Tim Rowe Shares What's New With ACS and RDi

What’s New
Tim Rowe Shares What's New with ACS and RDi

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. Delighted to be joined today by the business architect for application development and systems management for IBM i, Tim Rowe. Hi Tim.

Tim Rowe: Hi Paul. Doing fantastic.

Paul: Okay so I remember the last time we were talking, Tim. I think I vaguely sort of said, "you know, we should do one of these talks about every three months." That was now a year ago, so―

Tim: So we're right on schedule.

Paul: So we're right on schedule. Exactly. [Laughs] So Tim, a couple of things that I would like to talk to you about, and I'm going to concentrate I think more today on the app dev side of your title. So recently we had another release of ACS, Access Client Solutions, and we could easily spend 15-20 minutes just going down through the list of stuff that came out in ACS, but I'm going to do―ask you the difficult question: Can you pick a couple of what you think are the highlights of what was in the last release of ACS?

Tim: Absolutely. ACS came out just a couple of weeks ago with our latest update, one of those products that we have been putting updates out, I don't know ,three, four, five times a year, we've been doing things. It's really based on input from our user community is what we've been doing. One of the big things we added is an emulator on input from our users. There is RFEs out there for this one―as well as input from some of our other advisory councils―is to enhance and make the history support that was built into ACS more interesting and more useable. So we extended that as part of this release to not only collect the last 15 screens like it had been doing, but now you can collect all the screens for an entire session that you've been using the emulator, and then you can store those off to what we call an archive file. It's a fantastic way for you to, you know, walk through a set of screens as part of building a test case, or if you're building some documentation and I can walk through all the different screens and I canput those into an archive file and pull those off later. If you wanted to do auditing to make certain that you knew these are the screens I went to. See? I can prove it. And you can show the screens, a lot of different uses for this archive support that was built into the history support. This is nice, fun and something that's easy to use.

Paul: So this effectively saves me having to do 15 print screens―or I don't mean green screens prints screens but screen captures of, you know, on my Mac.

Tim: Yes, correct.

Paul: Oh, that's kind of cool. I mean that's going to be great especially for ops/admin people, you know for problem solving stuff and that.

Tim: Exactly. Problem solving, auditing, documentation, lots of different use cases on how this could be put to practice.

Paul: Yeah, so any other major ACS highlights then?

Tim: One of the areas that we've been heavily focusing on as we have been making this transition for the old Windows client now into the ACS point is to really be building out all the tools the database engineer needs to do their job. So again, along those lines we have a huge laundry list of updates that we added into the database space. One of the big ones is the continual addition of other features under schemas. Some of the schema support, the very first release, you know, still launched over to the web side of things. Well we've added more support in there so now it is all contained on your ACS side. It makes it a lot more smooth, seamless to do.

Paul: Yeah. That's something that―well as you know because I'm on the Common European Advisory Council as well. That's something that we've been pushing for for quite awhile is to get all of that stuff―well first of all, all the stuff that was in Navigator to get into ACS―and a lot of other things as well.

Tim: Exactly, and that's one of the things we continue to look at is not just what was in Access for Windows but we want to extend it, make it better and then address the things that, well we've never had this before and we need it, so let's get this included as well.

Paul: Yeah. Actually ACS and talk about the database, that gives me a little lead-in to the next thing I want to talk about. Because of course one of the other things that I quite like is the way that a lot of the ACS stuff especially things like run SQL scripts and that have also been integrated into RDi. So again, just a couple of months ago, we had a new release of RDi. So again, you want to pick maybe what was a highlight in that last release.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. Just one of the things that really nice is when RDI moved from the Rational team to underneath the IBM i team's umbrella, that got put underneath my umbrella now as the architect for that, where I get to work closely with that team from Rational. One of the things we were able to do is pull and push some of the components from ACS―we pushed them directly into RDi. So the emulator, the run SQL scripts, all of that―that's all the versions―the latest versions that we have out in the field today, that's all now in RDi and we'll continue to update those components as new things come from an ACS perspective as well. One of the areas that we've been really focusing on―I know you as well in your job―is the whole concept of modernization and helping build tools and helping to build methodologies and education to help our customers move toward modern programming. One of the big things that we added in this release of RDi recently to continue further in that path is the refactor renaming support. This stuff is really cool in my opinion. When you take old code―even if you move it from fixed form to free form―it becomes more readable, except that old code started with 6-character variable names, 8-character variable names, you know. Then what about 15 years ago we had a major enlightenment, where you were able to go with like 15-character variable names. It was just a crazy moment. Well today there's really no limit to variable names, but yet when we do the conversion, we still have variables that are labeled as C. Really useful and incredibly descriptive.

Paul: Yeah.

Tim: So how do you fix those? You can't really do a find and replace, because in any application you might have 1500 Cs, so you need to have a tool that does this refactoring of the code, and that's what this rename refactoring is all about. When we converted the outline view to the live view, that conversion back several years ago gave us incredible ability to now have an understanding of the application, and so this rename refactoring is something that we were able to extend that basically live outline view from―because we have code understanding now. So you can go into RDi, you can click on variable name, you can click on it, launch the refactor rename support―there's even a hot key for it. So you can just, you know, click on it quick, you can enter in your new variable name. And then you have options. You can do preview if you don't trust us―which is fair―and we will go show you all the different places in your code that we've identified as "that's the variable C and this is what we're going to change it to." You can go ahead and say "yup, okay I trust you," or you can uncheck the ones that you don't think we got right, click go and away it will all change. If you really work through it quickly, you know, using the short cut keys, you can rename all of your cryptic variables into self describing variables in minutes.

Paul: Yeah, this is something actually just last week Tim I was doing quite a bit of with a client and it really is very, very sweet―just how quickly you can actually make a program now more legible. It's a very nice feature, very nice feature.

Tim: Long overdue and a very highly voted RFE that our community asked for.

Paul: Yeah. Now something you touched on there, Tim, and this is something that's just come to the fore in the last couple of weeks, when you talked about the team sort of coming over from Rational back into, sort of like the IBM space. But there has been this announcement recently that there's been a little bit of a chan―another change coming about as to how the RDi development is going to work in the future. You want to talk about that, or am I asking a question I shouldn't be asking?

Paul: Yeah. Now something you touched on there, Tim, and this is something that's just come to the fore in the last couple of weeks, when you talked about the team sort of coming over from Rational back into, sort of like the IBM space. But there has been this announcement recently that there's been a little bit of a chan―another change coming about as to how the RDi development is going to work in the future. You want to talk about that, or am I asking a question I shouldn't be asking?

Tim: Oh, no. Absolutely. Very recently IBM did a deal with HelpSystems, and HelpSystems is going to come on board and be one of our partners from a development perspective. HelpSystems is going to be taking the lead on development for a number of products, PowerHA, BRMS, RDi, also RDL―so the Rational development for AIX and Linux as well, so they're going to be taking the lead on the development. A couple of things that of course people start getting kind of concerned about, right? Well does that mean that these are now HelpSystems products? No, they're not. These are all still IBM products. They will be bought and purchased through the IBM ordering system. Rational Developer for i is still under my umbrella of responsibility just like it has been for the past, you know, year and a half, two years when it was moved over to our side of the world. I will continue to be working very closely with the HelpSystems developers that will be working on RDi. RDi is also built upon some of the other Rational-based tooling where we will continue to have a team here at IBM, folks with names that you've known and loved for years―people like Edmond, people like Eric will continue to be working on that core code, again working closely now with the developers from Help. So the exciting part is, you know, once Help starts to get some momentum going here, I expect us to actually be able to potentially deliver more new features for our community. So I'm kind of excited about the prospect of having a larger, more robust team to do some of this work, because if you look at our user community, the most activ―well I don't know if it's the most active, it might be the second most active―it's is one of the most active RFE queues in the, you know, the request for enhancements bucket. There's RDi and ACS, those are our two most active queues. Our community uses these tools. They want to do their job and love to give us suggestions on how the tools can help them do their jobs better, which is exciting for us because we can then take and help deliver that function to our users―and that's not going to change. We're going to continue to do that, we're going to work closely with the developers from HelpSystems, they're going to do the development. You know, HelpSystems is really excited about continuing on the success of these products and continuing to push forward modernization. One of the things, you know, you think about: They've been doing a survey for a number of years. What is some of the hot aspects that are on the surveys? Modernization and the tooling of modernization are some of the hot topics, so I can certainly understand why they'd be excited about getting into this space.

Paul: Indeed. I think it's something worth pointing out Tim that this idea of wor―of IBM working in conjunction with other companies. I mean this is nothing new. It's been happening―

Tim: Oh, absolutely.

Paul: I mean not just in IBM but on our platform as well―you know, as a broad thing. I mean I know actually a colleague of mine that I was talking to recently who's involved more on the mainframe side, that it happens quite extensively over there as well.

Tim: Well absolutely. I mean we're all familiar with Rocket Software. Rocket Software has Aldon and a couple of other things that run on IBM i, but they have a huge presence over in the z space. They're one of our huge strategic partners in the z space where they've actually done the same thing. They've taken on the development for products in z; they're still IBM products. They just happen to be the development team. We've been doing this on IBM i. You know a lot of people they have might IBM i Db2 Web Query or they might have Job Scheduler. Whether they realize it or not, those are IBM i products right? Period. But they're not developed by IBM i. We certainly work with the developers, but those are owned by separate companies. Db2 Web Query is owned and developed by InfoBuilders and Advanced Job Scheduler is developed by Pinnacle. Those are relationships that we've had for years and have been, you know, very successful over the years as we've been doing this, so really being able to extend our development community.

Paul: Yeah, well I mean I look at this, Tim, as being sort of, well, the development team for RDi just got bigger, and that has to be a good thing, so― [Laughs]

Tim: Exactly. Exactly.

Paul: So one of the things I wanted just to touch on, TimL You and I are people who travel quite a bit, and one of the things that's always nice when we travel is that if we get to go somewhere nice, if we can bring our better half with us. I believe you had the opportunity to do that earlier this year.

Tim: I was very excited about that. Yeah, my lovely wife April hasn't been able to go on many of the trips I go because we have a gaggle of children and we've had some young children over the years that makes travel rather difficult. But this year, I had the opportunity to go spend some time in France and I was able to have her come along with us. and it was just a wonderful experience. We spent about 4-5 days up in Paris, seeing the sights of Paris, and then we spent five days down in Annecy down in South France into the Alps. That was unbelievably gorgeous experience. We got to go climb a mountain. It was actually fun because we stayed in a little village up the lake from Annecy called Talloires. We sat out on the patio each morning and we were looking up at this huge mountain up behind us. It was like "wow, that's just gorgeous." Well it turned out that was the mountain that we got to climb. A good friend down there, he took us hiking. He was a fabulous guy. We had just a wonderful day climbing up to the top of that mountain. We got to see goats up in the mountain and all sorts of good stuff. It was just a fabulous day.

Paul: Cool. Cool. Always nice when we get to do that.

Tim: Absolutely.

Paul: It makes the traveling a little bit easier. Okay Tim, I think we'll leave it at that. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I will try to make sure that isn't another year before we do it again.[Laughs]

Tim: I won't hold you to it, but we'll work on it.

Paul: Okay, we'll work on that schedule. Okay so thanks, Tim. That's it everybody for this iTalk. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.


Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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