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Finding the missing piece of the V5R1 installation manual

IBM left out a part of the V5R1 installation manual. Now what do you do? Joe Hertvik offers some advice.

If you've installed or upgraded OS/400 software before, you know that it's IBM's practice to send along a printed copy of its Software Installation manual along with the installation media and other documentation. This book is a nice guide because it contains step-by-step instructions and checklists for creating your installation plan and running your install. You can make notes in the margins, check off what you've already done, and use the filled-out checklists as installation documentation when you're finished. The paper-based manual also comes in handy because many computer rooms (where most subject iSeries' reside) often don't have available Internet connections for retrieving installation information online.

Before V5R1, one of the more valuable chapters in the V4R5 manual was Chapter 3, Preparing for Software Installation. This chapter explained exactly what you needed to do before you installed your OS/400 software, including choosing an installation procedure, creating a customized installation list and estimating the installation time. Like the rest of the book, it was a great take-it-anywhere reference for pre-install tasks.

There's only one problem with this chapter in the V5R1 Software Installation manual (SC41-5120-05): IBM left it out of the paper manual and moved it to the V5R1 eServer iSeries 400 Information Center Web site (where it can be accessed by opening the Hardware and software-Software and licensed programs--Prepare for software installation turndowns). So although you can use the rest of the manual as a self-documenting notebook and field guide, some of the most important information -- preparing for the install -- has become browser-bound.

Although I'm a big fan of browser access for most things, this move falls apart because IBM's iSeries Information Center linking structure -- where each chapter sub-section is divided into its own page -- is inappropriate for a task that is totally dependent on going through all the material in the chapter and checking off on each item. Furthermore, separating the software preparation information from the overview and installation information could produce a disconnect where software installers may inadvertently skip the preparation information because it's not all lumped together with the other installation instructions in the paper-based manual.

With this less-than-satisfactory setup, you have only two options to retrieve your OS/400 software preparation information. You can try to read and check-off on the information online, or you can print out the whole chapter from the Web site. Neither option is totally satisfactory because you have to make an effort to get all the information, whereas with the paper format used in V4R5 all the information was in one place.

My tip here is that -- when you're doing your OS/400 V5R1 install -- your best bet is to traverse the software preparation information in the iSeries Information Center and print out all the Web pages dealing with this topic. The best way to insure that you have all the preparation information is to create your own paper version of the chapter that you can then use for a checklist and documentation. I realize this may be cumbersome, but unfortunately it's the only way to be sure you have reviewed and checked off on any necessary information before you install.

I'd like to humbly suggest to IBM that it put the software preparation information back into the paper Software Installation manual to make installation easier for their customers. And I sincerely hope that moving this information to the Information Center Web site isn't a first step to putting the rest of the installation information on the Web in the same format. Webifying this manual would make a moderately difficult task -- installing a new OS/400 release -- into a patchwork retrieval process for necessary information, possibly creating a number of installation errors. IBM would be better off in staying with the option of putting all the release installation information into the existing paper manual and then offering the manual in a PDF format for those who feel more comfortable using the Web.

Sometimes paper-based information is better than Web-based access for a task. In this case where accuracy and understanding count, I will take paper over the Web anytime.

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About the author: Joe Hertvik is an IT professional and freelance writer who has been working with OS/400 since the days of the System/38 in the mid-1980s. Joe can be reached at jhertvik@midrangeserver.com.

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