July 31, 2006
A Visit from Vladimir
After posting up one of our longest podcasts on Friday, recapping the last year of transition, I stepped out into another part of 3000 history with Vladimir Volokh, leader of 3000 utility makers VEsoft. Vladimir invited my partner Abby and I out to the best rib joint in Austin, County Line on the Lake, to celebrate "the four-year anniversary of our interview in the NewsWire."
After the three of us finished eyeing the dozens of turtles bobbing along the riverside deck, we took our lemonades inside and bobbed through tales of the present and the past of the 3000. VEsoft, makers of Security/3000 and MPEX, still count several thousand customers in their empire. It's a world where the horizon is always advancing, to paraphrase a joke Vladimir tells.
He compares the 3000's end-of-life to the horizon. "You know about horizon," the Russian emigrant says in a voice rich with charm. "Whenever you approach it, it moves farther away." We chuckled because for many 3000 sites this is true; the closer they seem to get to the cut-off for their 3000s, the farther away the end moves. Change is expensive and risky. VEsoft's customers are not the kind who embrace risk, at least not after Vladimir pays them a visit.
For those who keep up with Vladimir's family, both his sons are now law professors. Eugene, fellow creator of MPEX who still maintains the product, teaches law at UCLA and appears on news networks. Sasha, after taking a PhD as well as a law degree from Harvard, earned a spot as a law clerk at the US Supreme Court, just like his brother had. But Sasha got a rare stint; he started with Sandra Day O'Connor, but stayed on after the justice retired to clerk for new justice Sam Alito. Sasha now teaches law at Georgetown University.
After more than 25 years in the 3000 community, Vladimir still travels to customer sites, a good portion of each work-month. He invited us to dinner because he was in Austin for a few days, visiting with an HMO based here. He explained that these consulting visits nearly always result in opening a customer's eyes to holes in their system security, disks in need of better management, or productivity from MPEX, a product often already installed on the HP 3000.
Sometimes, he says, the company grants him access to a CIO, COO — a person who can authorize a product purchase or support renewal on the spot. Most of the time, he consults with a technical expert managing a 3000 who must get approval for a new tool, or another year of support.
He grinned when talking about his pitch to companies to keep their 3000s running and maintained as well as the small rental cars he tools around America. "They say to me, 'We do our best' " to maintain and secure. "I say we have experience and know better. I say, "You don't want to do your best. You want to do our best.' "
Like many of us still serving the 3000 market, Vladimir does not know when the community's business will ebb away. He notes that the number of customers has stopped declining, even while VEsoft, like every other 3000 software company, scraps to keep its support contracts active.
"We are still here, eh?" He says it out in the County Line parking lot, always with a smile, after he's picked one of our Texas beef rib bones clean. We lead him out along the highway to the budget motel where he stays in his multi-week journeys, making face-to-face contact with his significant share of the community. The next day he visits Terry Floyd's ERP company the Support Group, inc. On a Saturday, Vladimir trains the staff in the VEsoft product nuances. These veterans of your world remain on the path to assist you, whether you're driving away keeping your course on MPE.
July 28, 2006
Listen up to our First Yearbook Podcast
It's been a year since The 3000 NewsWire posted its first podcast, so it's time for our first Yearbook Podcast (6MB MP3 file) We've had great fun and hoped to entertain you with the sounds of change in your community. We looked back over our sound files to find some favorite voices telling the transition story of your business computer.
This week, with our 33rd podcast, we take 13 minutes to share them with you. Stay tuned in the months to come for more sounds of surprise and unexpected explanations. Let us hear from you about your transition when we call. Everybody deserves some airtime.
July 27, 2006
Another thought about HP's boot project
Once we posted our item about the DICE technical job listing for rewriting the PA-RISC boot sequences, a few comments from HP hardware veterans popped up in reply.
The intrepid Captain GREB, back from a summertime vacation through the Napa wine country, has voiced serious doubts about whether HP is really rebuilding the process to reconfigure PA-RISC servers. He posted a comment to our original item, which might be summarized by his belief that this kind of outside-HP hiring is about 20 years out of date, at least for 3000 engineering:
Outside hiring to work on the MPE kernel? Maybe in 1986, but not in 2006.
Another HP hardware vet called us to suggest that if this project is for real, it might represent a way to keep the 9x7 hardware owners from getting access to MPE/iX 7.0 — by using the Advant/IRS SSEDIT utility to tell the system it's a 9x8. (This is still an experimental switch, even by The Captain's accounts. But the first try did produce a sucessful boot.)
Of course, any HP revision in the boot procedure would have zero effect on the thousands of HP 3000s absolutely frozen by their owners. No changes, no problems, they say. That might be the temperature HP wants to keep those systems, making the servers ever less capable under new computing requirements. (Or not. It's not really healthy to imagine a vendor so calculating about such a small portion of its customer base.)
In any case, it will be interesting to see if the DICE job posting yields changes to the 3000 community's future. On the bright side, the work may just be to make SS_CONFIG more user friendly, for the day when HP will release it, post-support, to the customer community. One report we heard today said that when HP's own engineers tried to use SS_CONFIG at a customer site, the HP CE was stumped. A call to the HP Response Center was needed. Apparently SS_CONFIG, used to maintain HP PA-RISC servers the world over, has documentation in need of revising.
Come to think of it, maybe that's what the DICE position is all about: making some sense of a trade secret program's documentation.
July 26, 2006
3000 site falls to iSeries, while IBM improves value
For several years we've kept track of the IBM alternative to the HP 3000 integrated package. For many years it was called the AS/400, then the iSeries, then the i5, and now, System i. Recently, several items crossed our desk about this server, one whose customers seem as ardent as any HP 3000 fan, dedicated to a longtime solution which is not Windows or Unix-based. (Though the Series i can do Linux, Unix and Windows, with some add-ons)
Item 1: IBM Series i applications often rely on something called 5250 processing capability, a kind of in-the-terminal intelligence. IBM measures this 5250 horsepower, called CPW, and charges a customer accordingly. Your apps need more, you pay extra. The IBM market has responded with software that bypasses the IBM measurements. IBM has followed with suits against several third party firms selling what that market calls "governor-busters." Fast400 was the latest to fall last year, in an out-of-court settlement.
But things change. IBM is now endorsing one of these busters, from Australian company Looksoftware, according to iSeries News. The toolset lookdirect "lets a system's full-batch CPW capability be used for interactive applications — with IBM's blessing."
This a development that seems to mirror one of the bigger questions still before HP 3000 homesteaders: Will HP ever unleash all the horsepower in the N-Class and A-Class servers? If a third-party solution ever emerged to do this, would HP respond with a suit, or support?
IBM's endorsement of lookdirect saves customers money, but will prompt some upgrades to newer System i servers. The iSeries Network reports:
It takes advantage of the latest POWER5 [CPU] technology, allowing the full-batch CPW capability of a system to be utilized for 5250 applications and enabling organizations to deploy 5250 workloads to System i Standard Edition rather than Enterprise Edition.
As an example of cost savings, by deploying 5250 workloads to a Standard Edition 520 with 3,800 CPW in the P10 software tier, you can save up to $60,000 in hardware costs. A high-end user switching to a Standard Edition 595 with 92,000 CPW in the P50/60 software tier can save up to $900,000.
You need to upgrade to a POWER5 server to get this, but nearly a million dollars is not chump change. IBM is a vendor seeing the light about hampering its hardware. This from a vendor still trying to sell its enterprise alternative to the 3000. It does make me wonder how long HP can keep slowdown code in the 3000's OS, with little impact on anything but migration business.
Item 2: IBM announced that its iSeries revenue was down 7 percent for the most recent quarter. Sales tailed off, however, because the vendor couldn't get the systems out the door fast enough. European environmental laws slowed manufacturing. By figuring in this inability to supply all of the demand for System i the year-to-year revenue would have been about flat.
Item 3: IBM, along with Web sites IT Jungle and Search 400, report that Trident Seafood, an HP 3000 shop, has now migrated to an iSeries— er, System i solution. Trident was a long-time 3000 customer, but the story reported by Search400 said "a lot of the company had home-written applications that weren't tightly integrated. Trident was looking for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software package to manage its inventory, allowing an easier way to track where and when the fish and seafood had been and was going.
That is a common profile among HP 3000 manufacting and distribution customers. Integration is hard work, and so many 3000 sites saw their development budgets stripped bare after Y2K. The solution at Trident is the Oracle/JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications, along with a server mirroring solution and some Windows-based (IBM's System x) server capability.
One way to triangulate these data points is to see that IBM will change its business plans to keep the Series i sales moving, all while its packaged applications lineup draws HP 3000 customers out of the homegrown-application cycle. Does HP have an answer to this? The vendor believes that it does in its HP-UX solutions, which probably introduce no more change and cost than moving to a mega-app like EnterpriseOne. Of course, there's that Unix to administer, something less self-maintaining than System i environment.
July 25, 2006
Looking ahead 10 years, not three
HP 3000 migration plans often swing between Windows and HP-UX as target platforms. While plenty of sites want to preserve their applications in a migration, other sites need a new app to replace their 3000 programs. While people say the application decides the platform, some apps — Ecometry comes to mind — are offered on both environments.
Which to choose? The rate of change appears to be on a three-year cycle for Windows customers. HP's estimating it will support its HP-UX version 11i v3 — coming out late this year — until 2016. That's more than the lifespan for Windows 98, which Microsoft yanked this summer to make a big mess in IT. (Some IT pros would argue that Win 98 has been unusable for some time, but it's still on lots of desktops.)
Server-grade environments will get better long-term treatment, but Microsoft is making sea changes faster than HP plans to de-commission its HP-UX versions. Some have even longer lifespans, according to HP's Mark Silverberg, HP's new Manager of Transition, Consulting and Workshops.
(These estimates are new to HP, a spinoff of the acquisition of Digital server business. Many of the US Defense contracts for systems demand a specific end of life date. HP 3000 owners might look on these estimates with some envy, although the dates do not predict the total departure from the OS.)
Look at the HP promises for HP-UX 11i v1. That's the final HP-UX release crafted exclusively for PA-RISC hardware — your garden-variety HP 9000 replacing HP 3000s at migration sites. Released in December of 2000, 11i v1 is estimated to have a support lifespan until 2013.
That's virtually the entire lifespan of Windows from its first usable release in 1990 to the latest Win2003 Enterprise version. Microsoft's environments might look more affordable when making a shift. Customers who rely on Windows, however, appear to be buying into a much more change in a what looks like a lot less years.
July 24, 2006
HP project may change 3000 booting
Even while the third party community offers a way to turn a generic PA-RISC server into an HP 3000, the vendor looks to be launching a project to change the process that permits MPE/iX to boot up on such hardware. It seems like an unusual time for HP to be revising boot processes on hardware HP is dropping.
Earlier this month the computer technology job site DICE listed this opening with HP (although the vendor is working through a third party contractor):
HP PA-RISC Kernel Programmer
Skills: Hewlett Packard PA-RISC servers of HP 9000 and HP 3000, BCH (boot console handler)
Job description: We are looking for a core HP programmer with in-depth knowledge of HPKernels. The Ideal candidate should have experience of Hewlett Packard PA-RISC servers of HP 9000 and HP 3000 class which use standard architecture that has been published by HP. PA-RISC 2.0 architecture has standard entry points in the BCH (boot console handler) firmware that calls an area of non-volatile memory called STABLE STORAGE.
The ideal candidate will be responsible for coding following areas of HP Kernel Architecture.
• How the server is configured, such as hardware boot paths, operations etc,
• Maintains a software ID (called SUSAN code) that third party software vendors can key software to
• Maintains software capability code (0x10000001) that specifies number of users and operating system
• Maintains a model string that identifies the servers configuration for example: e3000/A400-100-11
• When hardware fails, the stable storage can wind up being replaced as it resides on the defective component being replaced.
What we need is someone to write a machine code utility that is read in from the BCH prompt that allow us to reconfigure the stable storage configuration to our customer’s original values.
Why would HP be embarking on this project? There are a lot of potential reasons, some more pedestrian than others. Since the work is aimed at PA-RISC servers, and not the Itanium-based Integrity machines, this doesn't look like an extension of the boot capability for new server models.
Could the end result of this project alter whether a program such as SSEDIT, offered by Advant and its Immediate Recovery Solutions, can configure HP's server hardware?
Then there's the novelty of hiring from outside HP to do work on the HP Kernels. A fella has to wonder why HP doesn't have this expertise in its own labs anymore. It might just be a matter of HP keeping that expertise busy doing something else these days.
If that sounds like a lot of speculation, well, it's the nature of the 3000 community in 2006 to wonder what's happening inside HP about its server. The last official communique from HP outlined its extension of the support business to 2008, on a limited basis. Jeff Vance of the HP 3000 labs has posted less-official updates this year on extending the beta patch test field and updating customers on the prospects for another 6.5 PowerPatch release.
This rewrite of the boot control handler might be a project with wider focus than any of those informal updates. One seasoned 3000 vet explained that the BCH is the jumping off point for the deepest of processes on the system:
BCH = “Boot Console Handler.” See docs.hp.com/en/diag/ode/pa_ode_over.htm
To run the Offline Diagnostics Tools, the system must be at the Boot Console Handler (BCH). When the system is configured to boot to the operating system automatically, it waits for user's intervention for 10 seconds. You can press any key to stop the auto boot process and go to the main menu prompt.
So it is the 3000/9000 boot prompt, from where you can run very low level utilities.
July 21, 2006
Contributions frozen, one summer later
Twelve months after the HP user group Interex folded, its Contributed Software Library (CSL) is not much closer to the hands of those who contributed the programs.
The CSL, once regarded as a prime benefit of corporate Interex membership, fell into the "unreleased assets" pile during the user group's 2005 bankruptcy. The volunteer curator of these programs is still taking care of them, but he doesn't believe he's got a green light yet to make the CSL — in its entirety — a public resource.
Back in 2005, OpenMPE director and former Interex SIG chair Donna Garverick was hopeful about the CSL seeing the light of a new day, or a new year at least, post-Interex. "Regarding the CSL in particular, there are several people working on making the CSL software publically available," she said. "It will take a fair amount of work to get the contributions repackaged so that they are download-friendly. However, before anything can really be made available, 3000 CSL chair Chuck Shimada wants to try to contact the contributors to get their permission to post their works."
Even with contributors contacted, a legal roadblock remains in place, Shimada told us this week.
Shimada, who's enduring a family illness recently that's reduced his volunteer time, said the bankruptcy court hasn't cleared the release of the CSL as a single entity. But he's still able to distribute individual programs — things like BOUNCER, designed to get users off a 3000 who aren't active, to free up system resources.
I still have not received the final notice from the court about Interex's assets yet. I will still make contributions available on an individual basis until the court closes the case. I don't have a system set up yet to offer the software for uncontrolled access.
There's not much blame to assign for the delay in getting the CSL back into community hands. Bankrupcies, especially those like the Interex one with thousands of people getting stiffed, can get complex. (Chris Bartram of 3k.com is among several community members ready to host these HP 3000-specific programs; here's already links and a good chunk of this "freeware" up on the 3k.com site.)
But in a better world, while the Interex managers were concerned about dismissing staff with some notice and order, someone might have proposed a way to liberate the most obvious asset of the group's volunteer spirit. Until the legal cloud clears, if you're seeking an individual CSL program, contact Shimada at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 20, 2006
Encompass revives a moving SIG
Interex Special Interest Groups often provided some of the best value from the now-defunct user group. More useful information about HP's plans and help from the community passed in SIG-MPE, SIG-COBOL and SIG-IMAGE rooms, among many of the SIGs, than in any CEO's keynote. Interex didn't embrace SIGs with the same vigor that it showed for Regional User Groups. The lack of specialization in the RUGs, along with their declining volunteer supporters, contributed to the demise of Interex.
Now in the same month when Interex slipped under during 2005, the Encompass user group is bringing one of the Interex SIGs back online, literally. Encompass coordinator Barbara O'Connor reported that SIG Migrate is making a comeback on a browser near you.
Encompass has been working with [Speedware's] Nicolas Fortin to launch SIG MIGRATE under the Encompass umbrella. To officially kick off this SIG, we are holding a launch Webcast on July 26.
An initial online meeting is right in step with what the 3000 community can afford these days. This month's try at 3000 education from MPE-Education.com would have been delivered "the Virtual Classroom Environment that is instructor-led," said instructor Paul Edwards. He added that they'll "try to schedule another class in the fall, after summer vacations are over."
But next Wednesday, Encompass wants you to log in to its first SIG Webcast if you are "thinking about or in the process of migrating off the HP e3000." The user group is calling SIG-Migrate its newest SIG. As I recall, it was one of the newest SIGs in the Interex roster, too.
Encompass says the SIG is "dedicated to help HP e3000 companies interested in the subject of system transition, connect together and get access to information, resources and solutions." If you've already migrated and want to share your stories of dragons slayed, they'd like to have you online, too.
The webcast will provide an overview of the SIG, its mission and plans for current and future activities, as well as a special guest who will have some unique insight from large migration projects in-progress. In addition, all attendees will be entered to win an Amazon.com gift certificate. If you own an HP e3000 and are interested in this subject, be sure to join us and learn more!
Migration-bound 3000 sites can register for the Webcast by visiting the Encompass Web site for Webcasts. At the bottom of the page lies a link to the registration page. Click on the link and follow these instructions:
- If you have never participated in an Encompass/HP webcast, click on 'First Time Users Click Here To Register'.
* Please use hpencompass as your signup password
* You will need to create a User ID and password for yourself; it is important that you remember this information as you will need it when you log into the website for the webcast.
* Please be sure to test your PC on the HP Virtual Room 2-3 days prior to the webcast. If you any have problems when you test, please call the HP Virtual Room help desk at (888) 351-4732 so that the problem can be solved prior to the webcast.
If you have participated in an HP/Encompass webcast in the past, enter your ID and Password and then select 'Course Catalog' and click on the webcast(s) in which you would like to participate.
July 19, 2006
3000 training strives for venue
As Computerworld reminded us yesterday, the HP user group Interex shut its doors in a rush one year ago this week. The user group had decided to go an independent route, rather than let HP steer content in HP World. Part of that content was once training in the basic use of the HP 3000, as well as savvy from experts who cut their IT eye teeth on the system.
Earlier this summer a couple of those experts announced they planned to hold a training session on MPE/iX Fundamentals, the first such class in several years. Like Interex, HP's gotten out of the training business. It's up to independents like Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith to step in where an $8 million user group or an $80 billion vendor used to serve education.
Unfortunately the duo's MPE-Education.com effort fell short of finding its paying customers in time for the July 24 start date. Sometimes classes don't "make" because of scheduling conflicts, and other times cost is an issue. Travel couldn't have gotten in the way this time, because MPE-Education.com was offering its classes online.
Commitments in cash turned out to be the roadblock to getting the training started next week. "The problem was that we had 12-15 prospective students with requests from various companies, including some from HP India," said Edwards. "We finally only had a couple of students registered after we announced the schedule to the prospects. But,when it came time to pay in advance, we got no payments. We needed at least three paying students to cover the cost of the Virtual Classroom technology. We plan to try another date later in the fall based on our schedules."
Rather than looking backward at an Interex that couldn't sustain a brick and mortar user group, Edwards and Smith are still looking forward to offering their classes in the months to come. Encompass is forming up some of the remaining Interex Special Interest Groups under its user group banner. But training in 3000 skills doesn't look to be among the user group's offerings to the 3000 community.
July 18, 2006
Timely photos of a time-frozen HP
HP carries more history with it than any other Silicon Valley computer maker. The dedication to history is one reason the HP 3000 lasted as long as it did in HP's business plans; the company cared about its longstanding customers up through November of 2001, even though the platform wasn't bringing in as much growth as others. (Profit is another measure altogether. HP still won't step off its 3000 support track at the end of this year. That business is still plenty profitable, per dollar of revenue received.)
All that HP attention to the past is illustrated in a photo essay out on the Web this month. CNET took cameras for a tour of HP's Page Mill Road headquarters, a building erected in 1960 and preserved in that style even today.
One especially interesting photo was evidence of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's open door policy. The CNET photographer took a shot showing how the office linoleum in Packard's space had been bleached by the sun coming through the open door.
HP want to open other doors to its 3000 customers today. The 46-year-old HQ building is a memorial to a company and its ideals — inspired work that led to its first general purpose business computer, your system, that sparked the PA-RISC revolution and led to the Unix dreadnought. Alas, the CNET photos of the key products under glass at HP HQ do not include an HP 3000. Only the ThinkJet printer and HP 35 calculator earned a shot. Have a look at the series to recall the HP of the 20th Century.
July 17, 2006
WRQ name brand disappears into Attachmate
One year after the merger between connectivity rivals Attachmate and WRQ was completed, the companies have decided this month to do business from here on strictly as Attachmate. Earlier this year the corporation which was once WRQ — and an HP 3000 supplier called Walker, Richer & Quinn starting in 1981 — purchased NetIQ for nearly half a billion dollars.
Now that the NetIQ purchase has cleared its hurdles, the company has dropped the WRQ portion of the AttachmateWRQ name. (NetIQ never got a chance to be tacked onto the company name.) The three companies now boast a $400 million yearly run rate and serve more than 40,000 customers. AttachmateWRQ took NetIQ private, buying up its shares off the Nasdaq exchange.
Aside from the name change — and the addition of NetIQ's products and revenue to this conglomerate owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Cressey Equity Partners — the company assures its WRQ customers nothing else has changed. Support numbers and contact information remains the same. Attachmate operates out of the former WRQ HQ on Dexter Avenue in Seattle, although NetIQ does its business out of Houston.
Long, long ago in the 3000 community's timeline, WRQ noted that its prowess in the 3000 connectivity market was unmatched. In one of the first Q&A interviews we ever posted on The 3000 NewsWire Web site, then-VP of sales and marketing Kevin Klustner answered these questions;
HP 3000 terminal emulation is no simple matter, but it continues to draw new entrants on a regular basis. What's WRQ's advantage to sites who might be considering one of these newcomers because they know them from another market?
That's exactly why Attachmate and White Pine are doing the HP stuff. Attachmate is responding to a lot of their IBM-oriented customers that have HP 3000s, and those customers want to buy connectivity from a single vendor. The difference for us is that we were born and grew up in the HP 3000 world, and we know HP terminals and the HP 3000 better than anybody else outside of HP itself.
But is there really a big difference for most customers in how much you know about 3000 emulation?
They don't care about terminal emulation so long as it works for them. As soon as some quirky escape sequence comes down, well... More importantly, connecting via network to an HP 3000 is no simple trick.
Three years later in 1999 WRQ denied a rumor it was merging with Attachmate. But the sale of the company to the investor group in late 2004, after WRQ had its best year in the company's history, changed all that. The series of mergers over the past 18 months has put many engineers and managers under one shield, one that Attachmate assures customers has "near complete penetration of the Global 10,000. As a combined organization, Attachmate is uniquely positioned to provide enterprise software that allows customers to extend mission-critical services and assure that they are managed, secure and compliant."
July 14, 2006
Acucorp's aid and view of migration
A few weeks back we introduced the 7.2 version of extend, the COBOL development suite from Acucorp which includes the AcuCOBOL compiler. The company has added some new features in AcuCOBOL to help HP 3000 users looking for a 3000-compatible compiler while moving to a new platform:
In Version 7.2, there were several minor changes added that extend the HP 3000-specific functionality of our products. These were all designed to improve HP 3000 compatibility with ACUCOBOL-GT and AcuBench, and include the ability to link non-parsable COPY files in graphical Working-Storage.
As we said earlier, Acucorp has been at work longer than any company, with success, at building a compiler that will take on the 3000's COBOL II code with the least number of changes.
In addition, Acucorp's spokesperson Kendra DeWitt gave us a benchmark of how much migration has been happening among its customers from the 3000 to other systems:
We have more than 70 customers worldwide that have migrated from the HP 3000 to a new platform. The majority of these customers are corporate end users. A smaller percentage are ISVs (or companies that use our software in the development of their own software packages). Notable new ISV accounts include Computer & Software Enterprise, Inc. and Software Technology Concepts.
July 13, 2006
Attendance aid and content for Tech Forum
While HP 3000 users wait on details for their 3000-specific conference in Houston, Encompass has added help and incentives for getting your trip approved to September's HP Technology Forum. The Forum costs a good deal more than the GHRUG event — but if you're moving from MPE/iX to HP-UX, Windows or even Linux, your company needs to have training in the budget.
Yesterday Encompass put up its 2006 Session Scheduler, a way to keep your training trip efficient. A detailed schedule might convince your upper management to green-light your training, but the Tech Forum Web site requires a registration before you can start scheduling online. A good public-access catalog, however, can help you build a list of sessions to show your IT director, CFO, president or controller.
If you're not lucky enough to be one of those things for your company, then Encompass has offered a novel tool — new to the 3000 community, anyway. There's a draft letter on the user group's Web site which helps you build a case, and estimate expenses, for the Tech Forum trip. (We note that the total cost might need such a letter, unless you have an well-established training budget.)
There's also a bonus that's expiring in two days: the $100 HP Bucks for registering by midnight Saturday, July 15. As for 3000-specific content, that public catalog lists six sessions. Every one of them covers an aspect of migration, but some are bound to have new information. We are, after all, close to five years into the 3000 Transition Era.
Talks from Speedware's Chris Koppe, MB Foster president Birket Foster, HP's Kevin Cooper, Jim Hawkins and a panel led by HP's Alvina Nishimoto cover migration tool strategy; database migration; estimating performance of migrated applications; peripheral/high availability migration, and migration success stories, respectively.
There's also a tag-team session on the four-plus years of migration experience, delivered by HP and its Platinum Migration Partners, MB Foster and Speedware.
Six sessions over three days may not seem like a lot, but there's ample HP-UX and Windows sessions, too. More than 400 of them, by Encompass accounting. HP CEO Mark Hurd is delivering a keynote, not exactly a commonplace event for the vendor's new leader.
Finally, for the company still on the bubble, deciding about migration, OpenMPE has scheduled an update on its plans and goals for post-HP use of the 3000. Four board members, including Foster and Speedware's Jennifer Fisher, will be at the Campground meeting.
If you've been to an Interex conference in the past, this event might seem like a different approach. HP critique won't be impassioned like the "hockey fights" of HP Worlds past, to use HP VP David Parson's term for the classic debates. Things move on, and GHRUG is in the wings with its November event, probably costing 70 percent less, if we have to guess. Maintaining your commitment to HP might be as good a reason as any to give the Forum a try.
July 12, 2006
Houston RUG opens arms for conference talks
The only 3000-specific user conference for 2006 is starting the public portion of its year, as the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) announced that it's looking for speakers for its November event.
The group's Web site won't prop open the door much wider to anyone who wants to deliver a talk on the HP 3000, however. A link to a "Call for Attendees" on the conference page still refers to a one-day event from the fall of 2005; the map of the conference site also contains last year's dates. The 2006 conference dates (Nov. 10-12) and site (University of Houston, Clear Lake campus) have been released for months already.
GHRUG is sponsoring the conference, however, and the group has a board of directors contact page. Richard Pringle is listed as GHRUG president; contact him at Richard.Pringle@escg.jacobs.com to submit a paper proposal — until the community gets a little wider doorway into the conference content.
July 11, 2006
Southwest takes a seat, perhaps with 3000
Monday was a black-pencil day for Southwest Airlines, the only US carrier that has maintained black ink on its bottom line for a quarter-century. The airline, whose ticketless reservation system has long been powered by HP 3000 technology, started an experiment yesterday. It assigned seats for its passengers flying from San Diego to Phoenix.
Southwest is famous for its "cattle call" boarding regimen, which some flyers love and others endure. The airline does this to get its passengers on board faster, an efficiency tactic a lot like relying on HP 3000s. Very different, but it works. Aircraft make no money for an airline on the ground, waiting. Airlines make a lot less money taking reservations with agents and issuing paper tickets. While you can still get a live person to take your reservation these days, the purchase always goes into a system that issues no paper ticket. (Unless you want to pay extra.)
Ticketless travel was a 3000-sparked industry innovation, but now Southwest is experimenting with being like everybody else. A few years back the company announced it would be migrating off its HP 3000s, someday, but to the best of our information those systems are still dealing out your tickets. Now those 3000s might be asked to take on a new cargo, so to speak: assigning seats.
A report on today's NPR Morning Edition described the scene at yesterday's San Diego gate for the Southwest flights. "Southwest has no software to assign seats," the reporter said. "So gate agents had to assign seats by hand. In pencil, with plenty of erasing."
Could the Southwest ticket application, first written by Morris Air in the 1980s, then sold to Southwest along with Morris gates and planes and carried into the 21st Century, gain another feature? It would require a positive customer response from that pencil-laden experiment, to begin with. The application under MPE, however, only needs to add one feature. The rest of the app's functionality is proven.
HP 3000s still drive a lot of airline computing. We are told that Navataire, the company which purchased the OpenSkies systems, still operates about three dozen 3000s, mostly N-Class, to do fare revenue accounting for a number of airlines. Navitaire says little about its use of the 3000s in its IT shop, but those applications are efficient, even if the computer cowboys consider them old ponies. OpenSkies was once owned by HP and the 3000 division, but sold off in 2000 to the company which became Navataire. Less than a year later, HP announced it would pull out of the 3000 market as well.
Southwest is testing the assigned seating for about the same reason that HP improved MPE's networking in the late 1990s. Some people won't come close to a Southwest seat unless it's assigned. IT shops couldn't keep their 3000s running unless they could exchange data over industry networks, using standards like FTP and DNS.
We don't know if the Southwest experiment will send the airline into the same class as its less-efficient, less profitable competition. Integrating seat assignment into Southwest's replacement application had better be easy, however. That's the flexibility promised for the migration away from an efficient, if aging, steed.
July 10, 2006
Making a big leap to the latest OS
Since HP 3000 users rely on the "ain't broke — don't fix it" maxim, many of these sites still use much older versions of the MPE/iX operating system. Sooner or later these 6.0 and earlier customers find a reason to upgrade — to keep pace with a third party application, fix a problem with network software, or take advantage of FTP features. Whatever the cause, it can seem like a large leap to go from a 1997 OS to one that HP first released in 2002.
It's not a complicated journey, according to HP 3000 support expert Gilles Schipper. The founder of GSA — the oldest third party 3000 support firm in North America — guided a customer through the necessary steps recently.
Schipper shared his experience with the community in a posting on the 3000-L newsgroup:
A. Is 7.5 the latest and last HP 3000 version?
Yes. And PowerPatch 2 is the latest (although not necessarily the last) PowerPatch for 7.5 (I believe).
B. Can I go directly to 7.5 or do I have to go to 6.5, then 7.0 then 7.5?
No, you've got to get onto 6.5 first to make the shift to 7.5.
According to the "HP e3000 MPE/iX System Software Mainteneance Manual (Release C.75.00)" (Order Part No. 30216-90342 E0802), Chapter 3, Page 60, you need to be at minimum Release Version 6.5 to be able to update to 7.5.
If you are on release 6.0, you must first update to 6.5 or 7.0 before you can update to 7.5.
Also, you cannot update to 7.0 or 7.5 with certain older models of HP3000 - such as 9x7 models.
You can get the manual at:
(The above link downloads a PDF file from HP's server.)
C. Is there a list of changes from 6 to 7.5?
Yes. Best to see the 6.5, 7.0, and 7.5 Communicators:
Tracy Johnson added an important hardware note:
Don't forget to remove any HP-IB cards.
July 07, 2006
Homesteaders get their meeting at Tech Forum
The HP Technology Forum has gained its first bona-fide homesteading session among its HP 3000 content. OpenMPE will have an update session on Tuesday, September 19 starting at 5 PM, according to OpenMPE board member Chuck Ciesinski.
This will be an information session rather than technical instruction about using the HP 3000. OpenMPE is getting what host user group Encompass calls one of its "Campground" meetings, a cousin to the Birds of a Feather or Special Interest Groups in the old Interex model. At least four of the nine OpenMPE board members will be on hand in Houston to recap what's been accomplished through the OpenMPE advocacy and lay out the goals for the group in the near term.
HP virtually put a hold on OpenMPE's goals timetable last December; the vendor's announcement of licensing MPE/iX source came saddled with a two-year delay on that release, since HP stretched its 3000 support business out at least two extra years. But at least two more years will give OpenMPE some time to develop a strategy that might attract membership commitments from homesteading customers — a message the group will now be able to promote at HP's Technology Forum.
The addition of an OpenMPE session signals effort on the part of OpenMPE to reach out to Encompass, too. The enterprise user group, still standing after the Interex collapse of 2005, is welcoming any relationship that might bring more HP 3000 owners into Encompass ranks.
Group president Kristi Browder said last fall that the 3000 customers would have to face the inevitable fact of migration, a challenge the user group can assist with. Some customers will draw up their own definitions of how inevitable their migration is — and perhaps look to Encompass to offer 3000 homesteading support as a new benefit. After all, the group has a dedicated band of Digital customers using VAX systems, VMS and even PDP-11s — all well past the vendor's "end-of-life" dates.
July 06, 2006
While Tech Forum markets, GHRUG waits
Encompass and HP are turning up the marketing machine for their September HP Technology Forum, putting postcards in mailboxes, sending e-mail to prospects, extending discounts and announcing speakers. An early-bird discount rate runs out at the end of next week for the Forum registration. Meanwhile, the GHRUG conference which opens six weeks after the HP Tech Forum closes is not making a direct play for training and networking expenditures. At least not yet.
The GHRUG three-day event, billed as the only 3000-specific conference for 2006, will be soliciting a formal call for speakers by the end of the summer, according to one report we received this week. The dates are set (Nov. 10-12), as is the venue (U. of Houston Clear Lake), so the travel and "I'll be out of the office" plans can proceed. All that remains is a reason to attend: The content, most important to a 3000 manager looking for help to homestead or begin a migration. The homestead talks will be the most exclusive part of the GHRUG event.
Last year the Tech Forum marketed straight up against Interex and its HP World show. Some Interex veterans said that Smith Bucklin, the conference company that sold the show floor space, used all the leverage HP could provide the Tech Forum as the vendor's official venue. Laying back until the same Smith Bucklin team and Encompass has done its marketing — say, September — might be a strategy to pick up attendees who can't afford the Tech Forum's rates (still more than $900 even with all the available discounts.)
Okay, I admit it; I'm eager to see what the 3000-specific effort will bring to the market. It looks like the customer base may have wait awhile longer to find out, while supporters from the vendor community do, too.
July 05, 2006
OpenMPE persistence overcomes resistance
OpenMPE has outlasted another case of an HP pace — the slow, methodical, sometimes overworked pace that reflects the vendor's waning involvement with the HP 3000. More than two years ago, HP made a pledge of $5,000 to OpenMPE, an act of good faith not meant to overwhelm the advocacy group's treasury. The contribution, however, failed to appear at the OpenMPE accounting office, month after month. A public apology last summer from HP's Mike Paivinen, primary contact with OpenMPE, didn't get the money moving any faster, either.
But like OpenMPE's insistence on an answer about releasing source code after HP support quits the platform, the HP funding finally came through a little while ago. In meeting minutes approved in mid-June, the group noted that HP's check had arrived and cleared at last.
The group had to restructure its process to accomodate HP's payment methods. It turns out that HP couldn't make a donation to a for-profit organization. So OpenMPE had to set up a Professional Services Agreement with HP, make out the bill for "market consulting" for $5,000, then wait for the money to show up in a direct invoice payment.
It might have been easy to give up on a pledge more than 18 months old. But OpenMPE is run by IT professionals, people used to dogging down an answer or cornering a solution through repeated attempts. Built to survive on a miniscule budget, the organization can wait for answers instead of going dark, like another HP user organization did one year ago this month.
I think it's important to remember that OpenMPE, as of now, is the only group communicating directly with HP which is going to ask the hard questions about the 3000's future on behalf of homesteading customers. Encompass is dedicated to helping HP 3000 customers, but as of this writing the services are aimed only at the customer moving away from the platform.
It is easy to dismiss a group that consists of a handful of community veterans and perhaps 300 more who belong with free membership. That would be a mistake, so long as this group continues to wrest support and answers from HP, no matter how long it takes.
July 04, 2006
Celebrate independent acts and thought
Here in the US we're celebrating Independence Day. Independence is an essential part of the HP 3000 heritage. Your system was created independent of HP's desires for its business — HP founder David Packard didn't believe a business computer was the right product for his company. Perhaps, in a way, his company has come full circle then, now thinking the HP 3000 isn't right for its business strategies.
Like the engineers and managers who muscled on anyway with the 3000 project, you can think for yourself. If your taste for the menu of change is moderated by your budget — or your memory is long enough to recall how much change can cost in momentum, as well as money — you have an independent option. Don't change anything but your suppliers. Or move slow enough that your change is as subtle as the evolution of the 3000's environment. MPE is software now in its fourth decade, still being changed by its creators.
If staying put is your best business plan, turn your attentions to training. Hone the cutting edge of your tool with consulting to expand the 3000's reach. Call up Paul Edwards or Frank Alden Smith and arrange for a class for your IT staff. Independent training is available, just like independent support and independent depots for systems and parts.
Not all attempts at independence succeed. One year ago this month, 3000 customers heard their user group go bump in the night, falling so it could not get up over its 2004 decision to be indepdendent of HP. The decision to go your own way can be edgy, even if it feels necessary. It can be comforting to remember the fellow rebels out there alongside you, if your path is parting from HP's.
July 03, 2006
Take a taste of training for Unix
In marketing they call them loss leaders. In the HP training community they call them Webcasts. Encompass, the surviving HP user group representing enterprise customers like 3000 sites, wants to give away an hour of HP-UX training next week, hoping to convince you that six more hours would be worth a trip to Houston in September.
The first hour is free on July 13, when you can go to the Encompass Web site, enter your ID and Password and then select 'Course Catalog' and click on "the July 13th webcast" from Bill Hassell — who's leading a 7-hour pre-conference course at this year's HP Technology Forum.
If you've never taken an Encompass Web course before — and that would probably be most of the HP 3000 community — then you'll have to sign up for "Tips and Secrets for HP-UX Admins" at the Encompass Web site. For just the effort of submitting an e-mail address, and assigning yourself a name and password, you'll be told a lot about simplifying the job of running an HP-UX server, according to Hassell's teaser for his loss leader.
In just an hour's time starting at 4 PM Eastern time in the US, he promises
Learn about the club where membership is NOT recommended and how to avoid becoming a member. You will learn why 777 and -9 are bad numbers. Discover the best way to locate disk space hogs. Find out how to synchronize server time to the world's most accurate Atomic clock . See how to run commands on dozens of servers with a single command. You will see how to avoid "not a typewriter" errors and an easy way to summarize syslog messages.
With a lesson list like that for just 60 minutes, it makes you wonder what Bill will be able to do with an all-day session in September.
But you can't beat the price on this first hour, and getting a Unix tour from somebody who knows the terrain as well as Hassell could spark some interest among any less-than-excited converts to a new operating environment. Change happens. Get over it, HP advises. Training helps get over the hump; and you might be able to leverage that free hour into a training trip to the Lone Star State this fall.