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Common spring conference 2017 – AWESOME!

I hope you are kicking yourself as you read the title. “Dang! I should have gone!”  Yep. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.. Just sayin’ you missed another great week with the IBM i family. I probably had the greatest session load I have ever carried and yet, I can’t say that I have been to a better conference. I saw many new faces and *younger* faces, in case you think this is just the wrinkled masses migrating to the sunny climes of Florida to scout retirement homes.

Best part, making new friends! Also, having some time to sit in on some refreshers in Python,Orion, Node.js, Bottle, Watson, testing strategies, how to manage and leverage credit cards (! – RECon),  talk to vendors about new products…I came with more ideas than I usually have and I can’t wait to give them a whirl.

So sign up for the Fall Conference you laggards! Even if you have to pony up your own cash, your career will thank you!

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Common sense

I finished the book I have been working on for the past 4 months and just about the time I pushed the big button to send it off, I got a call from my wife letting me know that the A/C seemed to have been running constantly all day and yet the house wasn’t getting any cooler.  For you folks up north in the fall season, I am quite certain that you’d say to yourself “No big deal!  I have 9 months to get it fixed!  RELAX!”  In south Texas, a non-functional A/C unit in September is a 4 alarm emergency.  So the euphoria of “book finishing” led to a quick check of checking account balances and the looming knowledge of a weekend $ervice call adding up to the cost of a vacation trip to the Cayman Islands.  Better take a look first, when I get home…

Now, you are probably thinking that a guy who would attempt an A/C repair is right up there in insanity with a guy who would do his own brain surgery.  You are probably right, but after fixing things by making simple repairs, I operate under the assumption that a look a problem with some common sense can often save money and time in getting a broken thing running again.  Most of the time, I am rewarded with success, and, even when you include trips to the emergency room,  I am money ahead.

I have cracked our A/C unit open before for a little preventative maintenance.  I have fixed two furnaces, simply by replacing a $50 igniter, so, foolhardy or just plain lucky, I feel pretty comfortable cracking open things and “taking a look”.  I wish I would have taken a picture of what I saw in the control box of the A/C unit that was non-functional.  I HAD turned off the power (foolhardy yes, stupid no) and and almost immediately noticed a wire, burned at the end, that seemed to be going nowhere.  Now, just because there is an un-terminated wire in an electrical circuit, it doesn’t mean that is the issue.  Sometimes a wire is clipped off because of an “engineering change” to accommodate a non-original part so I don’t immediately assume that a loose wire is the culprit.  In my case, I have TWO identical units, so I disassembled unit #2 so I could compare the wiring.  Sure enough, the burned wire *should* have connected to the big honking capacitor and somehow had come loose.  I called Debbie out to watch and call 911 in case the capacitor chose my tinkering as an opportunity to discharge, and pulled the now orphaned connector off of the capacitor and re-crimped the burned off end on the connector and re-connected it.  I closed my eyes, I threw the big switch, waited for smoke and the unit rumbled back to life.  Life-giving cool air was now flowing from the ceiling vents.  Success!

When asked how I knew what to fix, I said “It was just common sense” but as I thought about it, I realized some folks have no common sense, especially when it comes to simple repairs.  Yeah, I am a geek and I admit that I was in electronics class in high school: That is where I developed a healthy respect for capacitors which jokesters would fully charge and then toss back into the parts box, just *waiting* for someone to rummage through and find it the hard way…. But you don’t have to be an electronics geek to be able to figure out simple stuff like I did in comparing the two wiring layouts.  You don’t have to be a licensed HVAC engineer to look at a furnace and notice that the “little thingy” in front of the burners isn’t doing any thing and looks burnt out. What it takes is “common sense”.  To me that is having a way of evaluating things logically.  You don’t have to fully understand everything, you just need to be able to logically walk through how something works.  That is usually enough to identify the problem, even if you don’t have a damaged frontal lobe like I do that doesn’t prevent you from proceeding to attempt to fix it.

Technology is working against humanity developing common sense because so much of the world’s operation is now hidden in “black boxes”.  When I was a mechanic, long ago, most repairs to engine problems involved tweaking or replacing tangible items.  Points, condensers, distributor caps, spark plugs were the items I worked with.  Now my Chevy Volt is plugged into a computer that evaluates the computers in the Volt for software updates that may fix an engine issue.  I may be a programmer, but hacking into my Volt to fix one of a million lines of computer code is beyond my capabilities or interest.  Give me tangible hardware any day!  But it brings about a bigger question and that is:  Are we losing our ability to logically think through simple repairs because we have handed off “logic” to the “black boxes” in our lives?  Is “common” sense becoming extinct?  If so, I’d recommend a job in the “trades” like HVAC, electrician, plumber.  Although I “robbed” my HVAC guy of $250 in fixing my A/C unit, I’ll just be handing it over to the Chevy mechanic to update my Volt’s software….zero sum, I guess.

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Updating 5733OPS on IBM i

Sounds easy you say? There are already instructions elsewhere you say? More power to you!
So here are my curated instructions:

1) Obtain the latest version of the 5733OPS licensed program through ESS. There are some good instructions on Club Seiden for getting the image and mounting it (but stop at the installation step!).

2) To install the licensed program, I just took option 11 on the LICPGM menu. Following the good Dr. Franken’s advice, I added install options 3-15 BEFORE I pushed the big button to install. Then I installed from the image catalog.

3) Download, install and apply group PTF SF99223 (V7R2M0). This is where the instructions are all over the deck, suggesting different individual PTF’s for each feature. Bite the bullet and install the group. You added a bunch of new options, might as well get them installed.

That group PTF acted like a TR (maybe it is) It took a LONG time to install and IPL. Fortunately I am the only one using this partition so I didn’t care.

After those three simple steps, you should be good to go. I am going to say *should* because I didn’t do those three steps in the correct order. I installed the massive PTF first, thinking that it would magically put the stuff on for me. So, after installing the PTF and getting nothing for the effort, I then installed the updated 5733OPS, thinking that would fix it. It didn’t. So then I re-applied the PTF thinking that it would fix it. It didn’t! So I went back, re-installed 5733OPS, this time adding all 15 options and THEN applied the PTF (again). Still no joy until Buck point out the need to shoot the HTTPSVR subsystem and the magical “call qsysdir/qinavmnsrv *STOP” incantation plus re-apply the group PTF (was getting REAL good at applying the PTF!)

So again, I think the correct sequence is the 1,2,3 above. And, if you don’t get an IPL out of installing the group PTF, then shoot the HTTPSVR subsystem and run the magic incantation and then apply the group PTF. That is what worked for me.

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Living the Open Source life on IBM i

I realize that I have taken Open Source on IBM i for granted.  Having run open source applications on IBM i for over 15 years, I just assume everybody knows that IBM i on Power is a great Open Source platform.  I mean, the “i” is for INTEGRATION…uh, duh!  But, it seems that there is only a subset of IBM i folks who realize that in many ways, they, too, have been running Open Source on i.  For a decade even.

Let’s start with web serving.  The early HTTP server was based on the CERN open web server.  Apache Tomcat has run almost forever on IBM i.   PHP has been on i since 2006.  Apache has been the HTTP server on IBM i since, what, 2002?  Regardless of whether I got my dates right, the truth is IBM i has been running Open Source software (commonly referred to as OSS) forever in ‘technology years’.

IBM upped the ante in the past two years by adding a new licensed program (free to those on SWMA) that contains a few, and soon, many open source packages that used to take a “real” bit-twiddler to configure and compile.  Now it is all done for you in a nice, clean package and there is more to come.  So what is the holdup in getting the community behind it?  I am not exactly sure.  Bill Gravelle, admittedly new to open source, happened to be in San Antonio this week and we sat down and had lunch and talked about Open Source and the IBM i community.  I think we are on the same page (he’ll let me know if I am not) in thinking that:

  1. Information about the open source community might be a bit fragmented.
  2. Information about how open source can be used in an IBM i enterprise might be lacking.
  3. Even though open source has been on IBM i for many years, there is still low visibility in and outside of the community.

There are multiple sources for open source information in the IBM i and I will be completely forthcoming in my interest promoting a more consolidated forum for finding solutions and sharing knowledge in the community.  Bill thinks that the fragmentation is a naturally occurring and will eventually coalesce into a more manageable few over time.  I am not sure who is right because I have tried multiple times to start a “central repository” of open source information (Open source on i was one such attempt) and I am trying again with the www.common.org/open-source website.  Will this next attempt work?

Well, it will work if we contribute, so that is what I ask.  Just send me an email about stuff you find helpful in your open source efforts (send it to opensource at the common.org domain).  I’ll take a look and post it up if it is helpful.  We need to start somewhere!  You can contact me either here at petesworkshop.com  (send it to pete @) or at the opensource email address at common.org.  Either will get to me.  And, don’t be shy…..

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Heading to NOLA

I love it that Common is heading to NOLA for next week.  It has been a long time since I have been in NOLA and it looks like attendance will be very strong.  If you have had a chance to dig into the schedule a bit you will quickly see how deep and wide the IBM i has grown.  I am not talking only about raw computing power, and not only about the variety of open source software that now runs on i (LOVE it!) but the community as well.  There will be students who will be presenting on what they have discovered the IBM i can do, and “more mature” (ahem) folks like myself also showing off the new and exciting capabilities of IBM i.  It is nearly guaranteed to be a very good conference and if you haven’t already registered, it is NEVER too late!

If you will be there, check out my two sessions: JavaScript and JSON and Developing Defensible web applications

See you in NOLA!

 

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The death of the IDE?

Every since I first played with Eclipse and marveled at how efficient and useful it was, I have been using it.  I use MyEclipse (which I have become less enamored with over time) and RDi (Rational Developer for IBM i – or whatever they decided to call it this week).  I use RubyMine, Eclipse for Android development, and on an on.  I always enjoyed being able to do everything from within the IDE. It was always much more than just a text editor.

But, recently, I have noticed more and more frameworks are departing from the “one environment to rule them all” experience and are adding command line scripting to get the job done.  You can no longer just build a Rails project from within the IDE.  You can no longer create a PhoneGap project from within the IDE.  Lately even some Java tooling I use requires I jump to a command line to run Gradle, or NPM or some script that “builds” the skeletal framework first.  THEN you can use the IDE.

What is UP with that?  The “I” in IDE is for “Integrated” not incidental.  When I am using a framework I expect everything to be generated from *within* the IDE.  I am not sure if it is just laziness or lack of understanding of the IDE tooling but I am getting a little tired of jumping from command line to IDE and back again just to get a project built.

Come ON you IDE and framework providers.  Get your game together…..

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Loving the IBM i-life!

Been WAY too quiet on the blogging front which I hope to change in the next few weeks. I need to blow the dust off of my Ruby/Rails skills so expect to see a bit more on that front. My good friend Aaron Bartell  has been rocking and rolling in the node.js space and I am a bit jealous.  We’ll be doing some side by side presenting at the Common “IBM i Forum: New Open Source Languages” to be held in Chicago on December 9th and 10th so maybe we’ll do a little competitive hacking.

Nothing like a little competition to get those creative juices flowing!  Loving the IBM i-life!

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Mobile web or mobile native?

This has been a long running discussion and I recently tripped across yet another blog post that picked up the debate.  This is from Quirksmode.org .  I’ll admit that in that “web vs. native” discussion I assume Peter-Paul is talking mobile web vs native.  If not, well then, never mind…..

However, my 2 cents is that the mobile web vs mobile native debate is at the same stage as back in 1995 when the nascent Internet was beginning to get some notice from software developers. “Fat client”, multi-tiered apps were all the rage in 1995 and now 20 years later there are very few companies that are pushing “native” Windows or Mac apps out into the consumer world.  Email “native” client apps, even developer tools these days are becoming more “webby”.  I don’t hear of Google conceding defeat on the Gmail web client and instead that they will be developing a new “native” app for Windows and Mac.  Ain’t gonna happen!  And, IMHO, that is the way native mobile apps will eventually go.  Eventually the “browser” will basically BE the desktop.

The only reasons that mobile web apps haven’t gained more traction (that I can think of) are 1) performance and 2) being able to run in a “disconnected” state, both of which are solvable problems.  I can think of very few reason why I want to develop a native app so it can join the millions of “zombie” apps taking up space in iTunes and Google Play stores.

So that is my rationale and I will continue to write mobile *web* apps and deploy an occasional hybrid mobile app but that is about it.  Mobile native apps’ time has come and quickly gone.  We need to be writing better mobile web applications, not taking them native.

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Go west young man (or woman)! To Anaheim!

I am heading to Anaheim for the Common Spring Conference!  You know what that means: Updates to the Common Schedule Organizer, my mobile app for managing the Common Conference Schedule.  I had some small UI tweaks and added a hotel map.  You can find the mobile WEB app here. You can find the Android APK here.  For the Android app, remember that most mobile devices are cranky about installing stuff directly from the Internet without going through the Google play store so you might have to tweak your device security settings in order to install.

Another word about the install:  Normally, you can just update the existing app but I couldn’t install without first uninstalling the older version of CSO (if you have it).  So install and re-install if you get an error in updating.

Yet another word about installation: When you start the app you will briefly see the prompt for your email address appear and then ZAM!  Its gone!  So, start the app.  Click on the “Load Schedules” button and WAIT patiently while it pulls the data.  Then go to “My Schedule” and click on the “Change Grid Email Address” and enter the email address you used to register at the Common Scheduling (NOT the sched.org site)  site and it will pull your personal grid info (if you have any).  Other wise, just add stuff to your schedule as needed.

Enjoy!  I am heading to Anaheim!

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The great open source mashup on IBM i

To the outside world and perhaps 80% of the established IBM i community running open source applications on the IBM i operating system is irrelevant.  This is a crime of monumental proportions in that folks are standing up *NIX and Windows servers while they let their IBM i’s languish with “legacy” applications.  How sad for them. They are missing out on the benefits of leveraging those legacy apps with open source frameworks that could make their shops more productive, scalable and secure.

Node is getting the latest buzz on the web and in the small but active open source community on IBM i.  I gotta admit that getting that first node app up was my goal (be first!) when it was first announced but my younger alter-ego, Aaron Bartell beat me to it (as usual).  But getting node.js stood up as a server is only the first step.  Getting a “hello world” app working is perhaps the second but the real fun is taking a few existing technologies and putting together a mashup that leverages old with new.  You IBM i folks have a boatload of RPG apps, how the heck would you hook them up with node.js?

socket.io and express.js being TCP/HTTP friendly make that a good place to start!  The IBM i is a rock solid HTTP server platform.  There are plenty of open source technologies that leverage HTTP on IBM i so using HTTP is a logical place to start.  How could we link things up so that node.js serves up apps that can communicate with and use other HTTP technologies?  Well, I threw together an RPG app that uses an HTTP POST to post data to the chat application example.  Check out a quick and dirty example I put together on my Github repo here. It isn’t as robust as I want it to be but I am just getting started here (and wanted to do more than just ‘Hello World’!)

Just think of the possibilities!  HTTP is the perfect way to mash up all things IBM i.  More to come!

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