13
Sat, Apr
5 New Articles

TechTip: Java-Based Client Access for the IBM i

Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Finally, a decent client is available from IBM for non-Windows platforms!

 

In my recent article "Is IBM i Access for Linux Right for Your Shop?", I reviewed IBM's Linux offering for accessing the IBM i's database and for providing 5250 emulation. The executive summary of that article is simply, "It's great for ODBC connectivity, but the emulator is best replaced by one of the open-source emulators or commercial alternatives." Shortly after the article was published, I received two emails from readers (Thanks to both Bobs!) recommending that I give IBM's Java-based offering a try.

 

The IBM i Access package (5733-XJ1) is built to provide non-Windows users the most frequently used features from the Windows product. While Linux, Mac, and Windows are platforms specifically mentioned in the documentation, I suspect that any platform that can provide Java 6 or higher and a graphical environment will be able to successfully run the program. Taken directly from the "getting started" document, the features include:

 

  • A full-featured 5250 display emulator based on IBM Rational Host-on-Demand. In addition to all the 5250 display features you are accustomed to when using IBM i Access for Windows, you may now switch your 5250 display emulator between languages without rebooting your workstation. In addition, you may have multiple concurrent sessions with different host code pages. This allows separate languages to be displayed within different emulator sessions. Printer emulation is also supported.

 

  • A 5250 Session Manager modeled after IBM Personal Communications Session Manager, which can be used for managing all of your 5250 emulator sessions.

 

  • Data Transfer, which provides the ability to transfer data from/to your IBM i database to/from various file types on your workstation such as OpenDocument spreadsheet (*.ods), Excel Workbook (*.xlsx), and other file formats.

 

  • A Data Transfer extension for OpenOffice, which provides the ability to transfer data from/to your IBM i directly to/from an OpenOffice spreadsheet.

 

  • A Virtual Control Panel with a graphical interface to the IBM i operation panel.

 

  • 5250 emulation for LAN Console.

 

  • Consolidation for hardware management interface configurations, including ASMI, IVM, and HMC.

 

  • Launch capability to IBM Navigator for i using your default browser.

 

 

One thing that one of the Bobs (an IBM employee) added to his email was this caveat: "You may not want to highlight the Data Transfer extension for OpenOffice. That feature will be removed and replaced with something a little easier to set up and use." "Easier to set up and use" is always a good thing, so I'll consider that feature to be not-ready-for-prime-time and ignore it. It is intriguing and will be a nice feature when they do get the improved version rolled into the product.

Installation

Assuming that your workstation has the requisite Java environment properly installed, then installation couldn't be easier, requiring only three steps: 1) Download the zip file from IBM's site, 2) make a directory to contain the package, and 3) unzip the package into that directory. Be aware that the zip file does not provide a container directory; thus you will want to ensure that you do so manually. For my Linux box, I issued the commands: mkdir ~/IBMiAccess; cd ~/IBMiAccess; unzip ~/Desktop/IBMiAccess_v1r1.zip, ensuring that my home directory didn't get littered with iAccess software.

Running the Software

If you're expecting a menu item or desktop icon to start the program, you'll be disappointed. The simplicity of the installation and the complexity of writing a good installation script for just one operating system, let alone multiple systems, has put that task into the future. IBM does provide a number of startup scripts and good documentation for rolling your own, so in my case it was a trivial exercise to create a desktop icon that launches ~/IBMiAccess/Start_Scripts/Linux_Mac_Other/acslaunch.

How Does It Look?

Upon startup, you'll be greeted with the window shown in Figure 1. This central launch pad shows the functionality available within the package. Under the "General" tab you'll find four of the most commonly used features.

 

051013KlineFigure1                  

Figure 1: The startup screen shows the central launch pad and the functionality available.

 

The most commonly used function, 5250 Emulator (shown in Figure 2), looks like the version available on the Windows version. It has an icon bar for accessing other functions, like its Windows brethren, and works exactly as you'd expect. I realize that there is nothing particularly sexy about a 5250 screen, but to see one on a Linux machine that comes from IBM, and actually looks nice, is refreshing. The keys can be remapped and the screen resized. From my couple of days of use, it appears to me that the functionality is identical to the Windows equivalent. This one is a winner!

 

051013KlineFigure2

Figure 2: The 5250 Emulator looks just like IBM's!

 

The data transfer function, shown in Figure 3, allows for data transfer to and from the i5/OS. Multiple output and input formats are available (Figure 4), and during my tests I found it quite functional. You can do simple queries to get subsets of the file. Bottom line? I can finally get data to my system (Figure 5) without having to resort to a CPYTOIMPF and FTP. This is another winner for me!

 

051013KlineFigure3

Figure 3: Transfer data to and from the i5/OS.

 

051013KlineFigure4

Figure 4: Take advantage of the multiple output and input formats.

 

051013KlineFigure5

Figure 5: Change your data options.

 

The Navigator for i option is somewhat of a cheat as it launches your web browser and sends you to the i5/OS Tasks screen. I can accept that, but I was hoping for more parity between this client and the Windows version. Perhaps that's something that will be addressed in the future.

 

Of the four General options, I was most excited to try out the "Printer Output" option. And it provided the greatest disappointment for me. Why? Because if you are looking at a standard i5/OS report, then things work fine. The spool file is sent to the client and then opened with a local text editor. If you wish to look at an AFP printer file, then you're out of luck. You'll get essentially the same view you'd get as if you'd look at the file via the green-screen DSPSPLF command. There is no graphic information, like PAGSEG data, and the text tends to be skewed, since you're trying to display data that can be placed to a micro precision on a record-oriented medium. If anyone can tell me that I missed something, then please enlighten me. I'd be happy to report my error.

In Summary

The IBM i Access Client technology preview is definitely a step in the right direction. Finally, a decent client is available from IBM for non-Windows platforms, including my preferred Linux. I'm happy that IBM is finally recognizing that there are other platforms out there besides Windows. I hope that they continue to improve this product so that when it's finally released it's as feature-complete as possible.

Barry Kline 0

Barry L. Kline is a consultant and has been developing software on various DEC and IBM midrange platforms since the early 1980s. Barry discovered Linux back in the days when it was necessary to download diskette images and source code from the Internet. Since then, he has installed Linux on hundreds of machines, where it functions as servers and workstations in iSeries and Windows networks. He co-authored the book Understanding Web Hosting on Linux with Don Denoncourt. Barry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have 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. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) 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:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. 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:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot 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:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have 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.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: