February 2005


The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about issues important to the Lawson Software community.  The LawsonGuru Letter is published by-and is solely the opinion of-John Henley of Decision Analytics.  Visit Decision Analytics at http://www.danalytics.com.  For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.
The LawsonGuru Letter is not affiliated with Lawson Software.


In this issue:
1. Guest Spot: Using VNC with Lawson
2. Lawson's Road Ahead: Smooth Ride or Rocky Terrain?
3. Reporting, Part 9: LRS-What's in a Name?
4. Worthwhile Reading
5. Lawson Tips & Tricks

A hearty "welcome back!" to Alex Tsekhansky from AIC.  Alex is sharing another Guest Spot article with us (and will be joining us again in a couple of months!).  Enjoy your "15 minutes of fame" by submitting your own Guest Spot article-email it to me at mailto:letter-editor@lawsonguru.com.

A couple of notes on "Lawson's Road Ahead" and the ever-changing ERP landscape.  This is probably one of the toughest articles I've ever had to write.  I've actually been working on this one for a couple of months.  No sooner had I completed what I thought would be the final version when some news item would catch my eye, and I'd realize that the picture had changed yet again.  This happened again a couple of days ago, when SAP announced their acquisition of TomorrowNow, a third-party PeopleSoft maintenance/support firm (see http://www.sap.com/company/press/press.epx?PressID=3715).  This move is sure to make SAP a formidable competitor in the bid for PeopleSoft converts.  This is also a difficult article because it might be interpreted that I'm "Lawson-bashing", which hopefully you'll understand is not the case.  I'm simply trying to make the case that this will be a very interesting (and likely very rough) couple of years for Lawson.  That's not "Lawson-bashing", that's facing reality.
1. Guest Spot: Using VNC with Lawson
(by Alex Tsekhansky, Analysts International)

I’ve been working with Lawson software products for a long time and have performed numerous installations. Recently I’ve noticed that to install Lawson’s newer products on UNIX you must have X-Windows software. Also, on Windows, some Lawson installation routines, especially related to the installation or upgrade of the environment, do not work over a Remote Terminal Services session. You must have remote control console software to perform such installs.

Until recently I’ve used various commercial products to resolve those problems. From a technology point of view UNIX presents some challenge, because X-Windows requires a connection initiated on the Lawson server back to client PC running X-Windows server software. I used commercial product called Hummingbird Exceed, as well as XFREE software, which is contained in a CYGWIN freeware suite, with good results. The usual problems, however, are bandwidth and security. X-Windows connections do not perform well over dial-up, and, in case of a high-speed connection, client firewalls must allow the Lawson server to connect to the “outside” computer on the internet (or over VPN if I am connected to Lawson that way).

I came across a free VNC software (one incarnation of which can be downloaded from here http://www.realvnc.com), and realized it has an interesting feature. It is possible to run this VNC server on UNIX with a “self-contained virtual” X-Windows server, and connect to it in a PCANYWHERE-like fashion. VNC client software is one very small program (one .EXE file) that does not require installation. Such setup on UNIX has the following interesting characteristics:
  1. It does not require any outgoing connections. Incoming connections go to one port that you can choose while starting VNC.
     
  2. X-Windows session will be always active (meaning all processing will be going in this X-Windows window – even if you’re disconnected from the server). That makes it ideal for programs like lasetup, appinstall, delprod etc, which you can run now without a fear that connection between your PC and a server breaks, and GEN database may become corrupted.
     
  3. Screen refreshed will be going in PCANYWHERE-like manner (meaning not all screen changes will be transferred to the client, which makes it workable over dial-up connections).
  4. You do not have to have the server running an X-Windows console. Since all X-Windows services are virtual, VNC will make its own instance of the X-Windows client and server. You do, however, need X-Windows libraries installed on the UNIX server. They are installed by default in all major UNIXes made by HP, SUN and IBM.
  5. You can share a session between multiple users, if desired. So, it can be used as a “training tool”.
  6. You can use cut/copy/paste between VNC window and your Windows desktop applications. That makes copying of text files easy.
  7. VNC now has Java viewers, so sessions do not even require proprietary client software.

The screen resolution for X-Windows window is settable on the UNIX side. The software has very small footprint, and does not have to be run by “root”. When connected, you will have the same privileges as the user who ran the programs that appear in the X-Windows window.

You’re required to have Java 1.4.x (I prefer 1.4.2) on the UNIX server to run it. However if you download Java from SUN web site, you can install it into a directory of your choice. You do not need to be ROOT to install Java this way. Such Java installation will not interfere with any other Java installations used by Lawson, which still requires Java 1.3.1 for many tasks.

Setting Up VNC on UNIX

My recent installation of VNC was done on SUN Solaris 8. I installed Java in /home/at/jdk/j2sdk1.4.2_06. I downloaded the VNC archive from the www.realvnc.com web site, and untar’d it into a separate directory. I then ran ./vncinstall, which copied a few executable files into a directory that I specified. You must assign 777 permissions to two directories - /tmp/.X11-pipe and /tmp/.X11-unix. This task may need to be done as root.

In the new directory you need to run ./vncpasswd. It will ask you for a password to be used for VNC connections. The free version of VNC does not use UNIX users, so this password should be kept secret, and known only to VNC users.

Most VNC configuration files are located in the $HOME/.vnc directory. The encrypted password is saved in the $HOME/.vnc/passwd file.

I use the following script to start VNC client and server on UNIX:

#!/usr/bin/ksh
#
# VNC start

JAVA_HOME=/home/at/jdk/j2sdk1.4.2_06
PATH=$JAVA_HOME/bin:$PATH
export JAVA_HOME PATH

nohup ./vncserver :4 -name Integration -geometry 1024x768 -depth 8 -cc 3 -rfbport=9999 > integration.out 2>&1 &


The “-geometry” switch defines the resolution (in pixels) of the virtual X-Windows session. The “-rfbport” defines a TCP port number that the VNC server will listen on for incoming connections. The “-depth” defines number of colors (less colors will mean lesser bandwidth requirements). Since VNC started in nohup, I can disconnect from my window where I started VNC.

On startup, VNC runs the script $HOME/.vnc/xstartup
I use the following script:

#!/bin/sh

[ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
nohup xsetroot -solid grey
nohup vncconfig -iconic &
nohup xterm -geometry 80x24+10+10 -ls -title "$VNCDESKTOP Desktop" &
nohup twm &


It runs XTERM window in the VNC session with 24x80 text by default as well as some XWindows tools.

After that you can run VNC client and specify host name and port number as described in documentation.

VNC for Windows

VNC software also exists for Windows platform, and it can run either as an application, or as a service. Consider it a free multi-user PCANYWHERE replacement. Note, however, that it does not support file transfer by default, like PCANYWHERE does. It needs to be installed by the member of the Administrators group, but the installation process can take place in the Remote Terminal session. On Windows, only one instance of VNC can be running at a time.

Other Sources for VNC

Commercial versions of VNC, or some other free ones (not developed by Real VNC) have some additional features – such as file transfer, remote printing, user authentication using OS accounts, active-directory-based security, screen scaling, data stream encryption etc. Other VNC flavors include UltraVNC – www.ultravnc.com, TightVNC - www.tightvnc.com, etc. Some others can be found here http://faq.gotomyvnc.com/fom-serve/cache/113.html.

All of them support basic VNC functionality. Some may require their own client for additional features (such as file transfer).


2. Lawson’s Road Ahead: Smooth Ride or Rocky Terrain?

It’s certainly been an interesting few months for anyone involved with Lawson, ERP and software in general. Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft is becoming a reality, and Lawson is trying to woo the defectors (which is good news for Lawson’s iSeries clients—but more on that in a moment).   [Read More...]


3. Reporting, Part 9: LRS-What’s in a name?

Here’s an interesting question I received recently from a reader:

“I've been reading back thru some of the LawsonGuru Letter issues; specifically the reporting series. What's the difference between Lawson Enterprise Reporting, Lawson Reporting Services, and Lawson Reporting Suite? Is it that Enterprise Reporting specifically uses Crystal Enterprise (CE)? If you already run Crystal Enterprise, does LRS lay right on top? I don't get it.”

Unfortunately, Lawson hasn’t done a very good job educating the community about the product differences; a problem which has been exacerbated by using the LRS acronym for both Lawson Reporting Services as well as Lawson Reporting Suite.

Lawson Reporting Services and Crystal Enterprise (CE) are separate products, with overlapping functionality. You don't need (or probably want) both. LRS doesn't use CE. It uses a bundled piece of Crystal--specifically the Crystal run-time rendering engine, but it should not be confused with CE.

Lawson Enterprise Reporting
Lawson Enterprise Reporting is a server-based product which is really just a re-branding of CE (Lawson ships you CE along with an "integration pack" that 1) makes CE loosely integrated with Portal (i.e. CE sessions run "inside" portal), 2) re-skins CE to give it the same colors as Lawson Portal, and 3) redirects any CE report drill-around calls to open the drill-around in portal rather than in a separate browser window.

Reports are developed using the Crystal Designer, and published to the CE Server. Enterprise Reporting also includes the Lawson OLEDB Provider and the Lawson Query Builder, which provides an "awareness" into Lawson's data-dictionary, and applies Lawson security. The OLEDB Provider is installed on both the Crystal Server and any desktops on which the Crystal Designer is installed.

Lawson Reporting Services
Lawson Reporting Services (LRS) is the "next generation" of Enterprise Reporting (I don't think Lawson will even sell you Enterprise Reporting anymore). LRS replaces CE as the server software, and Lawson runs the report (which is still a Crystal report!) using an embedded copy of the Crystal engine. Reports are still developed using the Crystal Designer, but are published to the LRS server. LRS also includes the Lawson OLEDB Provider; the OLEDB Provider is installed on both the LRS server and any desktops on which the Crystal Designer is installed.

Lawson Reporting Suite
Lawson Reporting Suite (often also abbreviated as LRS) is a superset of Lawson Reporting Services, and also includes SmartNotification, ProcessFlow Professional, and Scorecards/Analytics.

Crystal Reports Designer
To develop reporting content using Crystal Reports—for deployment on either CE or LRS—you still need to purchase one or more licenses for Crystal Designer. You can either purchase them separately from Crystal/Business Objects, or a Crystal reseller. I believe you can also purchase them from Lawson.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
- QUOTE OF THE ISSUE –

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

- Douglas Adams
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
4. Worthwhile Reading

A First Look: Peer Into the Future of Windows
Microsoft hopes tightly integrated Windows servers will ease the complexity of managing an enterprise.
Windows Server System Magazine, December 2004
http://www.ftponline.com/wss/2004_12/magazine/features/druest/

The Silver Lining In SOX
Use Sarbanes-Oxley financial compliance initiatives to justify automation, eliminate spreadsheets and develop process consistency.
Intelligent Enterprise, January 2005
http://www.intelligententerprise.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=56200373

More Space and More Time
Improvements in Oracle tablespace management features mean more free space.
Oracle Magazine, January/February 2005
http://www.oracle.com/technology/oramag/oracle/05-jan/o15dba.html

Testing the Top Line
Analyzing a company's sources of revenue can bring insights into growth.
CFO Magazine, October 2004
http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/3219980

Albright On Communication, Information And Negotiation
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shares her secrets for persuading people even tougher than Larry Ellison to do what you want.
CIO Magazine, January 15, 2005
http://www.cio.com/archive/011505/communication.html
5. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to mailto:letter-tips@lawsonguru.com.

Use the 'bldsh' utility to learn more about how a Lawson program works

There are frequently times when I need to figure out what, how, and/or why a particular Lawson program is (or is not) working.  With more and more of Lawson's code residing in pdlib code libraries (and now with the system code-specific pdlib directories in the 8.1 applications), it's often difficult to find the code within the base PD code. 

So, what I do is use the 'bldsh' utililty to generate the full COBOL .cbl file, and then look at the resulting .cbl file:

$ bldsh <productline> <systemcode> <programcode>

For example:

$ bldsh TRAIN803 AP AP210

will create:

$LAWDIR/train803/apsrc/AP210.cbl

To learn more about how Lawson's generates a COBOL program and how it actually gets executed, see the tip "How does Lawson execute program logic?" in the March 2003 LawsonGuru Letter at http://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-03.htm.


The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter providing provocative commentary on issues important to the Lawson Software community. The LawsonGuru Letter is published by--and is solely the opinion of--John Henley of Decision Analytics. Visit Decision Analytics at http://www.danalytics.com.

To subscribe, visit http://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/
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Decision Analytics is an independent consultancy, focusing on Lawson technical projects, and specializing in customization/modification, data conversion, and integration/interfaces. Please visit http://www.danalytics.com for more information.
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