Review of OPSession 2
Shawn M. Gordon
President S.M.Gordon & Associates
About a year and a half ago I review version 1.0 of a product called OPSession. Well now it’s an year and a half later and version 2.0 is out and available. The two biggest differences are a higher price, and a much more streamlined and functional product.
I liked version 1.0, but I felt it was more appropriate for the people that it was intended for, Operators, rather that us hard core techy types that can type in a dozen commands before we can navigate through a few menu levels under MS Windows.
For those of you who didn’t read the first review, OPSession is an MS Windows based product that gives you a graphical menu driven interface to HP 3000 Operations. The current version only works against the HP 3000 series 9xx machines, and for optimum performance you should have a 25Mhz 486 with 8 meg of memory.
I tested the software on my 486/25 with 12 meg of RAM and MS Windows 3.1. I also was using Reflection 4.0 (WRQ), which OPSession uses for it’s PPL communication link to the HP. The version of OPSession that I had was 2.02.
The first thing that you will need to do is configure your environment, Figure 1 shows the set up screen that is used to configure your CPU’s and such. You can have multiple environments configured and when you start up the program you can select which one you want to work with. Once the terminal window pop’s up, you will want to click on the ‘LOGON’ button. This will display the string that you configured in the ‘Logon Text’ box (which you can change at this point if you want), and then send it to the CPU.
From what I saw it is important to make sure that Reflection is NOT running when you start up OPSession. OPSession will start up Reflection to make the host connection via DDE.
Once you are connected you can start doing operations type things. There is a terminal window that will display by default. This is a REAL bare bones terminal emulator, it handles no escape sequences at all that I can see. You can leave this window open so you can see the commands that are getting executed, or (the recommended way) is to close this window to improve the performance. This is because you don’t have to wait on the data scrolling in the terminal window. You can switch to this window to issue MPE commands at any time if you wish.
You will typically navigate by selecting an icon on the top row, or selecting the menu bar action. The OPSession desk top reminded me a lot of Paradox for Windows from Borland. You are not inundated by a zillion icons as is so common in Lotus products, rather you are presented with only what is appropriate. Once you have selected and used a particular function, you can minimize it on the desktop, and go to another function. You can leave all the functions minimized, and then quickly switch around between them, or set up the windows to tile or cascade on the OPSession desktop.
Figure 2a shows how a standard selection/filter box works, they all look pretty much them same. In this example I want to find all the files that start with S@ and have a file code of EDTCT, which is standard for COBOL source. Figure 2b shows the result of our query in the top window, only one file qualified, and the bottom window shows the result of double clicking on the file. From this point I could view the file, edit the file, alter it’s file access attributes, or purge it. In the case of MPE objects like USERS, GROUPS, ACCOUNTS you can also create them. Job’s and Sessions would allow you to break or abort them depending on what was appropriate.
What is really nice is that you have the exact same interface, and the same capabilities where appropriate, for FILES, USERS, GROUPS, ACCOUNTS, JOBS, SESSIONS, SPOOL FILES, TERMINALS, and PRINTERS. All entries that qualify will be sorted and given a sequence number, so just by looking at the last entry you will be able to tell how many entries qualified for your selection criteria.
I haven’t talked about the most basic feature that much, and that is what I just described in the previous paragraph. These functions are so straight forward, that all you really need to know is the objects you can work on, and the functions that you can perform against them.
Although OPSession doesn’t have dynamically changing fonts like WRQ’s Reflection for Windows, it does give you a couple of icons on the bottom of the screen that let you size the fonts up and down as far as the font’s are supported to go. This let’s you set things up the way you like them. If you had a 17″ monitor, with Windows set to 800×600 you will be able to see a heck of a lot of data on one screen.
Usability (also installation)
The installation has changed dramatically from version 1.0, instead of making you do everything (creating directories and copying files) they now use a standard MS Windows installation program. There were no problems for this part of the installation. The next thing you do is configure your CPU or CPU’s if there is more than one you are going to be connecting to.
The software was pretty intuitive, which is the opposite of what I said about version 1.0. I didn’t actually have to look at the manual at any time, I did however just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. A very straight forward and standard MS Windows interface makes this a very usable product.
I did manage to generate a couple of MS Windows GPF’s (General Protection Faults), but this had to do with either Windows DDE or with the WRQ PPL server (like not having the server program on the HP). OPSession on it’s own never seemed to experience any problems, and the times where I thought it wasn’t working right were due to my own mistakes. This seems to be a very reliable release of the product.
I’m afraid this is where all Client/Server products seem to fall down. Once the data is on the PC it zip’s right along, but getting it there is almost always slow, no matter how little or much work it is doing. I don’t know if there is anything that can be done to speed that part of it up. It get’s confusing as to what is causing the speed bottleneck, the PC, the PPL, the code in OPSession, the connection to the HP, or the HP itself. There is no way to tell either, no tools exist that will examine Client/Server performance (there’s a product in there somewhere).
Supportability (including Doc)
The folks at Cygnet know there product and know how to answer questions. It isn’t hard to get a hold of them either. There really isn’t much need to talk with them other than some configuration issues, the product is just to straight forward.
The documentation is very slim, under 30 pages, and to be honest it doesn’t need to be any thicker than it is. The documentation is probably not real great for an entry level Operator that has had OPSession thrown at him, but since I am not sure who is using the product I can’t really say that it is wrong. For me it was very easy to follow.
I’ve got to say that this new version is so much better than the previous one it’s not even funny. I had a great time just bopping around and importing groups and files and changing their access attributes.
There was something in the 1.0 version called ‘Monitors’ that hadn’t made it into the current version yet. These were scripts that you could set to execute on a predetermined basis. I am told that this will be showing up again soon, but since they did what appears to be a total re-write of the product, it will take a little more time before it comes out.
Although OPSession doesn’t make use of the standard MS Windows help facility, it does seem to have ‘Help’ buttons in all the sub-functions that will give you a concise description of what is expected at that point.
There are a couple of things that I would still like to see in the product, one of them is something that I was asking for in version 1.0. I would like to see the ability to right mouse click on a capability and have the description of the 2 character mnemonic pop up with a description of the capability. MPE doesn’t offer anything like this, and I think it would be a very nice touch. The other thing I would like to see, is when you have done something like selected all the groups in an account and change a capability, is have the software reimport the affected objects automatically when it makes the change. Otherwise you have to reimport the entire selection and this can be slow.
This is an easy to use and useful product, I would strongly recommend it for operations where you may have Operators that aren’t real HP literate (just make sure the Operators know what the real commands are too eventually). By making sure that the terminal window is on then the Operator will be able to see the actual command that was issued. So if you think about it, this can also be used as an operations learning tool. You’ll have fun with it too, and the mouse driven interface will help stave off CTS for another couple of years.
OPSession for Windows version 2.02 by Cygnet Software P.O. Box 4667 Incline Village, NV 89450 800-831-3323 Call or write for product information or 30 day demo. Price ranges from $2,000 with support being $300 per year, to $3,500 with support being $525 per year.