Admin Alert: Four iSeries Access Tips for Windows Professionals
August 30, 2006 Joe Hertvik
Ironically, one of the problems with iSeries Access for Windows is also one of its strengths: its longevity. Starting out as a product called PC Support/400 in the late 1980s and progressing through at least three different name changes, this software has a history so long that it’s almost geology. However, sometimes that history works against it, particularly when administrators who are not familiar with i5/OS and OS/400 are in charge of installing and maintaining iSeries Access for Windows desktops.
To alleviate potential problems when Windows administrators handle IBM‘s connectivity package to AS/400, iSeries, and i5 servers, here are four tips to help Microsoft Windows professionals create better iSeries Access software installations on the Windows desktops under their control.
1. Know your products and which product you should be working with. Since the iSeries Access product line has a long history, many different versions of the core product are available, and the product you use is dependent on the operating system you have installed on the i5, iSeries, or AS/400 machine that your organization is using. While many shops are operating modern i5 boxes running i5/OS V5R2 or above, other shops are running older legacy iSeries and AS/400 machines using the OS/400 V5R1 and below operating systems. These older machines may never be upgraded and they may even be scheduled for replacement over the next few years.
Given the wide range of products in IBM’s iSeries Access for Windows and Client Access for Windows products, here are the different packages that generally can and should be used for connecting Windows desktops to different i5, iSeries, and AS/400 machines. A complete list of all of IBM’s iSeries Access products for connection to each operating system release can be found on the iSeries Access End-of-Service Dates Web site.
For i5 machines running i5/OS V5R4, V5R3, and V5R2, iSeries Access for Windows V5R4M0, V5R3M0, and V5R2M0 can be used to connect to any of these boxes. All three of these iSeries Access products are still being supported by IBM, and you can still obtain new service packs for these packages at the iSeries Access Service Packs for Supported Releases Web site.
Older versions of IBM’s Client Access Express for Windows V5R1M0 software may also connect to these machines (except for i5/OS V5R4). But you will have decreased functionality and certain functions may not work correctly with this software. So it may be worthwhile to upgrade your Client Access package when you upgrade your operating system.
For iSeries and AS/400 machines running OS/400 V5R1, V4R5, and V4R4, Client Access Express for Windows V5R1, V4R5M0, and V4R4M0 should be used to connect to each of these machines. This product is also referred to as Client Access Express. Client Access Express is supported on most older Windows desktop systems, such as Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows 2000, but it has been phased out and it is not supported on newer Windows desktops and servers. For OS/400 V4R4 and V4R5, you also have the option of using the even older Client Access for Windows 95/NT package, but that software generally has vastly reduced capabilities versus Client Access Express, and it is not supported on recent Windows desktops.
All other Client Access products that are used for connecting to earlier versions of the OS/400 operating system are no longer supported by IBM. However, if you are still running a pre-V4R4 AS/400, you have no choice but to use one of these earlier packages as the modern iSeries Access software is not supported with these machines. The good news is that you can still download service pack fixes for these products from the Service Pack History for All Releases Web site. Again, all i5 and OS/400 operating systems and the products that you use to connect to them can be found on the End-of-Service Dates Web site.
2. Whenever possible, install or upgrade from your i5/OS or OS/400 machine, rather than from a CD or a network drive. When you upgrade from CD, you can only install the base version of the software without any service pack fixes. For many of these products, the base version is equivalent to the last beta version of the package and, if installed across an organization, you are basically running a beta implementation without the stabilizing fixes that IBM later added to the software. To upgrade products, service packs must be downloaded from the service pack Web site and posted to each machine. This same situation exists when you copy the CD to the network and install from a network drive.
For both the iSeries Access and Client Access Express software, you can install from a file share located in the i5/OS or OS/400 Integrated File System (IFS). This share resides in the QIBM folder of the IFS. To install the package, you can map a network drive to one of the following directories and execute the SETUP.EXE file located in that folder.
For Client Access Express for Windows:
For iSeries Access for Windows:
When you install from the IFS, you don’t have to worry about service packs because the latest service pack of the software is always loaded into the IFS whenever you install iSeries Access for Windows or Client Access Express for Windows PTFs on your partition. Two things happen with your desktop installs when you install PTFs. First, if your install is set up to automatically check for service pack updates on your i5 or iSeries box (its default), new service pack fixes can be downloaded automatically from the IFS without any operator intervention. The second thing is that for all new installs, the service pack fixes are automatically installed with the base product whenever you install the product from the IFS, eliminating the beta problem that I described above.
You can find instructions for loading Client Access Express for Windows from the IFS to a Windows desktop in an earlier article I wrote called Basic Client Access Installation from IFS. For loading iSeries Access for Windows to a desktop from the IFS, simply modify those instructions by using the QIBMProdDataAccessWindowsInstallImage location for iSeries Access installation, instead of the Client Access Express QIBMProdDataCa400ExpressInstallImage location mentioned in this article.
Also understand that you have to be careful when loading iSeries Access to a Windows desktop from an i5 machine running i5/OS V5R2 or above. This is because these machines contain both sets of folders for installing Client Access Express and iSeries Access from the IFS. If you accidentally load Client Access Express to a Windows desktop that is connecting to an i5/OS V5R2, V5R3, or V5R4 partition, the software may not work correctly with your host i5 system. Make sure that you always use the proper install directory for iSeries Access.
3. Understand the Ins and Outs of ODBC Library Management. For i5/OS and OS/400 data access, ODBC drivers can be incredibly picky. If you set up an ODBC connection wrong, you may experience unpredictable results when the user tries to retrieve data from a target partition. For example, if a library name is misspelled in your ODBC library list, ODBC will change the library list to the user’s default library list and the user may not be able to access his data. In my experience, library list issues generally cause most ODBC problems. So it’s worthwhile to make sure that your ODBC library lists are properly set up. In another article I wrote called Three Keys to Better ODBC Library List Management, I discussed some of the pitfalls in setting up ODBC library lists and how you can get around those problems.
4. Avoid duplicate session names if you are setting up PC5250 sessions for your users. One of the pitfalls in setting up PC5250 terminal sessions occurs when you inadvertently duplicate 5250 session names on different PCs. If another PC has already started a 5250 session with the same terminal name, the duplicate 5250 session may hang up and not connect to its target machine. To avoid this problem, be sure to configure your PC5250 terminal sessions to avoid duplicate session names both on the computer starting the PC5250 session and with other computers attaching to your i5 or iSeries box. Instructions for configuring PC5250 to avoid duplicate names can be found in this article from our archives.