Monday, April 16, 2012

Open Source Tools for IBM i

Tools anyone?
Rather than blather on about the new toolkit, once again, I was struck by an opportunity I saw recently in the open source arena. One of the things I love about open source is the idea that I can kick the tires before buying into a solution. There will always be those folks out there who refuse to pay for anything, regardless of the level of value they derive from someone else’s efforts. There are many ways to contribute to the open source community that do not require code and here is an article that highlights a few.

So as I was discussing the open source arena the other day with a colleague he mentioned another project. Like Zend Server CE that is distributed for no charge and has an optional support model. The is attractive in many ways, mostly by breaking down the barrier to entry to almost nothing. Also, it provides an insidious way for some derelict companies to modernize. It still shocks me to run into a company with apathetic management or “coasters” (those who have a couple of years to go before retirement and do not wish to risk anything new.)
I want staff to stand up and start skunk-works projects and here are a couple of way to do that. Managers are welcome to exploit these techniques, as well.

phpMyAdmin – comes pre-installed with Zend Server
This is an open source utility written in PHP that provides nearly every administrative function necessary for MySQL. The MySQL Monitor (command line interface) can seem a bit intimidating for the uninitiated and this interface really softens the blow. Getting familiar with MySQL makes like a lot easier and is required when ramping up on other open source projects like SugarCRM, MediaWiki, Joomla and Drupal, all of which I have installed and run on IBM i. Here is a helpful tip:When you first install MySQL, either as part of Zend Server or as part of the Zend DBi product just released by Zend you should realize the ROOT user profile (MySQL equivalent of QSECOFR) has no password. Immediately upon installation of the MySQL Server I create a powerful profile for myself and once I have verified that it is working I set the password to ROOT so that no one can hack my implementation.

Content Management with Drupal or Joomla or whatever…
Putting up a website can seem like a daunting task. Installing something that can manage the site might make more sense, especially if your company is contemplating a new Intranet. There are many open source content management systems (CMS) out there to consider. I have been a big advocate of Drupal since it has a VERY large and rabid following and seems to have many key features folks want in their sites. But truly any content management system will do. The folks at WMCPA and COMMON selected Joomla as their CMS of choice and have been very pleased with it.

A while ago I picked up a tip from Jon Paris of Partner400 fame. The idea was to take a wiki application and allow end users to build their own doc. Jon recommends PMWiki and while I am not terribly familiar with that solution I tend to advocate MediaWiki. MediaWiki has a great feature that is activated by default. This feature can be turned on to allow the IT staff and developers to build the end user documentations for programs and processes within the organization. AND for each page they build there is a corresponding end user documentation page that is fully annotatable. Meaning, end users can makes notes right on the page running in PHP and updating MySQL running directly on IBM i. Think of some of the added benefits to this approach like automatically backing up end user documentation with each SAV of the IFS or option 21. Also, think of disaster recovery scenarios where the end user doc is now immediately available after restoring the system. No need to recover a file server or windows/linux box.

There are quite a few interesting options out there and I would strongly recommend you check out the YiPs website for more details… or, let your fingers do the walking with Google.