CabledSoft Delivers Graphical Cross Reference Tool for OS/400
August 30, 2005 Alex Woodie
iSeries shops looking for a graphical cross reference tool might want to take a look at DSP400i from CabledSoft. The tool, which was released earlier this year by Swedish developer Mikael Asplund, provides a different view on OS/400 file and object relationship than your typical greenscreen cross reference tool, and may be considerably more affordable, as well.
There are many uses for cross reference tools in today’s modern OS/400 shop. When a programmer leaves an organization and takes with him all the institutional knowledge of how an undocumented application works, a cross reference tool can be a lifesaver. Similarly, the tools can help programmers fix bugs by telling them exactly how different parts of the application work together. They are also useful for organizations preparing to migrate all or part of an RPG application to Java or C#, or who just want to break up a monolithic RPG application for the purposes of moving to service oriented architectures, or SOAs (you may have heard of them).
There are probably close to a dozen OS/400 cross reference tools on the market, but none of them met the expectations of Mikael Asplund, founder of CabledSoft. “The idea of a program like DSP400i was born in the late 80s, when I was working with an undocumented system in S/36 environment,” Asplund says via e-mail. “After almost 15 years working with different systems, and [finding] no solution that suited my need for a quick overview how all the parts in different AS/400 and iSeries system are connected to each other, I made DSP400i.”
DSP400i is a Java program that runs on a Windows PC. The tool connects to the iSeries and enables the user to explore files, object, and programs, and see what their interdependencies are via tree tables, from within the comfy confines of a graphical interface. DSP400i version 1.6 uses three OS/400 commands, DSPOBJD, DSPDBR, DSPPGMREF, under the covers to interrogate the iSeries. Most of the work in DSP400i is done with the mouse, however.
Users get started with DSP400i by typing in a file name, a library, an attribute, or a description of the files they’d like to explore their iSeries. DSP400i interrogates the iSeries and displays a results screen, which allows the user to do all kinds of stuff with a few mouse clicks, including seeing additional information related to storage, source files, relations, and when the programs, objects, or file was last changed or used. This information is displayed across tabbed windows, making navigation a breeze.
Probably the most useful feature in DSP400i is its capability to create tree tables. This is done by right-clicking on a program, object, or file within DSP400i. The software is fully configurable and enables users to select which files to include in the tree table, and which attributes, such as a description of the function or a creation date.
Users can create child tree tables and parent tree tables with this tool. For a child tree table, the user can assign the order that the programs are to be called from the parent program. This order is then reflected in a new tree table. Tree tables (both of the parent and child variety) can be created from just about any file, and the order of execution should be reflected in subsequent tree tables.
DSP400i’s Windows interface makes it easy to sort search result by clicking on the column heading for the name of the object or file, or attributes, such as library, owner, or time last changed. The software also has a nifty find feature that highlights the fields that match the value the user types into a dialog box, which makes navigating long result sets a bit easier. At any time, users can drill-down on any file, to see its relations and attributes. Overall, Asplund has done his best to keep the desktop neat, and included features designed to keep from having too many windows open at once. The tree table views tended to pile up in the online demos, but creating and working with tree tables is what DSP400i is all about.
Asplund says that the way DSP400i uses the DSPOBJD, DSPDBR, and DSPPGMREF commands, and present the results in graphical tree tables, is unlike any other product he is aware of on the market. “The strength of the program is the user interface. Right click on any row (object) and decide what to do with it,” he writes.
He is selling DSP400i through the CabledSoft Web site. Documentation and support is provided in English and Swedish; although it is probably better in Asplund’s native tongue, the English is passable. CabledSoft is a modern company, and Asplund prefers all customer communication to be done through e-mail. And don’t try to use a fake e-mail address, either, as this listing on the CabledSoft FAQ shows: “Question: Can I use a Hotmail or other free e-mail address when I order? Answer: No, we want your real e-mail, it’s more personal that way.” Never has a cross-reference tool hit so close to home.
Pricing for DSP400i is based on how many users will use the product, and how long the user intends to use the product. CabledSoft sells licenses that entitle users to all updates for periods of six months, one year, two years, four years, eight years, and 16 years. The price ranges from $259 per user for a six-month license to $130 per user per year for a 16-year license, which totals $4,151 (that’s for a two-user license; single user licenses are not available).
Asked about the likelihood that the iSeries will still be around in 2021, Asplund responds: “New computers will come, but the old programs will still run. Some old big programs, are really hard to rewrite, so it’s cheaper and safer to let them run.” Indeed, without millions of lines of really old RPG code floating around out there, there wouldn’t be much of a need for cross reference tools in the first place.
For more information and trial downloads, check out www.cabledsoft.com.