Linoma Serves Up Better-Looking Screens with aXes
February 8, 2005 Alex Woodie
Linoma Software launched an updated release of its iSeries middleware last week that renders better-looking screens. The new release of aXes, a Web-enablement product that dynamically converts OS/400 green screens into browser-based GUIs that don’t require interactive processing, now makes better-looking GUIs. Other new features include the capability to view OS/400 spool files and access the DB2/400 database through the browser, and an OS/400 implementation of the Lua scripting language.
Aterial XML eBusiness Server, or aXes, which was developed by Linoma’s Australian partner, Arterial Software, is an interesting product that hits two birds with one stone. By capturing 5250 screen data directly from the program I/O, and transforming it into a lightweight XML document that’s compressed and sent to a Web browser, customers can transform their green screens into Web-browser-based GUIs, while simultaneously avoiding the 5250 interactive penalty.
Linoma says aXes works incredibly fast and efficiently, and that users can expect response times similar to what they have with 5250 emulators on a PC. However, they’re not going to get jaw-dropping graphical effects. “It’s a step above emulation, in terms of the [screen] quality you see,” Bob Luebbe, Linoma’s president, said when the company first released aXes in the summer of 2003 (see “Linoma’s New Software Web-Enables OS/400 Apps Without the Interactive”).
Now, with aXes Version 1.232, the product’s graphic story has gotten a little better. More advanced DDS keyword support, including recognition of the HTML keyword for embedding graphics and HTML within legacy applications, will enable aXes users to “pretty up” the browser-based screens generated in real-time by aXes. “Inserting HTML tags into the DDS of display files will allow customers to utilize the graphic capabilities of a true zero-client Web browser using existing display files,” Luebbe says.
You still won’t find the advanced graphics capabilities in aXes that you’d find in IBM‘s WebFacing Tool or in one of the traditional “screen-scraper” products. But the new release of aXes makes the screens look less like a green screen and more like a standard GUI, while maintaining support for function keys, tabbing, and cursor positioning, which is important for training and employee-retention. And users can include things like radio buttons, drop-down menus, company logos, and their own background colors by using customized style sheets, which have been supported since the product debuted.
The better graphics in aXes 1.3 is just the start of new features in the release. The new aXes Web Spooler module gives users point-and-click access to OS/400 spool files. From a browser, users can view, manage, and convert the OS/400 spool files into PDF, HTML, XML, and TXT files. Enabling users (or a company’s customers) to pull up invoices, purchase orders, and shipping documents from their Web browsers can greatly enhance their productivity.
User productivity will also increase with the new aXes Data Explorer module in aXes, which gives users direct access to DB2/400 from their Web browsers. Users can query public DB2/400 data, as well as run SQL statements, using this new feature, which overlaps a little with another Linoma product, Surveyor/400. Although the aXes Data Explorer module has the advantage of running entirely from a Web browser.
Other new features include support for WebSphere and integration with Tivoli. While aXes comes with its own HTTP server, users can now serve the aXes screens using WebSphere or the WebSphere portal server. Support for WebSphere also gives aXes new single-sign-on capabilities. Better login control, more device naming features, and comprehensive keyboard mapping support round out some of the usability features in this new release.
The aXes also brings an OS/400 implementation of the non-proprietary and open-source Lua scripting language. Developed at a Brazilian university, Lua is a simple language that combines a procedural syntax with powerful data description constructs, Linoma says. The aXes includes a Lua 5 interpreter and compiler, plus additional OS/400 extensions for building new Web applications. With Lua, aXes users can move beyond refacing to create elegant Web applications served from the iSeries, Linoma says. The Lua port to the iSeries enables DB2/400 data to be easily retrieved and updated through imbedded SQL, Linoma says, adding that Lua also supports OS/400 program and command calls. For more information about Lua, go to www.lua.org.
Version 1.232 of aXes supports OS/400 V4R4 and later versions and is available now. Users have a choice between user-based pricing and processor-based pricing with aXes. User-based pricing starts at $7,850 for a group of 20 users on a P05 box (Linoma requires at least 20 user licenses required on a P05 box), with additional users costing $250 each. Processor-based pricing, which supports an unlimited number of users, starts at $11,210 on a P05 box. These prices include one year of maintenance, which is required by Linoma.
For more information, demos, and trial downloads, go to www.linomasoftware.com.