ScreenJet drives VPlus into the GUI
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 todays 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
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
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
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
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 lifes 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
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
Lets 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
get support for any Millware products, you must register (at no cost)
at their Web site. You get access to all the online documents,
FAQs and their Web-based support. Since I am five hours off GMT
(theyre 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, its right there on
the screen. Now you click rather than strike
the ENTER key, but it does make life a bit easier.
Theres 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 its 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 its
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, youve got one user problem already
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
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.
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 its
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 doesnt like switching
screens. And there was plenty of opportunity to convert items
to radio buttons, since there were a lot of fields where youd
place an X to denote a selection on the original
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 didnt convert everything, but I got
all the likely suspects. A few errors, a total of three
compiles and I had screens.
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 didnt 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
But the keyword to all this is at
the end of the sentence three sentences back time. Although
you could plug-and-play, its going to take some time to get a
screen fully functioning with all the bells and whistles. Dont
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 dont 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. Its 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. Thats the best way to get an exact price.
spoke with Dave Wiseman, Millwares 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, theres the
full-blown package, all of the above plus Designer.
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
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.