October 22, 2018
How Support of XP Can Be a 3000 Mainstay
Hewlett-Packard first introduced the XP storage line in an era when an 18GB drive was a mainstream device. The first model was an XP 48, a unit that might still be running someplace where MPE/iX calls the business shots.
Chad Lester at Thomas Tech has seen some of those antique storage arrays in the field. He says that the old technology can be updated inexpensively: Thomas Tech will replace an aged device with a 3000-compatible state of the art unit. The array is free in exchange for a support contract to service it.
A storage array has moving media, most of the time, so getting support for any XP device is essential. Even the XP 512s and 1024s use 20-year-old architecture, Lester says. "The parts those XPs use are not out there, but the arrays still work," he says. The older XP arrays have been manufactured by Hitachi and are driven by laptops, little portables that Lester and his team have to buy from Japan and integrate into customer sites.
"One of our guys knows how to code them to make them work," he says. He adds that this antique laptop situation is a ticking time bomb. Newer hardware will defuse the risk. Today's XP consoles use a little chip inside the actual array. You log in to the array's Windows interface and do configuration.
Service on modern XP arrays — the 20000 and 24000 are the highest-end Hewlett-Packard devices ready for 3000s that use XP numbering — happens through a portal that Thomas Tech uses for customer sites. The company has third party maintenance relationships for servicing 3Par units, too. HP got 3Par in an acquisition in 2010, giving Hewlett-Packard a thin provisioning product.
If thin provisioning for storage seems like a long way from an 18GB drive, it is. So are some support resources. Lester says that Thomas Tech has hired a Level 2 XP support engineer away from HPE Atlanta. The advantage that hiring brings, he says, is that the XP customers who need support and buy it from Thomas Tech now don't have to go through Bangalore, India for Level 1 calls, then get the calls routed to Level 2 many time zones further away, then wait for the Indian engineer's resolution.
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October 19, 2018
Fine-Tune: Get the right time for a battery
Two weeks from now the world will manage the loss of an hour, as Daylight Saving time ends. The HP 3000 does time shifting of its system clock automatically, thanks to patches HP built during 2007. But what about the internal clock of a computer that might be 20 years old? Components fail after awhile.
The 3000's internal time is preserved using a small battery, according to the experts out on the 3000 newsgroup. This came to light in a discussion about fixing a clock gone slow. A few MPE/iX commands and a trip to Radio Shack can maintain a 3000's sense of time.
"I thought the internal clock could not be altered," said Paul English. "Our server was powered off for many months, and maybe the CMOS battery went flat." The result was that English's 3000 showed Greenwich Mean Time as being four years off reality. CTIME reported for his server:
* Greenwich Mean Time : THU, JUN 17, 2004, 11:30 AM *
* GMT/MPE offset : +-19670:30:00 *
* MPE System Time : THU, SEP 10, 2009, 2:00 PM *
Yup, that's a bad battery, said Pro 3k consultant Mark Ranft. "It is cheap at a specialty battery store," he said, "and can be replaced easily, if you have some hardware skills and a grounding strap." Radio Shack offers the needed battery.
But you can also alter the 3000's clock which tracks GMT, he added.
October 15, 2018
Making Plans for a 3000's Futures
We've turned the corner here at the Newswire to begin our 24th year. Thanks for all of your continued interest. We've always been interested about the future as well as the past which can teach us all. By this year, the 3000's experts are looking at working in their 60's and tending to servers and an OS which are more than a decade old. You have to make plans for the future to keep a legacy system working. Here's a few we've heard about.
At one HP 3000 site, the chief developer for its app turned 69 this year. There's an HP-branded server (a box with "3000" on the label) working at that manufacturing company. The plan for the future is to keep using HP's iron while the application gets migrated.
That 3000 iron? If if goes south, there's always Stromasys Charon. The company's IT manager already evaluated it.
At RAC Consulting, Rich Corn says he's "still kicking here for a while longer with a handful of ESPUL customers still active. I spend most of my time supporting robotics programs in the local school district." Like a lot of the most seasoned HP 3000 gurus — Corn's software is at the heart of Minisoft's NetPrint products, as well as ESPUL — this charter advertiser of the Newswire is still working with the companies which are tied to MPE/iX for production boxes.
ESPUL is software that wouldn't have much use in an archival 3000, since the utility is a spoolfile and printing wizard. Those are production systems.
October 12, 2018
Friday Fine-Tune: Speeding up backups
We have a DLT tape drive. Lately it wants to take 6-7 hours to do a backup instead of its usual two or less. But not every night, and not on the same night every week. I have been putting in new tapes now, but it still occurs randomly. I have cleaned it. I can restore from the tapes no problem. It doesn’t appear to be fighting some nightly process for CPU cycles. Any ideas on what gives?
Giles Schipper replies
Something that may be causing extended backup time is excessive IO retries, as the result of deteriorating tapes or tape drive.
One way to know is to add the ;STATISTICS option to your STORE command. This will show you the number of IO retries as well as the actual IO rate and actual volume of data output.
Another possibilty is that your machine is experiencing other physical problems resulting in excessive logging activity and abnormal CPU interrupt activity — which is depleting your system resources resulting in extended backup times.
Check out the following files in the following Posix directories:
If they are very large, you indeed may have a hardware problem — one that is not "breaking" your machine, but simply "bending" it.
October 10, 2018
Wayback: Charon kicks off with freeware
Six years ago this week the HP 3000 emulator Charon had its debut among the masses who wanted to kick the software's tires. 2012 was the first year when a downloadable version of the PA-RISC emulator, the first of its kind, could be pulled off an FTP server in Switzerland. Stromasys called the freeware a Demo Package.
This was an offering that illustrated the famous gratis versus libre comparison. Something that can be free, like demoware, was also restricted in its use. You paid nothing but had to abide by the rules of use.
One of the more magic portions of that demoware was HP's own software. Since Stromasys had a long HP relationship, tracking back to the days when HP bought Digital, the vendor was able to include mpe75a.dsk.gz, an MPE/iX 7.5 Ldev 1 disk image that contained the FOS and most HP subsystems.
But wait, said the offer, there's even more. The file mpe-tape.img.gz was also available via FTP, a virtual HP 3000 SLT, generated on Stromasys' A Class 400 test system. "You can configure Charon to boot from this virtual tape file," the demo's read me advised, "and perform an INSTALL from SLT."
Whoa, that was all a leap of Web-based advances. For the price of some disc space, a 3000 owner could have PA-RISC hardware (slapped onto freeware Linux, running on an Intel server) plus the 3000's OS (on a limited license) and a file which could become an SLT. HP had never made MPE/iX a downloadable up to that point. The 3000 was beginning to look like a modern server again, empowered by files from an FTP server.
The freeware propogated through the 3000's universe, with each download promising a purchase of the full Charon. It was supposed to be a demonstration of an emulator. A few bad actors in the market tried to make the A-202 model a production version.
October 08, 2018
Leaving Something to Retire On
The fate of MPE/iX shops can be a malleable thing. In the middle of the last decade every one of them was considering paths toward the future: migrate, homestead, or some blend of the two where homesteading was the prelude to a migration.
The more current situation takes the age of the professionals into account. People who were in their 50s during that decade are now closer to Social Security age. Only one person in five is going to enjoy a traditional retirement from here on out. They will continue to work and their benefits will reduce their need to tramp through the IT sector looking for a premier home. A nice chair with a great view will do.
If you're still in charge of an HP 3000, and you're not an IT pro, you're likely to be a CFO or a corporate soldier in operations. Those IT folks have retirement tattooed onto them. The MPE/iX applications, not so much.
The HP 3000s are going through a similar transformation. You don't retire an HP 3000 as much as you leave it in place and give it nothing new to do. The strategy might be called Migrating in Place. All of the other operations in the datacenter have a new and uncertain future. The MPE/iX applications now know where they're going: retirement, someday, but they all have to be made comfortable along the way. The most nimble of IT managers know there's must be reliable hardware right up to the retirement date for an application.
This thinking brings newer hardware into an organization to support older applications. The HP 3000 itself could get a replacement with a Charon virtualized server. Or it might be the storage components that are updated. Networking and switches have their makeovers. It's all justified better when the new elements are ready to work with other systems in the datacenter.
The code itself and the data remains the constant. In the retirement scenario, this might be like the retiree who's looking over active senior apartment complexes, or maybe that downsized house that's newer and needs little maintenance. The COBOL and the IMAGE datasets are the fingerprints and recognizable faces that establish who's moving into senior living.
"I am seven years past retirement age and still supporting four HP 3000s," Roy Brown said on the message board of the HP 3000 Community group on LinkedIn. "I'm trying to get it down to two now, so I can at least go part time."
One of those remaining servers looks to be a durable as a homeowner association board member. "Traditionally one of the two 3000s, called Troy, sees off anyone who tries to shut it down," Brown said. "The last three attemptees, each trying separately and some months apart, all lost their jobs shortly after commencing the exercise. So I now need to engineer the fall of Troy without instead engineering the fall of Roy."