IBM i Technology Refreshes and Other Things I’m Thankful for in 2020

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
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Everyone will be thankful when we can say goodbye to 2020! And everyone can list the awful events that have occurred this year. But not everything about 2020 was bad. In this article, Carol finds the good in 2020.

One of the people I follow on Instagram started to post the things she was thankful for. They were simple things: her dog, a beautiful sunset, money to buy groceries. These posts awoke me to the fact that I needed to start paying better attention to the things around me, specifically the things/situations/people I needed to be thankful for. This article is only a partial list of the things that I’m thankful for. I’m hoping that it will inspire you to also be thankful as we bid good riddance to 2020.

Let’s start with the two Technology Refreshes (TRs) that IBM released this year. Amid COVID restrictions, IBM managed to release two feature-packed TRs for V7R4 and V7R3. Both TRs provided 30+ new or enhanced IBM i Services. These services are either functions that perform a specific task or SQL views that provide insight into the system via SQL and are easily written to using languages such as Python. Why are these so important? They make our jobs easier! Whether you’re an administrator or programmer or work in security or compliance, it’s easier to get the information that you need by using modern interfaces. This is not only important for the reputation of the system itself (being easily accessible and modern/up-to-date), but also who doesn’t want to simplify one’s job and processes?

One new IBM i Service I’m thankful for is QSYS2.Server_Share_Info, which came with the TR released in November. This IBM i Service allows us to get information about file shares without having to manually look at the File Shares page in Navigator for i or writing to the List Server Information (QZLSLSTI) API. File shares provide direct access to the system through a drive mapped to using a share. Eliminating unnecessary shares and reducing read/write shares to read-only are part of the important fight against malware (including ransomware) infecting your IBM i. The server_file_share service allows us to know which file shares are in use and by whom so, for example, shares to root (/) can be remapped to a more appropriate subdirectory or unused file shares can be removed.

Another new IBM i Service that I’m thankful for is QSYS2.IFS_Object_Privileges, which allows you to easily gather information about the authorities in a particular subdirectory. Yes, you could use the Print Private Authority (PRTPVTAUT) command to get similar information, but the only option for this command is to output to a spooled file. Display Authority (DSPAUT) is another command available, but its only options are spooled file or display. Retrieving the information from this view allows for much more flexibility in how you process the information.

I’m thankful for Scott Forstie and his team at IBM for continuing to provide new and creative services. I’m also thankful for all of the publicly available SQL examples he provides via his GitHub Gist.

Another IBMer I’m thankful for is Alison Butterill, IBM i Offerings Manager. Alison works tirelessly to represent IBM i to customers around the world—virtually, of course, this year, but in “normal” times logs thousands of air miles presenting the Gospel of IBM i. But more importantly for all of us, she represents and fights for IBM i within the walls of IBM itself, quite the job but one she does exceedingly well. Alison celebrated 40 years at IBM in November. Please join me in congratulating her and thanking her for leading the IBM i charge!

An exciting event that occurred in 2020 and one for which I’m incredibly thankful is the formation of DXR Security, which I launched with my long-time business partner John Vanderwall. It’s great to be back in business with John and forging our own path once again, an opportunity I don’t take for granted.

Finally, the third edition of my book was released right as COVID hit. And as such, it was delayed a bit, but I’m really happy with this version, especially the addition of the chapter devoted to Authority Collection and a new chapter specifically for auditors. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get this information out. I’m also thankful for Victoria Mack, editor of these articles and this edition of my book. She makes sense of my sloppy words, and her edits make me a far better writer than I could ever be on my own.

So enough of what I’m thankful for from a work perspective. 2020 has reminded me over and over that work isn’t everything. So, here are just a few of the non-work-related things for which I’m thankful:

  • My oldest niece, Kelsey, an ICU nurse. Not only does she treat COVID patients, she’s suffered through the illness herself. To all our healthcare workers, thank you! And if you do it for no other reason, wear a mask for our healthcare workers. They’re exhausted! #wearamask
  • My three great nieces who live in Seattle. Their laughter and hugs are the joy of my life.
  • My neighbors. Because I’m not traveling, I’ve actually gotten to meet my neighbors!
  • My good health and ability to exercise. Exercise has definitely been a key to my mental health throughout this time.
  • The fact that I enjoy cooking. Because haven’t we all eaten more of our own food than we ever thought possible?!
  • My faith in Jesus, which has given me hope during the darkest times of 2020.

Summary

I don’t want to dismiss the fact that 2020 has been tragic for many, many individuals. My sincere condolences for the loss of life due to COVID, other illnesses, and racial violence. And my heart goes out to those who have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table and to those who have lost their home due to fires or some act of nature. For the rest of us, my hope with this article is that we can end 2020 on a positive note, realizing that not everything about 2020 has been bad. I encourage you to start your list; you may be surprised by how long it actually is.

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