Wanted: Code For IBM i Contributors
April 10, 2023 Alex Woodie
If you have a knack for IBM i development and a passion for open source, then Liam Allan, the creator of the Code for IBM i project, would like a word. That’s because Allan, faced with large demands from his day job at IBM, is seeking help from the IBM i community to develop and maintain the Code for IBM i project.
“Myself and the core team (three other people) are a little overwhelmed by our workload, balancing jobs and maintaining a large project is tough,” Allan wrote in a March 9 blog post on Ryver, the Web-based forum for discussions about IBM i open source software. “I am looking for contributors who would be interested in working on Code for IBM i.”
Allan created Code for IBM i back in 2021 to provide a way for RPG and COBOL programmers to work with Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code (VSCode), the popular Web-based integrated development environment (IDE). The project has been a major success, with nearly 16,000 downloads, according to its Visual Studio Marketplace webpage. It has garnered more than 177 stars and has 32 contributors, according to its GitHub page.
Allan released the VSCode plug-in while working as an IBM i consultant at Seiden Group, but most of the ongoing development and maintenance of the project has been done through Halcyon Tech, a software company Allan founded with several other colleagues. Halcyon initially focused on ILEditor, a lightweight IDE created by Allan that preceded Code for IBM i, but today Halcyon is devoted to Code for IBM i.
After leaving Seiden Group, Allan took a job with IBM in 2022, and joined the IBM i development team. The hiring of the prominent young IBM i programmer – who has never shied away from sharing his dislike of IBM’s main IDE for the platform, Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi) – was made as part of IBM’s commitment “to be more adaptable to the current marketplace,” IBM i chief architect Steve Will said.
While IBM considered incorporating Code for IBM i into its modernization initiatives, it didn’t hire Allan to get Code for IBM i, Will said. With Allan’s plea for help with Code for IBM i, it would seem that IBM has gone a different direction.
That direction would appear to be Merlin, the alternative Web-based IDE that IBM launched in 2022. Merlin also enables development in ILE languages (RPG, COBOL, CL, C, and C++) and is also based on VSCode. IBM launched Merlin last year without a working debugger, but IBM earlier this year finally unhooked the debugger from Rational Development Studio (RDS) and freed it to work with Merlin.
The newly freed IBM i debugger also works with Code for IBM i. Allan has been calling for IBM to separate the debugger for years to enable his Code for IBM i (and ILEditor customers before that) to be able to debug their ILE code. It’s hard to imagine Allan’s presence within IBM did not help speed that work up.
But the IBM commitments proved to be too great for Allan, who is now seeking more help for the project. Allan says he needs help with Code for IBM i 2.0.0, which a “big release,” that he’s hoping to get out this year. “But we can’t get there alone,” he said in his Ryver post.
Code for IBM i is mostly developed in TypeScript. Contributors would need to be familiar with that language, as well as have a “basic understanding of IBM i,” Allan wrote.
Several folks on the Ryver message board immediately volunteered to help. Allan will continue to help with the project at least through the delivery of Code for IBM i 2.0.0. In any case, he has new projects to work on at IBM.
“As soon as Code for #ibmi 2.0.0 is out and stable, I am just gonna work solely on the Db2 for i database extension because it needs some loving,” Allan wrote last week from his Twitter account, @notesofbarry. “Can’t wait to make it more useful.”
VS Code Is The Full Stack IDE For IBM i
IBM i Debugger Comes to VS Code
Realizing The Promise Of Cross Platform Development With VS Code
Momentum Builds For Code For IBM i
How The Latest TRs Bolster App Dev For IBM i
It would be nice if there is an article on TypeScript and how people can get familiar with it.