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What's Up, DOCumentation? 1997 # 1

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February 1997


From:

To: Users of Robelle Software

Re: News of the HP 3000 and of HP-UX, 1997 #1

What You Will Find in This News Memo:



Robelle Celebrates 20th Anniversary 1977-1997

Looking back twenty years, to when Robelle was founded, I can see a lot of changes, and yet many things have stayed the same.

Just as now, we were worried about the new release of MPE, about the performance of our information systems, about the quality of the software we write (Does it have too many bugs? Does it do what the users want?). But unlike then, we now have to worry about UNIX, Windows NT, PC networks, the Internet, and dozens of other technical topics. The work environment of today's computer person is certainly more complex than it used to be.

In 1977 I was working at Robelle on the first version of Qedit, a fast text editor designed to make programming possible on a busy production HP 3000. I hoped to sell (actually rent out) 20 or so copies of Qedit for a few years until HP got around to writing a decent editor. To give Robelle another source of revenue, I wrote Suprtool for a consulting client with a large database that was taking too long to sort (250,000 customer records was large for an HP 3000 at that time).

In the years that followed, the Robelle staff grew with the customer base and we wrote a number of other software products. But Qedit and Suprtool, the original products, remained the bedrock of Robelle. As long as they kept up with the times, so would Robelle.

Now Suprtool and Qedit work on UNIX; Suprtool can handle Oracle and Allbase databases; and Qedit is about to don new client/server clothing.

Everyone at Robelle wants to thank all of you for your support over these twenty years. We look to the future with anticipation ......the challenges never end.
[Bob Green, Founder and CEO]

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WinQedit News Update

When Will WinQedit be Available?
WinQedit, Robelle's new client/server version of Qedit, is nearing completion. The release date is set for the second quarter of 1997. The development team is working hard to ensure WinQedit embodies Robelle's high standards of quality.

Introductory Price Special
A special introductory price for WinQedit will be offered to all Qedit customers currently on support. We will be contacting these customers when the details become available.

Sneak Preview: A Few WinQedit Highlights
- Familiar MS Windows graphical interface lets you edit MPE, HP-UX, and local files at the same time.
- Multiple Windows let you quickly switch between files, or get multiple views of the same file (for example, WinQedit can show global variables and procedural code at the same time).
- Smart caching eliminates the need to load the entire file before you start editing. As a result, WinQedit is suitable for editing huge data extracts and datacomm traces, whether local or remote. WinQedit is also fast over a modem.
- Cut and paste on a host system, between host systems, into local documents, or other Windows applications (e.g., MS Word).
- Full login security for your host (including Security/3000), but convenient password specification for your users. Also works with HP-UX security, including shadow passwords.

Stay tuned for more news on WinQedit throughout 1997.

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Qedit 4.5 Released

Qedit version 4.5 has just been shipped to all users on support. This newest version of our fast and flexible, full-screen editor on HP-UX and HP 3000 includes some significant enhancements, along with continuing compatibility with the latest versions of the HP-UX and MPE operating systems.

Qedit/UX and Qedit/3000
Some enhancements are common to both the HP-UX and HP 3000 versions of Qedit. These include more flexibility in working with include and use files, nested files that are invoked by the Use command located in each file. If a file contains a Use filename command, List $use string filename can easily search for a string in both the specified file as well as its use files. This is useful for PowerHouse source files, as well as Qedit and Suprtool command files.

It is now also possible to specify the name of a printer as part of the List command, for easier use in multiple-printer environments.

Qedit/UX
For many years, Qedit has used HP Block mode for its Visual mode screen. This is efficient in terms of network resources, but restrictive in terms of functionality, and the terminals and emulators it will run on. Qedit 4.5 now includes a completely new option for full-screen editing on character-mode VT terminals: Screen mode.

Screen mode works with most VT terminals (such as VT100 and VT220) and emulators. As this is a character-mode interface, it allows users to edit using more PC-like keystrokes (arrow keys to scroll, page up/down keys, etc.) Another enhancement to Qedit/UX 4.5 is the ability to print to an HP-UX device or an attached printer

Qedit/3000
Qedit continues to improve its compatibility with the latest changes in MPE/iX 5.5. Qedit now runs command files and UDCs that have only execute (X) access, supports command files that use the full POSIX naming standards, supports POSIX directories in the hppath variable, and recognizes "#" as a comment character in command files.
Qedit/3000 Change notice
Qedit/UX Change Notice
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Dual Booting MS Windows

While I like to use Windows NT 4.0, not all software is compatible with it. I resolved this issue by setting up my machine to dual boot Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0, even though dual booting requires lots of disk space.

To set up a dual boot machine when you install MS Windows, choose different directories for Windows 95 and Windows NT. At boot time, you will be asked to select which operating system you want to run. You will not be able to use any disk compression software because Windows 95 cannot read NTFS partitions and Windows NT cannot read compressed FAT partitions.

One irritating problem of dual booting is that applications must be installed twice: once under Windows 95 and again under Windows NT. The reasons for this are:

  1. Most applications now use the registry. The registry is different in Windows 95 and Windows NT. Note that some programs create their registry entries the first time they run.

  2. To create the short-cut folder for the application. If there are more than one or two short-cuts, it becomes very tedious to create them by hand. I find it easier to just reinstall the application.

  3. There may be specific DLLs that are OS-specific. Even if they are not OS-specific, two sets of DLLs are installed because the directories for Windows 95 and Windows NT are different (another reason to have a lot of disk space).
Although most applications do run well under Windows NT 4.0, there are still instances where I need to switch between the two flavors of Windows. Often, however, it is not obvious whether I'm in Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0.
[David Greer]

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About Robelle


New Look for What's Up DOCumentation?

As you have likely already noticed, this edition of Robelle's popular technical newsletter has a new look. The tree background on the cover page is a familiar sight to all Robelle employees in western Canada. The photograph was taken in a forest near Vancouver, British Columbia. We hope you enjoy the new look and a little bit of our local scenery when you read your newsletters.

Welcome Fran Glasgow

Fran Glasgow started working part-time at Robelle in October 1996, assisting in the Sales department. Fran is responsible for packaging and mailing trial requests, information requests, and updating customer information. Fran also answers the phones at busy times, so you may have the opportunity to say hello to her the next time you call Robelle. Before joining Robelle, Fran operated her own florist business for several years. Fran is also a busy mother of two, enjoys gardening, league bowling, music and cooking.

Robelle's Ambassador to Quebec

After living almost five years in the Vancouver area, Francois Desrochers, wife Julie and son Guillaume have gone back to their roots. On December 7, they moved to a new house in Blainville, a small town on the north shore of Montreal, Quebec. Francois still works in Technical Support part-time, applying the balance of his working hours to Qedit R&D.

Robelle Hours

Robelle's regular office hours are 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. PST, Monday to Friday. If you call our office outside these hours, you are automatically forwarded to our answering service, where you can leave a message for us to get back to you when the office reopens. In cases where you require urgent technical assistance, you can ask the operator to page our on-call techie.

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Robelle-L Internet Discussion Forum

In our last newsletter, we announced the availability of our Suprtool-L discussion list to promote interaction between Suprtool users, and to provide a forum for Robelle R&D to elicit feedback on design decisions. After subsequent discussion and consultation with subscribers, we have changed the name and charter of the group to ROBELLE-L, to invite and include contributions from users of our Qedit product.

To subscribe to ROBELLE-L, send an e-mail message to LISTSERV@ROBELLE.COM with SUBSCRIBE ROBELLE-L firstname lastname in the body of your e-mail. You will receive a confirmation by return e-mail, explaining how to configure the list server, post messages, and unsubscribe.

Incidentally, this is a free service, despite the terminology.

Suprtool Training Schedule

Need some help using Suprtool? Why not attend a Suprtool training class? We offer two options. We can bring the course to you, or you can come to our office just outside Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

The objective of this two-day course is to help you understand Suprtool's basic commands, their variations and syntax. You will learn how to prepare data for importing into other databases or applications on almost any platform with the new STExport feature, to speed up applications and reports, and much more.

Here is our course schedule for upcoming classes at Robelle:
February 20 - 21
May 22 - 23
August 7 - 8
December 4 - 5

For more information about the schedule or to arrange a private session at your site, call Rosemary Van Poelgeest or Nicky Gunther at 1-888-ROBELLE (1-888-762-3553).

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Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"

Now that we have had our Web site up for about a year, we are averaging over 1,000 hits a day. This average would be higher if the weekend traffic (600 to 700 hits per day) didn't decrease the overall average. Interestingly enough, of the 7,314 hits in the last week, there were only 2,585 new visitors. This means that just under 5,000 hits were repeat visitors. What is bringing these 5,000 people back time and again to visit our Web site? As we have very little in the way of flashy graphics, it must be the content.

Our Web pages have something for everyone. You can glean hard-sought information from our on-line HP 3000 encyclopedia, the Smug Book; dig up little-known facts about our products from the FAQ lists; check out our HP 3000 links; and even find out what is happening @ Bob's Anguilla hideaway. If you would like to see the face behind the voice that you have been chatting with on the telephone, check out the photos in our company brochure. Sending e-mail to Robelle is a mouse-click away from practically any of our Web pages.

We have now added RealAudio to some of our papers on the Web. This multimedia form of the papers synchronizes the commentary of each speaker with his slide presentation. If you missed attending the original presentations in person, this is the next-best thing. In fact, it may even be better because if you surf from your home, you can attend our presentations in your pajamas and bunny slippers.

Want To See Something New Each Time You Visit Our Web Site? Set your Robelle bookmark to www.robelle.com/cgi-bin/random_smugpage.pl. This "randomizer" brings you a different article in the Smug Book every time you visit our site.
[Ken Robertson]

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Robelle Products: Problems, Solutions and Suggestions

Stexport adds Flexibility to Output,ascii

Have you ever noticed how Suprtool's Output,ASCII command does not let you control the format of the output? There is a way to get around this restriction, now that STExport is available.

When Suprtool formats numbers for Output,ASCII, it follows a simple rule: it right-justifies the number in a field that is big enough to hold the field's largest possible value, and it appends a trailing sign. For example, a J2 binary number with a value of 1,000 will be output as ^^^^^^1000^, and a minus 1,000 will be output as ^^^^^^1000- (where ^ represents a space). The number is always right-justified with leading spaces, and the sign is always trailing.

STExport gives you more control. The Sign command specifies the position of the sign, and the Zero command specifies whether a field is filled with zeros. Suprtool still determines the size of the output field based on the data-type of the input field.

Example: You want to produce the same effect as Output,ASCII, except that you want the numbers to have leading zeros instead of leading spaces. Suprtool's Output,ASCII for the J1 and J2 fields looks like this:

> output myfile,ascii
> xeq

	10020   19951004      22415
	10003   19951016      11207
	10003   19951016      16600-
	10003   19951016      21910
	10016   19951020       8411
	10016   19951020      15942
	10020   19951028      16713-
	10010   19951020       7970
In Suprtool, instead of Output,ASCII use Output,Link. Then format the resulting link file with the following STExport commands:

> output foo,link,temp
> xeq
> export input foo
> export columns fixed
> export date none
> export delimiter none
> export quote none
> export sign trailing
> export columns fixed
> export date none
> export delimiter none
> export zero leading
> export output myfile
> export xeq

	00010020 0019951004 0000022415
	00010003 0019951016 0000011207
	00010003 0019951016 0000016600-
	00010003 0019951016 0000021910
	00010016 0019951020 0000008411
	00010003 0019951020 0000015942
	00010020 0019951028 0000016713-
	00010010 0019951020 0000007970

Most of the STExport commands shown above are to override STExport's default action of producing a variable-length, comma-delimited file that is formatted for a PC program, such as Microsoft Access or Lotus 1-2-3. Zero Leading is the command for filling numeric fields with leading zeros. The space seen between the fields is really the trailing sign of the preceding number.
[Mike Shumko]

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Suprtool and Concurrent Access

Suprtool gives either one of the following warning messages when it completes the task of reading a dataset while other users are adding or deleting records:
New entries were added to the dataset.
Suprtool may have ignored some dataset entries.
...... or
The number of dataset entries was reduced.
Suprtool may have included some deleted dataset entries.

Probably the best way to determine the seriousness of these warnings is to understand how Suprtool reads the datasets. The logic is different for masters and details.

Master Datasets:

Suprtool has no way of knowing how entries are distributed in a master dataset. As it would be inefficient to read to the capacity of the dataset when all the entries are clustered near the beginning, Suprtool first gets the entry count for the set, adds 100 to that number, then reads serially until that number of records has been read. It then checks the entry count again, and if the entry count has changed, Suprtool returns one of the warning messages shown above.

So it is possible for Suprtool to miss new entries, if they were added either to a location that Suprtool has already read or to the end of a file when more than 100 entries have been added. It is also possible that Suprtool might miss original entries near the end of the file, if more than 100 new entries have been added to locations that Suprtool has already read, or if a deleted entry causes a migrating secondary entry to migrate back to its primary location "over" Suprtool's read location. (This is true of any application that does serial reads.)

If you want to force Suprtool to always read to the end of the file, use Set Eofread On. This is good practice for master datasets because it ensures that original entries are read, except possible migrating secondaries. The only way to be absolutely sure that all entries are read would be to disallow concurrent changes by specifying Mode-4 on the Base command.

(Suprtool currently does not conform to the default as specified in the Suprtool documentation, under the Set Eofread command, which states that Suprtool always reads to the capacity of master datasets. However, in the next release of Suprtool, version 4.0, we have changed Suprtool's default to be as documented)

Detail Datasets:

Very old versions of Suprtool followed a similar logic for detail datasets, in establishing an entry count prior to starting the serial read, and stopping after that number of entries had been read. In version 3.3.2 (circa 1991), Suprtool's default was changed to always read to the dataset's highwater mark. It still checks the entry count before and after reading, and it returns the appropriate warning message if the count changes because the task's output file may contain either records that were subsequently deleted from the dataset or some entries that were added after the commencement of the task. Also, if the dataset's highwater mark were increased, the very newest entries would be missed. Again, Set Eofread On would ensure that Suprtool does not stop prematurely, but could be expensive in terms of performance for datasets with a large capacity and small entry count.
[Hans Hendriks]

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Suprtool and Year 2000

We were recently approached by Kriss Rant, Marketing Manager for CSY (Hewlett Packard's HP 3000 Division), to submit an entry for the white paper they are preparing on Y2K issues. This is what we submitted:

"Robelle has been actively working to provide solutions for year 2000 problems associated with processing and converting data in databases and files. Recent enhancements to Suprtool, our high-speed database and file extract tool, offer these important year 2000 solutions:

  1. Conversion of dates without a century in databases, KSAM files, and data files to a date format with a century component.

  2. Support has been added for the MM/3000 date format. This format allows users to continue using an X6 field to store dates and still collate them correctly after January 1, 2000.

  3. Suprtool can now identify and fix any invalid dates, whether they are in this century or not.

  4. The new Set Date Cutoff and Set Forcecentury features allow users to control how Suprtool interprets dates without a century component (or force users to always specify a century). This is a common problem that all programs will have to cope with.
The HP 3000 is well positioned to support applications into the next millennium. By providing additional support to its users and their applications, Suprtool will help make this transition as smooth as possible."

Our Year2000 FAQ
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Use Qedit/UX for Re-executing Shell Commands

The POSIX and Korn shells both have a command history feature. By default, the file .sh_history in the user's home directory ($home) contains the last 128 commands used. You can override the default history filename by setting the HISTFILE environment variable (e.g., export HISTFILE="MyHistory"). You can also change the number of commands in the history file by setting the HISTSIZE variable (e.g., export HISTSIZE=250). The command history file can be shared by multiple users, so you can access someone else's commands. You can even see the commands you used yesterday because the content of the file is saved between sessions.

You can use the built in fc command list to edit and execute one or more commands from the history file. The general syntax is:

      fc [-e editor] [-nlr] [first [last]]
      fc -e - [in-line edit]  [command reference]
fc Without any arguments, this command returns the most recent command in the history file, which you can edit, and executes the modified command when you exit the editor.
-l Lists the command(s) specified in command reference. If there is no command reference argument, it lists the last 16 commands.
-e Combined with the in-line edit argument, this argument allows you to perform a simple string replacement in the specified command.
- This option indicates that no interactive editing is required and that the command will be executed immediately. It can be used in conjunction with -e to change a string before execution.
[command reference] can be a single command line number (e.g., fc 100). Used with -l, fc lists all the commands starting from the specified number to the most recent command. Used with other options, fc performs the specified operation on that one line. This option can also use the start and end numbers in the command history (e.g., fc 100 105), in which case the operation will be performed on all lines between the specified numbers. This option can also use a string of one or more characters (e.g., fc c) to return the most recent command that starts with the specified string.
[in-line edit] performs a simple string replacement when combined with the -e option. The syntax is old=new. The fc command replaces the first occurrence of old with new.

To edit commands, fc invokes the editor specified in the FCEDIT variable. If this variable is not set, /bin/ed is used. To use Qedit/UX instead, enter

        export FCEDIT='qedit "-c m@;k,yes;e" '

During an edit operation, the requested lines are put in a temporary file. This file is then passed to Qedit. After editing the lines, you should save your changes before exiting Qedit, at which time the shell will execute the modified commands.

Because the fc command is fairly simple, you can use it by itself. If you want to assign specific names to each option, you can use aliases. Those familiar with MPE will recognize the following:

   alias listredo="fc -l"
   alias redo="fc"
   alias xeq="fc -e -"     {"do" cannot be used because it is already a valid shell command}

From that point, you can use:

   listredo             {to list the last 16 commands entered}
   redo 100          {to modify and execute command line number 100}
   xeq cd              {to execute the most recent command starting with cd}

Qedit/UX displays its banner every time you edit a command. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this. You can further customize your Qedit/UX environment by inserting Set commands in the FCEDIT variable, creating a local .qeditmgr file or system-wide /usr/robelle/qeditmgr file. You could then choose one of the three Qedit/UX Modify modes (Robelle, HP or QZModify), or you can get into full-screen mode directly.
[Francois Desrochers]

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