iChime reaches new members with each meeting

There were some new faces at our June 9th, 2020 meeting, and we are very happy there were.  Being involved with a global community brings insight you would not normally learn. The word is getting out!

Our featured guest for this meeting was communication expert, author, and professional speaker Jayne Latz.  Thank you so much for your participation in this meeting, your wisdom sparked great discussion with the group. Jayne shared her top tips on how to effectively bring your communication skills to the next level, whether you are on or offline.  

One interesting statistic was how most people judge you based on how you say something, versus what you are actually saying.  Twice as much, in fact.

To learn more about Jayne and her company visit https://www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

Some topics discussed during this meeting were:

How to properly position yourself for the most effective online discussion

General meeting tactics such as speech cadence, posture, and body language

The importance of having your camera turned on while presenting in an online forum

Working with IBM on general IBM i issues across the globe

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit www.centralparkdata.com/iChime.

LinkedIn Chimes in on iChime’s May 26th, 2020 meeting

Another sixty minutes planned, another thirty minutes over.  Hmm, really need to investigate this…

In this meeting we welcomed special guest Beth Granger, a trainer, consultant, and professional speaker on LinkedIn.  Beth described LinkedIn as an “always on networking event” and went on to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and demonstrate some cool tricks on maximizing our use of the platform.   Thank you so much Beth, your expertise was greatly appreciated!   Beth can be reached on her favorite platform at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bethgranger.  You can also find her on the Facebook Group, Level Up with LinkedIn.

As has always been the case, since this is a networking and social gathering, people come and go, making it impossible to capture everyone in the room all at once.   There was a total of 32 people attending this meeting.

Some of the topics discussed at this meeting were:

Differences of free vs paid version of LinkedIn

How to quickly share your LinkedIn profile, even while not in front of your computer

An effective way to contact those who recently reviewed your profile

IT certification, pros, and cons (how it is viewed by peers and the IT community in general)

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit www.centralparkdata.com/iChime.

iChime continues community connection with meeting number 5!

Another successful iChime meeting!  Meeting number 5, which was held on May 14th went thirty minutes over our scheduled one hour, an event that is becoming a bit of a habit.

To kick off our meeting, we welcomed special guest Jean Marie DiGiovanna. Jean Marie is an international keynote speaker and leadership trainer.  She is a founding member of Cambridge Technology Partners and was involved with the company’s amazing growth to over 4000 associates worldwide.  Her website is www.jeanmariespeaks.com. Thank you Jean Marie for your contribution to our group!

Those who stayed until the end of the meeting!

We continued to have attendees from across the United States and Europe.  Some of the topics that were discussed are:

How different will our workplaces become when we return?

How we have an opportunity to create what our “new normal” workplace might look like.

How companies will begin to rollout plans for the new workplace, and how remote employees might remain long after COVID-19

Might working remote continue to be acceptable?

How will IT and application security be impacted?

Companies running legacy code and how to effectively educate management on business reasons to modernize

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  To register and be notified of future meetings, visit www.centralparkdata.com/ichime.

IBM User Group Days – well rounded education and community support

IBM Virtual User Group Days is arriving May 19th and 20th!

What is it, you say?

A consortium of over a dozen user groups, which runs each day from 08:00AM (0800) to 04:30PM (1630) Eastern Time.

 This two-day FREE virtual event is branded with “This time, users take the stage.”  A review of the agenda has now made this event a must attend.    The notion of combining highlights and content from these popular groups and A-list speakers is incredible.  Featured groups are The International Informix Users Group, COMMON (Power Systems), Northeast Maximo User Group (New York based, Middleware), IDUG (Db2), Maximo (UK and Ireland based, Middleware) and COMMON Europe (Power Systems).  Their individual websites are www.iiug.org, www.common.org, https://community.ibm.com/community/user/imwuc/communities/globalgrouphome?CommunityKey=f660ff37-0cee-4ac3-bd2e-7cc83dca2836, www.idug.org, https://community.ibm.com/community/user/imwuc/communities/globalgrouphome?CommunityKey=23eb0724-51c5-4888-8e09-5c772ff5ec71 and www.comeur.org respectively.

How to get there and participate

The main event registration website is www.ibm.biz/usergroupday.

You can register with your existing IBM ID or you can create your virtual event profile directly on the site.

If you cannot attend any session in real time, don’t panic!  All sessions will be recorded and available for replay for 90 days.  

Once you are logged in, you will enter your basic demographics and select up to five areas of interest.  The choices are AI, Automation, Cognos, Cloud Integration, Cloud Pak, Data Science, Data Ops, DB2, IBM Security,  IBM Storage, IBM Z, Informix, Maximo, Netcool, Open Source, Planning and Cognos, Power Systems and WebSphere.

Important note – Once you accept the data sharing checkbox with IBM and BeMyApp, you will not be able to edit your answers once registration is finished.

More details

As per the IBM website, there are six tracks each day featuring expert advice, lessons, demos, keynotes, feedback sessions, and more.  This is an excellent way to learn more about these particular groups.  It’s quite possible you’ve been missing out on a good thing all this time.  With “right-sized” session lengths of either thirty or sixty minutes, this is a great opportunity to quickly learn about other groups and their supported technologies.

Day one tracks are 1) Db2, 2) Planning Analytics and Cognos, 3) DataOps and Informix, 4) Automation, 5) CP4D (Cloud Pack for Data), Data Science, Netezza and AI and 6) IBM Storage and IBM Z.   Day two tracks are 1) IBM Security, 2) Netcool and CP4A (Cloud Pak for Automation) – WebSphere, 3) Power Systems, 4) Open Source at IBM and The Public, 5) Cloud Integration and 6) Maximo.

In addition, at noon two featured talks appear, one for each day.  The first day features Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Systems.  Day two features Rob Thomas, Senior Vice President, IBM Cloud and Data Platform.

For a detailed look at the agenda, click on this link – https://ibm-ugd-platform.bemyapp.com/#/agenda.

Final thoughts

I have added this event to my calendar and so should you.  Many of the speakers are with IBM and still others are not.  This mix looks to provide a ton of expert content from the trenches, without any fluff. Regardless of your IT specialty, you will surely find a session or three of interest.  User groups play a vital role in the life blood of our communities, and our involvement is an excellent way to reciprocate our support.

iChime meeting connects with the IBM i community.

Here is a recap of our May 4th, 2020 meeting.

I am proud that after just four meetings, our attendance has grown to 30 attendees.

To kickoff our meeting, we welcomed a special guest, professional speaker and leadership coach Nora Burns. Nora shared important and helpful tips on how to use Zoom for your business and also for effective job interviewing.  Her website is www.theleadershipexperts.com  Thank you Nora for your contribution and insights!

With all the engaging discussions, we easily blew past our scheduled sixty minutes and went an additional thirty. Here are some of the meeting’s discussion points:

The importance of keeping a normal life during this extended quarantine.

The future and relevance of user group conferences.

Avoiding scheduling conflicts with other global conferences.

Technical industry speaker availability.   

Our next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 14th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  To register and be notified of future meetings, visit www.centralparkdata.com/ichime.

iChime! Fostering community and sharing industry know-how across the globe

While many people have been working from home for quite some time, a traditional office was the norm for so many others.  Indeed, it is the camaraderie with talented and caring people that makes our workplaces as special as they are.  When we were all obliged to stop meeting in the office, lots of us felt cut off and out of touch.  For those of us who perform more effectively in an in-person environment, the feeling was even more intense.  Video conferencing, while hardly a new technology, has brought us together in a whole new (and perhaps permanent) way.

Through my travels, I know members of the IBM i community are both closely connected and mutually supportive, regardless of their global coordinates.   It is truly as wonderful as it is astonishing.  Certainly, technical conferences and user group meetings are excellent vehicles for fostering personal and professional growth.  With these venues being closed for the foreseeable future, we need another way to keep the community together.  Enter iChime.

iChime, an online ZOOM forum, encourages anybody in the community to participate.  In fact, in our first three meetings, attendance has grown from less than ten to thirty people, across TEN time zones.  Truly remarkable!  What I found most interesting is regardless of where our associates live, we have learned how similar our concerns and day-to-day issues are.

In this one-hour(ish) meeting, which takes place roughly every ten to fourteen days, discussions have been widely varied.  Attendees have included technical people, system admins, recruiters, managers and independent consultants.  There is definitely no shortage of topics.  As for the topics themselves, a small sampling of recent discussion items is:

  • Working from home
  • What we might expect from our users / management once we return to “normal”
  • How the 24/7-time requirements have changed our care and feeding of IBM i
  • Proper scheduling of system backups
  • Preparing for the next round of projects
  • Readying our applications for future large demands
  • Being better ready for a disaster

I hope you will consider joining our next iChime meeting.  Why not bring someone along, such as your manager or consumer of your software?  Everyone’s opinion is welcomed and valued.

The meetings are scheduled for 2:00 PM Eastern (New York) time.  Given the broad time zones we are spanning, this time works best.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit www.centralparkdata.com/ichime.

See you there!

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 [email protected]


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.