February 05, 2016
Number, Please: Finding the 3000 Set
When I started in this line of work in 1984, writing about the Hewlett-Packard community, I had a directory. Literally, a perfect-bound directory of HP staff that worked in the company headquarters and labs in California. HP shared it with me as HP Chronicle editor, updating it every year. When someone's number at HP came up missing, you'd call up company HQ and ask for the division operator. It was the 411 of the middle 1980s. It's obvious the 3000 world needs something similar today.
As it turns out, the community does have it. The most dynamic directory resource is the 3000-L, still in use this month to locate information about contacting experts. What makes it powerful is the wetware behind the bits. Knowing which of the 3000-L posters are customers, rather than consultants, is one example of the power of that wetware.
As the week began, Bob from Ideal Computer was searching for Brian Edminster, he of Applied Technologies. Bob slipped a message under the door of 3000-L, then got an answer back about a current email address. I followed up today, just to make sure Bob got something useful. Brian's on the lookout for consulting opportunities, as well as longer engagements.
Yesterday Al Nizzardini was seeking an email address for Vesoft. A couple of replies on the L misinformed Al that Vesoft doesn't use email. That might have been true 10 years ago, but the address firstname.lastname@example.org lands in the offices of Vladimir Volokh and his team. Vladimir far prefers to use the phone, but he's old-school enough to enjoy an in-person visit, too.
In another update, 3K Associates and Chris Bartram are now at 3kAssociates.com. Bartram, one of the very first of the 3000 community to set up shop in the Internet, sold his two-character domain name 3k.com for a tidy sum. "We continue to sell and support our entire like of HP 3000-based software products from 3kAssociates.com," he reported on the L.
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February 03, 2016
MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon
When we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.
There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.
Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.
Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."
KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.
February 01, 2016
Loyalist, laggard, loser: who are you now?
When 2016 arrived on our calendar, we looked for signs of the 3000's present and its future. A survey of frequent 3000-L contributors was answered by about half of those we polled. Among that group we found half of these IT pros — selected to be sure they owned 3000s, not just consulted on them — have plans for MPE/iX in their companies in 2016 and beyond.
If you're still using HP 3000s here, getting on to 15 years after HP announced the system's "end of life," then who are you? Among your own kind, you're possibly a loyalist, devoted to tech that's still better than the alternatives to your company. After all, almost 5 percent of every Mac user runs their systems on Snow Leopard, an OS released six years ago and decommissioned by Apple in 2013. Some experts in the community say it runs faster on the newest Macs than any other OS release, though.
The glove on this page came from a Mac conference of 2006, when Snow Leopard was three years away. Maxtor was sure we'd be losing files unless we backed up to their disks. They gave us a set of three instead of a pair of gloves. The way things turned out, Maxtor lost its company status that year, purchased by Seagate. The Maxtor brand went dark in 2009, the year Snow Leopard made its debut. The OS got a small update this month, though, to keep the door open to a newer OS X.
Your 3000 loyalty may label you a laggard. That's one way to describe somebody who's among the last to migrate somewhere when anybody who's savvy has already departed. Tough word, that one. It can inspire some dread and maybe shame about holding out. Or holding on. If the vantage point and the capabilities of MPE/iX in 2016 suit you, though, laggard is just a way to segregate you from someone else's visions.
The implication and suggestion is that laggard would mean loser. Nobody will actually use that word while identifying advocates for old tech. It surely doesn't fit when your applications are solid and cannot be replaced by a migration project priced at more than a full year's IT budget. There's also the matter of keeping IT headcount lean. The most expensive parts of running a datacenter are the people. That's why cloud solutions are getting airtime in boardroom planning. MPE demands fewer heads.
"We're still using our HP 3000s," said Frank Gribbin, running the servers for the law firm of Potter, Anderson. "It's just too useful a tool to do without."
January 29, 2016
Building manufacturer joins MPE, Windows
Plenty of migration stories put HP 3000s to rest, either outside of the production circle or off the premises entirely. At Victor S. Barnes, which fabricates plastics, MDF, and fiberboards, the MPE/iX server which continues to run does both kinds of duty. It's an archival system, but for one key client, the 3000 continues to process orders.
"As a company we have moved on to a Windows Server package to run our company," Tom Hula reports. "The HP 3000 is largely used for reference. With that said, we are still relying on the 3000 to process orders for a large customer."
The newer Windows server package doesn’t yet support the needs of that customer. When the needed changes have been made, than the 3000 will be reference only, and eventually not used at all.
The route of migrating to a package has it’s pros and cons. I would say that the largest drawback is a loss of flexibility... of having to depend on others for making needed changes, or even having to tell someone something can’t be done because of the software's constraints. On the other hand, we see the largest advantages as new capabilities on the Windows package, ones that were never going to be possible on the HP 3000.
January 28, 2016
TBT: A Terminal Commemoration
Thirty years ago today I sat at a Columbia PC, reading the reports of the Challenger disaster on Compuserve. The news flashed over an amber display attached to the PC, an IBM wannabe that had another life for us at the HP Chronicle. That PC was our link to an HP 3000 in downtown Austin. A printer there managed our subscription database. The software that made it possible was PC2622. The product from Walker, Richer & Quinn was the first independent terminal emulator in the Hewlett-Packard market, a way to link to 3000s without purchasing a dedicated terminal.
The purple PC2622 box sat atop that amber monitor like it perched in many 3000 shops. HP's 2622 terminal was a staple in an installed base that was growing from 10,000 to 20,000 installed servers. The HP products were priced much higher than third-party terminals. There was independent hardware to mimic the HP engineering inside the 3000-only boxes. By 1986, however, PCs were in every office and companies needed desk space for the new tools and wanted to reduce costs with a single tube at each workstation.
HP was trying to promote a combo idea of its own in the era, the HP 150 PC. It was not compatible with much of the software of the day, but a Touchscreen 150 was automatically ready to be a console for MPE applications. In contrast, the Walker, Richer & Quinn PC2622 gave companies compatibility on both fronts: MS-DOS, and MPE. George Hubman was the point man for pushing the purple boxes into 3000 shops. An array of resellers around the world was making converts, too.
The late Doug Walker, founder of the company who recently died in a tragic accident, said the earliest days for PC2622 were entertaining in a "may you live in interesting times" setting. HP was not giving ground to the strategy that independent companies could deliver key software. Well, the management wasn't. But HP's field engineers, the SEs of the day, were big fans of terminal emulation, according to Walker.
"Version 1.1 of the product had an HP 3000 file transfer program," Walker said. "The problem was how to get the file transfer program onto the 3000 side."
January 27, 2016
Keeping up lets you receive what you give
We've been checking in on how companies are keeping their MPE/iX servers up to date. One element is consistent in successful updating: continuing maintenance contracts for the software that's in production or development use. It's the heart of a healthy body of IT resources.
In one recent story we followed up on Reflection, the Attachmate HP 3000 terminal emulator product. Things have changed in PC desktop environments, since Microsoft has been hawking its Windows 10 update automatically. To get the latest Reflection version from Attachmate, keeping up on support is required. It's a paid enterprise to work on making changes to software like Reflection to support new environments such as Windows 10. Not many software solutions update themselves, said Birket Foster.
"Even free, open source software has programmers that are paid," he said when we checked up on Reflection updates. MB Foster has sold many copies of the product over the last 25 years. "Even for open source, there's some support and other positions also being compensated if these volunteers are working for a university or a large company like HP."
Foster says yes, there is an upgrade fee to bring Reflection up to date. "For customers that have been using the software for 10 years, they might want to remember that there is a cost to keeping the software in sync with the Microsoft changes," he said. "Continuous development is required and the programmers need to be paid."
One alternative to Reflection terminal emulation is Minisoft 92, from the company of the same name. CEO Doug Greenup said his product's got Windows 10 support, but even more interesting is the fact that it's got as many as 25 sites using the Charon emulator. Moving from HP's 3000 iron to Charon is a complimentary relicense at Minisoft, without a fee — so long as there's a current support contract.
January 26, 2016
Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work
A double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.
This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.
At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.
Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server. All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.
January 25, 2016
VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut
Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.
"My Attachmate Reflections v184.108.40.206 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.
The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.
This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.