Why I am attending IBM’s Think 2020

In early 2019 I had the good fortune to be selected for the IBM Champions for Power Systems program (https://developer.ibm.com/champions).   My good fortune continued when I was able to attend Think 2019, held in February in San Francisco.   And I will attend again this year, and you can too, visit https://www.ibm.com/events/think for details.

As someone who speaks at many IBM i conferences each year, I had a very good idea of what to expect.  The attendees, the vendors, the keynotes, the breakout sessions, the networking, and so on and so forth.  Yes, there was all of that.  But there was a different feel here. 

Prior to arriving

The number of sessions at other conferences pale by comparison to what’s offered at Think.  Had I not done some pre-planning it might have been too late to navigate once I arrived.  Fortunately, the website does provide multiple filters, making for a much more meaningful search.  For example, when “Filter by Topic” is expanded, some items from the list include Automation, Blockchain, Cloud, Data and Analytics, IBM Research, Smarter Business, and Watson, to name a few.

An additional Filter by Industry reveals items such as Aerospace and Defense, Banking, Financial Markets, Healthcare, Insurance, Media and Entertainment, and Retail and Consumer Products.   Other filters return even more granular results.

Day 1 of Think

Nothing had prepared me for the magnitude of the event.  I was told the attendance was estimated at 30,000, but until you are actually walking through closed sections of the city, feeling the electricity with like-minded throngs of people, it doesn’t quite register.  Since nearby blocks and venues around the Moscone Center had been allocated to Think, it was cool to be enveloped by all messages and signs IBM. Coffee shops, food courts and the like were being used to accommodate the crowds. Here was a first – I had never attended a technical session in a movie theater prior to this event.  Quite surprisingly, but possibly not, was how well organized it all was.  The Welcome Center at the Moscone was a good starting point, providing essential navigation details.

Getting Down to Business

One of the highlights for me was attending The Chairman’s Address.  Being able to hear IBM’s President and CEO Ginni Rometty live at an event was something I was long looking forward to. 

Focus, focus, focus

My technical orbit is IBM i application development.  I made a conscious decision to learn about topics outside that space.  I wholeheartedly believe as technologists we need to have a more than cursory understanding of technology in general.  That’s what we do.  Not necessarily be an expert in every topic, but at least be able to speak to what’s relevant.

While I’ve already mentioned the vast amount of sessions, I was particularly happy with the expertise of the speakers and depth of the content.  People from the field, using the newest and emerging technologies.   I logged hours of reading and research on Blockchain and AI prior to Think, but the depth of these sessions brought my understanding to another level.

New Business

An ancillary benefit was to meet other business owners and foster professional relationships.  Since attending Think, my company has begun to collaborate with others, using a common platform and offering each other our unique services and talents.  Hardly surprising when you are amongst such a sizable attendance.

Location, location, location

That Think was held (and will be held again in 2020) in San Francisco cannot be understated.  Being a native New Yorker, I am very comfortable walking around large cities.  I made it a point to take a little extra time and indulge my senses with the sights and sounds.  And of course, more importantly, the people.

Final Thoughts

For all the reasons above, and then some, is why I’m going to Think 2020.  To expand my repertoire of IT and IBM knowledge. To make new friends and revisit with so many old ones. To have access to high level IBM executives and senior developers of products alike. To be able to add some cool photos to my personal collection, like the one here with the big IBM display.

When we’re both there in May, let’s connect. Somewhere among the crowd of 30,000 people, I’ll be the guy wearing the blue shirt…

Charles is President of Central Park Data Systems (www.centralparkdata.com), an IBM i consulting company.

He can be reached at cguarino@centralparkdata.com


For a quick boost, nibble your way to RDi

One common challenge cited by reluctant RDi adopters is the tool is simply “too big.”  When pressed for further explanation, a frequent response is with all the new features, terminology and overall UI experience, compounded by strong allegiance to traditional green screen (and might I add, outdated) tools, the road to RDi can be a bit daunting.  With this in mind, I submit this solution.

Don’t eat the entire elephant, take smaller bytes (sic)!  In fact, take only half bytes.  In our parlance, this is a nibble.    Which is exactly how you should consume a new process or IDE, including RDi.  

It’s true, RDi contains lots of perspectives, views, preferences and customization.   But it can also be used quite easily, out of the box, with much familiarity.  How?  It’s simple.  Once you create your connection, go immediately into the PDM perspective.   Select “Work with Members” mode – sound familiar?   Type in your parameters and watch the middle of the screen populate with fast results.  Just like PDM.   Want to edit a member? Option 2, just like before.   Browse?  Sure, option 5.   Use RDi’s feature rich LPEX editor as a direct replacement for SEU.   It understands the majority of the line commands, such as “CC” and “DD.”  In fact, you can also configure the screen itself to look like a green screen, although I would hardly recommend this.  The secret is in bringing your SEU and PDM experience with you, combined with very little new effort. Even with only these two ingredients you will immediately realize tons of newly found productivity and faster and deeper source code understanding.

For starters, take tokenization.  Your code will be shown in full color.   Expand any of the filters in the outline view and you can quickly navigate throughout your code.

Even with these few nibbles, and even if you don’t use any other features (of which there is a seemingly unlimited supply) you may never go back to SEU again.   Truth be told, you are already light years ahead of where SEU has left off.  Because SEU is exactly that – a basic Source Entry Utility.  

Once you save your work, you can even return to the green screen to compile and check the spooled file for errors. Certainly, RDi provides mechanisms to perform these features, and so much more, but the premise here is to start small.  I can nearly guarantee, it won’t be too long before you begin exploring what else this amazing tool can offer.

Turn Up the Power! Symbiosis, Teamwork and Power Processing

By all measures, the latest chips from IBM are technological marvels.  The MIPS numbers back up the claims.   As posted on the IBM website, the Power 9 processor chips have the processing power to handle more than 200 quadrillion calculations per second.  That’s 200,000,000,000,000,000.  With blazing performance boosts as compared to its predecessors, all users will see a measurable improvement in their even most challenging applications.  Customers demand and expect IBM to consistently deliver extremely high-quality hardware and operating systems.  And IBM delivers, each and every time. But what about the in-house applications?  Surely, the TCO is not in the hardware alone.  

In my mind, some questions abound.

First, what good is running a world class and large enterprise strength system when your code base is more than 20 years old?   Please don’t drive the Ferrari when the road is full of potholes and traffic is extremely constraining.

It’s true – faster systems run faster, returning extra downtime. But what to do with this time windfall?  How exactly does one harness all this extra horsepower?  Unlike an actual horse which requires downtime, computer chips will happily and endlessly continue crunching numbers.  Surely there must be a way to benefit.   

Extra processing power lets you perform deeper analysis on your data.  By that I mean taking advantage of advanced data relationships to build more meaningful queries.   Indeed, while extracting every last ounce of processing power from new technology is a formidable goal, it is one we should strive to achieve.  It is simply not enough to have amazing technology and let it sit idle.

Second, while it is always a good thing when jobs which previously took hours to complete are decimated to minutes, and minutes are crushed to seconds, a hardware upgrade alone is not enough without consideration to running better code.  Simply put, does a hardware upgrade make up for poor programming design?  A big, fat emphatic NO!  

Why?  Because Program execution speed is only one metric of system integrity.    Other metrics abound as well, such as how pliable is the code? Is it outdated?  Does it contain blocks of dead code? Is the program stable or constantly being modified?  Even if it’s stable today, might there by changes to it in the future?   Additionally, have major blocks of the program been replaced with external modules or service programs? 

Why? Because those who maintain code are not inexpensive resources.  

Why?  Because business requirements are fast-moving, and new functions and entire applications need to be delivered quickly.

Why?  Because most programs are maintained in a collaborative environment. Only by having standards in place will the code base be manageable.

An interdependence exists between new hardware chips and software.  The new hardware supports the new operating systems and technology refreshes, and you need the newer systems to take advantage of them.   Make a commitment to read the “What’s New in This Release?” documentation.  Learn what the new chips are capable of.  You’ll be amazed.  If this is not your responsibility, see to it that those with this task are being accountable to staying current.

At the end of the day, if you are running old and tired mainline applications on shiny new hardware, we are keeping our systems bored most of the time.   And who amongst us wants that?

Viennese IBM i Anniversary and Birthday Celebrations

Vienna, Austria, June  2018

The 2018 COMMON Europe trip was divided up into two very distinct segments.

The first half occurred in Warsaw, you can read about it here.

The second half, which occurred immediately after Warsaw was an entirely different experience.   Larry Bolhuis (current President of COMMON U.S.)  and I were guests of Christoph Cuscoleca, who is the Technical Director of COMMON Europe and a member of COMMON Austria.  Christoph had booked two different speaking events for us.

From AS/400 to IBM i, Happy 30th Anniversary

As part of our first full day in Vienna we attended a 30th Anniversary party of IBM i.  It was held at the Restaurant Waldgrill Cobenzl,  just outside of Vienna.  Attending the event was the one and only Dr. Frank Soltis, the Father of the AS/400.  Frank, Larry and I were to speak at the event.   What made this day extra special is that our event took place on the actual 30th anniversary, June 21st.    My topic was my personal evolution with AS/400 into IBM i.

I remarked how, no matter where I go, clients tell me how they all say they received the “first” system ever shipped.  I then asked Frank to clarify this.  He jokingly replied that IBM told everyone that they received the first one ?.

The cake(s) – At each event was a cake created in the likeness of AS/400 or IBM i.   At this event the cake was presented in the black box red-striped incarnation.   It was fun to see all the creativity and to re-live all of the different moments in the system evolution.

Meeting everyone – as always, the best part is moving from table to table and connecting with all of the attendees.  It’s striking how similar our technology and specifically IBM i stories are, regardless of where in the world we live.

One particular gentleman had a fascinating story to share, Mr. Arnulf Oplusstil.  He told me how he attended the COMMON conference in 1964!  Impressive indeed!


The IT Students

Christoph is an instructor at The Schule for IT.   At the COMMON Europe Congress there were several of Christoph’s students from Austria.    Some of these students attended my sessions.  I enjoyed chatting with them and discussing their futures in IT.   Since Larry and I booked the same return flights to Austria as them, we had additional opportunities to chat with them along the way.  They are all graduating next week with degrees in Systems Administration or Engineering. They are all set to enter the workforce.

Speaking at the High School

On Friday we had the opportunity to visit a high school BG/BRG Klosterneuburg and be part of the “IT – Live on Stage” event.  This was a special year as it was the event’s 10th anniversary.   The same as the night before, Frank, Larry and I offered presentations to the students.   Many of the students who were present had just graduated.  Joining them were Christoph’s students from the college.   Everyone gave us their rapt attention.  My topic was Passion and The IBM i Community, what it was and how I came to be part of it.

Passion in your career –  My story of how I first learned RPG in Manhattan is so intertwined with my living in New York City that these stories must be told together.   I explained how NYC is configured, the five boroughs and how it was to grow up there.   I discussed my love of The Twin Towers and how they affected my life.

Bi-directional inspiration – After my presentation two students raised their hands and asked very interesting questions.  Tizion B. asked, “How do you know when you finally find your passion?”  and Helene V. asked, “How does your family support your passion?”

To Tizion, it’s just one of those things.  When there is nothing that can be put in your way to stop you from doing what you really want to do.  You feel it in your heart and you feel it in your bones.  For me, it was computers.

To Helene, your question gave me pause.  How does a family support our passion?  After some reflection here is my response.  Families can support us by enabling, that is to say giving us opportunities that encourage us.  For example, letting us be around people who share our passions is an excellent start.   When you surround yourself with like-minded people, everyone grows.  You might even find a mentor who can provide real-world experience, unlike anything you will ever learn from a textbook.   Another example is to watch how your own parents engage in their own passions.  This is a good model to see how time can be set aside for what is truly important.   And finally, giving you time to search and learn what you are actually passionate about.

When the event was over, I had another discussion with two recent graduates, Ferdinand B. and Sebastian Z.  I was delighted that they told me how my little story had inspired them.  The topic of passion came up once again.  These young men were heading off to study technology at their newly selected universities.  Clearly they had found their own passions and were willing to vigorously pursue them.

Whenever I meet young people who are so sure of what they want, and equally as important, of what they don’t want, I take away such unexpected yet very welcome inspiration.  It is extremely important to be reminded that there are so many young people in the world who are grounded and will keep advancing us all in a positive direction.   I find it very disconcerting how many people maintain a dim view of the next generations.  Yes, there are those who are followers and not leaders, but there is always a need for these types of people as well.  Be it in Vienna, Europe in general, the United States or anywhere else, I am quite confident we are in very good hands with their upcoming stewardship.

In Search of Mozart

Ever since I’ve seen both the play and movie Amadeus I’ve been fascinated with his life and music.  He was a genius, no doubt.  But his life which ended in mystery at age 35 continues to fascinate scholars.

One of the best moments of my Vienna visit was when I was outside the Mozarthaus.    We only had about 30 minutes remaining for sightseeing before our next meeting, so clearly there was no time for a formal museum visit.  I did however go inside and asked one of the staff members about the significance of Mozart in this location.   He told me to stay for a visit. When I explained my time constraint, he grabbed my arm and said, “Come with me.”  He then brought me inside to the center of the lobby entrance and said, “Take some quick pictures.  Mozart lived and worked here.”  I quickly took the pictures, absorbed the moment for what it was, thanked him and left.

During my stay in Vienna I was determined to walk in his steps and maybe catch a glimpse of what inspired him.   Instead, I was thrilled to actually get to meet him, and not some guy in a costume!  ?


Happy Birthday Christoph – another day, another treat (and  another cake!)

On Saturday evening we attended Christoph’s birthday party at his apartment.   It was great meeting and spending time with his family and friends.   And of course, his lovely wife Vivienne.

After we took a group photo Christoph declared that I must take a selfie.  So I did ?.

Another of my favorite parts of my trip was having the opportunity to meet Christoph’s mother, Yvonne.   We immediately connected and told each other lots of fun stories.  I feel like I’ve known her my whole life.  Christoph is indeed a very lucky person to have such a mom!


Heading home

As always, all good things must come to an end.  My week in both Warsaw and Vienna was amazing.   Seeing old friends and making so many new ones.  And, yes, of course, Larry even found his name written on an elevator wall when we returned to the airport.





Reflections of COMMON Europe 2018

Warsaw, Poland – June 2018

I’m off!

Leaving from JFK in New York and I’m full of optimism.  I know it’s going to be a long set of flights, with a three-hour layover in Amsterdam.   But I challenge myself to keep smiling, knowing that I will be seeing my good friends once I’ve arrived.

Mid-flight checkup

It’s always a strange concept to me of crossing six-time zones in such a short amount of time.  Trying to fall asleep when it is only 8 PM in your brain is difficult.   As a result, you keep waking up.   Obviously, your wear eye shades to simulate night.At one point I woke up and took a photo, just to see how ridiculous I looked and to prove to myself I could keep smiling.


Journeying on

Seven hours later we are in Amsterdam.   It was already 6 AM when I arrived, and very cloudy outside.   Another flight later I finally arrived in Warsaw.

Warsaw’s Old Town

Warsaw has an interesting history, with its citizens having to rebuild their entire city after World War II.  But rebuild they did, and what was created is nothing short of spectacular.  A true testament to the human spirit.

Old Town was easily walk-able from our hotel.  Some of my little tour included an outdoor park with gorgeous statues, a tomb of the unknown soldier, churches and of course unlimited European architecture.   You can learn more about Old Town’s history here.


The European Congress

Like other years, this conference included some of the most respected industry speakers with a very wide breadth of IBM i topics.   It was two and a half days long with over fifty high quality sessions.  Topics included application development, testing, database, IBM i future directions and system administration.    This organization is run entirely by very committed volunteers from all over Europe, and it shows.  If anything had gone awry it wasn’t obvious.   The common message was clear – this is a high-quality event that is worth attending, year after year.   To learn more about the COMMON European Congress click here.


Opening and closing events

Ranga Deshpande, the President of COMMON Europe offered the conference kickoff, followed by IBMers Alison Butterill, Ian Jarmin and Steve Will.   Their presentations focused on the vitality of the platform and how well it remains positioned to be the best application system for all different sized businesses.    Steve Will made an excellent point during his discussion –  very few technology companies provide the level of immediate access to their top executives that IBM does, fostering engaging business conversations.  Discussions where the executives are truly listening to the people who are in the trenches every day, using the technology to make their organizations prosper.  Alison, Ian and Steve shared customer stories from all over the globe.  To be sure, this was an exciting and fascinating opening session.

The closing event included a celebration to 30 years of innovation, from the birth of the AS/400 to today’s completely modern IBM i.  No closing celebration is complete without a celebratory cake, and IBM didn’t disappoint us.

Celebration dinner

On Tuesday evening we were treated to a wonderful celebration event at Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.  This building included an observation deck and a massive indoor marbled area.   It was a fun night and I was very happy to be there.   You can learn more about the Palace of Culture by clicking here.

COMMON European Congress 2019

The COMMON European Congress rotates its location each year and this year is no exception.   It was announced that next year’s Congress will be in Berlin, Germany.   This is being done in partnership with COMMON Germany.

Saving the best for last

Yes, the sights were beautiful, and the food was delicious.  But nothing compares to the friendly conversations with friends, old and new. Be it conference attendees,  flight attendants, taxi drivers or hotel staff, meeting and chatting with people is the best.   It takes so little effort to strike up a conversation and there is ALWAYS something we have in common (no pun intended), even though we are separated by thousands of miles.












Shelfware, Deadlines, Trials and the Pursuit of Better Coding – Part 2


My first blog on this topic (read it here), where a CIO wanted the team to use better tooling but received pushback,  generated some very spirited discussion.   Of course, what some people posted in public forums pales by comparison to some of the emails I received, but that’s a story for another day… Obviously there are developers who genuinely care and who want to upgrade their skills.  This I have always known and consider myself one of them.

This genesis is borne out of discussions I have had with some developers who have sat in an entire track of RDi training sessions. Upon conclusion they will come up to me and say, “Well, this is all great but my company won’t pay for the product.  That’s why we are still using the free version.”   And by that, of course, they’re referring to Websphere Development Studio Client, aka WDSC. The irony here is that I’m being told this at a conference;  the same place people are being sent to upgrade their skills!

WDSC – This, in my opinion, is a product that had it’s time, if it ever did, many years ago. It performed, to be kind, like a dog. In addition, it only validated RPG up to V5R4 – even worse than SEU! Today it is completely unsupported, as it should be (as is, BTW, V5R4 itself, along with 6.1 and 7.1).   Using WDSC means there is no possibility of code that is being maintained bearing any semblance to modern day RPG.  As for the being free part, as I understand it, it was never really ‘free’ at all. It was simply bundled into other licensed products, whereas today everything is a la carte.

Company not wanting to invest – The only one scenario I can possibly envision where this might occur is where there is a large number of developers and concern exists that the investment will fall flat.  Something like that shelfware thing… But, even in these situations, where an individual developer exhibits genuine initiative and wants to better both themselves and the company vis-à-vis increased productivity, this is a worthwhile investment.

Getting it done – If you’re a serious developer who wants to use modern tooling and keep hitting walls, here are some suggestions:

  • Download the trial version. It is the full featured product, not some dumbed down trial.  The only thing missing is a permanent license.  Use it for the entire trial period.  By the end you should have more than enough “ammunition” to demonstrate the ROI.  The price, incidentally, is a small fraction of your salary.  Yet productivity gains of 20, 30, even 40 or 50 percent are completely realistic and attainable.
  • As “radical” as this might sound, purchase the product yourself. You and you alone own your career.  Or negotiate a deal where your company will reimburse you over a certain period of months of continued use.

Full disclosure and summary – This blog took a lot of effort on my part to write since I don’t support the notion of suppressing appropriate tooling and modernization, particularly to those who wish to fully engage.  I believe as a manager that if someone seeks to improve their skills and makes a genuine effort then they should have full management support.  But, there also needs to be a legitimate ROI to the enterprise.   Even with a developer who is approaching retirement, having modern tools will still provide more productivity than ever before.   Of course, there is always the argument that if a developer is that close to retirement, perhaps a better use of their time is doing a “brain-dump” for the future staff.  That is how continuity is put in place and fire drills are (hopefully) prevented.

Finally, I tried really, really, really hard to see this issue through a developer’s eyes.  If you are working at a company that won’t support using new tools, then YOU need to advocate for yourself. For a company to dismiss the value of IT assets is a dim view indeed.  Having developers build and maintain huge complex systems and insisting they use only hammers and screwdrivers is a fool’s game.

I welcome your comments.

Shelfware, Deadlines, Trials and the Pursuit of Better Coding

“Why can’t my developers just download the trial RDi, learn it and use it during the evaluation period?”  This is a question I am often asked at conferences by IT managers.   I hear their frustration.  In the spirit of fair play, I have also listened to developers on this same topic.   Here is a fictitious yet very real conversation I imagine is going on in some shops.   I will weigh in with my own opinions in a future blog.

CIO – Why can’t you just download RDi already and test it during the evaluation period?  Surely you’re given ample time to understand how it will be useful in the shop.   If you can’t find time to commit to using it during the trial period then you will never find the time.  All of the other products we’ve trialed have been validated during the same amount of time with much confidence and success.

Developer – There is a distinction between a product and a development tool.  A product, with its trial period, either works or it doesn’t.   Its functional utility becomes obvious, or not.

With RDi, it’s not just a source code editor but an entire paradigm shift.   And it’s not a product where one can “set it and forget it.”   The adoption of a new development tool takes time, and that “slows me down” when I have pressing issues to deal with.

CIO – That argument holds true only in the short term.   RDi is so much more than a simple editor.  With all of the other views that enhance productivity, you’ll be coding faster – and better – in short order.

Developer – I have everything I need in SEU et al.  There is nothing you can do in RDi that I can’t do in PDM and SEU.  If you are so sure that RDi is that much better then buy it so I can use it when I have time.

CIO – No you can’t.  How big of a list do I need to create to show you how using RDi is light years ahead?  For starters, there’s no way you’re using any of the new functionality in RPG since SEU is stable at 6.1.  This means no fully free form for starters.  So many new built-in functions.  On-exit processing for procedures.   And that’s only the start. This means you’re writing new programs using old techniques.   Techniques that will remain in our production systems for years to come and cost us more with increasing technical debt.   Also, I refuse to spend money on a software tool that’s going to simply collect dust sitting on a shelf somewhere.   Show me you’re using it and I will happily pay for it.

Developer – Then I need more time.  Don’t forget, I need to learn not only LPEX but how to navigate in a new Rational IDE.  This takes time.  Far more than what is being offered because there’s no way I’m going to use this full time each day. You would never allow me to do this because my productivity would drop, and I wouldn’t be able to put out all of the fires.   I can commit to no more than a couple of hours each day.

CIO– That may be true in the beginning, but I’ll bet after the first week of two you will be spending more and more time in RDi for everyday tasks.   RDi offers features like filtering the view of the source, code refactoring, headless code coverage for enhanced testing, wizards to create procedures and D specs, RPG code templates, content assist.  The list goes on and on.

Developer – Then give me four months.  Or better yet, six. Maybe even a year.  I need to slowly assimilate.  That’s the only way I can wrap my head around this entire tool.   And that’s also the only way I can still maintain my current workload and provide solutions to this company.

CIO AND Developer, both throwing their hands in the air – You’ll never understand.

Another Successful Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association Conference!

Getting to the event and enjoying local color

We all know how one gets discombobulated, having to remove many items from carry on bags, taking off shoes, belts and jackets and occasionally being randomly picked out for a complete body search.   Well, at least the TSA folks in Milwaukee have a great sense of humor.  At the end of the security process you have the opportunity to recombobulate.

Before heading to the conference center in Delavan, we try to take in some local Milwaukee color.  This year was no exception, but there was an added bonus.  We walked along the Riverwalk and got to meet a real Milwaukee legend – The Bronze Fonz! 


After an incredible dinner at a local Chinese restaurant (and oh, yes, a quick selfie with our waiter) we were off to Delavan.

There’s nothing better than cramming into the back seat with good friends.  For a one hour drive.   It’s a good thing we all like each other!


Tuesday Night Expert Panel

In 2014, I was fortunate to be a panelist in my first year attending WMCPA.

Since then, for the last four years, I’ve had the privilege to moderate the expert panel – what a thrill. The topics have been Application and Database Modernization, Security and Open Source.


The list of panelists reads like a Who’s who in the IBM i community.

Current and former IBMers Robert Andrews, Alison Butterill, Rob Bestgen, Dr. Stephanie Chiras, Erwin Early, Jesse Gorzinski, Tom McKinley, Tim Rowe,  Debbie Saugen,  Dr. Frank Soltis and Steve Will.

Non IBMers included Tommy Atkins, Aaron Bartell,  Larry Bolhuis,  David Brault, Birgitta Hauser, Brian May, Mike Pavlak,  Jim Ritchhart,  Alan Seiden, Robin Tatam and Paul Tuohy.





The students

What amazes me the most about this conference is the amount of students and recent graduates that attend each year.   Proportionally speaking,  the percentage of students is probably higher here than any other conference I attend each year.    Of course, the word “student” can be misleading.  While you might think of someone who is fresh out of high school that has gone directly into college, the age range of these students is very wide.  This really impresses me, particularly for the older students who have had prior careers in a vast amount of industries and have decided to seek education in IT.

Lake Lawn Resort

One of the reasons I hear from many speakers why this is one of their favorite places to speak is the location itself.   Lake Lawn is a large, rustic facility.  While I’m sure the lawn is outstanding in the summer it’s almost always covered in snow while we’re there.  The lake, however, is a different story.  I’m sure in the summer it provides hours and hours of enjoyment each year to its guests.  However,  since the conference is held in  in March the lake is always frozen.  It’s still a delight to enjoy breakfast in the restaurant with a stunning view of the lake.

Speakers dinner

On the last night of the event, the speakers are treated to a wonderful dinner.        I enjoy this time, it gives us all a chance to wind down, recap the conference and have one last chance to connect as friends.   We sit in a private room at a very large table, reminisce about the last few days and discuss the highlights of the conference.  This is one of my favorite parts of the conference, having a chance to reconnect with old friends.


Saying Goodbye

I don’t always create a farewell video specifically from each conference.  However, in 2017, from the Milwaukee airport Birgitta and I did manage to do just that.  Thank you so much to the people of WMCPA, you make the event fun for both the attendees and speakers each year.


Reflections of London, Brussels and COMMON Europe Congress 2017

All work and no play?

With the wonderful opportunity of speaking again at COMMON Europe  (www.comeur.org), Larry Bolhuis, Richard Dolewski, his wife Maria and I decided to include a two-day pre-conference stop in London.  Larry and I timed our flights to land at London Heathrow within ninety minutes of each other but with his delays and my flight arriving early our touchdowns were apparently only minutes apart. Once we both got through the customs queue we took a few minutes for a quick COMMON Europe promotion video:

While visiting London we were fortunate to meet up with Liam Allan and his girlfriend Emily-Mai Brown.  Liam is one of the Fresh Faces of IBM i.   You can learn more about that by clicking here.

We all enjoyed having lunch together in The Nags Head Pub.


While also in London I was able to fulfill a bucket list item, that is to take a photograph with one of the lions in Trafalgar Square.  Fortunately Larry was able to assist with me climbing the statue, otherwise this would have never been possible.   Thanks Larry!

Meeting up with “Strangers”

I say this every conference and it continues to hold true.  The events are always great, as are the locales.   But surely, I believe the best part is meeting everyone. Particularly in Europe, where so many cultures and languages intersect.   In addition to meeting IBM i minded folks, I find great pleasure in random encounters and chatting with “ordinary” people while being out and about.  Many of them even let me take a selfie with them.


COMMON Europe Congress 2017

Each year the Congress (www.comeur.org) is held in a different city, with this year being in Brussels.   Nearly 100 sessions in 2 and 1/2 days.  This trip provided me with a little free time for exploring, meeting the local residents and sampling some of the restaurants.  Two of the signature foods are frites and mussels.   We took the EuroRail to Brussels and met up with Robin Tatam and his family.  It was very cool going through the Chunnel, going through France and then Belgium.

Congress networking

From opening reception to the dinner at the Comic Art Museum (www.comicscenter.net), there were several opportunities to visit with peers from over 20 countries.  Throughout the event I was able to take some photos with board members and attendees.  Here are a few:

RDi sessions

It was decided to present a track of RDi sessions which showcased a broad spectrum of RDi’s vast features.  The three selected sessions were “From STRPDM to RDi,” “From STRDBG to RDi” and “RDi FAQs.”   I was very pleased at the attendance and interest in this topic and fully enjoyed presenting the content.  At the end of my last presentation I created a short video thanking everyone who attended.

Beautiful music in the air

One need not spend too much time in Brussels before you encounter music of all genres. It’s everywhere, searing through the throngs. This first video is of a street musician playing an incredible rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s Nessun Dorma.  It stopped me in my tracks.  Hearing street musicians is something we encounter all the time in NYC, but this music, combined with the surrounding architecture made it extra special.

As an added bonus, at the COMMON Tuesday dinner, COMMON Europe board member Igor Novotny’s two amazing daughters Zora and Nora Novotna provided classical piano overtures that astounded the senses. Nothing had prepared me for this. Whether you listen for just a few moments or the entire length, I’m sure you will agree their rendition of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 is masterful.

Saying goodbye

On the very last day Liam and I took the train to Brussels airport and began my journey back to New York.

After the long flight, here is one final video from the baggage claim area at JFK airport.   Thank to you everyone I met during this last week, this is yet another trip I won’t ever forget.











An all-day hands-on RDi workshop at QUSER

Twin Cities, MN, May 2017


For this workshop, we supply a sample source library for each attendee, which is used during the activities.  The event was promoted with a short video that was tweeted out to the QUSER membership.

One of my favorite things to do is to create are the promotion videos.

Getting There

As always, the best part for me is meeting everyone, reacquainting with old friends and catching up.   When my plane first left JFK we were told to look out our windows for an incredible aerial view of New York City.  You can really appreciate exactly how large Central Park is, plus a grand view of midtown and downtown on the southern end.

Hello from MSP!

 A quick video as soon as I landed provided one last tweet to the members of QUSER to make sure they know the event is being held the next day.   I was hopeful we would have a good turnout.   

QUSER hospitality

Robin and Angela Tatam are such great hosts.   We were able to catch up over dinner the night before the event where I had the featured dish of Minnesota, the famous walleye.  In fact, I’ve had so much walleye during this trip that I swear I was starting to grow gills.  

The hands-on RDi workshop

I wasn’t prepared for the turnout, more than 30 people showed up.  What a great sign that developers want to modernize the tools in their toolkit.   Everyone had RDi pre-loaded on their laptops.  Most people were new to RDi but there were some who are advanced RDi users and evangelists.   For those who weren’t current users they were able to download a 60-day trial directly from the RDi Developer Hub.   In this workshop, we focused on source code maintenance and the various views, demonstrating how RDi far exceeds SEU and PDM.   There were also many requests for a crash course on using the RDi debugger so we also covered that.    All in all, with an entire day we covered a lot of ground.   These corporate workshops are typically two days long and which allows us to dig deeper into LPEX.  Many times, we will work with the client’s own source code or debug their own programs.

Back in New York

So many thanks to the hosts and all of the attendees of QUSER.   When I arrived back in New York there was a nice package waiting for me.    In it was a T-shirt from Help Systems plus a QUSER coffee mug, filled with chocolates.    The gifts were surely appreciated and I hope to return some day, for both another day of exploring the cities and to meet those who are as passionate about application development as much as I am.