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SET a spell

By Steve Hammond

I come from a section of the country that uses some ‘unusual’ regional colloquialisms. When there is no milk left, the “milk is all.” To “outen” is to turn off a light. But the word that drove my teachers to distraction was “set.” One would “set” at their desk, but one would “sit” a book on the desk. The words were universally used incorrectly. If you misused either word, Mrs. Maloney, my sixth grade teacher, would send you to the board, like Bart Simpson, to write the sentence correctly 20 times. Needless to say, I learned to avoid “set” as much as possible.

But if you are a regular user of MPEX, the SET command can save you some effort and time. I hope all of you know about the MPEXMGR file, and if you don’t, immediately go to the nearest whiteboard and write 100 times, “I will read my MPEX manual.”

Anyway, if you know about the MPEXMGR file (Note to self: Column on MPEXMGR file), the SET command you need to know the most about should be SET DEFAULT. This sets the default for how a command is performed: i.e. online (immediately), with a yes/no prompt or in batch mode. You can set defaults for a specific command with the SET DEFAULT command:


Place these two commands in your MPEXMGR file and every time someone tries to do a PURGE, they will be prompted with “OK to process <filename> (y/n)”. You must reply to this prompt before MPEX continues. (Note to reader: Just hitting the return key is like typing ‘N.’) Consider it a fail-safe (but not an ultimate fail-safe) for protecting against purging ill-defined filesets. These two SET DEFAULTs are common. It will keep the newly hired junior programmer who’s listening to Britney Spears on his MP3 player and not paying attention from deleting @.PROGRAMS.FINANCE and keep the rest of the programming staff from doing online compiles in COBOL. But remember that any SET DEFAULT can be overridden by placing a ! in front of the command. That way, m %!PURGE @.PROGRAMS.FINANCE will kill everything in FINANCE production. Like I said, it’s not the ultimate fail-safe!

Now if you want to get a more secure fail-safe system, look to the SET CAPABILITY command. This will restrict certain commands to users with SM, AM or AL capabilities. Obviously, you must have AM or AL in that specific account. (Author’s observation: In 19 years on this platform, in three shops, I have yet to use AL capability. Does anyone out there use it?) So if you want only users with SM capability to purge files from within MPEX, then place in your MPEXMGR file:


This will still allow users to purge from the MPE prompt, and since MPE has added the purge multiple file capability, then this command may be moot. The better one may be:


We all know releasing files may be the most dangerous thing you can do, so limiting the release of entire groups or accounts to system manager is probably a pretty good idea.

Another nice management tool is SET CREATORPROTECT. This restricts users from changing the file creator on a file with the %ALTFILE or %COPY ;CREATOR= commands. By default, if a user has read, write and execute access to a file, that user may alter its creator with the %ALTFILE command. The CREATORPROTECT function limits such %ALTFILE commands to users with SM capability or AM users in their account.

The old stand-by is SET DATE. MPEX expects its dates to be in the accepted US format of MDY or MM/DD/[YY]YY. Unfortunately, the US Armed Forces and most of the rest of the world prefer a different date format (why must they be so difficult?). So SET DATE has three options — MDY (the default), DMY and YMD.

The other SET commands are a bit more obscure. SET GOONMAXPRI has nothing to do with associates of Tony Soprano busting heads. It sets the processing queue for any MPEX commands launched with the GOON command. SET CHLOGONRETURN handles switching back to your original logon if you exit MPEX after doing a CHLOGON. SET CMDTRACECHECK and SET VARTRACE help you when you make that rare error and are debugging MPEX command files.

So make your life easier as a system manager — sit down at your computer, text up MPEXMGR and add some SET commands!

Steve Hammond, when he’s not working as a system manager for a trade association in Washington, DC, sets on his back porch shouting at the squirrels stealing from his bird feeder.

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