Archive for May, 2011

The Real World

Friday, May 27th, 2011

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve made an entry here, but sometimes real life intrudes on the fantasy world of the Internet, so I just became too distracted by the real world. Either that, or I’ve just gotten lazy.

I think of things to put into this every day while I’m at work. Unfortunately, I’m at work when I get these ideas, I don’t make a note of it, or I get too tired when I get home, and the idea evaporates.

One idea that has managed to sustain itself until this evening was an observation on the state of programming in the real world – that is, outside my insulated IBM-i world. Of necessity, even my client must run outside programs and communicate with the outside world, and that is when the sadly amusing state of the computing world presents itself.

I listen as others talk about having to get new systems working on the new Windows 7 boxes. I listen to them go through the song and dance about installing this driver or that, and how it becomes difficult to keep the existing programs running when you get new hardware or install new software or both. After a while, you notice that it’s a new rendition of an old song with new singers and a new group of orchestras.

In the IBM-i world, of course, this stuff is nonsense. We are currently running programs that were written back in the 70’s and 80’s. With this IBM minicomputer (as it used to be called) family, it made no difference. The programs might need to be recompiled when you changed machines, but you didn’t need to create a new version of it- you only did it if you wanted to. No wasted effort. Nothing about the programs had to be changed if the operating system changed versions. But in the Windows world (and I believe in the Linux world too), there are no such guarantees. This always puzzled me when I looked out at my Windows.

And it has touched my world. I played a little bit with VisualAge RPG, and one of my coworkers ran with the idea and wrote an entire system, albeit a relatively small one, using VARPG to talk to our AS/400. (I know, I know. It’s not what it’s called now, but it’s the name most people in the industry identify it with.) We thought it was a very slick piece of work, even though we were aware that IBM wasn’t exactly pushing it. All we knew is that it was a very easy way to leverage our RPG skills into the Windows world. The users loved it.

But now, as time goes on and we get Windows 7 machines in, we have to make sure that if the system goes on a Windows 7 machine, it must be set up to run in XP-compatibility mode. But how long will that last? How long will it be before another “advancement” in Windows takes that option away from us? How long before it no longer becomes “cost effective” for Microsoft to have an environment in which our programs can be run? Then we either have to rewrite them in another language, or we encase them in a virtual machine where it no longer matters what the outside world (operating system) is. I suppose I should be thankful that we at least have that option.

And you can tell that the mindset of the computing world in general is that somehow this is a good thing. Throwaway software. They worry about 32-bit and 64-bit software and the incompatibilities inherent in them. But it’s “progress”. I call it wasteful – but who am I? Just a grunt programmer in an increasingly less popular computing ecosystem.

Sorry, but I don’t have any solutions. I hope somebody does.