IBM Teaches ACS New Tricks
November 8, 2017 Alex Woodie
Last month’s Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.2 and 7.3 brought a number of enhancements to the operating system and the database. But one should not overlook the new stuff coming to IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS), including changes to the 5250 emulator, extensions for database access, and security enhancements.
ACS, in case you forgot, is the new go-to client interface that administrators, developers, engineers, and power users alike can use for handling a range of IBM i tasks. The Java-based product, which IBM unveiled back in August 2012, bundles a bunch of useful goodies into a single product, including a 5250 emulator, 5250 printer emulation, data transfer capabilities, IFS file viewing, spool file management, and a virtual console for LAN and HMC management.
IBM bolstered ACS with the October announcements that were centered around IBM i 7.2 TR7 and IBM i 7.3 TR3. Big Blue says it added “many requested updates and enhancements” from the IBM i user community with ACS version 126.96.36.199.
Some of the big changes revolve around security. For starters, IBM says it has added an option to disable end users from being able to accept “trusted” signers. There is also an option to enable SSL by default (and presumably this extends to SSL’s replacement, TLS, as well). Users working from the 5250 shell also get a new option to check for updates.
This release also brings a new SSH client emulator, which should boost the security of clients working in industries where Secure Shell (SSH) encryption has already become a standard. If customers already have an SSH client installed on their computers, ACS will automatically detect it and use it.
The 5250 emulator has been enhanced to allow customers to store an unlimited number of screens in its Screen History repository. A number of IBM i customers use Screen History to track each screen that users touch during their ACS session, whether to aid in problem resolution, to capture screens for later documentation, or as part of an audit. In any event, unlimited screen captures will be a boon.
Database access has also been bolstered with this release of ACS. According to IBM, the schemas dialog that it introduced earlier this year has been extended in several ways, including to the capability to view the Database Health Center and the capability to view data and audit journals.
Users will also benefit from new Run SQL Scripts functions, including new “direct launch buttons” that work with built-in examples (the documentation on IBM’s developerWorks site is pretty inarticulate about explaining this specific function, unfortunately). The software also makes it easier to identify which system ACS is talking to by leveraging a big red border, according to IBM.
IBM also says it enhanced its SQL Performance Center component of ACS “to avoid having to cross-launch into Navigator for i.” The database maintenance is “now under Schema in ACS,” which we assume means that IBM has opened the database maintenance section to the same schema management functions that it introduced in February.
Last but not least, this release brings an improvement to the printer output of ACS. IBM says that date and time have been combined into a single column to allow for more accurate sort and filter capability.
IBM actually delivered ACS version 188.8.131.52 back in July, and has since unveiled another new release of the product. The October release of ACS version 184.108.40.206 brings several more enhancements, including a new SSH Terminal, data transfer capabilities, and a variety of enhancements to the schemas and Run SQL Scripts functionalities.
ACS runs across Windows, Linux, and Mac OS environments. For more information and downloads, see www-03.ibm.com/systems/power/software/i/access/solutions.html.