RDi On Mac Users Are In For A Big Sur-prise
August 2, 2021 Alex Woodie
IBM i developers who run Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi) on macOS are running into trouble getting the IDE to run on the latest release of macOS Big Sur, version 11.5. However, with patience and perseverance, IBM i developers are finding ways to get it to run. An official fix from IBM has yet to be made.
Reports of problems getting RDi 9.6 to run on Big Sur emerged in June, when users began to post reports on IBM i chat boards, including the new IBM Community site. Users reported problems installing RDi on Big Sur, as well as running the IBM Installation Manager software that IBM uses to install and update certain software components, like RDi.
On June 21, a trouble ticket was issued on the IBM Support page that discussed the problem. The ticket states the problem as follows: “With macOS Big Sur (version 11), there are various issues involved with using, installing, and updating Rational Developer for i 9.6.”
IBM adds: “MacOS Big Sur is not one of the supported platforms for Rational Developer for i 9.6. The issues are being investigated and workarounds will be documented if found. In the meantime, it is not recommended to upgrade to Big Sur as it is likely that the product will not work.”
The ticket offered some guidance to users to get RDi and macOS working together, including downgrading to a previous release of macOS or installing RDi in a virtual machine running a supported release of macOS. It also provided some guidance with regards to IBM Installation Manager: Make sure you str using the latest release, which is version 188.8.131.52, as a minimum.
The current release of RDi, version 9.6, is based on Eclipse 4.6, which was released in May 2016. While IBM has updated RDi several times since then – the most recent coming in February with the release of version 9.6 Fix Pack 10 (or 184.108.40.206) – it is still based on an underlying code base that is five years old.
According to IBM’s software support documentation website, macOS Catalina, or version 10.15, is the minimum level of macOS that RDi 9.6 needs to run. MacOS Catalina 10.15 was released in June 2019, and was succeeded by macOS Big Sur, which was released in November 2020. However, RDi 9.6 was originally designed to run on macOS Sierra 10.12, which was released in beta form in June 2016, around the same time that Eclipse 4.6 was released.
But wait! That’s not the end of the story.
According to IBMer Eric Simpson, it is possible to get RDi 9.6 to run on Big Sur. He suggests performing a “user mode” install to the Mac machine, as opposed to an “admin install.” After restarting Installation Manager, RDi should install, he said.
“This is not officially supported and there are still other issues when running RDi 9.6 on Big Sur,” Simpson writes in the IBM Community message board. “If you are on Big Sur, you can try it if you like. My main point from my earlier post is that one of the Big Sur issues in IM is now fixed.”
Several users reported that Simpson’s approach worked, and that they were able to get RDi 9.6 running on Big Sur. Although errors will pop up, users are instructed to power through them.
IBM Champion Jack Woehr provided this succinct 11-part workaround for RDi users running into this problem:
- Go to IBM Community
- Find a topic about RDi
- Find a link posted by Eric Simpson (because no search on IBM webpage will find this link)
- Download Installation Manager from the link
- Install Installation Manger
- Find Installation Manager hidden in your home directory in a subdir
- Go back to the RDi installation page
- Find the repository link for loading RDi via Installation Manger
- Load RDi and ignore the error messages
- Find RDi hidden in your home directory in a subdir
- Launch the app.
However, this unofficial workaround will not fix all of the problems with RDi 9.6 on Big Sur. Some users report that their plug-ins, such as for IBM i change management products, continue to not work with Big Sur.
IBM i users who want to code using their shiny new MacBooks are understandably frustrated with the lack of support.
“The problem is basically that the underlying Eclipse version used by RDi is about 10 releases behind!” writes IBM Community member and IBM i expert Jon Paris. “While IBM are certainly to blame for this, the RDi team have been fighting to change this for a while — sadly without impact to date. As a result RDi will _not_ install on Big Sur and has problems even on Catalina.”
Some IBM i community members took this as an opportunity to bash RDi, which is IBM’s official IDE for modern development using RPG, COBOL, and other languages, but which is also viewed by some as an overweight, bloated program that runs slowly and is expensive to boot.
“This is the main reason why I created this RFE,” one user wrote, linking to an official Request For Enhancement he submitted to IBM to create a Visual Studio Code extension for RPG. “I think that Visual Studio Code can be a solution.”
Added Woehr: “Obviously it’s time to open source RDi.”