iSphere Plug-in Expands RSE/RDi Toolset
June 25, 2015 Susan Gantner
Followers of my Guru tips know that I’m an RSE (a.k.a. RDi) fan. These days I would be lost trying to write or maintain RPG code without things like RSE’s Outline, Error feedback, editor filtering, and Undo. But you know how it is: the more you use a toolset and come to depend on all the great things it can do you for you, the more you also begin to come up with thoughts like but I sure wish it could do X. . ..
One of the great things about RDi (and its predecessors, RDP and WDSC) is that it’s based on Eclipse, which was designed from the ground up to be extendable by anyone. That means that we don’t need to wait for IBM to come up with all the bells and whistles we may be wishing for because, if we are lucky, someone else just might beat them to the punch. Such is the case with a set of tools that I have been using called iSphere. Some of these tools have helped to fulfill my wish list for RDi.
iSphere is an open source project from some developers from Task Force Consulting in Germany led by Frank Hildebrandt and from Thomas Raddatz, author of other free utilities at Tools400.de. It is a free collection of tools that plug into RDi (or RDP or WDSC) to enhance functionality. The current list of tools includes enhanced or new support for things such as the following:
Some you may be thinking that you can already do some of those things with the base RDi toolset. But what you’ll find is that the iSphere version of those features is different and often more flexible and/or faster than what you can do with the base code from IBM.
One of my favorite iSphere features isn’t in that list: Remote Systems view object and source decorations. We’re not talking about the kind of decorations to make things pretty. In this case it’s about decorations that make RSE more productive.
Remember in PDM when you look at a list of objects or members you can see the text for each list item? You can get that information with the base RDi toolset: one at a time via the Properties view or for the entire list in the Object Table view. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see the text right there in your Remote Systems view, along with the name and type? That’s what these decorations do for you. Take a look at my Remote Systems view in Figure 1 to see what it looks like.
That’s just one of many improvements that come by installing the iSphere plug-in. There are so many tools in the package that it will take me multiple tips to be able to do justice to them. So I thought I’d whet your appetite with this first tip. For those of you who just can’t wait to get started making RDi even better, I’ll go ahead and tell you how to get iSphere installed for yourself and turn on that text option.
iSphere requires both a client portion of code and a host portion that needs to be installed. Of course, the host code only needs to be installed once for all the iSphere users on that system/partition while the client code is installed on each workstation. Since there is help in the client code for downloading and installing the host code, we’ll start with installing the client side. If you were to run into difficulty, read on for where to get further instructions in the documentation.
In RDi, take the option to “Install new software” from the Help menu. In the “Available Software” dialog box, click the Add button near the top right corner. Fill in a name–such as iSphere–and one of the following locations to download the tool. If you are running any version of Rational (i.e., RDi or RDP) then use http://isphere.sourceforge.net/eclipse/rdi8.0/. If you are using the older WDSC, then use http://isphere.sourceforge.net/eclipse/wdsci7.0/. It will go out and find iSphere and fill in a line in the box below (iSphere for RDi 8.0+ or something similar). Click the check box next to that name and press the Next button and follow the instructions on the next screen to download and install iSphere.
The instructions above only install the client side of the code. To install the companion code on the host (IBM i) perform the following steps. Only one person needs to do this step. Bring up the RDi Preferences (Window → Preferences). Expand iSphere in the Preferences list on the left, then click on Library. Fill in the network name (or IP address) of your host IBM i system. Normally FTP uses port 21, which is the default, but if you know you need a different port, then fill that in. You may also choose the library name you want iSphere to be installed into on your system if you don’t want to use the default name of ISPHERE. Then press the button to Transfer the library. If all goes well, you will be asked to sign in and it will FTP a save file to your system and restore it. Then you’re ready to go.
Sometimes people have trouble installing iSphere (and other software) directly from the web, either the client side of the code or the host library. If you run into difficulty, there are instructions for manually downloading and installing the code in the documentation for the toolset. To find that documentation, go to http://sourceforge.net/projects/isphere/, click on the Files tab, and download the latest of the PDF files listed there.
There is one last important step in the installation process. If you want to turn on the decorations (i.e., the object and member text) in the Remote Systems view as illustrated here, you’ll need to go to RDi Preferences (from the Window menu). This time, expand the General category and then the Appearance category. Click on the Label Decorations item to bring up a list of decorations. Look down the list to find “iSphere – Display Object and Source Descriptions” and check the box next to that. Then click OK. You should now have text descriptions appearing!
In future tips, I’ll go into more details about some of the other iSphere tools that I find particularly useful. So for those of you who are still not sold enough to download and install iSphere, stay tuned. I feel sure at least one of these tools will capture your attention.
Susan Gantner is half of Partner400, a consulting company focused on education on modern programming and database techniques and tools on the IBM i platform. She is also a founding partner in System i Developer, a consortium of System i educators and hosts of the RPG & DB2 Summit conferences. Susan was a programmer for corporations in Atlanta, Georgia, before joining IBM. During her IBM career, she worked in both the Rochester and Toronto labs, providing technical support and education for application developers. Susan left IBM in 1999 to devote more time to teaching and consulting. Together with Jon Paris, she now runs Partner400, and appears regularly at many technical conferences, including System i Developer’s RPG & DB2 Summit. Send your questions or comments for Susan to Ted Holt via the IT Jungle Contact page.