I know. I haven’t blogged in a while. So sue me.
First, there was the fact that Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Francisco all got knocked out of the playoffs. It was a bitter blow to me as those are three of my favorite teams.
Second, there was the Super Bowl. Last year (2010) Eli stunk. So, in the off season, I unloaded him from my fantasy team for Rivers and some other loser. Rivers sucks. I can’t stand that guy. Top level QB, my butt.
Third, and then there was nothing. I have long felt that when I die it will be in the meaningless days of February. Football is done, baseball hasn’t really started (I need more than the hope of pitchers and catchers reporting), and college basketball doesn’t mean anything yet.
But now it is almost March. The Spartans have already captured the Big Ten title (I root for UOM for football and State for basketball) and we are within spitting distance of the conference championship which is the jumping off point for the two greatest days of the year; the first two days of March Madness. So, like Punksatawny Phil, I have emerged from my underground hideout to take a quick look around.
And what I see is news from IBM.
First, IBM has decided not to charge for RPG Open Access, a package that opens up RPG. Not really sure what RPG Open Access (ROA) is? Understandable. Doesn’t it have something to do with accessing the web? Let’s take a minute and remind ourselves. And there is no better short description of what ROA is than that given by Aaron Bartell when it first came out back in 2010.
“The basic concept is that you now have the ability to override the processing of the various file/table op codes. So for example, instead of doing an EXFMT to the green screen you could do it to a web browser. You should note that the compiler feature is meant to provide an interface and NOT an implementation. What that means is you will either have to write your own RPG code to handle the communication with the browser or utilize a vendor solution who has taken the time to write an implementation of the RPG Open Access features.”
And so, it does have something to do with the web but it also has something to do with other things as well. If you have used Special Files in RPG then ROA can be a more powerful, flexible tool to do that kind of manipulation. What can you use it for? Well, the first thing mentioned was to all you to develop ‘handlers’ that would allow you to write to the browser from an RPG program. While the consensus seems to be that this is a very complicated project and one best left to third parties (many of whom have already developed such handlers), you can also much more easily use it to write an RPG report directly to a spreadsheet or browser, or to read/write to the IFS without requiring manual or CL commands to CPY files.
At the time that the product was released, just about everyone agreed that it’s major drawback was that it wasn’t free, that it was a special charge item. But now that has been removed and everyone can take a shot at learning how to use this. With all of the interest in integrating Office into your program output seamlessly, ROA seems like something well worth checking into, and now there is no reason why not to.
Second, IBM announced the maintenance cut off for 5.4. I have to be honest. I think this is a good move and long overdue.
There seems to be a real divide in the i community between those people who have drawn a line in the sand at 5.4, and those who have moved on to 7.1. There shouldn’t be. Yes, moving beyond 5.4 requires a program migration similar to what you had when you moved from CISC to RISC, but so what. Life is full of challenges and this will be one of the lesser ones you have to deal with. Again, the key fact here is observability. If the programs you are migrating are observable, then there is no problem making the move. If they aren’t, then you have to ask whether you really want to be running something that is so old and which, apparently, is not supported into the future (or they would have developed a module that was consistent with 6.1 and above).
No matter how you feel about these announcements, one thing is clear. If you want to remain on the i, and remain relevant (that is, not just on the i because your management doesn’t have the energy to do anything else), it will be necessary to move forward. The move up to 7.1 seems a no brainer. More functionality plus the maintenance support you are paying for. And free RPG Open Access should encourage more shops to begin to look at RPG oriented approaches to the IFS and the web.
So, where do you want to go from here?