The IBM Enterprise Modernization Sandbox for IBM i that is! We often hear that developers want to try out RDi but don’t have the time to do it at the office and don’t have access to an IBM i box at home. So we created the Enterprise Modernization Sandbox for IBM i; an set of tutorials and access to a demo system that can be run from anywhere. This includes things like (under “architecture”):
- Using the Remote System Explorer (RSE)
- Using i5/OS Projects
- Using EGL
- And various Web services tutorials using RDi SOA
And of course you don’t need to buy RDi or RDi SOA first. You can download the trial editions for playing around.
The debugger webcast went well yesterday and the recording is available here under Webcast Recordings. I did a live demo instead of using slides (I used 3 slides). It’s always a bit tricky doing live demos for webcasts given screen resolution and network latency issues, but the recording looks pretty good.
Ease of use (including ease of learning) and following Eclipse Workbench standard behavior are two of many things we try to include in all our designs. However, sometimes these two things are at odds and we have to choose one or write extra code to compromise on a solution. Over the past few weeks we’ve run into 3 good examples of this working on RDi 7.5 which I’m going to include here for comments on:
1. In Eclipse 3.4 (or Eclipse 3.3) the Plug-in Development Environment (PDE) added a new keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + A to open a plug-in artifact. RSE users will recognize this keyboard shortcut as the “Open Member” dialog. So now when you press Ctrl + Shift + A, Eclipse detects the conflict and pops up a little conflict dialog:
We (the RSE development team) had 3 choices: (1) Change our keyboard shortcut, (2) attempt to write some code to disable the PDE action, or (3) leave the conflict. Option (1) was ruled out because changing our action will make existing users frustrated because they are used to the old key sequence, and it doesn’t guarantee there won’t be future conflicts. Option 2 is out because it’s generally considered a bad practice to do something like this in the Workbench.
I believe option 3 is the best option because Eclipse already provides a preference page (General > Keys) where users can customize keyboard shortcuts. So really option 3 leaves it to the user to resolve by either changing the keyboard shortcut assigned to one of the actions or removing the key binding for the one they don’t want.
As a design rule, I’d like us to leverage the existing Eclipse workbench as much as possible for things like this instead of writing more code to resolve the issues (which can make things more complicated in the long run IMHO). Of course the shortfall of option 3 is that you have to know that you can customize the keyboard shortcuts via the preferences. The pop-up dialog does hint at this with the “Press Ctrl + Shift + L to open the preference page”.
2. The second example was around the current line color for the debug editor. The default editor used by the debugger is the Remote Systems LPEX Editor. The default current line color for the editor is pale blue that is hard to see. Again this can be changed by a preference (LPEX > Appearance) if you know where to look. In past releases we did some extra coding to override the preference and make the current line darker blue while debugging.. This release some things changed underneath us in the software stack and that no longer work. We ultimately decided to not re-implement this override since the preference already exists.
3. In the RSE you can right click on a local save file (local being on your PC), right click and select the Restore on IBM i… action to restore the save file on one of your IBM i connections (yes connections are now IBM i in 7.5 instead of i5/OS in 7.1 and iSeries before that). Previously this action ran on the user interface thread and blocked any refreshes of the Workbench (so the Workbench appeared hung during the upload and restore). We wanted to change this to run asynchronously and even give the user the option to run it in the background and continue doing other things. The design question was: what to do when the action completes with errors? The standard Eclipse progress task just puts an icon in the bottom right corner of the workbench with and explanation mark on it:
If you click the icon then a dialog box appears showing the results. Of course, you have to know to click the icon to see the results. The alternative would be to always show a dialog box when the action completes, but that could become annoying if you are in the middle of doing something like enter some source code. The jury’s still out on this one.
Ultimately we want the RSE to be easy to use and follow standard look and feel guidelines (which makes it easier to use in the long run). Like every other development team we also have fixed resources and implementing a workaround for something means something else doesn’t get done.
I’d love any comments that new or existing users have on this topic to help us in our future decisions!
My blogging sebatical is over (hopefully). At any given time I usually have at least 4 or 5 things I want to write about, so coming up with things wasn’t the issue; it was time and priorities. So I’m going to make blogging a higher priority. And with the RSE book finally out and the next release of Rational Developer for i (RDi 7.5) wrapping up, I should have some more time. More on RDi 7.5 in another post.
Interesting, I just went to the MC Press website to lookup the URL for the book and saw an ad for the book saying something about a free chapter download (news to me!) So, if you click on the “Look Inside” link you can download chapter 4 “Workbench Basics”. For those that have been using WDSC or RDi for awhile there might not be a lot new in this chapter for you, but hopefully you pickup a few new tidbits. You can also take a peek at the TOC and index.
If you happen to be at Paul, Skip, Susan, and Jon’s RPG & DB2 Summit next weekthen you can also stop by the MC Press booth and take a look (Merrikay will have some copies there.)
Updated Nov 11th: The link for RDi 7.5 was an internal IBM link that worked fine for me, but likely nobody else :) I’ve changed this to the external announcement letter.
I just returned from two days of presenting at the Norteast User Groups Conference on various WDSC and RDi topics. A fun conference, with great attendees and lots of WDSC users!
A couple funny stories about the debugger while I was there. Earlier in the day on Wednesday Jon Paris was telling me about a problem he had seen at a customer site where the debugger was displaying an error about “retrieving children”. I said I had never seen or heard of the problem before. Later that afternoon I’m demoing the debugger in front of about 40 people. I set my service entry point, call my program, the debug perspective opens and up pops the exact same error. I guess I can reproduce that one now :) The good news is I was able to get some details about the error and it doesn’t appear to actually have any functional impact.
In the same demo , I’m stepping over a write to a display file and the F spec is highlighted and I’m hitting “step over” a few times until it gets to the next line, when someone in the audience tells me about the *NODEBUGIO compiler option. I never knew that even existed (and it’s always good to learn something new). What makes this even more funnier, is that about 20 minutes later (same session) another person in the audience asks if there is any way to prevent having to step over I/O multiple times in the debugger. Sure, just use *NODEBUGIO option when compiling your source :)
One last tidbit I learned this evening is that you can’t get the value of a CL variable to show in the hover box when debugging like you can with ILE RPG and COBOL. But this restriction is only if you are using the Remote Systems LPEX Editor as your debug editor (the default). If you switch to listing view in the debugger, or use the Debug Editor (preference on Run/Debug > Compiled Debug preference page) then you can get the value for CL variables to show in a hover box.
So I originally intended to keep blogging as I was working on the RSE book, but as it turns out, writing a book is a lot of work (who knew?) So things like blogging, exercise, and other hobbies got put on hold for awhile. The manuscript is due to MC Press next week so hopefully blogging and exercise can make a come back.
I’m currently reviewing Nazmin’s editor chapters and came across a section called “Moving the Curosr”. My initial thought was “this seems kind of obvious, perhaps we should just delete this section”. But to my surprise I learned three new ways to navigate around LPEX from reading it and I added one that Nazmin didn’t know about.
I suspect that a lot of users don’t know all of the ways, or perhaps they use them in a Web browser but don’t realize they can also be used in LPEX. So we decided to leave this section :) It’s pretty short anyways. And don’t worry, there are lots more exciting sections with cool stuff like the outline view, content assist, and of course keyboard shortcuts in LPEX.
And just so you don’t have to wait, here is the list:
- Press the Up, Down, Left, or Right arrows.
- Press Home to move the cursor to the beginning of a line and End to move it to the end of a line.
- Press Ctrl + Left arrow to move the cursor one word left, or Ctrl + Right ar-row to move it one word right.
- Press Page Up or Page Down to move the cursor up or down one window at a time.
- Press Ctrl + Up arrow to scroll the editor up one line without changing the current line, or Ctrl + Down arrow to scroll the editor down one line.
- Press Ctrl + Home to move the cursor to the beginning of the document, or Ctrl + End to move it to the end of the document.
- Press Ctrl + J to return the cursor to the place in the editor where you last entered text.
- Press Home and then Shift + Tab to position the cursor in the Prefix area.
For those existing RSE users out there, I’d be interested if any of these are new to you. I wasn’t aware of the Ctrl + J shortcut, Ctrl + Left | Right arrows, or Shift + Tab to jump into the prefix area. Good thing Nazmin wrote this chapter!
Doing some more testing this morning and I stumbled across this in the online help (WDSC 7.0):
So the keyboard shortcuts are documented in WDSC! This will be handy to know.
I’m currently running some old testcases for the editor and I came across one that included these steps (while editing CMD source):
- Position your cursor at “(” and press Ctrl + Shift + M
- Cursor should reposition to the matching “)”
I knew we had a match function, but I had no idea it would match brackets too! So I had to try it with RPG and sure enough it works there too! Bottom line: there are a lot of features in the RSE, epecially the Remote Systems LPEX Editor. I’m really looking forward to reading the editing chapter that Nazmin is currently work on to see what else I’ve been missing out on : )
As for my progress on the book, I just finished up my big chapter which basically covers the Remote Systems view (connections, filters, working with libraries, objects and members, iSeries table view (which perhaps should be a separate chapter, but is closely related to the other stuff), and filter pools. I resisted putting a section on profiles, but the more I think about it the more I’m inclined to include one. Probably in a different “miscellaneous stuff” chapter. Now I’m onto the iSeries projects chapter.
It’s official. Nazmin and I have a publishing agreement with MC Press to write a book on the RSE. We sent in two chapters (Getting Started and the Debugger) back in October and they liked them so they gave us the green light to go full steam ahead. We are scheduled to deliver the first manuscript to MC Press in 1Q 2008 and the book should be out around 4 months after that.
The book will be dedicated entirely to the RSE, integrated iSeries debugger and iSeries projects. The goal is to provide detailed descriptions of the features, how they were intended to be used, how this differs from how they are actually being used, customizations, how to map how things are done in SEU / PDM to the RSE, lots of tips, techniques and screenshots. And of course, some of the deep technical information that the RSE power users out there have been waiting for :)
Nazmin is currently working on the editor chapter and I’m working on the “Accessing libraries, object, and members” chapter. My chapter will basically cover the Remote Systems view (connections, managing LIBL, filters, filter pools, iSeries table view, running commands).
The problem so far has been too much writing. All the chapters are blowing their original size estimates. It seems there’s lots to write about once you dig into it.
I’m planning to do a lot more blogging here while writing the book, to share some tips, thoughts, updates on the progress, and to get feedback. In fact this has been the impetus behind quite a few of my recent postings. I would be doing some writing and want to share it immediately.
We would love any feedback, suggestions or comments you have for the book. Feel free to post a comment here or send us an email.
I used to say the only reasons for using iSeries projects was:
- Disconnected development
- More structured development (i.e. organizing applications into projects which ideally are finer grained than the large libraries typically used today)
- Change management (being able to store your RPG, COBOL, CL and DDS in the same repository as your Java and Web pages)
However, I have recently been surprised by the uptake of iSeries projects for different reasons. One person on the midrange.com WDSC mailing list was being forced to keep their html files used with CGIDEV2 in a source physical file member on the System i. This makes it very difficult to use a graphical editor like the Page Designer in WDSC because the graphical HTML editors can’t handle the sequence number and timestamp fields. In WDSC 7.0 we added a feature that can have iSeries projects automatically strip off the sequence numbers and timestamp field from each line when the member is downloaded. Using this feature the user was able to use iSeries projects and Page Designer to edit their HTML source members.
Others use iSeries projects to edit their RPG, COBOL, CL or DDS source members solely for the ability to have the workspace track the changes. As you save changes to a local workspace file, the workspace support tracks the changes as a local history. You can then right click on the member at any time and select Compare With > Local History to see each saved change and compare your current edition to any of the saved changes. This capability is not available when editing from the RSE.
This can even work if nobody else on your team is using iSeries projects. Before you make changes to your member, right click on it in the RSE and select “Make Available Offline” (nevermind the fact that you are not working offline). Then from iSeries projects, make your changes to the member. When you are done, right click on the member in iSeries projects and select Remote Actions > Push Selected.
There are a couple things to consider here. When you edit members with the RSE they are locked on the System i just like when you edit them with SEU. So nobody can makes changes to the member while you are editing it. With iSeries projects the member is not locked. So when you go to push your changes you might get a warning that the member has been modified while you were changing it. How likely this will happen and steps you could take to reduce / eliminate this will vary depending on how your shop has it’s development environment setup.
Of course, implementing a change management system would solve the locking problem and give you the ability to track changes :)