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January 26, 2011

PDF techniques span integration skills

HP 3000 experts and veterans recently swapped a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer to getting a report into PDF format and out to Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest (called a slick solution by Dave Vogt of Miller Compressed Air Company) there are other commercial solutions -- and a raft of bolt-together techniques you might try if you've got very limited budget to homestead.

Bob McGregor reported:

We used txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.

Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, added:

I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the WinTel system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.

The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago...)

Michael Anderson of consulting firm J3K Solutions added that there is also a open source PDF tool, pdfcreator, with which a manager might setup a network PDF printer. "Some assembly required, and batteries not included," he noted.

Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who's built up the Invent3K shared server. Johnson noted that the STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, I imagine it can be used short of the transmission process

John Pitman combines an off-the-shelf FTP solution from a departed vendor, Whisper Technology, with a good deal of original integration.

Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case - arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their Menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to these device, and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.

Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, copy them to posix space specific to 74(for generality), with  the creating user and account in the file name(eg mgr_stock_O12345.txt), delete the original spoolfile.

We use a product called Bullet Proof FTP Server on Windows - this provides FTP  user/password secured access to directories . Last time I looked this was a bit hard to find, but was free in at least one version - it came out of Whisper Technology.

A scheduled program on the windows box (every minute!) FTP connects to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK , and copies the file  to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB(arbitrary size of your choice, designed to reduce network loads when the file is downloaded by the user), its zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form - pdf via cutepdf? It could aslo readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address.

Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files

This has been running for at 10 years now, with almost no issues. Occasionnally a large file might hang ftp, but cancelling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500mb txt files.

You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups  of users. We run this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Oz can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their ftp client to the relevant ftp server, and download the report without having to print it.

The process also enables soft storage of month end reports , which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing , and general historical reference - we now have about 8 years of this information stored , with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper!

04:14 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink

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I'm supprised that Lars did not mention text2pdf 1.1 for MPE/iX that can be found at http://www.editcorp.com/Personal/Lars_Appel/text2pdf/ (a link that hangs of his Home Page on editcorp.com). We used this at Pinnacle Entertainment from October 2001 until we folded in December 2008. Never had a problem with it in all that time.

Posted by: Robert W.Mills | Jan 31, 2011 5:52:34 PM

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