Wednesday, June 08, 2011

NetRexx Open Source

Today was a very good day for Rexx, as it is the day that NetRexx was open sourced by IBM and the Rexx Language Association. More specifically, RexxLA is taking over from IBM. This open sourcing process has not been a short one, and there is no real reason to go into specifics about where it got stuck and who pulled it out of the mud, various times. There has been some incredible work done by some people at IBM - I am not really sure if they want to remain nameless, but I have an inkling that IBM sees it that way. I will remember them anyway and suggest they be honorary members for life of RexxLA.

It is no secret that the economic crisis and cutting cost played a part in this prolonged process. Also, the nefarious Linux lawsuit against IBM, by - I forget their name already - ah no, it was SCO, which took advantage in the vilest possible way of the OS/2 and AIX filesystem that IBM donated to Linux open source, also made IBM wary and insured that any Open Sourcing will be under close scrutiny and a watchful eye of the legal department. This is how it happened with Object Rexx, and this is how it happened with NetRexx. There is an important difference, in that NetRexx never was shipped as a product, except for a short time with z/VM, and there still under the ancient EWS licence.

NetRexx is now released under the ICU licence, which is a very liberal one, and RexxLA will take good care of it. The people who have been mobilized over the years are going to convene as the NetRexx language board, and development and releases will follow the great example that Mike Cowlishaw has set for his family of languages, which is talk it over and document first, seek agreement and only then implement.

The future of this great language is now safe, and there is no danger that it will languish on some corporate filesystem until it is inadvertently forgotten or erased. RexxLA will position itself to take on some more products as open source; but first we need to focus for some time on the future of NetRexx. Let us see if we can convene a language symposium to get some face-to-face time with the key players. This is only the beginning, and we will make sure that the world will hear more about NetRexx, the most pleasant computer language that yields very fast Java classes.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Rexx in MUSIC

Not the sort of MUSIC you can dance to, but nevertheless a small discovery, at least for me. On a trail that started from a YouTube clip on CTSS - a contemparary report by a young Fernando José "Corby" Corbato, leading to different Wikipedia articles on timesharing, I found MUSIC/SP amongst the TSS, MTS and TSO systems, a product of McGill University in Canada and once an IBM product - on of the timesharing systems for its mainframes. You can read about it at here. It is based on an earlier IBM timesharing system called RAX, of which hardly a trace is to be found on the net.

A working system is downloadable at here - it is runnable under a windows based simulator or under the multiplatform Hercules mainframe simulator. Being on a Mac, this is what I did. It offers a wealth in programming options and uses an interface that is quick to be grasped - including an ISPF/PDF like editor and panel system. You will need Hercules and a 3270TN Terminal Emulator. The system's console is a Telnet session, but the user terminals require the 3270 protocol. A Hercules configuration file is included, so you are good to go.

This whole menuing system is written in Rexx. When running CPS - the venerable clauses-per-second benchmark, I noticed that the system announces itself to "parse source" as CMS. Some inquiries later it became clear that the original VM Rexx interpreter code is part of MUSIC/SP. So everyone who has an interest in checking out the VM Interpreter can do so now using a legal download - most publicly available VM releases predate the release of Rexx and are a such of less interest to the Rexx community.

Rexx and other programming languages are runnable with a scheme that requires hardly any JCL - in fact none at all if you put the required magic incantion on the top of your script files. It is a nice environment for experimentation, and it is very laudable that these products have been preserved for posterity. A Rexx class, using the real interpreter, could be held in the cloud without any setup using IBM's (Rational now) 3270 on demand product which runs in the browser.

If you want to set up a MUSIC/SP system for yourself and you run into any trouble, just drop me a line.