Friday, March 23, 2007

Vista – final connections

A couple of weeks ago I described the pain of setting up a Vista machine – and to be honest most of that pain was simply because we are so familiar with XP machines and anything Vista did differently came as an unpleasant surprise. This blog brings you right up-to-date with events. Readers may be interested to know that I am now working on my Vista machine each day and this blog was written using it. I am gradually getting to find my way round it.

Anyway, story so far, we bought a new Vista laptop for the office and we assigned it to our office workgroup. We used the “Network and Sharing Center” to make sharing possible and we turned off Norton so that the XP machines in our workgroup could access the new machine. We used Laplink to transfer everything from my old XP machine to this new Vista machine. All the applications seemed OK except Word, which wouldn’t run so we hacked it to make it work. Now Word documents won’t open except from inside Word.

Historically, Xephon ( used Macintoshes to produce its Update publications and my XP machine used PC MacLAN to connect to the Macs. The last copy of MacLAN we bought came from a company called Miramar. It allowed the PC to access a Mac as a guest and copy files backwards and forwards. MacLAN is now owned by CA (, who acquired it in March 2004. CA, well actually their very nice PR people, told us that PC MacLAN is not compatible with Vista and there are currently no plans to update the product. Oh dear. For reasons that are long and historical the Macs are running V9 and not OS X (tiger). Does anyone know of a product that will connect Vista with an old-style Mac? As a consequence of this, I am left having to access my old XP machine in order to access my Mac.

My old computer had a parallel port on the back, which could be used to connect to a printer. In fact mine connected to an Iomega ZIP drive and then to a printer. We used old 100MB ZIP drives because that’s what were connected to the Macs. They were used for a lot of our back-ups. Now the first very obvious problem was that my new HP laptop does not have a parallel port on it! But even if it did, the Iomega Web site ( lists all the operating systems that it has drivers for – DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 2000, Windows XP, etc – but none for Vista. Yet again I have an older product for which there is no Vista support. So my old XP machine also has the ZIP drive still attached to it. My Vista machine is using an external hard drive for back-ups. We keep talking about network storage – it looks like we’ll really have to start using it.

So two failures with Vista, but the next thing was to connect the printer. Again, historically, we have had a printer attached to each computer so there is no waiting for output. I have a three-year old HP Business Inkjet 1100 that prints on both sides and has separate colour cartridges. I was told it was a top-of-the-range machine when I bought it. But you’ll never guess what happened next! I went to Hewlett Packard’s Web site ( to download the Vista drivers for this business class printer only to find that HP doesn’t have any!! It says, “HP Product Is Not Supported in Microsoft Windows Vista”. I expect HP hadn’t heard about Microsoft’s new operating system until it was launched and they’re busy catching up now!!!

So now my printer is left attached to my old XP machine along with the ZIP drive and my connection the Mac network. These three problems are not the fault of Microsoft, they are three other companies that do not want to support older products. I’m just glad I didn’t have the scanner attached to my computer, who knows whether there would be drivers for that!

I remember when legacy was used as a derogatory term for mainframe hardware and software. It now seems that three years is a very long time for PCs. If you are planning to buy a Vista machine, I’d wait until all these other third-party suppliers have caught up. I’d also wait until there is more expertise out there so the migration process can be done in an afternoon and not over two weeks.

And do I like using Vista? For ordinary work it is no different, but I do like the size of my new laptop’s screen. The Windows + alt key combination looks impressive when I’m showing Vista to new people. The Search facility is just bizarre. It’s quicker for me to look where I think the file is than to wait for the Search facility not to find it!

Monday, March 19, 2007

DB2 9.1 for z/OS

Finally (ie as of 16 March 2007) mainframers can get their hands on DB2 9.1 and start to use the promised XML facilities that it has to offer.

IBM has been talking about Viper – the codename for DB2 9 – on Windows, Unix, and Linux servers for a while now (July 2006), but now it is available on mainframes (although, of course, the Windows, Unix, and Linux version would run i
n a mainframe Linux partition).

The new big thing in this version is PureXML, which is IBM’s name for its XML facility allowing XML documents to be stored in such a way that the hierarchical information is retained and the XML document itself can be queried. Previously IBM had two less-than-efficient approaches available. Users could either store the whole XML document in a single database field, which made it impossible for SQL queries to work. The alternative was an approach called shredding in which the XML document is broken up into chunks and these chunks are then stored in different columns in the same row of the database. This approach made queries possible, but it has stopped being an hierarchical XML document that can be used elsewhere. Of course it could be recombined, but that uses more resources and puts the database under pressure.

So, PureXML allows the XML data to be stored, the data to be indexed, and SQL queries to scan the document – a huge improvement for users. It is particularly beneficial for sites who are adopting Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) because so much information is stored as XML to allow all the different applications and even different systems to work together successfully. It allows the formation of composite applications using the services made available from these applications and systems.

Sales of DB2 9.1 for mainframes should also help IBM sell those zIIP co-processors. The System z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) is a specialty engine directed toward data serving workloads. zIIP is designed to boost the performance of DB2 because it processes only DB2 routines.

Also enhanced is the DB2 QMF (Query Management Facility), which has a new Web interface. And various DB2 tools have minor changes so they support DB2 V9.1 for z/OS. These include the DB2 Utilities Suite.

It looks like IBM is onto a winner with this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vista – first reports

I blogged the other week about whether I really did want a new Vista laptop, and if I did whether I needed Microsoft products running on it. Well, I visited another PC superstore and they had about two Mac laptops and absolutely none at all with Linux pre-installed. In the end I was swayed by the hardware and took the software that came with it. So yes, I was turned to the dark side and now have a Vista machine.

I bought an HP Pavilion dv9000 laptop – it has a 17” wide TFT screen (1440 by 900) and is sleek and black. The processor is a 1.66GHz core duo T5500 centrino duo chip. It has 2GB of RAM and twin hard drives providing 120GB of storage. The operating system is Windows Vista Home Premium. As well as being wireless enabled (802.11a, b, g) it has an nVidia GeForce Go 7600 video card, DVD writer, and even a digital TV tuner. So it should be able to do everything except make pot noodle (as they say!).

I turned it on, and after a long time it allowed me to set it up – pretty normal stuff here. It found our wireless network and I was soon on the Internet – all good so far. It came with a 60-day version of Norton, which I started and then let it update from the Symantec Web site.

Next, I thought I’d connect to the other computers in our office network. That’s when I met the first problem. The default workgroup name is WORKGROUP, with XP it is MSHOME (I think), anyway, I had to change the workgroup name so it was the same as on the other computers.

The next problem was that although the XP machines could see the new Vista laptop, they could not access it. That problem was solved by turning off the Norton firewall (gulp!). Once we’d done that, the Vista machine could see all the other workgroup machines and they could see the Vista one. From the Vista machine we could see the folders “shared” and “shareddocs” on the XP machines, but from the XP machine we couldn’t see any directories at all on the XP one.

That problem was solved by selecting the Network and Sharing Center and, under Sharing and Discovery, turning on Public Folder Sharing and turning off Password protected sharing. We now have a shared directory on the Vista box and it can be accessed from all the other networked PCs without needing a password or anything else. It also told us to modify Norton to allow network access but nothing else. We haven’t quite managed to find where to do that yet!

The next stage was to use Laplink ( to transfer the contents of the old computer to the new one wirelessly over our network. This worked brilliantly (I think) although it did have to run overnight (it said it would take 12 hours). Once it finished, my new Vista machine looked just like my old XP machine. Laplink ran a start-up program showing which applications were launching automatically. Obviously I didn’t need my XP anti-virus or anti-malware (I’ve got Norton). I did ask it to start PC MACLAN and Iomega software (yes, I still back-up to a ZIP drive).

I tested that my applications were running OK. All were except Word! Word would launch and then disappear. We spent ages trying all sorts of things – re-installing etc. Someone suggested a hack they knew which did the trick. We right-clicked on winword.exe and selected properties from the pop-up box. We then clicked the Compatibility tab and ticked the box saying, “Run this program as an administrator”. It seems to have done the trick.

The next stage was to connect up the printer, ZIP drive, and Macintosh laptop. But I’ll tell you what happened there next time!! Our main problem was finding the time to work on the new laptop because we kept expecting each step to take much longer than we’d normally anticipate. And that’s because we didn’t know what new differences Vista would throw at us. Any additional help and advice gratefully received! (Anyone writing “told you so” or “only a complete idiot would buy Vista” would only be repeating what we’ve been saying in the office this week!!) You can contact me at

Monday, March 05, 2007

Arcati Yearbook 2007

Back in September I was talking about the 2006 version of the Arcati Yearbook – saying what a great source of information it was for mainframers. Well, the good news is that the 2007 version is now available for download. It’s free and you can get it from

It’s a 2763KB download, and the PDF file describes itself as “the independent annual guide for users of IBM mainframe systems”. The Yearbook contains 147 fact-filled pages (with a few adverts – that’s why it’s free to download I guess!) – up from 124 last year.

As in previous years, the Yearbook contains pages of information and in-depth mainframe-related articles. It also contains the results of this year’s survey of mainframers.

The Vendor Directory lists vendors, consultants, and service providers in the z/OS and OS/390 environment. There is a media guide for IBM mainframers, which contains information resources, publications, and user groups for the z/OS environment. Next is a glossary of terminology, which provides definitions for some mainframe-related terms. The final part of this long and detailed section is the technical information, which is subtitled, “Hardware tales – z9, z990, z890; mainframe hardware timeline”.

The articles in the Yearbook have all been written by mainframe experts. These include: “Mainframe management: where ITIL fits in” by Ralph Crosby of BMC Software and Carl Greiner of Ovum; “Problems with worldwide pricing variations” by Barry Graham and taken from a recent Mainframe Market Bulletin; “What has IBM been doing in 2006? Spending, spending, spending!” by Mark Wilson, a mainframe consultant; “Transforming the economics of data center operations” by Steve Revell of ASG; “Securing automated file transfers to and from z/OS” by Kalle Jaaskelainen from SSH Communications Security; “Harnessing the power of legacy systems” by DataDirect Technologies’ Andy Gutteridge; “The buffer pool: change control for DB2 access paths” by database guru Craig S Mullins; “A new alternative for modernizing security” by Barry Schrager of JME (and original designer and primary author of ACF2); “Firefighting versus fire prevention” by Osman Aykut of TRILOGexpert; and “Modernize your systems with XML – quickly and easily!” by Peter Prager of Canam Software Labs.

It’s worth downloading a copy of the Yearbook simply for the survey results. It’s always useful to know what other mainframe sites are up to, and the Yearbook provides a snapshot of System z users’ current hardware and software configuration and their plans and concerns for the months ahead. The 86 users included in the survey were taken from a variety of locations with a range of hardware installed.

Interestingly, the majority of respondents believe that their Unix and Windows acquisition and support costs are growing faster than those on the System z, and they continue to use the mainframe as their principal repository for corporate data. I’ll leave you to read the full conclusions at your leisure.

Anyway, well worth a look and, as I mentioned above, it is completely free.