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The API Corner: Inform Users of Problems by Sending Error Messages from Application Programs

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Learn how to take advantage of the Send Program Message (QMHSNDPM) API to alert users to problems.

 

In a previous article, "What to Do with Messages in the Application Program," we looked at how to detect error conditions in a program. These conditions might be the result of an API call or an error in the application program itself. Today, we will look at one approach to informing the user that a problem has been encountered.

 

To do this, we will use the Send Program Message (QMHSNDPM) API. The QMHSNDPM API defines several parameters, which are shown below. The full documentation for the API can be found here.

 

Required Parameters Group:

1

Message identifier

Input

Char(7)

2

Qualified message file name

Input

Char(20)

3

Message data or immediate text

Input

Char(*)

4

Length of message data or immediate text

Input

Binary(4)

5

Message type

Input

Char(10)

6

Call stack entry

Input

Char(*) or Pointer

7

Call stack counter

Input

Binary(4)

8

Message key

Output

Char(4)

9

Error code

I/O

Char(*)


  Optional Parameter Group 1:

10

Length of call stack entry

Input

Binary(4)

11

Call stack entry qualification

Input

Char(20)

12

Display program messages screen wait time

Input

Binary(4)


  Optional Parameter Group 2:

13

Call stack entry data type

Input

Char(10)

14

Coded character set identifier

Input

Binary(4)


  Default Public Authority: *USE

  Threadsafe: Yes

The first parameter, Message identifier, can be either blanks for an immediate message such as "Good morning" or the identifier of a predefined message description (such as CPF9810). While the QMHSNDPM API can send a wide variety of message types (diagnostic, completion, status, etc.), we are interested today in sending escape messages. When sending escape messages, the API requires that the message is predefined, so we will need to create a message file and a message description. The CL command to create the Application Messages message file APPLMSGF in library QGPL is this:

 

CRTMSGF MSGF(QGPL/APPLMSGF)

 

The command to add message description APP0001 to APPLMSGF is this:

 

ADDMSGD MSGID(APP0001) MSGF(QGPL/APPLMSGF) +

     MSG('Severe error found in program &1. Notify your support personnel.') +

     SECLVL('Review the job log for previous error(s) that have been logged.') +     

     SEV(99) FMT((*CHAR 10))       

 

In our initial use of the QMHSNDPM API, we will use message identifier APP0001 to report unexpected errors in the running of our application.

 

The second parameter, Qualified message file name, is the names of the message file and the library where the message identifier specified in the first parameter can be found. We will use message file APPLMSGF in library QGPL.

 

The third parameter, Message data or immediate text, is used to specify replacement variable information that is to be inserted into a predefined message. Message description APP0001 defines one substitution variable (&1), which represents the name of the program encountering the failure. This substitution variable is defined as a 10-byte character variable. In our sample program, we will access the program name using RPG's Program Status Data Structure (PSDS). The message description can have up to 99 substitution variables of various data types (binary, packed decimal, character, etc.), so you have quite a bit of flexibility in what other information you might want to include in the error message text. For an immediate message, this is also where you would provide the impromptu message text (such as "Good morning").

 

The fourth parameter, Length of message data or immediate test, is the length of the data sent to the API using the third parameter.

 

The fifth parameter, Message type, identifies the type of message being sent. As mentioned in reviewing the first parameter, the QMHSNDPM API can send a variety of message types. The sample program will be sending escape messages (type *ESCAPE).

 

The sixth and seventh parameters, Call stack entry and Call stack counter, respectively, are used to identify where the message is to be sent. The sixth parameter identifies a call stack entry (an OPM program or ILE procedure) within the current job, and the seventh parameter identifies a relative counter based on the call stack entry identified by the sixth parameter. If, for instance, the Call stack entry identifies the current procedure calling the QMHSNDPM API and the seventh parameter is set to 0, then the message is sent to yourself. If the Call stack entry identifies the current procedure and the seventh parameter is set to 1, then the message is sent to the caller of the current procedure (the call stack entry one previous to the current procedure or OPM program). Several special values are supported for the Call stack entry parameter. The special value of asterisk (*) can be used to indicate that the current procedure (or OPM program) should be used. The asterisk (*) special value is what would typically be used in the previous example scenarios. Another special value is *PGMBDY, which indicates that the message should be sent to the oldest (or first) call stack entry for the program (or service program) currently running. It is this special value our sample program will be using along with a Call stack counter value of 1. This combination will cause the escape message sent by the sample program to be sent to the caller of the current program (or service program).

 

Using *PGMBDY and a Call stack counter of 1 can simplify the reporting of an error when your program has multiple procedures as the message will be sent directly to the caller of the program. This can be important when your program has a main procedure (A) that calls one or more subprocedures (B, C, D, etc). Having the subprocedure directly send the escape message to (*PGMBDY + 1) avoids having intermediate procedures "see," and then have to handle, the error message. By analogy, if you have ever had subprocedure B set on *INLR and then return to procedure A, you quickly find out that procedure A is quite happy to continue running. Procedure A, in order to stop processing, must check for *INLR and also return if the program is to end. Using (*PGMBDY + 1), you can avoid having A try to report an error that B has already reported.

 

The eighth parameter, Message key, is the key assigned by the system to the message being sent. This value will not be used in the sample program.

 

The ninth parameter, Error code, is the standard system API error code parameter.

 

The remaining parameters are not used by the sample program, though you may want to review them in the Information Center to get a feel for some of the other features available to you when sending a message.

 

Returning to the program of the previous article, at the end of the main program/procedure, there is a global on-error block to catch all unexpected errors that might occur. These might be errors such as MCH0603 – Range of subscript value or character string error, MCH1211 – Attempt to divide by zero, or a CPF message resulting from an API call where the error code Bytes provided field is set to zero. In these situations, the error message is already in the job log and we want to end the program with a message such as the previously created APP0001. The following program additions will do just that.

 

We will start by providing a prototype for the QMHSNDPM API. Here's the prototype, named SndMsg:

 

dSndEscape        pr                  extpgm('QSYS/QMHSNDPM')  

d MsgID                          7    const                    

d QualMsgF                      20    const                    

d MsgDta                     65535    const options(*varsize)  

d LenMsgDta                     10i 0 const                    

d MsgType                       10    const                    

d CallStackEntry             65535    const options(*varsize)  

d CallStackCntr                 10i 0 const                    

d MsgKey                         4                             

d QUSEC                               likeds(QUSEC)            

d LenCSE                        10i 0 const options(*nopass)   

d CSEQual                       20    const options(*nopass)   

d DSPWaitTime                   10i 0 const options(*nopass)   

d CSEType                       10    const options(*nopass)   

d CCSID                         10i 0 const options(*nopass)   

 

As we need the program name for the substitution variable &1 of message description APP0001, we will also define a program status data structure.

 

dPSDS            sds                  qualified

d PgmName               334    343             

 

And as the QMHSNDPM API provides the Message key as an output parameter, we will define a standalone 4-byte character variable MsgKey even though the sample program will not utilize the message key.

 

dMsgKey           s              4 

 

Optionally, the program will also define a qualified data structure to hold the substitution variables for each message that might be sent. My convention is that the name of the data structure is the same as the name of the message description.

 

dApp0001          ds                  qualified    

d PgmName                       10                 

 

Strictly speaking, this data structure is not necessary as there is only one substitution variable, but I find it helpful to have a standard in place that the replacement data for any given message can be found in a data structure of the same name. A data structure typically is needed when multiple substitution variables are used in a message (as they all must be passed as one contiguous value in the third parameter of QMHSNDPM), and I can then also consistently use the %size of the data structure as the fourth parameter of QMHSNDPM.

 

With the previous definitions in place, we will now insert a call to the QMHSNDPM API in the program's on-error block.

 

on-error;                                                       

   // Any additional work you might want to do                 

   App0001.PgmName = PSDS.PgmName;                             

   SndMsg( 'APP0001' :'APPLMSGF  QGPL' :App0001 :%size(App0001)

          :'*ESCAPE' :'*PGMBDY' :1 :MsgKey :QUSEC);            

endmon;                                                        

 

Now, when the program encounters any unexpected error, the on-error block will send the escape message APP0001 to the program's caller, indicating that an error occurred and that the job log contains additional information. As the message type is *ESCAPE, the program will end immediately (that is, control will not be returned to any statements following the SndMsg API call). As control will not be returned to the program, any additional processing you might want to do, for instance using the DUMP(A) operation, needs to be done prior to calling the API.

 

If the sample program is named SNDESC and a divide-by-zero error is encountered, the following two messages will be found in the job log.

 

Attempt made to divide by zero for fixed point operation.          

Severe error found in program SNDESC. Notify your support personnel.

 

The first message is sent by the system identifying the underlying problem. The second message is sent by the application program.

 

The previous article also discussed, within the context of determining if an object exists and, if not, creating it, using an API error code parameter that disabled the sending of escape messages from an API. This disablement is accomplished by using an error code Bytes provided value of 8 or more.

 

If escape messages from an API have been disabled and an unexpected error is encountered (for instance, from the previous article, CPF9820 – Not authorized to the library), then the program needs to do more than just send the APP0001 error message. This is because the CPF9820 error message was never actually sent, so the support personnel will not find any additional information in the job log—a rather frustrating experience!

 

In this situation, we could call the failing API a second time, this time with escape messages enabled. But there is a better solution—namely, using the QMHSNDPM API to send the original escape information that the API would have sent had escapes not been disabled. In the next article, we will look at how to accomplish this.

 

In the meantime, if you have any API questions, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I'll see what I can do about answering 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.