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The CL Corner: Alternatives to the CEE Date and Time APIs

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Have you tried using the C run-time date and time APIs?

 

In the two most recent articles of this column (here and here), we have looked at the CEE date and time APIs and seen how easy it is, when working with Lilian seconds, to perform operations such as adding six hours to a time, comparing two time values, etc. without regard to the number of seconds in a minute, the number of minutes in an hour, and so on. This capability is not unique to the CEE APIs. It also exists with other APIs that are provided standard with your i operating system. Today, we will look at one such alternative set of APIs, the C language run-time functions--functions that you can also use from ILE CL. As a reminder, the task we are working on is to send an alert from one program (CHKLSTSND in the original article) when another program (SNDUPD) has not successfully run in over six hours.

 

Similar to how the CEE APIs support time as simply a sequential number (using either days or seconds) starting from October 14, 1582, C APIs support time as a sequential number. In the case of C run-time, the sequential number represents the number of seconds since January 1, 1970, UTC. This value is typically defined as a 4-byte integer data type (TYPE(*INT) in CL), which is both good and bad. A "good" aspect is that CL natively supports 4-byte integers. This means we don't have to worry about converting CEE floating point values to decimal values as we did with the Copy Numeric Value (CPYNV) API in previous articles. A "bad" aspect is that a 4-byte integer cannot hold anywhere near the number of seconds that an 8-byte floating point value can. So, using default C run-time support, we cannot work with time values that are greater than Tuesday, January 19, 2038, at 03:14:07 (shades of Y2K!). We'll come back to this consideration later in the article.

 

UTC time is obtained by calling the Determine Current Time API "time" (note that the API name is lowercase and that case is important when using the C run-time APIs). The API has one output parameter where the current UTC time, in seconds since January 1, 1970, is stored. The API can also return the current UTC time as a return value (RTNVAL on the CALLPRC command) from the API call. The time API is documented in the ILE C/C++ Run-Time Library Functions manual. The parameter list for time is given below:

 

time_t time(time_t *timeptr);

If you have never worked with the C language, this parameter list may look rather strange. As the time API is a C run-time API, it is documented using a language-defined style, in this case what is known as a C prototype. There are more details on how to read this parameter list (or prototype) in my book IBM System i APIs at Work, Second Edition, but essentially the definition to the left of the API name (time_t in this case) is a return value from the API, and definitions to the right of the API name are parameters you pass to the API. The time API is expecting one parameter (named timeptr), which is a pointer (the * indicates that the data type is that of a pointer) to a data type of time_t. time_t is defined within the C language as a 4-byte signed integer. The following Send Update 3 program, SNDUPD3, shows how the time API is called and the resulting time then stored in the data area QGPL/LSTSNDTIM3. But prior to running SNDUPD3, the data area LSTSNDTIM3 needs to be created using this command:

 

CRTDTAARA DTAARA(QGPL/LSTSNDTIM3) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(4)

Pgm                                                      

Dcl        Var(&Snd_Int)   Type(*Int)                    

Dcl        Var(&Snd_Char)  Type(*Char) Stg(*Defined) +   

             Len(4) DefVar(&Snd_Int)                     

                                                         

/* Send the updates and then:                         */ 

                                                         

CallPrc    Prc('time') Parm(&Snd_Int)                    

ChgDtaAra  DtaAra(QGPL/LSTSNDTIM3) Value(&Snd_Char)      

EndPgm                                                   

 

Some explanation of what is being done in the SNDUPD3 program is in order. We first define the 4-byte signed integer &Snd_Int, which will hold the current UTC time that the time API returns to us as a parameter. This variable corresponds to the time_t definition found in the time API's parameter list/prototype. As data areas cannot be defined as being an integer (only *DECIMAL, *CHAR, *LGL, and *DDM are supported) and we defined the data area LSTSNDTIM3 as *CHAR, SNDUPD3 also redefines the variable &Snd_Int as a 4-byte character field named &Snd_Char. This is necessary in order to successfully use the CHGDTAARA command later in the program to reflect the time of the last successful transmission. We could have also created LSTSNDTIM3 as a *DECIMAL data area, used CHGVAR to convert &Snd_Int to a *DECIMAL variable &Snd_Dec, and written &Snd_Dec to LSTSNDTIM3, but using this redefinition capability of CL works quite well and avoids having to run a CHGVAR command.

 

Note that the ability to redefine variables as we have done with &Snd_Int and &Snd_Char is a feature of CL only available starting with V5R4. If you are on a previous release, you should simply define one *CHAR variable with a length of 4 bytes. This variable would then be used with both the API call and the CHGDTAARA command.

 

With the data definitions out of the way, SNDUPD3 calls the time API, passing the parameter &Snd_Int. This parameter is being passed with the default *BYREF parameter-passing convention, which means the CL compiler will pass a pointer to &Snd_Int implicitly. This *BYREF behavior meets the needs of the time API--namely, that a pointer be passed to a 4-byte signed integer variable. As the time API returns the current UTC time in the &Snd_Int parameter, there is no need for us to specify a RTNVAL on the CALLPRC, so we don't.

 

Having called the time API, &Snd_Int is now updated with the number of seconds since January 1, 1970, UTC. The CHGDTAARA command writes this value (using the &Snd_Char definition) to the data area.

 

To compile SNDUPD3 on a V6R1 system, you can simply use this command:

 

CRTBNDCL PGM(SNDUPD3)

 

To compile SNDUPD3 on a previous release (or on V6R1 if you like performing extra steps), you need to follow a two-step process:

 

CRTCLMOD MODULE(SNDUPD3)

CRTPGM PGM(SNDUPD3) BNDDIR(QC2LE)

 

The following Check Last Send 3 program, CHKLSTSND3, demonstrates how to use the time value stored in LSTSNDTIM3 and determine if more than six hours have elapsed since the last successful update by SNDUPD3. CHKLSTSND3 does assume that the SNDUPD3 program has been run at least one time in order to initialize the LSTSNDTIM3 data area.

 

             Pgm                                                     

             Dcl        Var(&Snd_Int)   Type(*Int)                   

             Dcl        Var(&Snd_Char)  Type(*Char) Stg(*Defined) +  

                          Len(4) DefVar(&Snd_Int)                    

             Dcl        Var(&Cur_Int)    Type(*Int)                  

             Dcl        Var(&Alert_Time) Type(*Int)  Value(21600)    

             Dcl        Var(&Delay_Time) Type(*Dec)                  

             Dcl        Var(&Status)     Type(*Char) Len(1)          

                                                                     

 Loop:       RtvDtaAra  DtaAra(QGPL/LSTSNDTIM3) RtnVar(&Snd_Char)    

             CallPrc    Prc('time') Parm(&Cur_Int)                    

                                                                     

             If         Cond((&Cur_Int - &Snd_Int) > &Alert_Time) +  

                          Then(Do)                                   

                             SndPgmMsg Msg('Time to send alert') +   

                                ToPgmQ(*Ext)                         

                            ChgVar Var(&Delay_Time) Value(300)       

                            EndDo                                    

            Else       Cmd(ChgVar Var(&Delay_Time) +                 

                         Value(&Alert_Time - (&Cur_Int - &Snd_Int) + 

                         + 1))                                       

                                                                      

            RtvJobA    EndSts(&Status)                               

            If         Cond(&Status *NE '1') Then(Do)                

                       DlyJob Dly(&Delay_Time)                       

                       GoTo CmdLbl(Loop)                             

                       EndDo                                         

                                                                     

            EndPgm                                                    

 

CHKLSTSND3 basically reads the LSTSNDTIM3 data area by reversing the approach used in SNDUPD3. The program reads the data area into the variable &Snd_Char and then works with the value as a signed integer using the &Snd_Int definition. Processing-wise, you should see that the logic is similar to, but requires less work than, what we had to perform in CHKLSTSND when using the CEE APIs and working with floating-point time values.

 

To compile CHKLSTSND3, you would again use either the one-step or two-step process given previously for the SNDUPD3 program.

 

If you are on a release prior to V5R4 and are not able to use *DEFINED storage, then you should again define one *CHAR variable with a length of 4 bytes. Also define a separate *INT variable and then use the %bin built-in support of CL to convert the *CHAR variable value to the *INT variable:

 

Dcl        Var(&Snd_Char) Type(*Char) Len(4)       

Dcl        Var(&Snd_Int)  Type(*Int)               

ChgVar     Var(&Snd_Int) Value(%Bin(&Snd_Char))    

 

Similar to how we enhanced the CEE versions of SNDUPD and CHKLSTSND with the more operator-friendly programs SNDUPD2 and CHKLSTSND2, in the next article, we'll show how to make similar changes to SNDUPD3 and CHKLSTSND3.

 

Before we close, let's revisit the discussion of date ranges that we brought up earlier. As mentioned in the introduction, a 4-byte signed integer time_t data type cannot represent time values that exceed January 19, 2038, at 03:14:07 (similar if you will to how a two-digit number cannot exceed 99). The year 2038 may seem like a long time away, but as we learned with Y2K, there's no time like today to start worrying about how to format date and time values. In V6R1, IBM provides an enhanced version of the time API called time64. The time64 API works just like the time API but uses an 8-byte signed integer to store the number of seconds since January 1, 1970. This enhancement allows the API to support time values, still measured in seconds, since January 1, 1970, up to the year 9999. There are two considerations to keep in mind, though. One is that if you use the C run-time time APIs prior to V6R1, you should keep track of where the APIs are used and be prepared to change in the future to the "64" versions of the APIs. This change should be relatively painless. The second consideration is that ILE CL does not have direct support for 8-byte signed integers, so we're also back to using the Copy Numeric Value API approach that was used with the CEE APIs, where the number of seconds is stored as a floating point value. If you go with the time64 approach, the Copy Numeric Value format definition for an 8-byte signed integer would be x'00000800000000'.   

More CL Questions?             

Wondering how to accomplish a function in CL? Send your CL-related questions to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I'll try to answer your burning questions in future columns.

Bruce Vining

Bruce Vining is president and co-founder of Bruce Vining Services, LLC, a firm providing contract programming and consulting services to the System i community. He began his career in 1979 as an IBM Systems Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri, and then transferred to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1985, where he continues to reside. From 1992 until leaving IBM in 2007, Bruce was a member of the System Design Control Group responsible for OS/400 and i5/OS areas such as System APIs, Globalization, and Software Serviceability. He is also the designer of Control Language for Files (CLF).A frequent speaker and writer, Bruce can be reached at bvining@brucevining.com. 


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    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.