Completely Free ILEditor and IBM Technology Refresh Recap

Today I’ll look at a powerful open source (and completely free!) IDE for ILE programs (CL, C/C++, Cobol or RPG) named ILEditor that is being actively developed by Liam Allan who is one of the brightest minds in the industry. In fact, last week Allan added a new GUI interface to the editor that makes it feel much more professional, while keeping it easy to use. I’ll also give you a quick overview of the announcement IBM made last week about updates to IBM i 7.2 and 7.3.

The IBM Announcement

On February 13th, just in time for Valentine’s Day (because IBM wants to be my valentine!), IBM announced new Technology Refreshes. These include support for POWER9 processors, which look incredible – but, alas, I’m not a hardware guy. They also include updates to Integrated Web Services (IWS), Access Client Solutions (ACS), RPG and more.
Here are links to the official announcements:

IBM i 7.2 Technology Refresh 8 (TR8)

IBM i 7.3 Technology Refresh 4 (TR4)

You should also check out Steve Will’s blog post.

My Thoughts

The most exciting part of this announcement for me is the introduction of the new DATA-INTO opcode in RPG. Here’s the sample code that IBM provided in the announcement:

DATA-INTO myDs %DATA(‘myfile.json’ : ‘doc=file’) %PARSER(‘MYLIB/MYJSONPARS’);

It appears that this will work similarly to Open Access, where the RPG compiler will examine your data structure and other variables that it has all the details for and work together with a back-end handler that will map it into a structured format. Open Access refers to the back-end program as a “handler”, whereas DATA-INTO seems to call it a “parser”, but the general idea is the same.

As someone who has written multiple open source tools to help RPG developers work with XML and JSON documents, this looks great! One of the biggest challenges I face with these open source projects is that they don’t know the details of the calling program’s variables, so they can’t ever be as easy to use as a tool like XML-INTO. For example, the YAJL tools that I provide to help people read JSON documents require much more code than the XML-INTO opcode, because XML-INTO can read the layout of a data structure and map data into it, whereas with YAJL you must map this data yourself. However, DATA-INTO looks like it will solve this problem, so that once I’ve had time to write a DATA-INTO parser, you’ll be able to use YAJL the same way as XML-INTO.

Unfortunately, as I write this, the PTFs are not yet available, so I haven’t been able to try it. I’m very excited, however, and plan to blog about it as soon as I’ve had a chance to try it out!

What is ILEditor?

ILEditor (pronounced “I-L-Editor”) came from the mind of Liam Allan, who is one of the best and the brightest of the 2018 IBM Champions. I have the privilege of working with Liam at Profound Logic Software, and I can tell you that his enthusiasm for computer technology and IBM i programming know no bounds. In fact, one day last week after work, Liam sent me a text message about his new changes to ILEditor, sounding very excited. When I factored in the time zone difference, I realized it was 1:00 a.m. where he lives!

For many years, one of the most common laments in the IBM i programming community has been about the cost and performance of RDi. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love RDi, and I use it every day. I believe RDi is the best IDE for IBM i development that’s available today. That said, sometimes we need something else for various reasons. Some shops can’t get approval for the cost of RDi. Others might want something that uses fewer resources or something they can install anywhere without needing additional RDi licenses. Whatever the reason, ILEditor is very promising alternative! I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually is able to compete with RDi.

Why Not Orion? Or SEU?

The concept of Orion is a great. It’s web-based, meaning that you don’t have to install it and it’s available wherever you go. Unfortunately, it’s not really a full IDE – at least not yet! I hope IBM is working to improve it. It does not know how to compile native ILE programs or show compile errors. Its interface is designed around the Git version control software, which makes it tricky to use unless you happen to store your code in Git. And quite frankly, it’s also a little bit buggy. I hope to see improvements in these areas, but right now it’s not a real option.

The most popular alternative to RDi today is SEU. In fact, historically this was the primary way that code was written for IBM i. So, you may think it’s still a good choice. However, I don’t think it’s viable today for two reasons:

  1. The green-screen nature makes it cumbersome to use. This is no problem for a veteran programmer, because they’re used to it. But for IT departments to survive, they need to bring in younger talent. Younger talent is almost always put off by SEU. I even know students who gave up the platform entirely because they thought SEU seemed so antiquated, and they wanted no part of it.
  2. SEU hasn’t received any updates since January 2008. That means all features added to RPG in the past 10 years – which includes three major releases of the operating system –will show as syntax errors in SEU.

About ILEditor

ILEditor is open source, runs on Windows and was released as open source under the GNU GPL 3.0 license. That means it is free and can be used for both private and commercial use. If you like, you can even download the source code and make your own changes. It can read source from source members or IFS files. In addition to editing the source, it can compile programs, show you the errors in your programs, work with system objects and display spooled files. It even has an Outline View (like RDi does) that will show you the variables and routines in your program.

The main web site for ILEditor is:

If you want to see the source code, you’ll find the Github project here.

You do not need to install any software on your IBM i to use ILEditor. Instead, the Windows program uses the standard FTP server that is provided with the IBM i operating system to get object and source information and to run compile commands. An FTPES (FTP over SSL) option is provided if a more secure connection is desired.

Connecting for the First Time

When you start ILEditor, it will present you with a box where you can select the host to connect to. Naturally, the first time you run it there will be no hosts defined, so the box will be empty. You can click “New Host” to define one.

Once you have a host defined, it will be visible as an icon, and double-clicking the icon will begin the connection.

When you set up a new system, there are five fields you must supply, as shown in the screenshot below:

Alias name = You can set this to whatever you wish. ILEditor will display this name when asking you the host to connect to, so pick something that is easy to remember.

Host name / IP address = the DNS name or IP address of the IBM i to connect to.

Username = Your IBM i user profile name.

Password = Your IBM i password – you can leave this blank if you want it to ask you every time you connect.

Use FTPES = This stands for FTP over Explicit SSL. Check this box if your IBM i FTP server has been configured to allow SSL and you’d like the additional security of using an encrypted connection.

The Main IDE Display

Once you’ve connected, you’ll be presented with a screen that shows the “Toolbox” on the left and a welcome screen containing getting started information and developer news, as shown in the screenshot below.

Any of the panels in ILEditor, including these two, can dragged to different places on the display or closed by clicking the “X” button in the corner of the panel. There is also an icon of a pin that you can click to toggle whether a panel is always open or whether it is hidden when you’re not using it. If you look carefully on the right edge of the window, you’ll see a bar titled “Outline View”. This is an example of a hidden panel. If you click on the panel title, the panel will open. If you click the pin, it will stay open. You can adjust the size of any panel by dragging its border.

When you open source code, it will be placed in tabs in the center of the display (just as the welcome screen is initially.) These can also be resized or moved with the mouse. This makes the UI very flexible and simple to rearrange to best fit your needs.

The Toolbox

Perhaps the best place to start is with the toolbox.  Here’s what that panel looks like:

Most of the options in this panel are self-explanatory. I will not explain them all but will point out a few interesting things that I discovered when using ILEditor:

  • The “Library List” is primarily used when compiling a program. This is the library list to find file definitions and other dependencies that your program will need.
  • The “Compile Settings” lets you customize your compile commands. Perhaps you have a custom command you use when compiling. Or perhaps you use the regular IBM commands but want to change some of the options used. In either case, you’ll want to look at the Compile Settings.
  • As you might expect, “Connection Settings” has the host name, whether to use FTPES and other settings that are needed to connect to the host. In addition to that, there are some other useful options hidden away in the connection settings:
    • On the IFS tab, you’ll find a place to configure where your IFS source code is stored and which library it should be compiled into.
    • On the Editor tab, there is a setting to enable the “Outline View”. You’ll want to make sure this is checked, otherwise you’ll be missing out on this feature.
    • On the ILEditor tab, there’s a setting called “Use Dark Mode”. This will change the colors when it displays your source code to use a black background (as opposed to the default white background), which many people, myself included, find easier on the eyes.
  • When you change something in the “Connection Settings” (including the options described above), you will need to disconnect from the server and reconnect so that the new settings take effect.

Opening Source Code from a Member List

ILEditor allows you to open source code from either an IFS file or a traditional source member. You can use the Member Browser or IFS Browser options in the toolbox to browse your IBM i to find the source you wish to open and open it.

The Member Browser opens as a blank panel with two text fields at the top. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what these were for as there wasn’t any explanation. I guessed that this was where you specified the library (on the left) and the source physical file (on the right) that you wanted to browse. Iit turned out that I was correct. If you type the library and filename and click the magnifying glass, it will show you all the members in that file.

I have a lot of source members that I keep in my personal library, and I often get impatient waiting for the member list to load in RDi. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the member browser in ILEditor loads considerably faster.

There is also a “hidden” feature where you can press Ctrl-P to search the list of recent members that you listed in the member browser. Just press Ctrl-P and start typing, and it’ll show the members that match the search string. This was a very convenient way to find members.

Once you’ve found the member (in either the regular member browser or the “search recent” dialog), you can double-click on the member name to open it.

Create or Open a Member Without Browsing

In the upper-left of the ILEditor window, there is a File menu that works like the file menus found in most other Windows programs. You can click File/New to create a new member or IFS file or File/Open to open an existing member or IFS file when you know the name and therefore don’t need to browse for it.

The File Menu also offers keyboard shortcuts to save time. You can press Ctrl-O for Open, or Ctrl-N for New to bypass the menu.

One thing that I found a little unusual is that you must specify the source type when you open an existing member. I expected this when creating a new member, since the system doesn’t know what it is. But when opening an existing member, I expected it to default to the source type of the member so that you don’t have to specify it every time. I discovered that if you do not specify the type, it will default to plain text. I spoke to Liam about this, and he assured me that this is something he plans to improve in the future. Thankfully, this is not the case when using the member browser. It only happens when opening the member directly.

Working with IFS Files

The IFS Browser can be used to browse the IFS on your IBM i and find the source code that you’d like to open. It will begin browsing the IFS in the directory that you’ve specified in the IFS tab in your connection settings. Any subdirectories found beneath that starting directory can be expanded as well to see the files inside of it.

Like the member browser, double-clicking on an IFS file will open it in the editor.

The File menu also has options for creating a new IFS file or opening an existing IFS file when you know the exact path name. In that case, you do have to type the entire IFS path. There is no option to browse folders as you’d find in the open dialogs of other Windows software. That didn’t seem like a problem to me. If I wanted to see the folders, I’d use the IFS browser instead.

The Source Editor

I found the editor to be very intuitive, since it works the same as you’d expect from a PC file editor. It provides syntax highlighting and an outline view that make the source code very easy to read. In the screenshot below, I’m using “dark mode”, so you’ll see that my source code has a black background.


Syntax highlighting worked very nicely in free format RPG, CL and C/C++ code, including code that used the embedded SQL preprocessor.

Unfortunately, it did not work in fixed format RPG code. Liam tells me that fixed format RPG is especially difficult to implement because he codes ILEditor’s syntax highlighting using regular expressions, and regular expressions are difficult to make work for position-dependent source. However, he assured me that he does plan to support fixed format RPG code and is working on solving this problem.

I noticed that I could still type fixed format code and make changes to it, and aside from the source not being colored correctly, it worked fine.

The Outline View was a pleasant surprise, because I wasn’t really expecting an editor other than RDi to have one. It does not have as many features as the RDi outline view, but it worked very nicely for what I needed it for. I was also pleasantly surprised that the Outline View worked with CL code.

Compiling Programs

The compile option can be run by using the Compile menu at the top of the screen, the compile icon (shown in the picture below) or by pressing Ctrl-Shift-C.

I discovered that the compile option does not ask for any parameters. Instead, it uses the options that you specified in your connection and compile settings options in the toolbar. So if you want to change one of the default compiler options, you need to change them in the compile settings each time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The advantage is that it’s very quick and easy to compile a program. When you’re developing software, you often have to compile it many times, and it’s very nice to be able to skip the dialog and just have it compile. The disadvantage is when you want to do something different in a one-off situation. You have to go into the compile settings to change it, so that’s a little bit of extra work. However, I find that I don’t need to do that very often, so this wasn’t a big deal to me.

When an error occurs during the compile, an error listing will open showing you what went wrong, very similar to what you’d find in RDi. Like RDi, you can click on the error and it will position the editor to the exact line of code where the error was found.

One thing that surprised me about the compile and the error message dialog was that it is considerably faster than RDi. That seems strange to me, since both tools are connecting to the IBM i and running the same IBM compiler for RPG. However, I found that depending on the size of the member, the ILEditor compile was 10-20 seconds faster than the RDi one.

RPG Fixed Format to Free Format Converter

One feature of ILEditor that simply did not work well was the RPG converter. Some of the fixed format code in my program would convert, but other things (including things that should’ve converted easily) did not. Code that spanned multiple lines did not convert at all.

In my opinion, the converter needs a lot of work before it will be useful. I pointed this out to Liam, and he told me that he agrees and has a complete rewrite of the converter on his to-do list.

Other Features

I’d like to mention some of the other features of ILEditor that I did not have time to try out before writing this article. Since I didn’t have time, I can’t review them and give my opinion – but, I wanted to mention them. That way, if you’re looking for these features, you can give them a try yourself and see what you think.

  • Source Diff = compares two sources (members or IFS files) and highlights what is different about them.
  • Spooled File Viewer = Lets you view spooled files that are in an output queue
  • SQL Generator = Generates SQL DDL code from an existing database object
  • Offline mode = lets you download source from the IBM i to store on your PC and work on it while you are not connected (for example, when traveling on a plane or train without good internet access), uploading the results later.

My Conclusion

I was extremely impressed by ILEditor. RDi has more features, such as debugging, refactoring and screen/report design, but I was surprised at just how many features ILEditor has, considering it was written by one man in his free time and costing nothing. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of ILEditor, which was consistently faster than RDi while using far less memory.

Unfortunately, the lack of syntax highlighting for fixed format RPG will be a problem for many RPG developers, and I sincerely hope that does not discourage them from at least trying ILEditor.

If a lot of people try it, and some of them donate money or give their time to help with development, this tool could easily become a serious competitor to RDi.

A Powerful Way to Run Unix and Open Source Tools from a Program

Perhaps the biggest area of growth in IBM i programming over the past several years has been the Open Source languages. There are thousands of utilities, mostly designed for Unix, that you can run in the QShell and PASE environments, and these have become very popular on IBM i! However, running these tools from your RPG and CL programs can be tricky. This post will introduce you to a free utility called UNIXCMD that makes it much easier.

Why is it Tricky?

It’s tricky because there’s a difference in the way IBM i and Unix systems run programs. When a program is called on Unix, a new “process” is created, this is very much like a new job on IBM i, except that it is created each time a program is called. This gives the calling program a choice, it can either stop and wait for the called program to finish, or it can continue and run simultaneously with the program it called. In a way, this is similar to submitting a batch job on i, but it’s different in that both programs can interact with the user’s display.

There are two common ways of running Unix programs, PASE via the QP2SHELL API and QShell via the STRQSH (or it’s alias QSH) CL command.

The QP2SHELL API runs a PASE program directly in the current job, which will cause problems if the job expects to be able to run simultaneously with the caller. Programs that use multiple threads, in particular, can have strange problems that are very hard to troubleshoot. The fix is to spawn a child job to run QP2SHELL so that it’s not in the same job as the caller. To enable input and output, you need to connect pipes to that child job. This is a lot of work, and often more than a programmer bargained for. (In fact, my description is somewhat oversimplified, to keep this brief!)

The STRQSH CL command solves this by always spawning its own child job and connecting pipes to it. It does all of this for you. The problem with this is that you are limited in how you can interact with the input and output streams. For a program to work with them, the only real option is to read and write from temporary files. This works, but it cumbersome, you have to create the file, clear it, redirect the I/O, and can only read the output once the whole process has finished.

Scott’s Solution

My solution is to create tools that do the work of submitting the child job for you, and connecting the pipes to a simple interface that is easy to use from your program. For a CL program, I’ve provided simple commands that open, read, write and close the connection, allowing you to read and write in a natural way. In RPG, I’ve used the Open Access interface so that you can open the connection with RPG’s native file interface, and read and write using the standard open, read, write and close opcodes.

The RPG Interface

Let’s take a look at RPG first. My initial examples use the newer “all-free” approach to writing RPG, but if you’re unable to use newer RPG, don’t fret – see the section titled “Older RPG Code”, below.
This example switches to the /QIBM directory in the IFS, lists the files in that directory, and prints them to the spool:

Notice the HANDLER keyword on the DCL-F statement. This tells RPG to access this file through the Open Access interface. When you run any of RPG’s file opcodes against this file, it will (under the covers) call routines in the UNIXCMDOA program, that allows my tool to take control and handle all of the work for you.

The command to run is provided in the second parameter to the HANDLER keyword. Since I’m setting that command in calculations in my program, I do not open the file until the command variable is set. For that reason, the file is declared with the USROPN keyword, and I open it explicitly with the OPEN opcode.

Unix utilities allow you to run multiple commands on a single line if you separate them with a semicolon. In this example, the cd command is used to switch to the /QIBM directory, and then the ls command is run afterwards to get the output.

To get the output from the Unix ls (list directory) command, I simply use the READ opcode. Since this is a program-described file (there are never any defined fields in a Unix input or output stream) I am using RPG’s feature that lets me read program-described data into a data structure.

When I’m done, I use the CLOSE opcode to shut down the Unix process. One thing that surprises people who are new to UNIXCMD is that any errors that occur in the background Unix program will be reported on the CLOSE opcode rather than the OPEN, READ or WRITE. This is because the Unix program has the opportunity to write error messages, and will not report that it has failed until the program has ended. Catching errors can be done easily with RPG’s MONITOR and ON-ERROR opcodes.

By default, the UNIXCMD utility runs your program using the QShell interface. If you prefer to run the PASE interface and avoid the QShell environment, you can do that by prefixing the command string with “pase:”, as shown in the next example.

The examples so far have only read output from a Unix command. In the next example, I’d like to demonstrate sending data both ways. In this case, I’m calling a PHP script that calls a web service to Geocode and address. In other words, I pass an address as input, and the script returns the latitude and longitude coordinates where that address can be found. To do that, I’ve written a PHP script that receives the address from it’s “standard input” (that is, the pipe that is connected to its input stream) and write the coordinates to standard output. (If you’re interested in the PHP code, it is included in the downloadable examples on my web site.) To call it from RPG, I can simply write my data to it, and then use the READ opcode to get the results.

The first thing you’ll notice in this statement is that it sets the Unix PATH variable. This is done because many people don’t have the PHP command in their PATH. PATH is very much like a library list, except that it is a list of IFS directories that the Unix environment uses to find a command. The PATH statement adds the directory where we’ve placed the php-cli command (CLI stands for “command line interface”) so that QShell can find it.

Another important thing to note is that data sent as input through the pipe is not automatically converted from EBCDIC to ASCII or Unicode. To solve that problem, I added a call to the QShell iconv utility, which can translate between different CCSIDs. In this case, will convert between 0 (a special value that means “this job’s CCSID”) and iso-8859-1 which is CCSID 819 and is a flavor of ASCII.

A Note About Input and Output

UNIXCMD assumes that you will write all the data that is sent as input to the Unix command first, before the first time you read its output. When you read the Unix output, it will shut down the Unix input stream to signal the Unix program that no more data is coming. This works well in most applications.

However, if you would prefer that it not close the stream, this can be made with a very simple code change to the UNIXCMD utility. If this would be useful to you, please e-mail me at and I’ll be glad to show you how to change it.

Older RPG Code

Sadly, not everyone has a current version of RPG. To help those people, I’ve provided a way of using UNIXCMD that’s compatible with even the oldest versions of RPG IV using the SPECIAL file interface. Here is the last example rewritten to use that approach.

Notice that the command is passed to the SPECIAL file through the PLIST. The second parameter in the PLIST is not shown in this example, but you can add a 1 character second parameter and set it to P if you want to run in the PASE environment. If you do not pass this parameter (or set it to a Q) it will run QShell instead. Here is an excerpt of code that does that:

Since the SPECIAL file approach does not require Open Access, it will work all the way back to V5R3.

Using the UNIXCMD Tool from CL

Since the CL programming language does not support Open Access, there is no way to use the standard IBM supplied SNDF or RCVF opcodes that you are used to using for a normal file. Instead, I have created my own CL commands named OPNPIPE, SNDPIPE, RCVPIPE and CLOPIPE that handle the open, send, receive and close functions, respectively. The OPNPIPE command accepts the command to run, and lets you designate whether it is PASE or QShell. Aside from these differences, the UNIXCMD utility works the same from CL as it does from RPG.

Here’s an example of listing files (like the first RPG example) using the CL interface:

Get the UNIXCMD Utility

UNIXCMD is an open source tool that is available at no charge. You can download it, the examples given in this article, and a few more examples from my web site at the following link:

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology Soundbites

Here are quick sound bites on two blockchain-based cryptocurrencies.

What Is a Basic Attention Token?

Basic Attention Tokens or BATs are accounting units used by publishers, users and advertisers. The Ethereum-based BAT technology closely connects to the blockchain based digital advertising platform, Brave. Brave is a browser solution which includes an ad blocker by default. This browser allows publishers, users and advertisers to exchange or donate BATs.

Notes on the Brave Browser

The Brave browser sets itself apart from all other available browsers by function. It provides a tangible way to measure user attention. The browser works by monitoring user attention and assigning value to that attention.

A user’s focused attention on a piece of content produces the basic attention token. The content could be a video, text or any other content type. Basic Attention Tokens are the reward for publishers who receive attention; BATs have real monetary value.

Brave will enhance the user experience of browsing due to its inability to display malvertisements. The browser will also ensure that any advertisements shown are more than relevant but based upon data derived from machine learning. This allows users to see advertisements they are highly interested in while remaining completely anonymous.

Bitcoin and the IBM Blockchain

The IBM Blockchain is the stable network through which Bitcoin is distributed. The Hyperledger fabric is specifically for professionals who want to conduct business via blockchain. The trust, anonymity and security issues you would normally encounter with the Bitcoin blockchain are no longer present by use of a private blockchain.

In this way, the identity of the person you’re doing business is known to you when it otherwise wouldn’t. Since security threats are no longer an issue, it makes it feasible to conduct business in federally regulated industries via the IBM Blockchain. It’s also safer to conduct a number of transactions: cars, houses, patents, digital property and more.

The Python Programming Language

Python is a powerful, interpreted, open-source language available for most operating systems, including IBM i. It has many uses and has a very easy to learn syntax. Many packages are available to add capabilities not included in the Python core. Python is a great language to use for general purpose programming of all sorts.

Open Source - Python





Python Language Details

Python structure uses white space instead of brackets. This makes the code more readable than in similar languages such as Perl. The syntax is logical and easy to follow, even for beginners, and typing is dynamic. Even with this simple syntax, the language also has great flexibility and powerful capabilities. Object-oriented programming is possible but not required, as it is in other languages like Java or Ruby.

Web Development

One use of Python is for back-end web development. Frameworks such as Flask and Django simplify back-end development using built-in components that are popular. Rapid development and prototyping are possible using these frameworks. Python is also good for general scripting, including projects involving crawling the web or scraping information from websites.

Data Science

Python is a great language to use for data science. Useful libraries include NumPy, which adds speedy mathematical capabilities, and SciPy, which adds the ability to manipulate complex data in arrays for linear algebra and other purposes. Several other libraries are useful for doing data science in Python.


Python has a philosophy often referred to as “The Zen of Python“. This philosophy encourages simple, clean code that is easy to read and explain to others. It has several other suggestions for optimizing the use of Python to make it uniform and ideal using best practices.


A simple yet powerful open-source language, Python is a great choice for many projects. Using Python gives you many capabilities out of the box and additional packages to add more. The language is quite readable, and its uses include many technical domains.

Learn Python with COMMON’s Open Source Video Series.



Transamerica – How One Company Is Capitalizing on Big Data Analytics

Companies who want to have continued growth understand a key component of their success will occur when they are able to personalize their customer’s experience, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Not only is the personal approach ultimately more efficient for organizations, it also helps increase customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to more growth.

TransamericaOne company, Transamerica, decided to harness big data concepts in order to provide the best possible personal service to its 27 million customer base. Transamerica pulled in data from over 40 sources, including social media, third-party data, customer voice response systems and all its investment, retirement and insurance data sources. By using big data analytics and machine learning concepts, Transamerica was able to identify new data patterns and insights in order to quickly and efficiently develop, test and deploy its predictive models. Now building models takes hours instead of days, allowing for fewer processing cycles and thereby reduced infrastructure demands, while at the same time increasing the personal experience for its customer base.

So what are some of the tools that Transamerica used to accomplish its goals? Transamerica takes advantage of Hadoop, part of the open-source Apache project. By using a Hadoop-based data lake along with a host of other tools, Transamerica found it was able to store vast amounts of data in their distributed computing environment. Of course, security risks are always a factor when dealing with large stores of potentially personal data, so Transamerica’s entire platform was designed in such a way as to maximize appropriate use of data and adherence to legal and regulatory obligations, while minimizing security risks.

Want to know more about how Transamerica and its customers win big with big data analytics? Click here.

Wide Open

From the Vault – The Computing of Business, October 2014

EarthquakeDid you know that in the wide world of open source software there is an application for analyzing seismic data? If I had only known that a few weeks ago I could have thrown a portable seismograph into my carry-on for a recent trip to California.

Since I was rudely awakened during my stay by what FEMA now calls a major earthquake, I could easily have done a quick data reduction and submitted the results to the open source Global Quake Model. But alas, during the event I was thinking more about what might happen to the roof than contributing to science. At 40 miles from the epicenter it was certainly a unique experience and the building held together nicely—check that one off the bucket list.

So open source is everywhere. Good developers are developing good, creative software and distributing for all to use within the confines of a number of different license platforms.

In a recent IT-related university classroom experience Phil McCullough, a fellow COMMON Director, noted that the entire curriculum centered on open source. Open source operating systems, open source databases, open source development tools, open source applications; the entire gamut. The message was loud and clear: open source will be a big part of our computing future.

But software, by its very nature, contains defects. In many cases those defects do not consist of what we traditionally consider a problem. For example, as the programmable point of sale system industry was developing a couple of decades ago, I cannot imagine that leaving a credit card number unencrypted in ram memory would ever be considered a problem. Turns out it was.

Recently my employer sold some software we had developed to a very large company. Parts of that software contain open source components like frameworks and other mechanisms that helped develop a very complex set of code. Before the deal could close the buyer required substantial documentation of every open source component, and the version of that component. Additionally, the entire base of object code was scanned for any known vulnerabilities. All went well and the deal was completed.

Open source operating systems like Linux, and large open source applications like Sugar CRM, have the benefit of having substantial support organizations. Dedicated people watching for problems are an advantage many small applications do not, and cannot, possibly have. The likelihood is very real that the bad guys—and there are an awful lot of them—will stumble on to something they can exploit in almost any open source project. If you run some or all of a smaller targeted code base, it then becomes simply a matter of a bad guy (they are voracious sharers of exploit information) finding your system and deploying one of the myriad ways of injecting malware on to it.

Of course there needs to be something worthwhile to steal. Credit card numbers are the currency de jour though certain kinds of pictures bring a bigger bang. Regardless, any information about your company or your customers has value to someone.

A number of scanning solutions like OpenLogic and OpenVAS  can attempt to locate problematic software. But using such tools seems to me to be a bit reactive. The veritable cat may have already left its bag.

A more proactive approach is to know where in your software, and on your systems, the open Ground Crackssource stuff (and anything else with known vulnerabilities) is. Trust me, the stuff is there. Complete, accurate application inventories are more important than ever. An inventory, coupled with appropriate monitoring of the threat landscape, will keep you ahead of the bad guys. Yes, this is something more to do with your constantly shrinking resource base. But staying ahead of the bad guy sure beats the alternative.

For many the 2014 South Napa earthquake was a disaster. For me it was an interesting experience.

For some the open source landscape will be a disaster. Reading about those problems should be the only experience you want.

About the Author: Randy Dufault, CCBCP

Randy DufaultRandy is the Director of Solution Development for Genus Technologies, a Midwestern consultancy dealing primarily with enterprise content management systems. His experience with content management dates back 25 years, where he helped develop what ultimately became IBM‘s Content Manager for iSeries. He has also developed and integrated a number of advanced technologies including document creation, character recognition, records management, and work flow management. Randy is a member of the COMMON North America Board of Directors and was active in the development of COMMON‘s Certification program.

Read Randy’s Computing of Business column in COMMON.CONNECT.

The Ruby Programming Language

RubyRuby is an open source language that is available for the IBM i operating system. While its syntax is very similar to other open source languages commonly used for the web, such as Python and Perl, Ruby has many unique characteristics that make it a great choice for your project.

 Ruby’s Purpose

Like many modern languages, Ruby is dynamically typed and supports both object-oriented programming and other programming paradigms. While most commonly used in web development, Ruby is a general-purpose language used for different types of applications.

Object Based

According to this article on, Ruby differs from Python in that it is a pure object-oriented language where everything is an object. Tricks in using the objects allow the use of other programming paradigms. Python, on the other hand, has both functions and objects and is thus a hybrid language.

Design Philosophy

Ruby is a language that has a special philosophy behind it about design and usage. While designed as a fun and simple language for programmers to write in, Ruby also allows great complexity in the programs that it can create. Furthermore, Ruby is a very flexible language that allows developers a great amount of creativity in the implementation process.


Ruby is quite a popular language and is very much in demand in the industry. Ruby on Rails is a framework that is commonly used in web development and greatly extends Ruby’s capabilities. Distributed under the MIT License, Ruby on Rails is a Model-View-Controller framework that integrates well with common web technologies such as JavaScript. This framework allows for the fast development of secure and scalable web applications.

Learn Ruby for IBM i – along with Node.js and Python – with COMMON’s Open Source Video Tutorials. Learn more.

Want more Open Source for IBM i? Check out these 2017 Fall Conference & Expo sessions.

Open Source on IBM i

Open Source Video

Speaker: Jesse Gorzinski

In this recording, Jesse explains the newest developments to Open Source on IBM i. Learn about the major Git enhancements and other new features added in 2017 for 5733OPS. It is a great way to gain knowledge about the IBM i Open Source community and how you can participate in this exciting frontier.

Topics covered:

  • Git
  • rsync
  • Wget
  • cURL

About the Speaker

Jesse GorzinskiJesse Gorzinski works for the IBM i development lab in Rochester, MN. He is the Business Architect of open source technologies. Jesse, who was doing RPG programming at the age of 18, is an expert on application development on IBM i, as well as system access and modernization.

How IBM Power Systems Are Challenging x86 Servers in the Corporate Data Center

Intel’s x86 architecture has long been dominant in the corporate server marketplace for good reason. Chips based on the x86 framework have been at the heart of personal computers and other devices for more than three decades, and a standardized, widely adopted infrastructure for development and support of x86-based products is in place. The head start x86 enjoys over any potential challengers is immense.

But that hasn’t stopped IBM from joining the fray.

In 2014, IBM sold its x86 server business to Lenovo and pinned its hopes for increasing its penetration of the enterprise and cloud server markets on its upgraded Power Systems line. At that time the consensus in the media and among competitors was that IBM’s efforts would be too little, too late. Intel’s x86 standard was simply too well entrenched to be displaced.

But that assessment is beginning to change. Servers based on the company’s Power8 RISC processor seem to be gathering momentum in the marketplace. In 2015, IBM’s financial results revealed that it had enjoyed revenue growth in its Power Systems line for the first time in four years.

Key to that growth, say analysts, was IBM’s decision to add Linux as an alternative to its proprietary AIX operating system. There are now thousands of ISVs (independent software vendors) developing new Power8 Linux applications or working to port existing x86-based Linux applications to the Power environment. And, IBM claims, it has demonstrated some very good reasons for its customers to do exactly that.

In a June, 2015 conference presentation, the company revealed certified benchmark test results showing that Power8 servers significantly outperformed x86 servers in running financial workloads. In fact, an IBM Power System 824 server more than doubled the performance of a best-in-class x86 machine.

Says Terry Keene, CEO of Integration Systems, LLC,

“Comparing the x86 and Power processors on a micro-benchmark level will show little raw performance advantages for either. Comparing the two using enterprise workloads will demonstrate a significant advantage for Power in data workloads such as databases, data warehouses, data transaction processing, data encryption/compression, and certainly in high-performance computing.”

IBM is aggressively pursuing its objective of gaining a double-digit share of the server market by 2020. And with its even more powerful Power9 chips due out in 2017, the company seems well positioned to reach that goal.

Swift and Kitura

SwiftMost developers think of Swift as Apple’s latest open source language for macOS and iOS. However, IBM is also putting a lot of effort behind it. The open-source Swift language is suited for many kinds of work, and IBM is promoting it as a language for Web and cloud applications.

KituraIBM’s Kitura Web framework, written in Swift, includes its own HTTP server. It aims at the development of full-stack applications using Bluemix and an OS X or Linux server.

IBM Cloud Tools for Swift simplify the job of developing applications using Swift on both the client and server sides. Currently the emphasis is on mobile applications, but Apple is energetically moving to Swift for macOS (formerly OS X) development, so Mac-native clients will be feasible.

Swift includes many modern features, compiling to very efficient code while providing a higher level of code safety than the C-based languages which have traditionally been used for low-level code. The features contributing to code safety include:

  • Almost no use of raw memory pointers. They’re available when it’s necessary to address memory directly, but otherwise aren’t needed.
  • Restricted use of null values. A common software bug is the failure to handle unexpected null (called nil in Swift) values. Normal variables in Swift never have nil values. A variable has to be declared optional in Swift to allow nil, calling attention to the need for checking. An optional can be assigned to a normal value after excluding the nil case.
  • Safer switch statements. A switch statement must exhaustively cover all cases, and cases don’t fall through to the next one by default.

Developers can join the Kitura community by submitting a Contributor License Agreement. There are a lot of opportunities for developers to contribute to Swift and Kitura projects.