Get familiar with HTML
You don't need a server or a fancy computer to use HTML. The computer you're using to read this tip will work just fine. Use a simple text editor, such as NotePad or WordPad, to edit HTML files.
If you really want to get fancy, it is crucial that you get wise on HTML and understand what's going on behind the curtain. Why? When you start programming using CGIDEV2 or other iSeries tools to output the information, understanding is key.
Clean HTML code is also crucial because there are rules you must follow and it's difficult to adhere to them if the code hasn't been written well. Follow them and your data's format will be fairly consistent across browsers. I say "fairly" because on the Web, the rule is write once, debug many times. Things that seem simple could set you back hours if you don't know what to look for.
SQL on i5 increases productivity
SQL is the basis for all online languages. SQL is very powerful and can decrease your coding by thousands of lines when used properly. SQL, like a well-written RPG program, understands how to drill down into a file and get everything needed from it. There are plenty of books out there to help with your initial use of SQL. SQL is inexpensive and available on all i5 systems, so you can quickly become far more productive for little money.
Common Gateway Interface (CGI) allows RPG programming
Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is how the Internet communicates. Your programs can be written in RPG like the group of tools called CGIDEV2 (books about this abound). I've watched this important tool grow since a friend of mine told me about it in 2000. Now he's doing more with it, and other programmers are publishing about it. This tool allows you to program in ILE RPG and RPG Free.
And that's not all! Other free programming tools include Net.Data, an easy-to-use Web scripting language that comes on all i5 systems, and PHP, which is a free download from Zend. PHP is a very popular Web programming language with a many examples to learn from, emulate and build upon. The new version of PHP on iSeries even talks to Microsoft SQL server with drivers – so the i5 can actually serve multi-server databases with a free tool. There are other tools to develop on the Web using iSeries, but let's walk first, run later.
Put all of the above tools together to form an easy-to-use, universally understood project. Let's face the facts: The green screen is the today's punch card. Every time users try to get into our back end system with their emulation package of choice, they first say "You're still using DOS?" That can break a many programmers' hearts. If you can use Web app tools to put widgets on your company intranet, such as a "sign up here for more information" page where users enter information and some marketing muck receives a good-looking report on his browser, eventually you'll see the users' eyes glaze over with glee.
There you have it: lazy professional development. There are many more skills out there to learn, however, the above is the hottest you can get yourself into -- do it now rather than later!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Borts is Webmaster at United Auto Insurance Group in North Miami, Fla. He is 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.