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Free-Format: Using C Functions in RPG IV

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Integrating C functions with normal RPG IV gives you the best of both worlds.

 

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the MC Press book Functions in Free-Format RPG IV.

 

Most RPG programmers don't know the C programming language and avoid technical articles and discussions that have anything to do with it. In fact, I will go so far as to say that many RPG programmers get a little “testy” when someone says that C is better than RPG, since it is newer, uses functions, etc., etc., etc. I have to admit that I was not interested in the C language when it was first available. I was busy on a midrange IBM platform that didn’t even have a C compiler.

 

All that changed in 1993 when I took some graduate-level classes in computer science at a major university. I was faced with classes that used C exclusively for programming lab assignments. Oh, boy! I was cornered. I faced this new challenge and tore into it rigorously. C was different, for sure, but it didn’t take too long to appreciate a concept that is pervasive in this language but was conspicuously absent in RPG—user-written functions!

 

It took a few months for me to get used to this new style of coding. By the middle of the semester, I was pounding it out as well as those who knew C before coming to classes.

 

After the college classes, I went back into the world of RPG, with RPG IV making its appearance in late 1994. The new incarnation of RPG was easy to learn and in a few years became the standard on the AS/400, iSeries, or whatever the system name of the day was.

 

Sometime around V3R2/V3R7, IBM provided support for a new idea: subprocedures in RPG IV. These new subprocedures required the use of ILE, binding, and a non-default activation group. The concept didn’t exactly take the RPG programming world by storm. It has taken many years for us to adopt these cute little mini-programs that return a value. To tie my C experience into this discussion, the subprocedure facility was and is user-written functions—just like the ones in C.

 

So now, when we need a function of some kind, do we code a subprocedure? To answer my own question: maybe. I hedge because there are dozens of functions ready to go in a function “library” provided to us RPG programmers. I refer of course to the C language operations. But why? Isn’t RPG IV good enough?

 

It's true that RPG IV has a rich complement of opcodes and built-in functions, so why even consider accessing functions designated for the C language? The answer is that the C language provides some functions that we don’t have in RPG IV, as well as some functions that are simply more efficient than our native RPG operations. This leads us to believe that we need to drop the adversarial attitude we have acquired about the C language and see what it can do for us. With a little learning and practice, we can integrate some C functions into our everyday RPG IV code, giving us the best of both language worlds.

“Doing It” Details

To access a C function, you need to know the function’s interface, including the function name, number of parameters, parameter data types, and the return value.

 

To see how a C function might be useful to an RPG program, let’s look at a couple of examples. First, let’s look at a need for a random number. RPG IV does not have a random number function. To get a random number, we should look at the scheme used by the C language. There is an operation called rand that returns the next random number from a previous value. However, rand requires that you initialize the internal value that rand uses to generate the next random number. This initialization is called “seeding” the random number generator. This is done with the C operation called srand. So to get a random number, we must use both srand and rand. The output (return value) from rand is an unsigned integer whose value can be anywhere from 0 to 32767. If we want some other range, say 1 to 100, then we must do some range manipulation. Srand has no return value; it takes a parameter value and sets the internal random number initial value. There is something you need to know about this scheme. The parameter you send to srand needs to be random. Here’s why: rand produces output that is predictable in the sense that if you give it value x, it returns y. If, at some time later, you happen to give it the same value of x, it predictably returns y. To avoid any problems, don’t use a constant as the parameter to srand. My choice is to use the microseconds from the system clock from the %timestamp BIF (only milliseconds are available right now). This is pretty random by itself. Here’s the code that I would suggest:

 

H    Bnddir('QC2LE')

D Seed            S              5u 0 inz(0)

D Index           s              5u 0

//   Prototypes for C functions – and use of Extproc keyword

D Set_Random      pr                  Extproc('srand')

D  Seed                          5u 0 Value

D Get_Random      pr             5u 0 Extproc('rand')

/free

Dow Seed = 0;

Seed = %subdt(%timestamp():*MS)/1000; // Milliseconds from time

If Seed <> 0;

Set_Random(Seed);        // Set the seed

Endif;

Enddo;

// Obtain the random number,

// then scale it to be from 1 to 100

Index  = Get_Random();        // Index now 0 to 32767

Index  = %rem(index:100);     // Index now 0 to 99

Index += 1;                   // Index now 1 to 100

*Inlr = *On;

/end-free

 

At the end of the routine, the random number derived from the C function rand (Prototype Get_Random) is scaled using division by 100 and using the remainder (0 to 99), and then adding 1 to get a number from 1 to 100. If your needs include producing a list of random numbers with no duplicates, you will need to set up a loop after the “seed” section, storing the results of the random number computation (possibly in an array) and verify each time that you get a new number that it is not a duplicate. If it is a duplicate, throw it out and go through the loop again until you have your list, with no duplicates.

 

The little program above uses data type “u” for the seed and index variables. This data type is an unsigned integer. The reason for the unsigned integer data type for the seed variable is that the srand function requires an unsigned integer for input. The length 5 means that a value for the variable lies between 0 and  65535. Unsigned integer was also used for the index variable since the return value from rand is integer from 0 to 32767.

 

Perhaps you noticed the use of the keyword VALUE in the Set_Random prototype. This is important. When passing parameters to another procedure, RPG IV normally uses a technique called passing by reference, which means that a pointer address is used. The C language uses a parameter-passing technique called passing by value. In this scheme, the actual value of the parameter is passed. The RPG IV language can accommodate the C language requirement by using the keyword VALUE on the parameter to be passed.

 

In addition to srand and rand C functions, there are APIs available that will also provide random numbers, with larger values.

 

There is another C function that you will find interesting and time-saving when the need arises. I am referring to the C function strtok. The function name means string-token. It is used to parse character strings into their token components. A token is considered to be a character string up to a delimiter. If the strtok function is used with the string “See Spot run,” and a blank (space) is specified as the delimiter

character, then you would get “See” with one pass, “Spot” with a second pass, and “run” with the third pass. The return value for this function is a pointer to the token. When a return value of null is received, then no more tokens are available.

 

For an example, I will use a real-life situation in which a data conversion required changing a name field that included all portions of a name, such as Mr. John Q. Jones, into separate field components of title, first name, middle initial, and last name. This task had already been done using RPG opcodes of scan, check, and subst. However, once I was familiar with strtok, I wanted to see how this task could be done using the C function.

 

First, here is the prototype to the C function:

 

d GetToken        pr              *   ExtProc('strtok')

d  BigName                        *   Value Options(*String)

d  Delimit                        *   Value Options(*String)

 

There are lots of pointers here! The return value is a pointer to the token, or null. The two parameters are pointers to the big name and the delimiter fields. Also keywords VALUE are used since C uses passing by value, and the OPTIONS (*String) is used to have a null value appended to our character strings. C works with character strings as a single dimension array, with a null character at the end.

 

Not seen in the next section of code is the field FullName, which exists in the physical file. It is the field that contains the full name, including the title, first name, middle initial, and last name. Here are some work fields needed for this program.

 

d artok           s                   like(Fullname) dim(30)

d Token           s                   Like(FullName)

d ReturnAdr       s               *

d count           s              5u 0

d Space           c                   ' '

There are other work fields not shown here because they are not related to the parsing routine.

 

First, set up a data file read loop.

 

/free

Dou %eof(File1);

Read File1;

If %eof(File1);             // End of file – leave Do loop

Leave;

Endif;

 

Now, clear the output fields and work fields:

 

Clear Title;

Clear FirstName;

Clear Initial;

Clear LastName;

Clear artok;

Clear count;

 

Then, check for the all-blank name possibility:

 

// Not at end of file

If FullName = *blank;       // If Name is all blank –

Iter;                     // Get next file record

Else;

 

Next, since we now have a non-blank name, possible leading blanks are removed (as setup to the strtok function coming next):

 

FullName = %triml(Fullname);   // Remove leading blanks

ReturnAdr = GetToken(FullName:Space);   // Get first token

Dow ReturnAdr <> *Null;       // Load Tokens into Artok array

Token = %str(ReturnAdr);    // From null terminated to normal

Count += 1;                 // Count for array index

Artok(count) = %trim(Token);  // Put the token into the array

ReturnAdr = GetToken(*Null:Space); // Get next token

Enddo;  // The *Null above means continue where you left off

 

From here on, the processing is to place the array elements into the correct field: title, first name, middle initial, or last name. The count field is quite valuable in knowing how many total tokens were found in the full name field and then what to do with each array element.

 

The use of the strtok C function makes parsing a long string very easy to do.

 

The two examples above are meant to show you that interfacing with C functions can provide some capabilities that are useful to you as an RPG IV programmer. On the rare occasion when trigonometry or other higher math is needed, the appropriate C function can make overall programming much easier.

Other Functions?

This article contains excerpts from my new book, Functions in Free-Format RPG IV. Also explained in this book are the RPG IV built-in functions, subprocedures coded as functions, prototypes, and ILE concepts.

 

We are entering a new phase in our coding of RPG IV, writing smaller programs and using ILE to provide procedure interconnectivity and good performance. We are writing reusable routines as subprocedures and placing them in service programs. And we are using coding standards. If you cringed on that last statement, check out Appendix A of the book for some suggestions on coding standards. This is an exciting new era for RPG. Have fun!

Jim Martin

Jim Martin holds a BS degree in mathematics and an MS in computer science. For 26 years, he was employed by IBM, where he wrote RPG applications for customers and worked in the programming laboratory as a programmer on portions of CPF and the OS/400 operating system. After leaving IBM, Jim took post-graduate work in computer science and performed RPG training. He is an IBM-certified RPG IV developer and author of multiple bestselling editions of Free-Format RPG IV, which, since the book's initial publication in 2005, have taught thousands of RPG IV programmers how to be successful with the free-format coding style.


MC Press books written by Jim Martin available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Free-Format RPG IV: Third Edition Free-Format RPG IV: Third Edition
Improve productivity, readability, and program maintenance with the free-format style of programming in RPG IV.
List Price $59.95

Now On Sale

Free-Format RPG IV: Second Edition Free-Format RPG IV: Second Edition
>Make the transition from coding in fixed-format RPG to free format.
List Price $59.95

Now On Sale

Functions in Free-Format RPG IV Functions in Free-Format RPG IV
Here’s the ultimate guide to writing RPG IV programs with functions in the free-format style.
List Price $59.95

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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.

     

     

  • 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.