Weaving WebSphere: An Internet Christmas

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"This is my family. I found it all on my own. It is small, and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good."
--Stitch

For this yuletide column, I've decided to put together a little Christmas basket for you, with lots of goodies that I've found during my research. First, some breaking news on the IBM front. Then, I'll introduce you to a bunch of mostly cool things on the IBM Web site, followed by a few non-IBM sites with really neat gizmos and gadgets. Next, I'll answer some often-asked questions about the various WebSphere products. Finally, in the spirit of the season, I'll wrap up the column with a couple of free gifts from me to you.

Breaking News: Merry Christmas from IBM!

This just in, excerpted from the MIDRANGE-L mailing list:

Just heard from IBM that beginning on Sunday, December 5, IBM will launch an eServer i5 television ad in the U.S. on ABC primetime national programming, including the hot new show, LOST. Using the current IBM campaign format, the commercial humorously depicts Server Consolidation and introduces the eServer i5 system.

Ads of course can change their time slot without warning, but this is the proposed schedule:

The Five People You Meet In Heaven
Sun. 12/05/2004
8 - 11 p.m.
LOST
Wed. 12/15/2004
8 - 10 p.m.
Remember The Titans
Sat. 12/18/2004
8 - 10 p.m.
Boston Legal
Sun. 12/19/2004
10 - 11 p.m.
LOST
Wed. 12/22/2004
9 - 10 p.m.
Boston Legal
Sun. 12/26/2004
10 - 11 p.m.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas, i5! Combine this with the rumor that IBM is getting out of the PC business, and this could bode well for the beginning of a new focus for IBM.

IBM.com--The Only Constant Is Change

There have been a lot of interesting rumors out and about, as well as changes in the products and in IBM as a whole. One place where change is the norm is the IBM Web site. Sometimes, things are just changed to a new name; sometimes, they're removed completely. Lately, the site has been more stable, but a couple of recent changes have me thinking once again that the IBM Webmasters have a little too much time on their hands. Let's review a couple of recent changes, just for fun. The first one is actually a bit of sad news, so I'll get that out of the way quickly, and then we can focus on the good stuff.

Fred Is Dead, Long Live Fitz!

Fred was our pet nickname for the underused but still appreciated Feature Request Database, or FRD. We were supposed to use Fred to report our ideas for enhancements. And while it probably never got quite the response IBM hoped for, lots of people did use it to request features. More important, I think, was the ability to be able to vote for features, which gave some of us the idea (however misguided it might have been) that we actually had some input to the development team.

Well, IBM has unceremoniously dumped Fred and replaced it with something called the Fully Integrated Tool Set system, or FITS (Fitz, get it?). But nobody I know of has heard of FITS; in fact, it seems that the only way to actually enter anything into FITS is through an IBM "account team." This may be difficult, especially for those of us who don't have our own IBM account team. In any case, we in the trenches now have one less way to communicate our concerns. I guess somebody thought we were bad and put coal in our stockings.

FactFind

A wonderful little tool that I've used for years, FactFind shows the current base prices for various models of iSeries processors. It's not really a configuration tool, since it just shows the base models, but it was a great way to look at the various models and also to see how much the interactive features really cost. Then, one day recently, FactFind suddenly disappeared! As it turns out, it just relocated like so many other IBM Web pages tend to do. It's now here, in all its original splendor. Think of it as a little stocking stuffer....

Redbooks and Redpapers

For our first real present, though, may I present IBM's incredible online resource, the Redbooks. This repository is packed full of outstanding technical documentation for just about every subject you could imagine related to IBM products, hardware, and software. I mean it; this thing is huge. The library is so large that it's divided into a variety of different "domains," depending on the subject. For instance, you can find the iSeries-specific books here.

The Redbooks are full publications roughly equivalent to a standard technical reference book, typically several hundred pages long. They tend to cover a range of topics associated with a single general subject. One of the most popular of these has been Who Knew You Could Do That With RPG IV? A Sorcerer's Guide to System Access and More. This Redbook, even though it was first published back in 2000, contains a wealth of information about using RPG IV, from writing subprocedures to calling APIs. If you haven't seen this Redbook, do yourself the favor.

Next are the Redpapers. These shorter pieces, usually under 100 pages in length, deal with a specific technical subject. One of my favorites is the system capacities document. Typically about 20 pages long, it lists the maximum values of--well, of just about anything in OS/400. For example, the latest one, the V5R2 version, says that the maximum number of user profiles is about 340,000. That might give you pause if you wanted to provide a profile for every visitor to your Web site! Another Redpaper tells you all about new models and their hardware compatibility. Unfortunately, both publications are for V5R2. For Christmas, I'd like IBM to update both of these fine publications to V5R3 as soon as possible. Just to give you an idea of the breadth of these papers, here's one that shows how to run PHP (a very popular Web scripting language) on the iSeries.

And finally, there are even smaller focused articles called Technotes. For example, I had no idea that I could display performance data graphically, but this Technote shows you just how to do it using iSeries Navigator. Another technote shows you how to add zip and unzip capabilities to QShell.

All in all, the Redbooks resource is a very good one. There is even a section listing upcoming workshops if you can get some hands-on experience.

Some More Stocking Stuffers

For those of you with a historical bent, there is the IBM Online Library, specifically for versions of OS/400 prior to V5R1. If you're still partial to the old online format, you can find them here.

And while the Redbooks and Redpapers are certainly in keeping with the color scheme of the season, the color white, as in White Papers, is just as appropriate, and IBM has a ton of them.

For WDSC users, particularly those playing with WebFacing, there is a collection of user hints available on one of those "funky" IBM Web sites. By funky, I mean not quite as straightlaced as the typical site. In this case, the name is Larry's Hot Tips, and it's a great site for WebFacers.

Finally, if you're even thinking about dipping your toe into the world of RPG-CGI, you have to go to the Easy400 Web site.

Works--For a Price

The developerWorks site is a bit of a mystery to me. I'm still not sure what happened; at one point, I had access to just about everything I needed as a member of PartnerWorld for Developers, and then suddenly I had to subscribe to developerWorks. Not only that, but as I review what exactly is offered in developerWorks, it seems tightly integrated to WebSphere Studio. Buy a starter subscription, get WebSphere Studio Site Developer. Buy a professional subscription, get WebSphere Studio Application Developer. Enterprise subscription, Enterprise Developer. Included as you go along are more IBM middleware components, such as Rational and Tivoli products.

Not that it's all bad, mind you. The forums at developerWorks are sometimes pretty helpful, and they also have a page devoted to WebSphere Studio plug-ins. But as far as I can tell, developerWorks is all about selling tools for developing platform-neutral applications using IBM components.

The same seems to be happening to alphaWorks. Once upon a time, alphaWorks was the place to go to download cool new Java code, and the site still is a place where coders like to code, and talk about code, and show off their code, and share their code. Unfortunately, it seems that alphaWorks is becoming commercialized, with more and more of it being devoted to for-fee packages. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case whenever the open source world and the corporate world collide: Profit wins.

Outside IBM

Despite the "stealth" nature of the iSeries (or whatever IBM calls it this week), there are quite a few great sites out there devoted to the box. This site, of course, is one of the stalwarts, as is www.midrange.com. A few others are also relatively well-known, but their names shall not be uttered here. ;-) But there are others, sites with great attendees and sites with smaller but perhaps even more-devoted followings.

One of the best is the iSeries toolkit, run by David Morris. While a lot of us have paid lip service to the concept of open source, David has gone out and done it. He has created a serious Sourceforge project devoted to iSeries developers. You're really cheating yourself if you haven't taken a look at this. (Note to self: See about submitting that text conversion API wrapper to the project.)

Next on my personal favorites list is Per Gummedal's iSeries Python Web site. Per is as devoted to Python as anyone I've seen, and he shows it by continuing to update his iSeries Python project. In fact, the current version is at 2.3.3, which is high enough to (theoretically) run Zope and Plone, which means I may have a new spare time project. If I can get Zope and Plone running, I can move the IAAI Web site to the iSeries, where it belongs.

Then there's www.freeas400software.com, which is a fairly self-explanatory Web address. It's actually run by a UK software house, but it's nice of them to try to keep up a list of free iSeries software. From that list, you can branch out to quite a few more good places.

Sadly, one you will not see on the list is my old java400.net site. Unfortunately, java400 is currently on indefinite sabbatical, at least until we get a little better handle on the whole situation. The biggest problem at the moment is the fact that, while Java and the iSeries are great in the right mix, too many people seem to have the wrong recipe, and that results in disaster for the box. I don't want to bring too much gloom into this holiday issue, but let me relate a story very briefly. A few years back, IBM decided to take one of its big customers down the pure Java road. They did so quite effectively--so effectively, in fact, that the same company has just dumped OS/400 and DB2 in favor of Linux and Oracle, and only time separates them from dumping IBM completely for generic hardware.

Herein lies the danger of the platform-independence mantra. Platform independence means code that is not optimized for the platform. If code is not optimized for the platform, then every machine is fundamentally equal. If every machine is equal, you go for the cheapest CPU cycles available. iSeries CPU cycles are not cheap. Thus, platform independence implies not using the iSeries. Is this too tough to follow?

http://www.mcpressonline.com/articles/images/2002/041203%20-%20An%20Internet%20ChristmasV200.jpg

Figure 1: Why doesn't anybody understand this?

Some Questions Answered

OK, it's time to answer a few questions. Certain questions come up over and over on various mailing lists and forums. I thought I'd address one or two here.

Q: Do I need WebSphere Application Server (WAS) to use WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSc)?

A: No! While WDSc is a great product for developing Web-based applications that run on WAS, it serves equally as well in the role of primary development tool for green-screen developers. In fact, WDSc in conjunction with CODE Designer is arguably more productive than SEU and SDA.

Q: Can I use Update Manager to upgrade WDSc to Version 5.1.2?

A: Unfortunately, the answer here is also no. So much of the code has changed between releases that the only way to update your code is to get a new copy of the media. Contact your Business Partner and ask for a refresh of WDSc (feature code 2656). More information can be found here.

Q: I'm running WDSc 5.1, and it stopped asking for a workspace. How do I get it to ask again?

A: You need to update the registry. The key is Software>IBM>WebSphere Studio>Workspace under HKEY_CURRENT_USER. For Version 5.1.0, you can copy the following line into a file with a .reg extension and run it:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareIBMWebsphere StudioWorkspace] 

"wdsc510"="" "wdsc510_status"="Enable"

The line above must be a single line. The digits "510" change depending upon your current version of WDSc.

Q: I've made a new perspective, and I'd like to change the icon. How do I do that?

A: Unfortunately, you can't. There is no way to define an icon for a user-defined perspective. The closest thing to a workaround is to create a new perspective with your own icon and then customize it.

My Christmas Present

I said I'd include a Christmas present. Here are a couple of commands with the corresponding CL code to start and stop a WAS instance. They work fine with WAS Express (5722-IWE), but I haven't tried them with either the base or network deployment (ND) editions. If you try either of those editions, please let us know what happens by posting to the forums.

STRWASSVR starts a WebSphere server instance. It assumes that the server name is the same as the WAS instance name. The ENDWASSVR command ends a server, and assumes the same thing. If your instance name and server name are different, you will have to add a second parameter to the commands and the CL programs.

And Finally, Christmas Wishes

This is the last "Weaving WebSphere" column for the year and my last column of any type before Christmas, so I think it's time to wish you all a peaceful and joyous holiday season. The last few years have been tough, and the last year in particular has been stressful. And it's not just in our little soap opera of IBM and the iSeries. Employment in general isn't what we'd like it to be, our society seems to be getting less civil every day, and our youngsters are off across the world in harm's way. Sometimes, it's hard to put a good face on things.

But you're still here. You're still reading this column, which I hope means you're still working on making the iSeries the best platform it can be. And if you can find time to worry about WebSphere and the iSeries, then life isn't all bad, is it? And if you're still down in the dumps, rent one (or more!) of the following:

  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • The Family Man (a modern equivalent in reverse, sort of )
  • Lilo and Stitch (my all-time favorite!)
  • Michael
  • Galaxy Quest
  • The Rookie
  • About a Boy

If you can, hug someone and tell them you love them. If you can't find someone to hug, go help someone. This is the time of year when volunteer organizations need lots of help. Most cities have Santa programs, where you can register to give an underprivileged kid Christmas gifts. Get out of yourself and into the world!

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season, and in the immortal words of Dave Allen, "May your God go with you."

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been working in the field since the late 1970s and has made a career of extending the IBM midrange, starting back in the days of the IBM System/3. Joe has used WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. Joe is also the author of E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step and WDSc: Step by Step. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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