Archives for category: Operating Systems
IBM i

IBM i (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been to just one of Trevor’s presentations, and he is an entertaining speaker. Users and developers that use the IBM i generally know who he is.

Some in the audience actually did have a real “AS/400“, at that time, and had not yet moved to the current offering from IBM, the “IBM i on Power”, from before, and he said, “Well, yeah, you do have an AS/400″.

I can understand how he might be considered “caustic” in his conversations, and call it my opinion if you want, but he is right.

It’s not the same machine it used to be. People have the green screen idea when they think of our succession of machines. Maybe they’ll be calling it “IBM Next” after 7.0 but we’ll see.

They called it “Mac”, “Windows“, but when they do, the brand is not held back by those names. People regard it as a general brand. None of us has any problem at all calling an automobile by the name the manufacturer gives it. But the Rambler is dead. The Edsel is not coming back.

One well-known creator of a very much-used language, whose name slips my mind, gave a talk about branding at a conference, and gave a few examples.

Once upon a time, there was a phone company that accumulated one of the worst reputations for quality, overhauled it to get one of the best, but the consumer brand was irreparably damaged. So, they changed their name to Verizon.

Has anybody here ever used IBM Visual Age for Java? Or ever hear of it? How about Eclipse?

That’s branding.

The other day I went to a Java Users Group. Despite the fact that the IBM i can run all the java you ever want, PHP, Python, web servers, XML, and almost anything you can run on Unix, about half a dozen good GUI‘s, you can run just about any popular file system, including the one for Unix, the one for Windows, for the i.

I’ve heard there are knockout applications running web sites, few viruses can do it damage, there’s nothing ancient about the latest offerings for IBM i on Power.

They had never heard of the IBM i. So I explained that it was the modern replacement for the old AS/400. They immediately stopped listening and did the same thing when they heard “RPG“, and didn’t even seem to hear that RPG can do all this great stuff and is getting updated faster than any other standard language.

From now on I’m not even going to mention the AS/400, I’ll just talk about the IBM i.

RPG needs a re-branding too. IPG or i2100, or something.

 

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Brain-like chip outstrips normal computers – tech – 22 November 2012 – New Scientist:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628925.100-brainlike-chip-outstrips-normal-computers.html

When will we ever learn?

This is just another example of the hundreds of ways in which scientists are learning how to design things from the multitude of ingenious designs they find in nature. Biomimetics is taking over!

 

IBM i

IBM i (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work every day on a mixed code bag, including code written in the 1980s in one of the oldest known programming languages. Really out-dated stuff, what’s known as RPG-II. It was designed for the IBM System/34 and was the main coding language used on the IBM System/36 as well.

HP and Wang made their own RPG compilers to offer a way to pull customers away from IBM, but they apparently mostly quit trying after IBM brought out the System/38 and then the AS/400, the business system that blew DEC’s rival system and HP’s special ‘midrange’ into history. We who have worked on these IBM midrange systems -IBM now calls it “midmarket”– never could understand why everybody didn’t want to go out immediately and move their business to the most stable and secure-able system available so we always blamed IBM for hiding it and hiding their advertising budget from it, presumably to protect their lucrative mainframe business.

I”ve been through major upgrades and conversions of software from one base to another.

But at a lower level than that, I’ve considered different factors relating to program changes. The code base that’s so old for example, could benefit from a major overhaul and conversion to a more modern code base that could cut down drastically on both code change costs (in hours) and reduce the program halts that haunt ancient code bases that have gone through patches, fixes, more patches, enhancements and modifications over longer than the lifetime of the younger developers among us.

Programmers are generally attracted to “refactoring” old code, but it’s a bad word to CIO’s and managers who imagine all the kinks that occur with implementing changes and new code.

But we can minimize the pain of damages. I’ve thought of some things that make life easier to code changers and projects in general.

(1) Gosh, guys, get a good code analyzer! They’re around, and yes, the IBM i world has them too. Maybe especially. On the IBM i, for example, there are some that drill down into your code and claim to come close to extracting your business rules, identifying unused “orphan” code, and even maybe suggesting possible improvements. They exist even for COBOL code, but believe that these are not quite as thorough or detailed as the ones for RPG, understandable, but they’re more than nothing.

(2) We can minimize the disruption of changes.

We can make changes by steps, unless it’s a major difference in business rules, no way around that. But for changes that fall short of that, you don’t have to change all the menus and programs at once, change them a bit at a time. That saves money and nerves for the users and provides a proving ground for the changes, and helps dampen user complaints, which usually come from users who get comfortable, often with good reason, doing their jobs a certain way and have a hard time with the new stuff.

Y2K is an example. The best change-overs were either completely invisible, or moved smoothly into four-digit years. That project was so good the world scratched their heads and wondered what the fuss was about, and they thought maybe we had pulled a big scam on them. There was even a line on one of the Star Trek shows (or was it a movie) where an predecessor to Captain Jane wondered aloud whether there was really a problem.

Of course we coders know we saved their behinds!

Tux, the Linux penguin

Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CRN story:
Court Ruling: No Copyright Violations In Oracle-Google Java Case:
http://tinyurl.com/6moo43r

Google won its case, but Oracle got the judge to say that it has copyright claims over its use.

Sun didn’t open source it fast enough. Oracle has a database on Linux, but Oracle is in my opinion, unless shown otherwise, is that they can be worse than Microsoft with claiming its turf out to whatever it touches.

Google supposedly used “non-copyrightableAPI’s to build its own API’s in Android, they said, and good for them.

But the rest of us don’t have much staff for exploring all that, so maybe we should stay with the pure stuff if we’re going to use open source.

English: Python logo Deutsch: Python Logo

English: Python logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mel Beckman has written an article that repeats a theme I’ve seen since the days when I first started writing code in the first widely used version of RPG in the 1970’s. There’s always a variant of RPG is dead, RPG is dying, RPG is fading away, and all that. But I always pay attention, because all things change in this world below on here on Earth. It seems like the main reason he says this is that, according to him, not much new code is being written in the newest version of RPG-IV and that most of the time spent doing RPG is on maintaining existing RPG code, as in fixes, enhancements, and the like.

Find it here: http://www.iprodeveloper.com/article/opinion/is-rpg-dead-699217?cpage=6#commentsAnchor

I’m glad iprodeveloper opens it articles up for comments. For web sites that open up for comments so readers can offer their reactions, I’m finding these days that the comment section gets at least as interesting as the article itself. Actually, the article plus the comments generally make good reading.

For example, Mel Beckman listed a lot of other languages as newer and more promising for writing new code. He gives examples he calls “more-modern” languages: “More-modern languages such as C (including C++ and C#), Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby (all of which run natively on IBM i)”.

Aaron Bartell pointed out that for a some of these you have to have multi-layered implementations to make them work, with the extra load of maintaining and configuring each layer. Someone else pointed out that training current staff (the ones that know your business) in new languages is not cheap either.

I’ll add my own observation that each layer of technology -hardware, third-party software, external servers and applications, and so on– comes a multiplier in maintenance load.

Jon Paris added his observation that for one of his recent classes he was teaching the newest RPG, RPG-IV, to programmers that code in C, C++, Java, and others. He also added that the Java programmers are delighted with the ease of performing some functions in RPG.

Well, one more thing. The current generation and latest versions of RPG, RPGLE or RPGIV, have incorporated great advances that utilize, or enable the use of new techniques and possibilities. And while it does not have object-oriented syntax, with the intelligent use of subprocedures and service programs, it does enable advantages that are generally associated with OO programming.

Here’s an alert to utility software providers: there just might be a market for a precompiler that does OO things, that for example expands an embedded OO syntax into RPG code for compiling, similar to how the 4GL’s are said to work.

There are some programmers where I work who do new coding in COBOL, too.. Nothing wrong with that for the purpose, depending. But more on that later, and on refactoring code in a future article.

 

Related articles

Google guilty of infringement in Oracle trial; future legal headaches loom:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/05/jury-rules-google-violated-copyright-law-google-moves-for-mistrial.ars

In what could be a major blow to Android, Google’s mobile operating system, a San Francisco jury issued a verdict today that the company broke copyright laws when it used Java APIs to design the system. The ruling is a partial victory for Oracle, which accused Google of violating copyright law.

But the jury couldn’t reach agreement on a second issue—whether Google had a valid “fair use” defense when it used the APIs. Google has asked for a mistrial based on the incomplete verdict, and that issue will be briefed later this week.

So there you go, it’s official now. Oracle has every intention of putting its Java toothpaste back in the tube, and it has a big lawyer staff to help do it. They are famous for taking open source territory and staking a claim in it and digging in with its proprietary claws, and making money every way it can, tooth and nail.

They just took Java out of the running. Sun released it to the open source world.

And by the way, software algorithms are “patentable”? This is as preposterous as any mathematical solution to any math problem, the maps to get to there from here on paper, or in your mind, or a thought experiment.

So these two giants have proven arrogant, and they’re going after each other, and they’re acting like the pie is limited.

Larry Ellison has said “Privacy is dead, get over it”. And Google’s guys has said anonymity is dead. Easy for them to say, darlings of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and other entrenched establishment types. Anonymity is the defense of the poor guy against such power houses, and dictators.

 

Skype replaces P2P supernodes with Linux boxes hosted by Microsoft (updated):

http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2012/05/skype-replaces-p2p-supernodes-with-linux-boxes-hosted-by-microsoft.ars

Microsoft has drastically overhauled the network running its Skype voice-over-IP service, replacing peer-to-peer client machines with thousands of Linux boxes that have been hardened against the most common types of hack attacks, a security researcher said.

The change, which Immunity Security’s Kostya Kortchinsky said occurred about two months ago, represents a major departure from the design that has powered Skype for the past decade. Since its introduction in 2003, the network has consisted of “supernodes” made up of regular users who had sufficient bandwidth, processing power, and other system requirements to qualify. These supernodes then transferred data with other supernodes in a peer-to-peer fashion. At any given time, there were typically a little more than 48,000 clients that operated this way.

Kortchinsky’s analysis, which has not yet been confirmed by Microsoft, shows that Skype is now being powered by a little more than 10,000 supernodes that are all hosted by the company. It’s currently not possible for regular users to be promoted to supernode status. What’s more, the boxes are running a version of Linux using grsecurity, a collection of patches and configurations designed to make servers more resistant to attacks. In addition to hardening them to hacks, the Microsoft-hosted boxes are able to accommodate significantly more users. Supernodes under the old system typically handled about 800 end users, Kortchinsky said, whereas the newer ones host about 4,100 users and have a theoretical limit of as many as 100,000 users.

“It’s pretty good for security reasons because then you don’t rely on random people running random stuff on their machine,” Kortchinsky told Ars. “You just have something that’s centralized and secure.”

Kortchinsky discovered the Linux supernodes using a Skype probing technique he and colleague Fabrice Desclaux first demonstrated in 2006. (PDF versions of conference presentation slides are here and here.)

Kortchinsky’s discovery comes as Microsoft said it’s investigating recent demonstrations of an exploit that exposes the local and remote IP addresses of users who are logged in to the service. The attack reportedly relies on the open-source SkypeKit package.

…more…