Friday, April 29, 2005

Why the iSeries is Awesome, part 1: Command Prompting

Command prompting blew my mind when I first encountered it. Up until that point one had to have the manual by one's side (or the MAN pages up on another session) looking up parameters and their allowable options. However on the iSeries you don't need any of that stuff (unless of course you intend to do something hairy) because command prompting puts it all on the screen for you. All you have to do is find a command line, type the command you want, press the prompt key (F4) and presto, a screen appears with the parameters the command accepts.

Now this would be awesome enough, but our lord Ib'm didn't leave it at that. Down the middle of the screen are fields to enter the parameter values. On the left is a description and on the right is a list of the possible values that could be entered in each field. If you press function key 11 it will hide the allowable values and display the name for each parameter. Many of the fields will have default values already entered and the ones that are required will be highlighted. If any mistakes are made the command prompter will reverse image the field and display messages explaining the errors. (The messages have a feature that allows you to get help on what they mean and how to recover from them, but that's a subject for another posting.)

If the list of probable values doesn't fit and you want to know what else can be entered then move the cursor to that field, press the prompt key (F4) again, and a full list of allowable values for that parameter will appear. Don't know what the parameter does? Then instead press the help key (F1) and a detailed description of the parameter and all of its special values will appear. Need an explanation of what the command does? No sweat; from the first help screen press the extended help key (F2) and a full explanation of the command comes up.

You won't believe how incredibly easy it is to traverse the a command's help to find out what you need to enter where.

Finding Commands to Prompt

"But" I hear you saying, "how will I know what commands to enter", which is a valid concern, but our lord Ib'm has thought of that as well because they have provided the hapless user with many paths to the command you need. Standardized TLA's, command grouping menus, and generic command selection are just some of the ways in which you, the hapless user, can find your way to CL Command enlightenment.

Every command starts with a verb, like Change (CHG), or Delete (DLT), or Power-down (PWRDWN--and yes, "power-down" is a verb) and is followed by a subject (or noun), like program (PGM), module (MOD), device (DEV), job description (JOBD), etc. So the command to delete a program is "DLTPGM" or power-down the system is "PWRDWNSYS".

Another way to find a command is via the command grouping menus. To display a menu you execute the "GO" command with a menu name. To see a list of every verb and subject on the iSeries go to the VERB and SUBJECT menus. You can also go to individual command gouping menus by adding the prefix "CMD" to the TLA in question that you're curious about. (ie. GO CMDCHG, or GO CMDDLT, etc.)

Generic command selection is another good way to find commands. Say you want to compile a C++ program. To put it into iSeries lingo what you actually want to do is "create" a C++ program and on the iSeries the verb "create" is always spelled "CRT". So find a command line, type "CRT*", press enter, and you'll be presented with every command that starts with "CRT" (along with a one line description of what each one of them creates). There are of course way too many CRT commands to page through, so to make the list shorter we need to add letters between the "CRT" and the asterisk(*). Since it's a C++ program add a "C" (making it "CRTC*") and you'll find a much smaller and more manageable list to page through.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Apache update v2.0.52 has problems.

On our web server V5R3 PTF 5722DG1-SI17010 causes HTTP/500 server failures. It might be related to SSL because our non-SSL web servers weren't affected. We're currently in touch with the almighty on this problem. Originally support thought it was related to another problem but the messages in the error log were different.

Ib'm requested and we collected an HTTP trace with the PTF applied and it's been zipped up and emailed to support. I'll add comments to this article when we know the outcome.

New iSeries Bishop

Bishop Michael Borman after only six months has been promoted to cardinal and taking his place as the latest in a series of iSeries church leaders for marketing is Bishop Mark Shearer. Reading the article I couldn't help but feel a sense of dread. How often have we heard that our little corner of computerdom was finally going to be properly marketed only to see even poorer results down the road?

The problem of course is that our lord Ib'm wants to be all things to all people. As a strategy for the church as a whole it probably works, but it also means that the little niche sects don't get the attention they deserve and our little iSeries world becomes smaller and smaller as the years unfold. The last conference I attended I noticed that there were no young people there. Everyone was middle aged and that's not good.

We would have been better off if Pope John Akers had been allowed to continue with his vision to dissolve the larger church into smaller totally independent units. The iSeries sect would have flourished because it would have been able to preach its own sermon and promote itself. Instead we're a small niche in a huge organization that itself is preaching one sermon to a diverse world and we can't survive that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Father Joe's Confessional

I've added a confessional to the side bar. If anyone wants to confess their past sins or simply ask for advice please free. All appropriate confessions will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Holy Day of Sunday.

Ah Sunday. A most holy day. Every week on this day, early in the morning, we save all of our parchment to tape and then apply PTFs (Parchment Temporary Fixes). Our lord Ib'm notifies us of scriptural re-interpretations during the week and we copy and set them to be applied on Sunday mornings.

I've always loved this process; making sure all references are up to date. Many churches I've been to never see the wisdom of keeping up with the changes. That is until they make a doctrinal decision that disagrees with our Lord and his wrath can be brutal. Then they see the light. Like a overweight person who has a heart attack and gets the "wake-up call" to start eating right and exercising.

If you spend your entire life eating the right foods, getting enough exercise, not smoking, etc. At the end of your life you will never really know if these behaviors made your elder days longer or more enjoyable, but somehow in your heart you will know you avoided bad things. Believe me, it's the right course. I've lived through enough tornados and meteors to know that keeping the PTFs up to date is worth it.

So if you're not paying attention to those High Impact Parchment Enhancements or Repairs (HIPER) , Parchment Errors (PE), or Cumulative PTF Packages (CumPacks) then you need to get on the job for as I've said, the wrath of Ib'm can be harsh. Our Lord Ib'm maintains a vast collection of information on this subject and you can start your education in PTFs here: Guide to Fixes.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A small monestary needs my services.

I received word yesterday that a small monestary not far from me is in need of my services. I felt a warmth on the back of my neck when I read it, for the position is one that I was trained for as a youth but never practiced as an adult: writing prayer books and illustrating scripture.

Since graduating all those years ago I've only been preaching, hearing confessions, advising the parishoners, helping the downtrodden, and all the other work involved with running or helping to run various small to large churches. I've never actually written a prayer book from scratch or copied the holy word onto new parchment since completing my studies.

In school, if I do say so myself, I was quite a good artist/caligrapher and I always enjoyed it. The different inks & writing implements, the smell of new parchment, applying the gold leaf just so. I even did some projects where groups of us re-interpreted the holy word of our lord. Out in the world there wasn't much call for those skills. There are of course many times that I must repair old books and re-illustrate pages here and there. It feels like the old days but all-in-all it's not really the same.

The local baron of my latest church seems indifferent to me, but his son (who is also his right-hand man) loves my work. He is a a true convert, so I know that our church will always be welcome here. We have many parishoners and they're always complementing my sermons and my work. The parish is large enough that I'm always busy and I am comfortable here and feel secure in their love.

The monestary is very small and the working conditions & it's influence in the larger community are largely unknown. I'm not such a young man anymore and leaving my current parish would be viewed as a betrayal by the Baron's son, so if I left there would be no coming back.

What would you do?

Friday, February 18, 2005



I am Father Joe, a high priest in the decidedly low-brow minority religion of iSeries worship. Ours was once the envy of all the other dogmas, but now we toil in semi-darkness hoping that our lord Ib'm will bestow upon us some badly needed grace. It's sad really. We have a beautiful and vibrant mythos which is being overshadowed by the bright lights of some very bizarre faiths, some of which are being promoted by our aforementioned lord.

In any case, I don't want to dwell too much on the mundane or depressing subjects. Future posts will no doubt be more interesting.