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User interface

Mitrol was originally developed at a time when centralized administration was the rule. For years, the only available user interface for Mitrol was 3270 screens using dumb terminals or 3270 emulators. Mitrol can still be used through 3270 devices since the Mitrol teleprocessing monitor supports full concurrent database access by multiple read and update users both under VM/CMS and MVS/VTAM. The integrity mechanism allows multiple users access even during updates, using a sophisticated method, which assures that each user sees a consistent view of the database. Besides, it automatically resolves contention among multiple update tasks.

To advance these very useful functions even further, Teamco has since several years designed and developed a new user interface based on Windows 95 and Windows NT workstations. This new graphical interface greatly improves the ease of use of the Mitrol database management system while maintaining at the same time its ability to adapt easily to customer's needs.

This new user interface will provide improved visibility of the Mitrol product for existing clients. To our new prospects, especially medium size manufacturing companies with more than several hundred employees, we will market a packaged version of Mitrol applications (MFG, ISIS, and COPS) with this new graphical user interface (GUI) environment. This way new clients will benefit from an attractive, modern graphical user interface but without the fear of using manufacturing applications that are flashy, newly developed but unstable and without a long term viable trace record. We believe that future clients will continue to benefit from Mitrol's experience and proven track record gained through many aplications in production using it's well tested, proven and reliable manufacturing system. The MITROL MRP and BOM capability will allow third party consultants to accurately follow and complement the business model of their manufacturing clients rather than with larger more known packages, where the client business model needs to follow the one imposed by the package. It is our opinion that a database capability with updateable views and MRP planning is far better placed within Mitrol than a general purpose relational system, which by the constraints of the relational database theory, lacks updateable data views or the recursive relationships needed by true manufacturing systems.

As for all the PC side of the Mitrol2000 development, the new user interface is based on a Client/Server architecture which provides users with a unified environment whatever their tasks are. Therefore, through one single shell, the Mitrol Studio (the Client part of the architecture), which will be constantly connected to the file server (the Server part of the architecture), users will be able to browse and open different files (graphical queries, batch transactions, data tables, reports, etc.), to create new ones (such as graphically drawing new transactions), or to submit transactions to Mitrol by a click of mouse. Once data are received from Mitrol, users will be able to browse the results and make a report, export it through ODBC to another database or leave it on the file server for other users disposal... All in one unified environment: the Mitrol Studio.

All these actions are possible through the addition of software extensions that extend the basic capabilities of the Mitrol Studio, such as the Visual Dupd Editor (VDE), to graphically draw Display-Update queries, the batch handler, to submit batch transactions (written manually or exported from VDE)...

That way, users will only be able to do what they are supposed to. Their work area and responsibility is defined by the extensions installed on their workstation and the access rights to the files managed by the file server. These extensions can be easily developed by clients or consultants, thanks to an API that gives access for programmers to the core functions of the Mitrol Studio: loading and saving files, executing transactions, getting a database schema, etc. It is therefore possible to develop new extensions dealing with new file types, or replace existing extensions with other ones.

The following extensions are already available :

Visual Dupd Editor extension.
One result of the recent increase in popularity of client/server systems is the demand for more intelligent query tools or managed query environments. Unlike traditional SQL query tools, these packages use a two layered administrator-user architecture. The experienced DBA builds an abstraction of the underlying database consisting of a business oriented model. End users then work with business entities in this model to get the answers they want. The result is a query system that limits mistakes of users because the entity definitions and relations are validated.

Unlike SQL databases, Mitrol particularly lends itself to this two layer query architecture. We have available a local abstraction of the underlying database in the form of the Mitrol Schema. The Schema has been enhanced and expanded to support a managed query environment. On selection of a valid Mitrol Schema, the VDE user can point and click to select files and fields for inclusion in a Display/Update transaction (Display/Update transaction can be ASSEMBLE to create bills of material, CREATE to establish new records, DELETE to remove records or break links, PRINT to generate reports, SET to establish value for fields in existing records, or UPDATE to create, delete or modify records). The relational paths that are available for him to follow are displayed as a diagram. The Mitrol Visual Dupd Editor automatically converts the users graphical representation of the transaction to a Mitrol Display-Update transaction, that can then be seamlessly submitted thanks to a batch handler extension.

The VDE uses a mirror of the Mitrol Schema, the local schema, to enable the user to build a query based on the file, field and relation information. A users' view of the database may be restricted or enhanced under the control of the Database Administrator.

Batch handler extension.
When a batch transaction is created, either manually or through the use of VDE, it can be executed. A connection is then made to the Mitrol database and the query transmitted. The resulting data set is read into a buffer on the PC and is either saved on a file on the file server, or directly displayed in a table provided by a results handler extension.

Results handler extension.
Still in its early development, the results handler extension is basically a table to hold data. It gives the user the option to browse the data, save them as a CSV file, or export them to another database through ODBC. However, plans are made to enhance it to have full support of hierarchical results and to allow the use of predefined layout to make reports.

The following extensions are still in design or development process:

Visual Screen Designer extension.
This extension will give Mitrol a full-featured graphical interface for Display/Update interactive transactions. Based on transactions drawn with VDE, or manually entered according to specific rules, Visual Screen Designer will allow Database Administrator to visually build screens that will serve as wrapper for transactions. That way, there will be no need for 3270 screens to use MFG or any other Mitrol application. These new screens will replace them and greatly improve the look-and-feel of these old fashioned looking, but powerful programs. As a result of this revamping it will be possible to have list-boxes, combo-boxes, tables and even pictures right inside the screens.

ODBC Driver.
In order to provide customer with a standardized way to access Mitrol database content, an ODBC driver will be added to the list of software that uses the Client/Server architecture. The development of this tool wasrescheduled in favor of the previously described extensions.

Besides these extensions, the Client/Server architecture is also used to provide Mitrol with access to the Internet/Intranet world, thanks to the Mitrol Internet Gateway.



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