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File I/O Through Data Structures

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How do you define frustration? I'm sure you could think of several definitions, but maybe one definition is, "having to run System/36 RPG on an AS/400." No external file definitions. No WRITE and UPDAT op codes. Endless lines of input and output specs. And, converting all those data files to native isn't something that can be accomplished overnight.

In this article, we'll look at another way to do I/O--using data structures. Not only will you learn some ways to spice up your S/36-style RPG code, you'll discover that this technique has some usefulness in native mode.

External Described and Program-Described Files

There are two ways to define file record layouts to the AS/400. The traditional method--defining the fields within program source code--still works as it did on earlier machines. In AS/400 terminology, such files are called program-described files.

You can also use DDS specifications to describe file layouts. Files built with DDS are called externally described files. HLL programs do not require that the fields be defined within program source code, if the externally described file is referenced with an 'E' in column 19 of the F-spec.

IBM has added a new wrinkle to program-described files that combines the best of both worlds. The result field of most I/O operations (CHAIN, WRITE, UPDAT, and various forms of READ) may contain a data structure name if factor 2 contains the name of a program-described file. Input operations place data from the file into the data structure. Output operations write data to the file from the data structure.

Look at the fragment of an RPG program in 1a. The program writes to a program-described file called SEQFL (sequential file), which will contain data of various formats. Factor 2 of the WRITE statements contains the name of the program-described file. The result fields are all data structures. The traditional way of writing this program would be to code the three record formats in output specs, and use EXCPT or the RPG cycle to output them.

Look at the fragment of an RPG program in Figure 1a. The program writes to a program-described file called SEQFL (sequential file), which will contain data of various formats. Factor 2 of the WRITE statements contains the name of the program-described file. The result fields are all data structures. The traditional way of writing this program would be to code the three record formats in output specs, and use EXCPT or the RPG cycle to output them.

Suppose SEQFL requires a header record at the top of the file and a trailer record at the end. We could add the output specs in 1b to the code in 1a. In other words, you can mix and match the two methods--via data structures and via output specs--to write to a program-described file. Putting the header and trailer in data structures is OK, but not necessary.

Suppose SEQFL requires a header record at the top of the file and a trailer record at the end. We could add the output specs in Figure 1b to the code in Figure 1a. In other words, you can mix and match the two methods--via data structures and via output specs--to write to a program-described file. Putting the header and trailer in data structures is OK, but not necessary.

In the first example, data structures eliminated output specs only. Let's look at an example that shows greater savings.

2a contains fragments of an interactive RPG program that does maintenance to a vendor master file. Data structure VNDREC is used to define the record layout of file VNDMAST, which has no input or output specifications in this program. The CHAIN operation puts the data into VNDREC. After the data has been changed and verified, the WRITE and UPDAT statements store it to disk. In this example, the number of input specs is the same, whether we use data structures or the traditional approach. But 12 lines of output specs have been eliminated. One nice thing about this is that program maintenance is reduced in the event that the record layout of VNDMAST changes. Rather than changing both input and output specs, you only change the data structure.

Figure 2a contains fragments of an interactive RPG program that does maintenance to a vendor master file. Data structure VNDREC is used to define the record layout of file VNDMAST, which has no input or output specifications in this program. The CHAIN operation puts the data into VNDREC. After the data has been changed and verified, the WRITE and UPDAT statements store it to disk. In this example, the number of input specs is the same, whether we use data structures or the traditional approach. But 12 lines of output specs have been eliminated. One nice thing about this is that program maintenance is reduced in the event that the record layout of VNDMAST changes. Rather than changing both input and output specs, you only change the data structure.

This example also shows that the DELET op code can be used with program- described files. No data structure name is needed in the result field, since data is not being written, but erased.

Externally Described Data Structures

You can make your S/36-type RPG programs more like native programs by describing file I/O data structures externally. 2b shows the DDS needed to define file VNDMASTDES (vendor master description), a file with the same record layout as VNDMAST. VNDMASTDES will not contain data. In fact, it doesn't have a member. When it is created you should use MBR(*NONE).

You can make your S/36-type RPG programs more like native programs by describing file I/O data structures externally. Figure 2b shows the DDS needed to define file VNDMASTDES (vendor master description), a file with the same record layout as VNDMAST. VNDMASTDES will not contain data. In fact, it doesn't have a member. When it is created you should use MBR(*NONE).

To instruct the RPG compiler to use the record layout of VNDMASTDES to describe VNDREC, you need to change the program as shown in 2c. The "E" in column 17 means that the data structure is externally described by the first record format of the file named in columns 21 through 30. This isn't RPG III coding, but it is more like RPG III than RPG II.

To instruct the RPG compiler to use the record layout of VNDMASTDES to describe VNDREC, you need to change the program as shown in Figure 2c. The "E" in column 17 means that the data structure is externally described by the first record format of the file named in columns 21 through 30. This isn't RPG III coding, but it is more like RPG III than RPG II.

Overcoming Limitations Of Externally Described Files

Externally described files are wonderful, but they have a couple of limitations. One is that you can't rename a field in output specs. The other is that you can't doubly define fields in input. Using data structures is one way to work around them.

The DDS for file WORKFL (work file) is given in 3a. 3b shows how that file would normally be used as an output-only file. But suppose we want to rename AMOUNT to AMT. One way to do that is shown in 3c. Even though WORKFL is defined by DDS, we can treat it as a program-described file and use WORKFL to describe the data structure used for I/O. Although WORKFL is an output-only file, it is defined in input specs, allowing fields to be renamed.

The DDS for file WORKFL (work file) is given in Figure 3a. Figure 3b shows how that file would normally be used as an output-only file. But suppose we want to rename AMOUNT to AMT. One way to do that is shown in Figure 3c. Even though WORKFL is defined by DDS, we can treat it as a program-described file and use WORKFL to describe the data structure used for I/O. Although WORKFL is an output-only file, it is defined in input specs, allowing fields to be renamed.

This is one method of renaming fields in output-only files. For another method, see the sidebar.

You may also add new fields to external definitions. In 3d, field TERR (territory) is defined as the first two characters in the data structure. As a rule I don't recommend this, since it could present a problem if the record layout of WORKFL were ever changed. It does, however, give a way to doubly define fields, as is often done in RPG II input specs.

You may also add new fields to external definitions. In Figure 3d, field TERR (territory) is defined as the first two characters in the data structure. As a rule I don't recommend this, since it could present a problem if the record layout of WORKFL were ever changed. It does, however, give a way to doubly define fields, as is often done in RPG II input specs.

A Few Requirements

We should mention a few other points before ending this treatment of file I/O through data structures. First, the record length coded in the F spec must equal the data structure length. They do not have to equal the actual record length, but they should not be shorter.

Second, these examples all deal with disk files. This technique will also work with files of other device types.

Third, don't forget that a field can appear in only one data structure. This is easy to forget, especially if you're used to coding the same field name in multiple record formats in the input and output specs.

Your Turn

I believe this technique will be of most benefit to those converting to the AS/400 from the S/34 or S/36. I use it in native mode from time to time to build multi-format files which I transmit to our corporate office or feed into a PC-based EDI package.

I've illustrated a few ways this technique can be put to work, but I suspect there are other ways I haven't thought of. Let me challenge you to give this technique a try. Find some effective ways to do I/O through data structures. Then write a follow-up article to this one to share what you've learned with the rest of us.

Sidebar:

Renaming a Field in an Externally Described Output File

RPG III/400 provides a way to rename fields of input and update files, but not of output files. Of course, you could build a logical file which renames fields and writes to that logical, but that's not necessary. Here's a simple way to rename a field in an externally defined, output-only file.

Assume file WORKFL has fields called CUSNBR, CUSNAM, AMOUNT and DUEDAT, and that we wish to rename AMOUNT to AMT. Even though WORKFL is to be treated as an output file, code it as input ("I" in column 15) with file addition allowed ("A" in column 66). Because WORKFL is an input file, you may rename AMOUNT in the input specs.

To make the program compile properly, code a dummy read. That's all there is to it.

FWRKFILE IF E DISK A FWRKREC I AMOUNTIN AMT ... C Z-ADDXAMT AMT C WRITEWRKREC ... CLRNLR READ WRKREC LR

Ted Holt is a programmer/analyst at Dana Corporation, a manufacturer of hydraulic pumps and motors in Corinth, MS. Ted can be reached via the Midrange Computing BBS or at (601) 287-1481.


File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 1A Writing multiple record formats

 Figure 1a: Writing Multiple Record Formats FINVHDR IF E K DISK FINVDTL IF E K DISK FSEQFL O F 80 DISK ISEQFT1 DS 80 I I '01' 1 2 RECID1 I 3 70CUSNR I 8 120INVNR ISEQFT2 DS 80 I I '02' 1 2 RECID2 I 3 11 PARTNR I 12 160QTY I 17 232UPRICE ISEQFT3 DS 80 I I '03' 1 2 RECID3 I 3 142INVTTL ... C WRITESEQFL SEQFT1 ... C WRITESEQFL SEQFT2 C WRITESEQFL SEQFT3 ... 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 1B Additional output defined in Output Specs

 Figure 1b: Additional Output Defined in Output Specs OSEQFL D 1P O 'BEGIN INVOICE' O T LR O 'END INVOICE' 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 2A File maintenance using data structure I/O

 Figure 2a: File Maintenance Using Data Structure I/O F* VENDOR FILE MAINTENANCE THROUGH DATA STRUCTURE F* FVNDMAST UF F 44 3PI 1 DISK A FVND100D etc. WORKSTN IVNDREC DS I P 1 30VNDNBR I 4 18 VNDNAM I 19 32 VNDCTY I 33 34 VNDSTT I 35 44 VNDZIP ... C VNDNBR CHAINVNDMAST VNDREC 91 ... C WRITEVNDMAST VNDREC ... C UPDATVNDMAST VNDREC ... C DELETVNDMAST 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 2B DDS for file VNDMASTDES

 Figure 2b: DDS For File VNDMASTDES A* VENDOR MASTER FILE -- FIELD DESCRIPTION A R VNDMASTDES TEXT('VENDOR MASTER') A VNDNBR 5 0 TEXT('VENDOR NUMBER') A VNDNAM 15 TEXT('VENDOR NAME') A VNDCTY 14 TEXT('CITY') A VNDSTT 2 TEXT('STATE') A VNDZIP 10 TEXT('ZIP CODE') 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 2C Externally defining VNDMAST

 Figure 2c: Externally Defining VNDMAST F* VENDOR FILE MAINTENANCE THROUGH DATA STRUCTURE F* FVNDMAST UF F 44 3PI 1 DISK A FVND100D etc WORKSTN IVNDREC E DSVNDMASTDES ... C VNDNBR CHAINVNDMAST VNDREC 91 ... C WRITEVNDMAST VNDREC ... C UPDATVNDMAST VNDREC ... C DELETVNDMAST ... 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 3A DDS for file WORKFL

 Figure 3a: DDS For File WORKFL A R WORKFLR TEXT('WORK FILE') A CUSNBR 5S 0 TEXT('CUSTOMER NBR') A CUSNAM 6 TEXT('CUSTOMER NAME') A AMOUNT 9 2 TEXT('DOLLAR AMOUNT') A DUEDAT 6 0 TEXT('DUE DATE -- YYMMDD') A K CUSNAM 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 3B Fragment of RPG program

 Figure 3b: Fragment of RPG Program FWORKFL O E DISK ... C Z-ADDXTAMT AMOUNT C WRITEWORKFLR ... 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 3C Renaming AMOUNT field

 Figure 3c: Renaming Amount Field FWORKFL O F 128 DISK IWORKDS E DSWORKFL 128 I AMOUNT AMT ... C Z-ADDXTAMT AMT C WRITEWORKFL WORKDS ... 
File I/O Through Data Structures

Figure 3D Adding a field to an external file definition

 Figure 3d: Adding a Field to an External File Definition IWORKDS E DSWORKFL 128 I 1 2 TERR 
Ted Holt

Ted Holt is IT manager of Manufacturing Systems Development for Day-Brite Capri Omega, a manufacturer of lighting fixtures in Tupelo, Mississippi. He has worked in the information processing industry since 1981 and is the author or co-author of seven books. 


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    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days

     

  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • 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.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave 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.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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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.