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Our Top 5 Highlights of 2016

January 22, 2017

It's a new year so it seems like a good time to reflect on the year that has just passed.

Many things happened in the IBM i world in 2016 but we've come up with a list of five of the key things that impacted us significantly, mostly for the better. See how many of these would make your own list of highlights.  

1) We have begged for it for so long that our top highlight of 2016 has to be the arrival of a version of RDi that runs natively on our Macs. Some months later we are still basking in the glow. In fact we have not even loaded our Windows virtual machines to run RDi for quite a while now. Much to our surprise, we haven't missed the syntax checker as much as we had anticipated. That's not to say we wouldn't like to see it make an appearance in the product in 2017!

The biggest unexpected benefit comes in terms of the things that don't happen. For example we work through a VPN all the time, and it has its own ideas about when to time out the connection. As a result, unless we think to check the status before "touching" RDi after a break, it is not uncommon to get into a bind with RDi where it spends an inordinate amount of time apparently arguing with the Windows TCP/IP stack (shudder) about whether it was connected or not and whether the host even exists. Sometimes the only way out was to resort to using IPCONFIG to flush the DNS cache in order to be able to start from scratch and get past the problem. No more!  When that problem occurs on the Mac version it is usually just a matter of telling it to reconnect and away we go. Happy, happy, happy. Thank you, IBM.

There have been many other nice enhancements to RDi that weren't specific to the Mac support. One is the ability to hide unreferenced items in the RPG Outline View. But for us the biggie has to be the Mac support.

2) Our second highlight is the resurgence in activity around open source projects. During the year IBM continued to add new features to the 5733OPS product including a port of Python 2, which had been requested by a lot of people. A whole group of folk has gathered around this tooling and used it as a foundation for consolidating some of the existing open source code already in the community as well as to port new tools and utilities.

This is all goodness, but we are still a little concerned by the somewhat confusing messages that we get from IBM on this front. On the one hand new additions to the product are widely trumpeted to the entire IBM i user community and IBM gives sessions on them at COMMON and other User Group meetings. But the reality seems to be that there is little support for helping existing IBM i users to understand the "what's and why's" of the new tooling. So there still seems to be a lot of confusion as to whom IBM thinks the target audience is. Since little has changed in that respect since Jon blogged on this topic back in August, we'll just refer you to that for more thoughts.

We will be writing more on the whole Open Source on IBM i scene soon. In the meantime if you want to catch up on what's going on, then this site is as good a starting point as any right now.

3) Upgraded SQL support is next on our list. There are additional system information views and functions that allow you to avoid messy APIs to retrieve information about spool files, users, jobs, etc. Initial support has also been added for JSON alongside the existing XML support. There are also new features to allow retrieval of data from web services directly within SQL. In many cases you can now retrieve the results of a web service query as if the data was stored in a regular table. Again this is something we want to explore further as it has been a while since we did an update on the web services support on the platform. Look for an article in the future.

4) And of course you knew we could not leave RPG off the list. It just goes on getting stronger and stronger. The latest ON-EXIT feature provides a great way to bullet-proof your applications and we'll be reporting on that also in the upcoming months. Sadly in a world where RPG programmers are apparently content to allow an application to die with the "green screen of death" when there are ways to easily prevent it, this feature may well not be as widely adopted as it should be⎯but that doesn't make it any less useful!

5) All of the things we have discussed so far are in the positive category. This last one is both positive and negative. In a word it is consolidation. 2016 saw the takeover/merger of still more companies in our community. One negative aspect is that, with a smaller number of companies in the market, there is less advertising money being spent. The result is an inevitable reduction in the number of publications. Whether in printed or emailed form, these depend on advertising to pay for their content. Less advertising means less content⎯it is that simple. The positive aspect is that as modernization vendors consolidate, it is a little easier for people to pick a vendor to partner with as you can buy multiple components from a single vendor. We don't think that this trend has run its course yet, but we'll leave any further comments on that for our next blog post.

That's it for our first post of the year. Our next post will cover our hopes and expectations for 2017.

Posted January 22, 2017 | Permalink

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