Wednesday, October 20, 2010


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I have always considered myself to be reasonably savvy when it comes to technology. And I'm sure I've squandered tens of thousands of dollars over the years being an early adopter --I'm always the first on my block to get the latest computer, cell phone, PDA, iPod, TiVo, GPS, or whatever. But lately, there are a couple of technologies I just don't get Instant messaging, for example. Why not just phone the other person, or send them an e-mail, or (gasp?) stand up and talk to them over the cubicle? Texting, too. My son and I have a heated discussion every month (when the phone bill arrives) about the value of face-to-face communication and the high cost of avoiding it My other concern about texting is that it's corrupting the language. First, "text" was never meant to be a verb. Second, even if you've never won a spelling bee, you've got to admit that "18r" is a stupid way to spell "later." 4col y don u jus spl it >? (For cryin' out loud, why don't you just spell it right?)

As I get older, and as the curmudgeon gene becomes more dominant, I've developed the annoying trait of actually having the need for a product before I become interested in it Call it what you want--I prefer "maturity." On the AS/400 (er, iSeries ... er, System i ... 4col make ^ ur mind), this peculiarity has served me well. I've successfully avoided scraping my knuckles on a number of programming models and languages by simply not seeing the need.

* Smalltalk? Small chance.

* UML? Too abstract for me.

* Groovy? Not feelin' it

* Ruby on Rails? Who's Ruby, and why the obsession with trains?

* Java? As pervasive as it is, I've always managed to find another way. (Notice how I avoided saying anything about coffee? That's progress.)

* Agile programming? Okay, I'll buy into that, but does it have to sound so much like exercise?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating ignorance of new technologies. Once I understand the gist of a new model (and once I know what the acronym stands for), I just need to know why I would use it If I can't find a need, I'll file it away with my other useless--for now- knowledge. Your CEO has probably refined this approach, calling it "return on investment" (ROI? Lol!).

A few notable platforms pass muster in this regard. For database design, access, and maintenance, the ROI champ is obviously SQL. Besides being an industry standard, SQL offers features, security, and (sometimes) performance not available when you use DDS and native database access methods. For designing dynamic web pages, you can't beat PHP. I believe that PHP is the most exciting language to be introduced to the System i since RPG (RPG IV, of course --very big grin). PHP is easy to learn--certainly more approachable than any other web language--and with it, you can quickly expand on simple HTML knowledge to make your user interface and Internet presence "pop."

But when I ponder the "Top Things I've Learned Recently," one product easily leads the list: WebSphere Development Studio client (WDSc). It's no understatement to say that this tool has transformed the way I work I cannot remember the last time I used PDM or SEU; once I've entered the WDSc environment, I never want to leave. This interactive development environment combines all the best features of PDM and SEU into a seamless setting and adds features I have found to be indispensible. I can develop better programs faster than I ever could in my old comfortable green-screen surroundings. Yet, when I visit clients, I find that few programmers are using this great new tool. If you can learn only one new thing this year, it should be WDSc. The learning curve isn't too steep, and it will reap immediate benefits. Plus, it's just plain fun.

Previous releases of WDSc have been hobbled by too many features that ordinary System i programmers would never use. In fact, I complained about this profusion of unnecessary features in "WDSc Lite and Other Oxymorons" (April 2007, article ID 20851 at Funny thing about that article--on the very day it went to press, IBM announced Version 7 of WDSc, which addressed nearly all of the deficiencies in my complaint (2g2bt--too good to be true). The current WDSc release is a formidable replacement for legacy tools like PDM and SEU, and you can install it with just the features you need in a typical RPG shop.

First; the Remote Systems Explorer (RSE) component of WDSc provides a "big picture" view of the objects in one or more systems via a graphical presentation, consolidating and improving upon PDM's "Work with" commands. With RSE, you can drill down into the details without losing the larger perspective. Right-clicking replaces PDM options, and you can create your own filters to customize the view for a specific project or user.

Another feature is the LPEX Editor, which is like SEU on steroids. LPEX still has many of the same common functions with which you're familiar, but combines the best of SEU with the best of a PC editor. It uses language-specific color parsing to make the pieces of your source stand out For fixed-format specifications, the tab keys actually work (omg!). The prompter is extremely useful and doesn't take up half the screen.

WDSc's Debug Perspective is much more interactive than the green-screen ILE debugger. The ability to set service entry points greatly facilitates the initiation of a debug session when the program runs anywhere on the system, whether you or another user runs it, and whether it's running interactively or in batch.

Because it's based on the open-source Eclipse Workbench, WDSc supports the concept of plug-ins--customizing routines, usually written by third parties and then tightly integrated with WDSc itself. These plug-ins might integrate change management, version control, application modeling, analysis, data dictionary, or just about any other application development function you need Here are two freeware plug-ins that rd label essential:

* RSE Extensions, which include a spooled file viewer and a System i message viewer (

* 5250 Emulator for Eclipse (

Some features are a logical evolution of familiar tools. Others are completely new. As you are editing, you can update an Outline view, which is a kind of "program explorer" that lets you easily see the structure of a program and the attributes of its data items; you can also navigate through the code using the Outline view. The Remote Scratchpad is a handy window that lets you organize just the objects you need for a project, instead of wading through scattered areas of the system universe. The feature list could go on and on.

Is everything in WDSc perfect? No. I'd like to see the ability to enter SQL statements when I view the data table for a physical file. Also, the screen designer in the basic WDSc version isn't provided yet, and getting program updates can be clumsy. But at Version 7, WDSc is definitely ready for prime time. And I'm listening to Christmas carols as I write, so maybe even these things will be fixed by the time you read this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to text my legacy application development tools: CU L8R SEU!

Bryan Meyers is a technical editor for System ME WS. Bryan's books include then new 4th edition of Programming in RPG IV and Control Language Programming for the AS/400 (24th Street Press). His company,, provides System i training topics worldwide.

Source Citation
Meyers, Bryan. "CU L8R SEU!" Iseries News (2008): 7+. General OneFile. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.
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Gale Document Number:A177811575

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