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Integrate Open-Source Applications with Your System i

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Open-source applications are programs whose source is freely available to be redistributed and enhanced as the user sees fit. The origins of the open-source software movement can be traced back to a man named Richard Stallman, who was at one time a programmer at the MIT AI lab. In the early '80s, Stallman fathered the GNU's Not Unix (GNU) project, whose goal was to create an entire operating system and a set of development tools that would be freely distributable. At the same time, he authored his vision for what is known today as open-source software in a work entitled the "GNU Manifesto."

Although GNU isn't UNIX, it's intended to be a UNIX-compatible operating system. Building on the GNU project in the early '90s, a programmer named Linus Torvald developed the kernel for a new operating system based on the GNU software license. That operating system (Linux) is now the third most popular operating system in the world. Today, the open-source movement thrives in every aspect of the software world. In fact, probably most software applications you can imagine have an open-source cousin. In this article, we'll examine how to make the most of open-source applications on your System i.

The concept of open-source software is nothing new on the System i. In fact, the System i HTTP Web Server is based on the popular open-source Apache Web server. And let's not forget that the Linux operating system has been available for the System i for years. Having said that, System i–specific open-source projects have, unfortunately, been few and far between. The good news, however, is that many open-source applications can be utilized on the System i, even though they're not System i–specific. One example of this is Apache Tomcat. This extension to the Apache Web server adds Java servlet and JavaServer Pages (JSP) capabilities. A Redbook is available with instructions for installing Tomcat on your System i.

Open-Source Tools for Building Office Documents

Another example of an open-source technology that you can use on the iSeries is the Jakarta POI project. This project is responsible for developing a set of open-source Java APIs for reading and writing Microsoft Office documents. This set of APIs is broken down into a set of subcomponents, as shown in the table below.

Jakarta POI Java APIs
Component
Description
POIFS
APIs for reading and writing OLE 2 Compound Document Formats in Java
HSSF
APIs for reading and writing Microsoft Excel 97(-XP) spreadsheets in Java
HWPF
APIs for reading and writing Microsoft Word 97(-XP) documents using Java
HPFS
APIs that allow access to Microsoft Office document file properties (title, author, etc.)


The POIFS API allows you to access documents using the OLE 2 Compound Document Format, the common "archived file" format used by Microsoft Office documents. Generally, the other APIs described here use the POIFS APIs under the covers. These APIs give us access to the file system itself through the org.apache.poi.poifs.filesystem.POIFSFileSystem class, the file system directory structure through the org.apache.poi.poifs.filesystem.DirectoryEntry instance, and individual documents through the org.apache.poi.poifs.filesystem.DocumentInputStream instance.

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet documents can be manipulated using the HSSF APIs, which are discussed in detail in the MC Press TechTip "Excel on the Fly" by Giuseppe Costagliola.

The HWPF project is intended to give a Java programmer access to Microsoft Word documents. This project is in a very early development phase and in fact has been stalled for quite some time. Word documents themselves are accessed through the org.apache.poi.hwpf.HWPFDocument class. Currently, this API supports basic document reading and editing capabilities, including the ability to read and update/append text within a Word document. Text can be extracted from a Word document using the org.apache.poi.hwpf.extractor.WordExtractor class. The getRange() method can be used to retrieve a specific portion of a document. A retrieve range can be used with the insertBefore() and insertAfter() methods to add text before or after that range.

The HPFS API gives us access to additional details related to a Microsoft Office document. These properties include the same type of details that can be found within the document properties dialog within Word or Excel, for example title and/or author. This API is accessed via the org.apache.poi.hpsf.SummaryInformation class. Individual properties can be accessed using the SummaryInformation class methods getTitle(), getAuthor(), etc.

Each of these APIs can be incorporated into Java applications running on your System i to create Microsoft Office–compatible documents while utilizing data in your System i database. Additional information on the Jakarta POI project can be found on the project Web site.

Open-Source Report Creation

Most System i programmers are used to using RPG to create report programs. Today, many of us use translation tools to convert the spooled file output generated by these RPG programs into PDF format so that the reports can be easily displayed with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

An example of a utility that does this is the SCS2iText utility illustrated in the TechTip "Spooled Files and PDF, Part Three" by Giuseppe Costagliola. The sample utility is based on the open-source iText Java class library. This class library gives you the ability to dynamically generate PDF documents from within a Java application. With that idea in mind, why not eliminate the middle man and generate your report programs in pure Java and at the same time send the output directly to a PDF file? This is all possible using iText. The iText class library is simple enough to use even for a novice Java programmer. Let's take a look at exactly how to use the iText class library within a Java reporting program. By combining JDBC database connectivity with iText capability to output a PDF, you can easily generate a PDF report on the fly. The Java source shown below illustrates this.

  // PDFFieldList.java

  import java.io.*;

  import com.lowagie.text.*;
  import com.lowagie.text.pdf.*;
  import java.sql.*;

  class PDFFieldList
  {
    public static void main (String [] args) throws Exception
    {
     // Input Parameters
     String fileName = args[0]; // File Name
     String libName = args[1];  // Library Name
     String outPDF = args[2];   // Output PDF Path/filename

     Document doc = new Document (PageSize.LETTER.rotate ());
     PdfWriter.getInstance (doc, new FileOutputStream (outPDF));
     doc.open ();

     // Create a 5-column table.

    PdfPTable table = new PdfPTable (5);

    // Create database connection
    try {
                Class.forName("com.ibm.db2.jdbc.app.DB2Driver");

                Connection conn = 

DriverManager.getConnection("jdbc:db2:*local");


     // Create and add a title across both columns.
     String heading = "Field Listing for File " + fileName + " in

library " + libName + ".";
     PdfPCell cell = new PdfPCell (new Paragraph (heading));
     cell.setColspan (5);
     cell.setHorizontalAlignment (Element.ALIGN_CENTER);
     table.addCell (cell);

     // Add header cells for these columns.

     table.addCell ("Field");
     table.addCell ("Description");
     table.addCell ("Type");
     table.addCell ("Length");
     table.addCell ("Dec");

      // Add each row.
     try {
          String sqlStr = "SELECT SYS_CNAME, LABEL, COLTYPE, LENGTH,

SCALE " +
                " FROM QSYS2.SYSCOLUMNS WHERE SYS_TNAME ='" + fileName

 + "' AND SYS_DNAME ='" + libName + "' ";

          PreparedStatement s = conn.prepareStatement(sqlStr);

          ResultSet rs = s.executeQuery();

        while (rs.next()) {
                       table.addCell (rs.getString(1));
                       table.addCell (rs.getString(2));
                       table.addCell (rs.getString(3));
                       table.addCell (rs.getString(4));
                       table.addCell (rs.getString(5));
                       }
          }
         catch (SQLException e) {
                     System.out.println("SQLException exception: ");
                     System.out.println("Message:....." + 

e.getMessage());
                     System.out.println("SQLState:...." + 

e.getSQLState());
                     System.out.println("Vendor Code:." + 

e.getErrorCode());
          }

      // Add the table to the document.

      doc.add (table);
      doc.close ();
            } catch (Exception e) {
                System.out.println("Database exception: " + 

e.getMessage());
            }
      }
    }

This sample program lists field information for a defined System i file. The first argument on the call identifies the file name, while the second identifies the library containing the defined file, and the third supplies the location and filename for the output PDF file.

This example imports the com.lowagie.text.* class along with the com.lowagie.text.pdf.* class. You create a new instance of the Document object named doc. This object represents a PDF document with a letter-size page in landscape orientation. The data for the report is read using a standard JDBC connection using a prepared SQL statement based on the SYSCOLUMNS file. The data from this file is output to a PDF table, where each cell in the table contains a data element from the SYSCOLUMNS file. Once all of the table records have been output, the table is added to the PDF document and the document is closed.

Prior to compiling this example, you'll need to download the iText jar from the project Web Site. Once you've downloaded the jar file, create a new folder in the root of the IFS named "iText" and place the iText jar in that folder. Also move the source for the PDFFieldList.java example into that folder as well. Next, enter a Qshell session using the QSH command. From the QSH command line, enter the following command to ensure that your classpath is set correctly prior to compiling the new class:

export -s CLASSPATH=/QIBM/ProdData/OS400/Java400/ext/db2_classes.jar:/iText/iText-2.0.0.jar: 

Note that the version of the iText jar file should match the version downloaded.

Now you're ready to compile your Java program using these commands:

cd /iText/

javac PDFFieldList.java

Notice that you first relocate to the iText folder prior to compiling. Once you've successfully compiled this program, you can call the newly created class using the following command:

java PDFFieldList 'SYSTABLES' 'QSYS2' '/iText/SYSTABLES.PDF' 

This statement executes the PDFFieldList class to generate a report containing a list of fields for the SYSTABLES file. The list is output to a PDF named SYSTABLES.PDF in the iText folder. The resulting PDF file shows a single table that contains all of the report data. Figure 2 illustrates this output PDF.

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/OpenSourceSystemiV3--02280700.png
Figure 2: This is the output from the PDF report. (Click image to enlarge.)

The true beauty of using iText is that you can completely customize your report output, including fonts, text placement, and even images. This simple example illustrates the basic technique you need to use to create PDF reports using iText and Java.

Considering the Open-Source Alternative

In this article, I've covered just a few examples of how to integrate open-source software with your System i. I hope I've helped to convince you to consider checking out the open-source options for your next programming task. You may find that you've opened yourself to a whole new world of possibilities.

Mike Faust is Applications Support Manager for Invivo Corp in Orlando, Florida. Mike is also the author of the books The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things and Active Server Pages Primer and SQL Built-in Functions and Stored Procedures. You can contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mike Faust

Mike Faust is a senior consultant/analyst for Retail Technologies Corporation in Orlando, Florida. Mike is also the author of the books Active Server Pages Primer, The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things, JavaScript for the Business Developer, and SQL Built-in Functions and Stored Procedures. You can contact Mike at mikeffaust@yahoo.com.


MC Press books written by Mike Faust available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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  • 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.