The Support Authority: Major new usability features in Fix Central make it easy and more convenient to find the fixes you need

Exciting new changes have been made to IBM®'s Electronic Fix Distribution system and its public website, Fix Central. In addition to numerous usability enhancements based on user feedback, a new feature that grabs the set of installed IBM software products on your server and links you to available updates is now being piloted. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

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Steve Eaton (steaton@us.ibm.com ), IBM Electronic Fix Distribution Architect, IBM

Steve Eaton is a Senior Software Engineer based in Austin, Texas, and is the architect for IBM's Electronic Fix Distribution system. He has worked in IBM in support and development roles since 2000.



Darrin Lemmer (dlemmer@us.ibm.com), IBM Fix Central Website Developer, IBM

Darrin Lemmer is a lead developer with IBM. He has worked at the IBM Rochester, MN lab for 9 years on iSeries Java, iSeries Connect, and the Fix Central website.



Todd Mitchell (toddm@us.ibm.com), IBM Fix Central Website Architect, IBM

Todd Mitchell is an Advisory Software Engineer for IBM, and the Fix Central website architect. He has worked on electronic support websites and other projects at IBM's Rochester, MN lab for the last 20 years.



07 December 2011

In each column, The Support Authority discusses resources, tools, and other elements of IBM® Technical Support that are available for WebSphere® products, plus techniques and new ideas that can further enhance your IBM support experience.

What's new in the latest Fix Central release

In November, major enhancements were rolled out to Fix Central, the website that provides software updates to the spectrum of IBM products. These updates are in response to usability research, requests from IBM tech support teams (who provide the software updates you get from Fix Central), and direct feedback from our users. The most frequent comments we heard were:

  • I want to get to the fixes I need fast, with fewer panels and fewer clicks.
  • I don't want to have to re-select products, versions and platforms I've already visited before. They should be remembered.
  • I want it to be easy to search for what I need, and to filter out what I don't.

Not only have these themes been addressed, but we added one more:

  • I don’t want to track down everything I have that needs and upgrade — I want it figured out for me!

And so we are piloting a major new function, called inventory upload, to add even more practicality and convenience to Fix Central.

Below is a high level look at the new search, select fixes, and inventory upload features that now make using Fix Central a whole lot easier.


Search

You'll notice some new features right away on the Fix Central home page, namely the new Find Product tab in the center of the page, and Search Fix Central control in the upper right column (Figure 1):

  • If you know (or have a general idea of) the name of the product you are looking for and don't want to scroll through a long list to find it, select the new Find Product tab and simply enter a product name in the Product selector field. You can select a product from the list as it displays or continue to type to narrow the list further.
    Figure 1. Fix Central home page
    Figure 1. Fix Central home page
  • If you already know which fix it is you want, the Search Fix Central control will help you find it quickly. Enter keywords about a particular problem, product upgrade level, error message, or a fix ID from IBM support. For example, to find fixes related to server affinity issues in IBM WebSphere Application Server, you could enter server-affinity WebSphere and click the arrow button (Figure 2) to get a list of results (Figure 3).
    Figure 2. Search Fix Central
    Figure 2. Search Fix Central
    Figure 3. Search results
    Figure 3. Search results
    Depending on the keywords you enter and the available content within IBM support, your results could be a mix of Fix Central updates and other related helpful content, such as technical documents.

The My product history and My product downloads lists in the right column of the home page are new features that relieve you from having to re-select product names, versions, and platforms you already specified in recent visits to Fix Central. My product history pre-fills the product, version and platform fields on the Fix Central home page with values you used earlier (you can modify these values at any time). My download history offers links to product updates that you previously accessed.


Select fixes

Figure 4. Select fixes
Figure 4. Select fixes

Using the Change your selection option, to the left of your search results, you can easily modify your product name, release, or platform search criteria (Figure 4). Below that, the Filter your content section is an improvement on the previous filtering function. Find the category you want to filter (Platform, Fix type, and so on) and simply check the items in each category that you want to include. The number of results for each filter is listed beside it. Your search results will refresh automatically with each filter you select or deselect.

With the search filters, It’s important to know that:

  • Selecting multiple filters within a category will test for an OR condition and return all applicable matches. For example, selecting the AIX filter with the AIX 32-bit, pSeries filter will return all fixes that match either of those platform values.
  • Selecting filters between categories will test for an AND condition. For example, selecting AIX under Platform and 7.0.0.0 under And Applies to will return any fixes where the platform value is AIX and the applicable version is 7.0.0.0.

If you have previously used Fix Central, the Download options section on the top of the page will display. The download options you used for your last download are remembered and used by default. This provides a reminder of what you previously used and permits you to change the parameters. Download options will not display if no download option preferences have been made.


Inventory upload

New feature

Inventory upload is a new pilot feature and does not yet cover all IBM products. Please use the Fix Central feeback link (Figure 8) to let us know how you like it, or to let us know which IBM products you’d like it to include.

The new inventory upload feature (Figure 5) enables you to create a customized list of fixes automatically, based on the IBM software products that are installed on your system. To use this new feature, click the Inventory upload link on the left navigation menu from anywhere within Fix Central (Figure 4). From there, you will be able to download the IBM Support Assistant Data Collector (a one-time step), which runs on your system and creates an inventory file that can then be uploaded to Fix Central. If you wish, you can name your inventory file and permit IBM to store it for your future use. Previously uploaded inventory files (either through Fix Central, Electronic Service Agent, or IBM Support Assistant) can be selected using the Select a previously submitted inventory file tab (Figure 6).

Figure 5. Inventory upload
Figure 5. Inventory upload
Figure 6. Previously submitted inventory files
Figure 6. Previously submitted inventory files

Whether you choose to upload a new inventory, or select a previously submitted inventory, clicking Continue on this page will send the inventory file to Fix Central for processing. The Select fixes page (Figure 7) lists the IBM products that were found on your system and lets you select fixes and updates that are available for your products/versions/platforms that are supported by Fix Central. Just select the updates you want to apply and click Continue to proceed with your order.

Figure 7. Select fixes for your products
Figure 7. Select fixes for your products

Conclusion

We hope you'll like the changes we've made to Fix Central, and, most importantly, that they help make maintaining a system with IBM servers, platforms, and middleware easier and more efficient. But whether you have praise, criticism, questions, or suggestions, please let us know by clicking the Feedback link that appears on every page of Fix Central — and please include as much detail as you can. Your input is what makes us better!

Figure 8. Fix Central Feedback
Figure 8. Fix Central Feedback

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge John Goodson, Geoff Lubold, Mary Beth Markland, Colin Pfannkuch, Joao Paulo Cordeiro De Souza, Brad Topol, and Karen Wilson, whose combined efforts contributed to this article.

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