Review by Shawn Gordon
With Version 3 of Autobahn II, Speedware
has taken this product to a whole new level. You now have a visual
design tool (more on that later) that lets you map out your entire
application and create links between the pages as well as
substitution variables and embedded Speedware logic for processing.
You can execute pre-written speedware Report and Logic sections from
within your application as well, allowing you to reuse your code in
different environments and formats. The Logic sections are
particularly useful in this regard, because they allow you to
encapsulate business logic rules easily.
So the newest version of Autobahn II
allows you to quickly and easily build interactive Web sites that
work with data repositories on your various servers. Speedware is
very data-centric, and has a sophisticated and flexible language that
will make it simple to do pretty much anything you want.
Because Speedware and Autobahn run on a
number of HP platforms, if you write your code not to be
system-specific, you will be able to move these Web applications
around from server to server with relative ease. I think this makes
the investment in the technology a pretty sound one.
How does it work?
First there are the servers, which include
your Web server, the Autobahn server and the Speedware Resource
Manager these pretty much just run in the background. The more
interesting aspect is the Autobahn Designer. The Designer has four
different aspects. First is the Application Map: this displays a
graphical representation of the HTML pages of your Speedware Autobahn
application and the links between the pages. Next is the Code Editor,
which is just a text editor to work on the Speedware code.
The HTML Viewer is an integrated Web
browser that will allow you to see the applications HTML pages
the way the end user will see them, and finally theres the Log
Window. This window displays system information regarding logging
onto the repository server, or an application, and compiling
applications. It provides an easy means to trace system activities
and spot and resolve errors in your application development process.
Figure 1 shows an example of the different
So Autobahn is basically a server side
scripting environment that has a very robust language associated with
it. Autobahn also maintains state, so it remembers who
you are and what you are doing. This doesnt seem like such a
big deal now, but back when I looked at the original Autobahn about
five years ago, it was pretty significant.
The Dynamic Page Wizard is an extremely
cool tool that will pretty much build a whole application for you
quickly. All you have to do is point the Wizard at a data repository
and select the tables you are interested in, and the data items you
want. You can then select Query criteria for the table. You can skip
this part, but if you want to be able to customize the type of query
used on the page, then this is the place.
That is pretty much it you click
the done button, and it generates all the HTML and Speedware code
generated required to have a fully functioning interactive Web page
that will let you add, delete, inquire and modify data in your table.
This is very, very slick.
The thing that is a bit squirrely to get
used to at first is the intermingling of HTML with Speedware, as well
as some of the Speedware pre-processor directives that will be put in
the HTML. If you think of the HTML as a template at this point, you
are able to place variables and directives into the code that will be
processed on the server into HTML before presentation on the
I really liked the visual application map
that let you draw connections between pages and get automatic links.
It was fun to switch things around and see how it affected the Web
site. I suppose this is similar to MS FrontPage and Trellix for
getting a site map.
Installation and Documentation
I installed this strictly on a Windows
machine, as I wanted to streamline the testing process. You can have
the Autobahn server running on Unix, MPE or NT. Installation was from
a CD, but I needed to talk with tech support to get through all the
prompts correctly. I also needed to download and install the Apache
Web server for my Win98 machine. You will need to have a Web server
regardless of the server platform, and Autobahn supports a wide range
of different Web servers. I found Apache, which runs on the e3000, a
good one to use.
The installation guide comes as a printed
manual as well as the Release Notes. Everything else is in PDF on a
CD. I found that Speedware had done an excellent job with the PDF
documents, making them easy to navigate and read. The only real
problem I encountered was that I was working with aVersion 3 where
the online documentation had not been totally updated yet. Other than
that, it was well written and easy to work with.
There is some infrastructure that must be
in place before you try to do anything. As mentioned earlier, your
Web server needs to be running, the Autobahn server needs to be
running, and the Speedware Resource Manager needs to be running. On
Windows, these will all be running under a DOS window.
This might sound funny, but there is
entirely too much security in Autobahn. You have to remember all
sorts of names and passwords and connections to various servers and
applications and repositories. Its just a lot of work to get
anything started, more than it should be for how easy it is once you
get into the Designer. To show you what I mean, here is a copy of the
steps in the Getting Started guide.
To open your application just do the
1. From the File menu, select Access
Wizard. The Access Wizard starts, and displays the Repository
2. Make sure your SRM Database, User Name
and Password are entered correctly, and click Next. The Connect to a
Repository dialog is displayed.
3. Select Open an Existing Repository and
click Next. The Open Repository dialog is displayed, listing all of
the available repositories.
4. Highlight your repository GetStartRep
and click Next. The Connect to an Application dialog is displayed.
5. Select Open an existing Application and
click Next. The Open Application dialog is displayed, listing all of
the available applications.
6. Select your application GetStartApp and
Only some of the icons have balloon help
on them, and this can be frustrating when you are trying to find a
function. Again the difference between the documentation and the
application made this tough to get through.
The Database Workshop is a very cool tool,
and reminds me a bit of the original Speedware Designer where you
could develop your application without having to worry about the
database, and the base would be created for you. This isnt
quite that haphazard, however. You can select from a variety of
database types, such as Allbase, CISAM, DB2, flat, IMAGE, indexed,
Informix, KSAM, KSAMXL, ODBC, Oracle, RMCobol and Sybase.
I took notice of the very complete
coverage of the MPE operating system, with all of the file types you
would want to use as a data repository. I dont know what it
would do with a MSG file, but it probably doesnt matter.
When I was using the Database Workshop, I
created a field that was a type DATE2000, and left the default bytes
at 10. I figured that the wizard would set everything up so that the
date would be correct, but it failed the validation. I had to keep
changing the values based on prompts from the program. Basically the
program told me what to put in, and was happy once I put it in. Why
it wouldnt put it in itself is beyond me.
Despite some of these frustrations, I was
able to build some small sample applications quickly. I didnt
have a specific project that I needed to do, so I was just making
things up off the top of my head. I find that random battering of
software makes for some good testing. See Figure
2 for an example of the database wizard.
There is a learning curve with Autobahn,
so I would suggest taking a training class and working with Speedware
to get your application started. Given the modest cost of the
product, it is certainly time and money well spent. Being familiar
with Speedware (which I am) and how Designer works, will certainly
speed the learning process, but its not required. In my
experience, people can be taught Speedware with relative ease.
Autobahn is an exciting application. I
think its a few cogs shy of being all it can be, but given the
quantum leap forward in this release, it will get there soon.
Thats not to say that it isnt ready for prime time,
because it is.
This is really a neat application, one
that helps to speed the development of e3000 Web sites dramatically.
This is certainly worthy of review if you are looking at building Web
infrastructure that accesses your e3000 data on any number of
Shawn Gordon, whose S.M. Gordon &
Associates firm supplies HP 3000 utilities, has worked with 3000s