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FAQ: Coolspools and the IFS

Where does my output go and how can I access it?

Where the output is created depends on what you specify on the TOSTMF parameter of the CVTSPLxxxx or CVTDBFxxxx command that you ran.

By default, CoolSpools outputs to your current directory in the IFS. But you can tell CoolSpools to output to any location your system i gives you access to, not just directories on the system i's own disks, but also other systems such as Windows and UNIX servers. You just need to choose what suits you best.

Normally you will want to access these stream files from a PC application such as Adobe Acrobat Viewer, Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word. How you access CoolSpools output from your PC depends on a number of factors which we will consider shortly.

The TOSTMF parameter

When you run one of the CVTSPLxxxx or CVTDBFxxxx commands, you specify where you want the output to go and what you want it to be called on the TOSTMF (To Stream File) parameter.

There are 3 basic options:

Understanding IFS path names

The IFS (Integrated File System) is a collection of file systems that your system i can use to store and retrieve information. Depending on which file system you choose to use, the data may be stored locally (on your system i’ own disks) or remotely (on another system in your network).

When you enter a path name on the TOSTMF parameter, you are telling CoolSpools the name of the file you wish to create. You will also be telling it, explicitly or implicitly, in which file system and directory to save that file.

The path consists of four elements:

You should also understand the difference between an absolute path name and a relative path name.

An absolute path name is one which explicitly defines the full location at which a file is to be saved.

For example, the path name

/sales/north/2010/nov/new_business.pdf

is an absolute path name which specifies the full location of a file to be created and breaks down as follows:

/ The initial / indicates the root file system
sales The name of the directory in the root file system
north The name of a subdirectory within /sales
2010 The name of a subdirectory within /sales/north
nov The name of a subdirectory within /sales/north/2010
new_business The name of the file to be created
.pdf The file extension, indicating an Adobe Acrobat file.

However, if you do not enter a forward slash (/) at the beginning of a path name, your system i will interpret this as a relative path name. Relative path names are interpreted relative to the current directory of the job (similar to the current directory in Windows or DOS).

For example, if your current directory is already set to /sales, the path

north/2010/nov/new_business.pdf

(note there is no leading /) would be interpreted relative to /sales and would refer to exactly the same location as the absolute path

/sales/north/2010/nov/new_business.pdf

The current directory of your job can be set with the CHGCURDIR or CD commands. Often, the current directory will be set automatically for you when you sign on to the system i based upon the HOMEDIR (home directory) attribute of your user profile.

Assume that your user profile has HOMEDIR = /home/john, indicating that when you sign on the current directory should be set to the john subdirectory within the home directory of the root file system. Unless you have changed this with CHGCURDIR or CD, if you specify a relative path name, the path will be interpreted relative to your current directory /home/john.

For example, the relative path

reports/sales.pdf

would be interpreted as referring to a file called sales.pdf in a subdirectory called reports within /home/john.

You will need to enclose path names in single quotes (') on the TOSTMF parameter if they contain forward slashes or other special characters.

For example:

TOSTMF(new_business.pdf)

is acceptable to OS/400 without single quotes, but your system i will insist that:

TOSTMF(‘/sales/north/2010/nov/new_business.pdf’)

is entered with single quotes around the path name. When prompting the command with F4, the system i will enclose the path name in quotes for you if you have not already done it.

Be careful when using relative path names. We recommend the use of absolute path names. If you use relative path names, you may get different results depending on the user who is running the command as current directories could differ from one job or user to another.

Further information on the IFS can be found here.

Choosing where to store your output

When it comes to deciding where to save your CoolSpools output, a number of factors need to be considered, for example:

We will now consider the various IFS file systems you are most likely to want to use according to these criteria.

Root File System

The “root” file system is in many ways the “default” IFS file system and is probably where most CoolSpools users choose to store their output.

You save a CoolSpools file in the root file system if you enter a path name on the TOSTMF parameter which does not explicitly and implicitly refer to any other file system.

Users can access files created on your system i in the “root” file system using network drives. For example, if your users have their I: drive assigned to the system i root file system, they could open a file called sales_report.pdf saved in a directory called sales by opening i:/sales/sales_report.pdf in Adobe Acrobat.

Simplicity

Excellent

The simplest and easiest to use. Long file names are supported.

Not case-sensitive.

Performance

Good

Writing data locally will keep down the time taken to create the files.

Speed of retrieval from a PC will depend on your network and other factors such as the power and loading of your system i.

Reliability

Excellent

Writing data locally means that file creation is not dependent on the availability of the network or another system.

Access

Good

Easy to access from Windows using network drives.

Management

Good

Can be backed up with the system i.

Can be managed from the system i command line or from Windows using a network drive.

Security

Excellent

System i security applies.

Scalability

Moderate

High cost of system i disks a possible issue.

Comments

 

Recommended unless other factors dictate otherwise.

QDLS File System

The QDLS or “shared folders” file system implements a DOS-style method of saving PC files and other documents on the system i own disks. It is really a legacy file system providing backwards compatibility for older applications written for the S/38 or versions of OS/400 that pre-date the availability of the IFS (OS/400 V3R1M0).

You save a CoolSpools file in the QDLS file system if you enter a path name on the TOSTMF parameter which starts /QDLS or if you use a relative path name and your current directory path starts /QDLS. Users can access files created on your system i in the QNTC file system using network drives. For example, if you users have their I: drive assigned to the system i root file system, they could open a file called REPORT.PDF saved in a shared folder called SALES by opening i:/QDLS/SALES/REPORT.PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

Simplicity

Good

Familiar to long-standing users of S/38 and AS/400 applications.

Not case-sensitive.

Naming limited to DOS-style 8.3 conventions so long file names will cause errors.

Performance

Poor

Slow compared to the “root” file system.

Reliability

Excellent

Writing data locally means that file creation is not dependent on the availability of the network or another system.

Access

Good

Easy to access from Windows using network drives.

Management

Good

Can be backed up with the system i. Can be managed from the system i command line or from Windows using a network drive.

Security

Excellent

System i security applies.

Scalability

Moderate

High cost of system i disks a possible issue.

Comments

 

Use the “root” file system instead.

QNTC File System

The QNTC file system is the system i implementation of Windows network neighborhood. It allows you to write to and read from files stored on a Windows server running NT 4.0 or above. This is not restricted to the IXA (Integrated xSeries Adapter, previously known as the Integrated Netfinity Server, Integrated PC Server or FSIOP.

Please note that you will need OS/400 V5R2M0 or above to read and write to files stored under Windows XP.

You save a CoolSpools file in the QNTC file system if you enter a path name on the TOSTMF parameter which starts /QNTC or if you use a relative path name and your current directory path starts /QNTC. The file system name /QNTC should be followed by the name of the server, then the name of the shared resource on that server (e.g. the shared directory name) and then the path within that shared directory.

Imagine you have a Windows server which is known to the network as server1. On that server there is a directory called sales which is shared under the name sales. Within that shared directory there is a subdirectory called 2010. If you have QNTC configured and your security settings allow it, you can save a file called november.pdf in that subdirectory from the system i by specifying the path name:

/QNTC/server1/sales/2010/november.pdf

The QNTC file system can be quite difficult to configure and manage, but once you have it running it can provide a very effective means of creating CoolSpools output directly on a Windows server in your network.

Please note in particular that the system i user profile of the job which accesses QNTC must be the same name and have the same password as a user id that Windows networking recognizes.

Further information on QNTC is at:

http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=nas1aea450153eebf8ff8625670f0072550f&rs=110

http://www.itjungle.com/fhg/fhg031704-story04.html

http://www.itjungle.com/mgo/mgo111903-story02.html

Once you have saved your files on a Windows server in your network, users can then access files created with CoolSpools on that Windows server using Windows networking. For example, if they have their F: drive assigned to a directory called sales on that server, they could access a file called sales_report.pdf in that directory simply by opening file F:/sales_report.pdf.

Simplicity

Moderate

Can be difficult to set up and manage.

Once files are saved on the Windows server, access should be very simple.

Performance

Moderate-good

The speed of creating files and retrieving files across the network on the PC server is dependent on factors such as network and PC loadings and may be slow.

Typically the time taken to create files will be greater than for the /root file system, but, once created, they will be quicker to access.

Reliability

Low-moderate

Creating files across the network on the PC server requires both the server and the network to be available at the time and can require careful management.

Access

Excellent

Easy to access from Windows using Windows networking.

Management

Good

Will need to be backed up and managed under Windows.

Security

Good

Windows security applies.

Scalability

Excellent

Low-cost PC disks can be used.

Comments

 

If you prefer to store your files on a Windows PC server rather than on the system i, this is an ideal solution if the initial setup issues can be overcome and you can ensure that the PC server will be available to the system i when it needs to create the files.

Typical Solutions

When implementing CoolSpools, it is important to make the right choices about where you will save the files you create and how you will access them.

Here are a few typical approaches that users have successfully implemented in the past.

NetServer

In order to access file stored on the system i from a PC network drive, you must have NetServer running on your system i and you must have created an appropriate NetServer file share.

NetServer can be managed from a PC using System i Navigator (part of System i Access). However, System i Navigator can be slow and heavy on resource usage, so many customers find our FREE NetServer Toolkit (CoolSpools Product Option 5) a simpler and more convenient way to administer NetServer.

A NetServer file share is very similar to a shared directory on a Windows server, in that it makes a system i IFS directory available to access on the network. Users can assign a network drive under Windows by specifying a directory path such as:

\\systemi_name\share_name

where "systemi_name" is the name of the system i as known to NetServer (usually the system name prefixed by a Q, but modifiable using Ops Nav or the NetServer Toolkit CHGNETSVRA (Change NetServer Attributes) command;

or

\\systemi_IP_address\share_name

where "systemi_IP_address" is the IP address of the system i

"share_name" in both cases is the name of the share you created

If using NetServer Toolkit, you can create a file share with the CRTFILSHR command.

Further information on IBM NetServer can be found on the IBM website here.


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