Archive for July 2007

Why the virtual PDF printer on i5/OS might fail

If you have 5722-IP1 installed on your System i, you can create PDF documents quite easily by using a virtual PDF printer.

This virtual PDF printer can be created by using the following two commands:

CRTPSFCFG PSFCFG(QUSRSYS/PRTPDF) PDFGEN(*STMF) +
PDFDEVTYPE(*IP40240) PDFPPRDWR1(*A4) PDFPPRDWR2(*A4) PDFMULT(*NO) +
PDFDTAQ(*NONE) FNTSUBMSG(*NO) IPDSPASTHR(*NO) PDFDIR('/PDF/')

CRTDEVPRT DEVD(PRTPDF) DEVCLS(*LAN) TYPE(*IPDS) MODEL(0) LANATTACH(*IP) AFP(*YES) +
PORT(5039) ONLINE(*YES) FONT(223) FORMFEED(*AUTOCUT) +
RMTLOCNAME('127.0.0.1') USRDFNOBJ(QUSRSYS/PRTPDF *PSFCFG)

In case you’re wondering what is running on Port 5039 on localhost – usually nothing. When you start the printer writer for this printer using STRPRTWTR, you’ll see three jobs for this printer instead of the usual two. One of them is the virtual PDF print server, which is spawned by the PSF configuration.

And this is exactly the problem i ran into: Port 5039 on localhost was already in use (in this case by a third party application), and so the virtual PDF print server was unable to start. Of course the only thing you saw in the logfiles was that the PRTPDF print writer was unable to connect to it’s print server, and not that the port was already in use.

Note that the virtual print server fetches it’s configuration from the device description, so if you change the port in the device description, everything will work automatically.

System i Printing options

Printing from the System i sucks as much as printing from any other platform – but with one added twist. The System i has it’s own proprietary printing system called IPDS.

In general, the System i can talk to network enabled printers that support a PCL or PS datastream directly – they must also support a print control protocol like SNMP or the more popular PJL. If you want to attach a desktop printer, you will have to use IBMs iSeries Access. And then there’s IPDS, which some printers can support through either a option ROM, a network appliance, or a conversion software.

If you’re wondering if your printer supports PCL/PS, look it up at the manufacturers website. Here are my quick and dirty rules, which are usually 99% right:

  • SOHO equipment usually doesn’t support PCL/PS
  • Workgroup equipment always does – there’s a small exception for low price workgroup equipment
  • B&W desktop printers above 300 CHF usually do, Color desktop printers above 500 CHF usually do

iSeries Access

iSeries Access can be used to connect printers without a network interface, or without PCL/PS support to the System i. This functionality is quite rudimentary, and can’t be used to print customer facing documents. For the quick printing of a query or a joblog, this is usually sufficient.

If you have a printer that does support PCL/PS, but has no network interface (or an unsuitable one, like cheap print servers), you can use HPT through iSeries Access – this will allow you to support all the printout options that HPT supports.

iSeries Access without HPT is not really an option, except for some quick & dirty printing. iSeries Access with HPT isn’t quite as bad, but a network interface for the printer can be had for just a bit of money.

Host Print Transform

Host Print Transform, also known as HPT. I’ve written about this earlier.

HPT isn’t that bad, and can work well for desktop printers. It’s what we usually use for desktop printers.

IPDS Option roms

You can get IPDS option roms for most workgroup printers. The problem with IPDS option roms is that they’re hugely expensive (around 1500CHF for a single printers). So you’ll have to buy an expensive workgroup printer, but also have to buy an expensive IPDS option rom. If your printer dies, and you can no longer get a similar replacement – your investment has just become worthless.

The good thing about IPDS option roms is that they’re usually troublefree, and come with all the important fonts (like OCR-B) preloaded. This allows for a very easy deployment, at a in my opinion unreasonable cost.

IPDS converters

There are many products that do conversion from IPDS to PCL. I only have experience with a single product ExcelliPrint. This product works quite well, though there are a few things that you’ll need to think about, like OCR-B support.

There are also embedded appliances available that do the same thing. I’ve never used them, so i can’t tell much about them. Maybe those have embedded font support, avoiding the soft font issue that you’ll need to be aware off when using ExcelliPrint.

ExcelliPrint costs about 750 CHF, about half that of an IPDS ROM. If you only have a single printer, an IPDS ROM might not be that more expensive. But when we’re talking about 5-10 printers, the difference becomes quite noticeable.

Conclusions

So what should you do?

I generally recommend against any use of iSeries Access, even with a HPT printer. Purchase a simple desktop laser which is supported by HPT. For printing of invoices etc., i would recommend a workgroup printer with ExcelliPrint.

Microsoft to stop testing with Pearson Vue

According to this Pearson Vue FAQ, Microsoft is going to stop testing with Pearson Vue. No idea why, and i have found no official announcement of this. Rather interesting, because most testing centers located near Horgen are primarily Pearson Vue.

Information from Vue directly is spotty:

We have not been informed of the reason for this decision. Feedback we have received from Microsoft employees and partners over the years has been overwhelmingly positive. Please contact Microsoft for details.

And things seem to happen rather quickly:

Between now and 31st August 2007, Pearson VUE can register candidates for any Microsoft exam that is delivered by 31st December 2007, via any means of payment. After 31st August Pearson VUE will only be able to register candidates with pre-paid vouchers, as long as the exam is delivered by 31st December 2007.

Does anyone know more about this?

Update: This Prometric document seems to confirm this move.

Update 2:
It’s official now
More details on Trika’s Blog.

70-620 as a core client exam – Microsoft still has issues

A coworker recently completed his MCSA credentials, but they didn’t show up on his transcript. After a month, nothing has changed. It seems that Microsoft is still having troubles with people that used 70-620 as a core client exam (it worked fine for me as an elective).

Here’s the official statement from Microsoft:

A lot of MCSA candidates are facing this issue regarding the certification not being updated. This is happening with those candidates who have taken exam 70-620 as Core exams for client operating system. This issue has already been escalated and is being worked upon.

IBM’s ServeRAID Manager may send spurious messages after an IP change

ServeRAID Manager 8.40
IBM’s ServeRAID Manager in the Version 8.0 does not handle IP changes of the host machine cleanly. In my case, it continued to send information messages to the ServeRAID Port (34571) on the old IP Address. See the screenshot to the right on where to change this.

On this topic, i’ve found a very interesting link, IBM’s ServeRAID Reference, with lot’s of pictures and detailed specifications of each controller.

Unlocking locked Windows files

One of the things i hate most on Windows is it’s file locking – completely different from what Unix-based operating systems do, Windows’s file locking is mandatory, so if an application has an exclusive lock on the file, you can’t do anything with it. While each of the two approaches has their drawbacks and advantages, and what was done in Windows probably has a very valid reasoning behind it, i still don’t like it.

However it is possible to remove handles from applications, and set the file free again. For a long time i’ve used Process Explorer to do this. The problem with this approach was that i had to guess the application, look through all it’s filehandles, find my file, and then kill the handle. It was rather cumbersome, but it worked.

But a few days ago, i walked across this little gem: Unlocker. It’s method is not different from the Process Explorer way, except that the program does all the work for you. The good thing about it is that it can even be used by normal users (where these problems usually happen with audio/video files).

Layer One sucks – they still have power outages

Layer One sucks. Big time.

They’ve had power outages before, and again. However, it seems that they didn’t change anything. This is the fifth power outage, and we’re there for at most 1.5 years.

Today, there was a smaller power taking down only of the two power lines we had. But it still lasted for several hours, and recovery and information was incompetent and slow. Don’t go to Layer One. Their Power Grid sucks as much as their service and their information policy.