July 27, 2016
Did PCs hold Hewlett-Packard off the pace?
Stock activity is the best-quantified way to assess the strength and prospects for a vendor. Few of the HP 3000 vendors ever reported stock pricing, so we always swung our spotlight on the system creator's stock. The results became entertaining after HP stopped making 3000s—but rarely entertaining in a good way.
Now it appears that shedding its New Money products has pushed Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's stock into fresh territory. HPE hit the low $20s of share price this week. That's a 52-week high, and even higher if factoring in the fact the stock was chopped in two last fall.
Operating systems, software and hardware are only part of the story at HPE. Services were brought across in November, but their performance has skidded. As the break-off firm that reclaimed the HP Old Money business computing that drove enterprises, however, HPE has had a better time since the splitup. HPQ, making a living off the PCs and printers, remained under $14 a share today. The companies started out with equal assets and stock prices. What Enterprise has changed is the company's focus. The vendor is no longer trying to be everything to everybody.
Earlier this summer HPE announced it was getting even leaner. The enterprise services business, which bulked up HP's headcount and revenues as a result of acquiring 144,000 employees from EDS, will now be a separate entity. The move pushes HP closer to the business target it pursued while it was making the HP 3000 soar: sales to IT enterprises of software and hardware. This time around, they want to sell cloud computing too. But the old Apps on Tap program for the 3000 in the late '90s was a lot like that, too.
The extra systems focus, coupled with the stagnant action on the PC-printer side, suggests that straying from enterprise computing was a boat-anchor move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has put a new-era spin on the box-and-software pursuit, though. The CEO says putting Services on a separate course makes HPE a company with 100 percent of its revenues channel partner-driven. In effect it means all deals need a third party. This is the course the old HP could never adopt, much to the consternation of 3000 vendors.
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July 25, 2016
Even archival 3000s are keeping things aloft
Stromasys makes MPE/iX applications last forever, a mission that some manufacturing suppliers are taking to heart. Doug Smith of the vendor tells a story about a supplier to aircraft manufacturers which puts data from archival 3000s back into production, from time to time.
These suppliers have moved their production IT to platforms such as SAP, he says. But they haven't retired their HP 3000 data. One reason is the amount of work needed to bring processes onto complex platforms like SAP. Rather than move everything into a new application suite, many companies only move open items. They might need others later. That's where an archival MPE system goes to work.
"SAP is so limited," Smith says. "It’s a structure you must fit into. You have to fit your business to work within SAP, more than SAP working to fit the business. You have to meet the software’s criteria just to move on to the next process, and that’s why it’s so much easier just to move the items that are open. Otherwise, you have re-create all of the substructure you had on the 3000 software. A 10-year project could become a one-year project if you only move the open items. You’re talking about saving millions of dollars."
For example, one aircraft supplier has been building parts for 40 years, work that started when the HP 3000 was brand-new. They didn’t bring all those parts over to their SAP replacement for the MPE/iX applications. "But they can get a call at any time that they need the landing gear for a certain type of aircraft, for example—and they don’t have the part on SAP," Smith says. "So they have to go back to the archive machine to get it processed. It’s not only for regulatory purposes. It’s for serving-the-customer purposes."
July 22, 2016
3000-free Southwest suffers airline IT crash
Three straight days of system outages cost Southwest Airlines more than $10 million in lost fares this week. The company's COO Mike Van de Ven said that the router crashes which started the meltdown are not uncommon. But then the routers triggered Web server crashes. Finally, the company's disaster recovery plan failed to save the IT operations. Social media posts from customers complained of delayed flight departures and arrivals and an inability to check in for flights on Southwest's website. The running count by Friday morning was 700 canceled flights, with another 1,300 delayed. People could not get to gates without boarding passes.
Customers running 3000s through the 1990s might remember Southwest as a shining star in the MPE/iX galaxy. The system came online with ticketless travel using MPE/iX software developed at Morris Air. When Southwest started to skip the paper, it was one of the very first major airlines to do so. Dispensing with paper tickets was possible because of the 3000's unparalleled reliability.
Stranding an estimate 4,000 customers was never a part of the 3000's history at Southwest. The computer was the dominant ticketing tool in an era before the elaborate security checks in the US. From Wednesday through today, customers on thousands of its flights could not check in at kiosks or via those web servers. The IT failure happened as the Republican National Convention closed out its Cleveland circus.
It's commonplace for a system vendor who's been shown the door, like the 3000 group was in the first decade of this century, to say "It wasn't on our watch" when a crash like this hits. But being commonplace won't recover those millions of dollars of revenues. Maybe they were a small fraction of the overall savings while leaving the 3000. The reliability of an airline is worth a lot more than delivery of a product, though, like an auto. Hertz was a 3000 shop for many years, and their portion of the travel business didn't suffer these woes, either.
Both companies made their IT 3000-free while the worst fact about the system was that HP stopped selling it. They both had plans to expand, strategies MPE/iX wasn't going to be able to handle easily, too. When a vendor ends their business plans for a server, the sweater of coverage unravels one thread at a time. Mission-critical systems are never supposed to leave a publicly traded company naked from the waist up, however.
July 20, 2016
Manufacturing alternatives rise for 3000 sites
HP 3000 sites are migrating away from their ERP and MRP applications. One of the largest MANMAN users in the world on MPE/iX has started its transition to SAP. That's a long journey for a company with almost a dozen manufacturing sites. But SAP and other software has the potential to give companies customization, features and flexibility beyond MANMAN. It's not to say that MANMAN can't do the job, but the effort to change it requires expertise at many steps.
One of the experts in MANMAN — arguably the leading advisors — say that software designed in the modern era improves ERP for longtime MANMAN users. For example, says Terry Floyd at the Support Group, the software at Nissan Calsonic's US plant made the leap from MANMAN to IFS, a project that Floyd's group engineered and completed this spring.
"IFS is much more suited to what Nissan Calsonic is doing than MANMAN ever was," Floyd said. "They had more modifications [to MANMAN] than anybody." The number of the mods slows the march of change. It also shows how far the business processes of users have drifted beyond the stock architecture of MANMAN. A product like IFS was built to accommodate pinpoint processes, in part because IFS was built at the dawn of the object-oriented era.
IFS has its basis in the late '80s, early '90s, he explained, and pieces of that ERP solution "have some of the earliest object-oriented programming stuff ever written. So IFS has a heck of a head start on other products. They're rewritten things a few times and changed interfaces like everybody has to, in order to stay modern."
July 18, 2016
Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips
Samba sharing on our 3000 using Windows Explorer is slow, but it gets the job done. However, if I take down networking on the 3000 and bring it back up, Windows Explorer tells me the 3000 is inaccessible. Ping works, Reflection connections work and Internet Explorer has no trouble connecting to our Apache/iX web site. What's happening to the 3000's networking?
Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:
After rebooting the PC, everything works again until networking on the 3000 is refreshed. Your solution should address the fact that Windows is maintaining a table of connections that needs to be refreshed in DOS. From the DOS command line, issue the command nbtstat -R or nbtstat -RR.
James Byrne also points out:
You can get into trouble with cached credentials with Windows Active Directory as well. You can clear them from the command line with:
net session \\samba.server.ip.address /delete
Or you can do it through the Credentials Manager on the workstation's Control Panel. However you clear the cache, you still need to restart the workstation with the problem cache — because the credentials are still in memory.
July 15, 2016
An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.
Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly.
I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.
Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.
Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.
An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.
SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.
This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.
July 13, 2016
How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free
The 3000 community has been receiving updates for simulator project this year. This isn't the software that virtualizes the PA-RISC servers which were the ultimate boxes in HP's 3000 line. This simulator software is strictly shareware, strictly free, and strictly built to emulate a previous generation's HP 3000s. The SIMH project can turn a PC into a Classic HP 3000, the sort that used MPE III, IV, or V as its operating system.
This is also a project that points to the lifecycle of HP's operating system products in the public domain. A hobbyist -- or a company that could get along with a 3000 with circa 1991 power and OS -- needs a copy of MPE V to make this freeware simulation work. Where you get this software is up to you. But it's not a secret, either. The process to free involves the passage of time, the end of commercial sales, and perhaps HP's tacit approval.
The creators of SIMH are assuming HP won't be reining in the 20-year-old OS built for the previous MPE generation. Dave Bryan, who posted a note about a new version of the SIMH simulator for the 3000, said that the HP Computer Museum in Australia has helped to make MPE V available for simulator use via a website.
I assembled the kit from the tape image in that directory, which was supplied to me by Al Kossow of Bitsavers. Al then posted the kit and tape on his site.
Before undertaking the 3000 simulator project, I verified with Al in 2011 that he would be able to post an MPE image, and he confirmed that he could.
This year marks a milestone in the 3000's Classic generation: a moment to download the needed MPE V OS without a license concern. If Kossow's upload is legal, this version of MPE V has become freeware.
This kind of open source status is what the 3000 community pursued for MPE/iX for the better part of a decade. As the ultimate 3000 OS, MPE/iX hasn't moved into the state of a GPL license (for sharing). Not yet. But there was a time when HP's MPE V was closely guarded and licensed, too. Nowadays, not so much. The transfer to open access for an OS requires time. HP hasn't sold an MPE/iX system in almost 13 years. The company stopped selling MPE V servers 21 years ago. The clock might be running toward an unfettered MPE/iX.