Third Party Watch
Shawn M. Gordon
President of S.M. Gordon & Associates

Well let’s see, what is happening these days. I told you last year about a company called Zebra Software that was doing a Client/Server front end package called Frontender. Well it is now up to version 3.2 and is called FACES and is being marketed and sold by Holland House. I had an opportunity to see the new version and it really is looking nice. Keep up the good work guys.

There is another PC based package out that I want to mention called COBOL FERRET, from Ferret Technology. What is both interesting and annoying about this package is that I was in the process of writing the exact same thing. I would write a review of it, but Terry Blankenship beat me to the punch. Anyway, what the program does is scan through your COBOL source code and gives you a Data Analysis, which includes data definitions, where variables change, alias’s, indirect variable use and diagrams data flow. Code Analysis will show branching errors, endless loops, dead-end code, duplicate source lines, uncalled modules, all modules use, where verbs are used, cross reference verbs/variables and diagrams program hierarchy. This is just part of it, but at $495 for the first copy I am pretty confident that I will be picking up at least one copy.

Since I hate to change anything that I’ve already written, I am not going to delete the previous paragraph, but add on to it. I got my copy of the Cobol Ferret, and it is very nice. It zips right through a piece of code and let’s you look at just about anything you want in terms of cross referencing and code analysis. It is a DOS based program, but about the only impact that seems to have is that you have no mouse support, otherwise it is terrific.

I just got a demo of Omnidex for Client/Server recently, what I found most exciting about it was a little addon program called FastStart that will actually build a whole Visual Basic application that does the old C/S dance for you with no coding at all. That part of the product surprised and impressed me more than anything else it was doing. I found that it could qualify records lightning fast, but to actually display them on the terminal was very slow, and I have a 50Mhz 486 connected to a 957. The problem with C/S is that you don’t know who is causing the problem. Is it the WRQ PPL, the DISC DLL, the physical connection to the host, or what. I will be interested in spending some more time with it however. Look here for more information. Don’t forget that if you do buy into DISCs vision of the future, you must also buy into the WRQ PPL product at a price of about 3k.

I am afraid I am going to have to send this column in before I get up to Interex probably, which means no news until next month. This makes it a little frustrating because everyone is holding off their big announcements for the show.

I don’t know how many of you have to deal with calculating sales tax that you have to pay the government, but my new job is very concerned with it. I was just responsible for integrating a package from a company called VERTEX that will take a City/State/Zip and amount and then figure out the tax and pass it back to your program. They send out updated information every month so you are sure to be up to date. I can’t begin to describe what a god-send this is for the direct mail business, we now will know what our tax liability is before the end of the year. Check it out if you are dealing with that sort of thing.

Well I have been hearing some more rumors in the Windows NT on HP PA-RISC front. Apparently HP and Microsoft have been doing a little talking, but there are a few problems in having Windows NT running nativly on PA-RISC. First the question is ‘WHY?’ why would you want NT on your HP when you already have MPE or HP-UX? I guess for the same reason that we have portable NetWare on the 3000. In any case here is some of what the situation is for actually getting on PA-RISC. First there is the technical problem of the fact that PA-RISC is a big endian system and Intel is little endian (this is the order in which the data is assigned to registers). The new PA-7100LC chip which is being worked on in the labs will support switching between the two modes. From what I hear, the HP Labs have this working already with NT. The second, and bigger problem on getting a native version of NT is the fact that NT is written in a Microsoft proprietary dialect of C that has been enhanced with some very non-standard extensions that it relies on heavily. It must be nice to just be able to muck with your compilers to make them do whatever you want. I am sure that HP is also taking a wait and see posture with NT since it will be at least a year or more before you really start to see it get any sort of major foothold.

Well once again I have been fortunate enough to generate my very own SR # with HP. It seems there is some sort of bug in the TPI (Third Party Indexing) Interface that is causing process to either just hang, or suck up every available ounce of CPU. In either case you must reset the system to clear it. I have heard of several other DISC customers running into the problem, I don’t know what the situation is with Bradmark. If you want to check on the problem for yourself the SR# is 4701-217430. Again this is only a problem if you have enabled your data base’s for TPI and only seems to happen during a DBPUT or DBUPDATE. Since the TPI is only available on MPE/iX 4.0 and later you won’t have to worry about it if you are on an older version of the operating system.

I ran into another interesting bug/feature when using NM KSAM with Supertool the other day. Apparently there is some sort of copy bit that can be set in the KSAM file, prior to 4.0 it was set to NO no matter what options you specified since it wasn’t supported. Now it is recognized and cause all sorts of odd problems. The problem is that the file system doesn’t return the records that you think you should be getting. The only way to work around it is to specify NOCOPY on the file equation for the file. This isn’t a bug in the operating system, this is the way they intend it to work. This can happen with any process that FOPENs and FREADs NM KSAM files, so be aware.

I was talking to one of my legions of readers the other day and they expressed extreme surprise at the fact that I don’t get to see or approve the final copy of what I write for this column before it get’s published. I just want to mention that because sometimes the continuity of what I write can be mixed up to the point of illegibility (or they can fix my horrendous grammar). The other point being that there are things I have written that have been completely taken out of my text without my approval. So if you read something in here that doesn’t make sense, or if you want better clarification on an item, feel free to get ahold of me and I will be happy to help clear things up. I also get on CompuServe every day for those of you with a CIS account, 71561,160 is my number.

My wife and I are now the proud parent of a second puppy. I am happy to report that the two dogs seem to getting along well, if the big one would just stop chewing on the little ones head.