March 23, 2018

Moving, Yes — Volumes to Another 3000

Newswire Classic

By John Burke

Here is a shortened version of the revised checklist for moving user volumes physically from one system to another without a RESTORE

  • Get the new system up and running, even if it only has one disk drive

(if you've purchased additional new drives, do not configure them with VOLUTIL yet)

  • Analyze and document the configuration on the old system, making any necessary configuration changes on the new system and creating an SLT for the new system;
  • Backup and verify the system volume set and the user volumes separately (be sure to use the DIRECTORY option on all your STOREs);
  • VSCLOSE all the user volume sets on the old machine;
  • Move all the peripherals over to the new machine. On a START NORECOVERY, the user volumes should mount. The drives that were on the system volume set on the old system and any new drives added should now be configured in using VOLUTIL;
  • RESTORE the system volume set:


  • RENAME the following three files if they exist to something else:

COMMAND.PUB.SYS (udc configuration)

  • RESTORE the above three files from your tape with the DEV=1 option.

The OS requires that some files, for example SYSSTART, be on LDEV 1;

  • RUN NMMGR against NMCONFIG.PUB.SYS, then using NMMGR, change the path for the LANIC, if necessary, and make any other necessary NMMGR configuration changes.
  • Validate NETXPORT and DTS/LINK, which should automatically cross validate with SYSGEN.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP 3000 resource

March 21, 2018

Tracking the Prints of 3000 Print Software

Tymlabs logoA reader of ours with a long memory has a 3000 connected to a printer. The printer is capable of printing a 8.5 x 12 sheet, so it's enterprise-grade. The 3000 is running OPT, 90s-era software for formatting print jobs from MPE/iX.

To nobody's surprise, OPT had problems operating in 2018. "I actually tried to use it in recent times to print to a strange brand of printers, Microplex," our reader said. "The OPT software still ran, but formatting did not work right."


"I was able to print to it with some success, but I could never get the OPT software to do what I wanted it to do, which was to fill up a 12 X 8.5" page and make logical and physical page breaks coincide." The software was a stellar choice for its day, having been developed by the funny, wry and brilliant Bruce Toback (above). Bruce passed away during the month we started this blog, though, more than 12 years ago. He was the subject of our very first blog entry.

Great software that once could manage many printers, but can't do everything, might be revived with a little support. It's a good bet that OPT support contract hasn't been renewed, but asking for help can't hurt if your expectations are reasonably low. The challenge is finding the wizard who still knows the OPT bits.

"We bought and it went from OPT to Tymlabs to Unison to Tivoli to...” These kinds of bit-hunts are the management task that are sometimes crucial to homesteading in 2018. Printing can be a keystone of an IT operation, so if the software that drives the paper won't talk to a printer, even a strange one, that failure can trigger a migration. It's like the stray thread at the bottom of the sweater that unravels the whole garment.

I’m thinking at the moment maybe OPT never made its way to Tivoli. My notes say that ROC Software took on all of the Unison products. Right here in Austin—where we're breathing with relief after that bomber's been taken down—ROC still supports and sells software for companies using lots of servers. Even HP 3000s.

Read "Tracking the Prints of 3000 Print Software" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2018

Why Support Would Suggest Exits from 3000

Way-OutThe work of a support provider for 3000 customers has had many roles over the last 40 years. These indies have been a source for better response time, more customer-focused services, a one-call resource, affordable alternatives and expertise HP no longer can offer. They've even been advisors to guide a 3000 owner to future investments.

That last category needs expertise to be useful, and sometimes it requires a dose of pragmatism, too. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions gave us a thoughtful answer to the question of, "How do I get my 3000 ready for post-2028 use?" His advice shows how broad-minded a 3000-focused support company can be.

By Steve Suraci

While the solution to the 2028 problem is going to be fairly trivial, it really is the entry point to a much bigger question: What logical argument could any company make at this time to continue to run an HP 3000 MPE system beyond 2028?

I understand that some companies have regulatory requirements that require data to be available on the 3000 for years beyond its original creation date. Beyond this, what logical justification could an IT manager make to their management for perpetuating the platform in production beyond 2028? 

2028 is a long way out from HP’s end of support date [2010] and even further from the original 2001 announcement by HP of their intentions to no longer support it.  It would seem to me that there was a reasonable risk/reward proposition for extending the platform initially for some period of time.  I have to believe that the justification for that decision will expire as time goes on, if not already.

The homesteading base has not in general been willing to spend to keep the platform viable.  They take bigger and bigger risks and alienate themselves from the few support providers who remain capable of providing support in the event of an actual issue. The stability of the platform has lulled them into believing that this has been a good decision.  But what happens when it’s not?

Read "Why Support Would Suggest Exits from 3000" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2018

Fine-tune Friday: SCSI Unleashed

Seagate 73GB driveAlthough disk technology has made sweeping improvements since HP's 3000 hardware was last built, SCSI devices are still being sold. The disk drives on the 15-year-old servers are the most likely point of hardware failure. Putting in new components such as the Seagate 73-GB U320 SCSI 10K hard drive starts with understanding the nature of the 3000's SCSI.

As our technical editor John Burke wrote, using a standard tech protocol means third parties like Seagate have products ready for use in HP's 3000 iron.


Extend the life of your HP 3000 with non-HP peripherals

By John Burke

This article will address two issues and examine some options that should help you run your HP 3000 for years to come. The first issue: you need to use only HP-branded storage peripherals. The second issue: because you have an old (say 9x7, 9x8 or even 9x9) system, then you are stuck using both old technology and just plain old peripherals. Both are urban legends and both are demonstrably false.

There is nothing magical about HP-branded peripherals

Back in the dark ages when many of us got our first exposure to MPE and the HP 3000, when HP actually made disk drives, there was a reason for purchasing an HP disk drive: “sector atomicity.” 9x7s and earlier HP 3000s had a battery that maintained the state of memory for a limited time after loss of power. In my experience, this was usually between 30 minutes and an hour.

These systems, however, also depended on special firmware in HP-made HP-IB and SCSI drives (sector atomicity) to ensure data integrity during a power loss. If power was restored within the life of the internal battery, the system started right back up where it left off, issuing a “Recover from Powerfail” message with no loss of data. It made for a great demo.

Ah, but you say all your disk drives have an HP label on them? Don’t be fooled by labels. Someone else, usually Seagate, made them. HP may in some cases add firmware to the drives so they work with certain HP diagnostics, but other than that, they are plain old industry standard drives. Which means that if you are willing to forego HP diagnostics, you can purchase and use plain old industry standard disk drives and other peripherals with your HP 3000 system.

Read "Fine-tune Friday: SCSI Unleashed" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2018

Wayback Wed: When MPE/iX wasn't for sale

Ten years ago this week, HP made it clearer to 3000 owners that they didn't really own their systems. Not the life-breath of them, anyway. At the final meeting of the Greater Houston Regional Users Group, e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou explained that the hundreds of millions of dollars paid for MPE/iX over 30 years did not equate to ownership of HP 3000 systems. HP was only licensing the software that is crucial to running the servers—not selling it.

The hardware was a physical asset owned by the buyers. The software, though—which breathed life into the PA-RISC servers—was always owned by HP. Without MPE/iX, those $300,000 top-end servers were as useless as a tire without air.

Most software is purchased as a license to use, unless it's an open sourced product like Linux. The reinforcement of this Right to Use came as the vendor was trying to control the future of the product it was cutting from its lineup. HP 3000s would soon be moving into the final phase of HP's support, a vintage service that didn't even include security updates.

Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP would cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exited its 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."


The announcement made it clear than any source code license was going to be a license to use, not own. Support companies and software vendors would be paying $10,000 for that license in a few years' time. Ownership of HP 3000s is built around MPE/iX, by HP's reckoning, even in an Enterprise era. License transfers for MPE/iX are one of the only items or services HP offers.

HP's announcement during that March came on the heels of a new third party program to transform HP 3000 lockwords to passwords — the character strings that were needed to operate HP’s ss_update configuration program.

The new SSPWD takes an HP lockword — designed to limit use of ss_update to HP’s support personnel — and delivers the corresponding password to enable a support provider start and use ss_update.

Continuing to reserve the license for MPE/iX means that emulated 3000s still have a link to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, too. The vendor never implemented its plans to offer separate emulator-based MPE/iX licenses, either.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:54 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2018

Momentum moves towards Museum meeting

CHM displayDave Wiseman continues to pursue a 3000 user reunion for late June, and we've chosen to help invite the friends of the 3000. One of the most common sentiments from 3000 veterans sounds like what we heard from Tom Gerken of an Ohio-based healthcare firm.

"It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away," he said, talking about the departure of the system from Promedica. "I really liked MPE as an operating system. It was the BEST!"

The last HP 3000 event 2011 was called a Reunion. A 2018 event might be a Retirement, considering how many of the community's members are moving to semi-retirement.

Wiseman says that he's in retirement status as he defines it. "It's working not because you have to,"he said in a call last week, "but because you want to."

Most of us will be working in some capacity until we're too old to know better. That makes the remaining community members something like the HP 3000 itself—serving until it's worn down to bits. The event this summer will be a social gathering, a chance to see colleagues and friends in person perhaps for the first time in more than a decade.

The weekend of June 23-24 is the target for the 3000 Retirement party. We're inquiring about the Computer History Museum and a spot inside to gather, plus arrangements for refreshments and appetizers. There will be a nominal cover fee, because there's no band. Yet.

If you've got a customer list or a Facebook feed you'd like to spread the word on, get in touch with me. Spread the word. Email your friends.

No matter whether you have a contact list or not, save the date: one afternoon on the fourth weekend of June. Details to come. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101

Newswire Classic

By Scott Hirsh

Ledger-bookAs we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.

What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.

As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.

In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”

You wouldn’t build a house without a design and plans, you wouldn’t build an application without some kind of specifications, so why do we HP 3000 system managers ignore the need for some kind of consistent logic to the way we organize our systems?

Read "Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:51 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)