August 30, 2013
A 3000 emulator needs HP's IP to boot
Last week we reported a couple of stories' worth of information about a new emulator effort for the HP 3000. This one couldn't be more different than the Stromasys Charon product that's now winning customers. We've gotten a heads-up that another Charon site will be going online to replace large HP 3000s, this one in the northeast at a financial services company.
Meanwhile, Piotr Głowacz in Poland is fronting a band of developers who are taking an open source approach -- using publically-available documents.
We did our simulator based 100 percent on publicity-available docs (which is typical for FOSS projects). We've reached the point where the simulator is running, going through the install process for MPE/iX and crashes at the very unspecified moments. As we can't provide an HPSUSAN number for testing, we're just hoping our simulator will do (and we're closer to our goal each day).
We’re still checking to see if Głowacz’ team means that they're getting closer to a non-crash startup for MPE/iX every day. It’s not clear why if they had an HPSUSAN number, it would that help in the testing.
What your community learned in 2003 was HP's help would be required to emulate PA-RISC processors capable of booting MPE/iX. There's a Processor Dependent Code routine or module that halted the Stromasys work for years. HP's intellectual property lawyers wouldn't cooperate, and the Stromasys development had to get shelved. Until 2008, when HP changed its mind.
Open source has its unique advantages. One of them is finding things available in public domain and modifying that source code to solve a problem. However, PDC has been considered a trade secret by HP. Getting documentation about PDC from a public source is going to be a tough assignment. Stromasys got the information by arranging for a top-down, official relationship with HP. That's led to an HP Worldwide Reseller agreement.
Not even the licensees of the source code for MPE/iX have those internal HP docs about PDC in PA-RISC.
In a commercial arrangement, HP's lawyers might be convinced that it's a good idea to make that data available. It's a leap of faith to imagine that arrangement taking place for an open source project. This project would be the first open source re-engineering of a processor for the HP enterprise user base.People have ported open source tools. But to open-source an simulator of a proprietary chip, booting a proprietary enterprise OS, has never been done. That distinction of emulator and simulator is important.
If the open source team has a chance getting what it needs from Hewlett-Packard, it might start with Jennie Hou at HP. She ran the 3000 business group at the end, until there was no more group.
We don't know several other things yet. Are any of these developers experienced with MPE? Charon got release-ready when some MPE veterans joined the effort. And I also asked Głowacz "why do this, for a slice of the computer community that's so small?" It's clearly not a simple effort, as an volunteer open source project for a community the size of the 3000’s. The answer sounded like a line from a political speech or a play. “As for your question why, I'd like to answer as simplest as I can — if we're not for money, why not?” Glowacz said.
The line attributed to US Senator Robert F. Kennedy goes, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” In truth, the line comes from playwright George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah. It was spoken by the Serpent in that play.
“Why not” is noble and laudable. But there are expenses in most of the simulator/emulator projects -- if nothing else, there's the time of the developers and testers. Those are some reasons why not. Perhaps the nature of an open source project simply absorbs these real costs of labor and systems.
There are worse places for the 3000 community to find itself, than to be the subject of an open source simulator. Whether it’s suitable for commercial use must still be proven — once the effort gets a version which can boot. The hobbyist part of the 3000 community -- most likely to sieze on a free tool -- is already served by a free limited user and horsepower version of the Stromasys Charon software.
August 29, 2013
Data migration requires disk, plus planning
We've written about data migration as the precursor to any kind of transition. Yesterday MB Foster held a webinar to dive deeper into the strategies that can give an IT manager advantages while migrating.
The company says that the drivers for for moving data from one device to another include "Data refreshes, server and application consolidation, data center relocation, data classification/taxonomy, analytics/BI, reporting, MDM, Big Data and mergers/acquisitions. You’d think that any operation performed routinely would become easy. But alas, it is not so."
"These migrations are never going to be trivial, based on our experiences with customers. Not until you've got them scoped, figured out and automated. Even two companies using the exact same application might have stored things in their databases slightly differently."
The webinar included a demonstration of MB Foster’s processes using its product UDA Central, a data migration solution. There was also a mention of a new software tool that can look inside of databases, to see data that would benefit from being merged. For example, many different colors of black inside the records of a garment warehousing application.
Y2K experiences taught the MB Foster team that there are special case date types being used in applications. Among these are zero dates, where zeros were placed into records when the date was unknown; a sentinel date, where a user wasn't sure when an event would occur, so all 9's got placed in the field; as well as invalid dates.
"Those are all dates that you need to understand, and understand early," said CEO Birket Foster.
"We're working on a series of tools will tell you what's in a database, so you could go in and say, 'Dump the vocabulary for this field called color," he said. "One of the customers who'd like us to be doing some work for them has 12 ways of spelling black right now. They're in the retail business, and they know from the buyer to receiving to the distribution center, to stores and to analytics, different spellings of black will produce different results."
With 40,000 SKUs, this site is worried about how to aggregate these useages and spellings to black becomes common to all SKUs.
"We think you should automate the process of data migration as much as possible," Foster said. "No migration of data is done once. It's done at least three times." First and second migrations are done to test, and the third is to go live.
"Your objective is not to custom-code every one of your migrations," he added. It's to automate the data extraction, as well as the on-board loading of data to the target database or platform.
The webinar demonstrated the migration of SQL Server data to an Oracle database, (shown above) as a means of showing what the UDA Central software can do to lift and shift data to popular databases, manage complex data structures and mitigate risks.
August 28, 2013
How to Restore Posix on a New 3000
Everything is peachy after my new install of MPE/iX (6.0; yes, I know it's very old) on my Series 918 -- except I haven't been able to get Telnet working. It errors every time when I put in the INETDCNF.NET file. In my attempts, it appears that I have missing links to the Posix shell. When I execute SH.HPBIN.SYS -L, I get a $ prompt which suggests that my /etc/profile isn't being executed. How can I fix this to get things working?
Donna Hofmeister replies
You're probably missing all/most of your Posix stuff. You can easily check by doing ":listfile /etc/,2" (you have to use listfile for this). If you see nothing...yeah, well... A quick repair for jinetd would be to do the following:
NEWLINK /etc/services, SERVICES.NET.SYS
NEWLINK /etc/protocols, PROTOCOL.NET.SYS
NEWLINK /etc/inetd.conf, INETDCNF.NET.SYS
On my system, I see the following files with links back to .net.sys:bootpd
You might want to go ahead and make those as well....
For restoring your missing files... you're on a bit of a quest.You can check your tapes (do a vstore) to see if any of them have slash-lowercase files. Maybe you'll get lucky! If so, do
"restore *t ; / - @.@.@; keep"
If you're not so lucky, try this...
1. Restore the following from the FOS tape:
2. :STREAM I0036431.USL.SYS
3. After I0036431 finishes,
Barry Lake at Allegro Consultants also suggested a look at the "Plug & Play Posix" paper on Allegro's website. "It's a little dated," he said, "but then, so is MPE/iX 6.0."
August 27, 2013
The Things We've Missed, This August
This week the VMware annual conference is holding court in San Francisco. Three HP 3000 faces are at the conference. Stromasys has its booth up and running, because the company's specialty is virtualization. Scott Hirsh (at right), former chairman of the SIGSYSMAN group in the '90s, is on hand as a member of his new company, virtual storage startup Actifio. Meanwhile, Doug Smith is on the scene, taking a few days away from his HP 3000 consultancy in the Dallas area.
It all reminds me of the way August usually buzzed for your community. This was the month when the printed publications that covered the 3000 swelled in page count. Today there's only one of us left, but August used to promise hefty issues of HP World, or Interact, or HP Professional. Even HP Omni, based in the UK, had a lift from the annual Interex conference, held as a moveable feast around North America.
We are mailing out our usual August issue this week. But it doesn't have a special shipment ahead of the postal service, to arrive at a show hall. The sweet frenzy of booth setup was one of my partner Abby's favorite times, when the vendors and leaders of your community could talk before showtime. This was when we'd usually bring around a small present, often made of leather, as our way of showing thanks for those sponsors. I'm even more grateful this August for our sponsors, fewer in number but just as devoted.
By the time our blog began, the annual conference was gone, a victim of the Interex bankruptcy. We could only report on what was no longer there, and why, what it cost everybody. It was the last time than an August had a conference scheduled with an HP in the title. Now HP Discover is entrenched in Vegas and happens every June.
We're also missing the parade of t-shirts that floated through August. A t-shirt offered at an HP conference had to be clever, if it was going to be picked up from a booth worker. Even the Newswire had t-shirts. The ones that HP's handing out this week are a bit threadbare on clever, or even inspiring. You don't often want your marketing message, something as unwieldy as "Proven software-defined innovations from HP," on the front of a shirt. It's another place where HP "needs to do better," as its CEO said while explaining the latest financial results last week. We once designed a shirt, for a vendor out of this market, with a wraparound rocket screen-printed on front and side.
Another thing we've missed this August is the annual HP Management Roundtable. Veterans of the conference trail might remember one of the last roundtables, this one focused on the 3000. On cue, 11 HP executives and managers rose up as one, removing their sportscoats and suit jackets. It was a powerful moment that was supposed to signal that the managers were rolling up their sleeves to do work answering questions. Harry Sterling, the best GM the 3000 division ever had, choreographed that move. He was the only GM ever to appear onstage for a talk wearing a tuxedo.
We miss the stunts and the amiable suffering too. The former included The World's Largest Poster project, where an HP 3000 drove an HP large-format printer, for weeks before the show, creating the poster in strips. The Newswire provided lunch while Wirt Atmar did all the organizing and produced the poster in rolls of paper. It all had to be loaded in a van and driven to Anaheim. Atmar called that toting of the rolls "the corporate fitness program" at his software company.
We're missing those kinds of people we'd see only once a year, the ones who we'd interview or check in with via phone every month. By the time we published our first Newswire during an August, the show called Interex had been renamed HP World. It was an outreach that the user group performed to retain HP's cooperation. For close to two decades by that time, the group had brought the smartest and most ardent users within HP's reach. I had my own moments of joy at those meetings, walking the halls and being hailed with hellos. A conference conversation rarely lasted five minutes and could be interrupted at any time by another attendee, especially a customer. Meeting in person was the best way to close a prospect, or understand a problem.
We also miss the System Improvement Ballot, a way to petition HP for improvements to MPE. The results of these requests were often unveiled at an August conference. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present for some customers, or finding a lump of coal in the stocking for others.
August used to leave your community invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up. But it always brought us closer together. We'll always have August in our memories, our cabinets of memorabilia, and the archives of the printed 3000 Newswire. I'm happy to be replicating one of the elements this year, by shipping out our 139th issue. If you'd like a copy in the US Mail, send me your address. As far back as 16 years ago, we were getting ready for daily coverage like you read in our blog. I'd stay up late each night producing stories for our website overnight. At least the drumbeat of a daily deadline hasn't changed.
August 26, 2013
Buy wee HP discs? Small payoff, big price
It's probably a habit you could break easier than you think. If you're keeping a 3000 online, either in homesteading or pre-migration mode, you could quit buying something as antique as 18GB disk drives. Taking a minute to consider the payoff might help adjust this habit.
We spoke to an IT manager at a California school district who was heading for a Linux replacement, somewhere down the road, for his HP 3000. One reason for the migration was the price of hardware. Yes, even in the year when HP hasn't built a 3000 for 10 years, original equipment disc is selling. Our IT manager reported his 18GB device had doubled in price.
That's original HP-branded disc, certified to run on an HP 3000. Sounds good, but it doesn't mean much in 2013. If that disk doesn't boot a 3000, or it becomes lost in the 3000 IO configuration -- LDEVs fall off -- who will you complain to? The seller of the disk, perhaps. But there's no HP anymore that knows or cares about the HP 3000 and its discs. So much for vendor warranty or certification.
Your third-party indie support company will do the certification -- let's just call it a check -- on the suitability of a model of drive. Seriously, we can't see why managers would buy system discs that have less storage than a USB flash drive crafted to look like a Despicable Me minion. Buying these is a habit, and one you can break with many SCSI discs out there, selling for under $100.Let's not call this habit silly or unwise. Let's call it unaware, the raise our awareness. Not long ago, 3K Ranger owner Keven Miller shared his research on replacement discs for 3000s.
From what I've experienced, any SCSI disk should work. I got an IBM 4GB drive from someplace, and it wouldn’t work. I put it onto a Unix box (HP-UX, Linux I don't recall) then found that the low level format was a 514 block size, not 512. I had to learn about using "setblock" to reformat the drive. Then, I could install MPE onto it as an LDEV 1.
I have these disks laying around
4GB Seagate ST14207W FastWide SCSI-2 68F
2GB Western Digital WDE2170-007 Ultra Fast Wide 68F
18GB IBM Ultrastar IC35L018UCD210-0 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
18GB IBM DNES-318350 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
36GB IBM Ultrastar DDYS-T36950 U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K IV U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K III U160 80pin
There was a time, perhaps 25 years ago, when 18GB discs not only seemed vast, but they were just a dream. Now the collection of USB sticks shown in the picture above sells for $28 at WalMart and holds 6GB more than that costly HP-branded disc.
If you can move beyond the HP PA-RISC hardware, and onto a virtualized server, you'll tap into the vast universe of such cheap storage. One minion can hold more than an LDEV 1, circa 1993. Back up. If one minion stops working, plug in another on that virtualized, PC-based MPE/iX system.
August 23, 2013
Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg
Hewlett-Packard has announced another skid in its fortunes for the servers designed to replace HP 3000s. This time around, the results were so disappointing that the Enterprise business unit had its Executive VP removed from the job.
It's not that the numbers for this period were out of line with the last eight quarters. (Details above) But the malaise of the sales at Business Critical Systems -- where the Integrity servers have been losing revenue and profit -- has spread to the sales of the ProLiant systems as well. BCS, which still gets its own baggage to carry in the HP quarterly reports, dropped another 26 percent of sales versus 2012's Q3.
How small has BCS become? It's a question which can be answered at last. HP reported that sales of the Integrity systems' unit represented 4 percent of the total $6.8 billion of the Enterprise group. That's $272 million in sales of HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS servers and related peripherals for a 3-month period. Less than 1 percent of HP's sales, or a run rate of just over $1 billion a year. Except that it's been running downhill since 2011, and Dave Donatelli was all but fired for the results.
HP's CEO Meg Whitman reported that Donatelli -- who came to HP in a contested job change from EMC -- will be "on special assignment," instead of running the futures and fortunes of HP's Enterprise servers. The group includes Industry Standard Xeon-based ProLiants. The whole unit dropped another $600 million in sales during Q3. Like so many of the dropping units on the HP report, the group was listed as working in a "tough compare" to the 2012 business.
Which would make for a good explanation, until you remember HP reported a record loss for last year's Q3. Analysts said after the call that the HP results show, as Mad Money's Jim Cramer brayed, "HP needs three things: new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck."The only part of the HP third quarter that didn't slip was the Software group. No growth, but no decline in sales, either. All of the declining -- from the steep 26 percent at BCS, to the smallest of 4 percent in Printing --was against the Q3 of 2012. While sales were off by 8 percent company-wide, HP reported a total of $1.7 billion in profits overall after it took its writedowns and amortizations. The Enterprise Group, home to HP Servers, still contributed $1 billion to that total profit. The Enterprise profits dropped 20 percent in real dollars from last year, however.
The company has been maintaining its overall profitability by shaving down costs. Whitman, like her predecessor Mark Hurd, calls this becoming more efficient. The solutions in the business servers unit will run to things like investment in the support of the sales force and operations. Or getting better organized in marketing and product management. Growth is supposed to come from leveraging accounts between Enterprise Services -- another slipping unit -- and Enterprise Servers group.
The slipping results didn't shake out to the bottom line of profits because of those cost savings. HP eliminated another 3,800 jobs in the period. That's a small percentage of the 22,000 it's shaved away for the last 18 months. HP still employs about 300,000 people worldwide.
The actual numbers came out early on August 22, eight hours before the explanations from Whitman and CFO Cathie Lesjak. All day the stock got sold down, losing 14 percent of its value and driving down the Dow by five points all by itself. There was no bounceback during the trading day that followed, which is unusual. A Dow Jones company that takes a swoon like this often gets bought up in the aftermath at the lower prices. HPQ shares recovered just 18 cents.
That might be due to the adjustment of analyst expectations. While HP might have avoided a nose-dive by beating profit estimates, it's become "The Incredible Shrinking Company" (Seeking Alpha) or "headed for an abyss" (ValueWalk). At MarketWatch, John Shinal wrote, "Far from engineering a turnaround, Whitman is overseeing what looks more and more like a voyage to the bottom of the sea." One analyst house shifted its advice from "hold" to "sell" after the report's numbers came out.
Customers care about more the numbers in pricing, however. The forecasts of recovery are often left to business journalists, analysts, and fund managers to fret over. At the Motley Fool, author Anders Bylund noted that "HP never resorted to the ultimate panic strategy of deep discounts in the hunt for revenue targets. Product prices remained firm." That means that despite the loss of business, HP didn't lower pricing for customers and prospects. The stock has "just about matched the Dow's one-year returns." HP's got the advantage of rebounding off an $11.65 nadir last fall. Anything in the $20s seems better.
However, a computer supplier needs to be on a mission to do more than protect its share price and return cash to investors. HP's biggest number on its own infographic touted $283 million returned to shareholders. That counts share buybacks as well as dividends. The fine print for Q3: HP curtailed its share buyback program for "material, non-public information that prevented us from [repurchasing stock]." Nobody asked what that meant during a one-hour analyst call, so it must not be important to financial experts.
The fine print on the infographic was reserved for the percentage in lost sales.
Whitman said more than once that she's satisfied with the progress of what she calls a five-year turnaround project. "We have re-ignited innovation at HP," she said. Then she allowed that more acquisitions, which Whitman halted at first, would have to help spark new products. "We’re very focused, but acquisitions are going to have to be a part of this turnaround," she told analysts in her call. (You can listen for yourself at HP's investor website. Full numbers are at the main page of that site, too.)
Later on, Whitman said that "HP is the product of many acquisitions," going back to the Compaq purchase that triggered the HP 3000 pullout. She added that not all of the acquisitions have been integrated fully.
"We have more work to do," she said. While noting that HP's in a happy place for cash: paying off a $1.2 billion note, buying stock, paying dividends -- Whitman said that an overall increase in sales for 2013 wouldn't be happening. Pockets of the company will see sales increases.
Which pockets increase might have an effect on the fortunes of futures for some products. Whitman said HP's got three segments of businesses, and its "heavily weighted now toward declining businesses."
August 22, 2013
Other emulator: no sales, some commerce
The developer team that's working on a second HP 3000 emulator opened its horizons today with a message sent to the 3000-L mailing list. Piotr Glowacz was on the hunt for a copy of MPE/iX, as we noted yesterday. He'd really like copies of 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5.
One reader on the mailing list suggested this software was available from Client Systems. That company sells HP 3000s, as it has for more than five years by itself, and another 10 before that as the only North American distributor for HP's 3000 business.
The scope of this project led by Glowacz -- the group has yet to boot up a 3000 under any conditions, emulated or not -- clearly falls outside the range of sales. Today Glowacz said that there will no sales of the software once they finish. It's open source, after all. Noting that the project is not like the 3000 emulator now selling from Stromasys, Glowacz calls it a simulator.
Our simulator isn't going to be a commercial software. We want free, BSD-licensed, fully functional simulator for 3k architecture, for both private and commercial use.
There's another non-commercial aspect to this Simulator project. The group doesn't have a company behind it or enough resources to buy a bottom-end HP 3000 -- and get a copy of MPE/iX in the process."I know there are plenty of cheap 3k systems available," Glowacz told me in an email. "But at this moment we don't have resources needed to buy it and move it in (we're just a group of programmers, dispersed worldwide, with no commercial support and no company behind). Also, we'd need a few of these machines, as we're trying to simulate not only N-Class and A-class, but also older systems, like 9xx."
Another option emerged as a suggestion, and we're following up on that, too. Jack Connor, a hardworking volunteer for the OpenMPE board in the past and a current tech wizard for Abtech, said he believes Client Systems could provide what Piotr needs, for a fee.
I know that you can get, I believe, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, and 7.5 from Client Systems. There's a fee, but for bare bones MPE/iX without any of the major add-ons, I'd think price would be minimal.
These are legitimate licensed copies of MPE/iX, so all's above board as concerns HP.
I've reached out to Dan Cossey at Client Systems to check on the above, and see if this is the way it works there this year. The front page of their website they say they distinguish themselves by being
the only company authorized by Hewlett Packard in North America; that is allowed and capable of creating and loading a custom FPT (factory Pre load Tape) the exact same way it has been done at the HP factory for 30 years.
If they can do that tape for Piotr and his band of developers, then why not do it for everybody? And if that's true, it would change the prospects for any emulator, or simulator. It's been a given, up to now, that the only emulator customers will be companies which already own a valid 3000 license.
August 21, 2013
Open source emulator creator seeks MPE
Our ally and friend Alan Yeo flagged down a message to the 3000 community from a developer who says he's in a group that's written an HP 3000 emulator. "A second emulator," read Alan's message. He suggested that we track down details from Piotr Glowacz, the creator of the message below -- which was posted on the comp.sys.hp.mpe newsgroup.
As I can't get any response from HP, I've decided to give this group a try. With a group of system programmers, we're working on a free, open source 3k emulator, based on QEMU (and its binary translator), with the goal to get a fully functioning rp7400/N4K environment. As for now, we have it working with HP-UX 11i, but our main goal is to get MPE/iX up and running on it.
So, my question is -- is someone on this group able to provide us with MPE/iX installation media images? I know it's a gray land, but as I can't get any response from HP (even after they announced their HP3k simulator programme), I'm willing to risk, and try to run our simulator with an 'unauthorized' copy of the OS, just to check if it's working.
Glowacz might know that there's already a free version of a tested emulator out on the marketplace. The A202 version of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator can be downloaded from Stromasys. It's a two-user instance and includes a version of MPE/iX, already hosted in a VMWare player instance and bootable from a Linux distro. Stromasys was passing out this freeware -- which is not open source software -- on USB sticks at this spring's Training Day event in Mountain View. The stick even includes an MPE/iX image. The A202 is not licensed for commercial use, only personal and pilot testing.However, if you'd like to help Glowacz and his group, he's listing his email as email@example.com.
It seems the best way to get a disk image is to purchase a used HP 3000. It's very inexpensive these days, for a small one, with a valid license. The 3000-L mailing list -- which is not where Glowacz started his hunt for an MPE image -- has seen several individuals who have 3000s which they'd like to get out of their shops or garages. Some have been offered for the cost of shipping, but we don't know how many have MPE/iX 7.5.
For that matter, we're not sure if this open source emulator requires the latest version of MPE/iX to succeed. As the developers don't yet have MPE/iX in their lab, they probably don't know that either. But many of the nearly-free 3000s have an MPE license, something Glowacz's team could create a disk image from.
It's interesting that HP hasn't responded to his request for an MPE image, but it's not clear where you'd ask for an image of MPE/iX simply for testing. There's no way for HP to just hand out an image. The OS has been tied to real HP hardware instances -- and defended in lawsuits by HP -- for close to 15 years. You cannot have a legal copy of MPE without a piece of hardware. HP created an emulator license in 2004, but you must transfer a legal copy of a license to emulator use. HP's not creating MPE licenses anymore.
To be sure, Glowacz can get an MPE installation image from somewhere in the community. For testing purposes, this could be a start. We'd advise that he go straight to NMMGR for testing once he's got it loaded. (Be sure and see if block mode works.) He should also start up ODE from the ISL prompt that he'll get off of this open source emulator.
It's easy to be skeptical about open source projects. But some amazing tools have started there. The obvious poster child for open source is Linux. We don't know if this open source emulator is hosted on a Linux system as its cradle. Stromasys began with the idea of using Windows, but that didn't even last long enough to see the light of the round of beta testing.
We'll check back in when we hear more about the open source emulator. QEMU is, according to Wikipedia's article
a hosted virtual machine monitor: It emulates central processing units through dynamic binary translation and provides a set of device models, enabling it to run a variety of unmodified guest operating systems. It also provides an accelerated mode for supporting a mixture of binary translation (for kernel code) and native execution (for user code), in the same fashion VMware Workstation and VirtualBox do. QEMU can also be used purely for CPU emulation for user-level processes, allowing applications compiled for one architecture to be run on another.
QEMU "can boot many guest operating systems, including Linux, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, DOS, and BSD Unix. It supports emulating several instruction sets, including x86, MIPS, ARM, PowerPC, SPARC, ETRAX CRIS and MicroBlaze." The main website for the code lists HP PA-RISC as a "target" for QEMU. There is a Git repository for HPPA target support.
August 20, 2013
Terminal emulation app tested via LinkedIn
In a first for the HP 3000 Community, that LinkedIn group is trading test experiences for new software. The TTerm Pro iPad app, available to employ HP 2392 and 700/92 terminal emulation, has been sent for evaluation, purchased, and discussed among the 3000 pros in the group.
The developer of TTerm Pro has been responsive in the give and take for a product new to the 3000 world. Turbosoft's Art Haddad said that the software has had 3000 emulation capability since the early 1990s. This is the first month of availability for the iOS version of the software.
Stan Sieler of Allegro first raised the question about block mode's capabilities. "My concern is that most fourth-party emulators in the past that have claimed HP compatibility have failed in the block mode area. That's what I want to test most. Fourth party: not HP, not home-written, and not from a usual HP 3000 vendor."
Jon Diercks, whose mini-review with screen shots will appear in our imminent August printed edition, replied that "I've bounced it through a couple of NMMGR screens without trouble, but haven't tested any more extensively than that. Anything specific that you'd like me to try?"
The first report of a snarl came from Paul Edwards, consultant and 3000 user group officer with close to 40 years experience on the system.
I tried the block mode today with NMMGR. It worked okay. But when I exited, it wouldn't respond to character mode. When I did a VALIDATE, it switched to character mode and back into block mode OK. It just had a problem after the exit back to MPE.
After some initial startup problems, it worked okay. The on screen keyboard works, but isn't for speed. I had to delete a connection and create a new one, due to the product keeping a DEC emulation stored in it.
Haddad has been tracking the comments and reports on his company's product. "Thanks for your comment, Paul. I have asked our technical team to look into the Block mode/Char mode exit issue you mentioned. Please note that we are very pleased to assist, so if its not working 100 percent for you, please feel free to raise a ticket, either via the app itself, or on our website -- www.ttwin.com.
August 19, 2013
Replacing LDEV 1 drives: many options
Our bulletproof Series 918 has finally crashed. It's been a great, solid, stable runner for years. However, I desperately need to find a new, used or refurbished drive to replace its system disk, preferably here in the UK. I assume it was LDEV 1, as it couldn't boot. However, I have two drives in the system drive enclosure, and am not sure how to tell which was designated as LDEV 1.
I figure a like-for-like replacement would be less hassle if I can find one. What I need is a C2490-69365 drive with a massive 2GB of storage, one that has a 50 pin connector.
Craig Lalley answered, with a short method on how to discover which drive is designated as LDEV 1.
Look at the primary boot path. Then find the SCSI drive with that ID. Disconnect the drive and see if the boot behavior changes.
Keven Miller also replied, with advice about finding drives seemingly everywhere -- and another method to figure which drive is LDEV 1 in a 3000.
I'd prefer to replace that 2GB with a larger one. A 4GB, if you’re running MPE 5.0 through MPE 7.0, and something larger if running MPE 7.5, where you can access beyond the 4GB limit. I have a 4GB LDEV 1 that houses MPE 6.0, and an 18GB LDEV 2 that’s a user volume for other data. For compatible disks, I have many of have these lying around. I could supply any of the following on my list below, for the cost of shipping only.
Miller's list below came with instructions on making some drives work.
From what I've experienced, any SCSI disk should work. I got an IBM 4GB drive from someplace, and it wouldn’t work. I put it onto a Unix box (HP-UX, Linux I don't recall) then found that the low level format was a 514 block size, not 512. I had to learn about using "setblock" to reformat the drive. Then, I could install MPE onto it as an LDEV 1.
I have these disks laying around
4GB Seagate ST14207W FastWide SCSI-2 68F
2GB Western Digital WDE2170-007 Ultra Fast Wide 68F
18GB IBM Ultrastar IC35L018UCD210-0 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
18GB IBM DNES-318350 SCSI-LVD/SE U160 80pin
36GB IBM Ultrastar DDYS-T36950 U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K IV U160 80pin
36GB Maxstor ATLAS 10K III U160 80pin
To discover which disk is LDEV 1, power up. See what the primary boot path is. It's likely that your path is 52/56.6.0, and your two drives have jumpers set for address 6 and 5. I believe that 6 in the path has to match the address setting, which is how you join devices to paths. (I'm a software guy, but I try to do my own hardware.) So the primary path = 56.6.0; I believe LDEV1 = drive with SCSI address 6.
Miller also addressed, so to speak, preferences for data recovery.
You mention you don't have to restore all the data. I hope that means your other drives are on a different volume set. Trying to replace one drive in a multi-drive volume set can be ... undesirable. Files most likely will span over more than one disk. You can use the low level utility DISKUTIL from the ISL prompt (you'll need a bootable disk, or the CD "HP 9000 Offline Diagnostics Environment PA 0409" which HP had available for free at one time).
Using DISKUTIL you which can save off a file from a single disk/LDEV, to recover later (with the VOLUTIL, or RECOVER command). But I don't think you want to go there unless you have to.
In the end, the manager with the failed drive did compare the jumpers on the disks, then changed another of his disks to SCSI address 6. Loading from the SLT commenced, with a note that "there's life in the old girl yet!"
August 16, 2013
Something for MPE at Apple's App Store
About 10 days ago, the Australian software company Turbosoft announced that it had unveiled an iPad app that will emulate HP 3000 terminals. While the functionality of TTerm Pro is being reviewed for our August printed issue, we can review the costs of delivering a 3000 terminal interface to the world's most-purchased tablet.
Art Haddad made the first mention of TTerm on the HP 3000 Community group of LinkedIn. Turbosoft wasn't on my radar for MPE-ready software, but I can't even pretend to know every product. This one has been on offer for 3000s for about 20 years.
TTerm definitely supports Telnet connections, and the [HP 3000] emulations are complete. Turbosoft has been developing terminal emulation software since 1986 and the HP series of terminals has been in its Windows-based products from the early 1990s. The main feature that our Windows products have over the iPad range is NS-VT support, as well as scripting. However, there is a plan to add NS-VT support to TTerm Pro in the not too distant future.
Haddad, who works from Australia but actually takes calls in North American West Coast time (that's an early workday there) also gave us a peek at what it's like to sell on the Apple App Store. TTerm was already evolving when we talked last week, but that improved version was going to take a few more weeks of review time before Apple would sell it. Apple's system would then notify a user who'd bought the app a newer version could be downloaded.
Somehow, Apple has turned around the usual software formula: now sales and delivery has been made to lag behind development. This situation might serve to explain a little about the $49.95 price for the app. It only seems pricey until a 3000 manager goes to look for another terminal emulator app -- on any tablet. Not just Apple's.There is no other HP 3000 terminal app for an iPad, although there are a number of telnet 'terminal' programs that can log on to a 3000. Haddad's company took the challenge of bringing a multiple-terminal emulator through the Apple iOS development rigors, as well as getting it sold in the only place you can buy an iOS app. That's a vendor-controlled store. On August 16, a US court threw out a lawsuit against Apple, one that claimed the vendor should not limit iOS customers to buying apps through the App Store.
Haddad has nothing to do with the lawsuit, but he did comment on how the Windows version of TTerm Pro gave his company no advantage in creating an iOS release.
"We've been developing the app for what feels like forever," he said. "We've spent a lot on it. Apple is not the easiest company to develop software for. With Apple we pretty much had to start from scratch. They're very firm about that. You can't take the code that you're got and put it onto an iPad. It's just not possible."
In the summer of 2010 we reported on another terminal emulator that was going to appear on the iPad, but that project didn't come to fruition. Haddad's insight -- like confirming that it's between two and three weeks from release to Apple to the update availability -- shows how tough some apps can be to craft.
About the only other software developer in the MPE community who's shown the stamina to release an iOS app is Allegro Consultants. Its iAdmin app is coupled with a backend service to track crucial system data like CPU use and disk capacity, among other markers.
In addition to its 2392, 700/94 and 700/92 emulation, TTerm Pro emulates terminals from 20 other vendors. Some of these vendors have not shipped systems in two decades: Stratus, Siemens Nixdorf and Televideo come up on the supported terminals list.
This is an iPad version of a $125 Windows 7 product, so perhaps this app is not as pricey as it might seem compared to a 99-cent Angry Birds, or even the top-notch PDF reader, annotator, and filer GoodReader selling at $4.99. It's a similar situation that Stromasys is tackling with its HP 3000 hardware virtualizer, Charon HPA/3000. Just like Louis C.K. jokes in his comedy routine about in-flight WiFi, the miracle for these products is getting overlooked by our altered reality about software value. (Warning for those new to Louis C.K.: link NSFW.)
This value issue is also the dilemma the HP 3000 faced at Hewlett-Packard, once commodity systems entered the price list. Lowering a price can be a way to lower the perception of value. HP took holding up its pricing to an extreme that flattened customer base growth. But like getting an iOS program written and updated in the App Store, keeping a 3000's value in line with 2013 expectations is tricky. Until you hear Louis C.K. shout about magic we overlook -- having a 40-year-old OS built well enough to continue running companies today, firms that might want to use the system via an iPad.
August 15, 2013
HP wins suit on strength of weak standard
This week a Federal judge ruled that HP won't have to pay lawsuit damages after a CEO violated a code of conduct for the company's workers. The alleged harrassment by Mark Hurd was not studied as closely as that code of conduct for Hewlett-Packard.
Though HP's standards brochure contained provisions like, "We are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings," District Judge Jon Tigar found that such comments aren't material statements. The wording in the code was vague enough that some major shareholders, led by the Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund, don't get to collect damages in a lawsuit because the judge called the HP code "puffery."
It's not shocking that a sexual harassment case, one that been broadcast in a lurid story, wouldn't end in jail time for Hurd, or a fine against HP. Those are big players with great legal representation. Hurd's amorous advances earned him a spot at Oracle selling Sun servers, so well that the Business Critical Systems division hasn't had a good quarter since he left HP.
It's probably not even surprising that a current HP code has a vague wording. Somehow, it took more than 18 months to decide that in a District Court matter. What is genuinely surprising is that any corporation code would be considered a cut above a prayer or an advertisement. The old Hewlett-Packard -- the company that current CEO Meg Whitman says remains in the new HP's DNA -- would see a code as a promise. It worded the copy of the HP Way clearly enough that it could defend its practices. Corporate-level creeds such as standards brochures are low bars to clear. Nothing as concrete, so to speak, as "profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives."
That's the old HP, considered benevolent and collegial, talking there in the HP Way. Profit was the biggest goal. Today HP takes its commitment to green manufacturing and the environment more seriously than corporate officer accountability. This is important to remember when choosing a systems vendor for a migration project.The District Court ruled this week that "Adoption of the [shareholder] argument would still render every code of ethics materially misleading, whenever an executive commits an ethical violation following a scandal." Scandal has no impact on a code of ethics in 2013. A shareholder cares more about this than a customer, unless the scandal leads to a weaker pipeline of products and services.
One of the things that can weaken a pipeline is a stronger competitor. Nobody will argue Oracle isn't stronger than it was in 2010, when Mark Hurd was testifying about his romantic advances. (He said he didn't have any, that it was all a misunderstanding.)
HP tried to block releasing the letter of allegations that attorney Gloria Allred filed about those encounters. Whether they are true in their entirety, or just in parts, there's a lot of detail in an account that asserts "You told her to be quiet because there were bodyguards in a room next door [to your hotel room.]"
Accountability from a corporation is a matter of trust. An IT director can be pragmatic, even a cynic, and say you'd better not expect much from any entity that's said for more than 50 years, "We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives." So long as those objectives are carrying you to the next IT platform, HP's a good choice for a partner. Just beware of the puffery. It can show up in places like a corporate speech or a conference, as well as in a Code of Ethics.
August 14, 2013
Having support is a matter of needs
One of the broadest brushes used on MPE systems is "they're no longer supported." This is one way to view the departure of HP from the support options for a 3000 server. Using this perspective, the 3000 was a safe choice in the period ending in 2008 — because no matter who did the everyday critical support, Hewlett-Packard engineers were always a last-resort option under time and materials contracts. Many HP 3000s were not under HP support at the time the vendor announced its exit plan. They were supported, however.
But an unsupported system sounds risky, doesn't it? It's not tough to find computing functions that didn't evolve on the 3000. Many are in the open source categories, such as Java, or SSH server abilities. Others involve fundamental services like domain name hosting. DNS programs like bind never caught on as 3000 tools. And you know, there's just not much call for word processing on HP-UX systems, either.
Reasonable IT planners will get the point. When you need SSH server ability hosted on a 3000, the lack of it will reduce the MPE system's utility. Perhaps enough to make it look risky. Security updates come to mind, but a computer needs a great payback for hackers to throw a flood of malware at it. Windows XP will provide this next year, when the security updates cease. MPE/iX, not so much.
Just this week we located a genuine use for the missing SSH server ability on a 3000. As it turns out, SSH would be very useful if your 3000 users were working from iPads.How's that even possible? A terminal emulator has emerged that puts a block mode terminal onto the screen of iOS devices. (For practical purposes, you wouldn't want to rely too long on an iPhone-sized terminal.) But TTerm Pro will emulate HP's 2392, 700/92 and 700/94 terminals.
"TTerm supports both Telnet and SSH, but since there is no SSH server for the HP 3000, TTerm cannot speak SSH to MPE directly," Diercks writes in a mini-review. There is a way around this, as there has been for more than seven years since an OpenSSH client was ported to the 3000. Set up a tunnel to a router or another system.
The lack of support for features and advances doesn't stop at corner cases for MPE/iX. Serious shortcomings are around many corners, depending on how far your system needs to reach into our heterogenous computing world. But to call a system unsupported when the vendor isn't an option to repair it -- well, that was true when HP had all the answers to what might fell a 3000 from the forest of service. Database problems, critical ones, got discovered in independent vendor labs last decade, for example.
A more serious lack of support might come from the narrowing inventory of HP-branded components. While those impressive 4GB LDEV 1s might be too cheap to charge for, they're only out there on scrapped systems or the shelves of real support vendors. Motherboards, CPUs -- much tougher to grab. This is a reason why there's a virtualization option to keep MPE/iX running beyond the lifespan of components with the HP label.
Making a migration is a tried and true way to eliminate risks of relying on an HP 3000. But if that risk is a lack of support from the vendor, then vendor support should be essential for every system in the IT datacenter. Dell support for the Dell servers, Apple support for the iPads, HP support for the PA-RISC HP 9000s. If an independent company can be trusted to support any of those systems -- or even finally bring tablets into the world of 3000 terminal access -- won't third party supporters get the job done for MPE/iX systems?
The answer will be a better one for the companies which know why, or why not. Those are the finer brushes with which to paint the future of relying on MPE/iX.
August 13, 2013
Glossary to the Future: ITIL, APM, and rank
A 3000 manager's career was once rooted in technology. In the future it will be rooted in management, even when the 3000 in the datacenter is a virtualized one. The most secure place to manage IT is on an executive team. ITIL and APM can help get you earn enough rank to get a seat at that table. (Rank, not stripes, but we'll get to that in a minute.)
Tomorrow, MB Foster offers a webinar on these two concepts. One is a standard (ITIL) and the other a strategy (Application Portfolio Management). Both are designed to make your work more essential to your employer.
"The challenge for IT is adopting a business- and customer-focused approach in terms of delivering high quality IT services," Foster's invitation explains. "Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) mitigates these challenges."
Application Portfolio Management (APM) provides IT departments and management visibility and clearly defines insight into critical applications and data with actionable information on the business value and fit and the technical condition of each application.
The webinar starts at 2PM EDT tomorrow, with an online signup at Foster's website. When combined, ITIL and APM provide guidance to organizations on how to use IT to facilitate business change, transformation, growth and benefits -- and where to focus investment. It's an interesting time for enterprise server management, with cloud and virtualization options front and center. Investment is going to be a constant wedge to get into corporate discussions.What do ITIL and APM have to do with the HP 3000? More than five years ago, the enterprise computer user group Connect said the audience it serves includes far fewer technologists, as it called them. That doesn't necessarily mean there are few technologists out there, but it's become historic thinking to believe they'll get a place in the corporate conversation.
Or as HP's CEO Meg Whitman said in a speech at a conference hosted at Disneyland last month, "Everyone in this room is no longer down in the engine room of the ship. You are all up in the bridge consulting with the captain. She added that HP "is here to help you earn your stripes," which is where her nautical metaphor broke down. (A technologist would point out that most captains of ships wear their rank on their shoulders, but only sometimes on their sleeves.)
We've written about ITIL and APM before today (The new IT library that HP reads, and writes; as well as App Portfolio Management: Get IT into the Boardroom). But six years later, these are still in the future for some 3000 managers. Foster's webinar promises to explain how these concepts can help in the following:
• Aligning IT services with business needs
• Known and manageable IT costs
• Financial savings from improved resource management
• Effective change management
• Improve time to market for new products and services
• Improved user and customer satisfaction
ITIL defines the services required by the business units and puts in place service definitions for the services provided, including SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). IT services are crucial functions that require continual investments and resources to support, deliver and maintain IT systems. The challenge for IT departments and managers is adopting, a business and customer focused approach in terms of delivering high quality IT services.
Implementation of APM and its process, measurement and framework will effect decision making, application lifecycle, current and future IT investments, upgrades, operations, replacements and budgets. Application Portfolio Management will make the current state of the application portfolio visible and quantify the current applications by business fit and IT fit.
August 12, 2013
HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You
Even after HP stopped making HP 3000s in 2003, it did not stop selling the servers. No, not those holdover orders placed at the end of '03, computers which were not delivered until the spring of 2004. Cast your memory back to 2005 and 2006, when servers and their MPE licenses were advertised from the company's used computer unit, HP Renew.
Now there's another chapter to this song of sayonara. Customers using OpenVMS systems built on Integrity can buy older machines from HP Renew. "HP Renew helps you to develop, migrate or augment your IT infrastructure at your own pace, without impacting efficiency," says its website. The Integrity 9300 series i2 blades and rackmount servers are on sale, only slightly used.
HP 3000s are not offered in HP Renew any longer. They once were, at the same time as independent resellers and brokers sold this iron. HP iron is "the monkey on your back," according to virtualization vendor Stromasys. You get the monkey off by going to Intel servers that run Linux, and then MPE in that cradle. The monkey is PA-RISC servers.
But the vendor still sells HP 9000 PA-RISC systems through HP Renew, servers built with identical hardware as the HP 3000 iron. There's an HP-UX license sold with these HP 9000s, computers that are 10 years behind HP's latest HP-UX Integrity servers. Today the HP 3000 iron, with its discs of varying age, comes from the resale markets. You get them from vendors like Pivital Solutions (one of the last authorized 3000 resellers), or the MPE Support Group, or even on eBay. HP's turned away from the 3000 customer, as it will for nearly all of them except those who use industry standard environments. Right now that looks like it will be Linux and Windows -- but we're not that certain about the latter, for the longest run.
Whatever the length of its promises which have passed away, the current HP CEO has passed on an ideal that HP never did lose its customer focus. At a recent conference, Meg Whitman gave a speech that concocted a company that would never leave a customer out of its heart. OpenVMS users have already been told their OS will be left off of the next generation of Itanium. There's no other chip that runs OpenVMS, just like no other iron will run HP-UX. Oh, except those 10-year-old PA-RISC systems. Is that resold iron better than nothing when a customer needs a replacement system?Speaking as the keynoter at the Nth Generation Symposium -- at Disneyland, no less -- the CEO said
Customers have always been at the heart of HP. We're one of the only companies, maybe the only company, equally strong in devices, infrastructure and services.
But the unraveling of strong strands with customers has already begun for VMS. HP is demonstrating it's not strong enough to pull OpenVMS into the next generation of Itanium. It's a path similar to the one the vendor took for MPE and the HP 3000, failing to keep a HP-created business server relevant.
Relevance is even more important than being at the heart of HP. Relevance is like being in the soul of a vendor's futures, maybe even in its DNA. The HP 3000 was probably only at HP's heart for about 7 years -- that period before the rise of Windows and Unix, when a customized and proprietary OS was the way to keep customers strong. Like IBM's continued to do with its System i. You might know it as AS/400, as its loyal customers do.
But such vendor-loyal customers aside, then the rest of the HP customers are "at the heart of HP." She said that HP's focus on customers was always a part of the corporate DNA, something she said came from Bill and Dave. "Despite the acquisitions, the boardroom drama, it's hard to kill the culture," she said. And then added that since the company was founded, it is hard to kill the DNA of its founders.
That's an ideal that would be a genuine way for HP to Renew.
August 09, 2013
Techniques of CSV Importing, Revealed
I'm importing a Comma Separating Value (CSV) text file into a COBOL II program. I want to compare a numeric field from the file to a number in my COBOL program. In that program, the number is defined as S9(8)V99. The CSV file’s numeric field can vary in length, such as "-1,234.99" or "-123,456.99". If the CSV text file field is always the same length, I know I can move the text field to a COBOL numeric field that is redefined as alpha-numeric. My problem is that the input text field can be different for each record. How do I code in COBOL to accommodate the different number sizes in the text file?
Several HP 3000 programmers and developers recommended Suprtool from Robelle to accomplish this kind of import. Robelle's own Neil Armstrong has offered this advice.
Walter Murray, who worked inside HP's Language Labs before moving out into the user community, noted that Suprtool was likely the best solution to the problem. But after a suggestion that the UNSTRING statement could be useful, he had his doubts. Along with suggesting that "importing the file into an Excel spreadsheet, and saving it in a more civilized format," Murray had these notes.
One of the goals I had for Suprtool was what I called "close the loop." What the goal of the project was to essentially provide functions and other enhancements within Suprtool to aid in the import of data into self-describing files, FROM the CSV type files that the Suprtool suite of tools have been able to generate for years.
I added some new functionality such as $split, $number and $clean amongst others to facilitate the importing of data from really any source. I wrote an article about it on our website. The article essentially shows some the steps in Suprtool that you can use to import CSV data into a self-describing file -- or really any data target.
The UNSTRING statement will be problematic, because one of your fields may have one (or more?) commas in it, and you may have an empty field not surrounded by quotation marks. You might have to roll your own code to break the record into fields. If you are comfortable with reference modification in COBOL, your code will be a lot cleaner.
Once you do isolate the check amount in a data item by itself, you should be able to use FUNCTION NUMVAL-C to convert it. Yes, NUMVAL and NUMVAL-C are supported by COBOL II/iX, as long as you turn on the POST85 option.
Olav Kappert offered a long but consistent process.
First thing to do is to not use CVS; use tab delimited. No problem with UNSTRING. Just use the length field and determine if the length = 0.
Do an UNSTRING of the fields delimited by the tab. Then strip out the quotes. Determine the length of each field and right-justify each field and zero-fill them with a leading zero. Then move the field to a numeric field.
You now have your values. Do this for each field from the unstring. You can create a loop and keep finding the ",". By the way, determine the record length and set the last byte+1 to "~" so that the unstring can determine the end of record. Long process, but consistent in method.
In addition to generating a CSV file with leading zeroes, Alan Yeo suggests
Move the CSV value to a full size X field, then strip trailing spaces, and then move the result to an X redefines of your numeric. Please note, as your numeric is V99, you might also want to strip all "." and "," before the compare.
Dave Powell offered up a general purpose, bullet-proof COBOL program to accomplish the task, fully referenced at the 3000-L newsgroup archive. The entire discussion of the mission is also online at the archives.
August 08, 2013
HP placed a bet on SQL with open IMAGE
August used to be a month for HP 3000 gatherings. The majority of the community's Interex conferences convened in this month, including one in San Francisco 20 years ago. In 1993, Hewlett-Packard was making a gamble on the future of the database that had already led the 3000 to 70 percent sales growth.
When the year opened, HP was telling customers that unit sales had led the computer out of the wilderness. "It's not a backwater," said HP's UK Managing Director John Golding. "It's an important order and profit generator." But the open aspect of the 3000 was dragging focus away from the server -- HP's own focus. Changes from inside HP's IMAGE labs were going to refocus attention on the heartbeat of the MPE/iX experience.
HP said "it believes it is the first vendor to develop an SQL-based interface that read and write information stored in a previously non-relational database." The new HP IMAGE/SQL, replacing TurboIMAGE, was supposed to bring the 3000 customer a wider array of reporting tools. Maybe even more importantly, IMAGE/SQL would connect the 3000 with other systems' data. The media and analysts were calling those other systems Open. 3000 users needed that word applied to their computer to regain HP's interest.
The ardent fans of IMAGE could see the possibilities of a SQL interface. But HP had made tens of thousands of customers out of companies that found the networked TurboIMAGE worked just fine. The technical trick was to put an interface onto a successful database that wouldn't demand a migration.This kind of backward compatibility was once religion at HP. Software created for a 1970s 3000 ran unmolested on a '90s server. It stanched the turnover rate for the computer, since an '80s model would run well into the next decade. But even with that self-imposed governor of churn -- the abiding value of investing a six-figure cost into a system -- the 3000 was managing 30 percent turnover in 1993. Almost one system in three was being upgraded.
So changing the essential database on the 3000 was no small bet. A satisfied customer base was a crucial component of the 3000's healthy profits. HP had to add connections to databases that were not locked to a hardware vendor, such as Oracle, Ingres, Informix and Sybase.
In much the same way that HP's engineers managed to launch a new hardware architecture that ran classic software in 1987, IMAGE/SQL emerged by the summertime conference as a seamless hit. The new interface was considered a gateway to wider use of IMAGE data. The chairman of the IMAGE Special Interest Group Jerry Fochtman flew the checkered flag in a letter to the HP Chronicle that year.
The new IMAGE/SQL feature will provide users with a wealth of new opportunities, using leading edge technology tools to meet ever-changing business needs. This new world of data management now opened to the thousands of existing IMAGE applications will indeed have a major impact on how we utilize the wealth of information currently maintained in existing IMAGE databases.
The tech was executed so well that HP didn't feel the need to celebrate a SQL extension at the San Francisco conference. "To HP's credit, they have again successfully added new functionality to IMAGE which is backward compatible with existing user application investments," Fochtman said. The key there was users' applications. The 3000 grew to its heights by being a general-purpose computer that companies wrote their own software for -- and those customer applications are the ones which remain running today among homesteaders.
The SQL shift didn't impress third parties like Oracle as much as HP 3000 users hoped, however. Three summers later, HP rolled out the HP DataMart Manager software for "small and midsize data warehouses." But through four pages of HP press release about the Manager, only HP 9000s running as open systems got a mention at the software rollout. Not even the list of clients could include the 3000. "It supports most popular data-access, reporting and OLAP tools that run on Unix, Windows, Windows NT, Macintosh and OS/2 operating systems."
Data access was at the heart of IMAGE gaining its SQL interface, but the addition wasn't sticky enough to earn the 3000 any extra care from HP's alliances and strategy leaders three years later. SQL did its work for existing customers, however. It gave thousands of them extra years of value for data on their HP 3000s. And it continues to do so, two decades later.
August 07, 2013
Open source enables MPE enhancements
Earlier this week we looked at the prospects for creating an OpenSSH server component for HP 3000s. Some veteran developers have spent a bit of time on the engineering and learning the undocumented behavior of parts of MPE/iX. As such, this is work that could benefit from the knowledge in source code. Source was licensed to seven companies by HP.
We also wondered if enabling the server aspect of OpenSSH would be considered an MPE/iX enhancement by Hewlett-Packard -- or just a repair of a bug report. That would mean it was a workaround for anybody who'd like the complete OpenSSH on their MPE system.
The source code was provided to help repair problems and perform workarounds for homesteading HP 3000 customers. HP didn't want anybody creating new features for MPE/iX. But enabling the full range of SSH services doesn't constitute a new feature -- at least not from Brian Edminster's viewpoint. He runs a repository of open source software for HP 3000 users.
If OpenSSH gets better on MPE/iX, Edminster suggests it won't improve simply by way of MPE internals information.
I'd argue that because OpenSSH is not an HP product -- and if making modifications to allow it to use existing features (even undocumented ones) within MPE/iX can allow it to work -- HP would not have grounds to complain. MPE/iX would not be modified in the process. They may not be happy about it, if such a modification extends the useful life of the remaining systems. But I don't believe they'd have legal standing to object.
I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, the 3000 NewsWire, or the 3000-L. What I'm saying is not legal advice, just my own opinion of the situation. If someone is potentially at risk from HP by acting on the above advice, they should first get advice from competent contract and intellectual property counsel.
However, I'd go so far as to suggest that even if enabling OpenSSH required a binary patch to an existing MPE/iX routine which might not be behaving properly, HP still wouldn't be able to complain.
During the brief discussion out on the 3000-L newsgroup, Allegro's Stan Sieler identified the behavior of some routines that could help complete OpenSSH. He quipped that if somebody such as Ken Hirsch -- who started the OpenSSH project rolling more than seven years ago -- wanted to know more about the likes of "a way to actually write to a terminal while there is a read pending," they could've just asked Stan.
Edminster makes a case that documenting system internals and processes, out in the clear, is a backup resource to the community. (This is also documentation which these support firms paid to license, so they have their rights to make it a customer benefit, instead of open explanation.) It's a complicated line to cross, because in this case the MPE/iX internals would have to be understood and utilized to extend OpenSSH -- an open source package.
My understanding is that the agreement between HP and the licensed MPE/iX source holders is to prevent compiling and/or distribution of any new or enhanced copies of MPE/iX. I believe the specific reason MPE/iX source was licensed was to allow 'dissecting' the code — to see what it really does under the hood, regardless of what the documentation says (or doesn't say).
Why? To allow better understanding of how it works — so that coding workarounds can be developed for applications, and so that in the case of the discovery of a bona fide bug in a critical area of MPE/iX. In this way, at least the option exists of creating a binary patch that can be used to fix a bug (or mitigate the ill-effects of the bug, if a fix is not feasible).
And really, compiling a documentation wiki of system internals and processes (especially the Posix routines as implemented and undocumented user-callable MPE/iX internals) along with workaround best practices for porting code, would be a very valuable thing to preserve existing knowledge.
Back when MPE/iX was subject to change -- because new releases came out from time to time -- using procedures not documented by HP was considered a 'Bad Idea'(tm). Now that the OS is, for all intents and purposes, static, that may no longer be the case. While Stan Sieler was right in saying: "You could have just asked me," it also begs the question: What happens when, someday, he's not available to answer?
August 06, 2013
Community experts explore Opening SSH
A little way back in July, we reported that the OpenSSH software on the HP 3000 was still somewhat short of full open source functionality. It could be completed, with some extra help from community experts and some testing. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies looked into what was needed to create a OpenSSH interactive client that would run under MPE/iX.
For anybody new to OpenSSH, it supplies services for encrypted communication sessions. Secure file transfers are the prize here. This would be one way to use the 3000 as an SFTP server, not just a client.
Edminster said, "The fact remains that SSH cannot connect to a remote system and execute commands that produce any output. Ken Hirsch did the original port, but he only really needed the SFTP client -- so the issue with ssh wasn't addressed."
Hirsch had asked years ago "if anybody knows a way to actually write to a terminal while there is a read pending, then I could use OpenSSH as a server on the HP 3000. Apparently there are undocumented MPE/iX sendio() and rendezvousio() calls. There are also tread()/twrite() routines in libbsd.a that I think are intended for this, but there's no documentation for these, either."
As of this week, the community is looking into connecting these dots and producing documentation.We asked out on the 3000 newsgroup if anybody with access to source code or inside knowledge of these routines might help. First, Keven Miller of 3K Ranger looked into the MPE routines.
Long ago I looked at the libbsd contribution, and was sad that it didn't come with the sources. Just include files. So, with Ron's request, I started playing with it. So, here are some details of my testing....
1. I extracted the OIO module from libbsd.a (NMRL), which contains tread,twrite.
(I had to manipulate the libbsd.a file some, in order to access it)
2. I created this C test program
#pragma intrinsic FOPEN
#pragma intrinsic FCLOSE
proc int main ()
int R, n;
char buf ;
f = FOPEN ( "TTY", 0644, 00004 ); /* cctl,und,stdin,ascii r/w */
printf ("tread 5>");
memset (buf, '*', 10)
buf  = 0
R = tread (f, buf, 5)
printf ("tr %d [%s]\n", R, buf);
n = sprintf (buf, "-twrite-")
R = twrite (f, buf, n);
printf ("tw %d\n", R);
R = tread (f, buf, 0);
FCLOSE ( f, 0, 0 );
So it appears to run okay.
- tread acts like a binary read. It must read the count characters. i.e., 5 in my code.
- Return does not terminate the read.
- tread returns the number of characters read. It uses an MPE file number.
- twrite returns the number of characters written.
Next, I need to test as two processes or two threads to have them both active.
However, the problem is it leaves the terminal in some odd state. Once the program ends, I get the CI prompt. But when I hit return, it appears to be hung. It can receive TELLs. If from another session, I do abortio on its stdlist device, it shows SOFTWARE ABORT, then get the CI prompt. But hung again.
After aborting the session, (in Reflection NSVT), I can log back in and have a normal TTY.
Oh, and the program requires PM. Underneath tread/twrite, it calls sendio and rendezvousio. I did try FOPEN with nowait-io set. tread didn't read (no echo of characters) and could not complete the read.
Stan Sieler of Allegro took on the task next, but he issued a caveat about working with the deep-inside routine. (Allegro has licensed source code for MPE/iX, but there's no obvious path between that source and Sieler's testing). He addressed the need to use the tread and twrite calls.
Yes and no, it depends. (There's some terminology and background needed to explain.)
So, in brief... "genmsg", an undocumented routine in the kernel of MPE/iX (and MPE V), has the ability to do "non-preemptive," "soft preemptive" and (allegedly) "hard preemptive" writes to terminals, including network terminals
(However, it's not clear if true (MPE V style) "hard preemptive" writes were ever implemented on MPE/iX.)
But genmsg requires privileged mode, and the routine is capable of aborting the system if called incorrectly. I usually hesitate to post information about potentially dangerous routines.
This doesn't conclude the quest to finish up OpenSSH for the 3000 user, so a server as well as a client is available. But now the ball is rolling, thanks to this notice from some other MPE experts.
It's not clear if enabling the server aspect of OpenSSH would be considered an MPE/iX enhancement by Hewlett-Packard -- or just a repair of a bug report, and then a workaround for anybody who'd like complete OpenSSH on their MPE system.
August 05, 2013
Bottoms up delivers a bubbling MPE future
Not a single source of information can verify how many HP 3000s are working today. Never mind the complications of whether a 3000 is archival, or running until a migration is started or completed. Nobody knows where the systems are or the number that are working. Islands of information about 3000s were tied to resellers, to the vendor, even to third party software suppliers.
Sometimes the owners themselves don't know there's a 3000 in their IT data environment. MPE experts move on and their replacements just think of an application that supplies computing services. Not the host system or the environment hosting it.
Support companies work to find these 3000 outposts. The IT staff onsite often needs help, instead of making the call they might've to Hewlett-Packard 10 years ago or more. They might even need a path into the future for the server, a way to ensure the hardware will carry onward as far as needed. Even more than two decades. We heard of one 3000 user that needs its applications available until 2035 to meet regulatory requirements.
Stromasys wants to sell its Charon HPA virtualization solution to those companies. They're also recognizing that to find everybody, they need a bottom-up effort to go along with top-down prospecting. The bottom might be considered grassroots. That's where partners come in.A new layer of management at Stromasys is pursuing the top-down engagements with direct access. But the company is looking for ways to engage the support community and others who can help virtualize HP's 3000 gear. That means will come from the companies that know where the 3000s have remained working. Independent support companies as well as individuals know these sites.
The program is still in its earliest days, but it has the potential to involve some providers who've been looking for a way to help get Charon HPA up and running. In some cases, setting aside the testing, the company claims its virtualizer can take over in a matter of days.
The testing is a significant part of this transition. But all Charon does -- that little miracle -- is turn an Intel Core i7 server, running Linux, into a PA-RISC server. The rest to be tested runs the same as it ever did on HP iron.
In the past we've heard from indie consultants Craig Lalley and Paul Edwards about seeking a way in to the Charon story. Depending on how much effort Stromasys makes to reach out to such partners -- Doug Smith of DSC Consulting in the Dallas area is another -- these indies might bring the biggest story of this decade to the smallest of 3000 users. Perhaps including some who only recently learned they've been 3000 users all along.
August 02, 2013
Migration servers live together at new HP
Quietly this year, HP reorganized its server operations. Under the cover of an announcement of a Converged Systems group, Hewlett-Packard combined its Intel Xeon-based server business with the specialized Intel Itanium-based server products. The new unit hasn't reported its results yet; the reorg took place just at the end of the second HP quarter of fiscal 2013. Randy Meyer has been named as the GM of many products.
Numbers for this business won't appear for a few more weeks -- HP closed its third quarter on Wednesday, July 31. However, Hewlett-Packard says the combination of these groups will quicken the pace of something the vendor calls "the speed of transformation of the server industry."
While the un-migrated 3000 customer evaluates platform options, they've been watching a transformation that probably didn't seem to require more speed. Business Critical Servers (BCS), the home of Integrity/Itanium operations, has been on a speedy path to a slimmer profile at HP for nearly two years. Integrity servers have become a tough sell to new customers, but a preferred path for existing companies that have a lot invested already in HP's Unix, for example.
Obviously, the 3000 site that hasn't made a move yet won't have much invested in HP-UX or Integrity. Unless that company already has operations elsewhere that use Unix and Integrity boxes. It might be the place where Integrity can still claim some fresh datacenter real estate, but those won't be new customers.HP started talking to Integrity customers about this at its HP Discover event this summer. That message was brimming with more detail on the level of management change inside Hewlett-Packard's server group.
In a note to NonStop users (also captive to the Integrity line), VP and GM of Integrity Servers Randy Meyer said HP's compression of servers has no impact on its level of committment.
I can assure you that while there's been a change in leadership, there is no change in the focus and commitment to the NonStop business, and no change to what people care about. We are an important part of the HP Server organization, and we'll continue to deliver the quality and value that you depend upon to run your business.
It's all true, but the NonStop customer has now seen Winston Prather (long ago, the HP 3000 GM) leave NonStop, and then the recently-promoted Ric Lewis depart as GM of NonStop. Now Lewis "has moved up, but he's not moving very far. He still owns the NonStop business, and is still deeply invested in its success," Meyer reported.
Perhaps it's a good thing that NonStop-using Integrity customers no longer have their own general manager. And it might even be an improvement to have NonStop -- and for that matter, HP-UX -- inside of a new Enterprise Servers Business Segment. Even as a slice of HP's server industry, HP's packed a lot of business in there.
Within Enterprise Servers, we have created an Integrity Servers business focused on HP's mission critical portfolio include NonStop systems, Integrity server, and HP-UX and OpenVMS operating environments.
This is a better explanation of the what that speedy transformation produces: fewer managers, combined resources and operations, and a single line on the HP quarterly report. It now says Integrity Servers, not BCS. Earlier this year HP's CEO said that BCS was once a big business. Now HP's resizing it and aligning it with the rest of its enterprise server offerings that use a popular intel architecture. When these were Industry Standard and Servers and Business Critical Systems, BCS took all the heat. Now the word Integrity will supplant BCS in the financial reports, and one GM will lead all these products into the future.
August 01, 2013
Keeping XP and MPE follows same path
A few days ago we wrote about a manager of MPE servers who believed in making a transition. However, the financial leadership at his company didn't believe in a non-critical expenditure. At some companies, while profits are low or even worse, replacing something that's still working won't pass the justification test.
Since the HP 3000 drives businesses like storage companies and catalog-web retailers, I found an interesting connection to the replacement strategy in the Windows XP ecosystem. XP runs businesses, too. It has done so a long time, maybe about a third as long as MPE. XP was rolled out at the same time HP announced its exit from the MPE marketplace. Hewlett-Packard bowed out of the MPE enhancement business close to five years ago. Microsoft hasn't updated features in XP for at least that long.
On the Infoworld website, Windows book author Woody Leonhard explained that keeping a business running on old technology was going to trump many reasons to upgrade for better features. In "Why I'm Keeping My Windows Machine," he explained that Windows 8's better features came at the cost of letting crucial things -- like cash registers -- go unsupported on the new platform. Leonhard knows enough about the new Windows to author a book about it. A hardware element of his XP business ecosystem: An ancient IBM ThinkPad with an old-fashioned COM port.
Pieces of brittle plastic fall off it from time to time, and the creaking hinge always leaves me cringing for fear that the screen will finally fall off. But that old beast runs a proprietary piece of software that's vital for updating a specific line of Casio cash registers. My wife's business runs on those old Casio cash registers, and if that ThinkPad goes, her business goes, too.
I have heard from 3000 system managers still supporting a business with aging HP printers, ones that need MPE to drive their CCTL carriage control commands. Other sites have checked in using DTCs for communication with terminals. What about fax machines? I found another fax outpost this week: consumer-level investment companies. At TD Ameritrade, getting authorization to manage a retirement account involves a downloaded form, filled out and mailed. Or you can fax it. No emails, please; not secure enough.
Fax, DTCs, CCTL, it's all antique tech, but it's working. For some companies that's the best report they can hope to hear, while they invest in marketing, retooling their manufacturing line, or trying to position themselves for investment or acquisition.
Working in one of these places, where IT needs to have something broken to get major investment, can be no fun for a forward-looking professional.However, looking forward is just one kind of computer analysis skill. There's also adept stewardship of elderly tech, as a way of being a team player at a company that's stretching for operating budget. Just think of how much clout our Infoworld writer earns by keeping his wife's business running. It's not like he hasn't tried to make newer tech work. The situation begins with a hardwired software reference to COM1.
I can't get it to work on anything but an old-fashioned XP PC with a COM1 port. All the futzing I've done over the years -- USB-to-COM1 adapters, Win7 XP Mode, VM connections, even add-on serial port adapters -- don't work. I've finally given up, realizing it isn't worth spending all that time to fix something that, truly, isn't broken.
Some day my wife will get rid of the old cash registers. When she does, she'll undoubtedly get a cheap, easy Android-based POS system and dump the old Win XP POS. For now, that kind of expense doesn't make any sense. Everywhere I look, I see old Windows XP systems that just work.
There are differences between the future of MPE and Windows XP. One is used by not more than a few thousand computers, while the Microsoft product still runs on millions of PCs. But nobody is really sure how many of either of these systems are running "in the wild," as Leonhard says. A survey of website hosting computers shows 37 percent still run XP.
There are XP systems running businesses for now, and there are MPE servers running businesses for now. And you just know there are 3000s communicating with XP clients. When a 3000 customer "gets rid of those old cash registers," so to speak, the rest of the transition dominoes will tumble in place.
Since an IT manager with a desire to make changes can't always coerce budget, the alternative is to look for the wood that might be causing the logjam. Cash registers. Printers. Fax processes (although some vendors can adapt a 3000's fax needs to other platforms). In the meantime, at least there's something running the company, a system that just works.