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Use Express V5R1 to share PC5250 configurations

By creating one generic Express workstation profile (.WS file), you can share one PC5250 configuration among many machines.

Like most administrators, you probably want to set up a generic, shareable PC5250 display session configuration that allows you to do the following things:

  1. Configure specific PC5250 settings the same way for each user.
  2. Avoid having to create, copy or modify individual PC5250 configurations on each desktop.
  3. Provide the ability to change user settings without revisiting each desktop.

With Client Access Express for Windows V5R1 (Express), you can create one generic Express workstation profile (.WS file), store it in a central file server location and share it with any number of Express PC5250 machines without having to change any configuration parameters. You can do this without running into any device naming conflicts, and you can also start multiple PC5250 device sessions on the same machine using the same configuration. All you need to do is make sure Express V5R1 is accessible on each machine and then create a shortcut to a shared .WS file on the network. Here's my simple checklist for accomplishing this feat:

  1. On a PC that already has Express PC5250 V5R1 installed, go into the Client Access Properties screen (which can be accessed from the Windows Control Panel or from the IBM Client Access Express folder). Click on the PC5250 tab that IBM has added to the V5R1 version of this screen.
  2. On the PC5250 Client Access Properties screen that appears, there is only one parameter, the Path to PC5250 emulator files radio button. This parameter has three possible settings that affect where PC5250 automatically stores its .WS and other configuration files: the Client Access installation directory (the Emulator/Private directory under your Express directory); My Documents (which stores the files in your Windows My Documents folder); or a User specified path (which automatically stores the files in any directory of your own choosing, including network directories). For our generic .WS file, select the User specific path radio button and fill in the path to the network drive where you want to store the files. There's also a Browse function available if you need help finding the right path.
  3. Use the Start or Create session option in the IBM AS/400 Client Access Express->Emulator folder to start configuring a new PC5250 configuration. Enter the System name of the iSeries server you want to connect to on the Configure PC5250 screen (which you can find by selecting Communication, Configure from the PC5250 menu bar). Then under the Workstation ID section of the screen, select the Use Computer Name radio button and also place a check in the Avoid duplicate names on this workstation and Avoid duplicate names with other workstation checkboxes. Save this configuration as a PC5250 workstation profile (a .WS file). PC5250 will save the .WS file to the network location you specified in step two. (Note: There is also another radio button on this screen that allows you to use the Windows user name as the basis for your Workstation ID instead of the Computer name. However, for this tip I'll focus on using the Computer name, but the principles and execution are exactly the same regardless of whether you select the Windows user name or the Computer name).
  4. Create a shortcut to the networked .WS file on the user's desktop. Then, whenever a user signs on to the network and clicks on the workstation profile shortcut, PC5250 will use the shared .WS file to start a PC5250 display. The OS/400 display device name will be equal to the Windows computer name that is listed under the Identification tab of the machine's Network properties, plus a pound sign (#) followed by a letter and a number. So if the Windows computer name was JOE, the first V5R1 PC5250 device name would be called JOE#A1. If the user clicks on the shortcut a second time, PC5250 will start a second session called JOE#B1. The third session would be called JOE#C1, and so on. V5R1 PC5250 will allow you to launch multiple unique sessions from the same generic .WS file because you checked the Avoid duplicate names on this workstation check box in your configuration. The only hitch in using the Windows computer name as the device name is that -- by default -- PC5250 will use only first seven characters of the computer name (the final three characters are reserved for the pound sign, a session letter identifier from A-Z, and the computer number, which is usually '1'). So if your computer name is longer than seven characters, some truncation will occur as it is folded into a device name.
  5. To use this same configuration on a different machine that has PC5250 installed, go to that machine and set the Client Access Properties' Path to PC5250 emulation files parameter to the same User Specified Path settings we configured in step two. With the user signed on, create the same Windows desktop shortcut to the shared. WS file we created in step three. The generated V5R1 PC5250 device names will then be equal to the machine's Windows computer name plus "#A1", "#B1", "#C1", etc (i.e., S400#A1, S400#B1, S400#C1). If the generated device name duplicates another V5R1 PC5250 device name (because the two computers are on different subnets or the truncated generated names are the same), PC5250 will increment the number at the end of the device name to avoid a conflict. (For example, JOE#A2 might be the device name used when JOE#A1 is already in use by another computer.) PC5250 avoids naming conflicts this way because you checked the Avoid duplicate names with other workstation checkbox when you configured the shared .WS file in step three.

By following the above procedure, you can share one PC5250 configuration among many different machines provided that you have also configured your iSeries for automatic device configuration and your PC5250 users are signed on to the network and they have access to the shared generic .WS file. This simple technique should save you a lot of time in setting up PC5250 devices throughout the network. You can also easily change your configuration for all computers by making a change to the shared .WS file. Changes will become active whenever your users close down and restart their PC5250 display sessions.

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About the author: Joe Hertvik is an IT consultant and freelance writer who specializes in middleware, network infrastructure, and iSeries issues. Joe can be reached at hertvik@home.com.

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