March 26, 2015
Checkup Tips to Diagnose Creeping Crud
When an HP 3000 of the ultimate generation developed trouble for Tom Hula, he turned to the 3000 newsgroup for advice. He'd gotten his system back up and serving its still-crucial application to users. But even after a restart, with the server looking better, things just didn't seem right to him.
I am concerned, since I don't know what the problem was. It almost reminded me of something I used to call the Creeping Crud, where people started freezing up all over the place, while some people were still able to work. The only thing was a reboot. But in this case, it seemed worse. Only a few people on our 3000 now, but we still depend on it for a high-profile application. What should I check?
The most revealing advice came from Craig Lalley, who told Hula he'd try a Control-B into the 3000's system log. The steps after the Control-B command are SL (for System Log) and E (for Errors only.) Typing CO puts the 3000 back in console mode. Hula's system had lost its date and time on one error, and the Alert Levels showed a software failure along with lost boot functionality.
But amid the specifics of eliminating the Creeping Crud (it may have been a dead battery) came sound advice on how to prepare for a total failure and where to look for answers to 3000 hardware problems. The good news on the battery is that it's not in a Series 9x7. Advice from five years ago on battery replacement pointed to a hobbyist-grade workbench repair. More modern systems like Hula's A400 at least have newer batteries.
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March 25, 2015
Places Where a Migration Can Lead
This afternoon on a Wednesday Webinar, IT managers were watching what advanced software can do to move the identity of a company. A company knows itself by its data. When transforming IT to a new generation, data's got to move, even if it's just to another generation of HP server. More likely, that shift will eventually be leading to a more comprehensive change: a new environment, new server, new database, new application.
Moving the application is an exercise that requires custom work, the sort of programming, development and testing that'll emerge from a team inside a 3000 shop, plus some help from outside. But moving to a new database demands the checking of database schemas, the review of naming conventions, and more. Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time.
It looked a lot less complex during today's demo of MB Foster's UDA Central. Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.
Watching the software in action made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me what barriers IBM might have to overcome if it stood a chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
Database tools have evolved far enough now, 20 years later, that UDA Central's got everyday uses, not just a one-time utility. It's got operations for data stores, for pulling data out for analytics, and more. Those analytics are crucial. Birket Foster said that "If you've never done data analytics, you don't really have clean data." The company's experience with customers moving data taught MB Foster that, he explained.
March 24, 2015
Making a Way Forward by Riding Data
Around midday tomorrow, up-to-date instruction about migration will be offered on a webinar. The presentation is not about the platform and app migration that has galvanized your community. It's even more important, because everybody will need to do this migration. The movement is as undeniable as the tides. Data's got to be moved, because things improve as they change.
It's employing something better and more efficient to handle data — that's what sparks this migration.
At 2 PM EST in the US (11 AM Pacific) MB Foster's showing off the means to migrate HP 3000 data. For about 45 minutes, an interactive Q&A deals with the strategy and processes to move databases, a trip that can lead to MS SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and other targets. UDA Central is the means, but the advice goes farther than a straightforward product walkthrough.
You can sign up at the MB Foster website. The meeting gives a manager the opportunity to gather with some like minds. One of the most rewarding parts of a these Wednesday Webinars, as the company calls them, has been getting on the line with other managers. User group meetings used to be the only way to hear about best practices from community members.
For example, answers to these questions will be up for consideration this afternoon:
- How many internal resources are directly involved on a daily basis to extract, transform, migrate and supply supporting data for your organization?
- How much time and effort goes into this process?
- How can you speed up data delivery, reduce the time, effort and internal cost related to data migration?
Data migration is always about transformation, whether the target is outside the MPE realm or not.
March 23, 2015
The Distinction MPE Source Has Delivered
The long-sought MPE source code arrived in your community five years ago this month. Hewlett-Packard released CDs filled with millions of lines of Modcal and SPL, shipping them off to eight companies who'd paid $10,000 each for the resource. Companies including 3000 specialist Pivital Solutions, as well as corner-case outliers such as Ordat (makers of a TurboIMAGE middleware tool), as well as the ubiquitous Adager and Allegro earned the right to explore and adapt the 3000's heart and soul.
Hopes were sky-high when the source code quest began in 2002. Just a matter of weeks after Hewlett-Packard pulled its own plug on 3000 futures, a new organizaton called OpenMPE took up the pursuit of those lines. The ideal was to find a way to extend the life of MPE/iX beyond HP's plans. The maker of the 3000 had other ideas. Its goal was to cut off further development of 3000 resources.
Better fortune took eight more years to arrive, and even then the 3000's source rolled into vendor shops with a major restriction. To use the code legally, a licensee had to promise they wouldn't try to move MPE/iX beyond its ultimate 7.5 release. No new generation of the 3000 OS. By 2010, 7.5 had seen no significant advance for three years. The initial 7.5 release, sans PowerPatches, was eight years old.
But the vendors who earned the right to apply their skills and experience to that code, continue to distinguish themselves in the support and development sectors. Neil Aemstrong of Robelle summed up the advantage. "Seeing the source and reading it is certainly a large part of being able to develop patches and potentially avoid any issues," he said. "It may not be perfect, but it helps."
In addition to the above-named Pivital, Adager and Allegro, Beechglen, Neil Harvey & Associates, and Terix entered the elite source-ready roster. All but Terix remain in your community today. HP has standards for its licensees, and some (like Pivital) were even invited to join this cadre. One more license was assigned, but Open MPE couldn't complete its arrangements.
March 20, 2015
3000s still worthy of work to secure them
While an HP 3000 might be an overlooked resource at some companies, it's still mission-critical. Any server with 40 years of history can be considered essential if it's still part of a workflow this year. Managers of 3000s don't automatically think of protecting their essential resource from the malware and hackers of 2015, though.
That was illustrated in a recent thread on the 3000 newsgroup traffic. A 3000 manager serving the Evangelical Covenant Church needed help restarting an old Series 9x7. (By definition, any Series 9x7 is old. HP stopped building this first generation of entry-level 3000s more than 20 years ago.) The manager said the 9x7 had been "in mothballs," and he wanted to run an old in-house app.
I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS but cannot remember/find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.
And then on the newsgroup, advice on how to bypass 3000 security began to emerge. It surprised one consultant who's recently closed down a big 3000 installation full of N-Class servers. Should the community be talking about how to hack a 3000, he wondered? The conversation really ought to be about how to ensure their security, practices we chronicled a few years ago.
March 19, 2015
TBT: First 3000 priced at one million dollars
The highest price for any HP 3000 rolled into your community 25 years ago this month. HP announced its biggest system ever, a computer with designs of competing with IBM mainframes. Not many technical details were available in the New York City rollout, but one had everybody looking skyward. Here on a Throwback Thursday, we chronicle the Series 980 with two processors that would cost $1,090,000.
HP could have priced the system at $100,000 less, but why bother? A million dollars was part of the point. Its target was not really the 3000 customer who'd built their IT operations on servers that cost less than half of the 980/200. Hewlett-Packard hoped the fastest PA-RISC system that it'd ever designed could displace some of the multi-million-dollar systems IBM had been selling for more than a decade, probably even 20 years.
Oh, there was mention of upgrading to the big box from the Series 950 systems, the first computers from HP's MPE/XL RISC era that were actually fast enough to power through a very green operating system's overhead. No upgrade pricing was available at the 980's announcement, though. The specifications of the biggest server seem quaint compared the computing of today. You could put a full gigabtye — yes, 1 GB — into a million-dollar HP 3000. And storage? Wow, a full 85 GB, using the newest Fiber Optic linked drives.
The drives would be extra, and so that full-bore storage would top out at about the capacity of three thumb drives of today. Yes, a whole $67.40 worth at Walmart. HP had another deal, VPlus Windows for PC-based application screen services, and NewWave System Services, at no extra charge. Programmers had to translate their existing application forms file into a PC forms file for use on the PC. A PC running the mostly-stable Windows 3.0.
There was genuine and durable innovation coming out of HP in that month of March. The world's first DAT tape drives were being shipped. Backup would never be the same. "The tapes, the size of a credit card, are intended to adopt the middle ground between quarter-inch tape and nine-track tape drives."
March 18, 2015
Good news stories about keeping a 3000
On Monday we updated our community on some migrations away from 3000s in the education sector. One of our favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, was a touch dismayed at the exodus. We reported four migrations in all, working off of the news from the vendor's (QSS) website. But that was enough to elicit a forlorn, "Isn't there anybody out there still enjoying the service of their 3000?"
Yes, there is, and we've heard from some of them recently. Earlier this month I posted a notice about the birthday of the NewsWire's founding concept on LinkedIn. We first dreamed it in March of 1995. Among the congratulations were some passing remarks about 3000 durability. Just another one came in today, from Tom Moore in the UK. "I suspect we all look a lot older," he said, "but I just do not feel it. I still have a 3000 running behind me. It runs our accounts."
The HP 3000s are still doing their vital work at Measurement Specialities, the manufacturer with operations in the US and in China. MANMAN is serving in its second decade at that company. Terry Simpkins, IT manager there, just reported that he's hired new staff for his 3000 development team.
There's a nice nest of 3000-using companies in the world. They don't provide much news copy, because much of what they're doing has been proven a long time. But the system's biggest, most devoted fans still want to hear something from a successful installed base.
March 17, 2015
Tips to Reinstall Posix, DLT/LTO Tape Drives
What is the patch that installs Posix? I seem to have a corrupt version of Posix.
Donna Garverick of Allegro replies:
These are your instructions for MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0.
Load the 5.5 or 6.0 FOS tape on a tape drive. For this example, tape drive on ldev# 7 is used. Log on as MANAGER.SYS
- HP36431 is the master product number of the Posix 2 Shell.
- I0036431.USL.SYS is the installation file.
- When launched, the job I0036431 should run for less than 5 minutes. When it is done, the Posix environment is re-installed.
[Gilles Schipper notes the process for 7.5 is the same, working from the MPE/iX 7.5 FOS tape.]
I have access to a Tandberg Data Ultrium LTO 3 tape drive. It has a SCSI Ultra160 interface. Would I have any luck hooking one up to an N-Class?
Chad Lester of MPE Support Group replies:
It's worth trying. You might have issues with the dual-port SCSI cards. Also, make sure the firmware is the latest on the single SCSI U160 card.
March 16, 2015
Tip on sizing up 3000 system replacements
HP 3000 managers who are still looking at migrations might be sizing up replacement hardware. It's getting a little old-school to think of installing a standalone server to replace something in the 3000's ultimate generation like an A-Class. Using a cloud-based server, or just a partition on an HP-UX or a Windows Server, is a more nouveau choice. Eventually, HP-UX will have that desert island feel to it. You can survive, but getting off it will take quite a swim.
Clouds and partitions aside, smaller companies might want to keep their architecture rather than transforming it during a migration. Their planning includes trying to calculate how much box needed to replace an HP 3000. There's good news. Moving out of the HP-hamstrung MPE/iX environment opens up performance room. It's a widely-recognized fact that the A-Class 3000 systems, and just about all of the N-Class servers, aren't running as fast as they could.
In the past -- at least 10 years ago -- HP actually told 3000 customers this hobbling was a benefit. Something about "preserving the customer's investment" by hobbling the PCI-based systems, so the customers using older and more costly systems wouldn't feel so left out. It was never logical to think anything could be preserved through hobbling except the status quo.
Back in 2005 when the president of a 3000 app vendor gave a migrating A-Class user tips on how to size up a new box. During that year at QSS -- where the vendor has been replacing HP 3000s with Linux installs of a new Oasis app for its K-12 and education sector customers -- Duane Percox offered a migrating user advice on sizing up a replacement. His answers back then compared a 3000 to HP's Unix servers, but the notes on the 3000's shortcomings are still valid. The advice began with a warning: You might not have as much HP 3000 power to replace as you think you do.
March 13, 2015
Fiorina campaigning again, against Clinton
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina pushed herself to the front of news again, as a story in the New York Times chronicled her campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fiorina has spent the last several years aiming criticism at Clinton, including a recent swipe that attempts to smear Clinton's travels around the world.
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe," Fiorina said, "but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something.” The claim recalled memories of Fiorina's most lasting accomplishment from her HP days: hawking a merger that pushed out the values and influence of the Hewlett family.
Thirteen years ago this week, a raucous stockholder showdown in Delaware ended with Fiorina's forces victorious, approving the Compaq merger. Walter Hewlett, son of HP founder Bill Hewlett, contested the vote in a lawsuit. HP directors on Fiorina's team responded by refusing to nominate Hewlett to keep his seat on the HP board.
Many actions of that period were designed to make HP bigger. Low-growth product lines were cut or de-emphasized, most particularly in the HP 3000 world. Despite the efforts to puff up HP, though -- and continue revenue growth to satisfy shareholders -- the plan had no effect on stock value. By the time Fiorina was fired in a board move -- 10 years ago this month -- HP shares sold in the low $20s, just as they did on the day of that Delaware merger victory.
Those inflated accomplishments of her go-go strategy were not misunderstood by the Times writer. "Her business career ended... in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history," Amy Chozick wrote today. "After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005."
The failed merger with Compaq did give HP a product with some foothold in 3000 migration projects, though. The ProLiant servers from Compaq are competitive with Dell and Lenovo systems for installations of Windows Server, the most-chosen alternative to HP 3000s.
Fiorina's tone has been strident, much as it was during her tenure when the 3000 was cut loose by HP. She's most recently tried to assert Clinton has stolen concepts and intellectual property from her.