 session.
Click on 5250 and then click Start a Session. On the next screen, you'll enter the familiar information to give you access to your IBM i: System (IP address or FQDN), port, bypass signon, and a few others. Once you've filled these in, click the Start Session button.
Figure 1: Start a session.
Voila. Your function key options are now buttons. If you enter a command on the command line, your Web browser caches it so you do a whole lot less typing. HTML-enabled screens offer the ability of clicking on menu links, rather than typing an option and pressing Enter (that's one click instead of two keystrokes).
More importantly, it's so much more modern looking. It doesn't look much like a "DOS window" anymore, does it? And it doesn't take much effort.
Part II of this TechTip will highlight some cool features (like automatic spool-to-PDF conversion), customization techniques, and some creative deployment scenarios for IBM i Access for Web.