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How to diagnose iSeries Access connection problems -- Part 2

When last we heard from Andrew Borts he was trying to figure out why his iSeries Access connection kept dropping. After many checks, tests and updates, he was still stumped and ended up turning to his network administrators for help. Find out what they determined the culprit was.

My boss Jack once walked into the programming office and looked into the sky (well, ceiling) and sang "Here's my...

story -- sad but true." Thank goodness the guy sitting next to me and I didn't drop the ball, and we sang, "Wa-ooo," at the appropriate time.

What's the point to that little story, you ask? It illustrates that we need to work together and do our parts when issues arise. In my previous article we began to tackle the problem of my laptop dropping its iSeries Access connection to my iSeries. Here's a recap of what we've done so far to rectify the situation:

 

  1. Checked the Service Pack of iSeries Access on both the laptop that's giving me problems AND on the laptop that's OK
  2. Checked the system logs to see if anything "obvious" is being sent there that indicates what the problems could be
  3. Cleared the DNS Cache -- something that could be messing things up
  4. Looked at the PC's internal routing table. For people with VPNs, this is an important step (thanks Dustin!).

Unfortunately, I'm still stumped. The PC is still dropping the connection to the iSeries. Now what? Desperate measures? Lots of crying?

First I asked, "How up-to-date is this complex operating system?" Open up Internet Explorer and look under the heading of "Tools." You'll see "Windows Update." Select that and follow the appropriate prompts that it will give you.

Windows Update will take care of the operating system and will update many of the system drivers. You will need to run this multiple times to make sure it catches all the updates to the operating system (and drivers). It's always good to check with the manufacturer of your particular system (in my case IBM) for updating the following:

 

  1. Firmware -- Each item in your PC has firmware that may need to be "flashed" with updates. Some examples:
    • CD/DVD players
    • Disk drives
    • Ethernet cards

     

  2. Motherboard BIOS updates
  3.  

  4. Additional driver "Packs" for the operating system installed on your system
  5.  

  6. Updated support programs and diagnostic tools

     

  7. PC's operating system -- Click "Run" and type in SFC; a command line utility called "System File Checker" double checks the integrity of the PC's operating system.
  8.  

  9. Eliminated any spyware on the system
    Note: Find a couple tools and use them regularly. Don't just use one; use two. Spyware interferes with communications because it's sending information back to the "mother ship" about keystrokes. Spyware is fast becoming a new threat to PCs.
  10.  

  11. Run an antivirus scan to make sure no bugs are crawling in the system.
  12.  

  13. MSCONFIG is another utility given to us to eliminate software as an issue. This will give you the ability to start or stop anything except what's necessary. Please use this only if you're an advanced PC user -- or you have your administrator's blessing and/or guidance.

More Information

Other things that I did:

 

  1. I took a look at the Ethernet wire
    • In my case, the problem was happening with both a wireless connection and with a wired Ethernet connection -- perplexing!
    • One test I did was switch Ethernet wires
    • Another test I did was to switch Ethernet Ports. (In this case, I employed a 25-foot cable and borrowed a cube mate's port while he was on vacation.)
    • Another test I did was to switch Ethernet sections. I picked up my laptop and found another with a spare (live) port I could use for a quick test.
  2.  

  3. To eliminate software as an issue, I re-installed iSeries Access
    • Registry problems could have appeared after I installed iSeries Access or other various software.
    • I upgraded the service pack. These are located at https://www-03.ibm.com/servers/eserver/iseries/access/
    •  

    • I also wanted to further eliminate this problem, so I experimented with Mochasoft's TN5250 client to see if my problem happened there, too. To my dismay, it did. Within six minutes Mochasoft's emulator disconnected as well, making this problem a TCP/IP issue, communication issue, operating system issue, or hardware issue. That is because Mochasoft and iSeries Access software both had the same symptoms.

Another resource (after I performed the above) was to cry for help. I called my network administrators (you can also call IBM's support line), and after going over everything with them, they helped me see my way through the fog. Eliminating the above, I now have only one reason for the problem: My laptop's physical Ethernet hardware appears to be bad. Now I need to go deal with that.

As you can see, our cute little cousins to the iSeries can be very complex animals. But now you have some tools to help you diagnose your problem. Hopefully your solution will come easier to you than it did to me.

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About the author: Andrew Borts is webmaster at United Auto Insurance Group in North Miami, Fla. He is often a frequent speaker at COMMON and is past president of The Southern National Users Group, an iSeries-AS/400 user group based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.


 

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