Information Technology

How to Learn Computer Science

Learn Computer Science

Learn ProgrammingI noticed an interesting article about Learning Computer Science written by Ozan Onay and Myles Byrne, instructors at the Bradfield School of Computer Science in San Francisco and I have re-published it below for your convenience.

 

Teach Yourself Computer Science

If you’re a self-taught engineer or bootcamp grad, you owe it to yourself to learn computer science. Thankfully, you can give yourself a world-class CS education without investing years and a small fortune in a degree program ????.

There are plenty of resources out there, but some are better than others. You don’t need yet another “200+ Free Online Courses” listicle. You need answers to these questions:

  • Which subjects should you learn, and why?
  • What is the best book or video lecture series for each subject?

This guide is our attempt to definitively answer these questions.

TL;DR:

Study all nine subjects below, in roughly the presented order, using either the suggested textbook or video lecture series, but ideally both. Aim for 100-200 hours of study of each topic, then revist favorites throughout your career ????.

Subject Why study? Best book Best videos
Programming Don’t be the person who “never quite understood” something like recursion. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs Brian Harvey’s Berkeley CS 61A
Computer Architecture If you don’t have a solid mental model of how a computer actually works, all of your higher-level abstractions will be brittle. Computer Organization and Design Berkeley CS 61C
Algorithms and Data Structures If you don’t know how to use ubiquitous data structures like stacks, queues, trees, and graphs, you won’t be able to solve hard problems. The Algorithm Design Manual Steven Skiena’s lectures
Math for CS CS is basically a runaway branch of applied math, so learning math will give you a competitive advantage. Mathematics for Computer Science Tom Leighton’s MIT 6.042J
Operating Systems Most of the code you write is run by an operating system, so you should know how those interact. Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces Berkeley CS 162
Computer Networking The Internet turned out to be a big deal: understand how it works to unlock its full potential. Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach Stanford CS 144
Databases Data is at the heart of most significant programs, but few understand how database systems actually work. Readings in Database Systems Joe Hellerstein’s Berkeley CS 186
Languages and Compilers If you understand how languages and compilers actually work, you’ll write better code and learn new languages more easily. Compilers: Principles, Techniques and Tools Alex Aiken’s course on Lagunita
Distributed Systems These days, most systems are distributed systems. Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms ?????

Why learn computer science?

There are 2 types of software engineer: those who understand computer science well enough to do challenging, innovative work, and those who just get by because they’re familiar with a few high level tools.

Both call themselves software engineers, and both tend to earn similar salaries in their early careers. But Type 1 engineers grow in to more fullfilling and well-remunerated work over time, whether that’s valuable commercial work or breakthrough open-source projects, technical leadership or high-quality individual contributions.

Type 1 engineers find ways to learn computer science in depth, whether through conventional means or by relentlessly learning throughout their careers. Type 2 engineers typically stay at the surface, learning specific tools and technologies rather than their underlying foundations, only picking up new skills when the winds of technical fashion change.

Currently, the number of people entering the industry is rapidly increasing, while the number of CS grads is essentially static. This oversupply of Type 2 engineers is starting to reduce their employment opportunities and keep them out of the industry’s more fulfilling work. Whether you’re striving to become a Type 1 engineer or simply looking for more job security, learning computer science is the only reliable path.

Subject guides

Programming

Most undergraduate CS programs start with an “introduction” to computer programming. The best versions of these courses cater not just to novices, but also to those who missed beneficial concepts and programming models while first learning to code.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
Our standard recommendation for this content is the classic Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which is available online for free both as
a book, and as a set of MIT video lectures. While those lectures are great, our video suggestion is actually Brian Harvey’s SICP lectures (for the 61A course at Berkeley) instead. These are more refined and better targeted at new students than are the MIT lectures.

We recommend working through at least the first three chapters of SICP and doing the exercises. For additional practice, work through a set of small programming problems like those on exercism.

For those who find SICP too challenging, we recommend How to Design Programs. For those who find it too easy, we recommend Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming.

Computer Architecture

Computer Architecture—sometimes called “computer systems” or “computer organization”—is an important first look at computing below the surface of software. In our experience, it’s the most neglected area among self-taught software engineers.

The Elements of Computing Systems, also known as “Nand2Tetris” is an ambitious book attempting to give you a cohesive understanding of how everything in a computer works. Each chapter involves building a small piece of the overall system, from writing elementary logic gates in HDL, through a CPU and assembler, all the way to an application the size of a Tetris game.

Elements of Computing Systems

We recommend reading through the first six chapters of the book and completing the associated projects. This will develop your understanding of the relationship between the architecture of the machine and the software that runs on it.

The first half of the book (and all of its projects), are available for free from the Nand2Tetris website. It’s also available as a Coursera course with accompanying videos.

In seeking simplicity and cohesiveness, Nand2Tetris trades off depth. In particular, two very important concepts in modern computer architectures are pipelining and memory hierarchy, but both are mostly absent from the text.

Once you feel comfortable with the content of Nand2Tetris, our next suggestion is Patterson and Hennesy’s Computer Organization and Design, an excellent and now classic text. Not every section in the book is essential; we suggest following Berkeley’s CS61C course “Great Ideas in Computer Architecture” for specific readings. The lecture notes and labs are available online, and past lectures are on YouTube.

Algorithms and Data Structures

We agree with decades of common wisdom that familiarity with common algorithms and data structures is one of the most empowering aspects of a computer science education. This is also a great place to train one’s general problem-solving abilities, which will pay off in every other area of study.

There are hundreds of books available, but our favorite is The Algorithm Design Manual by Steven Skiena. He clearly loves this stuff and can’t wait to help you understand it. This is a refreshing change, in our opinion, from the more commonly recommended Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest & Stein, or Sedgewick books. These last two texts tend to be too proof-heavy for those learning the material primarily to help them solve problems.

For those who prefer video lectures, Skiena generously provides his online. We also really like Tim Roughgarden’s course, available from Stanford’s MOOC platform Lagunita, or in two parts (one and two) from Coursera. Whether you prefer Skiena’s or Roughgarden’s lecture style will be a matter of personal preference.

For practice, our preferred approach is for students to solve problems on Leetcode. These tend to be interesting problems with decent accompanying solutions and discussions. They also help you test progress against questions that are commonly used in technical interviews at the more competitive software companies. We suggest solving around 100 random leetcode problems as part of your studies.

Finally, we strongly recommend How to Solve It as an excellent and unique guide to general problem solving; it’s as applicable to computer science as it is to mathematics.

The Algorithm Design Manual How to Solve It

I have only one method that I recommend extensively—it’s called think before you write.

— Richard Hamming

Mathematics for Computer Science

In some ways, computer science is an overgrown branch of applied mathematics. While many software engineers try—and to varying degrees succeed—at ignoring this, we encourage you to embrace it with direct study. Doing so successfully will give you an enormous competitive advantage over those who don’t.

The most relevant area of math for CS is broadly called “discrete mathematics”, where “discrete” is the opposite of “continuous” and is loosely a collection of interesting applied math topics outside of calculus. Given the vague definition, it’s not meaningful to try to cover the entire breadth of “discrete mathematics”. A more realistic goal is to build a working understanding of logic, combinatorics and probability, set theory, graph theory, and a little of the number theory informing cryptography. Linear algebra is an additional worthwhile area of study, given its importance in computer graphics and machine learning.

Our suggested starting point for discrete mathematics is the set of lecture notes by László Lovász. Professor Lovász did a good job of making the content approachable and intuitive, so this serves as a better starting point than more formal texts.

For a more advanced treatment, we suggest Mathematics for Computer Science, the book-length lecture notes for the MIT course of the same name. That course’s video lectures are also freely available, and are our recommended video lectures for discrete math.

For linear algebra, we suggest starting with the Essence of linear algebra video series, followed by Gilbert Strang’s book and video lectures.

If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.

— John von Neumann

Operating Systems

Operating System Concepts (the “Dinosaur book”) and Modern Operating Systems are the “classic” books on operating systems. Both have attracted criticism for their writing styles, and for being the 1000-page-long type of textbook that gets bits bolted onto it every few years to encourage purchasing of the “latest edition”.

Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces
Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces is a good alternative that’s freely available online. We particularly like the structure of the book and feel that the exercises are well worth doing.

After OSTEP, we encourage you to explore the design decisions of specific operating systems, through “{OS name} Internals” style books such as Lion’s commentary on Unix, The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System, and Mac OS X Internals.

A great way to consolidate your understanding of operating systems is to read the code of a small kernel and add features. A great choice is xv6, a port of Unix V6 to ANSI C and x86 maintained for a course at MIT. OSTEP has an appendix of potential xv6 labs full of great ideas for potential projects.

Computer Networking

Given that so much of software engineering is on web servers and clients, one of the most immediately valuable areas of computer science is computer networking. Our self-taught students who methodically study networking find that they finally understand terms, concepts and protocols they’d been surrounded by for years.

Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach

Our favorite book on the topic is Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach. The small projects and exercises in the book are well worth doing, and we particularly like the “Wireshark labs”, which they have generously provided online.

For those who prefer video lectures, we suggest searching for Stanford’s CS144 Introduction to Computer Networking course. At time of writing, they have been removed from Coursera, but are still available on Youtube.

The study of networking benefits more from projects than it does from small exercises. Some possible projects are: an HTTP server, a UDP-based chat app, a mini TCP stack, a proxy or load balancer, and a distributed hash table.

Databases

It takes more work to self-learn about database systems than it does with most other topics. It’s a relatively new (i.e. post 1970s) field of study with strong commercial incentives for ideas to stay behind closed doors. Additionally, many potentially excellent textbook authors have preferred to join or start companies instead.

Given the circumstances, we encourage self-learners to generally avoid textbooks and start with the Spring 2015 recording of CS 186, Joe Hellerstein’s databases course at Berkeley, and to progress to reading papers after.

One paper particularly worth mentioning for new students is “Architecture of a Database System”, which uniquely provides a high-level view of how relational database management systems (RDBMS) work. This will serve as a useful skeleton for further study.

Readings in Database Systems, better known as the databases “Red Book”, is a collection of papers compiled and edited by Peter Bailis, Joe Hellerstein and Michael Stonebreaker. For those who have progressed beyond the level of the CS 186 content, the Red Book should be your next stop.

If you insist on using an introductory textbook, we suggest Database Management Systems by Ramakrishnan and Gehrke. For more advanced students, Jim Gray’s classic Transaction Processing: Concepts and Techniques is worthwhile, but we don’t encourage using this as a first resource.

It’s hard to consolidate databases theory without writing a good amount of code. CS 186 students add features to Spark, which is a reasonable project, but we suggest just writing a simple relational database management system from scratch. It will not be feature rich, of course, but even writing the most rudimentary version of every aspect of a typical RDBMS will be illuminating.

Finally, data modeling is a neglected and poorly taught aspect of working with databases. Our suggested book on the topic is Data and Reality: A Timeless Perspective on Perceiving and Managing Information in Our Imprecise World.

Languages and Compilers

Most programmers learn languages, whereas most computer scientists learn about languages. This gives the computer scientist a distinct advantage over the programmer, even in the domain of programming! Their knowledge generalizes; they are able to understand the operation of a new language more deeply and quickly than those who have merely learnt specific languages.

The canonical introductory text is Compilers: Principles, Techniques & Tools, commonly called “the Dragon Book”. Unfortunately, it’s not designed for self-study, but rather for instructors to pick out 1-2 semesters worth of topics for their courses. It’s almost essential then, that you cherrypick the topics, ideally with the help of a mentor.

If you choose to use the Dragon Book for self-study, we recommend following a video lecture series for structure, then dipping into the Dragon Book as needed for more depth. Our recommended online course is Alex Aiken’s, available from Stanford’s MOOC platform Lagunita.

As a potential alternative to the Dragon Book we suggest Language Implementation Patterns by Terence Parr. It is written more directly for the practicing software engineer who intends to work on small language projects like DSLs, which may make it more practical for your purposes. Of course, it sacrifices some valuable theory to do so.

For project work, we suggest writing a compiler either for a simple teaching language like COOL, or for a subset of a language that interests you. Those who find such a project daunting could start with Make a Lisp, which steps you through the project.

Compilers: Principles, Techniques & Tools Language Implementation Patterns

Don’t be a boilerplate programmer. Instead, build tools for users and other programmers. Take historical note of textile and steel industries: do you want to build machines and tools, or do you want to operate those machines?

— Ras Bodik at the start of his compilers course

Distributed Systems

As computers have increased in number, they have also spread. Whereas businesses would previously purchase larger and larger mainframes, it’s typical now for even very small applications to run across multiple machines. Distributed systems is the study of how to reason about the tradeoffs involved in doing so, an increasingly important skill.

Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms
Our suggested textbook for self-study is Andrew Tanenbaum’s Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms. It’s over 10 years old now, so you should not expect it to be a field guide to modern practices so much as an adequate overview of well-established foundations. Thankfully, most modern practices are just a sound application of well-established foundations, and the shortfall can be made up for with a few papers.

Unfortunately, we have not found any video lectures or other online courseware that is both good and comprehensive. The best of what we have found is MIT’s 6.824 course (a graduate course), but unfortunately the audio quality in the recordings is poor, and it’s not clear if the recordings were authorized.

No matter the choice of textbook or other secondary resources, study of distributed systems absolutely mandates reading papers. A good list is here, and we would highly encourage attending your local Papers We Love chapter.

Frequently asked questions

What about AI/graphics/pet-topic-X?

We’ve tried to limit our list to computer science topics that we feel every practicing software engineer should know, irrespective of specialty or industry. With this foundation, you’ll be in a much better position to pick up textbooks or papers and learn the core concepts without much guidance. Here are our suggested starting points for a couple of common “electives”:

  • For artificial intelligence: do Berkeley’s intro to AI course by watching the videos and completing the excellent Pacman projects. As a textbook, use Russell and Norvig’s Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach.
  • For machine learning: do Andrew Ng’s Coursera course. Be patient, and make sure you understand the fundamentals before racing off to shiny new topics like deep learning.
  • For computer graphics: work through Berkeley’s CS 184 material, and use Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice as a textbook.

How strict is the suggested sequencing?

Realistically, all of these subjects have a significant amount of overlap, and refer to one another cyclically. Take for instance the relationship between discrete math and algorithms: learning math first would help you analyze and understand your algorithms in greater depth, but learning algorithms first would provide greater motivation and context for discrete math. Ideally, you’d revisit both of these topics many times throughout your career.

As such, our suggested sequencing is mostly there to help you just get started… if you have a compelling reason to prefer a different sequence, then go for it. The most significant “pre-requisites” in our opinion are: computer architecture before operating systems or databases, and networking and operating systems before distributed systems.

Who is the target audience for this guide?

We have in mind that you are a self-taught software engineer, bootcamp grad or precocious high school student, or a college student looking to supplement your formal education with some self-study. The question of when to embark upon this journey is an entirely personal one, but most people tend to benefit from having some professional experience before diving too deep into CS theory. For instance, we notice that students love learning about database systems if they have already worked with databases professionally, or about computer networking if they’ve worked on a web project or two.

How does this compare to Open Source Society or freeCodeCamp curricula?

The OSS guide has too many subjects, suggests inferior resources for many of them, and provides no rationale or guidance around why or what aspects of particular courses are valuable. We strove to limit our list of courses to those which you really should know as a software engineer, irrespective of your specialty, and to help you understand why each course is included.

freeCodeCamp is focused mostly on programming, not computer science. For why you might want to learn computer science, see above.

What about language X?

Learning a particular programming language is on a totally different plane to learning about an area of computer science — learning a language is much easier and much less valuable. If you already know a couple of languages, we strongly suggest simply following our guide and fitting language acquisition in the gaps, or leaving it for afterwards. If you’ve learned programming well (such as through Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs), and especially if you have learned compilers, it should take you little more than a weekend to learn the essentials of a new language.

What about trendy technology X?

No single technology is important enough that learning to use it should be a core part of your education. On the other hand, it’s great that you’re excited to learn about that thing. The trick is to work backwards from the particular technology to the underlying field or concept, and learn that in depth before seeing how your trendy technology fits into the bigger picture.

Why are you still recommending the Dragon book?

The Dragon book is still the most complete single resource for compilers. It gets a bad rap, typically for overemphasizing certain topics that are less fashionable to cover in detail these days, such as parsing. The thing is, the book was never intended to be studied cover to cover, only to provide enough material for an instructor to put together a course. Similarly, a self-learner can choose their own adventure through the book, or better yet follow the suggestions that lecturers of public courses have made in their course outlines.

How can I get textbooks cheaply?

Many of the textbooks we suggest are freely available online, thanks to the generosity of their authors. For those that aren’t, we suggest buying used copies of older editions. As a general rule, if there has been more than a couple of editions of a textbook, it’s quite likely that an older edition is perfectly adequate. It’s certainly unlikely that the newest version is 10x better than an older one, even if that’s what the price difference is!

Who made this?

This guide was written by Ozan Onay and Myles Byrne, instructors at the Bradfield School of Computer Science in San Francisco. It is based on our experience teaching foundational computer science to hundreds of mostly self-taught engineers and bootcamp grads. Thank you to all of our students for your continued feedback on self-teaching resources. Thanks too to Alek Sharma, Omar Rayward, Ammar Mian and Tyler Bettilyon for feedback on this guide.

 

References

hello@bradfieldcs.com – San Francisco, California

Amazon UK Page on Computer Science Books

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Posted by Mario1 - 15/03/2017 at 9:57 am

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The IBM i Platform

 IBM i

I noticed an interesting article recently on the IBM i published in the IBM i blog  and I have re-published it below for your convenience

 

IBM i in the modern world

by Alison Butterill

A Video on the IBM i 7.3

References

 

From IBM: IBM i in the Modern World

IBM i 7.3 – The latest IBM i version

 

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Posted by Mario1 - 19/05/2016 at 2:20 pm

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IBM i and Open Source

IBM i and Open Source

E-COMMERCEI recently noticed an interesting presentation made by IBM’s Tim Rowe to the COMMON User Group which discusses the relationships between IBM i and the Open  Source world.

He discusses how open source has added many new languages to traditional languages such as RPG or Cobol and that new applications can benefit from using multiple languages according to the needs of different functions.

IBM i has successfully used in the past very robust applications developed in RPG, but currently you can use also other languages such as Java and PHP that may be more suitable for specific applications,

IBM i and Open Source Video

The presentation has been recorded in a video that you can watch below

Conclusions

Tim Rowe has been a Business Architect Application Developer at IBM for more than 25 years and his presentation is surely an expert one.

References

IBM i and Open Source presentation

DeveloperWorks Open Source development

IBM Systems Magazine – Open Source on IBM i

 

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Posted by Mario1 - 25/11/2015 at 2:22 pm

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The future of the IBM i Platform

The IBM i Platform.

IBM iI recently read an interesting article on the RPGPGM.COM website about the Future of IBM i which discusses an article published by the Swedish publication Data3  about the future of our beloved platform.

They had interviewed developers, technicians, and managers from the he Handelsbanken AB and other companies, asking them about the platform and how RPG compared to other servers and programming languages.

Their conclusions were very positive for both the IBM i and RPG.

I have copied below the original Swedish article

Investigation About the Future of IBM i

Introduction

When the two of us (students at KTH, Royal Institute of Technology) heard “Would you like to do a pre-study about IBM i …” we felt a bit lost. On behalf of Handelsbanken they wanted us, two students on the second year of the program Computer Science and engineering, to conduct a pre-study about one of the oldest platforms at the bank. We had barely heard about System i, RPG or Power. Possibly had we glimpsed an “old-fashioned” green and black screen somewhere, but that was also the only “experience” that we had. Why would we be appropriate for this? But after some research, discussions with people who were very familiar with the platform and especially after interviews with very devoted people, we gained a totally different perspective. You could say that our lack of experience, when it comes to the platform, together with our experience at the university has contributed to a unique analyse and pre-study. Not only do we now realise that IBM i can be very modern, but also that we who are young and (hopefully) soon to be graduates, have a lot to contribute to the platform.

Not only do we now realise that IBM i can be very modern, but also that we who are young and (hopefully) soon to be graduates, have a lot to contribute to the platform.

 

Who are we?

Almost two years ago did we, Victor Wiklund and Veronica Randleff, start at Handelsbanken and theirnew initiative Studentprogrammet. This means that beside our studies at KTH we also work at one of Handelsbanken’s IT-departments as a trainee program throughout our engineering education. We have during our two years at KTH studied a lot of mathematics, programming and technology. But none of us has during this period heard anything about IBM i or RPG. So when we started to work at Handelsbanken’s department for card transactions, in the beginning of February, and was offered to start a pre-study about this, we accepted with some reservation and respect.

We have during our two years at KTH studied a lot of mathematics, programming and technology. But none of us has during this period heard anything about IBM i or RPG.

 

Our assignment

The pre-study was based on a number of purposes and questions to be answered. These were primarily:

  • Map how big IBM i is in Sweden and internationally
  • What future is there for the platform?
  • Which companies, except from Handelsbanken, is investing in IBM i?
  • How can Handelsbanken attract new employees directly from university to System i?

Trying to answer these questions and explore different problem areas for the platform therefore became our focus during spring 2015. In order to do this we conducted a number of interviews with people both from Handelsbanken and other companies. These interviews were conducted with developers, technicians, IT-architects and people with manager roles. They were also structured with some questions which all were aiming to provide a picture that was as nuanced and wide as possible. The questions were e.g. ”What is your background to the platform?”, “How do you look at the future for IBM i?” and “In what ways can staffing be a problem?”. We also looked at different forms of RPG (fixed format, free format and full free format) and compared this to programming languages that we have been taught at KTH, e.g. Java and C. Maybe the most exciting part of the pre-study was the visit to Handelsbanken’s IT-department in London, with purpose on investigating the international differences when it comes to how the platform is used and seen.

We also looked at different forms of RPG (fixed format, free format and full free format) and compared this to programming languages that we have been taught at KTH, e.g. Java and C.

 

People we met

During this spring we have interviewed nearly 20 people from different departments at Handelsbanken and from other companies that in some way work with IBM i, and has because of this got an idea of the platform. We met Mats Lidström from ICE Services who showed there prize winning and modern database and web application. Torbjörn Appehl talked about his background at IBM and showed how it is constantly modernised and upgraded even though it is not advertised. We talked to Thomas Lindqvist about how he is involved in staffing and skills development on the platform. And from all these exciting meetings have we then tried to find the consensus in order to put together this in the pre-study. We have, based on the interviews and our insight in university today, tried to give our opinion about advantages, disadvantages, modernization and recruitment for IBM i.

What we came up with

What we mainly heard on our interviews where how many advantages the platform has. Reliability, stability and handling a very large amount of data were some of these, which most whom work with the platform seems to agree about.

IBM i is also constantly modernised e.g. “full free format RPG”, integrated SQL and development tools such as RDi which is replacing the “green and black”-screens

IBM i is also constantly modernised e.g. “full free format RPG”, integrated SQL and development tools such as RDi which is replacing the “green and black”-screens. Also, modern interfaces and web applications with PHP and Javascript are used more and more. All this leads to our conclusion that graduates or programmers who are not knowledgeable about IBM i, can now recognise more and much easier understand both RPG and the platform itself. As an example, free format RPG was much easier for us, who have studied Java at KTH, to understand than fixed format.

But IBM has not totally left the rumours behind about being “old” and antiquated. There is a general notion that the platform belongs to the past and that it is not a platform to invest in. This is something we heard from a majority of the companies and people we talked to. But that is not necessarily true. As we see it, the platform has become more and more modern and the new format of RPG is easy to learn for graduates. IBM themselves are investing a lot on the platform and has therefore a good belief in the future. These rumours about the platform being old are only slowing down the progress, both for companies and young programmers.

These rumours about the platform being old are only slowing down the progress, both for companies and young programmers.

 

Closure

We have understood that there is a need for more young people at the platform, there is no doubt about it. After this pre-study we believe that it is highly possible to both attract them and to quickly benefit from them. The first thing we have to realise is that you can hire young programmers without long experience. They will be productive and important at work without 20 years of experience of RPG and IBM i. We saw several example of this. It is also important to talk about the platform and its future to attract younger employees. We need to leave the rumours about IBM i as finished.

Spread this understanding and we believe that many new and motivated employees will gather to work with IBM i.

We who are students often got the question during the pre-study: “Would you work with IBM i, is it something that you could see yourselves work with?” In the beginning of the pre-study our answer would have been: “Well, we do not know so much about the platform isn’t it quite old?” Now, afterwards, when we have seen that working on the platform could be modern, that there is a huge demand for new employees, many international possibilities and great believes in the future, we can confidently say: “absolutely!” Spread this understanding and we believe that many new and motivated employees will gather to work with IBM i.

A Video on the IBM i

 

Conclusions

If you want to know more about the IBM i systems, you could read some of the books below:

 

References

How to Learn RPG for the IBM i (AS/400)

IBM i Operating System Evolution

IBM i Modernisation

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Posted by Mario1 - 02/09/2015 at 1:20 pm

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IBM i Modernisation

IBM i Modernisation Strategies

IBM i is a descendant of the IBM AS/400 that has been very successful with many important companies.
IBM i
IBM AS/400 software was developed mainly in RPG and Cobol with data stored in the DB2 database accessed directly by the programming languages or by embedded SQL.

Most of the IBM i shops still use software developed in RPG and Cobol but there is a growing tendency towards applications modernisation,

I found and interesting article in the IT Jungle blog and I have re-published it below for your convenience.

PHP And SQL Driving Modernization Strategies At IBM i Shops, Zend Says

Published: October 20, 2014

by Alex Woodie

A significant percentage of IBM i professionals are adopting technologies like PHP and SQL to boost their modernization strategies, according to a recent survey conducted by Zend. The survey says that 70 percent of IBM i pros are using PHP at their shops. But perhaps more surprising was the finding that 67 percent of respondents said they were using the SQL engine in DB2 for i, nearly twice as many who reported using the old DDL approach.

Zend began the survey at the spring COMMON event and continued it through the summer from the Zend website. All in all, more than 400 IBM i professionals took the survey, which sported just nine questions. The bulk of the questions involved PHP, which is not surprising considering that Zend is “the PHP company.” Of the 416 people who took the survey, about 290 of them say they use PHP in some capacity on their IBM i server.

“That 70 percent really reflects a lot of light users out there, not heavy users,” says Amy Anderson, a longtime IBM Rochester employee who joined Zend earlier this year as director of business development. “As I go to shows and talk to different people, what I hear a lot of is, ‘Yeah we’re doing a little bit with PHP. We have a couple of things going. We’re looking around and playing with it.'”

However, about 45 percent of the survey respondents are heavier users who have five or more PHP applications running, the survey says. It’s not surprising that survey respondents reported that 96 percent of the PHP apps they do have running on IBM i are “business critical” in nature. About 25 percent of the survey respondents reported buying a new system or upgrading their existing ones to support the new PHP apps.

The fact that PHP is driving hardware revenue for IBM does not surprise Anderson. “We talk to customers all the time who say they bought a new machine or did an upgrade,” she says. “And almost invariably, it’s a PHP application that’s talking to RPG. So it’s the integration of PHP and RPG running IBM i that really becomes an integral part of the business function.”

The database portion of the survey brought some surprises. For starters, 43 percent say they’re running MySQL, the open source relational database from Oracle that is just the second database officially supported by IBM on the platform. While Oracle ceased developing MySQL running on IBM i a few years ago, Zend works with a company called Percona to do the work of ensuring MySQL continues to run on IBM i.

But even more surprising is the fact that 67 percent of survey respondents say they’re running SQL with DB2 for i, and only 37 percent say they’re using the older DDL query engine that was originally developed for RPG (survey respondents could choose multiple databases). That tells Anderson, a database expert, that IBM i shops are getting serious about modernization.

“So often you hear people say ‘Oh IBM i customers, you can’t even get them over to SQL. They’re not there yet,'” she says. “We’re seeing that they are. And not only are they using DB2 for i, but also using MySQL, and comfortably.”

Anderson, who still lives and works in Rochester, says she’s very pleased to see that the customer base is moving forward with database modernization. “We know there’s still a preponderance of RPG. So that tells us people are using RPG, they no doubt have some DDL tucked away into those RPG applications,” she says.

“But they’re moving to SQL and finding that SQL works just beautifully with RPG, and it gives you this access into newer applications, modernized applications,” she continues. “That’s really your first step in modernization, and to see this uptake on both SQL and MySQL really speaks highly of the IBM i community, that it is moving into modernization, that it is continuing to be vibrant community of people who are staying on the cutting edge.”

Getting applications accessible from a Web browser continue to be a major focus of IBM i shops, and a goal for modernization efforts. But increasingly, IBM i shops are also looking to support mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Anderson says customers that take a strategic approach to modernizing that starts with the core database layer and then moves up the stack will be more successful in supporting whatever devices come next than those customers who are looking for a “quick fix.”

“My core competency is around database technologies, and I really see moving from a traditional file system to a SQL method of data access as being your first step in modernizing,” she says. “You gotta do that first because you can’t get to Web interfaces and mobile interfaces if you’re not using SQL as your data access method. The fact that we’re really seeing users embrace SQL says that people are really moving down this path of modernization.”

Zend is gearing up for its annual user conference next week, when it’s expected to unveil new releases of its tools. Look for news about those announcements in future issues of Four Hundred Stuff. In the meantime, you can read more about Zend’s survey on the Zend blog

Note

 IBM AS/400 Software Downloads

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Posted by Mario1 - 26/10/2014 at 2:01 pm

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IBM i Market Considerations

IBM i Market

 

I recently noticed an interesting article on the ITJungle website about the IBM i Market and I have re-published it below for your convenience.

 

 Where Have All The IBM i ISVs Gone?

Published: September 22, 2014

by Alex Woodie

CobolCourse IBM iAmerican-style capitalism is a rough-and-tumble sport where new markets and businesses are seemingly created out of thin air, and disappear just as easily. The IBM‘s midrange marketplace, as a whole, has been remarkably resilient to change. But the list of vendors that have gone out of business or been acquired is long and getting longer every year, and today we’re likely down to fewer than 1,000 vendors.

There usually isn’t a lot of fanfare when a company goes out of business. No press releases are issued after the money has run out, and CEOs aren’t eager to get on the phone with journalists to discuss the gory details. Instead, the presence of “404 errors” in a Web browser may be the best indication that a previously viable company has ceased being an ongoing entity.

In the IBM i world, the population of resellers, consultants, and software vendors has consistently shrunk since 2000, when the market was at its zenith. At that time, the AS/400 drove more than $4 billion in sales for IBM and supported a healthy ecosystem of business partners. Big Blue no longer breaks out IBM i-on-Power-Systems sales figures, of course, so that metric no longer provides an accurate view on how healthy the market is. For comparisons’ sake, the entire Systems and Technology Group sells about $10 billion worth of hardware per year. That includes not only IBM i-on-Power-Systems, but also AIX-, and Linux-based Power Systems sales, System x servers (until that business is sold to Lenovo), and System z mainframes.

While IBM’s revenue from the IBM i marketplace is undoubtedly well below half what it was in the mid-to-late 1990s, the population of IBM i customers is, by most estimates, about half what it was. The AS/400 installed base probably maxed out at around 275,000 shops worldwide in 2000. Two years ago, Power Systems general manager Collin Parris said there were “over 150,000” organizations still using IBM i servers and its processors. The obvious conclusion of these two facts is that the IBM i installed base runs a lot of old hardware.

The installed base runs a lot of old software too, which is why IBM i software companies have had a rough time lately. The industry consolidation that began more than 10 years ago following Y2K and the dot-com bubble burst never really let up, and has continued right through the Great Recession and into the present day.

Over the past several years, private equity investors have led the charge to consolidate software vendors in stable-to-shrinking industries, such as the IBM i software market. Hence you see firms such as Audax Group, Golden Gate Capital Partners, and Candescent Partners–which have stakes in HelpSystems, Infor, and Quadrant Software, respectively–driving consolidation in the IBM i market.

Lately, HelpSystems has been the most active consolidator in the IBM i software space. In just the last month, it snapped up two formerly independent IBM i ISVs, including Coglin Mill and RJS Software Systems. Those buys add to a list of acquisitions that was already quite long and included Advanced Systems Concepts, Bytware, CCSS, PowerTech, Safestone Technologies, and ShowCase. Infor, which is the fourth or fifth largest provider of enterprise software, owns the biggest collection of IBM i-based ERP application software, including names such as Daly Wolcott, Lawson, Infinium, MAPICS, SSA, and System 21.

The consolidation of these previously separate organizations under private equity-backed umbrella groups may bring a tinge of sadness for those who are nostalgic for the AS/400’s heyday. But keep in mind that, while the original founders and developers have mostly moved on, the products continue to be sold, even if some of their new owners aren’t developing functionality as quickly as before. They are the survivors. There’s a long list of companies and products that basically disappeared off the face of the earth.

So who’s left? That’s a good question. At one point, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, IBM used to boast about the AS/400 having over 20,000 applications and 8,000 ISVs. By 2005, the number of ISVs had shrunk considerably, down to about 2,500 to 2,600 companies worldwide, a number we got from IBM’s then director of iSeries ecosystem development, Joyce Bordash, who told IT Jungle that the number of iSeries ISVs (remember, IBM i was called iSeries back then) had remained stable for several years.

One way to gauge the size of the IBM i ISV community is to see who’s participating in the rebate program that IBM uses as an incentive to get customers to buy new hardware. According to the latest iteration of the rebate program, which IBM detailed in this May 7, 2013 announcement letter, there were 131 ISVs active in the Power Systems rebate program. The rebate terms that are outlined in that 2013 announcement are still active.

Before you hang your hat on that lowly number 131, however, let’s take a closer look at it. Many of the most prominent IBM i ISVs are indeed represented here, including JD Edwards (via Oracle), Vision Solutions, TMW Systems, LANSA, Jack Henry, Manhattan Associates, Maxava, VAI, and Kronos, to name but a few. But there are clearly a lot of AIX and Linux vendors here too. Dassault makes great product lifecycle management (PLM) software, but it does not run on IBM i, and neither does the analytics software from the storied SAS Institute.

There are also a fair number of prominent IBM i ISVs that are not on the May 7 2013 rebate announcement (apparently because they’re not participating in the rebate program), including the aforementioned HelpSystems and Quadrant Software organizations. Two of the IBM i community’s most visible tools developers, Linoma Software and ProData Computer Services, are not on that list. Neither are ASNA, Profound Logic, nor looksoftware, which was recently gobbled up by Fresche Legacy (also not on the list).

To get a better idea of the state of the IBM i ISV community, we head toward the Global Solutions Directory, where ISVs are free to post their own listings on IBM’s searchable website. Currently, the GSD shows about 2,000 applications available for IBM i, which includes all levels of “i/OS,” i5/OS, and OS/400 going back to V5R4. Because ISVs are allowed to make create an entry for each product, the actual number of individual ISVs (based on a sample of the data) is less than 50 percent, or fewer than 1,000 ISVs.

One thousand vendors is probably closer to the actual truth. It’s not a great number, considering there were about 8,000 ISVs at the turn of the century and about 2,500 five years later. The numbers have continued to shrink. Some of that is through M&A activity, but some of it also is through attrition and the intense competitive forces now working their way through the market.

 

American-style capitalism is a rough-and-tumble sport where new markets and businesses are seemingly created out of thin air, and disappear just as easily. The IBM‘s midrange marketplace, as a whole, has been remarkably resilient to change. But the list of vendors that have gone out of business or been acquired is long and getting longer every year, and today we’re likely down to fewer than 1,000 vendors.

There usually isn’t a lot of fanfare when a company goes out of business. No press releases are issued after the money has run out, and CEOs aren’t eager to get on the phone with journalists to discuss the gory details. Instead, the presence of “404 errors” in a Web browser may be the best indication that a previously viable company has ceased being an ongoing entity.

In the IBM i world, the population of resellers, consultants, and software vendors has consistently shrunk since 2000, when the market was at its zenith. At that time, the AS/400 drove more than $4 billion in sales for IBM and supported a healthy ecosystem of business partners. Big Blue no longer breaks out IBM i-on-Power-Systems sales figures, of course, so that metric no longer provides an accurate view on how healthy the market is. For comparisons’ sake, the entire Systems and Technology Group sells about $10 billion worth of hardware per year. That includes not only IBM i-on-Power-Systems, but also AIX-, and Linux-based Power Systems sales, System x servers (until that business is sold to Lenovo), and System z mainframes.

While IBM’s revenue from the IBM i marketplace is undoubtedly well below half what it was in the mid-to-late 1990s, the population of IBM i customers is, by most estimates, about half what it was. The AS/400 installed base probably maxed out at around 275,000 shops worldwide in 2000. Two years ago, Power Systems general manager Collin Parris said there were “over 150,000” organizations still using IBM i servers and its processors. The obvious conclusion of these two facts is that the IBM i installed base runs a lot of old hardware.

The installed base runs a lot of old software too, which is why IBM i software companies have had a rough time lately. The industry consolidation that began more than 10 years ago following Y2K and the dot-com bubble burst never really let up, and has continued right through the Great Recession and into the present day.

Over the past several years, private equity investors have led the charge to consolidate software vendors in stable-to-shrinking industries, such as the IBM i software market. Hence you see firms such as Audax Group, Golden Gate Capital Partners, and Candescent Partners–which have stakes in HelpSystems, Infor, and Quadrant Software, respectively–driving consolidation in the IBM i market.

Lately, HelpSystems has been the most active consolidator in the IBM i software space. In just the last month, it snapped up two formerly independent IBM i ISVs, including Coglin Mill and RJS Software Systems. Those buys add to a list of acquisitions that was already quite long and included Advanced Systems Concepts, Bytware, CCSS, PowerTech, Safestone Technologies, and ShowCase. Infor, which is the fourth or fifth largest provider of enterprise software, owns the biggest collection of IBM i-based ERP application software, including names such as Daly Wolcott, Lawson, Infinium, MAPICS, SSA, and System 21.

The consolidation of these previously separate organizations under private equity-backed umbrella groups may bring a tinge of sadness for those who are nostalgic for the AS/400’s heyday. But keep in mind that, while the original founders and developers have mostly moved on, the products continue to be sold, even if some of their new owners aren’t developing functionality as quickly as before. They are the survivors. There’s a long list of companies and products that basically disappeared off the face of the earth.

So who’s left? That’s a good question. At one point, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, IBM used to boast about the AS/400 having over 20,000 applications and 8,000 ISVs. By 2005, the number of ISVs had shrunk considerably, down to about 2,500 to 2,600 companies worldwide, a number we got from IBM’s then director of iSeries ecosystem development, Joyce Bordash, who told IT Jungle that the number of iSeries ISVs (remember, IBM i was called iSeries back then) had remained stable for several years.

One way to gauge the size of the IBM i ISV community is to see who’s participating in the rebate program that IBM uses as an incentive to get customers to buy new hardware. According to the latest iteration of the rebate program, which IBM detailed in this May 7, 2013 announcement letter, there were 131 ISVs active in the Power Systems rebate program. The rebate terms that are outlined in that 2013 announcement are still active.

Before you hang your hat on that lowly number 131, however, let’s take a closer look at it. Many of the most prominent IBM i ISVs are indeed represented here, including JD Edwards (via Oracle), Vision Solutions, TMW Systems, LANSA, Jack Henry, Manhattan Associates, Maxava, VAI, and Kronos, to name but a few. But there are clearly a lot of AIX and Linux vendors here too. Dassault makes great product lifecycle management (PLM) software, but it does not run on IBM i, and neither does the analytics software from the storied SAS Institute.

There are also a fair number of prominent IBM i ISVs that are not on the May 7 2013 rebate announcement (apparently because they’re not participating in the rebate program), including the aforementioned HelpSystems and Quadrant Software organizations. Two of the IBM i community’s most visible tools developers, Linoma Software and ProData Computer Services, are not on that list. Neither are ASNA, Profound Logic, nor looksoftware, which was recently gobbled up by Fresche Legacy (also not on the list).

To get a better idea of the state of the IBM i ISV community, we head toward the Global Solutions Directory, where ISVs are free to post their own listings on IBM’s searchable website. Currently, the GSD shows about 2,000 applications available for IBM i, which includes all levels of “i/OS,” i5/OS, and OS/400 going back to V5R4. Because ISVs are allowed to make create an entry for each product, the actual number of individual ISVs (based on a sample of the data) is less than 50 percent, or fewer than 1,000 ISVs.

One thousand vendors is probably closer to the actual truth. It’s not a great number, considering there were about 8,000 ISVs at the turn of the century and about 2,500 five years later. The numbers have continued to shrink. Some of that is through M&A activity, but some of it also is through attrition and the intense competitive forces now working their way through the market.

 

 

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Posted by Mario1 - 22/09/2014 at 2:21 pm

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IBM Low Cost Maiframes

IBM Low Cost Maiframes

English: IBM's Watson computer, Yorktown Heigh...

English: IBM’s Watson computer, Yorktown Heights, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently read an interesting article on the SearchDataCenter website about the latest IBM Low Cost Maiframes with lower price point and a redoubled focus on Linux workloads. I have re-published it below for your convenience.

IBM mainframes reinvigorated at lower price for cloud apps, data analytics

Whatever fortunes lie ahead for the mainframe, you have to admire IBM’s dogged determination to keep those systems relevant to corporate computing in the modern era.

In late July, the company introduced the latest inheritor of its almost 50-year-old line: a lower-end machine called the zEnterprise BC12. The new system has a starting price of just $75,000, is targeted at red-hot application markets — such as cloud computing and data analytics – and is equipped with improved engines to run Linux workloads faster, the open source operating system that has fueled much of the mainframe’s recent growth spurt.

Surprisingly, in its call to financial analysts last week, IBM reported that second quarter revenues from its System Z mainframes grew by 10% compared to the same quarter last year. Revenues from its other server platforms, including its Power Systems and Intel-based System X lines, fell 25% and 11% respectively.

Some analysts aren’t completely surprised by the System Z’s mini-resurgence, given IBM’s attempts to make the line more relevant to younger administrators through tighter connections to Linux and the open source community.

“IBM has done a good job making sure Linux [on its mainframes] supports Web workloads and cloud computing,” said Jean Bozman, research vice president with IDC’s Enterprise Platforms practice. “But from a more human standpoint, IBM has kept mainframes up to date among younger people who want to deploy an enterprise Linux server.”

The system’s lower price point, coupled with the redoubled focus on Linux, could also bring new appeal to smaller IT shops that had been priced out of the mainframe market. It will also help IBM compete in emerging markets such as Africa where local programming and management talent are more Linux-oriented, Bozman said.

Despite the arrival of lower-cost models and the company’s marketing efforts to dress up the venerable system to blend in with the modern computing era, many remain skeptical about its price-performance viability, given the competitive alternatives.

“Cost is a huge impediment to mainframes,” said Robert Crawford, an operations architect who oversees the mainframe strategy for a large insurance company in south Texas. “IBM will talk about the better reliability and security they have built in, and that is true, but everyone is so budget-conscious since the economic downturn [that] they are willing to go with cheaper alternatives even when they know they aren’t as good.”

Gary Crook, president and CEO of Heirloom Computing Inc., specializes in converting mainframe applications so they work on more contemporary systems. He agreed that the economic downturn has bumped the mainframe out of some IT purchasing conversations. This doesn’t diminish the value mainframes could still play in heterogeneous IT environments, he added.

“IBM mainframes aren’t in the forefront of most people’s minds. But if you took it out of mainstream, then pretty much everything else stops working,” Crook said. “All financial and insurance institutions depend on these large, complex [mainframe] systems. There’s a huge amount of value in them because of the applications they run.”

Generally, there has been some migration off mainframes, which, in some cases, is a good thing, according to Crook. But with many large enterprises housing mainframes for decades, migrating workloads onto modern, distributed platforms can be technically challenging and chocked with risk. It is hardly an all-or-nothing proposition that is better considered on an application-by-application basis.

There’s an analysis that must be done for any migration. Some companies have a payroll-processing app they can move over to a contemporary system without too much risk. But they need a proof of concept in order to get comfortable with the notion that they could actually turn the mainframe off at some point,” Crook said.

An increasing number of IT shops are looking to break from their mainframe bonds, said Ron Langer, a sales director with Tallahassee, Fla.-based Asysco, a company that has been in the mainframe migration business for over 30 years. He cited the overall costs associated with buying and supporting the systems, along with the increasing difficulty of finding administrators and managers with the proper skill set.

Only 3.1% of respondents to TechTarget’s 2013 data center survey said they have deployed IBM’s z/OS mainframe operating system to run mission-critical applications in the datacenter. However, 7.7% said they used mainframes to operate Linux-based workloads in their environments. Only 4.1% of respondents said they have a z/OS operating system installed in their data centers.

As a whole generation of mainframe IT veterans retire, or are close to it, finding properly trained younger replacements is difficult because many universities have dropped courses in a number of mainframe-related technologies. Langer put it bluntly: “No one is looking for Cobol programmers these days.

“I have a programmer friend with a lot of experience with both C# and Cobol. When he put Cobol on his resume, no one looked at. When he added C#, all of a sudden he started getting tons of hits,” Langer said.

IDC’s Bozman countered this view, saying IBM has spent generously on helping establish university programs through partnerships with business organizations to stimulate interest in mainframe technologies. “Using Linux as a hook will help a great deal in getting younger people to engage,” she said.

IBM several years ago launched an academic initiative designed to address the mainframe needs of companies by getting universities to start programs that would produce students with the skills needed to develop and administer mainframes. IBM now has an affiliation with 1,070 universities in 90 countries, helping them create curriculums for building mainframe skills, according to Doug Balog, general manager of System z.

 

 

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Posted by Mario1 - 09/08/2013 at 2:23 pm

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IBM i Longevity Reasons

IBM i Longevity Reasons

I noticed an interesting article on the iProDeveloper website that explains the IBM i Longevity Reasons and I have re-published it below for your convenience.

Top 5 Reasons the IBM i is Still Tops after 25 Years

IBM’s singular achievement with the IBM i is worth examining

Jun. 26, 2013  | iPro Developer
The logo for i5/OS

The logo for i5/OS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With 25 years of excellent service delivery under its belt, it’s worth examining the reasons for the IBM i’s longevity as a business application platform. Unlike other systems born in the 1980s, IBM aimed the i specifically at business application delivery, and said so right in its name: Application System/400  (AS/400). At 25 years old, the i has endured longer than any other business system. And today the IBM i lives strong as part of IBM’s PureFlex pre-configured, pre-integrated infrastructure platform.

How did it achieve this feat? I interviewed the IBM i’s Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Systems Lab Services executive Ian Jarmin to delve into the key factors that led to the platform’s enduring success. Here’s a recap of that discussion with some historical research to provide context, enummerating the five key elements to IBM i’s longevity:

1. Innovation

IBM based the AS/400, code named “Silver Lake,” on the visionary, and proven, System/38 architecture. That platform’s key technical concepts—single-level storage, capability-based addressing, a technology-independent machine interface (TIMI), and an integrated, hardware-assisted relational database—had already demonstrated ten years of durability. The AS/400 exploited those features to merge IBM’s popular System/38 and System/36 midrange systems into a new platform designed to carry customer applications into the next millennium.

According to IBM’s Steve Will, “A key part of the success of the platform, when you’re talking about the Sytem/38 architecture merging with the System/36, was the application set. There were a lot of applications that – even though the System/36 was very young – were already very successful in the marketplace.” The AS/400 proved itself by running System/36 applications unchanged. That “focus on making sure that the system would be able to do key business applications and be able to do it in a non-destructive way,” says Will, kept the project relevant to the marketplace,

Virtualization is a key computing technology today, but the i has been on the forefront of virtualization since its inception. The System/38’s subsystem concept is an early implementation of container virtualization, just now coming into its own as a mainstream technology. “It’s notable that we were one of the early pioneers in virtualization in the OS, with [System/38] subsystems,” says IBM’s Ian Jarmin. The AS/400’s Logical Partition (LPAR) feature let IBM i users run multiple copies of the native OS/400 operating system, as well as the open source Linux. Jarmin recalls, “We were really able to take advantage of the shift to server virtualization with LPAR very early in the industry. We introduced that in 1999 with V4R4. With that shift to server virtualization we again fundamentally changed the economics of running apps on IBM i. That’s why if you look at the clients that run large IBM i implementations using LPAR and virtualization, the economics of scale are very impressive. We were on the leading edge of that technology shift.”

2. Adaptability

The AS/400 launched into a much different world than it the IBM i operates in today. There was no GUI, no Internet, no Web, no cell phone, no tablet, and no standardized relational database architecture. As each of these technologies arrived, IBM folded them into the i’s suite of capabilities. The i excelled in each of these realms.

The first adaptability hurdle the AS/400 faced was the mid-1990s change from a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) to a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (CISC) processor architecture. CISC employs a large number of sophisticated instructions that, due to their generality, consume many CPU cycles. RISC, on the other hand, uses simpler instructions that run in just one or two cycles. RISC gains overall performance advantages because it can produce a customized instruction stream at compile time that is inherently more efficient that the CISC approach. IBM exploited the radical RISC change as an opportunity to also upgrade the physical address size from 48-bit to 64-bit, which was the state of the art in processors at the time. Even today, shifting from a 32-bit to 64-bit address size typically breaks both operating systems and applications. But IBM i applications didn’t feel a thing.

Jarmin, who was intimately involved in the AS/400 RISC project, says “The 1995 CISC to RISC transition was the test of all the promises made around the Technology Independent Machine Interface [TIMI]. We’d always talked about how [TIMI] protected clients’ application investment over the years. But [the RISC transition] was the ultimate test of that principle.”  AS/400 customers barely noticed the change, other than greatly improved price/performance. “That transition was both software and hardware,” says Jarmin. “And we came through that transition protecting our clients’ applications. As a result, we were able to leverage the AS/400 technology into a new generation.”

No other computing system in history has made a technology shift this complex, notes Jarmin. “At the same time, we did so whilst our competitors were unable to make that similar transition to 64-bit, including, notably, DEC with VAX to Alpha. So it was really an endorsement of everything that we said about the architectore of the System/38 and then the AS/400 in 1988.

The Internet is a security nightmare for other platforms, but the i’s integrated, fine-grained security has made it among the most secure systems in the face of hacker attacks. In mid-1998, when other systems routinely fell to security breaches, IBM submitted the AS/400 to a live, public penetration test, with two simultaneous teams attempting break-in (http://iprodeveloper.com/security/hacking-as400). IBM CEO Lou Gerstner’s credit card number was the prize. After 48 hours of continuous attack, during which a packet sniffer recorded megabytes of traffic probing and picking at the server’s front door, the official test ended. Both teams reviewed their results and filed final reports. Neither team managed to gain a foothold in the AS/400, leaving Lou Gerstner’s credit card number safe and the teams’ plans for a shopping spree foiled.

The AS/400 also spanned the transition from green-screen terminal applications to the user-friendly world of the Graphical User Interface, giving users both GUI management tool sets and the ability to delivery their own apps graphically, including on mobile devices. Says IBMer Will: “I believe that a theme in the AS/400-to-i evolution has been to try and figure out how to apply emerging technologies in ways that will keep our customers from having to know about those technologies. It was clear that a green-screen approach to trying to manage multiple environmentss was going to be incredibly expensive and not very flexible. New GUIs that were being developed were going to provide us an ability to do that more flexibility.”

Today technologies such as RPG Open Access let customer modernize even their oldest legacy applications for new devices. “At the time,” continues Will, “everybody in the world was trying to use GUIs in efficient and powerful ways. We had an organization in Rochester called PC support, which was about figuring out how to apply GUI technology to lots of different problems, including systems management. Today the interface is something beyond that: it’s web based, it’s something you can put on mobile. What we’ve constantly tried to do is take the latest technologies and apply them so that our customers don’t have to get into the guts of them, but can use them to manage their businesses.”

The addition of C, Java, and PHP gives the i extensive Web and mobile device interactivity. The i has excellent support for SQL, including the ability to interact with external databases and serve as a database server for external applications. The i supports the most modern application development paradigms, such as Ruby on Rails. The i has adapted well to every technology challenge thrown at it.

3. Performance

The i architecture exploits the best performance features of each processor technology it employs, thanks to the TIMI’s ability to insulate applications from processing details. TIMI lets the i take advantage of memory, CPU and I/O advances that give applications huge power boosts without even the need to recompile applications, a feature unique to the i. “The System/38 high level machine concept was the proof that there was an existing set of applications that would have their entire hardware architecture and operating system architecture changed under the covers, and yet they were going to continue to work as before,” says Will.

Since the RISC transition, IBM has upgraded the i to run on successively faster processors, from the Power 4 in 2000, which unified IBM’s i-series and p-series platforms, to today’s POWER7+ symmetric multiprocessor design, supporting up to eight cores per chip and up to 32 processor chips per system.

Upgrading hardware to gain performance is a disruptive process on other platforms, but the i’s unique Capability on Demand feature lets a customer activate dormant processor and memory capacity already built into the system, for both temporary and permanent upgrades while the machine continues to run. This pay-as-you-go feature helps keep initial costs down and future expenses predictable. And avoids unhelpful system downtime.

4. Availability

Businesses depend on their systems being available continuously, today more than ever. In the 24-hour world of e-commerce, there is no room for unexpected outages. Achieving what the industry terms “high availability” (HA, or 99.999% uptime) is a challenge for other business platforms, often requiring a Rube Goldberg assembly of hardware and software components that are difficult to deploy and maintain.

IBM designed the i with HA in mind, building in HA as part of its PowerHA SystemMirror feature set, which provides processor and storage redundancy to keep critical applications running 24×7 with very little implementation effort or ongoing maintenance. In addition to PowerHA, a slew of third-party developers offer alternative HA solutions addressing business-specific HA scenarios.

5. Scalability

You can buy an IBM i as small as a 8-core Power 710 2U chassis up through the 256-core Power 795 multi-rack system. Applications can move smoothly between any system in between without change. If you need a cloud of systems, IBM’s PureFlex offers “cloud-in-a-box” integrated deployment of both Power- and X86-based platforms in compact “compute node” packaging.

This scalability isn’t limited to processing power. It applies equally to storage, with the ability to run on build-in high-speed disk and solid state storage to fully redundant arrays—including entirely solid-state arrays—of automatically tiered storage. IBM demonstrated Power system scalability when it deployed ninety Power 760 servers with 16 terabytes of RAM in its Watson Question Answering (QA) system, which won over two top human contenders in the quiz show Jeopardy in 2011. There seems little doubt that the IBM i, riding Power’s radical scalability, can meet any application delivery challenge.

Five Keys

Innovation, adaptability, performance, availability, and scalability, done well, are the advantages that brought the IBM i through 25 years of application service quality. And will carry it through the next 25.

 

Notes:

If you want to learn more about the IBM i (previously known as IBM System i or IBM AS/400) you can find useful books with the link below:

==> Web Stores

==> Programming Resources

 

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Posted by Mario1 - 01/07/2013 at 2:14 pm

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How to Learn PHP

Learn PHP

Php programming

Php programming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PHP is a popular scripting language that can be embedded into HTML and used to develop web applications.

Currently PHP and Java are probably the most on demand computer languages. Generally PHP is the preferred choice if one wants to work on the web whereas Java is preferred for desktop applications, enterprise applications and mobile apps.

I made some investigations on good options about how to learn PHP and you will find below some results of my investigations.

 

Learn PHP with PHP Online Tutorials

 

I found some good online tutorials such as the following:

 

Learn PHP on Good PHP Books

 

There are many good books on PHP and you will find below an initial choice from Amazon UK:

 

 

PHP Magazines

Another way to learn PHP or improve your PHP expertise is to read some magazine dedicated to PHP such as the following:

 

 

Open Source ERP Systems written in PHP

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Posted by Mario1 - 26/05/2013 at 4:02 pm

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Nearly 75% Of All Smartphones Sold In Q1 Were Android

Android Smartphones

I noticed an interesting article on TechCrunch about Android Smartphones and I have re-published it below for your convenience.

Nearly 75% Of All Smartphones Sold In Q1 Were Android, With Samsung At 30%; Mobile Sales Overall Nearly Flat: Gartner

Ingrid Lunden

samsung_logo_crown-300x268

Gartner has just released its Q1 figures for mobile handset sales, and the key takeaway is that Android continues to steal the show, led by handset maker Samsung. Google’s mobile platform now accounts for nearly 75% of all handset sales, a jump of almost 20 percentage points on a year ago, and equating to 156 million devices sold in the three-month period. Smartphones sales grew by 63 million units to 210 million for the quarter, making up nearly half of all mobile phone sales overall, at 425 million. With the number of mobile handset sales up by a mere 0.7% on a year ago, it’s clear that higher-end devices are very the much growth engine for the mobile industry at the moment.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting figures from Gartner.

Although Samsung does not release exact sales figures for its devices, Gartner estimates that the Korean giant is the biggest of them all: it accounted for almost 31% of all smartphones sold in the period, with Apple in number-two with 18%. It’s quite a change from last year, when the two were nearly level, with just 5 percentage points separating them. The widening gap, and Samsung’s growth, will continue into the quarter ahead, it seems, led by the popularity of the company’s newest flagship model.

“We expect the new Galaxy S4 to be very popular despite being more of an evolution than a truly revolutionary device compared to the S3,” writes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

On the other hand, the fact remains that at least some appear to still be holding out for the next iPhone rather than going for the iPhone 5; and Apple meanwhile is still holding back from releasing new, low-cost models that might help it along more in emerging markets and compete more comprehensively against the huge range of Android devices out there.

The gap between the two biggest brands and number three continues to be a big one, with Samsung very much taking the lead here. “There are two clear leaders in the OS market and Android’s dominance in the OS market is unshakable,” Anshul writes.

Together, Apple and Samsung accounted for 49 million handset sales. This is down by 1.1 million from a year ago, and as the smartphone market continues to grow, the players who are vying to be the next big challengers continues to churn. LG swapped places with Huawei, and is currently at number-three at 4.8 million units (with a strong showing from some of its newer 4G handsets and its lower-cost smartphone range). Huawei’s 4.4 million, however, shows that it continues to press ahead, as does fellow Chinese handset maker ZTE, which rounds out the top-five:

gartner smartphone vendors q1 2013

Samsung, unsurprisingly, is also leading in the overall mobile category, which also counts sales of lower-end feature phones. Its share there is now 23.6%, topping 100 million units.

Just as Samsung is widening the gap against Apple in smartphones, it’s doing the same with Nokia in the overall rankings. The Finnish giant is still number-two but with a 14.8% share, a drop of 5 percentage points on last year.

mobile phones overall gartner q1 2013

Looking at mobile platform prominence in smartphones, Android’s current 74.4% market share is nothing short of astounding in terms of its increase, particularly considering that at this point there is no sign of it slowing down.

Gartner’s numbers, it should be noted, are some 10% higher than those from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech that were released at the end of April: a sign of the margin of error between different analysts’ estimates resulting from different counting methods. Here are yet more numbers from IDC, which claims that smartphones outshipped feature phones, and Canalys, which was also more bullish than Gartner on smartphone numbers at a 300 million estimate.

Back to Gartner: the 156 million units sold in the quarter is actually almost double what was sold in the same period a year ago. Android is without a doubt riding the very crest of the smartphone wave: Gartner points out that smartphones accounted for 49.3% of sales of mobile phones worldwide, up from 34.8% in Q1 of 2012, and 44% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Apple continues to grow but at a slower pace, managing to increase its share by a “mere” 5 million. BlackBerry (still called RIM by Gartner: hello rebranding!) continues to drop, indicating that at least so far, its big BB10 attack has yet to bear significant fruit. Microsoft is showing a respectable doubling of growth to nearly 6 million units, but that is pretty tiny when you look back to Android and its 156 million. It shows that a significant amount of work remains to be done by Microsoft and partners like Nokia if it expects to get anywhere within spitting distance of Android, or even Apple.

Still, the cautionary tale of Symbian remains a sign of how fast a handset maker can fall from grace. It’s now at 0.3 percent of sales now that Nokia has discontinued its production of the once market-leading devices — although its share was falling fast even before that.

gartner q1 2013 smarthones

Gartner points out that Asia is currently the market driver for mobile phone sales worldwide, accounting for more than half of all sales, with China remaining the biggest single market.

“More than 226 million mobile phones were sold to end users in Asia/Pacific in the first quarter of 2013, which helped the region increase its share of global mobile phones to 53.1 per cent year-on-year,” writes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In addition, China saw its mobile phone sales increase 7.5% in the first quarter of 2013, and its sales represented 25.7 per cent of global mobile phone sales, up nearly 2 percentage points year-on-year.”

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Posted by Mario1 - 14/05/2013 at 5:00 pm

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