January 31, 2006
How far has HP's word gotten out?
Last week in our podcast we talked about the pitfalls in announcing a support extension in the shadow of a holiday week. This week we've heard the first report of how that kind of shady introduction is hampering an HP customer. Some of HP, it appears, doesn't know that 3000 support from the vendor is still on sale through 2008.
Herb Stratham of Cerrowire reported that he's gotten the widest variety of answers from HP's reps about continuing his 3000 support from HP beyond 2006. According to Stratham, who's the Manager of Information Systems at the manufacturer:
I have asked several HP personnel about extended support on my HP e3000 model 959KS-400 and received different answers about support — yes, no and maybe.
Maybe HP's message hasn't drifted deep enough into the waters of a company with more than 100,000 on the payroll. Stratham said he'll keep us posted about what reasons HP is giving for flying more than one course in the skies of support.
"The local Service Delivery Manager did not give a reason," he said, "just that support would not be extended past the current contract end date (11/02/06). However, Jeff Vance (of HP Cupertino) has asked me for the “particulars” and said that he would provide answers. We would like to stay on the e3000 as long as possible."
January 30, 2006
OpenMPE still open for MPE business
Even though HP put off its source code license until at least the end of 2008, the OpenMPE advocates continue to push the vendor for a better HP 3000 future. The group has elections coming up again this spring, a chance to serve the community many of you will be members of for the rest of this decade.
More important than leadership, however, is the 2006 mission for the group. First up, and very soon, will be independent review of MPE/iX build process at HP. The vendor thinks so much of this that it will pay an outside contractor selected by OpenMPE to do this review. The contractor — Mark Klein, formerly a board member and a developer steeped in MPE/iX internals, is a leading candidate for the job — will tell HP how well they've documented the process to create MPE/iX releases.
There would be only one reason to shore up the documentation for the build process of a 30-year-old operating system. If you were HP, you'd be ensuring that MPE/iX could leave your building. Not that anybody is promising when that will happen — but HP has said that it will license selected parts of MPE/iX to any third parties once HP support ends.
As for the rest of the 2006 agenda of OpenMPE, it appears to be up in the air. The group has wrested a lot of documentation, enhancement and understanding from HP about the 3000. That's the sort of work that a good user group used to do. We hear that OpenMPE will be forming up as a Special Interest Group of Encompass, the user group that wants your involvement. Encompass recently extended its membership discounts for former Interex members.
Since these two groups could benefit from one another, it might be a good idea to give OpenMPE members a discount to join Encompass. What better way to attract HP 3000 expertise?
January 27, 2006
Conceal or encrypt: MPE can comply, with help
It seems no focus in IT is stronger these days than compliance. With the onslaught of HIPAA, SOX and other regulatory mandates, a manager of a 3000 has plenty of required work being dumped on the to-do list. Security is a big part of this, especially in the 3000 operations that process credit card transactions.
(Don't laugh. Every 3000 running Web commerce data is now in this category. Think Ecometry customers, hundreds of them.)
The recent Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards suggest encryption as a way to comply. (You can also truncate credit card numbers.) The 3000 doesn't do encryption as well as it manages database transactions efficiently. But there's a open source solution that can help.
Strong cryptography, such as Triple-DES 128-bit or AES 256-bit, is among the Visa solutions. The Internet Concealment Engine from Matthew Kwan can be used on MPE/iX. One 3000 expert we know recently reported that "It’s free, no strings, and is easily adaptable to MPE/iX, *nix, and [Windows] NT. (I had it working on all three platforms in one evening). I don’t know how it compares to 2006 encryption schemes, but it beat DES by a longshot in ‘97 or so."
The downside of using the 3000 for encryption is the server's hobbled status. Encryption draws a lot of horsepower, one of the places you're likely to miss those extra processing cycles that HP takes out of the PA-8700 chip when you use most MPE/iX systems. In a security-crazed world, this seems like a good case for pulling the slowdown code out of MPE/iX N-Class and A-Class systems.
You can always shuffle the 3000 data through a Unix server for encyption, as a leading retailer does in stores throughout the West. Have a look at the Quest Software NFS solution that makes the 3000 a NFS client to aid in this task.
You'll also need to reach for a more secure backup system than STORE; those backups are in clear text. Orbit Software's Backup+/iX and NetBackup 3.4 from Veritas are potential secure backup candidates for MPE/iX. Both use DES 56-bit encryption. Banks need the 256-bit standard, though. There are banks using the 3000 these days, but they're moving away. We'll have a report on that next week from a 3000 app vendor who's making a careful, thorough transition.
January 26, 2006
The word is out on conversion's value
Converting an HP 3000 to an HP 9000 holds little value for the migrating customer. That's the consensus of a group of users who responded over the 3000 newsgroup to a query about the value in making an MPE/iX system capable of booting up HP-UX. HP simply re-programs a personality chip in your 3000 to make the conversion. It's much harder to make the numbers add up to significant value in the process.
Even the biggest of HP 3000s, the N-Class servers, are plodding, aging models in the HP 9000/HP-UX world. HP has given in and stopped advising customers to repurpose their 3000 hardware; instead, the vendor will apply a trade-in value for your HP 3000 to a purchase of an HP-UX system. How far off the pace are the 3000-grade systems when turned into HP-UX servers. Chuck Ciesinski, an HP-UX System Architect at ACS Educational Solutions and an OpenMPE board member, pointed out that even some Superdomes are considered obsolete by HP:
On the hp.com servers page, take a look at the ‘Discontinued Servers’ link. HP 3000s and HP 9000s are broken down by various classes. All the A’s, L’s, K’s, and N’s are already discontinued. In fact several of the HP ‘Superdomes’ are already on the discontinued list.
Ciesinski went on to add that one application divided over two Unix servers (for active/passive failover) is more the norm than what HP 3000 customers know: a single server hosting lots of apps.
Duane Percox of K-12 app vendor QSS, making a transition to HP-X and Linux, said that "The equivalent HP-UX systems are probably not currently supported or will soon be in that category." Percox added
HP is giving you credit for your MPE system toward the purchase of an HP system on a part-equivalence basis. This is to get around the ‘not supported issue.’ Also you get steep discounts on software. However, you have to consider the value of your MPE system vs the cost to acquire a new HP-UX system. Best to run the numbers and then decide.
It's hard to get a firm figure on what a 9x9 or even an N-Class HP 3000 is worth these days. HP has its numbers, a deal that ties a customer into HP hardware to replace the system. A transaction with a third-party reseller will at least net your company cash to use in a migration project, wherever the need is greatest. (We note that Pivital and Genisys support this newsletter and blog, so you should check with them first.)
When a customer posted a note to the 3000 newsgroup saying that his company probably wouldn't take HP up on its "conversion" offer, OpenMPE board member Donna Garverick replied, "I sure hope you don’t. It might be known as a career-threatening decision."
Garverick, who manages systems for Long's Drug — a 3000 customer which has taken many of its MPE operations onto Unix systems, explained how different a Unix customer thinks of their investment:
Way back when... when A- and N-Class systems were new-ish and (some) folks had the blissful idea that moving from MPE to HP-UX was a piece o’cake, HP’s offer almost sorta kinda made sense. But....
- In Unix-land, those boxes are (more-or-less) obsolete.
- That big honkin’ MPE N-class? It’s a low-end, wheezy, sputtering unix system.
- There’s a radically different mind-set in many Unix shops regarding servers. They’re commodity items. You get ‘em...you burn through their horsepower... and you replace them a few years down the road for something even bigger yet. Very different from MPE shops, where we tend to regard our servers as investments. We’ll take 7-10 years to write the asset off.
- Don’t even think of “server consolidation.” Single server/single app is very much the reality in Unix-land.
To maximize the value of a 3000 that's being moved out, a sale in the open market looks like the best value — especially if that 3000 is of the latest (A/N) generation.
January 25, 2006
Caring for orphans of the 3000
While this headline might prompt thoughts of abandoned customers and applications in the 3000 community, there's a more commonplace orphan problem to resolve on many 3000s. Users close their terminal emulators before they log off their 3000s. Go ahead, admit it — you've even done it yourself. It leaves orphaned sessions behind. So how can you detect these orphans and terminate them?
One suggestion, from telnet and HP 3000 advocate Wirt Atmar, is simply to avoid the orphan-ization in the first place with telnet connections, instead of NS/VT. "The problem is associated with the slightly higher complexity of NS/VT and the dissynchronization of state information," Atmar said in a post to the 3000-L newsgroup. "No matter how the user quits their session, a telnet connection cleanly breaks the connection and the session disappears. This behavior is consistent across all versions of MPE and all patches."
If your choice of connection can't be telnet for some reason, HP has supplied a free script to address the task of aborting jobs.
Donna Garverick of the OpenMPE advocacy group advised using the abortj script on HP's Jazz Web server:
"Pains are taken within this script to try to get rid of a session in many ways before resorting to an abortjob," she noted.
There's another possible cause for orphaned sessions: network port configuations with firewalls and Virtual Private Networks. John Bardessono added
I found that the firewall/VPN (network port) was configured for 100mbit full duplex. Sessions would disconnect, but still appear to be active with showjob. I had the network port reconfigured to 10mbit, half duplex and the problem went away.
January 24, 2006
Reorg module opens new windows on maintenance
Some of the largest databases in the HP 3000 community now have a new path to dramatic performance improvements. This year’s add-on module for Bradmark’s DBGeneral software enables partial dataset reorganizations — a way for companies who “race to daylight” with IMAGE/SQL maintenance to break their race into multiple heats.
Bradmark’s founder Brad Tashenberg came up with the fundamental technology concept, according to the MPE and HP 3000 R&D leader Jerry Fochtman. “About six to eight months ago we came upon the concept to move forward with this enhancement,” he said. Enhancements like Partial Reorg are part of Bradmark's 3000 plan, he added. “When HP made its announcement about leaving the market in 2001, we said we’d stay with the users as long as they needed us.”
There’s more to being a 3000 vendor than just staying in the market. Products that can improve performance need to continue to evolve, particularly in a community where hardware upgrade funding can be hard to justify.
Many HP 3000 vendors have remained in the community since 2001. Fewer continue to enhance products for their customers. DBGeneral’s new Partial Reorg, offered as an separate-cost module, reduces processing time by more than 90 percent according to Bradmark’s test results.
The software went into beta testing in November, then rolled into general release at the end of 2005. Customers who can’t reorganize their databases inside a single maintenance window — third shift hours, for example, or a weekend — can have DBGeneral work on segments of the database, one at a time, to fit inside the available maintenance window.
Figures from Bradmark’s tests show that a 60-million-entry database with 50,000 keys saw its reorg time drop from 130 hours to 4.5 hours. The DBGeneral software module clusters records together by key value while maintaining chronological sequence on all chains. Fochtman said that improvements to MPE/iX filespace structures and other OS enhancements made the new optimization possible.
January 23, 2006
When timing tells as much as the news
Timing can be everything, but sometimes it just gives us good perspective on what we hear. In our weekly podcast (6MB MP3 file) we take a hard look for about six minutes at the timing of HP's goodwill news about extending 3000 support. A customer might wonder about all those ifs in the offer, as well as why a headline about the extension still doesn't appear on the main HP 3000 page on HP's Web site. Have a listen and let us hear in a comment below if you already knew about the news that slid out in the shadow of the year-end holidays.
January 20, 2006
Mainstream press speaks: Money makes vendors listen
Money talks, and marketing walks. (If you've heard that phrase worded a little differently, well, sometimes we pull our punches in the interest of civility.) Money talks in the computer world when it comes to defining what's obsolete. The subject came up this week in Computerworld when the magazine took a glance in print at HP's choice to add two years of basic support to its MPE/3000 business. Its columnist Frank Hayes drew good conclusions, ones that are worth translating for the 3000 experience.
On page 52 of this week's Computerworld print edition, a column examined what obsolesence means to vendors, IT and your users. (Not everything makes it into Computerworld's print; we take that as a sign that this is important.) We were glad to see HP's extension of 3000 support offered up as a recent example of how obsolete can change its meaning. (Frankly, we're glad to see the HP decision mentioned at all in a wide-circulation periodical. That news surfaced just days before Christmas, a time when lots of IT managers are not even in the office. More on that in our podcast Monday.)
Hayes pointed out that it's not exactly news that vendors determine obsolesence on the basis of revenues. Plainly put, if a platform is not selling as expected, it's not performing the vendor's mission: generate sales revenues and profits for shareholders. No matter what else you hear about any vendor's mission, even the old HP Way had profits and sales as the Number 1 objective for HP. That's something to remember while you estimate how much useful life your 3000 has left. Utility is your Number 1 object, not how much profit the 3000 earns for HP.
Hayes said in his column:
Vendors call something obsolete when they can no longer make money selling it. IT shops say the same thing isn't obsolete until we can no longer make money using it -- or maybe just until it no longer fits into our corporate IT architectures.
And end users, the people at their desks? Many of them believe a familiar IT system isn't obsolete until the pain involved in getting it to do what's needed is a lot greater than the pain of migrating to something new.
Still profitable, still useful, still bearable. Whose definition of obsolete is right? All of them.
So our translation: HP decided it could still make money off the 3000, for at least another couple of years, by selling support that turns a handsome profit, expenditure-wise. One rumor we heard recently had numbers of $30 million per year in support contracts, at the present rate, with only $8 million in salaries and parts to deliver HP 3000 services.
Service is the last revenue stream HP will enjoy off the 3000, and as it turns out, the HP support extension will be a good thing for the customers. There's still serious repair to be done on the systems' database, IMAGE/SQL. The LargeFiles that were created four years ago in MPE/iX 7.5 have never worked correctly, without the potential for corruption. Now there's two more years to get that fixed, although some are now asking if HP should bother. Customers just aren't using LargeFiles, perhaps because the feature didn't work.
HP makes profit off the 3000, so its service arm extends the profit side of the 3000 business. As for IT's obsolesence, many 3000 customers now face an erosion or elimination of corporate support for the server. That's not about the ecosystem, as HP told us in 2001. It's about the biggest animal in the forest: HP, and its exit from your community.
And those users? No news at all there, as Hayes said in his column. Many of the migrations underway just replicate the features and functionality of the MPE/iX applications. Many sites believe that's only a first step in the general improvement of their users' computing experience. These customers developed the will to spend their way through a migration. Improving the users' experience and the company's IT prowess will demand another shot of budgetary willpower.
Obsolesence is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Hayes advises that IT listen for the pain of the users to get a better handle on when something's obsolete. Listening is what HP tells the 3000 marketplace it's doing, too. Frankly, we would like to hear more talking from HP, especially about its plans for the 3000's source code and who will help the vendor meet its support and licensing commitments. The future for the 3000 customer is about who's staying in the ecosystem, unless you're leaving on the back of the biggest animal in your forest. Anything else you hear is just marketing.
January 19, 2006
iSeries alternative: Coulda been the 3000?
When HP chose to step out of the 3000 marketplace, changing its thousands of companies' futures, the vendor cited the uphill battle to sell a non-standard IT solution. Platforms not Unix or Windows simply were not going to provide a safe ecosystem, HP said. This week IBM announced news that begs to disagree.
Successor to the AS/400 marketplace, the iSeries, IBM says, is coming off a “milestone year” for the platform. The vendor claims that the integrated solution most like the HP 3000 had its “highest level of growth in nearly 10 years.” Soon you'll see why, if you're a football fan: IBM will air an iSeries commercial during this coming weekend's Steelers-Broncos playoff game. Not long afterward, new POWER5 Plus i5 servers are expected to be announced. IBM says it's going to intensify its efforts to market the iSeries this year.
It's safe to say that like the 3000 community, the iSeries users wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak.
While that IBM solution got a fair bit of notice in our NewsWire special editions of 2002 and 2004 — and some persistent advertising from COBOL transformation shop PIR Group in those issues — we were puzzled about the lack of takeup for this 3000 alternative. (For the record, PIR Group has said it will be interested in supporting the HP 3000 conference of 2006. We also wrote up Flax Art, a former Ecometry site, as one of several 3000 customers gone the way of Big Blue.) Some of that resistance might have come from companies still smarting from long-ago wounds at the hands of IBM's mainframe-centralized culture. But a lot of the hesitation might be chalked up to the general slow pace of migration. Things are picking up this year. The iSeries could pick up some more 3000 business, among those companies dissatisfied with the Unix or Windows choice. After all, it's about the target applications, not the environment, right?
The 3000 customer who's fond of the past — and that would be a lot of them, considering their migrate-or-homestead options over the next three to five years — looks at the iSeries success and perhaps scratches their head. Could it have been the 3000's fate to have a resurgence, if only HP had stayed a course?
For those interested in history, the difference between the two markets was mass. At its fattest the iSeries and AS/400 group could count close to a half-million installations. It hasn't fallen off much, by most estimates. The HP 3000 never grew beyond 70,000 systems, and now it probably counts 15 percent as many. Analyst house IDC reports that the installed base was at 23,000 a full year after HP said it was pulling its MPE plug, in 2002. Critical mass is something measured differently at different vendors. There's companies in the 3000 space who would kill for 20,000 customers. HP just wasn't one of them.
But as for the HP argument that the only thing with legs is a Windows or Unix solution, well, IBM is making some sweet profit off disagreeing. Its mainframe business also has strong loyalty. And while the iSeries servers will run IBM's Unix as well as Linux, that strong 2005 didn't come in on the back of companies using something other than i5OS, the successor the OS400 environment. Nothing Unix-like there.
The vendor is introducing its new OS functionality on Feb. 1 in a Webcast. If you're pining for a look at how a "non-standard" environment is making enhancements in 2006, you can sign up for the noon Eastern event at http://iseries.pentontech.com/t?ctl=1E616:1243BD
January 18, 2006
Turn back time to save applications
Some HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.
A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.
A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.
3000 customer Paul Frohlich of DMX Music in the UK asked how to get his SpeedEdit running once again now that the calendar had rolled over to 2006:
When editing a file SpeedEdit creates a work file to hold the changes: it uses a structured name for the work file. According to the manual “ ... the first character of the [work] file name represents the year the [work] file was created, the letter A indicating 1980, B 1981 etc.” Therefore Z was 2005 and so there is no letter for 2006! SpeedEdit may be trying to use the next character in the ASCII table, which is probably non-numeric, resulting in an invalid MPE file name. A very neat way of making software expire. I suppose the authors didn’t think anyone would be using SpeedEdit in 2006!
Shawn Gordon replied with a suggestion to try his product, software that he's taking orders for direct these days:
While we don't sanction this for bypassing a programs legitimate timing out, it sounds like you've gotten in a bind with a product you paid for and the vendor is gone. Our TimeWarp product which was originally created to do Y2K virtual dates would likely allow you to keep working; you can get some information from www.smga3000.com/timewarp_detail.html about the product.
In a matter of minutes up on the 3000 newsgroup, Stan Sieler of Allegro posted notice of an alternative solution from his company:
A date/time simulator may help, if you don’t mind the rest of SpeedEdit getting the wrong time. (E.g., run SpeedEdit with a date of, say, 1980... giving you another 25 years of bliss :)
HourGlass/3000 is still the most complete and most efficient date/time simulator tool. You could use it with a rule like:
@,@.@,@ speededt.pub.bbs @ delta -20 years
(Means: any job/session name, any user, any account, any logon group, program is speededt.pub.bbs, from any ldev, gets the current date/time minus 20 years)
Sieler went on to add a more obvious option if a programming editor stops running on the 3000: Use Robelle's Qedit. He also outlined another workaround for a program that wants a date which its creators didn't expect to need to serve:
Write a CALENDAR intercept intrinsic (trivial in SPLash!, Pascal, C) that returns a modified year, put it in XL (e.g., SPDEDTXL), and modify (via LINKEDIT) SpeedEdit to load with that XL. If SpeedEdit is a CM program, change the above to: (trivial in SPL), put in an SL that SpeedEdit will use (SL.pub.BBS or whatever), and mark SpeedEdit as LIB=P or LIB=G.
January 17, 2006
Houston, we have a show: 3000 gets its own 2006 conference
Board members of the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) have announced "the only user-driven HP 3000 conference in the world" for 2006, a meeting scheduled for November in that Texas city. GHRUG has mounted user conferences in years past, including a multiple-day meeting for several years until HP announced its exit from the 3000 market.
Houston is also the site of HP's Technology Forum for 2006, a meeting that will take place September 17-22. The Technology Forum will only include information about migrating away from HP 3000s. The GHRUG meeting promises a track on homesteading on the platform as well as migration advice.
Denys Beauchemin, former chairman of the Interex HP users group and a Houston-area member of the GHRUG group, posted a notice that explained the group had been considering a "last hurrah" show for the 3000 in 2006. But due to HP's recent extension of its basic-reactive support of the 3000 to 2008, the group had to "hold off a bit to ponder such a move."
"Earlier this month," Beauchemin said in a posting to the 3000 newsgroup, "the board of directors of GHRUG voted to schedule and start the planning and preparations for the only user-driven HP3000 conference in the world to be held in November of this year. They have asked me to initially spearhead the effort for the planning of the conference."
Beauchemin was the program director of many Interex North American HP World conferences. He was aided in Interex MPE content planning by Jerry Fochtman, who's also based in the Houston area.
"We would like to make the program very focused on the wants and needs of the attendees, and we do not have the resources for a full program committee with support staff and focus groups. So we will use the Internet and email. We will give the prospective attendees the opportunity to have input on the program itself. This will be an HP 3000-focused conference with possibly three tracks for a total of 21-24 talks. This can be adjusted as needed.
b) Homesteading issues
c) MPE in general
"Whilst this conference is totally user-driven without HP's assistance, I feel confident that if we ask nicely vCSY might be able to send some speakers, especially if very specific subjects are requested."
Alan Yeo, the organizer of the 2003 World Wide Wake as well as the 2004 HP 3000 Community Networking Booth at the now-defunct HP World, said he was glad the 3000 user community had taken up the challenge.
"I think it's a good thing to do," said Yeo, who proposed such a conference in November. He added that he'd been instant messaging with the GHRUG after his proposal appeared. "I just hope that vendors will support it as well as users — almost as a community thing, rather than as 'commercially, what are we going to gain out of it?' " Yeo said he can be relied upon to help recruit vendor participation. Companies including Yeo's ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software and Viking Software have said they want to participate in a 3000 show during 2006.
GHRUG was plain about not relying on vendors for its conference budget. "If vendors want to attend and exhibit, tables will be available for a very nominal fee, probably less than $400," Beauchemin said. The details announced so far are for a 3-day conference to be held at a Houston-area university to minimize costs. Registration will be $125 for all three days or $50 per day for individual passes.
GHRUG wants users to communicate with the group to report on possible attendance, as well as conference content. Beauchemin wants messages sent to him with a subject of "GHRUG November HP 3000" that address the following questions:
a) Is the proposed length of the conference satisfactory?
b) Which subject would you like to see covered? Do you have a speaker in mind, and who would that be?
c) Would you like to give a talk and if so, what would be its content?
d) If you have comments or ideas, go ahead and share them.
Papers won't be due until September, he added. "If this starts to roll, GHRUG will prepare a more formal call for speakers which will request the usual details and provide deadlines for the talks so they can be included in the proceedings." More details will appear at the GHRUG Web site.
January 16, 2006
Inside, We're All the Same: Just Listen
After a week out at my very first Macworld, I came back with a bag full of show floor gimcracks and a feeling that HP and Apple customers are sailing in the same boat these days. There's a lot more wind in Apple's sails, of course, something we talk about in our 8-minute report (7 MB MP3 file). Intel is inside both HP's future systems — the ones HP recommends as a 3000 replacement — as well as those shipping this week from Apple for the first time. Watching Intel march across a Macworld stage, instead of an HP World stage, showed how high theater can take the sting out of migration. No, not the kind the 3000 is facing — the kind that HP's Unix customers have in their future. Just like Apple's.
January 13, 2006
Low volts, high volts: What's the differential, anyway?
HP 3000 disc devices have been through many generations of design. Old-timers out there tell stories of the 7933 units as big as today's washing machines, all to store a few hundred MB. Things have come a long way in disc technology since those units of the 1980s. Sometimes they've come along too fast to keep up with all the voltage details.
For an example, a recent question scrolled by the steady stream of advice in the 3000-L newsgroup:
I’m attempting to upgrade from 4.3GB drives to HP's 18GB drives (ST318404LC), on our Series 979. I inserted the new drives into existing Jamaica-style disc enclosure units. I carefully plugged in the SCSI adapter from the enclosure into the drive, and then slid the enclosure units into the Jamaica. They power up okay and go through self test in the Jamaica okay. But the paths of the 18GB drives then do not show up in MAPPER. Both the smaller and bigger drives are F/W SCSI, so cabling should be okay, right? What's going wrong here?
Chuck Shimada, a 3000 hardware expert who donated countless hours of configuration service to Interex during the former user group's conferences, had a quick answer. "First, you are trying to attach a Low Voltage Differential device to a High Voltage Differential interface. This cannot work without an LVD to HVD adapter on each drive, or Parlan LVD/SE to HVD box between the last HVD device on the SCSI chain and the first LVD device."
Shimada had lots of detailed advice on how to manage the difference in volts on 3000 discs.
"I did check the IODEFAULT.PUB.SYS, and your Seagate ST318404LC drive is in the file. But what the file does not tell you is that HP puts a small adapter board on the end of the drive which does the LVD to HVD conversion.
"If you have the adapter boards on your old drives, you can try to remove them and attach them to the new drives. The boards are small (I am guessing 1-inch x 3.5-inch as the size). They are attached to the drives' original interfaces and have two pices of mounting hardware going to the case of the drive.
"I have tried to find a part number to order the adapter board, but no luck. There is no HP part number on the board and I can not determinal the actual manufacturer by looking at the board and chips.
"If you try to place your old drives back and they do not show up on MAPPER, you should check the fuse on the FWD card. It is a small micro fuse. It looks like a small lamp, it would be around the terminating resistor packs. You may have to use a Volt Ohm meter to check it. Just pull out the fuse; it has two pins on the bottom and is usually in a clear plastic case with the rating informaton printed on it (in extremely small letters). You should be able to get a replacement at your local electronics store (Fry’s, Microcenter, Radio Shack and CompUSA don’t have it). If after replacing the fuse, or the fuse checks okay and the old drives still don’t show up, then the FWD card is dead. Note that the ST318404LCs may also be dead, their interfaces have fusable links on their interface cards. They are not user replaceable.
"I have had success in using the Paralan MH16A. This is an external LVD to HVD adapter. I just connect it between the HP28696A and three Seagate 36GB drives, and it worked great. The customer even said that his application was running faster. (They were on eight 4GB drives in a HASS.)
"There is also a company out there, Peripheral Imaging Solutions (www.pi-si.com), that seems to have found a way to do the LVD to HVD conversion per drive. They are selling re-manufactured disk modules with new Seagate drives inside. However, the module will not qualify for HP hardware support. But they are very affordable, their 18GB is $350. They also have a 36GB and a 72GB module. The 72GB is $550. The last used 18GB module I purchased was $695."
January 12, 2006
Take note of support levels
HP's two extra years of 3000 support have been celebrated by some, scrutinized by many. But it's important to evaluate how much service you can expect from a vendor which has been plain about getting out of the HP 3000 marketplace — even if the exit is slower than HP first planned.
The third party support community now has an extra two years to either endure, or build up, before moving away from HP support becomes a necessity. There are already 3000 hardware and software support options available from providers such as Pivital Solutions and Genisys. Today's third parties make a case that moving today is a better choice than waiting for the level of HP's support practices to ebb.
One newcomer to the 3000 total-support market, Bay Pointe Technology, shared some comments with us on this subject. Bay Pointe reports that it has recently "joined with some of the top MPE consultants and hardware professionals in the US to form a 'one stop shop' for 3000 users looking for hardware and operating support as well as selling and installing hardware upgrades," Bob Sigworth said. "I am still overly concerned about the level of support from HP that an end user will experience once a support call is actually logged. Any vendor can take a support contract. It’s what you do with that account once a call is generated."
Having questioned how well HP can service your 3000 needs, Sigworth adds, "We have a great relationship with the HP CEs that have visited Bay Pointe. Very professional as well as knowledgeable." But he makes his case for better support from non-HP sources:
I think the real issue is a word that I have used many times in my 31 years of selling computer equipment; commitment. I am sorry, I do not sense a real commitment nor any passion regarding this latest announcement from HP. They are going to pick and choose who they want to support and at their discretion dispatch a “third party” vendor to solve the problem. All this for an “increased” cost. I know there are better support options for 3000 users.
I think it would be in the best interest for any 3000 user to know that they can cancel their annual HP contract with a 30 day written notice. They will receive money back from HP for any remaining months of the unused contract. This is what I have been told by numerous sources.
If I am a 3000 user, I am going to locate a third party vendor where there is passion and commitment to the 3000 marketplace as well as their own account.
I will leave you with this opinion: If at the end of 2006, every 3000 user has selected a third party service provider, HP would be celebrating beyond belief.
January 11, 2006
Sitting in the Reality Distortion Field
Why would anyone walk the streets of San Francisco before dawn to line up for a keynote speech? Across 21 years of conferences, from the old Interex shows to European HP meetings to the more recent HP Worlds and last fall's HP Technology Forum, keynotes were often my conference consolation prize. Dave Barry, Scott Adams, even Al Franken: those funnymen drew a great crowd at shows including the HP 3000. But nobody would wait three hours in line to see them, like a Stones concert.
No, for rock star hubris and stock-splitting swagger at a computer show you must go to MacWorld in San Francisco. This week I make my pilgrimage for the first time in 19 years of using Macs. I sat in Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field, as the attendees called his hour-plus keynote. It was a personal way to experience what I've reported from the 3000 community over those 21 years: Customer passion for a product, like your devotion to the HP 3000. Even if you wouldn't get within a few desks of a Mac, your community has much in common with the heart of the Apple customer.
Some might call it blind faith, maybe misguided. But the true believer follows the less-traveled path, which yesterday unreeled from the front doors of the Moscone Center, snaked down Howard Street, wrapped around the corner and down Third, thousands lined up at 5:45 AM. Ten minutes later I spotted a 3000 expert on his way inside to register. Ever register for a show at 6 AM? You might, if your vendor had withstood 15 years of being pronounced dead and kept releasing improved product, meanwhile fattening profits and showing the most imporant computing feature: leadership.
Withstanding popular trends, creating a true path for customers — this was once the style for Hewlett-Packard. The history of your 3000 platform began with an alternative to batch IT processing on mainframes. The rise of the minicomputer drew just as much scoffing as the Mac does from corporate DP experts, even from the very foundation of HP. But HP pressed on in spite of doubts from Dave Packard and your 3000 drew its first breath in the 70s. The same decade Apple started business. Yours was an upstart choice, just like Apple's in 1984 when it rolled out its first Mac.
It might be the audacity that sparks the devotion. In line I saw the same passion on faces and heard voices ring with the assurance I've heard from 3000 customers for a couple of decades. Only this time I was in line myself, taking notes and recording, but now a customer as much as a journalist. Moscone's hall where we sat, on the floor waiting to enter the Reality Distortion Field, has hosted several HP conferences. The hall was supposed to be the site of the 2005 HP World, the return of Interex to its best-attended show venue. But if your conference experience has been limited to HP shows, well, you can see broader horizons in a show of 20,000 kindred spirits.
A computer show can perform the sorcery of renewing belief. It's something you may have felt in a talk by Alfredo Rego at an HP conference, or seen in the eyes of GM Harry Sterling when he wore a tuxedo and made me remember the HP that stood up to common wisdom, to reach for Customer First thinking. Yesterday Steve Jobs wore black as well, his trademark turtleneck, and embraced something you consider essential to your careers: Intel processors. The Mac now ships with Intel inside, six months early, joining the mainstream while it protects what makes it unique: its operating environment.
Sound familiar? MPE/iX makes PA-RISC computing a unique value, too. The 3000 was never about chips, though they were important. HP never hawked them like Apple will put its Intel switch. Apple's ads, plastered on the kiosks up and down Howard Street, quip "What's an Intel chip doing inside a Mac? A lot more than it's ever done inside a PC."
No, that's not reality. It's a great marketing slogan backed up with technological promise. Or it's a marketing promise backed up with great technology. Who does Apple believe in now? Intel, which had its CEO appear on the Macworld stage in a clean-room bunny suit, holding a chip platter, reporting that "Intel is ready, Steve." Jobs answered, "Apple is ready, too." And less than a year after Apple and Intel joined forces, Apple is shipping new systems with the fastest computing they've ever offered customers. I heard gasps and saw high-fives as the numbers — Specmarks, no less — got announced. Release something four times faster, early, and you'll get gasps.
I couldn't help but wonder why HP's alliance with the same chip vendor took six years to produce anything — and has drawn more clucking over missed deadlines than gasps. You have this in common with Apple's customers: both HP and Apple will rely on Intel to carry their flagship operating system forward. Itanium remains the only chip with a future to run HP-UX. Apple is using Intel's Core Duo processor, something not born in the system vendor's labs like HP dreamed up Itanium. But the new chip will run cooler and faster, with its dual core design, than anything Apple's used up to now.
HP's Dave Wilde referred to this kind of announcement as "customer delight" when HP would make them: Bringing something out that exceeds hopes with unexpected features. Yesterday I could feel the delight myself that you must have felt over the past two decades, from the introduction of the Mighty Mouse HP 3000 in 1984 — a mini that would run on office carpet, instead of a computer room floor — right down to the gasp in the room when HP's Dave Snow walked down the aisle at an IPROF conference with an A-Class system under his arm.
Have those days of delight disappeared for the 3000 customer? Perhaps not, if you're sticking with the vendor's 3000 alternatives. That other Intel chip, Itanium, can still make a splash in the years to come, if you're willing to wait on the delayed engineering. Waiting like that might be viewed as kooky as lining up before sunup to hear a keynote speech. But belief is an essential part of being a computer customer, an intrinsic part of the formula. We travel and stand on line to stoke our fires of belief. I can only hope that this year will deliver an HP 3000 conference, one that might offer a chance to line up in expectation like I did yesterday. It could provide a opportunity to see what leadership looks like.
January 10, 2006
More on Classic Car Clubs and 3000 User Groups
A Comparison, Part 2
By Paul Edwards
[Ed. note: OpenMPE board member and 3000 education resource Paul Edwards has been promising us he would write this article for several years. This is the second of two parts. Edwards explains, "Recent events have finally put this comparison into sharper focus. There are so many parallels between each community that I felt I had to write about the comparisons so that others in the HP 3000 world could possibly use this information for their own future."]
Social interaction has always been an important part of the HP 3000 meetings and conferences. We had a chance to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances. Important contacts were made for future information exchanges.
The classic car and truck meetings are very social and have a family atmosphere. Spouses and children are encouraged to participate in the many activities. The renewing of friendships and acquiring new contacts are valuable as well.
Equipment Purchase and Sale
Used HP 3000 equipment availability from the many broker companies will continue to be very important to the ongoing hardware support of the homesteading users. Having the ability to patch or rebuild the MPE operating system has been the goal of the OpenMPE organization, and it hopes to provide the software support requirements of the users for many years to come. This will depend on the outcome of the announcement by HP, expected by the end of this year, of the final disposition of the MPE source code.
Through a vast array of catalogs for parts purchase, the classic car and truck community can rebuild and repair their favorite vehicle. Many parts are NOS (New Old Stock) that was acquired by dealers from the car companies as they emptied their warehouses of obsolete parts. Reproduction parts are also available. You can almost build a new vehicle from all the parts offered in the catalogs for the most popular models.
The business server technology has changed drastically from the days when HP produced the first HP3000. Applications that companies execute daily on their systems to run their business processes can continue to run far into the future with proper management and planning. The support of the HP3000 hardware and MPE operating system by HP has declined over the last few years as the number of their knowledgeable support engineers has decreased. The HP 3000 is a very reliable system and can be maintained by a small internal staff or third party companies.
Automobiles and trucks have had drastic changes in size, style, and technology over the years, too. The classic vehicles are easier for their owner to work on them without sophisticated equipment and expertise. But, it is sometimes difficult to find experienced outside repair facilities and personnel who know how to work on the older vehicles.
Interex ceased to exist last year after falling victim to lower levels of funding from HP, increased conference costs, a declining membership base, and other factors. The Encompass user group wants the MPE community to join them. But I don’t feel Encompass has anything to offer the HP 3000 user base because of their HP-UX, Linux, and Windows product directions.
The Late Great Chevy organization was purchased recently, and we don’t know what final structure will result from the purchase. They provided restoration parts, conferences, a monthly magazine, a Web site, and liability insurance for club events.
Publications, Email, and Newsletters
There were several publications produced by Interex over the years. They ended up being merged, reformatted, downsized, and some were eliminated. They did a lot of email blasts for the annual conference activities. Many local user groups, or RUGs distributed their own newsletters.
There are a large number of companies who support the various car and truck manufacturers. A search of the Web will produce many sources of parts most of the popular models and manufacturing years. eBay is a good source for vehicles and parts, too.
Our local chapter of Late Great Chevys of Dallas produces our own monthly newsletter that is distributed mostly by e-mail. I manage our club Web site at www.lategreatchevys.org.
Talent Pool Issues
The pool of experienced MPE personnel to do systems management, application development, and consulting is shrinking each month. These people are retiring, moving on to other technology, involved in long term contracting projects, and dying away. This should be a concern to the system managers at homesteading sites who should build a list of possible candidates to assist them with ongoing support and future migration projects.
As many of the classic car and truck owners are near retirement age, an effort has to be made to get younger people involved in the hobby for continuity for the local clubs. The expertise loss will make it difficult for people interested in the hobby to get expert help when needed. The loss of members in the local clubs is a real concern to the club officers because of the lack of new blood in the organization.
In summary, there are many parallels between HP 3000 user organizations and classic car and truck organizations. Other interest areas could be social fraternities or sororities, retired military organizations, college alumni clubs, charity groups, trains, planes, museums and local area historical sites, crafts, or other hobby interest clubs. They all have some or all of the topics discussed above in common.
There won’t be any future in the HP 3000 user community unless we all make it stay active. Depending on the interest area you engage in, look at the comparisons discussed above and make proper decisions about your future.
Paul Edwards is an HP 3000 training resource, a consultant on HP 3000 and HP 9000 projects, and a member of the OpenMPE board of directors. He's been an HP 3000 user since 1976. You can contact him though his Web site at www.peassoc.com.
January 09, 2006
Classic Car & Truck Clubs, and 3000 User Groups
A Comparison, by Paul Edwards
[Ed. note: OpenMPE board member and 3000 education resource Paul Edwards has been promising us he would write this article for several years. We present it here in two parts, today and tomorrow. He explains, "Recent events have finally put this comparison into sharper focus. There are so many parallels between each community that I felt I had to write about the comparisons so that others in the HP3000 world could possibly use this information for their own future."]
I have been a member of the HP3000 community since 1976 and an Interex member since 1982. A few years ago, I decided there had to be other hobby interests for me than just computers and at the same time I had quadruple by-pass heart surgery. These events caused me to evaluate my future life direction. I have always been a hands-on person and have enjoyed working with tools in building and repair projects.
So, I acquired a 1971 Chevrolet El Camino truck to initially enable me to haul home improvement materials. It was like the one I bought in 1969 after my return from our Navy squadron’s cruise to Vietnam. Then, after attending a few car and truck shows, I got hooked on the classic car and truck hobby. I started to finish the restoration of my truck that was mostly completed by the previous owners. I quickly found that any restoration project is never really finished, but is a constant work in progress with continuing cash outflow.
The classic cars and trucks are like the ones we drove in high school and college during the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. They consist of hot rods, convertibles, customs, sedans, wagons, trucks, and sports cars of that era. The “muscle” cars are very popular now and command a high price in a properly restored condition.
I have worked on most HP 3000 systems from the Series II to the N-Class and MPE II through MPE/iX 7.5. I currently have an HP 3000/928LX in my home office.
The exchange of information about the HP 3000 hardware and the MPE operating system was the primary goal of the HP 3000 local user groups that formed in the mid-1970’s. It was a critical need because everyone was learning a new computing platform.
We have that same exchange of expertise in the classic car and truck community with people having electrical, structural, engine, bodywork, painting, trim, and interior restoration experience.
With the HP 3000 hardware and software support from HP ending after next year, that same expertise exchange that started many years ago is still very important now. Many of the HP 3000 users will be homesteading on their systems for years to come, and will still need outside support from each other. I discussed the critical homesteading planning requirements in a couple of articles that are on my Web site, www.peassoc.com.
There are national conferences for the classic car and truck community that have vendor displays, car and truck displays with vehicle judging, as well as social activities, technical presentations and volunteer participation similar to what was at the Interex conferences.
There are various conferences put on by many different organizations in a variety of locations all through the year as compared to an annual Interex conference. The number of attendees is quite large at most national shows and they consist of both exhibitors and spectators.
The local HP 3000 user group meetings were usually monthly and sometimes there were annual regional meetings. We had HP and industry speakers to provide technical information. Most of these user groups in North America have now ceased to exist.
Local classic car and truck gatherings are usually monthly club business meetings. Sometimes there are tech sessions at the meetings and club tours to interesting locations.
There are monthly car and truck cruise nights to show off your vehicles during the spring to fall time frame. The cruise nights are like the ones we used to have on Saturday nights at the local drive-in burger and malt joints. ‘50s and ‘60s music is normally provided for the participants and spectators enjoyment.
More tomorrow: Social interaction, used equipment resources and technology comparisons
Paul Edwards is an HP 3000 training resource, a consultant on HP 3000 and HP 9000 projects, and a member of the OpenMPE board of directors. He's been an HP 3000 user since 1976. You can contact him though his Web site at www.peassoc.com.
January 06, 2006
NewsWire TV: Watch a restoration of faith
All last year, HP was working on repairing its history. Its founders started the IT giant in a garage, and during 2005 HP worked to restore that structure to its 1938 glory. (We took a quick look at it in a December blog entry, too, complete with a link to HP's film.)
I think the project represents what's best about this vendor that gave us the HP 3000 to improve upon. On a recent Silicon Valley visit I made our pilgrimage to The Garage, just a few blocks from Peninsula Creamery, in business since 1923. The creamery's founder's grandson, now running the business, said his grandad was approached by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard about investing in their company. His grandad decided to put the money into new freezers instead. "Big mistake," the grandson said with a grin.
Sometimes you just can't tell how the future will pan out. HP's extension of support seemed to prove that last month. Some customers report they feel better about believing in the vendor as a result of two extra years to transition.
Have a look at our own short film (3 minute .mov Quicktime file) to feel what might inspire you to restore your own faith in the 3000's creators. Or simply listen to our podcast (3MB MP3 file) if you just want to hear the sound of restoration. Burned, believer, or just shy for now, there's a way for some customers to put aside the recent history, if HP's past means even more toward your future faith.
January 05, 2006
Advice on Web graphics: We're WMF-free
The computer community kicked into high alert this week over a nasty virus which infects Windows-based systems. The malware uses an exploit — sort of a trojan horse — to ride inside Windows Meta File graphics, then break into Windows systems. Microsoft is working on a patch, but doesn't expect it to be ready until Jan. 10. Infections are already breaking out, delivering more than 70 different viruses so far.
This blog and the 3000 NewsWire Web site don't use any WMF graphics files. We never have, because we have always published using the Mac. There's no trojans in here to carry any WMF-based virus. As we read in one IT news journal Q&A: "Are Mac, Linux or Unix systems vulnerable? Very funny."
You can advise your Windows XP and Windows 2003 users to take these precautions about graphics, according to a Computerworld article:
1. Exercise caution when clicking on attachments, even from known e-mail addresses or IM pals.
2. Switching from HTML e-mail to text-only e-mail is also a good idea.
3. Those using the Internet Explorer browser should temporarily disable downloads by changing their browser’s Internet Zone security to “high.” Firefox and Opera users are prompted before WMF files are opened; these users should be encouraged not to open the files.
Be careful, but take heart: As the Texas Longhorns proved last night, Trojans can be defeated.
Customers eye impact of HP decision
More customer commentary has trickled in over HP's decision to extend the vendor's support lifespan of the HP 3000. While the skepticism is rife among partners and customers, many see a silver lining in the moving cloud bank covering the 3000's future.
Duane Percox of K-12 solution provider QSS chimed in quickly to note that HP might be viewed differently as a partner by some in the 3000 community. "While the information is ‘the story’ I can’t keep from thinking the real story is that HP was willing to adjust the date after careful review. It shouldn’t change anyone’s migration plan, but it should give everyone something to think about when they consider how they view HP as a partner today and into the future."
For others, the move lessens the sting, but doesn't make the poison less lethal.
Mark Landin, a systems manager at a manufacturer based in Tulsa, Okla., said, "HP's extension of the drop-dead date is very welcome indeed. It's not a cause to celebrate, because it's just postponing the inevitable, but it does lessen the sting somewhat. We're grateful HP has thrown us this bone. We
still loathe them for killing the platform in the first place." MANMAN is still working on a pair of HP 3000 systems at Landin's shop.
"Our first challenge is to figure out if there is one manufacturing platform that can service all our businesses, and then determine how to migrate to it and when. It's just nice to know that the HP safety net's going to be in place for another two years as we go through the process of making those choices." Just the same, third party support is filling the bill at Landin's company.
One HP insider suggested that HP extended support of the 3000 because inside HP's own IT operations "it couldn't even get it's own systems migrated off the platform in the 5 years. In fact, billions of dollars of HP revenue still flow through HP's HEART and OMS systems." After we'd profiled HEART in our July 1996 issue, the HP HEART system got a update from us in late 2003, when HP stopped selling the 3000 but continued to use 3000s in its financial operations. It's good to hear that a sound enterprise platform like the 3000 is still serving the accounts receivable needs of the world's second-biggest IT and services company. It's a pretty good bet that's one HP 3000 that easily qualifies for mission-critical HP support.
January 04, 2006
HP outlines limits to lengthen support
While customers were happy about HP's 3000 support extension to December, 2008, there are limits to the longer path that HP Services will walk alongside your systems. HP's announcement noted
The [support] offers... are subject to limitations and exclusions based on hardware and software configurations, geographic location, customer transition timelines, and other considerations. Pricing variances may apply.
When we checked with HP e3000 Business Manager Dave Wilde and HP Services on those limits and exclusions, it sounded like most, but not every 3000 site, could continue HP's support for two extra years. "Most customers will have access on a worldwide basis for basic reactive support for very substantial parts of their configurations," Wilde said in HP's interview with us. "Over time, some of those limitations could change over time and on a regional basis — but the intent is that customers will be able to renew that basic reactive support."
He was candid about what to expect from HP in support. "The 2007-2008 timeframe is going to be less than what they had before," he said.
We also tried to focus in our interview on the need to migrate toward HP to get additional HP support. This time around HP is not insisting, at least for the basic reactive support. Mission-critical levels of support — which HP has not extended on a "most customers" basis — will require talks with HP to establish such support beyond December, 2006. But staying with HP's solutions is not necessarily a mandate.
"The intent is not to insist on a migration plan to an HP platform," Wilde said. "We look to see if a customer has a migration plan so we can see if they need [3000 support] to go on forever. We want to encourage customers to move forward, and over time we don't believe we'll be able to sustain these [support offerings.] But we want to get a clear message out there that we value all customers, and we want to retain their business."
It sounded likely to be easier to arrange a mission-critical support level extension if a customer has plans to stay with HP. "There are cases where if they're moving with HP and investing in new HP solutions, structuring things from an overall package, it gives us more degrees of freedom to work with them," Wilde said.
So HP appears ready to offer a support contract to a company making a transition to other platforms, such as Sun, IBM and other vendors. Revenue, after all, is revenue. "We view any customer that has an HP support contract as an HP customer, even if they're moving to another platform," Wilde said.
As for the homesteading customers who have decided not to leave the 3000 platform, mission-critical support is available from third parties with only one limitation. Third parties can't create patches to MPE/iX to resolve problems. That capability won't be available until HP licenses 'major portions" of MPE/iX in 2009 or later, if anyone is left to perform that kind of patching. HP put associated that caveat with its source code promise, saying " if partner interest exists at that time." What time is that, really? It's tied to HP's 3000 support revenues, "when HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers."
January 03, 2006
Straight shooting with one eye winked
[Ed. note: Roy Brown, one of our favorite writers in the HP 3000 world, penned a little poke in the ribs over the holiday weekend in honor of HP's announcement of more time to catch the migration stage out of Old 3000 Town. Brown wrote a bang-up set of migration articles for the NewsWire in the fall of 2004, stories you can find on our main Web site August, September and October '04 editions. This time out, we'll let him kick off your new year with this tale of old behavior from the New West.]
By Roy Brown
We've heard tell that the preferred metaphor for HP's extension of HP 3000 support for two more years is kind of like where there's a queue for the stagecoaches out of Dodge. With only a few stages leaving town each day, and all full of migrators when they leave, the customers still standing in line waiting need to be protected.
And now it's come to the notice of those kind folks doing the protecting that not everybody that wants to can get out of town by sundown, when the protection stops. So the protectors decide to work later into the night.
So we sent intrepid reporter Ron Yesroman, from that well-known stockfeed journal The Haywire, out to Dodge to interview the Sheriff and report on the situation first-hand. Here's what he just filed:
"Greetings, Sheriff, and thanks for talking to me. First off, I'd like to know about the queues for the stagecoaches. How long do you think it will take to get all the citizens out of town?"
"Aw, hell, Ron, ain't no queues out there. Not of townsfolks, leastwise. Mebbe there's a queue of *stagecoaches*, wantin' to take folks out of town. And mebbe one or two folks go out and ask how long the journey might be, and what it's likely to cost. But when they git the answers, there's precious few of them seem to want to rush to be leavin' right now".
"Well, I see Sheriff. But I though migration was supposed to be easy — isn't there a straight road out of here to Unix?"
"Yes, sure, that's the trail we want them to take, and we've made it as easy as possible — fresh horses at every stop along the way. But we ain't paying no fares, and they still got to build anew when they git there. Puts a lot of folks off."
"But migration is still the safest option, isn't it?"
"Hell, yes, Ron, and if they know what's good for them, it's what they'll do. No, hang on, that din't come out right — I mean that's what's in their best interests. I just wish we had more citizens like those fine upstandin' Donners, who took their party out with high hopes, not a day or so back."
"Well, yes Sheriff, I guess that's so. Just as long as they reach their cut-off by the due date.... But tell me again, Sheriff, why are we in this situation now? I mean, a few years back, you announced the end of your official peace-keeping support and security in Dodge, as so few citizens were left. And yet here you are, keeping it going for another two years."
"Well, yes, we thot it would all be over by now. But there's still so much potential revenue out there — naw, scratch that out, I mean there's still so many concerned citizens here, that we felt we'd better keep right on goin'. After all, we take our responsibilities very seriously. Hell, that's my department's motto y'know - you must have seen the signs everywhere — 'Dodge - our responsibilities'."
"Yes, Sheriff, I've always though that was very apt. But what about the private security firms — they've always said they were keen to protect the homesteaders who stayed on, and now they have to wait, and survive, two more years if they want to do that".
The Sheriff raised his eyebrows at the mention of the private security firms, leaned in very close, and said, conspiratorially: "Earp!" And then, somewhat embarrassed, "Oh 'scuse me! I guess it ain't just my rifle that's repeatin'!"
"But, y'know, Ron, they really depend on us for supplies and ammunition. And without us here, they just know that the Sarbanes-Oxley gang will ride right in just like they weren't there, and pick their prospects off one by one."
"Yes, Sheriff, I heard about the supplies and ammo thing. But it seems to me you are just sitting on your arsenal, when you could be opening it up to everyone right now. But you've chosen not to do that. And what about these magazines — I hear a lot of those you have sold are crippled down to only take one bullet where they could perfectly easily hold four, if only you would release the lock on these?"
"Hell, Ron, you don't want to believe everything you read in magazines - but yes it's true. Some people bought cheaper rifles, that was one of the ways we made 'em cheaper. Gotta shell out, if you want the shells in, huh?" (chuckles) "Just my little joke.... Of course, there are no more rifles, so we can't sell 'em the dearer ones now, even if we had 'em and wanted to sell 'em, and they wanted to buy them. But we gotta keep the faith with the people who paid extra for the dearer rifles, y'know. It's important to us, keepin' the faith. Well, keepin' the faithful, anyway."
"So, no opening up and releasing the lock, then, Sheriff? I know there's a group of concerned townsfolk been pressing you to do just that."
"Well, not right now, for sure. I mean, we've talked to them a whole bunch. But doing what they want? It has to be lock, stock, and barrel. So we've looked at the lock, we've taken stock — and figured we pretty much have 'em over a barrel."
"I see... Well, finally, Sheriff, what happens over the next two years, before you and your deputies finally light out for Tombstone?"
(Sheriff chuckles). "Funny you should mention tombstone(s). See over yonder?" (Gestures towards Boot Hill). "I figure everyone will git out of town one way or another. And with all these graybeards around, and none of 'em gittin' any younger..."
(Ron shudders) "You don't mean..."
"Yes, Ron that's exactly what I mean. Most of they HP 3000s just run and run and run, and it's only when you stop and restart them that they finally peg out. Still, it shore is an honorable way to go — and folks will say of those ole processors — "They died with their boots on'".
"Well, I guess that about wraps it up. Thank you Sheriff, for being so candid".
"Thank you Ron, fer givin' me the chance to put the record straight."