August 20, 2018

Following Job Lines in Emulated 3000 Life

Queueing
The Stromasys Charon software is a fact of life in the homesteading community by this year, after almost six years of field service. Lately the emulator users have been offering insights on how they're using their servers.

It's a lot like any HP 3000 has been used for the last 44 years, in some ways. Transferring files. Queueing up jobs. A few of the emulators shared their advisories not long ago.

Ray Legault at Boeing talked about his experiences with file transfers, especially an SFTP client and the SFTP "Connection refused" errors. As the Charon developers like to say, if the MPE/iX software behaves the same on the emulator as it does on 3000 hardware, even if MPE registers an error, then Charon is doing its faithful emulation job.

"We are running on a Stromasys Charon A500-200 and a A500-100 virtual machine which executes on a HP ProLiant DL 380 Gen8 3.59 GHZ CPU, with 6 cores and 64 gig of memory," Legault said.

We send about 40 files each day most of these in the early morning. Sometimes we would have zero to fives connection failures each morning. I noticed that these failures seem to occur when two SFTP jobs ran at the same minute. I then added a "JOBQ=FINLOG" to the job card of every SFTP job I had and set the job limit to 1. This was two weeks ago and we have not had a failure yet.

Another emulator user, Tony Summers of Smith & Williamson in the UK, shared queueing advice and a massive job checker (HOWMANY) that's working well for him.

Read "Following Job Lines in Emulated 3000 Life" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:17 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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August 17, 2018

Nike Arrays 101

Hard-DriveJust a few weeks ago, a 3000 manager using an A-Class server checked in on how he might connect the SC-10 arrays from Hewlett-Packard to his A500. As a West Coast service provider carried the manager toward that hardware (it can be done) it seems like a good time to review the use of storage arrays with MPE/iX systems.

Our founding net.digest editor John Burke covered this ground in the years after HP announced it was cutting off its 3000 operations. While the HP label is still anathema to some, the hardware prices are sometimes too compelling. Here's Nike Arrays 101, advice still worthy on the day you're moving around arrays connected to a 3000.

By John Burke
Newswire Classic

Many 3000 homesteaders are picking up used HP Nike Model 20 disk arrays. The interest comes from the fact that there is a glut of these devices on the market — meaning they are inexpensive — and they work with older models of HP 3000s. However, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about how and when to use them. For example, one company posted the following to 3000-L:

We’re upgrading from a Model 10 to a Model 20 Nike array. I’m in the middle of deciding whether to keep it in hardware RAID configuration or to switch to MPE/iX mirroring, since I can now do it on the system volume set. It wasn’t in place when the system was first bought, so we stayed with the Nike hardware RAID. We’re considering the performance issue of keeping it Nike hardware RAID versus the safety of MPE Mirroring. You can use the 2nd Fast-Wide card on the array when using MPE mirroring, but you can’t when using Model 20 hardware RAID.

So, with hardware RAID, you have to consider the single point of failure of the controller card. If we ‘split the bus’ on the array mechanism into two separate groups of drives, and then connect a separate controller to the other half of the bus, you can’t have the hardware mirrored drive on the other controller. It must be on the same path as the ‘master’ drive because MPE sees them as a single device.

Using software mirroring you can do this because both drives are independently configured in MPE. Software mirroring adds overhead to the CPU, but it’s a tradeoff you have to decide to make. We are evaluating the options, looking for the best (in our situation) combination of efficiency, performance, fault tolerance and cost.

First of all, as a number of people pointed out, Mirrored Disk/iX does not support mirroring of the System Volume Set – never did and never will. Secondly, you most certainly can use a second FWSCSI card with a Model 20 attached to an HP 3000

Read "Nike Arrays 101" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:39 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2018

3000 users linking up, 10 years later

Harland Clarke DMS network
Ten years ago this month the LinkedIn group for HP 3000 users opened for communications. In a posting from August of 2008 we took note of 30 members in a new group devoted to a server that hadn't shipped a new unit in five years.

There's no more new servers today. But by now those 30 members have turned into 669 and growing. It's been a pleasure to curate the group (admit new members) over this decade and spark some conversations, too. A few weeks ago I asked what people were still doing with their HP 3000s. Some of the newer members are old hands at the server. Edwin Clements, who just became a group member this week, worked at Harland Clarke back in 2012 as a COBOL specialist.There's new resources in the group, too. Matt Barker, the CMO of Stromasys, is a group member. 

HP 3000s remain on duty in surprising places. That's the Harland Clarke disaster recovery design up there at the top of this post. A pair of HP 3000s were working in the direct marketing end of one of the world's largest check manufacturers.

The membership of the group is something special, since it's hand-tooled. Anyone can request a spot, but only the clear 3000 users and experienced vendors have a place there. A LinkedIn group is often overrun with careerists whose skills don't match the discussions. Almost 80 pending members are on the outside looking in. If your resume doesn't include MPE, you're probably not a member.

Lately the LinkedIn group has been identifying itself with stories of durability. Some members are continuing to work with the server. Others have experience waiting if the opportunity surfaces to use it. It's a good place to look for someone you might've lost touch with.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2018

Licensed MPE source solves OS mysteries

Rathbone-holmesIn early 2028 I’ll be 70, and some MPE/iX apps could be 40 years old. I can hope retirement is in my rangefinder by then, but at the moment it looks like I’ll be writing until I can’t make sentences anymore. (Gotta remember, first noun, then verb.)

Well before that year, though, the roadblock of 3000-MPE date handling will be cleared. The companies most likely to have a comprehensive workaround are the ones which have licensed MPE/iX source. Or, the companies which are allied with the source licensees. Fixing the use of the CALENDAR intrinsic doesn't need to be a source-level repair. Having source access, though, only makes the fix more robust.

The 3000 owners and managers are all about robust. That's why they're still making use of a computer the vendor hasn't sold since 2003. Many of the companies who don't self-maintain are relying on support services now working more than seven years since HP left that support business, too.

The established independent support companies will be glad to collect money for building a 2028 solution, customer-by-customer. They should be paid. There are some IT managers out there in the 3000 world who see leaving their existing systems in a future-proof state, software-wise, as part of their job whenever they get to retire. Those are the real Boy Scouts, I’d say. On the other hand, you will hear arguments they’re not doing their jobs by leaving their companies running MPE/iX, even today.

The heart wants what it wants, though. If a company hasn't got heart for a migration right now, then the adminstrative work to be done is preparing for a forever journey for MPE/iX. Or at least until I'm 80, when the Unix 2038 roadblock appears.

Nobody should be building a 2028 fix unless they’re going to be paid. This issue is important to the Stromasys customer base. Not all: some Charon 3000 emulator installations are holding a place for a migration that's underway.

The community's elders care about the future. So long as the old managers can get a new expenditure approved, the game's afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2018

HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits

Newswire Classic

Greatest-HitsTwenty years ago HP took steps forward, into the realm beyond 2028, when it released a set of COBOL-related MPE/iX intrinsics. The community is now looking into the next decade and seeing a possibility of hurdling the Dec. 31, 2027 date handling roadblock. In this Inside COBOL column from the late 1990s, Shawn Gordon took readers on a quick tour of the new intrinsics — new to 1998, at least — that would make the 3000 easier to program for the future. He even wrote a sample program employing the improved data handling.

In 2018 the information might seem more history lesson than operational instruction guide. But when a long-running mission critical app needs repairs, knowing the full set of date capabilities might help. Gordon even mentions that using the official intrinsics will help maintain programs written 20 years earlier. Enough time has passed by now that any new programs at the time of the article would be 20 years old.

3000 managers have always had a sharp focus on coding for long life of applications. 

By Shawn Gordon

Since Year 2000 is rapidly approaching, I'll review the date intrinsics that HP gave us in MPE/iX 5.5 starting with PowerPatch 4.

As I've done a lot of Y2K consulting it seems everyone has written their own date routines. Most I have seen will break by Y2K. My goal in my consulting was to implement an HP-supplied solution, making it easier to support YYMMDD as well as YYYYMMDD date functions during the conversion process.

My only negative comment about these intrinsics is that I wish they had been created with the introduction of the Spectrum series of HP 3000s (PA-RISC systems). I could have used them then, too.

Six new intrinsics are available. All of the parameters for all new intrinsics are now 32-bit. This means they will work for as long as anyone reading this will ever care. I feel it’s important to standardize on these new HP-supplied intrinsics. They will make it a lot safer than trying to maintain some piece of code that was probably written 20 years ago. With code that old, it’s likely that nobody remembers how it works.

Here’s the lineup of intrinsics:

1. HPDATECONVERT: converts dates from one supported format to another 
2. HPDATEFORMAT: converts a date into a display type (I usually use this instead of HPDATECONVERT)
3. HPDATEDIFF: returns the number of days between to given dates 
4. HPDATEOFFSET: returns a date that is plus or minus the number of days from the source date
5. HPDATEVALIDATE: verifies that the date conforms to a supported date format
6. A new 32-bit HPCALENDAR format (HPCALENDAR, HPFMTCALENDAR).

Read "HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:35 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2018

Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world

Penguin-shorelineThe Newswire's articles can sometimes be evergreen, even in the hottest months of the year. This week we got an email about a 2001 article that introduced Linux to our readers. A companion to the article from 17 years ago, A Beginners Guide to Linux, includes one outdated link, along with timeless advice.

Linux was already a juggernaut on corporate IT whiteboards and it had a strong following in the field, too. Shawn Gordon wrote a pair of columns about Linux as a 101 course for 3000 experts. The first article was published in the first weeks after HP's exit announcement about the 3000 business. Gordon, who founded a software company built around Linux applications, connected the dots.

To be honest, you can go another seven years quite easily with your existing 3000 system, which is a long time for a system these days. But if you were looking for a change anyway, now is the time. So what does this all have to do with Linux?

Linux seems to be the great equalizer. It runs on watches, set-top boxes, PDAs, Intel chips, PowerPC chips in Macs and IBM systems, Itanium chips, IBM mainframes — the list goes on and on. IBM and HP both are moving their customers towards it, and IBM has done some fantastic work helping Linux on scalability.

In our HP 3000 space we mostly know the players and we are comfortable where we are. Jumping over to Linux required that I learn a lot about things I never cared about before — like the GPL, GNU, Linux, RMS, ESR, and other things that I will explain in a bit. One of the bits that has been floating around a lot on the various 3000 discussion lists is Linux.

The update for the two-part article comes from a company that has a free Linux education website. Alex Nordeen, Editor of Guru99.com, hopes to get your web visits.

Read "Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

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