August 31, 2005
Katrina and Disaster: Doing Something to Recover
Disaster recovery experts in the 3000 community are starting to offer advice in the wake of the hurricane that has de-populated New Orleans and devastated other Gulf Coast cities. Even locations far north of the storm have experienced heavy rains, local flooding and power failures.
John Saylor, Director of Special Markets for 3000 supplier Quest Software, posted some very basic advice about restarting equipment after a water disaster:
If your equipment has gotten wet, take a moment to plan your recovery strategy before you plug anything back in. To begin with, don’t plug in anything if it’s even damp, let alone wet. Make sure that any equipment that has been touched by water is completely dry before turning it on. That goes for battery-operated equipment as well as equipment that you plug in. If the water damage was minor, it might work fine. Even if it’s underwater, you might luck out. I once had a cell phone that went through the washing machine yet miraculously worked once it dried out. Had I turned it on when it was still wet, it would have almost certainly have been permanently damaged.
If your computer is completely underwater, there is a strong likelihood that your hard drive has been damaged. If you have a backup, you’re going to be okay. If you don’t have a backup, you might still be able to recover the data, but it will cost you. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina have been with us for a long time, but in today’s world there are additional things to think about as people begin the recovery process. Even if you don’t live in hurricane country, you still run the risk of another type of disaster, fire or just a run-of-the-mill power failure.
Even if your home or business wasn’t damaged, there is a good chance that you lost power if you’re in Katrina’s path. That’s not to say that your equipment definitely will be damaged. More often than not there are no negative consequences to electronics when power comes back on, but it is a possibility. To help protect your equipment in the future, it’s a good idea to use a surge protector, especially with computers, regardless of where you live. Data replication to another location or state is best served in disasters like we have just witnessed.
Saylor's company, like many others, has a product to to assist in disaster recovery scenarios: data replication software (Netbase/Shareplex). Other 3000 supplier products include Computer Solutions' Minuteman Recovery, a comprehensive set of forms for a plan that that costs $39. Last year we ran a pair of articles in the 3000 NewsWire about disaster recovery strategies, written and adapted by Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards and Associates. Our columnist Scott Hirsh has also weighed in with best practices on DR in his Worst Practices column, written in the wake of 9/11.
Tech Forum To Be Rescheduled
The HP Technology Forum is officially postponed. The conference will be rescheduled by Sept. 9, and the show's organizers want attendees to know they can cancel their registration indefinitely.
The city is being evacuated completely this morning. A report from the NY Times:
The mayor estimated it would be one to two weeks before the water could be pumped out, and two to four weeks before evacuees could be permitted back into the city. Another city official said it would be two months before the schools reopened.
Peter Teahen, the national spokesman for the American Red Cross, said: “We are looking now at a disaster above any magnitude that we’ve seen in the United States. We’ve been saying that the response is going to be the largest Red Cross response in the history of the organization.”
Some of the best reporting is coming from the besieged New Orleans Times-Picayune, posting updates on its blog after it had to set up offices in a nearby city.
The Forum's organizers are also cancelling all hotel reservations made though the show's Web site without penalty, and will work to have air tickets bought through the Web site rescheduled to the new show date, also without penalty. There's no word yet on whether the show, when rescheduled, will take place in New Orleans.
We are working diligently to determine a time in the fall when we can host the conference.
New details for the conference will be announced by September 9th, 2005. We are extending the HP Technology Forum cancellation policy indefinitely. When new conference details are available, you will have ample time to assess your schedule and make a decision on your attendance, without penalty. We are working with the major airline carriers to transfer any non-refundable airline tickets to the rescheduled conference. We will provide an update on the airlines by Friday, September 2nd, 2005.
August 30, 2005
Early word: Technology Forum postponed
We just received an off-the-record report that the HP Technology Forum will be postponed. With reports of the waters rising and a second levee breaking today, it's clear that New Orleans won't be safe for quite some time. The postponement report, which we haven't confirmed yet, indicates that HP and Encompass want to reschedule the show, but there's been no date forwarded yet.
Aug. 31 is the last day to apply for a refund, according to the Forum's Web site. Obviously, those Interex members attending on an exchanged HP World registration will have to check on the refund policy — but it seems unlikely that money Interex collected would be refunded by Encompass and HP. The Interex bankruptcy hearing is set for next Tuesday in San Jose.
HP is making its executives available to us press members for one-on-one interviews, by phone, and the vendor intends to make the news announcements as planned — just not in person. HP's 3000 news arrived in large part at this month's OpenMPE meeting, but the reports of migration success will have to wait, along with Jim Hawkins' session on HP 3000 storage advances.
We'll have more on the Forum as it develops. For now, our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors along the Gulf Coast.
HP reaches out for its MPE bits
HP's engineers reached out to a public customer mailing list and newsgroup this week to look for a key cross-complier — one that a development arm of HP had lost and could not recover from other HP software groups after a disk crash. Once the call from HP went public, another part of the 3000 team at HP replaced the missing software. But the incident showed how complex the tree of software has become for HP to manage MPE/iX builds. Several customers took note of how the incident shed light on the disaster recovery and backup process in the HP lab.
The problem surfaced after a Unix system in HP labs endured a disk crash. Much of the development of HP's software takes place on HP-UX systems, including the building of Steams/iX components for the HP 3000 operating environment. As we noted in an item in this month's Hidden Value column, typical applications which use the Streams/iX subsystem on MPE/iX are web servers, sendmail and most commonly, the POSIX “|” HPPIPE command. HP is funding an engineer project this month to review its build process for MPE/iX, to ensure that an outside organization could find everything it needs to carry MPE development forward.
The engineers in one HP lab looked hard over the weekend for the cross-compiler, but couldn't find what they needed. Engineer Nandisha H M explained in a public post:
In the last few weeks back there was a OS disk crash on Harry (HP-UX 10.X) which is our build machine for Streams/iX. Later we were able to configure the source repository and other minor settings but, could not set up the build environment for the same. One of the reason was we could not find HP-UX 9.x ANSI C Compiler (HP92453-02 A.09.01).
We tried our level best to resolve this by contacting few internal teams in STSD but, none came to our rescue. Please help us to find the HP-UX 9.x ANSI C Compiler and let us know if you need any more information.
Erik Vistica of the MPE lab in the US soon reported that his group had forwarded the needed compiler to Nandisha's group. But the misplaced bits of HP's build lab triggered comments on the newsgroup where the HP engineer looked for the cross-compiler. In spite of Vistica's quick recovery, few of those newsgroup opinions expressed confidence in HP's ability to maintain MPE/iX.
Tracy Johnson of Measurement Specialties posted in reply, "If OpenMPE were out there, perhaps this listserv could have helped. Too late now, it seems." Mark Landin added, "Fine backup and disaster recovery setup you have there." And Michael Berkowitz of CGS Inc. said, "Without a doubt this is the most pathetic, pitiful thing I've heard. HP employees are begging for help from the users to find lost HP software. Is there no one at HP worldwide that can help them?"
While there was someone in HP's world to help find the missing bits, the level of disbelief indicates the above-average expectations 3000 customers have of their vendor. Many of the 3000's dedicated friends on the 3000 newsgroup are long-term IT professionals who might be embarrassed to need to search so publicly for internal software. Wirt Atmar of AICS Research noted in a post on the newsgroup, "Every organization is filled with internal confusions and misinformation, but those confusions should remain internal. On the other hand though, [this] and other incidents of the same ilk lately are a telling window into the current state of HP."
At least HP was not bashful about hunting about for its missing MPE/iX bits.
Whatever it takes to secure the 3000's enviroment needed to be done. Communication between labs in a company as large as HP is just one of the disadvantages that a smaller development group — like a 30-member OpenMPE virtual lab — will turn to an advantage.
August 29, 2005
An Ill Wind Blows for HP's Show
Update, 5 PM CDT
HP has sent word to conference attendees and speakers: The vendor and Encompass will decide by Friday, Sept. 2 if the first Technology Forum will proceed in the wake of a Category 4 hurricane:
We are in direct communication with contacts in New Orleans and will be able to make an informed decision on the direction of the HP Technology Forum soon. We are monitoring the situation closely. We will complete the assessment and make a decision on or before Friday, September 2, 2005.
Please be cognizant that the media coverage of an event of this magnitude can be sensationalized for effect. While some areas have withstood damage, others may have not. However, please be assured that our decisions will be based on our ability to ensure the safety and welfare of all attendees.
Having said it will decide by Friday gives the Technology Forum's organizers a way to see if the city has any chance of being livable in less than two weeks. Exhibitors will start setup in just 10 days. The hurricane center expert at LSU said in a dire CNN report that New Orleans is pretty much a wilderness now, and for the next week:
Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes in Baton Rouge, ticked off the problems anyone returning to the city would find: "No sewage, no drinking water, contamination, threat of rapid increase in mosquitoes, roads are impassible, downed power lines everywhere, trees, debris from houses in the roads, no way to go shopping, no gas."
The water also has dislodged thousands of snakes — including poisonous water moccasins — from their homes, as well as fire ants.
"If you came back, you would be coming literally to a wilderness," he said. "Stay where you are, be comfortable; nothing's going to change. If your house is gone, it's gone. If you come back in a day or a week, it's not going to make any difference."
10 AM report
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana this morning, just two weeks before HP CEO Mark Hurd will speak at the first HP Technology Forum and HP holds a 3000 migration roundtable. The storm was rated a Category 5 hurricane, the most devastating, as it flexed its deadly muscles over the Gulf of Mexico Sunday. The site of the HP conference — to be co-produced with the Encompass HP users group — was spared some of the worst damage, however, when the hurricane turned eastward to let the city escape a catastrophe. Some models predicted vast parts of New Orleans would be under 30 feet of water in a direct strike. Katrina is now a Category 4 hurricane, according to this blog from the NBC TV affiliate in New Orleans. That's still a storm with 125 MPH winds.
New Orleans was on target to take another Category 5 bullet — only three of these monsters have ever hit the US — back in 1992, when Andrew bore down on the site of the last HP 3000 conference held there, also in a September. I was covering the show as editor of the HP Chronicle. HP had a new CEO that summer, too: Lew Platt, who later handed over the HP reins to Carly Fiorina, who started the 3000's exit from HP. In that 1992 show, conference attendees watched wide masking tape go up on windows all day long all over the city, most of which sits below sea level. By 5 PM we were all confined to the Hilton Hotel for our safety. We danced in comfort in the ballroom, drinking the city's signature hurricane cocktails and riding out the storm outside. Everyone was told to fill their bathtubs before they came down to the party, in case the water supply got cut off. We all hoped the housekeeping had been zealous on those tubs.
Like the stroke of fortune which HP and Encompass enjoyed this morning, Andrew turned east back then, hammering a tiny Louisiana town on the Gulf Coast instead. A few weeks back we put up a podcast about this intersection of new HP CEOs and hurricanes. This morning, parts of the Superdome roof are missing and thousands of evacuees inside are sweltering because the power has gone out. But the roof of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was intact as of this morning, although the western side of the hurricane's eyewall is passing through the city. But roofs are flying in the town, a couple of weeks before I am scheduled to be flying in to cover what HP's got to say about its future and the 3000's future plans.
One superior report from New Orleans' NBC affiliate says the French Quarter is taking some heavy licks:
Katrina came ashore about 55 miles from New Orleans, but its advancing winds are already blowing the slate tiles off the roofs in the French Quarter. The wind is blowing rain sideways and carrying debris 100 feet in the air.
Encompass executive director Mary Ellen Smith said this morning that the user group is hopeful the storm's damage won't impact the conference. They are monitoring the situation, she added, but the early reports seem to show the cleanup won't keep this replacement show for the cancelled HP World from happening. You can apply for a refund until Wednesday, Aug. 31, if you're skittish about travelling to the wilds of hurricane country. Tropical Depression Lee was forming by lunchtime today, though it could go anywhere. Odds would seem to indicate New Orleans should be safer, but you never can tell about storms.
A few of HP's 3000 managers are scheduled to storm into the city in two weeks in sessions about migration, a report on the improvements to HP 3000 storage choices, and an update on the 3000's post-2006 plans. If the conference comes off, I'll be there, too, to help chair a meeting of SIG-Itanium, flying in on 9/11 to ensure I'm in my seat for Mark Hurd's kickoff speech. After what the New Orleans residents are braving this week, any phantom jitters about flying on 9/11's anniversary seem small by comparison. We wish the best of luck for the city's survival and cleanup efforts.
August 26, 2005
Listen Up: The Sounds of MPE Opening a Lab
This week's 3000 NewsWire podcast (9MB MP3 file) takes a little more than eight minutes to run down the prospects for an MPE/iX patch and repair service that OpenMPE wants to launch next year. HP has said in its last meeting with the group that the vendor believes one year is enough time to turn over MPE/iX source — a decision HP has not made, yea or nay, so far.
But if a virtual lab is going to be ready to take over the patch process HP closes up in 16 months, then that lab needs to get its funding in order now. Nobody else seems to want this mission except the volunteers and 30 developers who will work on contract for OpenMPE to do the patching. OpenMPE doesn't even think it will have more than one full-time paid employee, a far cry from the size of Interex.
Have a listen to the voices that outlined the challenge and potential for OpenMPE. Then head over to the group's Web site and download the PDF file that serves to map out the plan. Pay close attention to pages 21-29 in that PDF file. They explain what it's going to cost to get the insurance of a repair service for the 3000 once HP leaves the patching field.
August 25, 2005
It's not over until it's over
In the wake of last week's OpenMPE meeting at HP — where some significant activity was announced to less than 100 people in attendance and online — the gravediggers of the 3000 community have taken up their spades on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. Never a bashful bunch, the dispirited developers, vendors and customers are proclaiming the 3000 already dead, HP riddled with liars and dupes, and OpenMPE, in one message rife with vitriol, "on a fool's errand."
There's several things that look incorrect to me about these messages, along with a serious case of disrespect. To start, HP has not decided there will be no sharing of MPE/iX source code. In a tiresome version of the telephone game, one customer after another keeps repeating this error, simply because HP has not decided fast enough for whoever is repeating the innaccuracy. HP says it will decide on the future licensing fate of the 3000's operating system in the fourth calendar quarter of this year. Last year, HP reported it would make this decision in 2005's second half. HP is still on schedule — and they haven't said "No source" yet.
Then there's this proclaimation that the HP 3000 is already dead. This view usually comes from a community member who's already moved on, dissolved their work with the 3000 and MPE, and would like you to know they made the right choice. The 3000 is dead to these people, and they probably have made the right choice. For them. It's up to everyone to decide for themselves when their 3000's lifespan is over. Having somebody else decide this for the community is pretty much the raw deal the 3000 customers got from HP's top management in 2001. It's a little sad to see community members echoing HP's "we know what's best for you" attitude.
There's nothing wrong with reasonable hope, bolstered by a contingency plan. Just because HP is taking all the time it wants to make a source code decision doesn't mean the decision is negative. No, what feels wrong is the disrespect and dismissal being slathered onto hard-working and well-meaning volunteers in OpenMPE. No, this group will not turn back HP's decision of 2001, but it has already nudged HP into more 3000 functionality for the future than Interex did during its final four years of $6-7 million per year of operations. OpenMPE is a group with only about $1,000 in the bank, run by people donating their time and effort and telephone lines and reasonable hope. They mean to help HP put MPE away correctly, if you're in the migration camp, so any problems that surface can be resolved. In spite of the gravedigging that has tried to bury them for several years, they continue to attract volunteers and engage HP in discussion of your system's future. Even if you're migrating, you still have to plan for the remaining future of your HP 3000, be it months or years.
You'd think at least their efforts would earn OpenMPE some simple respect.
The gravedigging isn't being read by a lot of people, but it's misinformed and pessimistic to a fault. The trouble with what could be called, at best, an ultra-realistic outlook is how heavy it makes every day's workload. And the gravediggers mission seems to be the quick dissolution of a community that is still working, every day, until one company or another finally switches off its 3000s. We're keeping close track of who's doing this switching off, and it's nothing close to a majority of customers yet, not even four years after the announcement.
Death comes to everything, eventually, even those new horizons the gravediggers have moved on toward. If we can stick to the facts of life — that HP has now assigned an outside HP engineer to review its MPE/iX build process, to see if someone outside HP could build a version of MPE; that the source code decision is simply one of many post-2006 verdicts, and not a significant one for the many customers who will migrate in the next three to five years; that the support community's business is growing daily, fueled by companies who are not close to migration this year, or even next — we should have plenty to discuss.
When the 3000 is over depends on your budget and resources and resolve. Digging an early grave seems like a lot of energy that might be better spent living each day as if it were our last.
August 24, 2005
HP to patch 6.5 for the last time
HP has announced that it is building the last-ever PowerPatch for MPE/iX 6.5, the HP 3000 operating system release that's in widest use among customers. 6.5 is the last release to support HP-IB peripherals — and thanks to HP's enforced engineering, the last release that boots up the thousands of Series 9x7 servers that make up the majority of the HP 3000 installed base.
A PowerPatch is simply an HP collection of existing patches for a particular MPE/iX, but HP wants to help nudge a few patches into its final 6.5 roundup. Yesterday HP engineer Jeff Vance posted a note to the 3000 newsgroup and OpenMPE mailing list, a message that started the countdown for 6.5 beta testing:
We are almost done selecting the target patches for the last-ever 6.5 Powerpatch release, and I very much want to get the NW Printing and FTP security SIB patches into 6.5 Powerpatch 5. However, all patches must be in GR (General Release) status before they are considered for a Powerpatch. The two SIB patches in question are:
-- FTPHDF0, FTP security enhancements, second most popular SIB ‘04 item. Enables FTP command and transfer logging (think SOX), allows an FTP logon banner to be shown (think lawyers), supports the exclusion of certain files from being retrieved (think netrc file), allows users to be denied access at FTP logon, supports the site_chmod and site_chown commands (think security and convenience), and more... See: http://jazz.external.hp.com/papers/Communicator/7.5/ftp_enhancements-1.html The 7.5 version of this patch is FTPHDE8 and the 7.0 version is FTPHDE9.
-- MPEMXU1, Network printing to non-HP printers, the *most* popular SIB ‘04 request. MXU1 introduces a new NPCONFIG file option, PCL_ENABLED, which when set false removes the PCL sequences at the beginning and ending of the spoolfile. There is more, see: http://jazz.external.hp.com/papers/Communicator/7.5/NWPrinting.html
If you want these two SIB patches to be included in 6.5 PP5 then you need to request and install them ASAP -- there is only a week remaining.
HP is moving right along with these patches, especially for the 6.5 customers. Network printing only surfaced for the 3000 community about a month ago. Now the patch will be unavailable in seven days for 6.5 beta testing. Time is marching on in HP's efforts to bring new features to 6.5. In particular, the FTP enhancement looks like it could bring some long-needed improvements to FTP on the 3000. The FTP patch will run on unpatched MPE/iX 6.5 as well as current PowerPatch.
There's also some Hidden Value out there for FTP users who need better name services in this patch. If you run 7.0 or 7.5, you can install what HP support engineer James Hofmeister calls "the FTP 'spacy names' patch";
FTP Client supports blanks in file names with "quote"
FTPHD71 for C.75.00 General Release
FTPHDA0 for C.70.00 Beta Supersede by FTPHDE9
FTPHDF0 for C.65.00 Beta Test
Note that the 6.5 version is still in beta, prompting Vance's request to test above. You have to be an HP support customer to ask for beta patches by name, for now, since they're not GR'd yet.
This will be the fifth PowerPatch for the 6.5 release, a version of MPE/iX that HP wasn't even sure it would be supporting at all this year. The fact that HP's doing its last PowerPatch for a supported release tells us a lot about priorities in HP's labs. The virtual CSY team wants to put more effort behind the 7.0 and 7.5 releases, especially the latter.
HP reported at last week's OpenMPE meeting that customers will be able to order upgrade tapes (or some media) after 2006 to move up from 6.5 to those 7.0 or 7.5 releases. But there's been no details on how that program will work, or who to ask, although HP's Software Depot seems a likely outlet. That means these enhancements might slip though to those later releases-only, without adequate beta-tests from 6.5 users. Test them now, or wait until you upgrade later, using that unspecified upgrade release program.
August 23, 2005
MPE as a hobby needs emulation
HP reported at last week's OpenMPE meeting it will enable the time-honored tradition of a hobbyist's license for operating systems, giving the 3000 community a way to teach itself and experiment with MPE for non-commercial research and education. But HP's method of licensing MPE/iX to the programmers and students of the environment will use the proposed emulator license, an agreement that appears to require an emulator to surface for the HP 3000/9000 hardware.
Another part of HP has already granted a hobbyist license for another commercial operating system, OpenVMS. That license was created in 1997 by Digital, and more than 40,000 copies have been granted to date. The license is free once a user registers with Encompass, the HP/Compaq users group, and Encompass registration is free at the basic level. Of course, HP is still supporting OpenVMS with no apparent end-of-life date for its service, so those OpenVMS hobbyists enjoy even more privileges than MPE/iX customers. The OpenVMS hobbyist license doesn't require an emulator.
Mike Paivinen, the R&D project manager who's the lead for HP's MPE Beyond 2006 Component Team, reported that the OpenVMS license doesn't release source code. "I investigated the OpenVMS hobbyist’s license on the Web, and everything I could see indicates it’s an object code license," he said. "Basically, it’s a license that allows you to run all the add-on software that ever ran on VMS that was owned by Compaq and its predecessors."
He also said HP believes the cost of the forthcoming MPE emulator license — estimated at about $500 in a 2003 HP statement — will be cheap enough to serve for hobbyists.
MPE experimentation and learning will benefit from such a license, but there are some in the 3000 community who are searching for a source code license for hobbyists. Even though there's only a select group of programmers who could understand and work with MPE source, one of the most adept developers in the community has already asked for it: Mark Klein, the former head of ORBiT Software R&D, former OpenMPE board member — and the most likely candidate for this fall's post of outside reviewer of HP's MPE build process. (We'll have more on that build review plan later on this week.)
Paivinen said a decision about hobbyist's source is a way off into the future. "The original question was, 'I’d like to have a hobbyist’s license to run MPE in my garage.' Our answer is fundamentally that the license we expect to do for an emulator is likely to be cheap enough that price would not be prohibitive to hobbyists’ use. Therefore, we don’t intend to do a hobbyist’s object license."
"Mark Klein said he’d like to have a hobbyist’s source code license. That’s well-down in the queue of things that we’re evaluating. We think that the license we would do for an emulated environment will end up being cheap enough that it really wouldn’t prohibit people from using it in hobbyist form. You have to invest in your hobbies, too."
August 22, 2005
Contributions still safe, but index in stealth mode
At last week's OpenMPE meeting, the 20-plus attendees in person and the 50 online got a brief report on the location of programs contributed to the Interex Contributed Software Library (CSL). Links to the CSL went dark when Interex cut off its Web access on July 18, but the programs are safe in the hands of Chuck Shimada, a longtime Interex volunteer and de-facto curator of this collection of HP 3000 utilities.
Shimada reported that he won't be releasing the entire CSL library for quite some time. Legal rulings over the years have established the group of programs in its entirety as a copyrighted Interex asset, he said. A few cases of outright piracy in Europe — where tech support companies simply put their label on the CSL and called it their own — led to a successful Interex defense of its rights, he added.
As an interesting aside, the CSL programs are not listed among Interex assets in its Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings. Shimada said that although that might be true, he's still going to wait until "several months" after the Dec. 5 bankruptcy claim deadline before making the full collection available to the 3000 community. OpenMPE would be a logical place to host the programs, if rights can be worked out among the contributors. Contributing a CSL program used to earn you a free copy of the CSL. (The CSL could be considered worth a lot more than that custom membership app that now comprises three-fourths of Interex's stated $431,433 of assets. Of course, Interex doesn't own those CSL programs, just the right to offer them as a collection. Full rights revert to the companies and individuals that contributed the programs.)
But anyone can get individual CSL programs from Chuck, if you send him an e-mail (at his personal address) and ask for an individual program. Knowing what to ask for becomes a matter of research if you don't have the full CSL index of programs. The NewsWire's new search feature can help, as can the rest of the 3000 community. There are CSL alternatives, too.
About 30 minutes of Google searching didn't turn up the full CSL index document on any page of links, though there's lots of dead Interex links that appear throughout Google's results. Instead, you can try out the new comprehensive search page for the NewsWire's articles and blog entries:
The new search page gives you a one-stop search over this blog, our nine years of Web articles, as well as the full Web. Search on "CSL" as well as "Contributed Software Library." In the NewsWire articles, you'll have the benefit of some discussion about each of the programs offered, rather than the terse description of the programs that accompanies the official CSL index.
You can also search the archives of the 3000 newsgroup for mentions of the CSL:
But we'll warn you that a simple search for "CSL" through the text of those tens of thousands of messages will take quite awhile to return.
There are a couple of good alternatives to the CSL's helpful programs. Beechglen and Allegro, a couple of HP 3000 support providers, each host a page of free programs for use on HP 3000s.
Beechglen's got about 30 programs and Powerhouse scripts on its freeware page:
Allegro has 50 free programs on its shared software Web page:
Although neither company provides free support for these free products, if you were a customer of theirs (Allegro is part of the Resource 3000 alliance for homesteaders, and Beechglen supports 3000s, too) it's a good bet these programs would be included in that support arrangement.
August 19, 2005
Listen Up: 3000 friends want to stay at HP
HP employees are looking at an important deadline today. Friday is the day that HP long-timers need to tell HR if they plan to pursue the latest Enhanced Early Retirement program. HP's 3000 engineers and managers older than 50 qualify, not an unusual age range for people serving a computer that's already been around more than 30 years.
Our weekly podcast (MP3 file, 6MB) reports on the mood among the HP engineers and managers we saw during a week of interviews. My visit culminated with the all-day OpenMPE meeting at HP's campus in Cupertino yesterday.
At the meeting HP offered a good deal of encouragement for customers who want to believe the vendor will do the right thing for its longest-term business computer users. HP's Mike Paivinen proposed that the vendor will consider doing a Software Status Bulletin when it exits the 3000 market at the end of next year. This kind of document used to be issued monthly for 3000 support customers; it tracked the status of every reported bug about the system — the kind of information that could be invaluable for the third party support companies who are already stepping in to replace HP Support.
HP's also committed to hardening device drivers for the 3000, so non-certified tape devices can be attached to the system to expand the range of backup peripherals. HP now also has got a non-division, 3000-savvy engineer doing an internal review of its source code and MPE/iX version-building process — an important preliminary to a potential thumbs-up on releasing MPE/ix source.
The announcement of HP's decision to release source code to the community under some limited license is still months away, but not too many more.
Paivinen said HP does not want to wait until "the last day of the year, at 11:59:59, to make that announcement." But the vendor going to take the time the decision — with all of its details — deserves, according to business manager Dave Wilde. This year's calendar fourth quarter, as we reported last week, looks like the earliest the community can expect to hear about the decision on MPE/iX source release.
We'll have more details on the all-day meeting throughout next week. For now, take about five minutes to listen to our commentary on this important day in HP 3000 futures. The longer the 3000 friends can stay inside HP, the smoother that path to the future will feel.
August 18, 2005
User Groups in Demise — and on the Rise
The curtain goes up this morning on the solo part for OpenMPE, the only remaining user group stocked with 3000 users. In a few hours the group will gather at HP to talk about the future of the 3000, OpenMPE's first in-person meeting since the disintegration of Interex — a group which had gotten as big as any computer user group ever claimed to be.
I got a clear picture of how wooly Interex had gotten when I reviewed the group's Chapter 7 filing in the US Courthouse in San Jose yesterday. Interex has filed a petition with 410 pages of creditors, making it one of the biggest bankruptcies in the court today. As the clerk said, "Wow, that's a big case — and it's only just started."
Interex closed its doors owing $4.05 million to companies small and large, from individuals owed $8.30 on the remains of a membership to HP World booth sponsors like Aldon, which paid $16,800 for a space that never appeared in San Francisco. At five creditors to a page, the list of people and companies the user group owed runs to more than 2,000. At least they were thorough in admitting their debts.
There was little left at the end, too. The Interex checking account holds $5,198.40, and a money market fund bears $14,271.64 — neither of which is enough to satisfy unpaid compensation for an outside sales rep ($65,604 in unpaid commissions) and executive director Ron Evans (who apparently had to forego his last paycheck of $8,225). There's $30,000 of receivables to collect, but that's probably not a source of cash, since much of that money is billed to people who are already listed as creditors.
Most of the assets of the group lie in its membership software system, listed at $303,000 in value. Interex spent a lot more than that on custom programming over the years, according to its Chapter 7 document. The software represents nearly 75 percent of the total $431,433 in assets Interex holds today. Creditors might get their 10 cents on the dollar, if the software really could be sold. The membership list had an asset value of "unknown" on the Federal form.
So as OpenMPE takes its first solo step this morning in the HP facility's Maple Room, it might be a good time to watch out for a hope that the group gets a lot bigger than its few hundred members of today. Size matters not, to quote my favorite Star Wars character Yoda. "For why am I is the Force, and a powerful ally it is," Yoda says. If OpenMPE can serve to keep 3000 options open beyond 2006 — for the customers who are migrating and need more time, as well as the homesteaders not leaving at all — it doesn't have to get that much bigger. As the Chapter 7 filing showed me yesterday in that Federal clerk's office, bigger is not necessarily better.
August 17, 2005
The lights are off, the bankruptcy filed
The halls of the Interex offices on Borregas Avenue in Sunnyvale were empty but not yet bare in the week of August 15, after the user group finally filed its Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The former HP users group Interex has filed its petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in US district court. The documents, filed with the clerk's office with a date of Aug. 11, call for a Sept. 6 hearing before the US District Court for Northern California, starting at 10:30 AM. All of the user group's creditors are being sent a notice of the bankruptcy, according to court officials.
Those creditors could include several hotels in San Francisco that had held blocks of rooms for the show and were expecting room sales related to the conference that was set to start this week. According to a story in Trade Show Executive, the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau expected 5,000 visitors and 10,000 room nights as a result of the conference. The SF CVB officials in the TSE article said the impact of the show would have been $7.5 million.
The sharing is over for Interex after its Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Creditors will line up after the Labor Day weekend to try to recover their losses to the 31-year-old group.
The headquarters facility at the Interex offices on 1192 Borregas Ave. was shut down tight yesterday when I stopped by, parking my rental car in a deserted company lot. A couple of FedEx door tags for unclaimed packages fluttered on the locked front and back doors. Peering inside, I could see office equipment, filing cabinets and documents still inside the building, which still carries the group's motto on signs that say "Shared Knowledge. Shared Power." Those documents inside could include materials still important to the many volunteers who served the group. Members of the former user group are hopeful that the Interex archives of the HP computer history — the group has tracked HP 3000 activities since 1974 — can be rescued from the shuttered business.
We'll have an update later on, after we can examine the list of creditors.
August 16, 2005
Maple is the flavor for OpenMPE's meeting
OpenMPE has released details on the Thursday morning meeting here in the Bay Area with HP officials and others in the 3000 community. The meeting in the HP Cupertino Maple Room begins at 9 AM PDT, or 1800 in Central Europe, and is set to run through 2:30 local time. During those five-plus hours — which might include a lunch brought in for any attendees who order out — the group will hear from HP's Mike Paivinen for 30 minutes on virtual CSY's plans for the post-2006 world. A 45-minute Q&A session will follow Paivinen's update; community members can have their questions asked by the board members if they forward them to OpenMPE's Donna Garverick, who's organized the meeting. (Garverick's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Anyone in the Bay Area can attend the meeting. Garverick has posted a map of how to get to the Maple Room on the invent3k public access development server. Customers elsewhere in the world can dial in to the meeting via the Internet and public telephone lines:
(888) 584-2187 (U.S. and Canada Toll Free)
(706) 643-0132 (International)
Conference ID: 8786974
Customers who want to see interactive slides on the presentations can access the HP Classroom Web site below:
HP advises customers to test their setup ahead of the event with the following link:
The meeting room opens at 8:30, space donated by HP at OpenMPE's request.
The day's agenda, forwarded from the 3000 newsgroup in Garverick's trademarked lowercase-only style, shows a meeting where after a Birket Foster briefing on OpenMPE's group activities to date, HP will speak, and then the Q&A will lead to lunch. Some presentations from Foster and Art Bahrs originally set for HP World follow lunch.
We'll be on the scene in the Maple Room to report what's said if you can't listen in; there don't appear to be any plans to record the meeting. HP says it is hoping for some open discussion during the day.
Chuck Shimada, longtime Interex volunteer, will also talk about the status of the Interex Contributed Software Library programs, contributions which OpenMPE wants to handle. Garverick said in her post announcing the meeting:
we're making progress :-)
the following is the agenda for our meeting. both the times and the speakers are subject to change....but it's the plan we're working off of. (all times are pdt, adjust for local time as necessary)
1. opening statements/housekeeping, openmpe, 9:00, 15 minutes
2. openmpe update, birket, 9:15, 60 minutes
3. break, all, 10:15, 15 minutes
4. vcsy update, mike p, 10:30, 30 minutes
5. q&a, all, 11:00, 45 minutes
6. lunch, all, 11:45, 75 minutes
7. csl update, chuck s,13:00, 20 minutes
8. security presentation, art b, 13:20, 50 minutes
9. break, all, 14:30, 15 minutes
10. homesteading presentation, birket, 14:45, 50 minutes
11. wrap-up, openmpe, 14:35, 10 minutes
Luncheon serves up meeting of minds — and hearts
A dedicated band of 3000 community members enjoyed a long lunch together in the Bay Area in lieu of the cancelled HP World conference
They came from across the highway, across the country, across the ocean. HP 3000 users have been travelling to summer conferences for more than 25 years. The community has a habit of gathering in person, so not even the sudden cancellation of HP World could prevent a dedicated group of partners and customers from finding each other in Burlingame for a five-hour lunch. Kuleto's Trattoria, a half-hour south of San Francisco and north of Silicon Valley, was the setting for what may become an annual event. Hosted by a trio of HP 3000 vendors, the lunch offered what some hoped would not be the last chance to commune in person. Laughter rose in a charming wine cellar all afternoon, glasses lifted along with the spririts of community.
Thanks to the pluck and resource of Screenjet, Marxmeier Software and QSS, the community that came to San Franciso anyway had a few hours to share stories, exchange new rumors, and reach out to one another. These were old friends, met once again, and new acquaintances added to a network. In the wake of the collapse of Interex, which had prompted so many meetings in the past, we were proving that the essential element in "users group" was users, rather than group.
August 15, 2005
Patch questions you may help answer
HP has made another patch available to a portion of its 3000 customers, opening the vista of disk drive space for a subset of the installed base. Even if the patch's scope is limited for the moment — only support customers of HP who use 7.5 have a patch, today — the work is no small feat, literally and figuratively. HP 3000s can only boot up drives of 300 GB or smaller today. The work of Jim Hawkins and cohorts at the HP labs will let users attach drives up to 1TB under the MPE/iX operating system.
In an HP brief on the enhancement, which Hawkins and crew call "Large Disk," he points out it's been a very long time since any boundaries got moved for disk on the HP 3000. The Large Disk team moved these limits a long way after that long hiatus, too:
The last major initiative to address disks size was done in MPE XL 4.0 for support of disks larger than 4 GB. These changes were done to address an approximately ten times (10x) increase in disk from 404-670 MB to 4.0 GB disks. In 2005 with MPE/iX 7.5, we were confronted with nearly a hundred times (100x) size change (4.0 GB to more than 300 GB) over what had been possible in MPE XL 4.0.
Hawkins' detailed article notes that 3000 sites who want to use HP's 146 GB and 300 GB Disk modules ought to consider installing these patches. Customers who might have MPE Groups or Accounts which use more than 100,000,000 sectors — that's bigger than about 24 GB — will also find the patches useful. But at the risk of repeating a mantra we have chanted all summer long, the question of who will be able to discover the fine work in these patches remains unanswered.
Large Disk is in the same beta-test limbo as other recent HP enhancements. But of all the patches HP is hoping you will test this year, Large Disk looks like it has its eyes fixed firmly on the 3000's post-2006 future.
The problem lies at first in how many HP sites can use this beta patch. Sites running 7.0, 6.5 and 6.0 releases, you need not apply, for now. Large Disk only runs on 7.5. Then there's the supported HP customer subset to whack down that group. Companies which use third-party support firms — by now, probably the largest group of 3000 sites — cannot help test these patches out of limbo and into the customer base.
The answer to the question "What's to become of HP's engineering in 2007?" lies in the hands of the customers. HP won't backport this patch, or any others, without enough interest to get Large Disk out of limbo. If these patches remain in beta through 2006, we have to wonder what will become of these well-crafted bytes on January 1, 2007. It would be sad to think such exacting work would be locked away on some DVD disk in an archive, simply because the scope of its testing was locked in the box of MPE 4.0-era thinking: only supported customers need apply to test.
For using that old thinking, crafted in an era when HP had not obsoleted a business-critical system simply for business reasons, Hewlett-Packard might be creating Hidden Value in Large Disk. From the HP lab desks to the customers who need to keep using their systems, everyone hopes that's not true. HP has made the task of bringing the patches out of hiding a customer collaboration.
Come to think of it, this is the sort of thing a user group could help accomplish. So it becomes an reason to think about what will replace Interex for HP 3000 users: Encompass, or something else?
August 12, 2005
Listen up: The sound of a CEO speaking
Our weekly podcast (MP3 file, 6 MB) examines the changing fortunes of the HP Technology Forum, that replacement venue for the cancelled HP World. HP CEO Mark Hurd has now agreed to speak at the Forum, just as his predecessor spoke at HP World when Carly Fiorina took her job. Hurd's folks changed their minds. Things have changed a lot for user groups in the HP world since Fiorina's first days, as one of our favorite vendor partners reminds us. Collaboration is the key. Have a listen for six minutes and let us know if, as migrating customers considering HP-UX, you plan to be listening to the sounds of the new CEO in September — when the winds can blow strong in New Orleans, site of the Technology Forum.
August 11, 2005
AMXW enables direct retail migration
Speedware announced a migration project that uses AMXW to migrate an HP 3000 shop to the Unix equivalents: an HP 9000 HP-UX server and Eloquence. The tool will help to migrate the online and catalog businesses at The Thompson Group, whose operating companies include Linensource, Casual Living USA and Thompson Cigar.
Speedware picked up AMXW in a purchase two years ago, adding the suite of tools that migrates HP 3000 environments to Unix or Windows. Last year Speedware announced it had booked $4 million of migration business involving AMXW just over the summer. But the latest migration project that Speedware's performing will include more than software and porting. "They even designed a comprehensive training program specifically for our needs," said Donnie Harman, MIS Manager at The Thompson Group. Thompson relies on mission-critical custom applications more than 2,000,000 lines of code that process more than 10,000 transactions a day.
Speedware offers AMXW through other Platinum partners, partly because some consulting usually accompanies the purchase of the tool. MB Foster resells the solution; the company has a PDF document that summarizes AMXW features (80K PDF file) on its Web site.
August 10, 2005
Making changes in time
US President George Bush signed the changes to Daylight Savings Time into law this week, but 3000 managers were already at work designing changes to their time-shift programs for MPE/iX. No, that's not the software that turns back the calendar to the days of gas prices below $2 a gallon. These are the routines to adjust the HP 3000's clock to accomodate the spring-forward, fall-back shifts in time of day.
Dave Powell, the HP 3000 manager at California-based fabric and garment company MM Fab who's been beta-testing HP's 3000 patches this year, put up the first routine to accomodate the new dates when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends. He's floating his program for checking and approval on the 3000 newsgroup this week:
I now have a couple new time change routines, suitable (I hope) for use in a job that runs every morning (well after midnight) in California. If I haven’t missed anything, either would switch automagically from old rules to new in 2007.
Do they look okay to everyone ?
!# Check for Daylight Saving Time change -- NEW (readable?)
!IF HPDAY = 1
! IF HPYYYY <= 2006
! IF HPMONTH = 4 AND HPDATE < 8
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
! ELSEIF HPMONTH = 10 AND HPDATE > 24
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W8:00
! IF HPMONTH = 3 AND HPDATE >= 8 AND HPDATE <= 14
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
! ELSEIF HPMONTH = 11 AND HPDATE <= 7
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W8:00
or, if you don't like white space....
!# Check for Daylight Saving Time change -- NEW (condensed)
!IF HPMONTH=3 AND HPDAY=1 AND HPYYYY>2006 AND HPDATE>7 AND HPDATE<15
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
!ELSEIF HPMONTH=11 AND HPDAY=1 AND HPYYYY>2006 AND HPDATE<8
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W8:00
!ELSEIF HPMONTH=4 AND HPDAY=1 AND HPYYYY<2007 AND HPDATE<8
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
!ELSEIF HPMONTH=10 AND HPDAY=1 AND HPYYYY<2007 AND HPDATE>24
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W8:00
August 09, 2005
Rescheduled landings in California
I climbed out of bed this morning to watch the Discovery space shuttle touch down safely in California, and I could not help but be a little wistful at the sight. This was the shuttle my partner Abby and I travelled to Florida to see launched last month. But our July 13 trip was in vain. We got as close as the lagoon six miles away from the launch pad, just a couple of hours before launch, when the mission was scrubbed. We were disappointed; we'd scraped aside a week of free time and rescheduled our flights twice to make the launch date. But like the 3000 customers who saw their trips to San Francisco scrubbed, we had to try to accept and understand the cancellation. The sands of Cocoa Beach helped. You can read more about that journey and its consolations in an entry at my personal blog, Half-Baked Light.
For the persistent 3000 user, though, there is a consolation mission coming up. HP will be updating its 3000 users about its post-2006 plans for the server on Aug. 18. This meeting of OpenMPE, the only user group left to serve the HP 3000 customer, will also be Web-cast. Watch this space and the 3000 newsgroup for details on how to tune in via your browsers. Send an e-mail to OpenMPE director Donna Garverick by Thursday if you want to attend in person. HP needs to know how many chairs to set out.
If you were headed to San Francisco to network with other 3000 users, the OpenMPE meet will be one of two places to connect in person. The other will be earlier in the week, Monday, Aug. 15. That's when the HP 3000 Luncheon takes place south of San Francisco. The lunch is free, hosted by HP 3000 software companies Marxmeier Software AG, Screenjet Ltd. and QSS. But you have to get your reservation in quickly, by Wednesday morning, to have your buffet plate waiting along with the smiling faces of your 3000 family members.
Send an e-mail reply to email@example.com to have us set aside your luncheon plate. Watch this blog for news from both meetings. These are launches nobody's going to scrub, so I'll be there to see the lift-off of spirits and hopes in person.
August 08, 2005
A recap from OpenMPE's birthplace
A story in yesterday's Hagerstown, Maryland Herald-Mail recaps the OpenMPE journey that Jonathan Backus started. The article takes note of Backus' current post at the Volvo facility near Hagerstown — he works in IT there — but does a great summary of the work that he sparked starting in December, 2001. The feature writer Daniel J. Sernovitz gives Backus credit for helping many 3000 users:
Jonathan Backus may not be a household name, but the Hagerstown man helped to spark a movement that advocates for the rights of thousands of businesses and government agencies across the country.
There's also news from HP in the article, apparently. Sernovitz wrote that HP will make a decision about MPE/iX source "in the last quarter" of this year. HP has said "second half" of 2005, so the Herald-Mail's recap — which includes a quote from HP e3000 Business Manager Dave Wilde — seem to rule out any announcement during next week's OpenMPE meeting on Aug. 18.
OpenMPE will be at HP next Thursday to hear from the HP managers who are working on a post-2006 vision for the 3000 customers who'll still be using their systems in 2007 and beyond. That's going to be a virtual meeting as well as a live one, though details on the virtual attendance part of the meeting aren't available yet. If you're going to be in the Bay Area (probably Cupertino, at building 47, I'd bet) you can let OpenMPE board director Donna Garverick know if you'll be attending. Send her an e-mail with your RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 05, 2005
Listen up for news of a luncheon reunion
Even though we work with machines which compute, we crave the spark of personal contact. After a brief Seybold family reunion this week, I've learned there will be one for the HP 3000 family calendar, too. Listen to our podcast (6MB MP3 file) about the news this morning that the 3000 family will have a luncheon as its 2005 reunion. Mike Marxmeier and Alan Yeo will make the best of non-refundable tickets to San Francisco and host a lunch August 14 or 15. We'll be sending out details by e-mail, too. Let us know if you can make a lunch either Sunday or Monday, or both. Send your RSVP for invitation details — the lunch will be south of San Francisco — to email@example.com
August 04, 2005
Eloquence has been on the move
Marxmeier Software moved into new quarters over this summer, the kind of change that a supplier's customers can view as a sign of progress. Marxmeier provides Eloquence for the HP 3000 user who's moving off the platform, as good a replacement for IMAGE and TurboIMAGE as can be had.
Marxmeier's Ruth Schuerrle said the move gives the company more space for more developers in its North Rhineland German home town:
We are taking the opportunity to hire a new office with better facilities in the city center of Wuppertal, instead of renewing the old lease. And we will have more room for new developers. We will start searching for new developers, for our team to be able to enhance Eloquence and our services for the HP e3000 migration customers, after summer holiday period.
The growth model at Marxmeier has been admirable in the three-plus years we've been watching the developer. It has provided new IMAGE-savvy technology for use on Unix, Linux and Windows platforms, all while not over-growing to force hikes in its prices. The company has done things that HP wouldn't have, like moving Query to other platforms. Its founder Michael Marxmeier has done his road duty in the US at the annual conferences, too, and in fact was going to be part of an independent migration roundtable at this year's cancelled HP World show.
Eloquence will probably turn out to be the database that long-term homesteaders choose once they make a move — since the product sells for a fraction of the SQL Server and Oracle alternatives and fits so neatly with HP 3000 IMAGE programs the homesteaders will migrate.
In our August printed edition we'll cover the improvements for Eloquence 7.10, developer work that goes into beta test this month. For now we'll just note that the move to new quarters for the solution provider went smoothly, and pass along the new contact information:
Marxmeier Software AG
Kasinostrasse 19 - 21
The company's telephone and fax numbers remain +49 202 24314 40, Fax: +49 202 24314 20
August 03, 2005
Follow-up on the boot-up
Last week we pointed out that the networked printing enhancement for the 3000 has gone to beta-test, a process that 9x7 owners would like to participate in. The patches HP released for beta last week let the 9x7 users help in the testing, unlike other HP patches that are being designed and tested only for MPE/iX 7.5 and 7.0 releases.
I might not have been clear enough in last week's item about the relationship between the networked printing patches and the 9x7 owner's dilemma: They can't boot their systems with anything newer than the 6.5 release, thanks to some HP engineering that keeps 7.0 and later from bootstrapping their systems. HP has lifted 9x7 owner's lockout for networked printing, but it ought to be eliminated altogether. HP is watching to see how many 9x7 server sites end up using networked printing, although it might be hard for HP to tell without some reports from the customers.
HP's Jeff Vance shared his thoughts about this with us after we posted the blog item:
The NW printing patch should work fine on all 9x7s running 6.5. It seems (to me) to be a much lower risk for the customer to install a relatively small patch on 6.5 vs. installing a new version of the OS (like 7.0 or 7.5).
My impression is that customers asking for 9x7 to boot MPE 7.x want this as a form of insurance. They more than likely won’t install 7.5 on their 9x7 any time soon, but they want to be able to do this later on should the need arise. There is a pretty strong “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality in our homesteading customer base, combined with their traditional risk aversion. It will be interesting to see how many 9x7 customers install the NW printing SIB item after it GRs.
Vance is right. 9x7 owners tell us that all they want from HP is the ability to fix things when they break in the future. Going to a new release to fix something so falls in the category of "last resort" for most of the 3000 sites we interview.
Engineers at HP like Vance and his vCSY cohorts appear to be listening for customer input on how much patch back-porting they should be doing for HP 3000 patches. Enabling the 9x7s to boot 7.0 could eliminate a lot of that back-porting for HP.
Yes, there are technical limitations to using the 7.0 release on Series 9x7 systems. The release assumes you won't be sending anything to an HP-IB peripheral, or unexpected results will occur. HP doesn't have to resolve those technical limitations. 3000 customers are capable of keeping HP-IB out of their 9x7 environments. This kind of separation is commonplace in the world of Windows and other desktops. It's kind of like the old vaudeville joke:
"Doctor, my arm hurts when I move it like this."
"Then don't move it like that. That'll be ten dollars."
3000 sites can eliminate HP-IB easier than they can patch the operating system. This is an example of post-2006 thinking. It runs counter to the engineering credo of the 3000 — if it runs now, it should run forever. But the homesteading customer will be running under a new set of beliefs.
August 02, 2005
Locked in for the future
HP's made a minor business out of its license transfers for HP 3000s, and its $400 fee to shift MPE/iX and HP database software to a new server looks like it will outlast HP's support business for the server. Last week on the 3000-L newsgroup a customer who'd just bought an A-Class server (maybe not brand new, but new to him) wanted to know how long HP would be collecting transfer fees and software tier upgrade fees on HP's compilers and the like.
Matthew Perdue, one of the new members of the OpenMPE board — and a fellow who's been in on the weekly conference calls with HP over post-2006 operations — said the transfer fees and HP's right to collect software license fees would be with us a long time:
[These] tools are not “unlocked.” You can reinstall them on an additional box, but you will not be in compliance with HP’s license agreement. You’ll need to get a license transfer agreement from HP, and there may be fees associated with the transfer. The unlimited License to Use [the user] writes of is the user limit on the machine, not additional licensed HP software or third-party software.
This collection of fees for a system HP no longer sells does not indicate HP's desire to stay in the 3000 market. It's more about the vendor staying out of trouble. HP worries about its liability for systems which it sold and will continue to work in companies for years to come. Its licensing fees and the like let HP exert a modicum of control over a market it is leaving, to paint a picture of stewardship which can be viewed as dilligence.
Not all of HP's 3000 software is tied to transfer fees, though.
John Lee of 3000 reseller Vaske Computer Solutions said:
Most of that software is transferable for no charge, although the unlimited user license may result in an upcharge on some. About the only HP software that they didn’t used to let transfer at all was the MPE operating system (called FOS) and IMAGE and Allbase.
Meanwhile Perdue, one of the parties to HP's current thinking about post-2006, offered this long-term forecast about HP's future license term for MPE/iX:
To make a short story of it, up to 50 years. That’s the limit on copyright ownership under a treaty approved by the Senate a few years ago that sets the international copyright ownership period at 50 years. The legal types will get specific as to ownership by corporations or individuals and when the clock starts for each type.
Bartlesby.com was shaping up as an excellent Internet library of works that had past the previous copyright period but it looks like it has gone the way of Interex — when the copyright period changed to 50 years the site had to pull almost 60% of the content.
August 01, 2005
Faster than a speeding podcast
The gods of deal-making had a laugh on me Friday, the day I uncorked the NewsWire's first podcast. Inside those 5 minutes and 46 seconds of iPod-ready audio I took note that HP's podcast about HP Fellow Alan Kay was already out of date, because Kay had just announced he was leaving HP — and not building the new Internet visualization operating system Croquet for HP. Time moves a little too fast for corporate-level podcasts to keep up, I said, but I figured HP's podcasting would get better. Because the company was reselling Apple's iPods, after all, as part of its enterprises.
Not any more. And while the HP change on Friday showed me that anybody can get surprised by changes at HP today, the shift away from selling iPods shows that HP is taking a tack back toward its heartland businesses. That's good news for the customers moving off HP 3000s and onto HP's other enterprise environment, HP-UX.
HP and Apple parted ways on the iPod deal — Apple innovated, in that one, while HP provided the shelf space in stores where their printers are king — over money, some say. HP never made much profit on the iPods, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple was in control in the relationship, so much so that HP lagged in bringing out all of the iPod models, including some that seemed to fit nicely with HP's strategy, like the iPod that also stores color photos.
But some analysts say the split-up is another sign that new CEO Mark Hurd is shutting down the parts of HP dearest to former CEO Carly Fiorina's heart. HP remains in the entertainment business, selling Windows Media PCs and its big-screen TVs. But for how long is any podcaster's guess. It appears to be time to focus at HP, something the HP-UX customers will be glad to hear.
HP sold about 8 percent of all the iPods Apple moved last quarter, but HP-UX-related sales probably accounted for a lot more dollars. Best of all, the HP-UX sales earned HP enterprise-level profits — though not the level of profits 3000-based operations have earned — rather than razor-thin consumer-level profits. HP-UX is one of just a few odd ducks in the HP pond these days, along with the OpenVMS operating system and software that drives the NonStop line. HP-UX in particular is going to need more attention to hold its customers against the obvious economic advantages of Linux solutions. HP 3000 customers have learned that critical mass is vital to keeping a business alive inside HP, no matter how well it performs technically.
It's true, the executives who handled the iPod deal work independently of those who hold HP-UX hands in HP. But the new CEO is asking questions like "Why are we in that business, anyway?" Fiorina started up as many ventures as she killed off during her five years. In the long term, HP will be best served by the one quality that made the company a good choice for enterprise systems: innovation. Selling other people's stuff reduced HP to the caliber of a Dell or Best Buy. HP's unable to offer its own player for another year now, according to the terms of the Apple deal. Marketing is hard enough at HP without having reseller dealers keep you out of opportunities.
Clearing the HP retail shelf space for somebody else's innovations might be music to Apple's ears. It's a hell of a testament to innovation, at that. But the HP experiment with becoming the new Sony looks like it might be headed toward its swan song. Those printer profits from that shelf space need to work for HP's enterprise customers, like the former 3000 owners now choosing Unix — at least if those customers don't want to strike sour notes when HP-UX needs R&D help in the coming years.