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Readers sound off about manual's missing chapter

Readers respond to a resent tip about V5R1's missing chapter 3. Check out what they had to say.

In my last Administrator Tip "Finding the missing piece of the V5R1 installation manual," I bemoaned the fact that IBM removed chapter three, Preparing for Software Installation, from its V5R1 Software Installation manual (SC41-5120-05) and moved it to the eServer iSeries 400 Information Center Web site, scattering necessary upgrade information between a paper manual, a Web site and a PDF file. As you might guess, this is not the optimal way to plan an upgrade.

It appears that I touched a nerve with our readers, and I received a flood of e-mail to prove it. Most readers agreed with me (which I'm really not used to), with several offering more information, suggestions, or observations on why this was such a bone-headed move on IBM's part. Here are a few highlights.

One reader wrote, "Using the Internet [procedures] was confusing and time consuming and since I was preparing for the install in September of 2001, the Internet was not always available due to the Sept. 11 tragedy." This theme was echoed by another who said that, "Add to the fact that IBM is assuming that all sites where V5R1 is being installed have Internet access. Yes, there are some that don't. In other cases, there's a standalone dial-up PC in some room far away from the iSeries. It happens to be an ancient 286 with a 2400 modem. That happens too."

Deteriorating standards and suspicions of IBM motives also rode in the wave of e-mail, best summed up by the ex-IBM System Engineer who wrote in to tell me that, "My personal opinion is that IBM is creating another venue to sell services. Most users get so frustrated that they call ex-SE's like myself, or IBM, to do the installation... I see this as another example of making a relatively easy task difficult." Another reader wasn't quite as gentle when she wrote "I have lived through the years of deteriorating documentation from IBM, starting from a S/34 through S/38 to the current AS/400, and it gets worse with every version/release."

Some people were more proactive such as the pair of readers who wrote in to tell me that Chapter 3 (and other software management information) could be found in PDF format. While this is true and it makes getting the information slightly easier, it doesn't dilute the central point of the tip, which was: it shouldn't be that hard for the average OS/400 shop to locate and retrieve vital installation information and -- before V5R1 -- it wasn't. Everything was in one place and you didn't have to go through and dig it out yourself or rely on others to give you the right link. It's too easy to mess things up when you have to go to multiple sources to get all your upgrade information.

Other readers told me that they have complained to IBM about the situation before and plan to do so again. Several suggested that we lobby IBM about this, loudly, and I hope those of you who are going to COMMON will bring up this issue again at AS/400 Sound Off and in personal conversations with IBM. Another of our readers has promised to do just that, stating that "If IBM doesn't want to publish this manual in its entirety, than publish it in PDF form, and let us decide whether to print the entire document."

And to any IBM decision makers who are reading this, please understand that this isn't just the opinion of one disgruntled writer and administrator. Many of your customers are finding V5R1 a difficult install simply because you have made it hard to retrieve basic installation information. There's still time to reverse this course and fix your mistake by delivering valuable easy-to-use documentation when OS/400 V5R2 is released; documentation that is delivered in one piece in one place. The AS/400 and iSeries has a good reputation for ease of use. Please don't botch it now by messing up your documentation in one of the most critical places of all: when people are installing and upgrading your system. Both loyal and new OS/400 customers deserve better.

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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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