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July 31, 2009

Celebrate your power to administrate

Cloud-error Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day (tip of the hat to Connect user group president Nina Buik for the notice). You might have joined the 3000 community when your job was called System Manager, or even far enough back to have "DP Manager" on your business card. In today's world of IT, the title of System Administrator covers computer management from XP to Linux, from MPE/iX to HP-UX, and more.

The world needs skills to keep a business computer system like the 3000 stable. A little extra respect today is all that the sysadminday.com site asks. Gifts would be nice, of course.

HP has cloud computing on its mind this year, a concept that submerges the work of a system administrator under a wave of promises about simpler IT. As I noted in our Wednesday podcast, the backbone of cloud computing remains the same as any other kind of IT: a strong spine of sysadmin skills. These are the kind of duties that have protected the careers of 3000 pros and ensured smooth business operations for customers who use MPE/iX, but don't even know what those letters mean.

Today is the 10th Annual System Administrator's Appreciation Day, but this year's edition shows up while sysadmin identity seems to be fading. When you're working on an application over the Web -- writing a document on Google Docs, or posting photos to a blog -- you rely on a sysadmin. When things go awry, you might see a screen splash like the one above. As a 3000 administrator, you understand a little better what that admin up in the cloud must do to turn that splash into a harmless ripple.

If you shoulder help desk calls as well as maintain programs, backups and networks, you're about as deep in the trenches of sysadmin work as it gets. Slow printing, broken links to the network -- you're responsible for the first line of repair on all of it if you compute without a cloud. Most companies are still looking at clouds.

Despite the buzz, a near-absolute majority of business computing still requires someone inside the building to keep people connected and productive. You're the key link to keeping a 3000 productive and efficient, even if you're on a migration path for awhile. Modest upgrades to a 3000 can spark some head-scratching. As a humble offering in commemoration of your powers, here's a summary of questions to ask to troubleshoot slow printing.

Steve Davidek of the the City of Sparks, Nevada had a problem.

Since I’m still about two years from final migration on our 969K220, I was able to convince the powers that be that we should upgrade to a 100MB network card.  It helped that we have had two old hubs die and only have 1 left with a thin LAN connection.

Things have been going well since I installed it until this week. Since the upgrade, the jobs have been running quickly and printing right away. Now there seems to be a pause of sometimes two minutes before the report prints after it shows completed on the screen.

I checked the port on our switch and it is set to 100/full. NMMGR shows 100/full. All of our printers are Network printers. Is there some other setting in NMMGR I should be looking at, or maybe should have changed when I installed the card? The card is A3495A, HP 100Base-T NIC for MPE 9x9

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro, who has dispensed thousands of replies on sysadmin wizardry over the last 15 years of Internet traffic, answered.

May I suggest:

:# looking for errors or losses in general
:linkcontrol @;status=all

:# for finer problem resolution...
:linkcontrol <linkname>;status=reset
{Monitor/Duplicate problem}
:linkcontrol <linkname>;status
:# how did the numbers change?

:# for general information gathering
:nettool.net.sys;info="status;tcpstat;tcpg @;quit"

What are your timer values in nmmgr?

After Davidek reported his card was set to force 100/full in NMMGR, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga added these items to check.

What about the printer?  Is it an older half-duplex 10Mbps JetDirect? Does your network switch match its port in speed/duplex?

System administration is one of the gifts that Kell gives to the 3000 community every day, since he established and maintains the listserver that powers the 3000-L mailing list. Sysadmin skills often employ the power to ask a focused set of questions as Kell and Hofmeister did above. But sometimes IT gets overlooked. Tracy Johnson of Measurement Specialties reported the classic repair solution for a slow printing problem.

Just this morning we resolved a case of slow printing on a local segment that started last night. Turns out there was a duplicate IP address that someone manually configured on a device.  Apparently because the person didn’t want to bother with the IT department.

09:54 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2009

3000s immune from current virus news

A pair of virus reports from today and yesterday triggered the subject of infection of HP 3000s. It's a system that falls into a rare viral category: No record of infection over more than 30 years.

Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a priority list for people to get the swine flu antiviral this fall. Today at the Black Hat Cybersecurity Conference, a security expert demonstrated how to cripple an iPhone using a stream of SMS messages.

In order of age, we've got the human body that's been infected with viruses every year for more than 4,000 years. Then there's the HP 3000, with no known viral infections over three decades. Then there's the two-year-old iPhone, weathering the first viral hack in its short lifespan. Antivirals have serious limits; the viruses evolve to infect the human body, or the hackers keep evolving their exploits of computers.

But while there's no definitive record of a 3000 being taken over by a virus, that doesn't mean taking precautions is unnecessary. One security expert says that antivirus software is a good idea if a 3000 is using advanced software.

The subject of viruses came up when Matthew Purdue of Hill Country Technologies (and the OpenMPE board) reported the typical interchange between 3000 administrator and corporate IT auditor.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had the pleasure of seeing the range of odd looks on auditors’ faces when you tell them, with a completely straight face, that there has never been a documented case of a virus on or for the HP 3000, and there is no anti-virus software for the operating system.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Auditor: “There has to be...”

Me: “There isn’t.”

Auditor: “Find some...”

Me: “Won’t make any difference, there isn’t any.”

Auditor: “Can you prove that?”

Me: “Yes, how much of a budget do you have for this purpose?”

Auditor: “Just give me a statement then.”

Now there may be one out there somewhere, but I’ve never seen one yet to this day.

Art Bahrs, a 3000 consultant who specializes in security, says that a 3000 using open source software in the system's Posix space might be at some risk.

"To be honest, there is lots of antivirus software that runs on the POSiX side of the 3000," Bahrs says. "That is where it needs to be, because that is where we run things like Apache or TomCat or other Unix-like based packages — which have known vulnerabilities that could be exploited or used as the basis of a viral package."

For the record, the community has one legendary report of malware-like viral behavior. The story is from the era of HPWORD text processing software and HP word processing terminals. Neither of these are in use anywhere anymore, but Tracy Johnson relayed the story that "a virus that was built in the HP lab and propagated via HPWORD on 2626W Terminals, thus corrupting HPWORD on the Terminal."

But if that's the best someone can come up with, it's the equivalent of reporting a virus that attacked the tail of a human being. We await an update on modern-day current risks.

07:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 29, 2009

Old HP face reveals newest cloud forecasts

Picture 5 The HP 3000's legacy continues to float around HP, most recently in the work of Christine Martino, the GM and Vice President of the fresh-faced Scalable Computing and Infrastructure Organization. Martino, who's been heading some of HP's Linux and open source efforts, is now general manager of Hewlett-Packard's cloud computing promises. 3000 customers and veterans will remember Martino's marketing work at the end of the vendor's 3000 futures, promising up to the last about the 3000's place at HP.

But one of the market lessons you customers taught HP might have been carried onward to steer those cloud promises. Listen to our 7-minute podcast to hear what sounds thin, what's familiar and what's still-forming in the HP cloud cover. Remember, no matter how you choose to move onward from HP's 3000 era, the vendor still only has eyes for you.

05:42 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 28, 2009

New disks refresh old HP 3000s

SeagateBarracuda An upcoming feature for next month's print edition of the 3000 NewsWire will examine older HP 3000s still running today. (If you've got a '90s-vintage 3000 still running, I'd like to talk to you soon.) More than a few of the oldest of these systems are doing duty in software support labs. Whether a support or a production system, very 3000 needs ready replacements for disk drives, but the Series 9x7 3000s reach back to the middle 1990s. Disks running more than a decade are on borrowed time, so replacements need to be available.

The community has located a resource for 9x7 disk drives. The suppliers don't advertise these as HP 3000 disk drives. But the Seagate ST318416N is an 18GB drive you can purchase for about $200 online. The drives are listed as new, but they will slip into a 9x7 because the ST318416N is an accepted device on the IODFAULT list. (Paul Edwards tells us it's the IODFAULT.PUB.SYS list.)

We heard of one site that was buying a dozen of these drives as replacement parts to keep their 9x7s fitted with internal drives. But there's no reason you cannot skip past an internal drive and use external devices instead.

It bears a mention that buying 18GB for $200 is a lot more expensive than the 500GB drive you can purchase for $150 for your PC. But paying $50 extra for 482 GB less storage is still a bargain compared to replacing a server that isn't broken, but needs backup storage devices.

9x7 Seagate called these drives Barracudas. There's more of these fish in the sea in 2009 than we ever would have thought possible 15 years ago, when those 9x7s were new. We also had no idea back then that something called the Internet would make finding and buying these internal drives a simple matter of searching "Seagate ST318416N" in something called Google.

In what seems like another era, HP told customers that parts for HP 3000s would be costly and difficult to find, another reason to migrate. Hardware vendors such as Genisys or Bay Pointe Technology specialize in 3000 components and devices. And when a garden-variety disk vendor such as AllHDD can supply new internal devices that have passed HP's blessing -- because it's on the IOFDATA list -- keeping old 3000s useful seems cheaper and easier than HP imagined.

01:53 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 27, 2009

Questions, definitions expand broad scope of HP IT manager skills

HPinsight HP 3000s work across a vast scope of IT expertise. The computer was sold in the 1980s and onward to replace steel filing cabinets, according to the late 3000 advocate Wirt Atmar. The 3000 also drives  business critical computing so complex that it needs an IT expert to integrate with an enterprise. On the other hand, the casual 3000 user benefits when they better understand the jargon of the system's operating environment.

Whether a customer needs help knowing what a "Gig" is, or would do well to know what CSLT stands for and how to use one, HP offers resources for both kinds of customers. The technical wizards who call IT a career might cringe at the simplicity of HP's "Most Baffling IT Terms," fundamental questions that every computer manager had better understand. On the other hand, the Glossary for MPE/iX 7.5 defines terms that would glaze over the eyes of an office manager who's just acquired 3000 responsibility -- and needs those definitions.

Both levels of resource are necessary for the 3000 community, since the computer was sold as a general-purpose computer solution for decades. Some low-tech everyday office workers have managed 3000s for all of that time. Some are now acquiring 3000 duties and could use that glossary to make their work easier. A few of the 3000 vets may have been out of the general computing loop and could make use of HP's baffling terms.

Those "baffling IT terms" paint with a broad brush, aimed at novice computer managers. They include Blu-Ray as well as WEP, and while the former is understood by schoolkids, the latter is a security choice that's weak even by HP's own definition. (More useful, but missing: A definition of WPA2, a more secure choice to protect Wi-Fi.)

HP has produced a series of entertaining, low-tech video primers on technology practices, created for the novice manager using Windows to run a small business. The videos won't get into essential practices such as securing access on a Windows XP account on a PC. But at 12 minutes or so, they deliver more insight than an IT term list.

As for that Windows XP security, even the fundamentals can elude a 3000 manager who's an expert at the likes of lockwords but is faced with protecting a network of Windows PCs. Dave Powell answered such a question from Shawn Gordon, whose 3000 expertise is deep enough to develop 3000 tools.

"A friend has a Windows network with several main servers," Gordon asked, "and the problem seems to be these servers' IPs are exposed to the world at large through their Cisco router (which has selected ports open), and people can use terminal services to log in. There seems to be nothing other than a user ID and password required as long as that user is part of the remote access group, and everyone appears to have the Administrator password."

Powell, who's been a 3000 community contributor of command files for years, replied that shutting down all but crucial services is a good start for managing any computer system. "Part of my standard XP setup routine is to disable several services which various sources have called security risks. “Terminal services” is one of the ones I always disable. In XP, go to control-panel | administrative tools | services."

For the 3000 manager who's inherited administration of a system from a retired expert, securing the 3000 is less a matter of disabling services than understanding what MPE/iX offers. Even after 25 years, one of the best whitepapers on the subject is Eugene Volokh's Burn Before Reading, part of Vesoft's Thoughts and Discourses on HP3000 Software. The paper is online at the Adager technical papers Web site.

02:59 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 24, 2009

Databases rise from ashes as open source

Firebird Imagine a chilly hotel meeting room 15 years ago, across the river from New York City. Databases of the day are having a showdown in there, where the communication technology is type from flimsy plastic slides, foils projected on a wall. Oracle has sent a representative, along with Sybase and Ingres -- the Big Three of databases, although a complete count would include IBM's DB2, to comprise a Big Four. But IBM isn't at this showdown. The HP 3000's IMAGE is, however, touted by Adager's Alfredo Rego.

HP didn't feel the need to attend this meeting of the Greater New York HP Users Group and represent IMAGE. Rego asks a question of all assembled: What happens if a plug is kicked out of a Big DB database server? Will the database survive? They scratch their heads and offer no answer. Built-in recovery is as much a mystery outside the 3000 world in 1994 as the price for 100 seats of Oracle. I was there in that room and heard no answers.

The amount of swagger from the Big Three in the room and in the market was palpable, thick as the icy fog outside on that day. No one could see a future where a database might be offered without a license fee and be suited for enterprise computing. IMAGE sat closest to such a proposal back then, because HP includes the database with every 3000 it sells.

Shoot the clock forward to this hot summer and a database free of fees is common as a dog at a junkyard. Earlier this week we talked of Postgres as a potential open source solution, now bolstered by add-on engineering to become commercial open source. But there's a handful of other candidates for data management that don't require any relationship with a Big Vendor. Among the now-free alternatives are Firebird (tip of the hat to Bruce Hobbs), and one of those Big DBs, Ingres. Both these open source databases collected license fees 15 years ago. Firebird was created out of the ashes of Interbase.

In the economy of today, a database never goes away, whether it's IMAGE being supported by a 3000 homestead community or a Big DB solution that now steps with a lot less swagger. Open source offers a second life for databases with closing markets.

Oracle's fate in those 15 years is best known, unbridled growth that let the company swell enough to buy up open source competitor MySQL. The purchase was part of the Sun acquisition that Oracle wrangled this spring, a clever move to add a free entry to the Oracle lineup. MySQL, Firebird, Ingres and Postgres all line up on the open source side of the database menu today. Standing in a center column is Sybase, still holding on to the dream of an independent database solution -- one not controlled by any vendor of servers or operating systems. Another notable independent entry for HP 3000 customers: Eloquence, created by Marxmeier Software.

Sybase has been around long enough to spin off its own competition. Today the most popular databases in the non-3000 world are Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server. But when that showdown took place in that chilly hotel, Sybase had just licensed its technology to Microsoft, which rebranded the product as SQL Server. Oops. Sybase still sells enough to host a TechWave training conference, and its technology licenses run beyond SQL Server. For example, Sybase now owns PowerBuilder, the application development system for Windows clients. Among the 3000 community's experts, Pivital Solutions can consult in PowerBuilder development. PowerBuilder was popular among HP 3000 manufacturing customers.

HP 3000 ties wrap around Sybase in other ways. Within the Sybase community, database management vendor Bradmark Technologies sells tools such as Surveillance for Sybase IQ 15. While Bradmark made its bones selling TurboIMAGE management solutions, management of many databases is the company's current mission. Surveillance identifies and eliminates problems with Sybase databases.

And Ingres? The database that lost its place to Informix was purchased a few months after that icy meeting by ASK, which created the venerable MANMAN ERP software still running in the 3000 community. After a decade of stumbles running up against SQL Server, DB2 and Oracle, Ingres entered its open source life in 2004. Now the commerce for the new Ingres Corporation flows from support and services for the database and its OpenRoad development tool.

Support and consulting, after all, are the most durable of solutions in computing: the know-how companies need to continue to rely on what they purchased long ago. So long as a company such as British Rail deploys the rebirth of Interbase as Firebird, or IBM purchases Informix to offer it alongside DB2, or Sybase spins itself out to Microsoft and somehow survives, there's no reason to believe any enterprise-grade database will ever see its life end. There's always the fall-back to a new solution for an old problem of "we're out of money." Ingres tells customers that "Ingres is driving the New Economics of IT, where open source technology is delivering better, new ways of doing business in tough economic times." Free software is an attractive starting point whose value gets calculated, in the end, by the cost of hiring the know-how to use it.

06:10 PM in History, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2009

Vendors supply database aids for migration

Migrating HP 3000 shops often look for a new database as part of their projects. A customer who's chosen an application over any other consideration, or a reseller as the key element, cares much less about a database. But in-house applications get moved to new databases. Which one to choose sometimes depends on experience and support, from out of house.

Marxmeier Software is the leading choice for companies who want a database that adapts to IMAGE designs. The company's Eloquence has been praised for years. "Eloquence is one of the best products on the market," said 3000 and Unix consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech. On this spring's release of Version 8.0, Lalley said "So far, I am very impressed, as usual."

But some companies migrating from 3000s want an open source solution for a replacement. Sometimes these companies seek a vendor-neutral strategy. Duane Percox, one of the founders of K-12 app vendor QSS, said his company sought out open source to replace 3000 apps because HP has made the last decision that will impact QSS like HP did when it dropped the 3000.

PostgreSQL, called Postgres by much of the developer community, has gotten high marks as an IMAGE alternative at QSS. But even though Postgres is open source, vendors have emerged to give the database commercial-grade support and consulting. Like RedHat is to Linux, Enterprise DB is to Postgres. Starting with open source code for the database, EnterpriseDB is pushing Postgres into commercial-class caliber.

3000 customers want a company like Marxmeier or EnterpriseDB to be partners when moving in-house applications. Marxmeier even does strong business with third party app suppliers who've moved products to Unix and Windows. Summit Information Technologies credit union app suite is one great example.

EnterpriseDB touts a product it calls Postgres Plus Advanced Server, the company’s flagship relational database product based on PostgreSQL. EnterpriseDB includes new technology in the Server that enables companies to move more Oracle applications more easily. While that's not much help to the migrating HP 3000 customer, the company promises that a new “Infinite Cache provides massive scalability at low cost by leveraging commodity hardware and eliminating custom programming."

Commodity hardware is at the heart of many a 3000 migration, as customers turn to racks of Windows servers and leverage the in-house expertise in the Microsoft environment. Perhaps of most value to 3000 customers looking at migration today is EnterpriseDB's comparison of Postgres and MySQL, the other open source database. In a deft move, Oracle acquired ownership of MySQL this spring when it purchased Sun Microsystems. Deciding which open source DB to evaluate gets simpler with such Web resources.

There's a Web-based seminar at the EnterpriseDB site comparing the two open source databases. Bill Pillow of the company said they often come in contact with MySQL customers "when they've hit the wall with MySQL." He called MySQL record-bound and better as a read-only choice for a database. Commercial companies are building enterprise-grade foundations from open source by now. But the essential element remains a vendor who's responsible for software in business-critical environments. Finding support and consultation is a hidden but critical cost in using open source solutions.

Postgres still has a long way to travel to become an integrated partner with 3000 tools such as those from Robelle, Speedware, Minisoft and many more. Eloquence counts all those alliances, but open source still appeals on its technical merits and cost of acquisition. Still, third party databases have been more popular with 3000 migrators in the QSS customer base. "We have done a bunch of PostgreSQL," Percox said, "and find it to be a wonderful database, but our customers are choosing SQL Server at a rate of about 80/20 over PostgreSQL." Vendor support continues to matter.

03:31 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 22, 2009

The right tool for moving jobs?

Migration projects cover a lot more ground than replacing app functionality. The effort needs to replicate the full range of services an HP 3000 offers. One basic building block is job management, included with HP 3000s and sometimes not simple to replace in a new environment such as Windows.

"We have been slowly converting and migrating off our HP 3000," said IT manager Gordon Montgomery of Living Scriptures, Inc. "One of the many things I will miss about the HP is the way it handles jobs. Has anyone found an equivalant to the HP's job environment in the Windows world? You know, like nice job listings of what really goes on, etc. We've been trying to make do with plain batch files, and redirecting the output to a log file, but it is just not the same. And sometimes the batch file just quits and disappears for no apparent reason."

Making Windows batch files perform as elegantly as MPE's job controls is not simple, but it can be done. A familiar face to the 3000 community, Advant's "Captain Greb," posted a few notes on using the Windows scheduler to let batch files log themselves. But there are engineered third party solutions to do this and many more MPE replacements.

The Captain reported that "I created my own job logging for Windows. From the Windows scheduler, a job is started as “jobrun something.bat”. This jobrun program executes the specified bat file and logs the results (as part of a bigger logging scheme) with date/time, program name, messages."

The 3000 community is rich with do-it-yourself moxie, but creating a job scheduler out of stock Windows parts might be a bigger task than building command files, for example. Some of the challenge is the native intelligence of the Windows components. The Captain said that his jobrun.exe program is a Visual Basic 6 executable that is "not fancy; it does a createprocess(“cmd /c something.bat”). It uses pipes to read the process output, and sends the lines to a logging routine that handles the log file IO.  This is done in a loop with a 100ms delay (waitforsingleobject) so the output is written to the log file (and timestamped)  as its generated."

The resume of Captain Grebs is probably far ahead of most 3000 managers. He's been the technical lead for the programming that helps any PA-RISC server boot up MPE/iX, whether that server was destined to be a 3000 or not. The G in GREBS stands for generic server.

Alas, his jobrun.exe won't be in a contributed library for community use. But others in the community have polished more complete solutions for replicating 3000 job abilities. Speedware's Senior Solutions Architect Ken Robertson suggests that "We have found that Windows’ built-in scheduler is sometimes a little flaky, and you really will need a third-party job-scheduler to do serious production work. Speeware offers this scheduling in its AMXW suite. Those letters stand for "Automated Migration to Unix and Windows." Robertson explained:

AMXW runs on pretty much any Unix platform as well as Windows. The MPE job scheduler and JCL can happily run native  platform-specific code along with the MPE code. For example,

!grep “FOO” SJOUT > SJout2
!perl -f myscript.pl SJout2

We support true temporary files, and have an MPE-style SPOOLER, so  that, yep, your stdlists appear where you think they should!  The PAUSE ,JOB= works, too! Because we don’t depend upon cron in Unix, the priority and scheduling of the job works the way that it’s supposed to. Cron has issues with streaming more than one job per second, and on [IBM's] AIX, more than 60 jobs per minute. Cron also cannot guarantee job  execution order for jobs scheduled in the same minute!

With AMXW we can support multiple JOB queues, streaming from inside of code, MPE CI commands, global variables, some MPEX commands, etc. etc. All the things that you’d expect to find in MPE, just running on another  platform. There’s even a version of Suprtool-UX (from Robelle) that has been tuned to work with AMXW!

Mark Ranft, who's managing a large installation of HP 3000s as well as offering his services from his own Pro3k consultancy, reports that using the Windows/DOS batch tools was an exciting experience. In one payroll application, "the Time and Attendance portion had to run under DOS. I was scared to death that one of the DOS ‘job’ steps would die and I would not know where it was to restart the ‘job’. The .bat scripts I built were modular and standardized. The logging of individual executables was hit or miss -- depending on how the executable logged messages."

Just like so much in life, the job of replicating jobs for migrating 3000s looks like it has solutions worth every penny you pay for them. Choose the right tool for your stability needs.

04:43 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 21, 2009

Four years on, dust of Interex demise suggests virtual meetings

Interex Four years ago this week, the Interex HP user group slammed its doors shut in a stunning implosion. The organization that grew out of the HP3000 Users Group in the 3000's earliest days declared bankruptcy after 31 years. The anniversary of the demise is a reminder that no amount of legacy or laurels can permit any institution to rest comfortably.

When Interex went down it didn't close up like HP 3000 customer Circuit City, lingering and selling off assets in months of public auction. Instead, in mid-July of '05 it was as if someone kicked out the user group's power cord. A Web site went dark overnight, millions in conference sponsor deposits vanished, and thousands of members learned their conference fees were worthless.

This teardown of a portion of the 3000 community is more than a history lesson, however. Four years ago one suggestion for a virtual conference got a few days of consideration, and it's worth reviewing in the light of 2009's better networking bandwidth and tighter travel budgets.

HP teased out a first few steps for a virtual conference a few months ago. It put up a series of talks on the G6 models of the ProLiant systems, using a fresh interface and offering a way to collect information from fellow attendees. Perhaps the vendor will see more need to push its investments into video and networked data.

Author-registerThe venerable Wirt Atmar stepped up in 2005 with a concept for a virtual conference, one that could replace the annual meeting which kept Interex afloat for decades. Atmar's $249 QCShow software (free 30-day trial available) from his AICS Research company could bring speakers who have PowerPoint or PDF slides to any user's desktop, complete with audio. It's an idea that might appeal to 3000 customers who don't need to research a migration platform at a conference and need training for homesteading systems. Atmar said:

Given the technology we have at hand, it would be entirely possible with QCShow to create a virtual Interex meeting -- but even better, at a substantially reduced cost as compared to Interex’s traditional fees. AICS Research would manage and host the process.

The way that I envision the process is that for the “meeting,” 30 talks would be selected. The talks would range in length from 30 to 45 minutes, at the speaker’s discretion (there is no one standing by with a hook to pull you off-stage in this medium).

The process of selecting the 30 talks from those submitted would be highly selective, but that selection process wouldn’t be done by us. Rather, after a submission deadline has passed, all of the submitted talks would be posted on a web page so that everyone could vote on their top ten choices. After all the votes were tallied, the top 30 vote-getters would be announced.

The speakers would then narrate their talks at their respective locations. We’ll provide the recording software and substantial hints on how to create a quality recording. Once the recordings were done, the speakers would send us their PowerPoint or Adobe PDF slides and their WAV files on a CD (the raw files will generally be in the 100-150 MB range). We would then synchronize their audio tracks to their slides and prepare their presentation for low-bandwidth delivery over the Internet, at no charge to the speakers.

Speakers would also receive a complimentary pass to freely access all of the talks presented in this year’s conference. Non-speakers (ordinary registrants) would be charged $250.

In order for us to break even, at least 50 people would have to register for the conference. If that “attendance level” could not be achieved, we wouldn’t go forward with the process. But if it could, it would seem like an excellent way, given the technology that now exists, to continue the original idea of the HP 3000 user group from 30 years ago, where the motto was, “Users helping users,” while allowing a much broader reach than ever before.

A few customers at the time said they'd participate, some even after they'd invested in Interex attendance. Gilles Schipper of the support company GSA said "Too bad for me that this option wasn't available before I shelled out $1,700 to Interex." The next generation of a user group conference, in Atmar's view, would have some downsides to go along with more affordable costs. Representation would be direct rather than elected, but give customers more control over content.

In the model I imagine, we would change from a representative democracy, with elected board members, to a direct democracy, where everyone has a direct vote and there would be no necessity for an elected set of board members.

The upsides to the model that I imagine are these:

     o Everyone would have a say in selecting the content of the meeting.

     o The cost of the meeting would be enormously reduced.

     o Travel expenses would disappear, nor would you even have to be there on a particular day. The meetings would be permanently recorded, so you could view them at your leisure.

     o You would be able to attend every “session.” Conflicts would be eliminated.

The downsides to this format are:

     o Interactions with the speakers would be greatly to somewhat diminished.

     o The capacity to ask HP managers the hard-hitting questions characteristic of past management roundtables, and the capacity to get immediate, definitive, straight-shooting answers, would be reduced.

     o HP would lose its capacity to control the content of the meeting or suggest who the speakers might be.

Atmar passed away early this year, but AICS Research marches on with products and services as always. What has also died is the concept of a confrontational meeting of users and vendor reps. Whatever friction that sparked creative heat has been smoothed off by HP's goals for a meeting. Management roundtables don't air grievances or identify opportunity to improve product. Since that's already missing from a 2009 conference -- and reducing HP's control of content looks like an upside -- the virtual meeting would seem to only restrict interaction with speakers.

And there are plenty of new technologies, four years later, to let attendees interact online with speakers. One 3000 software developer, Tom Brandt, joked in 2005 that in a virtual meeting HP would also "lose the ability to toss accredited journalists out of sessions, depriving attendees of yet another reason to bash the vendor."

As a journalist who's been challenged at a couple of user conference doorways in 2002, and again last year, I wouldn't miss that part of the user conference experience.

08:40 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2009

Mooning Over Legendary Tech Marvels

Cronkite_in_training_harness You can see the markers of moon memories everywhere today, from the news remembrances alongside Walter Cronkite's death -- the ace newsman lionized NASA with reports like trying out weightlessness testing, above  -- to a special "moon movie" lineup on Turner Classic Movies, all in celebration of the lunar landing 40 years ago. That Apollo 11 mission is a marvel in light of its technology caliber, crude by today's measure.

But 33 years ago, technology emerged to launch the HP 3000 into orbit for good, the Series II systems that now act as museum pieces for avid collectors of tech. HP-IB, the peripheral interface that served HP 3000s for three decades, was created at the same time as the Apollo lunar landers. The oldest 3000s are as beloved to the leaders of the 3000 community as any moon command capsule. The HP 3000 has maintained its orbit over four decades, as much as the base of the first lunar lander that is still circling the Earth from the moon's Sea of Tranquility.

BillDave Those Apollo missions were made possible by men dressed the same as HP engineers of the era, fellows in wide ties, white shirts and dark trousers. The design aim was the same as well. From the start of the 3000's mission, the goal was to create a system reliable enough to send on a long-range space mission, far removed from the need for repair or replacement. Adager's founders created their database tools "as if they would be used on a remote satellite," said co-founder Alfredo Rego.

Back in the mid-1990s, Adager celebrated the confluence of such thinking by highlighting the Apollo career of James Lovell, American astronaut. Rego interviewed Lovell, who was the backup commander for Apollo 11, to emphasize the similarities between the legendary NASA and today's 3000. "They have a lot in common," Adager's Web page still says. "Reliability, resilience, a tremendous amount of attention to detail, and a superb team of people behind them whose motto is 'Failure is not an option.' "

While the roster of that team has changed over the past decade, the ambitions of those who homestead on the 3000 are served with even more expertise. In the 1990s there was no experience in the Web, thin-client development, worldwide networking standards, or the synergy of the open source movement. All have become a part of the HP 3000 solution since the Lovell interview.

LovellYou can still get a copy of that interview from Adager for the asking. Rego and the Apollo commander talk about "IMAGE/SQL, the high-performance and high-availability Database Management System." Their conversation took place when adding SQL to a networked database like IMAGE was still a new concept. Like the manned missions from Lovell's term to beyond the first year of the 3000, SQL has proven itself to be an essential tool the 3000 community has embraced.

To this day, humans have not returned to the surface of another planet, a kind of lasting tribute to the stature of that Apollo mission. You can report that HP has never built a computer system since the 3000 designed to be booted and set into orbit, with little regard for replacement. The model didn't serve HP's business aims as long as it has served some 3000 customers. Aiming high can often deliver resources that are built to last.

05:58 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2009

Make copies of crucial 3000 tapes

HP provided a utility in MPE/iX for copying HP's factory-generated System Load Tapes (SLTs), but that utility is falling into neglect. In an era when the 3000 lab at HP has been closed, the tool has fallen even farther away from reliability. This essential program to copy a 3000 boot tape isn't likely to get any more HP attention.

Since copying SLTs is a significant maintenance requirement for 3000 administrators, a long-term solution for the copying is essential to homesteaders. Allegro Consultants offers X-OVER to do the job. What's more, if a homesteading site has a single-reel SLT, Allegro's got a free tool to accomplish that kind of copy.

"Our X-OVER product can handle multi-reel SLT input tapes," Allegro VP Stan Sieler reported online, "although it looks like it doesn’t handle multi-reel SLT output tapes. By 'multi-reel' I mean an SLT where the SLT section -- not the optional STORE section -- crosses a reel boundary. This would normally be seen only on 9-track tapes. X-Over handles multi-reel STORE tapes, or STORE sections of SLT/STORE combo tapes."

The free Allegro tool is TAPECOPY, which when run with the "TT" option will copy an SLT that fits on a single reel. This tool will warns if it sees any records that might be too large for it to handle.

SLTCOPY was designed by HP in a different storage era. SLTCOPY doesn't have reel-switch logic, for input or output. SLTCOPY is also missing large record support, too, though it's a rare SLT which uses large records.

But the SLT is a significant element in maintaining a legitimate HP 3000. HP supplied these System Load Tapes as one of the two minimum requirements for complete system software -- at least when the system software was shipped on tape media and not pre-loaded. The SLT contains the OS base to perform basic functions, including booting the 3000, configuring its disks, and restoring files.

How important is the SLT? Essential enough to have multiple copies onsite, so a midnight search for the SLT is a short one. 3000 experts such as Paul Edwards who spoke at user group conferences, and Mike Hornsby of Beechglen, have preached the details of recovery management. Hornsby said "It is very common for SLTs to play hide and seek. It is not at all amusing to play this game at 2:30 am. It is a good idea to have multiple SLT copies -- one stored in a safe place and another physically attached to the system in a folder/envelope that also contains a SYSGEN, or better yet a SYSINFO configuration listing."

X-Over does a lot more than copy SLTs. It can convert tape sets from one format to another, make duplicate copies of backups, even tape a multi-tape backup on older media and copy it to a single DDS tape. It's good to know that the fundamentals of 3000 management will be maintained in the third party community even after HP ends its 3000 support.

05:03 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2009

HP imagines computing matrix future

C7000 Hewlett-Packard says its customers don't care what resources are inside a piece of its BladeSystem server arrays. At the recent HP Technology Forum, the vendor showed off a management console connected to an array of blades on the expo floor. HP Marketing Communications Manager Jason Newton said in an HP blog posting that the customers are more impressed at how much manipulation the vendor offered in the Matrix Orchestration Environment for a blade array like the c7000 above.

At the Matrix booth, I was curious what customers saw.  No one wanted to see inside the server, the enclosure, the switch. It didn't matter. That's just the pool of resources. The "WOW" came from how easy it was to design the architecture, do capacity planning, combine virtual and physical, set up disaster recovery and automate provisioning of complex infrastructure. Configuring and provisioning the network, storage, and compute "just happen" within the Matrix. Right on! One infrastructure, any workload, on the fly. That's the future the private cloud delivers to your data center.

A "private cloud" might remind HP 3000 customers of a virtual private network. But it seems a stretch to imagine 3000 community members who have always shouldered server responsibility thinking that a system doesn't matter. Accepting the promise of cloud computing might demand such refocusing of responsibility, though. Teaching a 20-year IT vet that hardware doesn't matter is a tough lesson.

HP believes it's time to move beyond that level of technology management, applying resource redundancy (multiple blades, abundant storage, extra CPUs) where reliability and resource efficiencies once served. If your hardware is cheap enough, racking up lots of extra processing can get the job done, Newton said.

In that future, you won't care about the stuff inside; only the services delivered, what they costs and how fast you can get them. The future I see coming into focus is the converged infrastructure (melding the best of HP: NonStop, SuperDome, XP, EVA, LeftHand, ProLiant, ProCurve, and BladeSystem) all controlled and interconnected as one. Inside that "matrix cloud." You decide how to carve up the best resources for your workloads and data and Matrix does the rest.

The blog entry did spark one response that diverged from the private cloud promises. It came from a HP customer using OpenVMS, an environment left out of the happy picture of "the best of HP." Ian Miller, an administrator of the openvms.org aggregation site, said "cost will always matter."

For really business-critical stuff, I think people will want to know where it is running and that they have complete control over the environment. No cloud controller, deciding to move your workload at a bad time.

C3000 HP has two kinds of customers working in enterprise IT shops -- those who have built up a career's worth of knowledge about system management, and those who haven't invested that much up to now in this kind of technology savvy. When evaluating the next step away from the HP 3000 model toward something midrange like the c3000 at left, migrating sites need to consider how much value their kind of career knowledge will bring to a new environment. The Matrix Orchestration looks aimed at CIOs who want to push buttons, a very different profile from the 3000 customer who's been responsible for server uptime.

Nothing is free in IT management. It's easy to see how these Matrix solutions can improve computing. But everything is a tradeoff. Some HP customers might not care what's inside a rack. But someone needs to care, right? It's not as simple as sunlight inside those racks.

04:03 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 15, 2009

Poke into clouds with HP Labs paper

HPLabs HP Tech Forum attendees were doused with cloud computing references this year. There's a certain level of buzz that might compel an IT manager or 3000 owner to know answers to basic cloud questions when the queries surface from top management. Within the rich confines of HP Labs Technical Reports, a good Cloud 101 primer is available for download.

This paper released this year is titled Outsourcing Business to Cloud Computing Services: Opportunities and Challenges. The writing in this PDF document is as straightforward as the title; the paper is only 17 pages long and explains differences between Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Database as a Service, and Software as a Service.

As it turns out, the paper's only table shows that only Software as a Service (SaaS) has any direct use for managers, business owners or business users. The PaaS, IaaS and DaaS are tools for the IT administrator or developer. However, the HP technical writers assert that the time is near for computer owners to be able to access most of their processing needs from the clouds.

Advances in service oriented architecture (SOA) have brought us close to the once-imaginary vision of establishing and running a virtual business, a business in which most or all of its business functions are outsourced to online services.

Cloud computing shares a common goal with the old concept of timesharing: A computing resource managed by a third party that provides storage, processing and administration for a fee. In exchange, the owners of a business or enterprise pursue their business, instead of IT planning and investments.

HP submitted its white paper to the Special Issue on Cloud Computing published this year by IEEE Internet Computing. The paper does include a reference in its back matter to a more promotional HP document about the cloud. But reading what HP Labs has written about cloud computing looks like its hype caliber has been dialed back to reasonable discourse.

Jan86Journal Back in the days when timesharing was a common business solution, HP Labs papers came out once a quarter in the Hewlett-Packard Journal. You waited up to three months to receive them, got paper that had to be copied to be shared, and waited for a year-end index issue. Now you can read the history of the 479 issues of the printed Journal from HP Labs Web site, including the issue that unveiled breakthrough compiler technology for HP's PA-RISC systems. The latest Labs papers are online right away, just like so many seems other resources in our modern age. While this Labs research is usually inappropriate for briefings with non-technical management, technologists in the 3000 community can find clear-eyed studies of what's being buzzed about in conferences and airliner cabins.

01:17 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 14, 2009

Unix conversions can include forms

Most migrations present a wide array of tasks and challenges, from finding a new facility for job handling to the more mundane replacement of 3000 forms. A few ideas have surfaced on the 3000 newsgroup to replace HP 3000-specialized forms solutions such as Fantasia.

While Fantasia does have a product which moves the forms solution to Unix, there's also a cross-platform option that's been proven at Minisoft. This vendor of printing, middleware and connectivity solutions has served the 3000 community for more than two decades. Its lineup includes eFORMz, a forms and document management suite written in Java that runs on the HP 3000, HP 9000, Unix, Linux, and Windows. The eFORMz solution recently added RTF document support in its 7.0 version.

"This is a product that many Fantasia users have migrated to over the years," said Minisoft founder Doug Greenup. The 3000 community has also used Minisoft's ODBC, OLE DB, and JDBC middleware products that support IMAGE, Eloqence and Oracle.

Open source software can provide roll-your-own functionality for forms conversions, too. Charles Finley of Transformix suggests that Adobe PDF-oriented open source products can do this. "It is not horribly difficult or expensive for someone with Unix and scripting skills," Finley said. "However, it might prove to be a challenge for a do-it-yourselfer."

The idea is to convert the forms you are going to merge with to PDF, and then convert your HP 3000 print output to PDF and merge the two. The idea is to use one of the Unix open source products that translate from text to postscript (i.e. A2ps, enscript, etc.) -- and then convert from Postscript to PDF using something like ps2pdf. Finally, you use any one of a number of PDF merge tools to do the merge. All of this is assembled together in a [Unix] script and automated.

05:49 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2009

Community argues value of legacy savvy

Job postings for mainframe experts are up 15 percent over the last 18 months, despite a stall in the sales of systems such as the IBM Z Series. Companies that invested millions of dollars on large systems find themselves needing experts who are no longer employed by the company. The alternative is to find them on the open job market.

This is the kind of development that HP 3000 managers believe has a forthcoming echo in your community.

Under the heading "HP3000 Workers Chances Improving?" Tracy Johnson noted a story in tech Web site slashdot, reporting on the short term folly of companies releasing experts who knew stable, reliable, but aging systems.

Chris O’Malley, CA’s mainframe business executive VP, says that mainframe workers were let go because ‘it had no immediate effect and the organizations didn’t expect to keep mainframes around.’ But businesses have kept mainframes around and now they are struggling to find engineers.

"I presume the hidden cost of letting HP 3000 workers go, way back, may also apply here," Johnson said. A few others with success at selling their 3000 savvy have agreed.

Craig Lalley of EchoTech pointed out that COBOL, which turned 50 this summer, remains a valuable skill. "I know some very valuable COBOL programmers," he said. "Laugh if you want, but it still a required skill set in some places."

The slashdot article notes that "Businesses that cut experienced mainframe administrators in an effort to cut costs inadvertently created a skills shortage that is coming back to bite them. If you do a total cost of ownership, the mainframe comes out cheaper, but since the costs of a mainframe are immediately obvious, it is hard to get it past the bean-counters of an organization."

Donna Hofmeister at Allegro Consultants, who's using both her MPE and Unix skills to support HP customers, pointed out that large-scale systems like the 3000 have cost advantages that are not apparent to less-experienced management. There's the sticky value of mature apps, too.

"I said essentially the same thing [about cost of ownership] to someone at HP about MPE," Hofmeister said. "The recipient’s eyes flew open like I had said the most amazing thing ever heard. I’m not a bean counter, but it was so obvious that this was the case -- and yet this had never occurred to this very well-educated HP’er.

"But anyhow, 'tis true -- it can be very very hard to replace legacy apps (for a multitude of reasons), and some people just can’t/won’t get that."

Since the 3000 has 30 years of marketplace history, a couple of 3000 managers and developers mentioned the downside of the MPE model, shortfalls that led companies away from 3000 investment. "Managers could not get a needed hardware upgrade approved," said Chuck Ryan, "because the upgrade fees demanded by their various third party software vendors vastly overshadowed the cost of the hardware. The licensing model for software on the 3000 is what killed the machine."

Pete Eggers, whose name has been mentioned for the OpenMPE board of directors, also took note of what MPE would need to remain a large-scale solution with small scale flexibility. He summed up a steep technical hill to climb.

"An updated MPE could easily have been created to sit atop a stripped down and MPE optimized Linux kernel," Eggers said on the 3000 newsgroup, "supporting all manner of server hardware and new operating system technologies. But as the late Wirt Atmar once told me, the chance for that happening passed in 2001. So now HP has regulated the HP 3000 and MPE users to hospice care, making them as comfortable and happy as possible until they pass on."

Neither view is absolute in the 3000 community, but companies are shedding 3000 staff before shuttling the system out of production use. Companies make a practice of cutting these experts out of shrinking IT budgets, so now there’s a lot of bareback computing going on in this community. Meanwhile, the 3000s continue to run. But how long, before a software failure? And who will be left on staff to understand these apps when the work begins on migrations?

08:00 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2009

HP software assists in app management

ITPA This is the time of year when HP rolls out its ideals for IT. The vendor who's carrying many HP 3000 enterprises forward on another platform has been preaching the benefits of ITIL best practices in IT for more than two years now, messages rolled out in summertime meetings at the HP Technology Forum and HP Software Universe among other places.

This summer HP exhibited a new tool to collect and analyze ITIL-based metrics. HP DecisionCenter is software that includes the HP Financial Planning and Analysis (HP FP&A). HP bills this software as a tool to help "CIOs take action to reduce variances between planned and actual spending, optimize underutilized assets and accurately allocate IT costs to the consumers of IT services."

When an enterprise grows beyond midrange size, these kinds of issues become as important to a company's top management as reliable backups are to the datacenter manager. The FP&A software links combines a financial planning and analysis capability to a financial data model. It consolidates financial information from project, asset and configuration management systems, as well as ERP software.

This kind of analysis might be familiar to an HP 3000 owner who plumbed the depths of data processing to track performance of a system. ITIL concepts such as Application Portfolio Management can be tracked using a dashboard like the one above that HP says helps "tackle the traditionally high cost of IT."

HP reports that when 200 "IT leaders" were surveyed recently, "nearly half... said they lack investment rigor and have no form of portfolio management in place for aligning IT investment decisions to business priorities." The vendor is offering an IT Performance Analytics module for HP DecisionCenter to assist in this kind of tracking. If a 3000 operation is headed into a larger data enterprise, such as through an acquisition, then ITIL, APM and analysis of investment decisions will become new skills to polish.

DecisionCenter is an analytics suite, an ITIL v3-aligned tool that enables users to "target business priorities and drive process health by discovering bottlenecks and inefficiencies." This tool can be predictive -- you can train it upon a solution your company hasn't adopted, for what-if scenario analysis  to allow IT and business decision makers to model the impact of changes in SLAs, funding, or risk tolerances. Nothing can take the place of pilot projects, rigorous testing or user interviews to learn what solution might replace a 3000. But even as you embark on that task, measuring your business IT goals against financial models provides a clearer picture.

04:35 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2009

Command file tests dates for holidays

Community contributor Dave Powell has improved upon a command file created by Tracy Pierce to deliver a streamlined way to tell an HP 3000 about upcoming holidays. Datetest tells whether a day is a holiday. "I finally needed something like that," Powell says, "but I wanted the following main changes:

1:  Boolean function syntax, so I could say :if  holiday()  then instead of
:xeq datetest
:if WhichVariableName = DontRememberWhatValue then

and also because I just think user-functions are cool."

"2. Much easier to add or disable specific holidays according to site-specific policies or even other countries’ rules. (Then disable Veterans Day, Presidents Day and MLK Day, because my company doesn’t take them.)

"3. Make it easy to add special one-off holidays like the day before/after Christmas at the last minute when the company announces them.

"Along the way, I also added midnight-protection and partial input date-checking, and made it more readable, at least to me."

Powell, who's contributed plenty of command files to the community through the HP 3000 newsgroup, says that most of the fun came in the day-of-week calculation.

I didn’t understand that part of Tracy’s script, or trust myself to adapt it without messing up, so I found a second method and used both, with a warning if the results didn’t agree. Surprise, surprise, they disagree about 12/25/2100, although they agree on dates I tested within the expected lifespan of MPE. So I shoveled in a third formula and found a day-of-week calculator spreadsheet, both of which agree with the second method. So anyone who uses Tracy’s original command file and plans to still run it in 2100 might need to make a change.

He offered what he called a preliminary version of the new datetest, which has been checked by Allegro's Steve Cooper.

option nolist
parm CCYYMMDD    =   ""
if   bound (HOL_ERRORS)    or    bound (HOL_DAY)
    deletevar   HOL_@
setvar   HOL_ERRORS  0
if   "!CCYYMMDD"     =   ""
    setvar  HOL_CYMD    HPYYYYMMDD
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HPDAY
    if  HOL_CYMD        <>  HPYYYYMMDD
#            if the date has changed, we just hit midnite and the
#            day-of-week we just set might be the new day; in this
#            case set the date & day-of-week again, and we should
#            be ok (unless the following 2 commands take 24 hours :)
        setvar  HOL_CYMD    HPYYYYMMDD
        setvar  HOL_DAY     !HPDAY
    setvar  HOL_CYMD    "!CCYYMMDD"
    if  not numeric (HOL_CYMD)
        echo **date parm, if entered, must be numeric**
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    if  len (HOL_CYMD)   <>  8
        echo **date parm must be exactly 8 digits, unless omitted**
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    elseif  numeric (HOL_CYMD)
        if  rht (HOL_CYMD, 2) > "31"
            echo **last 2 digits of date parm can't be more than 31**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        elseif  rht (HOL_CYMD, 2) = "00"
            echo **last 2 digits of date parm can't be "00"**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        if  str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2) > "12"
            echo **bytes 5 & 6 of date parm can't be more than 12**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        elseif  str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2) = "00"
            echo **characters 5 & 6 of date parm can't be "00"**
            setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
    if  HOL_ERRORS      >   0
        echo **exiting because the date-parm was not a valid**
        echo **8-digit date in yyyymmdd format **
        return FALSE

#    -------------------------------------------------------
#    do not casually modify above here
#    Take any special / unofficial holidays here
#    OK to replace any dates that are past with the date of a
#    holiday the company just announced (Jewish new year,
#    days before / after Christmas & New Years, etc, etc)

if   HOL_CYMD="20080929"  or  HOL_CYMD="20081008" &
or   HOL_CYMD="20081226"  or  HOL_CYMD="20090102"
    echo It's a special company holiday :)
    return  TRUE

#    do not casually modify below here
#    -------------------------------------------------------

setvar   HOL_YYYY    str (HOL_CYMD, 1, 4)
setvar   HOL_MM      str (HOL_CYMD, 5, 2)
setvar   HOL_DD      str (HOL_CYMD, 7, 2)

#    Set day of week, unless already set because processing "today"
if   not     bound (HOL_DAY)
#    1st, the method in the original "datetest" command file
    setvar  HOL_DAY str("000031059090120151181212243273304334", &
            !HOL_MM * 3 - 2, 3)
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + !HOL_DD
    IF  !HOL_MM > 2    and   ( !HOL_YYYY / 4 * 4 = !HOL_YYYY )
        setvar  HOL_DAY      HOL_DAY + 1
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YYYY - 1
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK / 400 ) * 146097
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK  mod  400
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY - ( !HOL_YWK / 100 ) * 36524
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK mod 100
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK / 4 ) * 1461
    setvar  HOL_YWK     !HOL_YWK mod 4
    setvar  HOL_DAY     !HOL_DAY + ( !HOL_YWK * 365 )
    setvar  HOL_DAY     ( HOL_DAY mod 7 ) + 1
    deletevar HOL_YWK

#    Next, the method posted to the 3000-l by Mike Hornsby 06/04/2004
#    except, add 1 at the end because his was 0-6 and we need
#    1-7.
    setvar  HOL_XYR !HOL_YYYY-((12-!HOL_MM)/10)
    setvar  HOL_XMONTH !HOL_MM+(((12-!HOL_MM)/10)*12)
    setvar  HOL_XDAY !HOL_DD+(!HOL_XMONTH*2)+(((!HOL_XMONTH+1)*6)/10)
    setvar  HOL_XLEAP_YR (HOL_XYR/4) - (HOL_XYR/100) + (HOL_XYR/400)
    setvar  HOL_XDAY (HOL_XDAY+HOL_XYR+HOL_XLEAP_YR+1) mod 7  +  1

#    Next, day-of-week with my adaption of a "Zeller" formula
#    off the internet.
    if  HOL_MM      <   "03"
        setvar  HOL_ZMONTH  !HOL_MM  +  12
        setvar  HOL_ZYEAR   !HOL_YYYY   -   1
        setvar  HOL_ZMONTH  !HOL_MM
        setvar  HOL_ZYEAR   !HOL_YYYY
    setvar  HOL_ZDAY    ( &
        ((13 * HOL_ZMONTH + 3) / 5)  +  !HOL_DD  +  HOL_ZYEAR &
    +   (HOL_ZYEAR/4) - (HOL_ZYEAR/100) + (HOL_ZYEAR/400) &
    +   1 )     mod 7   +   1

#    Now, see if the day-of-week calcs agree
    if  HOL_DAY     <>  HOL_XDAY &
    or  HOL_DAY     <>  HOL_ZDAY &
    or  HOL_ZDAY    <>  HOL_XDAY
        setvar  HOL_ERRORS  HOL_ERRORS + 1
        echo **day-of-week error**
        echo    HOL_DAY   =   !HOL_DAY
        echo    HOL_XDAY  =   !HOL_XDAY
        echo    HOL_ZDAY  =   !HOL_ZDAY
    setvar  HOL_DAY     HOL_ZDAY
    deletevar   HOL_X@,  HOL_Z@

#    Now check for specific regular holidays, month-by-month.
if   HOL_MM  =   "01"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "01"
        echo It's New Years Day
        return  TRUE
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=15  and  !HOL_DD<=21 )
        echo (It's Martin Luther King day - but do we get it?)
#        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "02"
    if  (!HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=15  and  !HOL_DD<=21)
        echo (It's President's Day - but do we get it?)
#        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "05"
    if  (!HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=25  and  !HOL_DD<=31)
        echo It's Memorial Day
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "07"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "04"
        echo It's July 4th
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "09"
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=2  and  !HOL_DD>=1  and  !HOL_DD<=7 )
        echo It's Labor Day
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "11"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "11"
        echo (it's Veterans Day - but do we get it ?)
#        return  TRUE
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=5  and  !HOL_DD>=22  and  !HOL_DD<=28 )
        echo It's Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    if  ( !HOL_DAY=6  and  !HOL_DD>=23  and  !HOL_DD<=29 )
        echo It's the day after Thanksgiving
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE
elseif   HOL_MM  =   "12"
    if  HOL_DD  =   "25"
        echo It's Christmas
        return  TRUE
    return  FALSE

# showvar  HOL_@
return   FALSE
#    Function "holiday" to return 'TRUE' on company holidays
#    Dave Powell,    MMfab, Inc              05/12/2009
#    Syntax  if   holiday ()  then       <checks today>
#            calc holiday (20090511)
#            if   holiday ("20090511")   then
#            calc holiday (SomeDateVariable)
#            etc
#            or, for a company that sometimes has a few people in
#            Saturday morning, but its not like a real workday
#            setvar  OFFDAY    HOLIDAY()  or  HPDAY=1
#            setvar  WORKDAY   HPDAY<7  and  not OFFDAY
#            setvar  MAYBEDAY  not ( OFFDAY or WORKDAY )
#            etc
#    Logic adapted from the "datetest" command file
#    posted by Tracy Pierce on the HP-3000L on 09/26/2002
#    Variable-naming convention:
#    -   'DD', "MM",  "YYYY" etc mean string variables with the
#        length you might guess from the name.
#    -   'DAY', "YEAR", "MONTH" mean integer-type variables.
#    Changes / "improvements" in this file over original "datetest"
#    -   Function syntax, so you can say
#            if holiday() then
#        instead of
#            xeq datetest
#            if IForgetTheVariableName = WhatWasThatValue then
#    -   Separate "if"s for each holiday, to make it easier to
#        turn them on or off depending on your site's policies.
#    -   Then turns off some holidays I don't I think I can
#        count on MMfab always taking.
#    -   It echoes the name of whatever holiday it thinks it is,
#        do make debugging easier.
#    -   Has a spot to put in extra / unofficial days off when
#        the company announces them (like the day before / after
#        Christmas).
#    -   Returns true if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday,
#        except Easter Sunday, which is ugly.
#    -   Midnite protection.
#    -   Checks that the date is numeric, with plausible month & day
#        (does not check that the day is too high for that month)
#    -   More readable ?
#    -   Calculates day-of-week three ways and compares them, as an
#        extra double-check since I don't understand any of
#        these calculations   :(
#    Downgrades:
#    -   Won't try to guess the century -- cannot handle 6-digit
#        input.
#    Any errors return "FALSE" on the assumption that the programmer,
#    at least, can't take a holiday until he fixes the bug  :)
#    Day-of-Week note:
#    The 3 methods mostly agree, but 12-25-2100 is a Sunday
#    according to method 1, but a Saturday according to methods
#    2 & 3.  Babwani's modified 2007 date-calc spreadsheet also
#    says Saturday.

02:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2009

34 summers ago, HP first Communicated

Communicator-Iss1 Working in the 3000 community to tell stories gets to be a richer job every year. People I've known since I was a young reporter sometimes pass on relics from the 3000's past. Last month I got such a gift from Steve Hammond, a 3000 veteran who's moved on with his employer to other systems but pursues history as his avocation. A modest white envelope that he gave me contained a piece of history: HP's first Communicator.

The document was HP's first shot into an open sky of communications to HP 3000 users of 1975. June of that year might have been the first summer that HP wanted to share updates about the HP 3000, since the computer had passed through the end of '74 and gotten into summer of '75 with consistent reports of reliability. Issue 1 of the Computer Systems Communicator included a section on the HP 2000 systems as well as the HP 9600 Measurement and Control systems. HP considered the three computers a complete solution to data processing needs of the middle '70s.

Only one of these computer systems has survived into this century, and HP identifies some of the credit for the 3000's longevity in this Communicator's contents: user groups, the first Communicator's theme. A HP 3000 user group was introduced with a board of directors and a mandate for meetings: "The meetings, open to all group members, afford an excellent forum for the exchange new techniques and ideas."

This Communicator also advised 3000 users about "Steps to Produce a Core Dump Tape" as well as an update to a bedrock program still used by every HP 3000 database today, FCOPY.

At 32 loose-leaf pages, the June 15, 1975 Communicator is a fledgling document. There was a good reason that the new HP 3000 Users Group met four times over 1974-75. 3000 technology was quick to change on this new HP business computer, and printed advice couldn't cover what a good talk could in person. Through 1975, two meetings were held in Palo Alto and one each in Chicago and Miami.

HP was also happy to report success for a customer who'd completed an HP 3000 internals course in this issue. "ESL in Sunnyvale, California is involved with various government agencies who as customers demand highly sophisticated applications, some of which are photographic image processing and display and land usage plottage." ESL was writing its own IO drivers and "saw a need for greater understanding of the internal activities of MPE." HP included a contact if customers wanted similar training.

To this day the Communicator continues to hold the internal advice from HP's labs to its more ardent 3000 homesteaders. HP is still making these documents available to the world from its docs.hp.com Web pages. The history there goes back more than 21 summers ago, to the Communicator issue that HP first sent out in 1988 with its groundbreaking PA-RISC MPE/XL 1.0 systems.

The final Communicator, issued one summer ago for MPE/iX 7.5 PowerPatch 5, features a pair of technical articles on IO options that might still be new to 3000 owners. Jim Hawkins, one of the last members of HP's 3000 labs, wrote pieces on High Availability FailOver/iX for FiberChannel Disk Arrays and Limited Support for Ultrium Tape on MPE/iX. A listing of beta test patches, and MPE support details for those arrays aren't available on an HP Web site any longer. (The 3000 community has several experts who can guide customers through installing the high-end arrays; Craig Lalley of EchoTech is the first who comes to mind.) Client Systems has posted a selection of HP labs whitepapers on its rehosted Jazz Web site.

08:22 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2009

3000 keeping its beat at daily newspaper

PioneerPress Even in the face of last month's layoffs in the newsroom of the St. Paul, Minn. Pioneer Press, an HP 3000 installed there keeps on reporting on revenues.

Although the newspaper business is embroiled in change this year, a leading daily paper for the Twin Cities is still using software developed for the HP 3000. An advertising system which was sold off-the-shelf by Collier-Jackson continues to track the paper's subscriptions and newsstand sales.

Linda Roatch, a former HP user group director, checked in and reported on the 3000's status. "We do have a 3000 in house that still runs our circulation system," Roatch said. "I'm the Advertising Systems Manager. I'm not involved with the 3000, but I believe it's the Collier-Jackson circulation system from long ago, one that we've highly customized and haven't upgraded in years."

Newspapers represented a healthy market for the HP 3000 in the decade that led to HP's exit announcement. Collier-Jackson was a newspaper software vendor once large enough to mount its own user group conference, a meeting of several days during that decade. Collier-Jackson was sold in 1994 from Compuserve to GEAC, a Canadian company which was acquired by ERP and business software vendor Infor. Infor has made acquiring legacy software a business mantra.

An application bought off the shelf and fine-tuned for a business's processes is a classic element in 3000 homesteading. ERP users operate in the same kind of shop, customizing apps such as MANMAN or MM II/eXegysys to adapt to business changes. Infor owns MANMAN as well as the Collier-Jackson assets.

Roatch did duty on the Interex user group board and worked as an independent consultant from her Minnesota base. She says she's moved on to working with Sun and Oracle in another section of the paper, which recently laid off nine more employees from its 138-person newsroom. It's a struggling business like so many other newspapers, but it's holding its own while it holds onto its HP 3000.

"I'm responsible for the project management, support and development of software used by Advertising," Roatch said. "I've not worked on the HP 3000 for almost four years. The software I support runs on Sun servers and an Oracle DB, and I'm pretty removed from the hardware and database support stuff."


04:53 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 06, 2009

HP offers partly cloudy futures

PODLookover You can be forgiven if you feel like clouds of computing are rolling past you. Cloud computing, where a remote datacenter's storage and compute power takes the duty of local servers and services, is driving a lot of HP's efforts to attract enterprise business. The concept is defined in so many ways that one analyst offers advice for "cloud sourcing strategists."

At the recent HP Technology Forum & Expo, HP worked to demonstrate how the cloud concept has been assimilated into HP's enterprise offerings. The means range from developing the knowledge to adopt this new strategy through company-maintained, redundant and adaptive servers, to letting HP do it all for you with services. HP's VP of Marketing for its EDS unit has been quoted this quarter as saying "
Cloud means a lot of things to different people. Right now the objective, particularly for large enterprises, is to experiment to understand what the implications are."

There's more than one level of experimenting going on here. HP's trying to see what might stick to your budget. Cloud computing is a new term, one being applied to the yeoman work during this tough year's IT sales missions. But cloud computing might be an alternative to HP 3000 ownership if 1. Applications can be found in the cloud to enable a customer's services to its business centers. 2. These applications can be customized to fit company business processes, and 3. The whole solution is as reliable as maintaining your own datacenter.

Reliability is a key to replicating the 3000 value. The HPTF attendee above isn't looking into the clouds for an enterprise solution. He's looking over the ceiling of an HP product that's as non-cloudy as anything can be, but built by the vendor to deliver "Cloud Assurance."

PODRack The IT community that prizes HP 3000 experience knows that clouds can disappear for awhile. Everything goes down. Last week one of the most adept of cloud computing providers, Google, saw its services evaporate for millions of users of Google Code, when the Google App Engine went offline. The event of a few hours' outage made a case for the very non-cloudy HP offering, the HP POD. Unlike the cloud, the Performance-Optimized Datacenter is delivered not over a network, but packed in a 40-foot commercial storage container. HP will drop one at your request, overnight.

The POD made a tour stop at the HPTF, where a helpful HP rep offered a slide show that serves as a virtual tour. The POD, explained in plain English, looks like a Datacenter of Impressive Size (DIS) filled top to bottom with server racks and extensive cooling. That's capacity for over 3,500 compute nodes, or 12,000 hot plug hard drives, or a combination thereof. If your local school district is out of classroom space, it might use portable buildings to supplement. POD appears to be the container-based portable building for an datacenter, expanding capacity 4,000 square feet at a time.

PowerhousePOD For the customer who's lost power, the POD solution can be coupled with a Powerhouse POD. (A Powerhouse not related in any way to the 3000 software company, since it's a massive hunk of hardware instead of a massive hunk of software and license fees.)

These two ends of HP's enterprise spectrum — on one hand, resources you cannot even see; on the other, a solution so large its delivery requires a flatbed tractor-trailer — shows HP casting a wide net. This month the HP Cloud Discovery Workshop debuts, a service to educate you about how cloud computing fits in an IT service provider strategy.

The POD feels more like the HP 3000 datacenter. But HP calls the POD "cloud-enabling computing." By any name, using offsite resources becomes very popular in an economy where few new purchases of capital goods can get approval. Much like the HP 3000, a POD becomes the heavy hardware to make HP promises of services come true. HP wants to offer infrastructure, platforms, as well as software, all as services. Clouds become the ultimate HP virtualization trick, enabled by hardware engineered to be redundant.

06:24 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 03, 2009

Practice independence in your community

Here in the US we're observing our Independence Day this weekend, a celebration that echoes my hopes of independence for HP 3000 community members. Those who are homesteading on the system beyond HP's schedule have already chosen an independent path. They depend on new partners for support. Some community members have chosen the independence of Linux and open source, too, to supplement their 3000 computing power.

I also believe that independence is essential to those members staying with HP. Those companies migrating need to speak out freely about their experiences. As a journalist for almost 30 years, I've seen a decline in the independence of speaking on the record. I'd love to start a revolution in that regard and roll back the calendar, but anonymous sources have become a bulwark in reporting. The journalism community represented at the Washington, DC Newseum — a fine stop for any citizen-tourist in that town — has grave doubts about anonymous sources. We reporters trade credibility for trust when we need to use these sources.

I'd use fewer of these with more customers going on the record. Public meetings, open to both users and the press, are becoming rare indeed. It's up to 3000 community members to speak out online, where the speaker has more control of what's being reported.

In fact, the demise of public meetings was one factor in passing up the HP Technology Forum & Expo this year. This is first year since 1985 that I haven't attended a national-level HP user conference. After 24 annual events in a row, it seemed that things have changed between HP and the press. Last year I complained about the frustration of incomplete press access at HPTF. Things have shifted in HP's press approach, which makes the Internet and blogs the reasonable alternative to hearing community members' voices.

There's been a bit of good change, like hearing HP talk live to the analysts about quarterly reports via the Internet. But when Computerworld is standing outside a meeting door alongside the 3000 NewsWire, then HPTF starts to look like a restricted event. The user forums were ideal for a journalist who wants in-person connections with new sources. Users voicing opinions and telling stories about their customer experience is the meat of a conference. I understand how that won't serve HP as well as it did in the 80s or even the 90s. Sometimes you just have to accept changes.

As a community member you don't have to accept a less independent strategy. HP does operate a few forums online where customers can share opinion and experience. But the filtering is profound these days, probably reflecting the whole spin dance companies do with the media. You control your statements if you can speak out in places like Twitter, Linked In and Facebook (all of which have 3000-related followings and groups), as well as the Connect user group's online MPE forum. We'll be hearing more about that group in awhile, according to Connect board director Chris Koppe.

Until then and beyond, I hope you'll share your independent statements with your community and me here at the NewsWire. Enjoy and exercise your independence as a citizen, community member, or both.

12:29 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 02, 2009

Pros build a life beyond the 3000

3000 veterans have been facing a job shortfall for some time now, but some are finding enough work to stay busy, even in a down economy. We heard yesterday that Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster is "staying busier than you'd believe, given the current economy," working engagements with companies that need his HP 3000 and open source skills.

That's a combination often cited as a safe path into a future where HP won't even support the 3000. While it seems easy to say "get better trained on Microsoft solutions," Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions says MS is only part of a smart future.

"I honestly would not count on Microsoft owning the majority of the market twenty years from now," says Anderson, who left an HP 3000 job to start his own enterprise. "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Learn how virtualization improves the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications. Run multiple operating systems and learn new concepts, look into cloud computing and open source."

Anderson advised not to put all of your effort into learning any Microsoft technology, but to look into platform-independent technologies. He offered a few links to explore:

Basics of the Unix Philosophy
A Unix Programming Portal 
Cloud computing

In that cloud computing summary, 3000 pros might see a reflection of the system's past, where time-sharing provided computing resources to multiple companies over a network. The similarity underscores the value of IT basics the 3000 pro can call upon. Veterans of this community are making a living blending their still-valued 3000 skills and new tools. One supplier of consulting and resales, who wants to comment anonymously, wrote to share his success working with 3000s and other tools.

This 3000 expert had a one-year contract to move a company off the HP 3000 to Eloquence and AcuCOBOL, but he's retained the client while working to maintain its network, UPS, and telephone switch as well as removing PC viruses.

I finished that migration project on time and under budget four years ago, but the company still won't let me go. I moved seven years ago and put 5 percent down on my house. I started my business six-plus years ago, and I paid off my house over a year ago. I would say 50 percent of my customers are still on the HP 3000 with no plans of moving off. The other income is from SANs and HP-UX.

The HP 3000 has been very, very good to me.

10:28 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 01, 2009

Open source community grows opportunity

Open source software is taking a fresh step into territory more comfortable to commercial users. The HP 3000 world is closer than most to embracing open source as a validated solution, in part because your world has employed user-created software for 3000 sites since the 1970s.

Of late, that kind of help has emerged from stewards around the world updating Samba, Apache, or the latest extension to the power of Linux. But another category is emerging with fresh opportunity: the commercial open source software organization. Openbravo, an ERP app being introduced to 3000 migration candidates by Entsgo, is among the best-organized of these solutions. Its community gathers and creates the Community Edition using a Wiki for free, but Openbravo also offers an Openbravo Network implementation including an annual professional support subscription service.

Openbravo is so complete that the software includes tools available for non-developers to modify the app suite. While this might sound like a risky move, many 3000 owners have little in the way of traditional development staff. The 3000 was offered to the non-DP kind of customer. That's Data Processing, for anyone searching for IT or MIS as a label for the technologists in the community.

Even though Openbravo is offered with source code included, these tools give customization to users who know business processes better than COBOL or C.

If you look at the Openbravo community, says Entsgo's Engagement Manager Sue Kiezel, "it isn't just developers. It's users, too, because they have tools for people like me, who really aren't technology people, so we can modify the code."

Kiezel said she wrote add-on modules to Openbravo during Entsgo's training for the app. "We also modified existing forms and lookup tables, and added content. It's very easy to do." These tools operate through a Web-based interface.

In addition to making changes to handling processes like this, the application's published source can be modified. Under the terms of the Openbravo Public License Version 1.1, any modifications a user makes to the published source code must be made available, just like many other open source solutions.

Any Modification which you create or to which you contribute must be made available in Source Code form under the terms of this License, either on the same media as an Executable version or via an accepted Electronic Distribution Mechanism to anyone to whom you made an Executable version available.

The software is available as a free download, also in keeping with the open source model. But since it's an ERP-class solution, using a partner such as Entsgo is Openbravo's preferred path into a company. Chief Operating Officer Josep Mitja says

Openbravo is relatively easy to implement compared with many established proprietary solutions, but an ERP implementation typically requires support of qualified IT consultants. For this purpose Openbravo is distributed to end users through its global network of partners. Openbravo partners manage customer relations and provide support to users.

That said, a company that's dedicated to using state-of-the-art tools can do its own development. This is territory where a non-3000 platform will be replacing something like a MANMAN, so the Openbravo app suite is built for industry-standard systems. Openbravo is developed in Java, SQL and PL/SQL. Most developers work on a Linux machine with a PostgreSQL or Oracle database, the Java Development Kit, Apache Ant and Tomcat installed. Java coding and debugging is done in Eclipse.

There is a great deal of headroom for the growth of functionality in Openbravo, plus the means to accomlish it through the commercial open source community.

"It doesn't have the depth and breadth of a MANMAN yet," Kiezel said. "But MANMAN didn't either in its first seven years. It took 20 years. The open source idea is wonderful. But I think the idea that really excites me is the community. The fact is that Openbravo's business model is not based on how much money they can make off of you. It's, 'How we can not only share the burden, but share the rewards.' "

12:51 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)