Speaking at the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association

I’m writing this blog at 34,000 feet, heading back to New York.   While I sit here listening to the two young children behind me singing songs and laughing out loud during the turbulence, I reflect on this past week.

I landed in Milwaukee Monday evening, meeting up with Michelle Lyons of the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professionals Association (www.wmcpa.org) and Alan Seiden, a fellow speaker from New Jersey (www.alanseiden.com).

With a quick stop in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Ale House (www.ale-house.com) we were on our way to the three day conference at the beautiful Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan. Ale house Alan photobomb

Tuesday evening featured a two hour Expert’s Panel on modernization. The speakers included an impressive list of IBM i experts, David Brault, Alison Butterill, Mike Pavlak, Jim Ritchhart, Tim Rowe, Alan Seiden and Paul Tuohy.  I was pleased to be asked to moderate for the second year in a row. A bonus this year was having the panel discussion beamed live to Chicago’s OMNI computer user group. After an introduction statement, each panelist was asked a question before we opened the questions to those in attendance.

Some questions generated a lot of passion and discussion, especially the topic of languages and specifically RPG.     I appreciated Paul Tuohy’s comment, telling everyone to (paraphrasing) “stop thinking of yourselves as RPG programmers. You’re programmers, period”. Another succinct point was how the term “modernization” is not really a term used by programmers outside of our world. Instead the word most often used is “refactoring.”

Moderating a panel can sometimes be challenging when the group is very lively and this evening’s event did not disappoint.   In the end however, it is professionally rewarding to have been part of it. Equally as rewarding was seeing all of the young developers who embrace our platform and will assuredly be outstanding stewards in the future.

Modernization panel


The next two days were filled with sessions on a variety of topics, including database, PHP, SQL, QA testing and two keynotes. Alison’s keynote was titled “IBM i: Simply Amazing“and Tim Rowe’s keynote was “Application Modernization for IBM i.”   One of my new sessions was unveiled at this conference, “Making RDi go POP with iSphere.”   When a session is given for the first time you never surely know how it will be received nor do you have all of your timings perfected. I was pleasantly surprised at both the strong attendance and how the last slide was projected at one minute before the session end, so it was a perfect landing.

On our last evening together we were treated to a special dinner with the board.  Having dinner overlooking the lake was amazing. WMCPA Speakers dinner

This was my third outing to Wisconsin and WMCPA. Every conference holds a unique reason for why I appreciate speaking at them. In the case of WMCPA, it’s the students of Gateway Technical College (https://www.gtc.edu/). Under the direction of Mr. Jim Buck this school turns out some of the most well rounded modern developers I know.  They may not have the years but their passion will propel them into a fruitful IT career using IBM i.

LUGs and LISUG’s Night of 1000 Stars

I’ve written it before but it bears repeating – the Long Island Systems User Group, aka LISUG (www.lisug.org) is my home LUG – Local User Group. The “UG” is simple here and very descriptive – a group of like-minded technology professionals, in my case, IBM i. The “L” however is more significant though because it screams closeness. Proximity. Nearness. And with those hopefully community.

Meeting an associate for the first time is generally a formal event.   At the second encounter certain walls have already broken down. Share an experience or two and from that point forward you have some history and context. That’s what you get when you belong to a LUG – opportunity to regularly network with other professionals who understand the twists and turns of your locale and business climate. As you gain trust with your LUG associates perhaps you can discuss non-confidential but vital industry information.   IT policies and procedures. Tips and techniques. Reciprocity prevails. Which leads me to my next point. Regularly attending my own LUG has allowed me to learn the breadth of knowledge and experience among the LISUG members.   It soon became obvious that we needed to share some of this knowledge.   Combine that with the ancillary benefit of having our members practice their public speaking skills and a new meeting format was created.

Earlier this month and for the second year in a row LISUG held it’s “Night of 1000 Stars.”  During the normal semester top industry speakers from all facets of the IBM i community present to our group. But for this special event, we turned the tables and tapped into the vast technical knowledge that is embedded in our membership.   The single requirement was that the topic be relevant to the IT community.   Seven members with wildly varied but interesting topics responded to the call. Our format was simple – prepare a six to eight minute presentation, with or without slides. As Master of Ceremony I read each person’s bio and then brought that person up to the front of the room.   For their participation each “star” was given a bottle of Long Island wine for their efforts. By the end of the night it was clear to all of us that this once a year meeting format was now a permanent year end addition to our roster. I highly encourage all LUGs to consider this type of meeting. The depth and wealth of your member’s technical knowledge is incredible; tapping into this resource can potentially provide seeds for entire sessions at future meetings.

Here is the 2015 star roster:

Charles Kaplan – “Simple Photography Website”Kaplan


Mike Jacobs – “Encryption Depiction”


Clark Heiser – “Image Catalogs Made Easy”


John Lynch – “Using 2- Factor Authentication”


Steve Wolk – “The Most Useful Apps You Never Heard Of”


Alan Seiden – “IBM i Surprise”


Trevor Seeney – “iMagic / IBM i Magic Tricks”


Our Stars


A hard dollars and sense ROI calculation for IBM’s RDi


According to Wikipedia, the definition of ROI is “the benefit to the investor resulting from an investment of some resource. A high ROI means the investment gains compare favorably to investment cost.  As a performance measure, ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. In purely economic terms, it is one way of considering profits in relation to capital invested.”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_on_investment

I was recently asked by a potential client to justify the ROI of not only the investment of training of the tool but of the tool itself.   While I have always known the implied value of using a modern development tool here I decided it was time to actually quantify it. The results are impressive, particularly when the number of developers increase. But even for a shop where a single developer works (and there are many!) it’s hard to dispute the result.

Facts and assumptions for determining ROI

Price of RDi – On the IBM website the price of RDi is listed at $1030. This is the number I will be using for my calculations. Obviously if you have a different currency please convert accordingly. Click HERE.

Hours per week – Having to pick a starting point, I chose 40 hours as a typical work week with 30 hours being allocated to application development. This includes source code maintenance and debugging.

Productivity gain using RDi vs. not using RDi – This is always an interesting discussion because I have heard values from 20 percent to as high as 60 percent. In fact once even 70 percent.   Clearly it is a personal number, for this example I will use the lowest estimate, 20 percent.  I believe a more accurate number is closer to 40 percent (when coupled with education).

Time to realize gain in productivity – Without any type of training at all, it’s been said a developer will become more productive within two months’ (8 weeks) time. This productivity gain will likely be on the lower end of the spectrum.

Remaining time of first year to continue using RDi – With the first 8 weeks removed, this leaves 44 weeks of development.   Accounting for holidays and personal time, round down to 40 weeks.

The numbers at work

Current: 30 hours of application development time.

Increase of 20 percent in productivity: 30 * 1.20 = 36 hours (6 “extra” hours each week).

Salary of $52,000 per year = $52,000 / 52 = $1,000 per week

$1,000 / 40 hours per week = $25 per hour

Effective $ increase of output = $150 per week (6 hours * $25)

Increase of productivity for first year for ONE developer = $6,000 (40 weeks * $150)

Using the same formula above for a salary of $75,000 and the $ increase becomes $8,640.

Raise the salary to $100,000 and the increase becomes $11,520.

Points to reiterate:

This example is for ONE developer.

The most conservative estimate of 20 percent was used and was assumed to be stable the whole year, which is not correct. You should expect this number to increase throughout the year and eventually plateau.

With proper training, the learning curve is much flatter so the actual application development productivity increases much quicker.   Additionally, using a trainer in a hands-on environment increases the confidence of the developer thus increasing the odds RDi will become the permanent development tool of choice.

The investment for RDi is a one-time purchase, with required but much lower software maintenance for the following years.

Final thought:

To be sure, these calculations are my own but I believe representative of a true indicator of ROI.

LISUG kicks off the 2015 – 2016 semester

Long Island Systems User Group Meeting

September 15th, 2015

LISUG kicked off its 31st year with a double feature from speaker Trevor Seeney @tseeney. Trevor hails from New Jersey and we were thrilled to have him kickoff our 2015-2016 semester. The first session which started just after 5PM was titled “Implementing Animations and Transformations on IBMi using CSS/3.”   I thought it was fascinating although the subject matter wasn’t really in my core competency.  At one point Trevor took an animated gif of a shark that was just shaking back and forth and showed us how he added a tropical water scene behind it and made the shark swim around the screen. Finally he demonstrated another technique of animation that you can see here.

The second session was titled “jQuery Mobile and IBM i.”   Again, not in my usual workspace but that didn’t matter. I truly believe that as someone who relies on technology for a living to at least be able to speak to a particular topic.   Not necessarily be an expert, I don’t think there is anyone who can realistically know every possible thing, although I know some people who are pretty close.

Between the two sessions was our monthly Q&A, presented during the dinner hour. What originally started near the birth of LISUG in 1984 has grown into a full presentation.   I’m really proud to participate with this feature along with the others who have given their time to keep this feature going.   Other user groups across the country have contacted me to discuss exactly what this Q&A is. I really hope it catches on because it adds tremendous additional value to the membership. The topics are completely varied but always IT related. It allows the membership to be engaged with the meeting and with each other.

Next month (October 2015) will feature Jesse Gorzinski of IBM Rochester. Jesse is a software engineer for IBM and a team leader of the IBM i Emerging Solutions team. If you’re in the area you must visit, I’m sure you will learn something of great value. You can learn more about Jesse by clicking here.

At the end of the meeting Trevor is presented with a LISUG thank you.
At the end of the meeting Trevor is presented with a LISUG thank you.










Walking through the membership discussing new IBM i topics.
Walking through the membership discussing new IBM i topics.


Kicking the tires with RDi Version 9.5

RDi Version 9.5 is available!

Kicking the tires

Version 9.5 became available for download on Friday, September 18th. I downloaded my copy that same day and began using it immediately.   What follows are some initial observations.count

Prior to the 18th I was excited to read about some of the Version 9.5 announcements mentioned in the RDi Developer Hub.   One in particular really caught my eye, the one that answers a question that I hearing for a long time, that being the inclusion of a 5250 emulator. I should point out that Arcad Software has had a plug-in emulator available for quite some time, available at www.arcadsoftware.com. It seems counterintuitive to want this considering part of the idea is to get away from the green screen.   But the masses have spoken, and having an interactive session right at your fingertips does make sense to me. Whenever you don’t have to navigate away from one application to another you remain more focused and far more likely to remain engaged on the task at hand.  To see this new feature in action, simply right click on any RSE subsystem and click on Host Connection Emulator.   A lightweight 5250 sessions opens quite nicely in another view.

ScreenHunter_677 Sep. 29 21.28









The link to the V9.5 fix list is a bit misleading since it also includes a list of product enhancements requested by the RDi user community (RFE = Request for enhancement).  Each release contains some and this version is no exception. This is typically where I go first when a new version is released.   Some of the delivered RFE’s are very interesting.   The list also contains fixes that have been made since the last release.   Whether you uncover an error or have an idea for a new feature, I highly encourage you to join the community. You can see the list here – http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg27038481.  


ScreenHunter_676 Sep. 29 21.25



RFE 10189 – Source Formatting

Ok, now we’re talking.     The indentation view was always nice to use but the problem is it is browse only.   So as helpful as it was, it somewhat fell short in real productivity because we couldn’t take full advantage of the indented format.   With V9.5, IBM has delivered a real productivity booster – adding the ability to format production code in edit mode.   This more than makes current development easier. Given that the biggest cost in software development is maintenance, this feature will provide ROI for years to come.   To use this, select any block of code and right click. A new Format menu option appears (or use short cut Ctrl-Shift-F).   When it is selected, the code immediately and neatly is formatted with proper nesting.   Awesome!

ScreenHunter_678 Sep. 29 21.41


RFE57927 – Enhance Ability to Rearrange Filters in RSE

Anyone who is a serious user quickly accumulates lots of filters. RDi does offer filter pools to help organize filters but they require some up front planning. That’s because once a filter is assigned to a parent filter pool is cannot be reassigned.   Secondarily, I like to arrange the filters in a sequence that make sense. The problem is prior to V9.5 you would have to right click on a filter can select Move up or Move down, one level at a time. Cumbersome at best. No more! Now you can just drag a filter to its new desired location and you are good to go.

RFE 44592 – Ability to auto detect if fixes are available

Unless you are an RDi aficionado you’re probably not checking the RDi Developer Hub on a regular basis scouting for updates. That’s too bad because sometimes an update is available and you might be missing out on either a real purposeful enhancement or a bug fix.   With this RFE, RDi will automatically check for updates and you won’t miss out as features are rolled out.

There are other RFEs included with this version, such as Global Snippets included in the new Push-to-Client feature, defining variables in RPGLE code templates and others.   Stay tuned for more as I have time to continue playing.

Preliminary assessment

With what I used so far while in a production environment, from a productivity standpoint the 5250 emulator is far and away a huge addition to the RSE. This is especially true if you are only using one monitor (which I highly recommend against when using RDi). And some messy production code proved to be no match for the new source formatter.   I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen with only a few hours invested. And using history as a guide, there are probably lots of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Just remember, right click on anything and everything. I am sure you will be as pleased as I am.



Speaking season round 2

With the summer (or at least July and August, believe me, I will hold on to summer until the very last second) in the rear view mirror, I am fully looking to resuming traveling to various groups and conferences to meet my IBM i peers.


First stop is LISUG www.lisug.org.

After that COMMON in Fort Lauderdale www.common.

Next comes COMMON Sweden www.data3.org

And finally COMMON Denmark www.common.dk