Admin Alert: Use Fix Central to Order iSeries PTFs on CD-ROM
December 8, 2004 Joe Hertvik
Fix Central is IBM’s online facility for downloading and ordering PTFs. From this Web site, you can immediately download PTFs through a Web browser or download a CD-ROM image of the PTFs to an FTP server for later use. But Fix Central’s big flaw is that you can’t specifically order PTFs on CD-ROM. You have to work the Web site to request that IBM send you CD-ROM fixes. Fortunately, that isn’t very hard to do.
From Fix Central, IBM allows customers to download PTFs via a browser or through an FTP download. And I see the point. Customers can immediately retrieve PTFs directly to their iSeries boxes, and IBM doesn’t have to go through the hassle and overhead of creating and distributing CD-ROMs. Fix Central CD-ROM delivery is only accomplished if the customer is not able to download the PTFs. You can’t use Fix Central to explicitly say you want IBM to create and mail CD-ROM copies of a PTF order. Fix Central will tell IBM to create CD-ROMs for you, but it will only do so if it thinks there is no other option.
There are a few problems with this scenario. While downloading PTFs is great if you are only applying PTFs to one box, it’s a downright hassle if you need to load fixes on two or more machines. I once worked for a company that had 10 active AS/400s all sitting at the same release level. A good set of cumulative PTFs, HIPERs, and Database Group PTFs on CD-ROM came in really handy when it was time to upgrade the machines.
The second problem is bandwidth. Not every shop has the bandwidth for downloading a large number of PTFs, and large downloads can create network congestion. A lot of shops also limit the use of FTP or browser downloads. A third issue concerns iSeries DASD, where if you’re downloading something the size of a cumulative service pack, you may not be able to or want to spare the disk space to store a number of CD-ROM images on your box.
Because of these concerns, I found a technique for running the Fix Central Web site so that it always tells IBM to create and send CD-ROMs containing the desired fixes. Here’s how you do it.
Sign on to Fix Central as you normally would and select the PTFs that you want to place an order for. Press Continue until you get to the Packaging Options screen. If you want to order requisite PTFs that can be applied to multiple systems, make sure to check the For FTP Download or CD-ROM media, include requisite PTFs so that they can be applied to multiple systems checkbox on that screen. Press Continue again.
On the Download Options Web page that comes next, IBM offers you three checkbox options to download your PTFs: Immediate Download over the Internet (HTTP); Download CD-ROM to FTP Server (FTP); and Mail Order on CD-ROM if the total size exceeds the limits you selected above. By default, both the HTTP download and the FTP download boxes are checked. Fill out the options on this screen in the following way to tell IBM to mail your PTF order to you on CD-ROM.
- Uncheck the Download CD-ROM to FTP Server (FTP) checkbox.
- Check the Mail Order on CD-ROM if the total size exceeds the limits you selected above checkbox. This is what will trigger the Web site to e-mail the PTFs via CD-ROM.
- Check the Immediate Download over the Internet (HTTP) checkbox.
- Under the question What is the maximum size that you want to download immediately?, in the HTTP download section, click the drop-down box under that question and change the selection to 15 Mb, its lowest setting. This answer is set to Maximum Allowable by default.
- Under the question What is the speed of your Internet connection?, click the drop-down box and change the setting to Less than 56 Kbps. By default, this answer is set to 56 Kbps.
- Click the checkbox location that designates where the target system for download is installed: Western Hemisphere or Eastern Hemisphere.
- Click Continue.
On the next page, IBM asks for your iSeries name or the TCP/IP address of the box it should download PTFs to, as well as an administrator user ID and password for that box. This page also contains a checkbox called View or update your shipping information for this order, which should remain checked. After clicking Continue again, there’s another page where you can review or update the mailing address where IBM will send you your CD-ROM PTFs.
Click through the rest of the screens, entering all requested information, such as the ship-to name and address.
When you hit the final screen and Fix Central enters the order, it will determine that any fair-sized PTF order, such as an order for cumulative PTFs or one of the group PTFs, will be too large to download via the Internet over a slow connection with minimal disk space requirements. At that point, Fix Central will go to its fallback position and inform you that IBM is going to mail your PTF fixes on CD-ROM.
The sad thing is that you have to work the system to get something that IBM could easily provide in Fix Central through a simple checkbox that could read Mail PTFs on CD-ROM. If you don’t want to use the system this way, you can also fill out and fax a PTF order form to IBM. Instructions for faxing the order are on the form. There are also fee-based options to order PTFs on media via the Internet or over the telephone.
Hopefully, IBM will modify Fix Central to add a real CD-ROM PTF ordering option, and soon. Given the price that it charges for OS/400, IBM should broaden its efforts to allow customers to retrieve PTFs in any form they need (downloaded files, CD-ROM) from any interface they want to use (Web, FTP, phone, fax, business partner) as a standard part of being a customer. PTF delivery should be easy and free, and both electronic and CD-ROM delivery should be coordinated from one place: Fix Central. At least, that’s the way I believe it should be.
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