« January 2014 | Main | March 2014 »

February 28, 2014

How MPE Balances New Disk Space

If we have a system (volume set) with mostly full disks, and I add a new big empty disk to it, how will MPE/iX do all new allocation on that disk — will it wait until it fills up to the same relative fullness as the existing drives?

See, we have a system with a Nike Model 20 and a bunch of RAID 1 LUNS, and we’ve added five new drives in RAID 5 to the system volume set. But that sounds like we’re on the cusp of a disaster, because while the read performance is measurably better, all the system is going to be doing is writes to this drive for every new extract and scratch file. And as everybody knows, the write performance is like 2.8 times slower to the RAID 5 LUN than the RAID 1 LUN.

[Corrected, to identify the BALANCE command as a part of DeFrag/X.]

Craig Lalley noted, "There is a command you will want to use if you have Defrag/X, [created by Lund, sold by Allegro] The command is BALANCE VS. As an example, 

BALANCE MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET

"There’s online help for this command in Defrag at HELP BALANCE. Without that, I would use system logging to determine the most heavily accessed files and store/restore them to spread the extents."

And there's also help to manage this kind of balancing and defragmentation from VEsoft, as well as that Lund tool.

HP designed the 3000's storage management so that the MPE/iX algorithm will be picking which "most empty" disk to write to next based on percentage full, not sector counts.

MPE watches the percentage full that will cause a switch to another disk. The watching has gotten more precise. An older algorithm would wait until there was a 1 percentage difference in fullness to switch -- and as an example, that would mean 3 GB of data on a 300 GB disk. Now MPE waits until there’s just a .01 percentage.

MPEX from VEsoft can be an aid for manual load balancing after disk installation, before production use. It has commands that can be used to build a DEFRAG process. There's also that DeFrag/X software from Lund to manage storage assignment.

As a last resort, one HP MPE veteran suggests that if nothing else helps, and no MPEX or DEFRAG are at hand, "managers could try to limit the penalty by moving large but less "interesting" files/accounts to the new LDEV (freeing space on the old LDEVs) and then use the VOLUTIL ALTERVOL command to limit the remaining PERM space on the new LDEV afterwards. Yes, a somewhat insane approach, I know."

08:14 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2014

Unix-Integrity business keeps falling at HP

Sliding-cliffNumbers reported by Hewlett-Packard for its just-ended quarter show the company's making something of a rebound in some areas. One analyst said to CEO Meg Whitman that she'd been at the helm of the company for three-and-a-half years, and she had to correct him during the financial briefing last week.

"Actually, I've been here two-and-a-half years," Whitman said. "Sometimes it feels like three-and-a-half, but I've been here two-and-a-half years."

It's been a long 30 months with many changes for the vendor which still offers migration solutions to 3000 customers making a transition. But one thing that hasn't changed a bit is the trajectory of the company's Unix server business. Just as it has over each of the previous six quarters, sales and profits from the Business Critical Systems fell. Once again, the BCS combination of Integrity and HP-UX reported a decline in sales upwards of 15 percent from the prior fiscal year's quarter. This time it was 25 percent lower than Q1 of 2013. That makes 2014 the fourth straight year where BCS numbers have been toted up as lower.

Enterprise Group Q1 2014"We continued to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex.

"We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future."

In a small victory among the runaway slide of HP-UX and Integrity sales, Whitman predicted that HP will pick up two points of market share in the business critical system marketplace.

"Listen, we are turning the enterprise group around," Whitman said. "You can see it in the success in ISS revenues, as well as networking and storage. We've still got more work to do on the margins. When you consider the significant headwind of the declining BCS business, the technology services operating profit performance was strong. Business critical systems continues to be impacted by a declining Unix market. BCS revenue declined 25 percent year-over-year, to $228 million."

As a marker of how small a slice that's become at HP, consider that the profits alone from HP's lending operations were more than $100 million. And the ISS revenues are 15 times higher than Integrity, at $3.2 billion.

Total HP revenues for the quarter were $28.2 billion, down 0.7 percent year-over-year and up 0.3 percent in constant currency. Total profits were HP's been stuck on $28 billion quarters since 2013. Whitman said the company has been in pivot mode "to the new style of intellectual property, around investment in innovation."

I think we've been hard at work on doing a lot of things that are going to position us as this industry continues to go through some very challenging changes. The pace of change and the magnitude of change here is as great as I've seen in my career. I think we're reasonably well positioned take advantage of those changes.

Changes in business are dictating new outlooks for older businesses at HP. It's always been that way at the vendor which cut off its 3000 futures during a post-merger closeout of product lines.

"We have businesses that are declining businesses," Whitman told the analysts, who were sometimes complimentary of where she's leading the company over the two-plus years. "We understand where the declining businesses are, we understand what we need to do with them. We've got businesses that are holding in terms of revenue, and then we've got growth businesses."

What's growing at HP will be getting whatever investment and energy the company can manage. "We have pivoted investment," Whitman said. "We've pivoted people. We've pivoted go-to-market to those growth areas in the company."

08:05 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2014

Comparing Historic 3000 Horsepower Costs

Testosterone-horsepowerOver the last few weeks we've checked in with Jeff Kell, the system manager at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The university powered off its last two HP 3000s not long ago, and along the way has mounted dozens of Unix and Linux CPUs and virtual servers to replace that pair of MPE machines. We asked him what he believed the school's IT group had spent on MPE over 37 years -- and limited the question to the capital costs of systems. (Ownership cost is much harder to calculate across four decades.)

Kell, who founded the HP 3000 listserve and newsgroup, as well as chaired the SIGSYSMAN group for Interex over the years, said "We have had comparable expenses with each iteration of the 3000's life-cycle." Across those decades, the university owned Classic HP 3000s based on CISC technology, then early PA-RISC servers -- new enough in that generation to be considered "Spectrum" 3000s -- then later-model PA-RISC units, and finally the ultimate generation of HP 3000 hardware.

"In short, it was an expenditure in the low six figures, once every decade," Kell said. 

We ran Series II, then Series IIIs, and the tags were low six-figures in the 1970s. We then got some 950s in the late 1980s (we had some early Series 950 deliveries) at about the same price point. Then the 969 in the 1990s, again about the same. And finally, the A/N-Class during this century.

Comparisons to two points seem worthy. The pricing for the value of high-end 3000 computing remained constant; at the time of the late 1980s, for example, a Series 950 was the most powerful 3000 available. Then there's the comparison to the expenditure of acquiring the hardware to support dozens of servers, virtual and otherwise. The low six figures won't buy much toward the high end of business critical computing gear over a decade, using today's commodity pricing. The newest servers might seem cheaper, but they don't give durable service for 10 years per installation, like the ones at Kell's shop did.

It was not all smooth sailing on value for expenditures, Kell added. The A-Class server line was performance-challenged, even though it was rated a bit faster than the previous, K-Class 3000 hardware known as the Series 900 line.

"We had some performance issues with the A500 after we started offering our "online" applications: self-service, and we tried web-based apps, too -- but that was early on and challenged," Kell reported in his 3000 debriefing. Even at that moment in time, there was belief expressed for the ability of HP 3000 hardware to rise to the need, so long as it was more powerful 3000 hardware. Given the performance issues with the A-Class, he explained, "there was some political incentive to address the problem when we got the N-Class, which was a dominating force until the end of our 3000 days. It never blinked."

In short, the longest lifespan for any server still available with a Hewlett-Packard 3000 badge belongs to the N-Class. This is illustrated by the drive to match the horsepower of the top three models in that lineup, an effort which kept Stromasys CHARON engineers well-engaged during 2013.

08:17 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2014

Electronic forms: saving the planet?

Duplex Pack SlipSeveral vendors who are well-known to the 3000 community are in the electronic forms business. Hillary Software's suite of products, headed with byRequest (click for details below in the graphic), runs across multiple platforms. Working a different angle in the same sector, Minisoft has been selling its eFORMz designer since 2000. That was a year when the HP 3000's Java was current enough to host the 1.2 version of the program that designed forms and delivered data to them.

ByrequestMore than 13 years later, eFORMz is up to Version 9 and requires a 1.4.2 version of Java, which absolutely puts hosting the product out of the HP 3000's league. But it can and often does run on PCs, as well as Linux servers. With enough imagination and networking, those hosts can tap into the data on HP 3000s for distribution.

Minisoft just announced a new wrinkle to its eFORMz solution, the ability to employ DuplexPackSlip labels. This Ward/Kraft product combines a Shipping/Return Label with a Packing Slip/Invoice on the front and back sides of the same label. Minisoft sent out a message to say they may be "saving the planet one label at a time," when a customer is using these labels. The label, which was obviously not invented by Minisoft, can replace a shipping label, packing slip, plastic pouch and the extra toner required.

The Minisoft label generation tool brings data streams together and formats them for printing onto the new DuplexPackSlip label. eFORMz package generates forms on Windows 8 and earlier, as well as Mac Mountain Lion clients, using data from servers including an HP 3000. 

A Director module in 9.0 consolidates all eFORMz toolkits and print monitors into a centralized service, one which uses a new Web App for management and configuration. Minisoft says the the Director "can execute and manage multiple print monitor configurations. Processes can be selectively paused, reconfigured and resumed without affecting other output processes." 

05:43 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2014

Expanding that Posix Shell on the 3000

ShellWay back in the middle 1990s, HP added the Posix shell to the HP 3000, so customers who had Unix and MPE running in the same shop could train operators and managers with a single set of commands. Posix was a plus, making the 3000 appear more Unix-like (which seemed important at the time).

It's been said that Posix was a promise only partly fulfilled for the 3000. There was a move to make the system more inclusive, to make it possible to port Unix software onto MPE/iX. Alas, a tech roadblock called the Fork of Death stood in the way of more widespread porting.

Over the years, however, Posix has been a feature to be discovered for most 3000 managers and operators. HP intended it to be essential; the computer's operating system was renamed from MPE/XL to MPE/iX just to call attention to these added Posix, Unix-like capabilities.

MPE failed in the Posix world primarily because of the unix "fork()" concept, so critical to the very nature of all that is Unix. It is a totally alien concept to MPE. MPE was designed to easily add additional new users to an executing process, and maintain the security/integrity of each individual user.  It was not designed to duplicate a current process's environment, including the local data and state, because there was no point.

As one sage developer said of the deathly fork, "Yes, MPE would fork(), but very reluctantly, and very slowly. So nothing that depended on it worked very well."

But enough history; Posix is still on the 3000 and remains a powerful interface tool, an alternative to the CI interface that HP created for the system. You can even call Posix commands from the CI, a nifty piece of engineering when it can be done. That's not always possible, though. A customer wanted to know how to "expand wildcard shells" using Posix. He tried from the CI and had this story to relate.

:LL /BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*
ls: File or directory “/BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*” is not found

So how do I do this? I need to be able to tell tar to archive all of the reels of a STD STORE set via a regexp.  It does not work in tar, and it apparently does not in ls, so I speculate that there is something special about the innovation of Posix utilities from the CI that I am not aware of. What is it?

Jeff Vance, the 3000 CI guru while at HP, who's gone on to work in open system and open source development, said this in reply:

Wildcards on most (all) Unix systems, including Posix implementations, are done by the shell, not the individual programs or in-lined shell commands, like ls in your example. A solution is to run the shell and execute ll from within.

Greg Stigers then supplied the magic Posix shell command to do the expansion:

SH.HPBIN.SYS '-c "/bin/ls -l /BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*"'

In a note of thanks, the customer said that getting the answer by working with the HP 3000 community's newsgroup "is like having an entire IT department right outside my door."

An interesting footnote if you've read this far: The Posix shell for the 3000 is one part of the operating system not built by HP. The shell was licensed by HP from MKS, and Hewlett-Packard pays royalties to MKS so Posix can work inside of MPE/iX.

For now, enjoy using Posix as a way to get familiar with the commands in Unix systems. In the great majority of instances, these commands are the same.

08:29 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2014

Just how fast is that A-Class, anyway?

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

Earlier this week, there was a report of an A-Class HP 3000 going wanting on eBay. It was being offered for $2,000 with no takers. The system at hand was an A400-100-110, the genuine bottom of the A-Class line.

While I'd argue that a $2,000 A400 with a transferable MPE/iX licence is a steal, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for the wide variance in speeds in what is considered a A-Class' system.

BlazingI believe the system that was being offered as a bare bones A400, as indicated by its system number "A400-100-110." The first character (A) is the class; the next three numbers (400) are the family; the next three are the number of CPUs (100, meaning one); and the last three are the HP rated speed in MHz of the PA-RISC CPU chip. (In this case, it's a PA-8500) This system on eBay also happened to be missing a tape for creating/booting from a CSLT, so if your boot drive failed -- or you needed to make configuration changes that required booting from tape -- you would be out of luck without buying a little more hardware.

This particular A400 system, according to the AICS Relative Performance chart mentioned in the article, runs at a 17. That's about 1.7 times faster (CPU-wise) than the original 917/918 systems. In IO-intensive applications, I have found it felt closer to 2 times faster. I have also worked on an A400-100-150, which CPU speed-wise is a 37. (That system also happens to allow installation of 2GB RAM vs. the 1GB limit on an A400-100-110).

So in short, we can have a greater than 2:1 performance potential between two servers that are both ostensibly A400 A-Class systems. And that's not even taking into account the advantages of multiple CPUs for performance in complex multi-user environments.

A400s and A500s have been available in both 1-way and 2-way models, while the N4000s are available in 1-way, 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way configurations. Prior generations of PA-RISC systems could be configured with as many as 4, 6, or even 12 processors. [Ed. note: I recall that several of those higher numbers were available only to HP-UX users.]

Performance benefits aside, multiple CPU systems have been, in my experience, more resilient to CPU failures. This is by virtue of having multiple CPUs. I've had multi-CPU systems where a single CPU failed, and if I had not noticed a minor difference in batch throughput, my online users wouldn't even have noticed. I simply scheduled a service call for the next day -- after warning my users of a previously unplanned service outage, and making sure the backups ran for the night. 

It took longer for the hardware to self-test and MPE/iX to reboot than it took the service engineer to replace the bad CPU.  Total un-planned down-time was about an hour. Not bad.

It was not quite hot-swap easy, like many modern RAID disk arrays. But that HP 3000 was plenty resilient enough to "Take a licking, and keep on ticking" -- as they once said of Timex watches.

Brian Edminster is the curator of the MPE Open Source repository and website www.MPE-opensource.org, as well as founder of an independent consultantancy.

12:42 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2014

Migration best practices: Budget and plan as if taking a business vacation

VacationIs a migration as much fun as a vacation? That seems like an easy question for the HP 3000 homesteader who's still got a transition in their future. Only a small percentage of the managers of these servers plan to homestead forever. For the rest of the installed base, this transition is a matter of when, rather than if.

With its feet in both camps of homesteading and migration, MB Foster held a webinar yesterday that delivered best practices for the CIO, IT director or even systems and programming manager who faces the someday of moving away. When an organization with the tenure of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga shuts down its servers -- after 37 years of service -- it might be evidence that migration is an eventuality. A possibility for some sites.

For those that still have that mighty project on their futures calendars, the advice from Foster mirrors things like home remodeling and vacation planning. 

"This is a business decision, not a technical decision," CEO Birket Foster has always said, in delivering these practices over more than a decade. "A migration’s just like a vacation –- the more you plan, the less it costs, and the better the results." Perhaps the comparison might align with the concept of taking a business vacation. That's the sort where you tack on a few extra days to a business trip, and carry along the same set of bags while you go further.

MB Foster's eight-step process takes HP 3000 customers through migration with in-depth planning and expertise. A key piece is understanding the business and technical baselines, as well as an assessment of the business and technical goals of the migrating company. The results of the assessment form a plan presented in a one-day Executive-Level Workshop which highlights the major issues and recommendations of migration.

The work takes place side-by-side with a customer's IT staff, producing a complete evaluation of a company's data environment. The company's experts put data in flight with Data Blueprints, Software Selection, and Staffing Plans.

"What we've found in best practices is that you should do a skills matrix, for both the baseline and target," Foster advises. "When you go to put in a new application, you'll have to install and configure it, have a changed end-user workflow, and perhaps changes in the skills required to do this. You'll have changes in IT operations, and there may be application program interfaces that need configuration, so they talk to the normal systems."

You assess, plan and implement, Foster says. The assessment breaks across two scopes of responsibility. "From our best practices we know you have to establish two baselines," Foster says. "One's on the technical side, and the other is on the business side. When people establish a technical baseline, they sometimes fail to go through and check with the business side folks. You must ask them if they had a magic wand, what they want the application to do differently than the way it behaves today."

You measure your total cost of ownership over five years to get a true budget for the budget on a migration. Objectives are to mitigate risks, but do not assume you'll migrate your existing applications. 80 percent of the customers following best practices buy a replacement application off the shelf, rather than pour money into re-engineering existing code. Software selection practices use the assessment framework as for the entire migration process. Look at 3-7 packages. Some surround code -- the sorts of programs that aid an MPE app -- might be taken along or re-integrated.

Cleaning data is key to a successful implementation of any migration. That can mean partnering with data experts, especially some who know your current as well as future database environments. Your data migration solution should decide how much data to keep, whether the 3000 data will be a part of your main application, and determine requirements for cleaning enough to go live.

The best practices mirror the weeks and months that you'd spend before taking a trip. With travel, this can be a way of experiencing the journey before ever leaving home. With migrations, it's a way of visualizing and budgeting for the waypoints that will get a shop onto a new application while not interrupting business flow.

"Like when you say you'll go on a trip, at first it's just a concept," Foster said. "You figure out if you're driving, or going by plane. You figure where you're staying, who am I meeting. Those all have more detail, but at the high level it's assess, plan and implement."

06:59 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2014

Finding Value in An Exiting MPE Box

ExitSignA few weeks ago, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga asked around to see if anybody wanted his decommissioned N-Class server. It's way above the power range of the A-Class servers, and even includes some storage options not usually found in a decommissioned 3000.

But the interest hasn't been strong, according to our last update from Kell. He put out his offer -- basically trying to keep the system from becoming more than spare parts, he said -- on the mailing list that he founded two decades ago. We refer that resource as the HP 3000 newsgroup, but it's a LISTSERVE mailing list of about 500 members.

We've heard several reports like this for HP 3000s being turned off, but none of them involved an N-Class system. There's a Series 969 on offer for free -- yes, take it away is all that Roger Perkins of the City of Long Beach asks. While that 969 is more powerful than an A-Class, it's still leagues behind an ultimate-generation N-Class 3000.

This begs the question of what value your community would assign to any used system, regardless of size. Horsetrading on hardware is an IT manager's pastime, when searching for newer for more powerful systems. But it's becoming clear there's a reset going on in the market.

Kell's offer on the newsgroup was straight to the point.

We have tentative arrangements to have our last two 3000s decommissioned, but was curious if there was any interest in the hardware/systems. Hate to sound like a sales pitch, but we're basically happy with shipping, plus a certification the drives are wiped. 

We have an HP 3000-N4000 4-way, DATs, 2 DLTs, a few internal drives, and a VA fiber channel array (dual connect). It's perfectly fine.

Kell also mentioned his own A-Class onsite, an A500, DATs, two DLTs, a few internal drives, and a dual connect VA fiber channel array. "It has an external SCSI rack that had some issues we never quite resolved; it won't boot today since the mirrored disks have issues). But the VA array was healthy. Assuming the software transfers these days, both these systems have MPE/iX 7.5, Mirror/iX, ToolSet, and TurboStore/7x24."

That's a very suitable datacenter keystone to build a homesteading practice around. In fact, that's what the university had in mind when it bought those servers.

We tried our first "migration" in 1997 off the 3000 to Banner software, which was a gigantic Oracle monster, one that the UT system had essentially licensed for all campuses.  But compared to our legacy application's customizations -- we did just about anything we were asked -- Banner was too restrictive. There was a revolt, and we ended up only implementing Financial Aid and student Account Receivables.  So knowing that we had to stick on the 3000, we got that N-Class as our "homestead" machine. The A-Class was just a warm standby. We ran periodic snapshot backups and popped them over to the A-Class for restore, and did a full sync on weekends. 

We ran that way for another decade, when we had Round 2 of the Banner conversion. We had roughly four generations worth of HP 3000s, maybe even actually five. After our delays for the Series 950 we purchased, HP provided us with a temporary Series 52/58 (development/production) systems to tide us over until the delivery -- our Series IIIs were beyond maxed out. 

07:11 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Don't forget: Migration Best Practices today

MB Foster's kicking off its season of Webinars -- the 13th year of showing off details of best practices for 3000 operations, strategy and transitions -- using slide its summaries, a presentation and interactive Q&A and chat features. The event is this afternoon at 2 PM Eastern.

Today's meeting, which requires a commitment of under an hour, is all about app migrations, modernizations, and the budgeting that's worked for their clients over the last decade. You can sign up for the free experience that provides an online chat room, slides with the salient points, Q&A exchange via standard phone or IP voice, as well as Foster's expertise. The company specializes in application migrations -- the first step in the ultimate transition in a 3000-based datacenter.

06:25 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 18, 2014

No takers for a $2,000 HP 3000 on eBay

It might have been the most valuable part that was missing from a $2,000 eBay listing for an A-Class 3000. There's no mention of a transferrable MPE/iX license for this rock-bottom system. But perhaps it was the horsepower, too. It's hard to understate how many HP 3000s run faster than a 1-CPU, 110Mhz A-Class. 

Jesse Dougherty at Cypress Technology, a reliable HP 3000 reseller, reminded readers on the 3000 newsgroup about the offer.

I really thought that these would sell like hotcakes. I threw one up on eBay for 2k with a basic config. If any one is interested in a cheap back-up running MPE/iX 7.5, check out our link.

Confchartpic (1)Other resellers have reported, several years ago, that you couldn't sell any N-Class system, the next level up in HP's ultimate generation of 3000s, for even $4,000. But an N-Class is 10 times more powerful than such an A-Class at the bottom of the HP lineup. Using the Relative Performance chart devised by AICS Research, there's a spread of 121 HP 3000 Performance Units between a single-CPU A-Class and the 440Mhz N-Class running one processor. The official HP relative performance chart (click for detail) doesn't use as many decimals to compare server speeds, but the spread is the same nevertheless.

That's an 8:1 speed advantage, and if anybody was comparing the A-Class servers being offered to the older 3000s out there, almost all of the prior generation runs faster. Any 9x9 will outpace that A-Class, even the seldom-seen Series 929/020. You have to go back to a Series 928 to find a 9x8 that can be beaten by the entry-level A-Class. 

There's more, of course. Dougherty said the machine was outfitted with a "basic config," meaning that it came with 1GB or RAM (out of a total of a possible 2 GB), a 9 GB LDEV1 boot disk, and and 18GB disk for storage. There's also a 100Base-TX LAN adapter.

Lots of 3000 gear is in the position of not being able to be given away. Roger Perkins of the City of Long Beach is still looking for someone who'd pick up his decommissioned Series 969, which is twice as fast as that A-Class server. The 9x9s draw a lot more power and have more IO device restrictions, of course.

If a 3000 built at least 15 years ago can't be given away easily, and one that was first released 13 years ago is going unsold at $2,000, there's a possibility we're seeing a marker in the value of a 3000 configured at the rock bottom of the ultimate generation. The cost of hotcakes appears to be falling this year.

 

 

 

05:19 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2014

Durable advice speeds up HP 3000s

Our editor Gilles Schipper posted a fine article on improving CPU performance on 3000s "in a heartbeat." One of our readers asked a question which prompted Gilles to clarify part of the process to speed up a 3000, for free.

Gilles, who offers HP 3000 and HP 9000 support through his firm GSA, Inc., has also replied to a recent question about how to make a DLT backup device return to its speedy performance, after slowing to about a third of its performance.

The Heartbeat article focused on needless CPU overhead that could be caused by a networking heartbeat on 3000s. Gilles points out:

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to recognize whether the problem exists, and also a simple cure. If your DTCs are connected without transceivers, you will not be subject to this problem. Otherwise, to determine if you have the problem, simply type the command

:listf h@.pub.sys,2

In the report that is produced, you will notice OPEN files (ones with an associated asterisk ending the file name); these are 1W in size.

There are two such files associated with each configured DTC, file name starting with the letter H, followed by six characters that represent the last six characters of the DTC MAC address, followed by the letter A or B. The EOF for these files should be 0 and 5 for the respective "A" and "B" files.

Otherwise, your CPU is being subjected to high-volume, unnecessary IO, requiring CPU attention. The solution is to simply enable SQL heartbeat for each transceiver attached to each DTC. This is done via a small white jumper switch that you should see at the side of each transceiver. Voila, you've just achieved a significant no-cost CPU upgrade.

Compete details are in Gilles' original article. On speeding up backup time, he pointed out that adding an option to the STORE command will help you track IO retries.

We have a DLT tape drive. Lately it wants to take 6-7 hours to do backup instead of its usual two or less.  But not every night,  and not on the same night every week.  I have been putting in new tapes now, but it still occurs randomly. I have cleaned it. I can restore from the tapes no problem. It doesn’t appear to be fighting some nightly process for CPU cycles. Any ideas on what gives?

Something that may be causing extended backup time is excessive IO retries, as the result of deteriorating tapes or tape drive.

One way to know is to add the ;STATISTICS option to your STORE command. This will show you the number of IO retries as well as the actual IO rate and actual volume of data output.

Another possibilty is that your machine is experiencing other physical problems resulting in excessive logging activity and abnormal CPU interrupt activity — which is depleting your system resources resulting in extended backup times.

Check out the following files in the following Posix directories:

/var/stm/logs/os/*
/var/stm/logs/sys/*

If they are very large, you indeed may have a hardware problem — one that is not "breaking" your machine, but simply "bending" it.

10:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2014

Even a classic 3000 game can get LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.15.11 PMLinkedIn, the Facebook for business relationships, is now the home a new group related to the HP 3000. Veterans of the system know Empire as a stragegy game that was first hosted under MPE in the 1980s. Now these game players have their own LinkedIn Group.

Johnson, who's helped to administer 3000s for Measurement Specialties (a cross-global manufacturer) as well as OpenMPE, moved the group of users off Yahoo, he reported.

Since February of 2000 I've kept a Yahoo Group dedicated to the text game of Empire on the HP 3000, mainly to announce regenerations of new games and enhancements.  Empire is piggy-backed as an account on the INVENT3K server, which is still running in DR mode. Games are free -- and unlike most Internet games today, it doesn't track your whereabouts, place cookies, install hidden apps, or seek your mother's maiden name.

The game still goes on, but since Yahoo went to NEO format last year, I've been looking for something easier to manage (and more socially viable).  Without plunging into the supra-popular mediums like Twitter and Facebook, I have decided to close the Yahoo Group and put a new one for Empire on LinkedIn.

Johnson noted that LinkedIn "has some features for discussions that seem interesting. While LinkedIn seems focused to connecting with associates and ostensibly job hunting, features designed for purposes can be purloined for other purposes, such as:

- Regular Discussions and comments.

- Permanent announcements can be posted using the "Promotions" type of discussion.  Will probably use that to announce new games.

- Temporary announcements (two weeks) can be posed using the "Jobs" type of discussion.  

He added that  LinkedIn hasn't got much bad press. Of late, Yahoo and its groups have had "near half a million passwords hacked, and total shutdown in some areas of the world," Johnson said.

Empire has a domain name, and you can put empire.openmpe.com into your Reflection, Minisoft, or QCTerm configuration. Porting the game and website was rather easy. The original site used Orbit+/iX disk to disk backups (courtesy of Orbit), and it was simply FTP'd to the new machine and then restored.  Additional assistance was provided by Keven Miller at 3kRanger to make the website fit in with the regular INVENT3K website. INVENT3K's website now has a button that links to Empire. Both sites are hosted on the same machine where the games are running.

Empire, one of the original role-playing games for computers, gained a home on the HP 3000 during the era of text-based interactive gaming. Reed College in Portland hosted the first board-game version of Empire (at left), giving the game a Pacific Northwest home that would lead it to the HP 3000.

In 1971 Empire first emerged from Unix systems, created by Peter Langsdon at Harvard. It resurfaced under the name Civilization on an HP 2000 minicomputer at Evergreen State College, where an HP 3000 would soon arrive. When that HP 2000 was retired, the source code to Civilization was lost -- but Ben Norton wrote a new version of the game for MPE, Empire Classic, in 1984. Built in BASIC/3000, Empire became the 3000's best-known game, in part because it was included in the 3000's Contributed Software Library.

EmpireWhile Civilization began to have a graphical life on personal computers like the Amiga, Empire on the 3000 is text-only, using prompts and replies designed to build eco­nomic and polit­i­cal entities, with mil­i­tary actions included. That's right, we mean present-day: the game remains in use today, 30 years after it was first launched for MPE. 

09:36 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 13, 2014

App modernization gets budget-sleek look

Money-167733_150Transitions are still in the future for HP 3000 shops in your community. It might not have made sense to switch platforms in 2003 (to nearly everybody) or in 2008 (when HP's labs closed, but the 3000 remained online) or even in 2011 (when HP ended all of its support, and indie support firms stepped up).

But by 2014, there will be some shops that would be considering how to budget for the biggest transformation project they've ever encountered. Pulling out a CRM, ERP or even a manufacturing system, honed over decades, to shift to commodity hardware is a major undertaking. But it's been going on for so long that there's best practices out there, and one vendor is going to share the best of the best next week.

For some US companies, Monday is a holiday, so it'd be easy to let Wednesday sneak by without remembering it's Webinar Wednesday at MB Foster. The first show of the new year is all about app migrations, modernizations, and the budgeting that's worked for their clients over the last decade. It's a 2PM Eastern start for the interactive presentation February 19. You can sign up for the free experience that provides an online chat room, slides with the salient points, Q&A exchange via standard phone or IP voice, as well as Foster's expertise. The company says that it specializes in application migrations -- the first step in the ultimate transition in a 3000-based datacenter.

The vendor is one of the four original HP Platinum Migration partners, and since 2003 MB Foster's been acquiring experience in transitioning apps written in HP's COBOL and Powerhouse, apps employing Suprtool, apps whose interface is driven by VPlus. "We've been working with entire ecosystems and integrating them with the database of your choice," CEO Birket Foster says, "along with integrating the complete application environment covering external application interfaces, database interfaces, JCL, scheduler and other pieces that complete the environment."

Our clients, who have had us assist in their migrations, appreciate the experience and guidance the MB Foster team brings to the table. In every case there have been advantages to making the transition to Windows, Linux, or Unix in terms of:

1) Reduced risk from aging hardware

2) Reduced cost of supporting the server environment and

3) Easier access to, training and hiring of application programmers and operations personnel with knowledge of the new application environment to support it properly.

Foster promises that the 45-minutes around midday in the middle of next week -- a shorter workweek for some -- will deliver a "thought-provoking synopsis for your senior management team to invest in the right IT solutions for your business."

07:54 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2014

How Shaved Sheep Help Macs Link to 3000s

The HP 3000 never represented a significant share of the number of business servers installed around the world. When the system's highest census was about 50,000, it was less than a tenth of the number of Digital servers, or IBM System 36-38s. Not to mention all of the Unix servers, or the Windows that began to run businesses in the 1990s.

SheepShaverIf you'd be honest, you could consider the 3000 to have had the footprint in the IT world that the Macintosh has in the PC community. Actually, far less, considering that about 1 in 20 laptop-desktops run Apple's OS today. Nevertheless, the HP 3000 community never considered Macs a serious business client to communicate with the 3000. The desktops were full of Windows machines, and MS-DOS before that. Walker, Richer & Quinn, Tymlabs, and Minisoft took the customers into client-server waters. All three had Mac versions of their terminal emulators. But only one, from Minisoft, has survived to remain on sale today.

MinisoftMac92That would be Minisoft 92 for the Mac, and Doug Greenup at Minisoft will be glad to tell a 3000 shop that needs Mac-to-3000 connectivity how well it hits the mark, right up to the support of the newest 10.9 version of the OS X. "Minisoft has a Macintosh version that supports the Maverick OS," Greenup said. "Yes, we went to the effort to support the latest and greatest Apple OS."

WRQ ReflectionBut there were also fans of the WRQ Reflection for Mac while it was being sold, and for good reason. The developer of the software came to WRQ from Tymlabs, a company that was one of the earliest converts to Apple to run the business with, all while understanding the 3000 was the main server. The first time I met anyone from Tymlabs -- much better known as vendor of the BackPack backup program -- Marion Winik was sitting in front of an Apple Lisa, the precursor to the Mac. Advertising was being designed by that woman who's now a celebrated essayist and memoir writer.

What's all that got to do with a sheep, then? That WRQ 3000 terminal emulator for the Mac ran well, executing the classic Reflection scripting, but then Apple's jump to OS X left that product behind. So if you want to run a copy of Reflection for Mac, you need to emulate a vintage Mac. That doesn't require much Apple hardware. Mostly, you need SheepShaver, software that was named to mimic the word shape-shifter -- because SheepShaver mimics many operating environments. The emulation is of the old Mac OS, though. It's quite the trick to make a current day Intel machine behave like a computer that was built around Apple's old PowerPC chips. About the same caliber of trick as making programs written in the 1980s for MPE V run on Intel-based systems today. The future of carry-forward computing is virtualization, rooted in software. But it's the loyalty and ardor that fuel the value for such classics as the 3000, or 1990-2006 Macs.

Barry Lake of Allegro took note of SheepShaver as a solution to how to get Reflection for Mac to talk to an HP 3000. The question came from another 3000 vet, Mark Ranft.

I've been looking for a copy of Reflection for Mac.  It is no longer available from WRQ/Attachmate. I've looked for old copies on eBay without any luck.  Does anyone know where a copy may be available, and will it still run on OSX Mavericks (10.9)?

Lake replied

It was possible to run the "Classic" versions of Reflection under OS X up through Tiger (10.4). Sadly, Apple dropped Classic support in Leopard (10.5). The only way to run Classic apps now is in some sort of virtual environment. I've been doing this for many years, and quite happily so, using SheepShaver.

But you have to find a copy of the old Mac OS ROM somewhere, and have media (optical or digital) containing a Classic version of Mac OS.

As with so many things that were once sold and supported, the OS ROM can be had on the Web by following that link above. That Mac OS ROM "was sort of a 'mini operating system' that was embedded in all the old Macs, one which acted as an interface between the hardware and the OS," Lake explains. "It allowed a standard OS to be shipped which could run on various different physical machines.

Modern operating systems simply ship with hundreds of drivers -- most of which are never used -- so that the OS (might be Windows or linux or even Mac OS X) is able to run on whatever hardware it happens to find itself on. But this of course, has resulted in enormous bloat, so the operating systems now require gigabytes of storage even for a basic installation.

The beauty of the old Mac OS ROM is that the ROM was customized for each machine model, so that endless drivers didn't have to be included in the OS, and therefore the OS could be kept small and lean.

Lake said that althought using SheepShaver to run the favorite 3000 terminal emulator "took a modest effort to set up, it has been working beautifully for me for years. And yes, it works on the Intel Macs (the Power PC instruction set is emulated, of course)."

So here's an open source PowerPC Apple Macintosh emulator. Using SheepShaver (along with the appropriate ROM image) it is possible to emulate a PowerPC Macintosh computer capable of running Mac OS 7.5.2 through 9.0.4. Builds of SheepShaver are available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux

08:56 PM in History, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 11, 2014

Making a few more comparisons of code

CompareIt's always a good thing for the community to read about a tool they need and use, because it usually brings up some notes about allied solutions. When we wrote about replacing code comparison tools for developers who work on the 3000, we got several notes about other solutions. One can't be purchased any longer. Come to think of it, the other one cannot either -- but both of these tools can be obtained and be used in a development environment for HP 3000s.

The first is the much-beloved Whisper Programmer Studio. Bruce Hobbs left us a comment to say that this PC-based dev environment, one built to talk to the HP 3000 and files on the server, "offers a Compare Files item from their Tools menu. It does a fine job in a GUI environment."

Whisper came up in a note that our contributing editor Brian Edminster sent after the story emerged. "I still use it daily at my primary client," Edminster said, while giving us a heads-up he's still looking into how to make Notepad ++ a better player in the MPE development world. 3000 access is a problem to be solved, but Edminster specializes in open source solutions, so we'll stay in touch to see what he discovers.

In the meantime, you can enjoy his rundown on Programmer Studio versus Qedit for Windows.

The other solution for comparing files lies inside MPE/iX itself. That OS is also a product that, like the beloved Whisper, is no longer being sold. (It's being re-sold, however, each time a used 3000 changes hands.) Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh called to remind us of the hidden value inside MPE.

The HP 3000's File Copier, FCOPY, includes a COMPARE option. Vladimir called to remind us (after he mentioned celebrating his 75th birthday last week) that FCOPY COMPARE will only work on a single file at a time. "But with MPEX, you can use it on a file set," he said.

If you're able to log onto a 3000 you can find FCOPY and COMPARE with it. MPEX is for sale, so that makes a complete solution set. Alas for Whisper, it dropped out of the market. The company that built the Studio ended an 18-year run in 2009, according to company founder Graham Wooley. The UK's Whisper built and promoted the Programmer Studio PC-based toolset, selling it as a development environment which engineered exchanges with the 3000 but could be used to create programs under Windows. Robelle responded promptly with a Windows version of Qedit, and the 3000 ecosystem had a lively competition for programming tools for more than five years.

Programmer Studio seems to be available as 1. A free download, or 2. A $299 product, also downloadable. Sources include Download A to Z, and another location is googooster.blogspot.com. But with commerical products on hand, we'd urge some caution about downloading free versions of formerly commercial software. Heaven only knows what might come down into a Windows hard drive while looking for something with so much value -- but now being offered for nothing.

09:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2014

No need to look far to find a PDF 3000 utility

GawkingAtPaperStackPDF is becoming the archival choice for so many companies. Documents that once moved about in formats specific to their environments, like HP 3000 reports, have been earmarked for PDF transformation. For some companies, they'll need storage of these documents outside of the 3000 disks and databases.

Ray Shahan mentioned such a project on the 3000 newsgroup recently. 

We’re looking at storing all of our printable historical transaction docs on the HP 3000 as PDF docs in a SQL Server database. We’ve looked at winpcl2pdf that uses GhostPCL, but had some issues using it due to the CCTL from the 3000.

We also are looking at two products from OpenSeas, SpoolPDF (handles the CCTL) and OpenPDF (does the conversion of PCL to PDF).  These two products seem to work fairly well (we’ve hit a snag or two with fonts, but have resolved those thus far).

It’d be ideal to have a freeware product, but that seems unlikely, so we’re just looking at other offerings to see the cost/benefits of each.

There's a 3000-friendly solution in plain sight, from a long-time provider, that handles both the PDF creation -- plus the movement onto the SQL Server database. Hillary Software supplies these utilities.

The company sells byRequest for any PDF conversions that are needed. Plus, it's got software called onHand for the SQL Server storage requirement, according to Hillary's Chuck Nickerson.

Shahan makes a good point about the true value of freeware, which can be worth what you pay for it. The 3000's got those CCTL nuances, and then there's the font issues. Hillary describes onHand as a "virtual file cabinet."

onHand is a virtual file cabinet -- an integrated content management system.  Classify, index, organize and store thousands of documents, reports, forms and data in their native file formats like PDF, Excel, HTML, Word and more.

Eliminate the clutter and clumsiness of Windows and FTP folder storage methods. E-file directly from byREQUEST into onHand.  Control document security and document retention timeframes as you publish.  Use the power of an SQL relational database with onHand for both short and long term archives.

Archiving is a mission in steep growth for HP 3000s, since the servers carry so much company history in their databases. Buying the most skilled tool can be a worthwhile investment. There are few out there that handle all reporting -- and know the world of MPE/iX and the 3000 -- as well as the Hillary products. PDF is one of the byRequest specialties.

While other products such as Sanface's txt2pdf have been bent to serve the HP 3000, byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application. Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest has been tuned up to support secure FTP as well, according to another 3000 manager.

Nickerson said the company's 3000 plans are set for the future. "If your 3000 is plugged in, we'll support it," he said. "If it's unplugged, we'll help you plug it in." Hillary will also help move byRequest to any migration platform after it's finished working on the HP 3000.

05:47 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2014

Code-cutter Comparing Solutions for 3000s

Npp-compareWhen a 3000 utility goes dark — because its creator has dropped MPE/iX operations, or the trail to the support business for the tool has grown faint — the 3000 community can serve up alternatives quickly. A mature operating system and experienced users offer options that are hard to beat.

One such example was Aldon Computing's SCOMPARE development tool, once a staple for 3000-based developers. It compared source files for more than 15 years in the HP 3000 world. Eventually Aldon left the MPE business. But there are a fistful of alternatives. Allegro Consultants offers a free MPE/iX solution in SCOM, located at

www.allegro.com/software/hp3000/allegro.html

At that Web page, scroll down to SCOM. Other candidates included a compare UDC from Robelle, GNU Diff, diff in the HP 3000's Posix environment, and more. If you're willing to go off the MPE reservation -- and a lot of developers work on PCs by now -- there's even a free plug-in for Notepad++, that freeware source code editor which relaces Notepad in Windows. You can download that plug-in as an open source tool at SourceForge.net

When the subject first surfaced, Bruce Collins of Softvoyage offered details on using diff in the HP 3000's Posix.

run diff.hpbin.sys;info="FILE1 FILE2"

The file names use HFS syntax so they should be entered in upper case. If the files aren't in the current account or group, they should be entered as /ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE

Donna Hofmeister offered a tip on using Robelle's compare UDC:

Regarding Robelle's compare.  Being a scripting advocate, I strongly recommend adapting their UDC into a script.... and take a few seconds to add a wee bit of help text to the script, to make life more enjoyable for all (which is the reason for scripting, yes?)

Other environments that might be operating in the 3000 datacenter provide alternatives. Former HP engineer Lars Appel brought up a Linux option in the KDE development environment:

If using KDE, you might also find Kompare handy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kompare (see screenshot)

On MPE, as others mentioned, there is still the Posix diff in two flavours: the HP-supplied in /bin and the GNU version that lives in /usr/local/bin. The former allows two output formats (diff and diff -c); the latter also allows “diff -u”.

Oh, regarding /bin/diff on MPE... I sometimes got “strange” errors (like “file too big”) from it when trying to compare MPE record oriented files. A workaround was to use tobyte (with -at options) to created bytestream files for diff’ing.

Appel has noted the problem of comparing numbered files, like COBOL source files, when one or both files have been renumbered.

With Posix tools, one might use cut(1) with -c option to “peel off” the line number columns before using diff(1) for comparing the “meat”. Something in the line of ... /bin/cut -c7-72 SourceFile1 > BodyText1.

11:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 06, 2014

PowerHouse's Unicom owner is an original

UnicomSystemsAnybody can make a mistake, and we've made one about the new owners of the Powerhouse and Axiant ADT development tools. The software that was once a part of Cognos, and then became a product of IBM's, is now owned by the original, founding company of Unicom's extensive enterprises. I identified the owning division as Unicom Engineering, Inc. Not true; that group is a manufacturer of appliances.

Chief Integration Officer Eric Vaughn sent us a note to set things straight. Unicom Systems is the proud owner of software that it sees as a good value with fine prospects. Part of the story which we like best is that the oldest, most accomplished part of Unicom is the owner of a tool with genuine legacy. "He's a real original" is something that can be said about both PowerHouse and the group that now owns it.

The ADT tools were acquired by UNICOM Systems, Inc., a separate division of UNICOM Global. UNICOM Systems was the original company founded in 1981 by Corry Hong, who continues to lead all of UNICOM today. UNICOM Systems develops and supports a large portfolio of enterprise level software across multiple platforms. The ADT suite, including PowerHouse 4GL Server, PowerHouse Web and Axiant for PowerHouse, are under the care of the UNICOM Systems development and support infrastructure. See our page at http://unicomsi.com/products/powerhouse.

Vaughn also took a moment to note that over more than three decades of software development, distribution and support, nothing has ever been sent off into the sunset. Considering how much Unicom develops and sells, that's great news for a PowerHouse community with keen interest in the new ownership.

"In UNICOM's 33-year history," Vaughn said, "there never has been a single product that has been discontinued, and UNICOM has continued to support every product through the years. PowerHouse users can expect the same dedication to these products."

A company with the foresight to see a future in such a classic product, as well as a track record of no sunsets, is a rare thing in our community. It will be interesting to hear more of the story to come. Members of the Cognos LinkedIn community are already talking about it.

07:06 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2014

3000 emulators moving ahead on Windows

Changes to the most dominant computer environment on the planet, Windows, as well as reaching backward to the days of a surging client-system strategy, have sparked some research and solutions for next-generation HP 3000 emulation.

Attachmate ReflectionWe're not talking about emulating the 3000 hardware. Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 is the tool for that. The subject here is getting a traditional HP 3000 application screen to display on what we once called desktop PCs. Now they're mostly laptops, but at their essence they are smart clients, linked to servers. WRQ did the biggest trade in this kind of tool, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of Reflection over the years.

MB Foster is reminding 3000 customers there's a migration coming for those desktop environments running Windows. The firm has been a supplier of the Reflection line of emulators and connectivity software since the 1980s. In a few months, Microsoft will be pulling its XP version of the desktop OS out of security patching status. XP won't stop working, not any more than MPE/iX did when HP stopped patching it. But running a company with XP-based PCs, attached to 3000s, is asking for a lot of blind luck when it comes to patching for trouble. Much more luck will be needed for the PCs, a situation which is leading Foster to remind users about upgrading Reflection for the future.

Attachmate acquired WRQ years ago, but the Reflection brand lives in in the combined corporation. On April 8, when the XP patches end, things get more risky for the company that hasn't migrated to Windows 7 or 8. MB Foster wants to help with this aspect of that migration, too.

If you are using Attachmate’s Reflection product line, it will continue to be supported based on the Product’s Support Lifecycle. However, Attachmate’s ability to resolve issues related to Windows XP will be limited after April 8, 2014.

MB Foster has already noticed companies moving to Windows 7/8 with an eye toward leveraging 64-bit architectures, reducing risks, and standardization of a supportable operating system. To minimize risks even more, Attachmate and MB Foster are recommending you upgrade retired or discontinued versions of Attachmate software. 

Reflection was offered in many sorts of volume bundles during its lifespan at WRQ. It was the most widely-installed software program, in numbers, that ever served HP 3000 owners. The discounts for volume licensing can be reactivated, as can support for older versions of Reflection.

For customers and clients who need support for older versions, Attachmate is offering an Extended Support Plan. For those who don’t have a maintained Volume Purchase Agreement, MB Foster is taking this opportunity to encourage customers to pre-plan, pre-budget, and to take advantage of product fixes, enhancements and security updates for Reflection.

The Microsoft migration away from XP -- like HP's from MPE/iX -- has "its undertones and challenges." Finding an XP client system in production is easy these days, but one that's also serving an HP 3000 may be more elusive. MB Foster is quoting reactivations of the Volume Purchase Agreement -- the least costly way to get a lot of Windows PCs updated. Customers who have a VPA number should have it at the ready, the vendor says.

08:06 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2014

Making Domain Magic, at an Efficient Cost

DomainFive years ago, HP cancelled work on the DNS domain name services for MPE/iX. Not a lot of people were relying on the 3000 to be handling their Internet hosting, but the HP decision to leave people on their own for domain management sealed the deal. If ever there was something to be migrated, it was DNS.

But configuring DNS software on a host is just one part of the Internet tasks that a 3000-savvy manager has had to pick up. One of the most veteran of MPE software creators, Steve Cooper of Allegro, had to work out a fresh strategy to get domains assigned for his company, he reports.

We have been using Zerigo as our DNS hosting service for a number of years now, quite happily.  For the 31 domains that we care for, they have been charging us $39 per year, and our current year has been pre-paid through 2014-08-07.

 We received an e-mail explaining exciting news about how their service will soon be better-than-ever.  And, how there will be a slight increase in costs, as a result.  Instead of $39 per year, they will now charge $63 per month. A mere 1900% increase!  And, they won't honor our existing contract either.  They will take the pro-rated value of our contract on January 31, and apply that towards their new rates.  (I don't even think that's legal.)

 In any case, we are clearly in the market for a new DNS Hosting provider. Although I am not a fan of GoDaddy, their website. or their commercials, they appear to offer a premium DNS Hosting service, with DNSSEC, unlimited domains, etc. for just $2.99 per month.  Sounds too good to be true.

Cooper was searching for experience with that particular GoDaddy service. GoDaddy has been a default up to now, but acquiring a domain seems to need more tech savvy from support. The 3000 community was glad to help this other kind of migration, one to an infrastructure that MPE never demanded. The solution turned out to be one from the Southern Hemisphere, from a company whose hub is in a country which HP 3000 experts Jeanette and Ken Nutsford call home.

Cooper said that some 3000 vets suggested "rolling my own," self-hosting with his external DNS. Here's a few paragraphs addressing those two topics:

We have a dual-zoned DNS server inside our firewall, but we do not have it opened to the the outside world.  Instead, only our DNS hosting service has access to it.  The DNS hosting service sees itself as a Slave server and our internal server as the Master server.  However, our registrars point to that external DNS hosting service, not our internal server, so the world only interrogates our DNS hosting service when they need to resolve an address in one of our 31 domains.

 Why don't we open it up to the world?  Well, we get between 200,000 and 3,000,000 DNS lookups per month.  I don't want that traffic on our internal network.  There are also DDoS attacks and other exploits that I want no part of.  And, since some of our servers are now in the Cloud, such as our mail, webserver, and iAdmin server, I don't want to appear to disappear, if our internet connection is down.  Best to offload all of that, to a company prepared to handle that.

When I need to make a change, I do it on our internal DNS server, and within a few seconds, those changes have propagated to our DNS hosting service, without the need for any special action.  The best of both worlds.

 Now, on to the issue from earlier in the month.  Our DNS hosting service, Zerigo,  announced that they were raising rates by 1900%.  And, our first attempt at a replacement was GoDaddy.  Although the information pages at GoDaddy sounded promising, they made us pay before we could do any testing. After three days of trying to get it to work, and several lengthy calls to GoDaddy support, they finally agreed that their service is broken, and they can't do what they advertised, and refunded our money.

The biggest problem at GoDaddy is that I (as the customer) was only allowed to talk to Customer Service.  They in turn, could talk to the lab people who could understand my questions and problems.  But the lab folks were not allowed to talk to me, only the Customer Service people.  This is not a way to do support, as those of us in the support business know full well.

  Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 6.09.48 PMAfter more research, I hit upon what appears to be a gem of a company: Zonomi. They are a New Zealand based company with DNS servers in New York, Texas, New Zealand, and the UK.  And, they let you set up everything and run with it for a month before you have to pay them anything. We were completely switched over with about an hour of effort.

 Now, the best news: they are even cheaper than our old DNS hosting service used to be.  If you have a single, simple domain, then they will host you for free, forever.  If you have a more complex setup, as we do, the cost is roughly US $1 per year, which beats the $63 per month Zerigo wanted to charge. The first ten domains cost $10 per year, then you add units of five more domains for $5 per year.

 The only risk I can see is if they go out of business.  In that case, I could just open our firewall and point our domains to our internal server, until I could find a replacement.  So, that seems reasonable.

 That problem is solved.  On to the next fire.

06:17 PM in Migration, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2014

Yours is a gathering group of users

Almost as soon as the June meeting of SIG-BAR was announced, others in your community wanted to join in. A meeting of ASK Computing manufacturing veterans and friends -- the IT managers running and developing the MANMAN app, still used in scores of companies -- want to gather in a reunion on June 14. It's just a few days after the June 12 SIG-BAR, a bit up the road in the UK.

WisemanGatorSIG-BAR, for any who don't know, is the communal gathering of HP 3000 people lately being organized by Dave Wiseman. It's named SIG-BAR because such an event usually convened at the hotel bar of the main conference hotel of Interex shows. With a beverage at hand and cocktail nuts aplenty, the HP 3000 users and vendors solved the problems of the world informally. When last call rolled around, everybody knew and trusted one another better. If they were lucky, someone had done something silly that had just made everyone who worked with machines all day seem more personal. Like Wiseman (above) posing with the inflatable alligator that he toted through the aisles at an Interex show in Orlando. Wiseman notes that "we filled it with helium at Bradmark's stand -- they were giving away balloons -- so we had high squeaky voices all evening in the bar!"

Those were the days when the bar bets could not be settled with smartphones. When the bets were about commands in MPE or model features of HP 3000s, the community's experts flexed their memory muscles.

The reunion of ASK users is just being mounted in Milton Keynes, a manufacturing town just a couple of stops up from Euston Station in London. And London is the location for the June 12 meeting of SIG-BAR at Dirty Dick's. SIG-BAR on Thursday, ASK on Saturday, all in the gentle climate of and English summer. Why go? To stay in touch with people who know how to help your continued use of HP 3000. It's the one element that always made the HP 3000 users stand out from others that I chronicled from the 1980s onward. A very social species, you've been.

Details on the ASK Reunion can be had from Sarah Tibble, formerly of ASK and one to cross the pond during those days of social travel. The networking is different by now for the Millennial generation, but Gen 3000 doesn't want to cease those days of gathering. "I was with ASK for 11 years and did about 15 US trips," she said.

Blectchley ParkMilton Keynes has some computing lure and lore of its own. The area of the UK was the site of Bletchley Park, where English cypto-wizards cracked German code in WW II using as much brain power as they could muster. The first wave of the Government Code and Cypher School moved to Bletchley Park in August, 1939. Now the buildings at Bletchley house the National Computing Museum of the UK, which includes a working reconstruction of a Colossus computer by a team headed by Tony Sale along with many important examples of British computing machinery.

As for examples of 3000 computing machinery users who have RSVP'd for SIG-BAR June 12 London, the current list, plus your host Mr. Wiseman, is

Rudi Huysmans
Ian Kilpatrick
Graham Woolley
Jason Kent
Ken Nutsford
Jeannette Nutsford
Robert Mills
Roger Lawson
Sally Blackwell
Brian Duncombe
Steve Cooper
Suzanne Cooper
Alan Yeo
Michel Kohon
Tim Cullis
Brad Tashenberg

07:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)