Utilizing MI Functions in RPG Programs


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One of the most frequently asked questions to appear on RPG Internet lists is, "How can I convert a character string to its hex equivalent?" Wed like to answer this popular question by introducing you to the wonderful world of utilizing machine interface (MI) functions in RPG programs. Hopefully most of you have heard of MI, even if youre not quite sure what its all about.

In the simplest of terms, MI is the closest thing there is to a native assembler language on the iSeries platform. In the "olden days" of RPG/400 and the other OPM compilers, MI was the intermediate language that the compilers generated from our RPG and COBOL programs. The resulting MI was then translated into the raw machine instructions that were actually executed. Current ILE compilers dont generate MI, but W-code. Because IBM doesnt make the details of W-code available, MI remains our only access to some of the systems lower level functionality.

Most, but not all, MI instructions are "surfaced" for use in one or both of two forms: C functions and built-ins. A list of all of the supported MI functions is available in the Appendix "Reference Summary" of the ILE C/C++ for AS/400 MI Library Reference.

(Note: To see an example of the generated code, compile an old RPG/400 program specifying the additional option GENOPT(*LIST). Now take a look at the spool file, and youll see the generated MI code. You can learn a lot about MI just by studying the compiler listings, but if you really want to get into the nuts and bolts of MI programming, then theres only one place to go: Leif Svalgaarrds web site, which offers a complete MI tutorial and many sample programs. The full tutorial is a fee-based offering, but Leif does allow you to download his COMMON presentation handout and other sample pages. Another resource is IBMs MI functional reference manual, but this has few examples and cannot be downloaded.)

Now that weve laid the groundwork, lets get to the task at hand. Well be using the MI instruction CVTHC to convert a string to hex. Given the "ABC" character string, the instruction produces a string containing the "C1C2C3" hex representation. CVTHC is surfaced as the C function "cvthc", so thats the actual version well be using. Because requests for the reverse operation (converting a hex string to its character equivalent) are almost as frequent, our simple program also demonstrates the MI instruction CVTCH (C function "cvtch").

(A)  H DftActGrp(*No) BndDir('QC2LE')

(B)  D ToHex           PR                  EXTPROC('cvthc')
(C)  D  HexResult                 65534A   OPTIONS(*VARSIZE)
(C)  D  CharInp                   32767A   OPTIONS(*VARSIZE)
(C)  D  CharNibbles                  10I 0 VALUE

     D FromHex         PR                  EXTPROC('cvtch')
     D  CharResult                32767A   OPTIONS(*VARSIZE)
     D  HexInp                    65534A   OPTIONS(*VARSIZE)
     D  HexLen                       10I 0 VALUE

     D TestString      S             26A   Inz('Jon and Susan +
     D                                           - Partner400')
     D HexEquivalent   S             52A
     D Result          S             26A

     C     TestString    Dsply

(D)  C                   CallP     ToHex(HexEquivalent:
     C                                TestString: %Len(TestString) * 2)

(E)  C     HexEquivalent Dsply

     C                   CallP     FromHex(Result:
     C                              HexEquivalent: %Len(HexEquivalent))

     C     Result        Dsply

     C                   Eval      *InLR = *On

(A) The first thing to note in the sample program is the use of the H spec entry BNDDIR("QC2LE"). This directory is shipped with the system for the benefit of the C compiler. Because we want to access routines normally associated with C programs, we inform the RPG compiler to add it to its search list.

The prototype for "cvthc" is shown at (B). Weve named it "ToHex" because the original name gives the impression that it converts from hex to character rather than the other way around. (And yes, weve made that mistake.)

The procedure takes three parameters (C). The first is the result field; this is where the converted hex string will be placed. The second is the input character string, and the third is the length of that input field in nibbles (i.e., the number of bytes * 2). Why the routine couldnt accept the length of the character field and multiply it by 2 itself is anyones guess.


Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

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