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ScreenJet version 2.00.00

Millware Corp. Ltd.
Mill Street
GL20 5SB

Phone: 44.1684.298844
Fax: 44 (0)870 0527633
Web: www.millware.com
Email: sales@millware.com

ScreenJet is a 700/92 terminal emulator, with an e3000-based application, Designer. Designer allows you to convert existing VPLUS/3000 screens to fully functional GUI screens.

ScreenJet will run on MPE/iX 6.0 or higher. The terminal emulator is free via download from the Web site. Pricing of the full package is $1,600 per year for up to 32 users to $25,600 for up to 256 users. The initial license is for two years with one-year renewals thereafter. Support is included in the license fee. (See the article for a description of other tiers of pricing and operability.) Support is available 24x7 on their Web site. Millware has partners for help with training, implementation and consulting throughout the US, Canada and the UK.



April 2001

ScreenJet drives VPlus into the GUI era

Free terminal emulator adds Designer in paid version for interface remakes

Review by Steve Hammond

Will the congregation please be seated, and open your Prayer Books to page 3000. Follow along as I read today’s lesson from the Book of Hewlett, the Gospel according to Packard.

In the beginning there was the Enter key and the Return Key, and never the twain did meet. There was joy and productivity among the People of Data Entry.

Screens of VPLUS/3000 abounded. Programs of our legacy were created in the strange tongues of COBOL and FORTRAN. The mode was block and there was happiness and understanding.

Then it came to pass that in the marketplace, there came new tents. Vendors from the House of Power and the Ware of Speed came upon us.

They showed us the mode of character and we listened. Life was still good. Some of our legacies transformed, but others remained in VPLUS. There was still happiness and understanding.

Then one day the Devil, in the guise of the Apostle BillG of Seattle, came to the marketplace. He declared to all who listened, “Ye shall call the big key on the right of thine keyboard, The Enter key. Ye shall never speak of the Return key again.”

And the people obeyed, not knowing who he was. “He seems smart, he must know of what he speaks.” There was confusion and the keepers of the legacies were sad.

Then it came to pass that BillG took 95 windows to the Mount and declared, “This is what ye shall follow! Ye shall only care about the looketh and feeleth. For if it looketh and feeleth this way, then it must be good.”

“For if it looketh and feeleth this way, Then care ye not if it functioneth! We shall merely care for the looketh and feeleth.”

The keepers of the legacies were sore afraid. Their life’s work had neither the looketh nor feeleth of these 95 windows, And the people shunned them for the legacies had neither look nor feel.

Yet the legacies still runneth and doeth their job quickly and efficiently. But no one, save the keepers, could care, For if it had not the looketh and feeleth of the 95 windows, then users felt it was evil. Here endeth the lesson.

When I saw that Millware had jumped into the terminal emulator market, I was confuseth, I mean confused. Selling a terminal emulator in the HP e3000 market is like opening a Pepsi franchise in Atlanta or a lawn service franchise in the Sahara — you can do it, but why?

But Millware has offered some added value in their Designer product, which you must use in conjunction with ScreenJet, their terminal emulator. ScreenJet Designer lets you convert VPLUS/3000 screens to GUI screens. And even though just about everything in the GUI world has gone to the client side, Designer keeps everything on the server (e3000) side — no push of screens, no updating of registries, none of those client side maintenance headaches. It is the epitome of thin-client — it’s anorexic-client.

Let’s talk about ScreenJet first. ScreenJet, like its companion The Dash, can be downloaded free from the Millware Web site. I loaded my copy off a CD distributed at a conference, and after some minor problems, I was able to get it running on my PC. The first thing I noticed was what I felt was a significant bug, which I reported to Millware via their Web site.

To get support for any Millware products, you must register (at no cost) at their Web site. You get access to all the online documents, FAQ’s and their Web-based support. Since I am five hours off GMT (they’re based in the UK), I was concerned about a lag in response, but all my questions have been answered promptly and at times with a phone call. So the time difference did not affect me although I had nothing urgent going on.

Back to the bug — to be fair, Millware had never seen my problem before and could not reproduce it. It may be linked to a Telnet patch (or lack thereof) on my 987, so I am not going to detail the problem. If you want more details, you can contact me directly.

Once installed, I found one very nice addition to the screen — Millware has placed a large “ENTER” key to the right of the row of function keys. No more looking for the ENTER on the keypad, it’s right there on the screen. Now you ‘click’ rather than ‘strike’ the ENTER key, but it does make life a bit easier.

There’s keyboard remapping, file transfers (using FTP), macros, cut-and paste. I only found two problems with the 2.0 version I was testing. First of all, the type-ahead function does not work (even though you can click its check box on the configuration). The second is just as bothersome — setting the means of highlighting text for copying/cut-and-paste. I finally found it with some help from their technical support; otherwise I would not have found it at all.

And like Reflection, ScreenJet does not support the Windows control-c and control-v for copy and paste. Something about emulators, I guess (and maybe it’s that the control-c sequence in Unix does a host of other awful things). And it would also be nice to be able to make the color of the function keys be different from the color of the background screen. Ah, but these are just enhancements.

But on a benefit for cost analysis, compared to Reflection, if you are just looking for HP700/92 terminal emulation, ScreenJet has to beat Reflection — it’s free!

Now we get to Designer. This is the added value. This is why they think you will buy the version of their terminal emulator with Designer enabled. Designer is a package that runs on your e3000 which allows you to convert your old VPLUS screens to a GUI-like screen. And since ScreenJet puts the Enter key on the bottom right of the screen, you’ve got one user problem already licked!

The demo CD contains a five-part tutorial on how to convert a VPLUS screen to a Designer screen. It touches all the main points; edit fields, check boxes, combo boxes, radio buttons, creating screen buttons to perform the task of function keys. It is pretty slick. You can place .bmp files onto buttons, you can create drop-down lists. And all this is handled by the e3000. Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too. The tutorial takes a couple of hours to complete and has a few holes in it, but it served my purpose and I was ready to move onto converting a screen.

Creating or converting a screen is itself a GUI-like application. You can drag fields around, you can resize them, you can convert them. And any working with the properties of a field (the real guts of the operation) is triggered by a right click.

I chose to try to convert one of the few sets of VPLUS screens we have left at my organization — an application to handle creation of files and labels for a recruitment system. The main menu screen was simplicity personified — just assigned some screen buttons to function key actions. With little effort and about a half hour, I had a new screen! Like Formspec, in Designer you have to go almost all the way back to the start to recompile your screens. I was never sure why, but it must be an issue of design or structure, since it’s that way in both.

Ah, but my next screen was the MOAS (mother of all screens), possibly one of the busiest screens we ever created here! It was one of those screens where you jam everything onto one screen because the user doesn’t like “switching screens.” And there was plenty of opportunity to convert items to radio buttons, since there were a lot of fields where you’d place an ‘X’ to denote a selection on the original screen.

To get from the VPLUS screen (Figure 1) to the Designer screen (Figure 2) took between two and three hours. It involved a lot of movement of small fields, right-clicking, entering default data values. It was difficult to move the large number of small fields to different locations with ease — but that difficulty was a function of the original screen design, and had nothing to do with Designer. I updated some fields to reflect different values we would use now instead of what they were eight years ago when these screens were first built. I didn’t convert everything, but I got all the ‘likely suspects.’ A few errors, a total of three compiles and I had screens.

To run the new screens with your existing program (COBOL in my case), you have do some SETVARs and run the program with their XL. My first attempt didn’t work. I had made the rookie mistake of NOT naming my Designer screens the same as the VPLUS screens, forgetting that the program calls the screens by name. That corrected, I got the screen you see in Figure 2. It was definitely cleaner and it could have been punched up even more if I had spent more time. The fields were in a different tab sequence and I had missed one field in the redesign, so the program kicked back at me — with a pop-up window.

But the keyword to all this is at the end of the sentence three sentences back — time. Although you could plug-and-play, it’s going to take some time to get a screen fully functioning with all the bells and whistles. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of giving the whining users a true GUI with a software and hardware backbone that I know is reliable. It makes life simpler since you don’t have to train or re-train users about screens on the e3000.

And I love the opportunity to stop the Windows/NT/UX creep into the world of the e3000. It’s just that you are not going to convert all your VPLUS screens to flashy GUIs in a weekend! I also hope that the developers at Millware are working on a version of Designer that will convert PowerHouse and Speedware screens, since I believe there are more of those out there than VPLUS screens.

Now about the pricing — my first and best advice is to check their Web site. Once you register of their site, you can give them the details on your system and get a pricing quote. That’s the best way to get an exact price.

I spoke with Dave Wiseman, Millware’s CEO, about the pricing. They were already considering changes, and as of May 1 there will be a new pricing structure. There will still be four levels of purchase: free, free and registered, limited license, and full license. Free is just what it says: a terminal emulator with no strings attached. Free and registered lets you get support and you will be able to use the XL that displays VPLUS error messages as Windows pop-up messages (at least go for this level — what have you got to lose?)

The limited license is sensible in two ways. If you have a development system and a production system, put the limited license version on the production system since it gives you the equivalent of a run-time version while you use the full license on the development system. Also, some third-party vendors are developing GUI applications in Designer, so if you purchase one of those, you will need the limited license. Finally, there’s the full-blown package, all of the above plus Designer.

As far as costs, the first two are simple — free. The limited license will be in tiers starting with $800 per year for up to 32 users and range up to $12,800 for 256 users. The full license will go from $1,600 to $25,600 and Designer alone can be licensed for $1,500 per year.

The full ScreenJet package — the terminal emulator and Designer — may be hitting the market too late to save us from the Windows creep into the market. But it can stave off some of the inroads, especially if they can do to PowerHouse and Speedware screens what it does to VPLUS.

Steve Hammond is a system manager for a trade association in Washington, D.C. who has been working with HP 3000s for 18 years and is chairman of the SIGPrint special interest group.



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