OS/400 Alert: i5, or iHype?
May 12, 2004 Shannon O'Donnell
You’ve heard all the news in The Four Hundred about the newest operating system and hardware from IBM, and may be getting anxious, thinking that you are going to be left behind. Before you start hyperventilating, take a moment to read what I have to say about what this announcement really means to you from a practical perspective. Also in this issue we tell you about the arrest of the creator of W32.Sasser and a rather goofy OS/400 PTF from IBM.
WHAT DOES I5 MEAN TO YOU?
In case you missed it, IBM announced last week that our beloved iSeries, formerly known as the AS/400, will, with the shipping of the first new Power5 hardware, be known as the i5. In addition, OS/400 will now be named i5/OS. Whew! That’s a lot of change.
But, from a practical standpoint, what does it mean for you system administrators out there? In the short term, probably nothing. V5R3 will not even begin shipping until June 11, along with the new Power5 hardware. So that gives you at least a month of breathing room. And, unless you are one of those folks who have to be in on every new thing, you probably won’t migrate your operations to the new hardware right away. In fact, the smart money is on waiting until someone else has worked out the inevitable bugs and glitches in the new operating system before committing your enterprise to depending on it. Another thing to consider is that, instead of purchasing the new hardware, you can simply upgrade your hardware from V5R1 or V5R2 to V5R3. You will not be able to take advantage of the new Power5 architecture with your old hardware, but so what? You’ve been running along just fine without Power5. Chances are good that you can continue to use the older hardware for another year or two. So what does this exciting new operating system and hardware really mean to your operation today? Probably not nearly as much as IBM would like you think. But get all the facts and make up your own mind. You can read about the new i5 and i5/OS in The Four Hundred, as well as on IBM’s announcement site.
When I read through IBM’s various PTFs, sometimes I have to laugh. I can just imagine the stories behind some of them. Take, for example, PTF MF32064 for Licensed Program 5722999 for V5R2M0. An application server ended abnormally during interaction between Java interrupts and garbage collection. This didn’t sound too strange. Any programmer worth his salt knows that when you make a change in one program, the chances of causing problems in another program are pretty good. And with the complexity of the programs that make up OS/400, those chances increase exponentially. But what was funny to me was the rest of the problem description: “It takes an unusual situation to cause the problem: there has to be a thread which was interrupted for garbage collection during a wait or sleep, went into another wait while processing the garbage collection interrupt, and then was interrupted yet again.”
You can just imagine the hell that IBM tech support and programmers must have gone through in verifying that this problem even existed and then trying to recreate it to make sure that the fixes they had made did in fact fix the problem.
IBM Supervisor: “What are you working on?”
IBM Programmer: “Writing a program that will interrupt a thread, but only during the garbage collection process. Oh, yeah, and the thread has to be in a wait state. Oh, and then I’ve gotta figure out how to cause another garbage collection cycle, but only after the thread goes into another interrupt.”
IBM Supervisor: “How do you even know the customer’s description of the problem is accurate and that the program you are writing will duplicate the problem?”
IBM Programmer: “I don’t. I first have to write a program to see if the problem even exists before I can write a program to fix the problem. Assuming it exists.”
IBM Supervisor: “So…I should call your wife and tell her not to wait up for you?”
Sometimes I’m really thankful that I don’t work in software support. For more information on this PTF or the Java Group PTF it belongs to, go to IBM’s Web site.
W32.SASSER CREATOR IS NABBED
The greatest threat to Windows in recent weeks has been the W32.Sasser worm. This nasty little bug has caused untold havoc around the world, mostly because of the way it infects a computer. Typically, a virus will only infect a computer when an e-mail or software program is opened. The Sasser worm, however, will download itself to you computer even if you do not visit the Web site it is hosted on. In fact, you may not even be aware that your computer is infected with this virus. It could be running in the background of your system already, spreading itself to other systems. How can you tell if you are infected by this virus and then remove it? Find out on Symantec’s Web site.
Once you get that taken care of, perhaps you might be more interested in how this virus got started. Score one for the good guys: on Saturday, an 18-year-old German programmer was arrested for creating Sasser. Police believe this young man is part of a gang of computer thugs also responsible for the Netsky virus, which has also caused havoc in recent months.
PTF’S AND FIXES FOR OS/400 AND RELATED PROGRAMS
IBM released the latest cumulative package for V5R2 customers on May 6.
The latest HIPER package was released April 27.
The Database Group PTF was updated March 30.
Our partner DLB Associates has been keeping track of IBM’s PTF updates to OS/400 and its related programs. Here are the latest OS/400 PTF Guides: