remember the System/38: a fine computer, but one whose outward appearance was often heartlessly compared to a Maytag washer and dryer. About the only thing that did distinguish it from a household appliance was its curious built-in console monitor, which protruded from the system unit like the eye of a frog, right there between the 8-inch diskette drive and the coal intake chute. Something about working at a keyboard and monitor that were molded right into the body of the beast lent a certain gravity to whatever the operator commanded. What’s more, the console monitor, in addition to being monochrome, had a reduced number of rows and columns, something like 12 x 60, as if the wild extravagance of 80 columns and 25 rows might be taken by the operator as an invitation to irresponsible revelry.
With the AS/400, IBM loosened its tie a bit and, in a historical milestone not unlike the separation of church and state, separated console and CPU. However, the console device, and the operations performed with it, were kept strictly tied to the 5250 protocol. That is, until now. With the Operations Navigator – a component of the Client Access for Windows 95/NT V3R1M1 – the most mundane AS/400 operations can be as colourful and graphical as designing party invitations in CorelDraw!
It would seem that, with dumb terminals going the way of the butter churn, and with Java-savvy network stations just starting to trickle into the real world, IBM has recognized that Windows 95 (or NT) is the dominant client of the day, and will be the vehicle through which most users, new or used, will confront the AS/400. The goal of Operations Navigator has been to make it easier and less mysterious for the typical 90’s user – who is most likely familiar with pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping, and right-clicking for context menus, and not with 5250 terminals and CL commands – to approach AS/400 operations like enrolling users, creating tables, and checking output queues.
V3R1M1 of Client Access for Windows 95/NT became available last February. Don’t confuse its version and release numbers with OS/400 versions and releases – the two products are no longer kept in synch with regard to version numbers and release dates. V3R1M1 of Client Access will work with both OS/400 V3R1 and V3R2 on CISC machines, and V3R6 and V3R7 on RISC boxes. If you are already a licensee of an earlier version of Client Access, you should have received a notification letter and order form. Whereas if you upgrade from V3R1 to V3R2, or from V3R6 to V3R7, you will receive the new code and updated publications with the upgrade.
Just about any aspect of managing or viewing AS/400 resources and activity can now be done graphically: working with jobs, messages, printers, spooled output, user and group profiles, DB2/400, software and hardware resources, etc. The variety of screens and functions is too numerous to cover each in detail, so in the remainder of this article I’ll illustrate a few representative examples to give you a sense of the new look and feel of the AS/400.
Upon clicking the Operations Navigator icon, you are presented with a two-pane window (Figure 1). The left pane lists one or more AS/400s in your network, each with icons for the various functional areas displayed below it: Database, Messages, Printers, etc. (Needless to say, OS/400 security still determines your access to system functions). Select one of these functions in the left pane, and the appropriate objects or resources will be listed in the right pane. In Figure 1, for example, selecting All Users, under Users and Groups, has brought up the list of users. Selecting a particular user and clicking the right mouse button brings up a context menu, as shown. Selecting Properties on the context menu brings up the dialog box shown in Figure 2, where basic user information can be viewed and possibly changed. Buttons labeled Groups, and Personal, etc., give you access to more detailed user information.
Perhaps the slickest feature of Operations Navigator is in the area of DB2/400 administration. To create a new table, for example, click on Database in the left pane, and right click the appropriate library for a context menu.
Select New, and then Table, to get the dialog box seen in Figure 3. You can then create new columns, or click on Browse… to copy columns from an existing table. More advanced DB2/400 features such as referential integrity constraints and triggers can be accessed from the appropriate tab in the lower part of this dialog box. Creating a new view (or logical file, for you older folks!) is illustrated in Figure 4. A join logical file MRJNAMX is being created from tables MRJNAM and MRJTYP. Simply by dragging the TYPE column from one table to the TYPE column in the other, the join is created, as represented by the solid line joining the two tables. Note the Show SQL button on the right side: clicking this will display the SQL statements that will create the view you have constructed.
The final function I’ll illustrate is object security. By selecting an object – for example a file under the Database entry or File System entry - you can bring up the Permissions dialog box seen in Figure 5. Note the Basic and Details toggle buttons, as well as the Owner, Group, and Authorization list buttons at the bottom, to complete the functionality for object security.
Having whetted your appetite for a graphical interface to the AS/400, you may have a tough time going back to the old green screen. And this is by no means a finished product – IBM will be enhancing Client Access in future releases, integrating the AS/400 even more with the latest client requirements – for example, allowing access to AS/400 resources via custom controls built with tools like Visual Basic or Borland’s Delphi. And don’t get me started with Java! Somewhere, the designer of the System/38 is spinning in his grave (or hammock, as the case may be!).