September 28, 2007
Another, third-party way to extend 3000 life
3000 customers are starting to notice something called the Orbit Advantage, a solution to performance futures for MPE/iX which Orbit and its partner Ideal have quietly started to roll out.
I don't think calling the Orbit Advantage an "emulator," as Joe has ably located in the Web address below, accurately describes what is being offered.
Some months ago, Advant started to roll out hardware and software to let MPE/iX operate on PA-RISC servers — all such servers, no matter what HP firmware determined the system's preferred boot-up OS.
The new feature here is VM/iX, software with the ability to relocate the MPE/iX instance, so the MPE/iX OS can perform on any of HP's PA-RISC hardware with a different HP model name.
VM+/iX provides HP 3000 users the capability to virtualize their existing servers onto other servers to achieve increased performance, long-term maintainability and significant cost savings.
The Advantage is a package is Orbit has bundled with Backup+/iX, whose latest version includes the much-needed AES 256-bit encryption and Cipher-Block Chaining.
Not long ago on the HP 3000 newsgroup and mailing list, I enjoyed reading a lively discussion of encryption needs. Backup+/iX offers what some 3000 customers need to satisfy federal and auditor security requirements. It now appears that the Orbit Advantage offers even more than what auditors need.
HP has its views on whether MPE/iX can be run directly on any PA-RISC hardware which is not stable-storage-wired to behave like a 3000. The software gives customers another option, other than hosting MPE/iX on another kind of HP PA-RISC box.
Very little of this will have an impact on extending useful lifespan of the 3000. That kind of extension — and yes, technically it could be 20 years — is up to customers and their partners, not Hewlett-Packard. Advant has said that its intent with VM/iX is to provide "death with dignity" to the 3000 line, a hospice effort.
September 27, 2007
Is 2010 really HP's end?
HP made a September 26 announcement that it will extend limited support for the HP 3000 through the end of 2010. But I did not see anything in HP's communication that shut the support door — and HP's 3000 business — completely as of Dec. 31, 2010.
HP has no plans to keep supporting 3000 customers beyond that date. But the vendor did not say that it will not, under any circumstances, end its MPE/iX support at that time.
We may be reading tea leaves here, but with two support extensions already behind us, it seemed responsible to ask if there was any chance of another. The last extension through 2008, announced at Christmas of 2005, said the company's 3000 support would run until '08 "or later." Those two words — the "or later" — are absent from the HP announcement of this week.
But there's still some possibility of support offerings, however slim — provided customers need this and can talk HP into it and the vendor can deliver what it considers "high-quality" support.
"HP does not foresee HP e3000 end-of-support dates being extended beyond 2010 and Customers should plan their migrations accordingly. Any future considerations will be a based on Customer demand and HP's ability to deliver high quality support."
There is a prospect for future considerations. Some of the reason for this possibility, however slim, is that by 2010 the system's HP support will be almost entirely in the hands of HP Services, instead of the HP 3000 group inside TCSD, the Total Customer Experience and Support Division that contains the staff of the 3000's lab.
Observers in the 3000 community, including partners, now say that HP Services is making the decisions about these support extensions. The speculation may be even more true, now that HP is turning off its patch creation lab for the 3000 in 15 months.
September 26, 2007
HP extends 3000 support through 2010
Hewlett-Packard announced today that it is extending its HP 3000 support once again, setting the end date for manufacturer support at December 2010. But the new HP support which begins in January 2009 will include no new patches, and the fate of untested HP patches as of December 31, 2008 remains unclear.
e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou and 3000 community liaison Craig Fairchild briefed the NewsWire about the extension five todays before today's announcement. As they have stated in the past, Hou said the extra two years of HP phone-in, online and fax support doesn't change HP's recommendation to customers: Proceed with migration plans to other HP platforms as quickly as possible.
But the extension will carry on HP's 3000 business, however limited, to a full four years beyond its initial 2006 end of support deadline. Hou said this summer that some migrations, especially the more complex projects, are taking longer than planned. Customers asked for the extra time to count on HP.
"We are going to extend the e3000 support to the end of 2010," Hou said. "What we will be offering will not be at the same level as [the Basic Support] we have been doing in the past. We continue to work with customers, evaluating how they're doing with their migrations, and understanding their current support needs that we're hearing from customers. We've also looked internally at HP in terms of our ability to continue providing the right level of support to our customers."
"The intent of this program is to provide customers who still need support on the 3000 that extra time to complete and finalize their migrations," Fairchild said.
Fairchild said the new support level is being called Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering. This "MPS w/o SE" will end HP's creation of all patches for the HP 3000's MPE/iX operating environment. This mature support offering will also drop any lab work for the 3000 on future security patches. The extended service has new limits, he said, but hardware system support will remain unchanged.
"We're calling this a limited support extension," Fairchild said. "Hardware support will be unaffected. It will be the same level of support we're providing today — with the caveat of potential regional differences, where HP may have to discontinue [some hardware] support earlier than December, 2010."
HP posted its announcement to its e3000 Web site this morning, as well as an FAQ document and a data sheet for the '09-'10 support offering.
The HP patches carry enhancements to the platform, even in this year, the fourth decade of HP 3000 service. More than 80 beta-test patches, some repairing critical bugs, remain available only to HP support customers — without a general release to the 3000 community. Since HP's lab services manage this general release of these patches, the fate of dozens of engineering projects since 2002 remains uncertain. Some patches may remain in beta-test status indefinitely, unless customers can test and report to HP.
HP will continue to do "complex problem isolation" for its 3000 customers throughout 2009 and 2010, Fairchild added. "[HP support] customers can continue to access HP technical experts for assistance with software operation and implementation problems [through the extended period]."
HP can find and apply it software solutions already available, and do workarounds through the support of the system. "We'll no longer provide the Software Update Service," he said. "That implies that there will be no new releases, no new PowerPatches, no new [software] replacement products.
"There will be no new patches, including for newly-discovered security vulnerabilities that may arise beyond December, 2008."
HP's main target of the extended 3000 support is its existing support customers, but any customer using a 3000 can qualify for the new MPS without SE.
September 25, 2007
How far away is your tomorrow?
It was late in the evening, Texas time, when my phone in the office rang. I answer if I'm not writing, or near enough to hear the ring. The caller caught me.
"Hello, Ron," said Vladimir Volokh in his inimitable Ukranian accent. The co-creator of VEsoft and its MPEX flagship was on the road as usual. His custom, for more than a decade now, is to visit his thousands of customers in person. He travels in a modest rental car and even more modest hotels, but the road life can leave a warrior alone. Vladimir was reaching out, connecting.
He thanked me for including his name in the "Dropping Names" entry in our latest printed issue. Vladimir had sent us the letter to Yale New Haven Hospital, the correspondence that thanked the hospital for the very first order of any HP 3000, more than 35 years ago.
Years were on Vladimir's mind that night. "Do you know how many more years until the HP 3000 stops running?" It was a good question, and the answer is one that homesteading customers should know by heart.
"It is 20," he said. The MPE CALENDAR intrinsic will only display dates until Dec. 31, 2027, he reminded me. "I tell the customers don't worry — you have 20 more years. And by then, we may think of something to get us beyond that date."
That year, 2027, will put many of the 3000 managers beyond US retirement age. And the number, 20, is not one you will hear from Hewlett-Packard without prompting. The vendor still reminds its customers to complete their migrations as soon as possible, onto another HP platform.
With two decades until the machine absolutely fails, a customer manages risk in continuing — but largely from its application supplier. It the app creator is you, or your company, then 2027, or 20, is a significant number, the date of the last tomorrow for the MPE we know today.
Vladimir reminds his customers that migration deadlines, HP's and other vendors, seem a lot like the horizon. "You know what the horizon is," he tells them. "It is something that, the closer you get to it, the farther away it moves."
September 24, 2007
Keeping up with what's dropped
Every HP 3000 site uses hardware which HP can drop from support. The vendor likes to call this act "obsoleting," but that's a matter of customer strategy. A product from HP, however, can fall from the company price list and still remain eligible for support.
When that support dies, though, the product is no longer in HP's 3000 ecosystem. Then it passes out into the wider landscape of the third parties. Companies need to know when this happens, whether migrating or homesteading.
Migration takes awhile, after all. Some customers are moving to open source solutions now, in preparation for moving off the HP 3000 in a few years.
Happily, HP has a Web page that keeps track of the hardware products it stopped supporting. This information is good to keep up with, especially if a site manager is replacing HP 3000 hardware with something else in the 3000 line. The newly arrived hardware might need a support contract, perhaps from the reseller who's delivering the product.
You will want to bookmark the HP main page for 3000 end of support dates. This Web resource should be a part of regularly scheduled HP 3000 management and strategy.
Less happily, the organization of HP's information could use a little help, in my opinion. HP's got separate links for each of its models of systems, all along the right-hand side of the page. I am not sure why each hardware family needs to have its own page. But on the plus side, the pages explain HP's arcane acronyms and states of support:
• Off CPL (Corporate Price List) date - date when HP stops selling a product.
• Actively sold products’ likely off CPL dates - projected date or timeframe that HP will stop selling a product.
• GMS (Guaranteed Minimum Support) date - minimum end-of-support date set at "off CPL" date by HP.
• Actively sold products’ proposed GMS dates - the likely GMS date to be set at the "off CPL" date.
• ECA (End-of-Contract Availability) - the HP Support community evaluates the GMS date within two years of its occurrence and for some products establishes an extended support period of time that ends with the ECA date. End-of-support should be considered the GMS date unless a later ECA date has been established.
Not much has changed on this hardware list for a long time. Well, since December of 2005 — getting on towards two years — when HP extended 3000 support, but pared it back to either Basic or "whatever you can negotiate in your area."
September 22, 2007
Anniversary advice, and appreciation
In our first podcast in many a moon (7 minutes, 7 MB), I looked for a subject close to my heart. September is a month that calls up anniversaries. One for Hewlett-Packard, one for the 3000 NewsWire, even one for the family which founded the 3000 NewsWire. Me and my partner Abby Lentz are celebrating our wedding anniversary this weekend — 17 years together as friends, lovers and business partners. Just about all of the engagements two people can have, really. My life is richer, believe me, in more ways than I can say since this very day in 1990.
Anniversaries are a good time to look back on the times we loved. Or remember the lessons we learned. But you can rush to review too quickly. Carly Fiorina, the CEO who pared back HP so it could gobble up new business, she probably deserves credit for starting the changes in HP. How well have those changes worked out for you? Different people have different answers this month. Let us hear about yours, after you listen to our September song.
September 20, 2007
Fall Bayside MPE Meet is a go
The 3000 networking event of the year is officially on the community's schedule, as the San Francisco bayside MPE meeting is set with a location and a growing agenda. Most interesting to us: Nearly an hour-and-a-half of 5-minute slots when any attendee can talk, ask questions or relate their tales of 3000 migration or homesteading.
And while we mean anybody, that will be an intimate group. The group's key organizers — Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Michael Marxmeier of Eloquence maker Marxmeier AG — are holding the line at 50 attendees. Get your name in soon to earn one of the spots. Speedware, in a key sponsorship move, will be making a signup Web page available next week, we are told.
On the agenda already, according to Yeo: members of HP's 3000 crew; Birket Foster with an OpenMPE update; Speedware; Gavin Scott of Allegro/Resource 3000 on homestead and extended support options; Rick Gilligan of banking app provider CASE (a COBOL shop and migration site); contact with the Encompass user group; Micro Focus and its update on the COBOL choices for 3000 sites.
Plus there's more, like a keynoter of community fame (name under wraps, apparently, for now). Oh, and free food, and free admission.
Yeo and Marxmeier are "standing a good lunch," as the Brits would say, plus a breakfast on Saturday. The final meeting of Saturday will be to plan supper networking meetings among the group's attendees.
It all happens at the Doubletree Hotel in Burlingame, where $99 a night earns you a king sized "Sweet Dreams" bed and some king-sized contacts. Transport between the SFO airport and the Doubletree is free, too.
We'll have more on the Meet — like an official name and the identity of that keynoter — as we are given details. A flight in on Friday and out on Sunday will connect you with the community. More training may well be on the way for Thursday and Sunday, too.
September 19, 2007
HP buying SAP?
The scruffy part of journalism repeats rumors, but it's a habit too entrenched for me to break. So here goes. A journalist out of Boston, Barbara Darrow, says she's heard "from a guy tight with HP insiders" that Hewlett-Packard is "talking to SAP about buying the ERP kingpin."
Darrow says in her blog entry that she doesn't know much else about this transaction, but it wouldn't even be the largest acquisition in the history of Enterprise Resource Planning. But SAP as part of HP would sure be good business for the vendor's services operations. Entering the SAP alternate universe usually requires a guide.
The blog report drew my attention because it mentions one reason HP would want to get into the ERP business. Hewlett-Packard has been there before, Darrow notes, with something "called MM3000. Or MM-3000."
Which became eXegeSys (boy am I glad I don't have to spell that one anymore). Which then sold itself to OpenERP Solutions. Which then became part of the Activant solar system. That's the Activant that operates Speedware.
Nobody knows if HP will strike a deal with SAP, or when, or how much it might matter to HP 3000 manufacturing customers. But many of the customers who homestead on the system use ERP. Would they be any more likely to migrate if HP could offer SAP?
Or does this seem like "everything old is new again?" Because I remember a time 20 years ago when only the best enterprise computer makers were able to offer vendor-branded applications. HP had a book full of theirs. Many have been cold in the graveyard a long time.
And if you're thinking that SAP is the kingfish in the ERP pond, you might want to reconsider. Activant has just as many ERP acquisitions as SAP. And Infor, which grew out of its success in the IBM AS/400 world, has lapped up dozens of ERP apps whose customers which have been acquired along with the software. Infor is the foster parent of MANMAN.
We like to visit the ERP Graveyard blog from time to time, just to keep track of where all the ERP flowers have gone. Have a look at the graphic (alas, with tombstones) at the gravesite, where they list MANMAN in the middle column as Ask. Each tombstone represents one acquisition of the application. HP's MM/3000 (they all had a hyphen in their names, back in those days) isn't on the graveyard map, except in its eXegeSys regeneration with a note that adds "originally HP."
SAP might make more of a splash with the big clients, the ones who can make budget for a lot of HP consulting expertise. But HP probably stands little chance of acquiring Infor, with all of its adopted children, or Activant, which likes being an HP partner.
September 18, 2007
Free facts, right from your chair
Webcasts have become popular tools for technology suppliers. A lot of the reason for their favor is the reach a Webcast offers: anywhere in the world, so long as the audience member has enough bandwidth.
So you can't beat a Webcast for cost, even though it's usually a more sterile encounter than a face-to-face lesson or networking event. Encompass has free Webcasts from HP more than any other vendor. A new one next week, on Sept. 27 at 1PM Eastern US time, offers instruction on HP's new storage products.
D2D and Virtual Tape, Today and Tomorrow is an hour with Mike Peebles, HP America's Enterprise Tape and Virtual Library Manager. The Webcast includes a free slice from this year's HP Technology Forum. Watching it offers the chance to "learn how virtual libraries and disk assisted backup can help with today’s data protection challenges." Encompass adds that the Webcast was one of the Top 10 sessions from the Forum.
Signing up includes several steps, if it's your first time to Webcast with Encompass. (See how we used the noun Webcast as a verb? Doesn't it annoy you? But it fits, doesn't it?)
Of course, we could say "watch and listen," because that's what nearly all Webcasts are limited to; not much chance to share a story. Sometimes Webcasts include phone hook-ups for a Q&A, sometimes not. (Now, a face-to-face meeting, there's always a hook up available there.)
Anyway, in next week's Encompass Webcast, the user group says that you can
• Best utilize disk-assisted backup and virtual libraries to meet data protection needs like:
o Remote Office / Branch Office backup
o Improving backup & restore performance
o Easing management of the growing data protection process
o Getting data offsite for disaster recovery
• Ramp up knowledge of emerging technologies in this space including:
o Compression & de-duplication
o Auto migration
• Comprehend virtual library limitations in resolving data protection issues
To register, visit the Webcast's page on the Encompass site. Then
If you have never participated in an Encompass/HP Webcasts click on 'First Time Users Click Here To Register'.
o Please use hpencompass as your signup password
o 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 on the day of the Webcast.
o 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.
o Please note the RegonTap registration website will NOT work with Macs or Linux machines.
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.
September 17, 2007
Are you going to San Francisco?
You can get more than flowers in your hair, as the old Scott McKenzie '60s song said, by going to San Francisco on the weekend of Nov. 17 to network with other HP 3000 owners. The meeting by the bay is the only all-3000 confab of 2007, sponsored and instigated by the owners of ScreenJet and Eloquence makers Marxmeier AG.
It must be a worthwhile weekend, consider who's launched the weekend of lunches and talk. ScreenJet's owner Alan Yeo is traveling from the UK and Michael Marxmeier is coming from Germany. Some 3000 owners are lucky enough to be just a hour or less away — in Bay Area traffic, no less — from the Doubletree hotel in Burlingame, set in the shadow of the SFO airport.
If you've got to fly, as do I, type those three letters into an air travel search engine and start on your way. The weekend will include familiar folks like Yeo, Marxmeier, Speedware, MB Foster and some HP e3000 folk from the Hewlett-Packard mothership, plus some surprises, to be sure.
Is it a conference? Not exactly, because it's free. In this case, it's certain to be worth a lot more than you pay to attend. Besides, think of the fun. Maybe more than you'll have the next weekend, supping with your family at that lively Thanksgiving dinner table.
The 3000 community can be an inventive family. Back in 2005, one of its seasoned developers and 3000 NewsWire contributor Roy Brown used the tune from Scott McKenzie's 1967 hit San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) to outline options for SF-bound community members stuck without a conference to attend. Some of them had already paid.
If you're going to San Francisco
Cause you can't get a refund on your fare
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna find that Interex ain't there
For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure that you have got some hair to tear
In the streets of San Francisco
Puzzled people who never did beware
All across the nation,
such a consternation
They were planning migration,
Left with no explanation
Peoples' emotion, peoples' emotion
For those who come to San Francisco
Be well assured that Birket will be there
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will grant you Foster care
September 14, 2007
Challenges in selling a 3000
Many vendors and experts can make your migration away from an HP 3000 easier than ever these days. The "lack of resources" that HP predicted back in 2002 has never materialized. Most people who wanted to turn off their systems by 2006 have done so. (We'll have a little more to say about how many, and their stories, soon here.)
Selling off the used HP 3000s, or getting some value for them — that turns out to be where the resources are scarce in 2007.
It's not the fault of the brokers and resellers who continue to sell HP 3000s, nearly four years after HP gave that up. With an ample supply of used systems on the marketplace, getting a reasonable price for something like a Series 979 — a workhorse of its day, being near the top of the 2000 food chain — has become one of the hard parts of migration.
The vendors leading the way off the platform can't do much to help, in some cases. One customer in Indiana reports that HP wouldn't even take on a used Series 979, after the customer's successful migration. That's a server with more horsepower than any of the latest-generation HP 3000 A-Class servers.
A customer who migrates away from an HP 3000 might expect their system to have some residual value. After all, that 3000 has made the company viable and profitable, usually for many years. But not even HP, the vendor which stands to gain the most in a migration to HP systems, wants the 9x9 servers.
Patrick Canganelli asked us for ideas on how to salvage some value on a 979 at his site, an Indiana power cooperative. We suggested both Genisys and Black River Computer as potential places to sell such a system. The surprise was how little assistance the application vendor, Southeastern Data, as well as HP, could offer Canganelli.
It’s surprising that HP wasn’t more help. I can only suppose it’s because our machine isn’t an “A” or “N” Class, Our main applications are from Southeastern Data and are written specifically for the electric coop industry. They have been migrating their software from HP 3000 to HP 9000, but they were no assistance with the HP 3000 at all. Oh well. I’m embarrassed to say I had originally listed the system at $10,000 then $5,000 then $3,000. I did get some inquiries, but no offers.
In another message, it appeared that HP didn't even want to take the system off the co-op's site without charging for the removal. If there's a site out there with a need for a 979 in Indiana, which obviously has a valid user license, you can contact Cangenelli by e-mail.
September 13, 2007
Bandle, Fairchild step out at HP Tech Forum
The new liaisons to OpenMPE and the 3000 community carry news of development
HP wasted little time moving its new team of 3000 lab liaisons into the community this summer. Just a few weeks after HP’s Jeff Vance and Mike Paivinen retired from lab connection and OpenMPE liaison duties, Jeff Bandle and Craig Fairchild made connections at the HP Technology Forum.
“Taking on the OpenMPE liaison role will be big shoes for me to fill, with Mike [Pavinen] leaving HP,” Bandle said. “He has such a strong reputation. I’m excited about the assignment, because I enjoy working with customers and coming to events like this Technology Forum. It presents the reality of what goes on with the platform.”
Conference debut checked off Craig's list
After awarding the latest e3000 Contributor Award to Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants, HP's 3000 business manager Jennie Hou introduced another new but seasoned element to the 3000 community: Craig Fairchild, selected to begin to fill the "very big shoes," as he said, of retired 3000 engineer Jeff Vance.
Fairchild, who has been working on the HP 3000 since 1985, introduced the SCSI pass through drivers for MPE/iX, a bit of engineering coming to a 7.5 beta test patch near you.
Part of Fairchild's duties will be reminding the community about opportunities such as this driver, software which will let HP 3000s utilize storage devices that haven't been officially certified as 3000 peripherals. All support bets are off, but at least the lack of a 4GB drive from HP's parts list won't keep a 3000 offline, thanks to the driver.
"It's designed to teach SCSI devices new tricks," Fairchild said of the driver to be in beta test during the second half of 2007. The device driver makes use of the Posix IOCTL command to send and receive data from the SCSI device.
In fact, the engineering is even more clever than that. Fairchild pointed out that the device file actually talks to the physical path of the device, not just the device itself. HP created an external use for an existing diagnostic interface to create the SCSI Pass Through, which it calls SPT for short.
Fairchild emulated Vance's candor, too. "Using the SPT is not for the timid," he said. "You'll need to know a lot about the device you're talking to."
Bandle opens up to OpenMPE sources
Jeff Bandle started with Hewlett-Packard in 1988 after graduating from the University of Kansas with a Masters degree in Computer Science. He has spent his entire HP career working on the HP 3000 with a focus on the networking subsystem.
Bandle comes to his new networking assignment with network experience of a different kind. His main areas of expertise are on DTC connectivity, ARPA services and the system console. Bandle is the networking architect and is responsible for overseeing networking subsystem activities on the system.
At the Technology Forum, Bandle also announced that a Samba porting paper will be released to the community during 2007. HP will release the paper, which includes general information that will help port other open source solutions, within this calendar year.
Bandle worked as a crucial contributor to HP’s new Right To Use
(RTU) license policy. At the Tech Forum he confirmed that some 3000
upgrades won’t require an RTU. HP has simplified the tier structure of
the 3000 family, according to Bandle.
"There are instances where if you do an upgrade, you stay in the same tier," he said. "That essentially is a zero-cost upgrade."
September 12, 2007
Making GZIP work on a 3000
I have a copy of GZIP on my HP3000 947 which I put on back in 2000/2001, now I need a copy for use on my a500 box, but do think I can remember were I got it from or how to install.
I have a client that sends me a file once a month in this format and I am transferring the application from the 947 to A box. All I can find on HP's Jazz Web site is the GNU tool; is it part of this. How do I get going with GZIP?
Mike Caplin replies,
I had a similar situation with PKZIP. It was a pain to get it installed, and once it was on an A-Class HP 3000 I had to do the same on an N-Class. The HP SE told me I couldn’t just move the executable, that it had to be installed again. That didn’t make sense, so I FTPd the executable to the other box five years ago and it’s worked fine ever since.
Matthew Purdue of the OpenMPE board adds,
If you have NS3000 on both systems, issue a DSLINE command, then a DSCOPY command.
Brent Moore offered a way to get the program onto the 3000 via Reflection:
If you have reflection, you can download a copy from the other box (labels format) then upload it to the new box.
You can also just pull a WRQ-label format copy of the file from
Then upload it (be sure to use LABELS format) to your new host.
On my boxes, gzip lives in /SYS/HPBIN/
September 11, 2007
Finding the will's to enter the future
On a day when many Americans recall a dark part of the past in the US, we'd invite you to cast your gaze at the future.
We owe a lot of today’s tech to a writer about tomorrow’s, William Gibson. The creator of cyberspace in his keystone novel Neuromancer, Gibson has made a storied career out of stories about the Internet, something most of us call the Web these days.
Now Gibson is taking a step back into the present, even the past, for his more recent writing. His newest book, Spook Country, takes place in Gibson’s own Vancouver in our networked, post-9/11 time, “where shadowy and mysterious characters are using New York's smallest crime family, a sort of boutique operation of smugglers and so-called illegal facilitators, to get something into North America,” according to Amazon.com.
Gibson’s prescience put him at the forefront of Web connections, and so he’s exploring a Web community called Second Life, where nothing exists except on a computer screen, but everything can seem so real. In his last novel Pattern Recognition, the present had caught up with Gibson's future. So much of what he imagined has come true. In that way, Amazon’s interviewer said, “it seems like we're all living in science fiction now.”
The fiction of the HP 3000 ending at Hewlett-Packard keeps trying to turn into fact. But the vendor is once again "visualizing a concept" to keep the company in the support business. Imagination and research are the elements HP's 3000 team and Gibson have in common.
Before you head off to secondlife.com and lose your real life for a few days, consider the looking toward the future in your community. So much of our news imagines what will happen. I found myself typing the word “will” 19 times in a two-page Q&A with HP’s Jennie Hou, who's now in charge of the future decisions about the 3000’s HP endgame. Toss in another handful of “will’s” in my editorial of earlier this week, and you get the picture. What might happen in the next few years seems to earn our keenesinterest.
But look at Gibson, and browse HP’s Web pages about the 3000 programs, and you’ll see a lot of looking back. Success stories, some already years old. Offers still in place, mostly unchanged since 2002. Of late, the 3000 community online in the newsgroup and mailing list is quick to reminisce, like teenaged boy scouts flashing their merit badges or veterans comparing war citations.
September 10, 2007
The not-so-short evolution of Transact
By Alan Yeo
Second of two parts
By the time we had our team of developers assembled to take a crack at giving Transact new life, we had a dilemma. WE had to refining our stakes under project deadlines
The realisation dawned on us just how difficult this all was, and I suspect for some of us walking away would have been the best solution. But by late Spring the following year the design had been refined and we had the prototype working. We were on a roll, and whilst it wasn’t full time for any of us, it kept progressing
This is where fate, coincidence or luck struck several times in quick succession. HP Germany upped the stakes by announcing that they knew several companies were starting to offer to convert Transact by various means, so they were going to issue a challenge to those companies. The competing companies would then do their conversions and submit them to HP. The company with the best solution would be endorsed by HP Germany and get access to the Transact user base in Europe.
We now knew we had potential competitors for the Transact market. With true marketing zeal we announced our solution and grab the attention high ground. So we went public with the product, which by now had a name T2C (Transact to COBOL).
However, reality has a habit of smacking you in the face. We took the HP Sample application, and we were dead in the water. Its not that we couldn’t convert it, we could and 75% of it was good. The unfortunate thing with programs is that even if 75 percent of the code is perfect, if you can’t execute through the bits that aren’t good, and get to the bits that are, you haven’t got a program. What you have is a pile of code. We didn’t submit the results back to HP.
But neither did anyone else. Someone had submitted some code, but obviously nearly all hand-written code. Not a migration solution, merely a willingness to undertake re-coding work.
The stakes were now higher, and we had announced a product in good faith. Others were going for the same tiny niche. So we redoubled our efforts to finish the solution fast. This was when fate struck again, backed up in parallel by some severe technical problems.
A very large potential customer needed a Transact Solution. Developing something speculatively with the thought there may be opportunities in the future is well and good. It’s completely different kettle of fish when there is a prospect of earning a crust. This was a Big Project, for a Big Customer, headed by a Big Computer Corporation, being done by a Big Migration Company. Big Opportunity, if the Pilot Project was successful.
At this time there were people who knew Transact. There were people who knew COBOL, there were a few who knew both — and only a couple of people in the world who understood the concept of mapping one on top of the other.
We were fortunate to introduce another player into the story, Roy Brown. Roy was one of the few people in the world who had also spent many years learning and hacking Transact, and even more years doing the same with COBOL. He joined the pilot project team to assist, and he and I spent furious months brainstorming with Dave about how to tackle and solve the serious problems.
We learnt a lot about the things that had never been documented about Transact. Roy even reconstructed the complete Transact Manual from the incomplete and incorrect fragments available from HP.
More than that, we got inventive with COBOL. We exploited every known technique and construct to try and get it do the necessary. We even found bugs or undocumented features that we could verify existed in all the main COBOLs to replicate within its procedural logic Transact’s ability to dynamically fly back (n) levels of perform from a given point, where (n) could be a dynamic value.
The project was completed on-time — and I understand on-budget. The core Transact Function Library just kept getting richer and more complete. We had got the basic design right.
The first site went live in 2006, followed by a rollout to dozens of sites over the following months. A year and only two minor bugs later we regard that solution as stable.
So given a stable working solution converting Transact to COBOL using a Transact Function Library, why on earth would anyone continue and do a source code replacement for Transact?
Well. On the technical side there were some issues that we weren’t completely happy with. To maintain the resultant code you had to understand the generated COBOL and the Transact syntax of the functions you were calling. Or if you wanted to continue developing in Transact rather than COBOL, the process was dependent on a COBOL generator. And this could fail if the Transact was amended to use different combinations of options. Whereas if we had a Compiler and a replacement for the Data Dictionary, the Transact Function Library could continue to be expanded to handle all Transact syntax. It also seemed a shame to let such a brilliant language die with the HP 3000.
From a migration perspective how much neater it would be to just pick up the Transact code and move it, and to continue to develop and or maintain the code exactly as it was before. Which meant it could be a solution for those customers that only had a few Transact programs, or didn’t or couldn’t afford the time and cost that a major conversion project costs.
September 07, 2007
A Short History of Transact
The 4GL entering decade No. 4 is becoming TransAction
By Alan Yeo
Actually, there can’t be a short history of Transact. Like the HP 3000, the language is now in its fourth decade of life. Even my exposure to Transact goes back more than 25 years.
Transact was hot when I first started working on the HP 3000 in the early 1980s. It was being pushed by HP as their Fourth Generation Language (4GL) for the 3000, with tight integration to IMAGE, VPlus and supported by a Data Dictionary — the last of which was also hot technology back then.
But HP had a habit of taking good software and applications, hyping them for a couple of years, then letting them slowly drown through lack of investment and development as something new came along. This often happened just as there seemed to be enough people using the older product to warrant the exact opposite approach.
The wonder product that made HP stop pushing the Rapid products was the Allbase database and a 4GL called TODAY. HP may have re-badged Today as Allbase/4GL. The 4GL portion was dead within a couple of years. Transact, already forgotten by HP, carried on in many sites for many years to come.
We developed some really beautiful applications using those Rapid products. For a couple of years I earned a good living consulting on Transact projects. Having a good understanding of Transact was one of the reasons that I became involved in the evolution.
In 2003, nearly two years after HP’s fateful 14th November 3000 announcement, I was attending an HP-hosted 3000 Migration Partner event in Germany. Until this time in the migration sphere, if anyone mentioned Transact, heads were shaken sadly and the only option offered was scrap it and re-write. So I was slightly surprised to see there was going to be a paper on a solution for Transact conversion from Enno Richter.
Richer’s company had written a successful RPG to COBOL conversion tool, and had been involved in RPG migrations and conversions for a couple of decades. With some encouragement from HP Germany he offered to start writing a Transact to COBOL converter. After all, if you can convert RPG how difficult could a procedural language be, especially one that at first glace looked a bit like COBOL?
Well, for those of us who knew Transact and all its wonderful “Push”, “Pop” stack manipulations, LEVELS, RETURN(n) and all the accumulating match criteria and data access verbs, our answer would have been “way too difficult.”
In Enno, I met someone who although knowing virtually nothing about Transact or the HP 3000, was genuine about having a go. So I spent some time trying to convince him it was impossible and explain all the insoluble problems I could see. I finally left with an offer to forward some Transact documentation and examples to explain why I didn’t think it could be done.
However, after leaving I realised that the notion of migrating Transact was rather like getting a call from your first true love after 20 years’ absence, asking for assistance. It’s something hard to ignore.
The more I dredged from my memory how we had used Transact, the more I became convinced that it was impossible to write a converter from Transact to COBOL. For many Transact programs I would defy another Transact programmer to even work out easily what was going on, let alone to write a converter that could do it. And then there was the data mapping and all those Offsets. Nope, impossible!
Hey. What if it was possible in COBOL to do the procedural, data access and display handling, but have it call a subroutine to emulate the clever Transact Stack Handling (which believe me is like nothing else on earth).
But who on earth would know if such a thing was possible? Who wrote Transact in the first place? Dave Dummer, who lives in Canada but would habitually holiday in the fall in the Cotswolds in England, not 30 miles from my offices.
I put Enno togther with Dave, and we all met up within a few weeks. We got out a sketchy agreement that it might be done and that we would work together on developing the concept.
September 06, 2007
HP tunes up millions in ads
Tune in tonight (on US television) to see the start of the broadcast commercials which are the backbone of HP's new $300 million ad campaign. Expect to see singer Gwen Stefani, a favorite from the Carly Fiorina flash days of HP's 2005, front and center in the campaign, which HP is using to push "Print 2.0."
The global marketing campaign is all in support the company's printing business. That sector of HP's operations showed no better growth in the third quarter of 2007 than in the same period of 2006. The fall ad campaign is timed to deliver millions more into the company's final 2007 quarter.
The campaign's first TV spots debut tonight.
A new HP Small and Medium Business Wetpaint Wiki shows at least as much creativity as hiring Stefani. The site "is all about you. What you do, where you want your business to go, and how we can help. We hope you'll contribute your ideas, share examples of what helps your business succeed, and ask lots of questions."
And the hosting site which brings that print bounty to HP customers is edgy.
Wetpaint is a free wiki hosting site with a twisted sense of humor, at least on Tuesdays. Last month one of its "Twisted Tuesdays" wikis was the Dude + Boobs = Doobs Wiki, where Wetpaint proclaimed, “If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em! This wiki is for those with magnificent man-mamms and those poor souls who don’t know how to handle their he-knockers. Come one, come all!"
Disney TV's Hanna Montana (Miley Cyrus), shown at left, extends the range of American celebrity pop-singer fame beyond Gwen's platinum tresses at Wetpaint.
HP said the new "What do you have to say?" interactive marketing campaign, which allows users to create and print customized content, is its largest to date.
The campaign allows customers to combine and publish their own content using free content featuring pop singer Stefani, Burton Snowboards founder Jake Burton and graphic designer Paula Scher.
September 05, 2007
Cognos will Mature its 3000 customers
Cognos updated its product roadmap for PowerHouse yesterday, giving the HP 3000 community a new service name for what's becoming a norm in the community: MPE/iX support extended into 2009.
The new level of support is extended beyond HP's confirmed 3000 support date of December 31, 2008. HP itself is "conceptualizing" such support for its customers in 2009. Cognos announced today that the users of the Application Development Tool PowerHouse — at least those who cannot migrate by the end of next year — can count on support through the end of 2009.
The Canadian company that offered the 3000 market the first third-party reporting option in Quiz, lo those three decades ago, put up a roadmap document (a three-page PDF file) on its PowerHouse Overview Web page yesterday. The map covers the destiny of every kind of PowerHouse which Cognos still supports. HP 3000 customers will receive "Mature Platform Extended Support."
Cognos would prefer that its HP 3000 customers migrate. In fact, the company says that
As part of our HPe3000 migration strategy, PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web, and Axiant 4GL support Marxmeier AG's Eloquence, which has an IMAGE emulation layer. To assist in migration planning, we published an MPE/iX Migration Planning Guide in March 2005 that was updated in 2007.
The HP 3000 is beyond Vintage Support, by Cognos standards. Your platform qualifies as mature.
Roadmaps have become popular with vendors who sell long-running product lines. After 10 or more years something newer has usually surfaced, a product that might replace the long-running solution. The roadmaps are an assurance to the customers that the future includes their product, perhaps even some new features.
HP 3000 customers saw roadmaps in 1999, 2000 and even in 2001. HP announced the obsolescence of its HP 3000 operations at the end of 2001. As guarantees go, most of these roadmaps don't measure up. It's always better to look at the size of the installed base for a guarantee.
The PowerHouse plan for MPE/iX support includes the usual encouragement to migrate to other supported platforms. At the moment those are HP-UX, Windows, OpenVMS on the Integrity HP servers — and just last month, Linux, for PowerHouse Web and PowerHouse.
As for MPE/iX support, the version installed at hundreds to thousands of HP 3000 sites will be fully support through the end of next year. In 2009, "Mature Platform Extended Support is available
for selected products after the maturity date."
PowerHouse on OpenVMS for Alpha servers gets Vintage Support, just like IBM's iSeries and AS/400 servers. What will PowerHouse HP 3000 customers get in Cognos support during 2009? The roadmap letter explains:
Mature Platform Extended Support is similar to Vintage Support. There are two differences.First, Mature Platform Extended Support is intended as a short-term stopgap between the end of development support and migration. Second, since the [HP] no longer supports the platform, some of the support provisions, such as providing workarounds, may be limited if the platform itself is not available.
September 04, 2007
Eloquence picks up a 3000 veteran
Marxmeier AG, creators of the IMAGE database replacement Eloquence, has picked up the services of an HP 3000 development legend to help create software that aids migration. Late in August Lars Appel, writing from a firstname.lastname@example.org address, posted a note in his independent consultant role to the Eloquence mailing list about a new patch bundle.
His message said, in part
We have recently released a set of patches for Eloquence B.07.10 that add the database replication functionality which will also be part of the upcoming Eloquence B.08.00 release in the future.
13 other patches are available, including components like the database server and utilities as well as the language core and related libraries.
Appel is another third-party catch, like Jeff Vance, from the HP retiree pool. Appel delivered Samba to the HP 3000 community in 1995, working on his own after his regular shift in HP Support in Germany. Eventually HP gave him travel opportunity to teach customers how to use and install the file-sharing tool, then bundled his work in MPE/iX.
A full report on the patch bundle, in HTML format, is available on the Eloquence Web site.
Based on customer feedback asking for some option of getting patch notifications and similar news, we figured that we might contribute value by occasionally posting short news or announcements to [the Eloquence] mailing list — for example, info on new patches or releases, as well as info on important new or updated documents on the Eloquence Web site.
September 03, 2007
Two years beyond the storm
Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina swept into American lives. By Labor Day of 2005, it was obvious that HP had to retreat from its New Orleans plans for the first HP Technology Forum.
HP's David Parsons said in that first conference that the 3000 community needs more collaboration than conflict. Labor and management had bitter, bloody battles in the US during the 1930s before a mission of cooperation emerged. The suggestion that HP will continue its support business beyond 2008, in whatever limited concept, shows the vendor has its eye on collaborating in customer futures.
There are many HP 3000 sites who are beyond the labor of their migration, and many others who must complete what they've planned. On this US holiday, we hope that your labors are fruitful, whether they are the work of staying in place on the 3000 — which will still run without a glitch until 2028 — or migrating away.