December 11, 2017

Still migrating after all these years

Project-scheduleI began writing about migrations only in 2001, after HP decided that moving was the way forward for 3000 folk. I already had 17 years on the 3000 beat by then. Much has happened over these last 16 years, and yet, less than you would think in some places. Companies began in earnest to move away from MPE/iX, sometimes for very good reasons. For example, if your application vendor starts sending you end-of-life warnings for your software, it's a good time to plan for a trip away from an HP 3000.

At other kinds of companies, migration seemed to be the safest way forward. Starting sooner than later was part of the 3000 ethos, too. That ethos might be one reason why some 3000 customers were working in their second decade of departing the 3000. The apps that were not broken didn't have to replaced right away, did they?

Eleven years have gone by since I produced this 8-minute podcast about one of those customers. From the very first year of the Transition Era we knew about the Speedware shop at Virginia International Terminals. VIT was a success story HP shared with its uncertain customers. VIT made the move to HP's Unix and all was well.

However, more than four years later (in 2006) not everything was moved off the 3000. Earlier this year we heard from someone at VIT about replacing their final MPE/iX app. This year. An interesting thing happened on the way to the exit. First they found the job bigger than they could handle themselves. To their credit, their IT management saw a bigger picture. Why just have a functional migrated application? You want it as efficient as it can be.

Back in 2006 VIT thought that way. It tested its migration about 18 months later than expected. Not everything made its way through that assisted migration process. VIT must have found a way to let migration pay its way, permitting a bit of functional MPE/iX to be left alone. Our 2006 podcast talks about the Why of a migration, as well as what happens when that Why changes.

Start to finish from 2002-2017 might be the longest term of any migration. A good 3000 manager doesn't care how long it takes. They care if it's done right—and on the schedule that best suits their organization. The podcast made a point back then which continues to be true. It's your calendar that matters.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 08, 2017

Distributor seeks 3000 experts for contract

Help-wantedIt doesn't happen often, but the 3000 world has a request for experts in the employment market. Dwight Demming at National Wine & Spirits posted a notice yesterday, saying he needed two to three "HP 3000 programmers to work on a year-long project."

NWS has been a 3000 user since the 1990s, running an in-house application that tracks shipping of, well, wine and spirits. The customer has always been a forward-looking shop. A few years back the company in Oak Brook Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said at the time, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The current assignment at the company calls for programmers who are "highly skilled in COBOL, Image/SQL, and VPlus. The work can be done remotely, Demming said in his posting, "with occasional visits to Oak Brook."

The biggest payoff for the employment offer might be in the final line of Demming's post: "Possibly leading to full-time employment." That might be HP 3000 and MPE/iX work, or it might be work on a migrated platform. But a year's worth of HP 3000 work starting around 2018 is a benefit few people could have forseen back when HP turned off its MPE/iX lab lights seven years ago.

Applications for the jobs can be sent to Demming at his email address.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2017

Staying on target is tough for 3000's exiles

3000 firing squadThe perspective of tech veterans who left the 3000 community used to sway opinions of those who remained. Vendors sold services like support or software for MPE/iX. Then HP made sales difficult by striking the 3000 off its price lists. So the vendors and IT pros who couldn't make a sale or a living left our world. Some departed and remained wistful and respectful of what HP created for MPE/iX. Others have not done so. They departed and began to disrespect and mock the tech solution that made them a pro.

It makes no sense, they've now said for more than a decade, to put any more resources into MPE/iX or a 3000. Some exiles once lined up a 3000 in a cornfield and shot it up with weapons. The act was an effort at comedy. (A great actor on his deathbed reminded the world that dying was easy, and comedy is hard.) The cornfield gunfire was ruthless because those shooters were targeting a legacy.

The bullets hit the computer, but the shooters were off target. The firing squad treatment included an arsenal worthy of Yosemite Sam. A cannon missed the mark and had to be wheeled closer. The buffoons acted out a fantasy, the finale of what they called “an HP 3000 mainframe computer.” 

Those shots felt the same as those the 3000's devotees have endured in the Migration Era. The era is just about over, but so many of its exits were based on fears of parts inventories gone dry or a lack of vendor attention. Some vendors turned on their community, stoking new business by running down the old success. Those parts are rare, they say, and you can pay us to help you change your mind. HP ran aground with its strategies for computing. Now the CEO is leaving and saying that technology wisdom has a better chance of hitting the value target than business experience.

Read "Staying on target is tough for 3000's exiles" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2017

2028 was never MPE's end of life date

HourglassEven though it was designed in the late 1960s, MPE never had an end of life date. Hewlett-Packard chose to call its end of business deadline for MPE/iX the 3000's end of life. HP was done in December of 2010, but the end of life claim was never true. Now we've learned that not even the expiration of the CALENDAR intrinsic's accuracy, in 10 years from this month, won't make the 3000 die, either.

During the latest CAMUS conference call, a few developers and support providers made the future clear. The year 2028 would not be the moment when a 3000 would fail to boot up and run software including the MPE/iX OS. This was only the year when CALENDAR wouldn't be useful.

"I'm hearing the system won't roll over and die on January 1, 2028," said one 3000 owner during the call. 

"Correct," said Doug Werth at Beechglen. "There are some things that may stick at 2027, depending on how the code was written." Some dating features go back to 1900 for the YYYY elements of the date fields. "There are a lot of places in the operating system that still use the CALENDAR format," Werth added.

Support providers can prepare repairs for the places where MPE uses CALENDAR. The seven companies with source code for the 3000's OS, such as Pivital Solutions, can craft more elegant solutions.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group said MANMAN calls CALENDAR in the subroutine SLJDMPE, "which is used all over the place." Floyd has identified and outlined a repair for MANMAN's source code that permits the MPE/iX application to run until 2049.

Nobody has had much conversation about another alleged end of life date for alternatives to MPE/iX. Unix and its date handling routines stop being accurate in 2038. It's also true for Linux, which drives a lot of the enterprise applications that have tried to replace 3000 apps, as well as much of the cloud-based servers like Amazon's. End of life is not a phrase used in that discussion, one so prevalent that Year 2038 has its own Wikipedia page.

Read "2028 was never MPE's end of life date" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: ODE's 3000 diagnostics

DiagnosticsOne diagnostic super-program, ODE, holds a wide range of tests for HP's 3000 hardware. These testing programs got more important once HP mothballed its Predictive Support service for the HP 3000 in 2006. Predictive would dial into a 3000, poke around to see what might be ready to fail, then report to HP's support engineers. ODE's diagnostics are a manual way to perform the same task, or fix something that's broken.

However, ODE includes programs that require a password. Stan Sieler has inventoried what was available in MPE/iX and examined each program for whether it's unlocked for customer use. That was back in the days when 3000 owners were still HP support customers. Today the 3000 owners are customers of third party support firms like Pivital Solutions, or Sieler's own Allegro. The locked programs remain in that state, more than six years after HP shuttered its support operations.

Read "Fine-tune Friday: ODE's 3000 diagnostics" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 29, 2017

Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix

Drywall-patchTen years ago this month HP's labs delivered its final fix for MPE/iX millicode. The patch demonstrated the last critical repair of the OS by the HP development labs. It had been 16 years since HP had to do a fix for the 3000's millicode. The 2007 millicode patch was crucial whenever a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files, those which are 4GB or greater in size

HP introduced the Large Files feature in 2000, just after the community had cleared Y2K challenges. The corruption could occur if any one of five out of the last six bytes of a Large File failed to transfer correctly. Corruption introduced by MPE/iX is so uncommon that the patch became essential—and a way to gauge how much the community might lose when HP's labs would close up.

The labs were ready in a way the customers rarely saw. HP announced the bug with repairs and white papers already available.

OpenMPE sought an opportunity to take a role in the repairs. OpenMPE advocates showed concern that binary repairs like this one would present a challenge to application developers who need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wanted to do this work. The advocacy group never got its opportunity to participate in the development work for 3000 sites.

HP's repair rolled out four years to the day after the company ended sales of the 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, remained available throughout 2009 and 2010. At the time of the repair, HP had not yet licensed its source code for MPE/iX. Delivery of that source code wouldn't take place until 2011. HP's binary patches for the corruption were not done in source code.

Large Files was a feature gone sour, by HP's own reckoning. The vendor was trying to remove the code from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, which are much better engineered.

Read "Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

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