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September 30, 2014

Reflection touchstone: a screen benchmark

Reflection boxThe most recent transfer of Attachmate's products and people into the Micro Focus organization sparked some study of what matters to 3000 migrators and homesteaders. Both kinds of customers need to pay mind to what their application's screens look like. Whatever's correct tends to be first measured by an Attachmate product.

That would be Reflection, still the terminal emulator in widest use among the homesteading community as well as a benchmark for any others making a 3000 change. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo kept his eye on the Micro Focus reverse-takeover, as the parent company is headquartered in the UK. (That's still a United Kingdom, after the Scotland vote, much to the UK citizen's relief.)

Reflection's fate remains as unchanged at Scotland's. There will be some modification over time. And the software's screen views are often evoked while change is afoot.

Attachmate "had a big push on re-launching its Rhumba terminal emulator about three years ago," he said. A few migration clients using Micro Focus COBOL were being pushed hard to drop Reflection, he explained. A battery of internal tests at ScreenJet determined that Rhumba would work, intrinsically, with ScreenJet's product. But the standard for terminal emulation, in the mind of somebody who knows VPlus screen handling better than most on the planet, remains Reflection.

"If anything doesn't work, and it works with Reflection, the go fix Rhumba," Yeo said he advised the customers being pressed into the Rhumba re-launch. "If you report a problem, re-test with Reflection." The tests at ScreenJet produced some suggested repairs to Rhumba, he added.

ScreenJet never heard from a migrating customer who made a choice to drop Reflection. He's got no prejudices. "I don't care what any customer uses, so long as what they use works, and doesn't break what they're using from us," Yeo said. "Reflection is pretty much a touchstone. It's not to say that I haven't gone back at times and done testing on a terminal to find out what really happens. Sometimes I have to go back to a customer and say 'I'm sorry, but it's an artifact of even Reflection not doing it right.' "

And so your community still may have some need for 3000 terminals, the real sort. The 3000 newsgroup recently carried an ad for some of this extra-focused HP iron -- offered by an independent broker.

02:46 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 29, 2014

Classic advice: COBOL Choices, Years Later

Five years ago on this day we ran a report from a conversion company about the lineup of COBOL choices. Just a few weeks ago, the largest provider of COBOL swallowed up Attachmate, owners of the Reflection lineup. It made the impact of the acquisitive Micro Focus on the 3000 migrator even greater.

Conversion and migration supplier Unicon Conversion Technologies had sent us a white paper that outlined decisions to enable 3000 conversions to Windows. Unicon's Mike Howard attended that year's e3000 Community Meet, which included plenty of COBOL discussion. Here's Howard's take on the COBOL choices for those headed to Windows. Much is of it is still on target.

By Mike Howard

When HP announced it was discontinuing the HP 3000, there were four main Windows COBOLs: RM COBOL, ACUCOBOL, Micro Focus COBOL and Fujitsu COBOL.

But in May 2007, Micro Focus acquired ACUCOBOL when they bought Acucorp. Shortly after they also acquired RM COBOL when they bought Liant. ACUCOBOL is very similar to RM COBOL but has more features and functions. Micro Focus immediately incorporated the RM COBOL product into ACUCOBOL and stopped selling RM COBOL. Micro Focus is now incorporating ACUCOBOL into the Micro Focus COBOL product. (Ed. The Project Meld was not completed, and ACUCOBOL is being called Micro Focus extend today.)

So today, for new Windows COBOL customers there are two COBOLs -- Micro Focus and Fujitsu. In summary, Micro Focus is an all-embracing, all-platform COBOL with excellent support, but it is expensive. Fujitsu is a Windows product with limited support but an extremely attractive price. We have found that both products are very stable and very fast in production. Both charge the same for support, 20 percent per year. The differences lie in cost of ownership vs. response time of support.

Micro Focus COBOL: This is the big COBOL player on the block. It has compilers for Windows, Unix and Linux, and has excellent support across all these platforms. It has good documentation and it also has excellent award winning customer support department that provides training courses and ongoing product support. The Windows product is fully integrated into Windows .NET (MISL code) and the Visual Studio IDE. The compiler, runtime and debugger are excellent products as is the support of relational databases. 

A new customer buys both development licenses and runtime licenses. Each programmer needs a developers license and each application server needs a runtime license. In very rough figures a developer license is $5,000 per developer and a runtime license is about $20,000 per CPU per server. So five developers would be $25,000 and a 4 CPU dual core server would count at 8 CPU’s for a runtime license cost of $160,000.00; for total cost of $185,000.
 
Fujitsu COBOL: This is a very good COBOL which is fully supported by the Fujitsu Corporation in Japan but sold and supported outside Japan by a small company (maybe 10 employees) in Bend, Oregon called Alchemy Solutions.  Alchemy Solutions rose from the old Fujitsu COBOL Software department – I think Fujitsu decided to close it and the department management created Alchemy Solutions with all the staff of the old department. 

Although Fujitsu has compilers for Unix (but not IBM’s AIX), this is really a Windows-based COBOL. Customer support is essentially limited to an online question submittal process; which may not sound very supportive, but the guys who provide the service do an excellent job. Support requests are normally answered within 24 hours. 

It is an excellent Windows .NET Visual Studio product and highly integrated into the .NET framework. The compiler, runtime and debugger are excellent products as is the support of relational databases. Each programmer needs a developers license, but there are no runtime charges. Developer licenses at about $5,000 per developer. So a customer with five developers would cost $25,000 for the developer licenses — but remember, there is no runtime charge of any kind. 

11:25 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2014

Making History By Staying Together

ScotlandMontageWhat price and what value can we put on borders? While we put the latest 3000 Newswire print issue to bed last week, the United Kingdom’s region of Scotland was voting for its independence from Great Britain. One of our favorite 3000 resources and supporters, Alan Yeo, didn't know if he’d wake up at the end of last week using UK or GB as the acronym to define his country. If Scotland were to go, the Kingdom would no longer be United.

Cooler heads prevailed, and the No vote to block the push to secede squashed the Yes by a large margin. The country made history with the largest voter turnout every recorded. There's some good come of the competition, anyway.

The independence balloting called to mind what the Web has done with borders: erased them all, virtually. Some of the more draconian countries have fences up to keep their citizens’ thoughts and beliefs in, but even China with its Alibaba marketplace — where you can but a 747 or drone motors over the Web equivalent of eBay or Amazon — is erasing its borders. Scotland, inexplicably, wants to erect new ones.

Here in Austin, and through most of Texas, bumper stickers ride on trucks with the state’s outline the command, “Secede!” We are the United States of America, though. Pockets of rebellion boil up in places like the Texas border with Mexico, or up in Idaho. But there’s too much in common among government sentiment to break us up into pieces.

I know about the desire for borders. Our nitwit governor here was on TV last fall, here in Austin, describing our progressive town as “the blueberry in a sea of red.” Yes, we’re juicy, sweet, and different. But we’re Texans, too, much to the governor’s dismay. That TV show didn’t hit Jimmy Kimmel’s show from Dallas or Houston.

So it has gone for the Web and 3000 users. On pages over the years, both paper on on the Web, we cater to constituencies as diverse as possible. One set of readers is done with MPE, making plans to archive systems or scrap them. Another is devoted to their status quo, the devils they know rather than the devils they don’t know how much upset and cost they’ll trigger.

Long ago, there were borders on our Internet information. In the Usenet domain, discussion groups raced along with names like comp.sys.hp.mpe, and its Unix counterpart comp.sys.hp.ux. You’d rarely hear exchange in those countries about their neighbors. Mostly because people had to specialize in order to remain successful in their IT careers. Now the borders between environments have been forced to open up while our readership grapples with a homogenous list of servers. Some apps have moved to HP’s Unix servers, at one site, while key apps run on virtualized 3000s.

When I type “3000 to 9000 migration” into Google I find only seven HP-related links. We’re No. 5 on the page, behind two HP whitepapers, a YouTube video from a hardware reseller, and the HP 9000 Wikipedia article. Of course Google searches on an exact phrase — so our article is entitled “IBM takes a swing at 9000 migration.” It picked up on the phrase “9000 migration.” A lot like a secceding citizen might note the differences between countries, or states.

The element that’s changing fastest about these borders over the computing community is how fast they’re falling. HP is celebrating the cloud business it’s still trying to win, now that the specialized servers it retained — in favor of 3000s — have stopped winning customers. The cloud is the ultimate borderless territory, where you can’t tell which vendor is running your app. All that matters is that the data is secure, and it’s a reliable resource.

The Scots missed out on the chance to discover modern expectations about security and reliability. It was the common belief on election night that the balloting would be whisker-close over there. Here in our office where nearly all of what we produce goes onto the Web first, we’re not seceding from any 3000 domain.

10:13 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 25, 2014

TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94

Uhh-coverIt stunned nearly everybody, but the final day of the annual Interex user conference, 20 years ago this week, did not herald the start of Fall. That season might have filled pages on everybody's calendar, but the skies over Denver were filled with snowflakes on Sept. 21. Thousands of HP 3000 customers had to scurry through soggy streets in a month where leaves were supposed to be falling.

Everything happened at an Interex, eventually. Robelle's Neil Armstrong wrote about it in the What's Up Doc newsletter the vendor produced that year.

Welcome to Winterex 1994.

Once again the weather attempted to upstage various announcements and goings on at the Interex Conference. This year it snowed on the Wednesday afternoon of the Denver conference. The "snow" storm, however, was nothing compared to hurricane Andrew which hit New Orleans during Interex '92.

This year's conference was certainly a hit with a lot of the people I talked to. The last Interex I attended was in Boston in 1990, which became known as the Great Unbundling of TurboImage Debate. Interex '94 was a pleasant contrast with HP's new product announcements, the bundling of ARPA services and a general positive tone regarding the future of the HP 3000. The HP booth was a beehive of activity with Client-Server demonstrations and huge printers on display.

Armstrong went on to say that his favorite view at the show was seeing a camera connected to an HP 9000 workstation, one that delivered a live pictures of people passing by the box. "The fun part was moving from side to side quickly and watching the CPU graph go up," he added.

This was the year when the pushback started to ruffle the Unix juggernaut that had promised open systems for so long. Windows was still a year away from being desktop-useful. But that didn't keep the technical leadership from creating a Unix Hater's Handbook.

While MPE was clicking off its 20th straight year of serving business computing needs, system managers who wanted to find fault with HP's favored OS could buy that above book and feel vindicated.

From a book review by Paul Gobes in Robelle's newsletter, commenting on how an online mailing list's posts were turned into a book.

That list has been cleverly edited into a systematic attack in book form. It is often cruel and sarcastic but it is difficult not to empathize with the frustration that many of the users have endured. Some of the chapter subheadings will give you a good idea where the book is heading.

Unix - The world's first computer virus
Welcome New User! - Like Russian roulette with six bullets loaded 
Documentation? - What documentation?
Snoozenet - I post, therefore I am
Terminal Insanity - Curses! foiled again! 
The X-Windows Disaster - How to make a 50-MIPS workstation run like a PC
csh, pipes, and find - Power tools for power fools 
Security - Oh, I'm sorry, sir, go ahead, I didn't realize you were root 
The File System - Sure it corrupts your files, but look how fast it is!

You can still read MPE managers' favorite book of the fall of '94, online. IDG Books printed copies, and one of the early reviewers of the material returned to it, six years ago, to reconsider the accuracy of the gripes and wisecracks. It was invective, far ahead of its time considering how much we hear today. The book was sold with a Unix Barf Bag.

While the snow fell on Interex, HP was putting TurboIMAGE on ice. David Greer warned customers to get in their request to upgrade from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The latter was new and making its way into "about a twelfth of the customer base at a time."

"Unfortunately, you must ask HP to add IMAGE/SQL to your support contract; it is not the default.  And you only get one chance!  It will be easy to miss out on IMAGE/SQL and all future IMAGE enhancements. The following statement by Jim Sartain, HP SQL Program Manager, appeared on the Internet."

When support contracts are up for renewal, customers are given the option of upgrading from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The product support cost is from $10 to $325 per month depending on the MPE/iX user level and whether the customer is on basic line or response line.

Customers who decline this offer will continue to receive a functionally stable version of TurboIMAGE (no future enhancements). Should the customer want to upgrade to IMAGE/SQL in the future they must purchase the upgrade and pay for IMAGE/SQL support.

"Better warn purchasing today. If you don't ask for IMAGE/SQL now, asking for it later will be expensive."

02:49 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 24, 2014

Did Charon get to where HP could've gone?

The past can't be changed, but that doesn't mean it's not useful in planning. There are still a surprising number of companies that want to stand pat without regard to the future of their hardware running MPE/iX. Some of it is old already, while other servers -- even those newest -- are now moving into their 10th year of service.

Integrityrx2660_frontHewlett-Packard's planning for the future of MPE/iX hosts once included a bold move. The operating system was going to run natively on Itanium-based servers, the IA-64 Integrity line (above) that hosts VMS and NonStop today. It was a project that did not make HP's budget cuts of more than a decade ago, and so the whole lineup got canceled. There might have been another way, something that HP could arrive at -- years after Stromasys started selling the solution.

Native hosting is always the preferred solution for an OS and its iron, sure. But there's so much virtualization these days; VMware is a significant market force. What if HP had taken MPE/iX and just put it onto another operating system's back? What if the OS that drives 3000 apps might have taken a ride in a carriage of Unix, or Linux?

HP did this sort of miracle once for the 3000, calling it Compatibility Mode. There was a massive revison of hardware and software to arrive at the PA-RISC generation, but the changes were transparent to customers. You ran your apps in CM, until you could move them forward. In the '90s, companies used compatibility mode for years, installing newer hardware and moving up to better performance by revising their applications.

"If all HP had done was to create a Compatibility Mode for MPE on IA-64," said ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, "nobody would have batted an eyelid about swapping to an HP-UX box to run their company's software."

At its heart, this is what Stromasys has done with its software. The only difference to the customers is that it's a solution not sold and supported by their hardware vendor.

"There was a huge effort, like HP should've moved MPE to IA-64, Yeo said. "It was totally nonsensical." And costly, too. Stromasys was discouraged while there were still thousands of customers of HP 3000s choosing where to migrate. Key technical trade secrets were not being shared, so Charon for the 3000 had to be tabled. HP came back to the idea after they'd lost more than half of the installed base to other vendors.

For the record, Windows migrations count as another vendor. If not for the fact that HP sells ProLiant servers, that percentage of 3000 sites lost to the competition would be even higher. When you cede the OS to another company, you can lose the leverage to call a site Your Customer.

This matters when looking at where virtualization operates today. Using a wide variety of hardware hosting, from HP's iron to many others, Charon does the carrying of MPE while it rides in the vehicle of Linux. It might have been HP-UX at one time, if HP had just modified its plans to make that move to IA-64 a less costly lab project.

Almost three years ago, Hewlett-Packard announced it would introduce a new version of Integrity servers, Superdomes no less, that could run the x86/Xeon family of chips. There's no delivery date, and most recently we hear the vendor's building The Machine. New OS, new chip design. The same old sweeping vision that created things like VMS, MPE, and NonStop. Costly? Martin Fink wants about three fourths of the HP Lab budget to get it built and customer-ready.

But that NonStop environment has gotten the Big Promise of a new native version, capable of running on the Xeon family. No deadline for when that will be delivered, either, but HP wants to retain those customers. The complexity of applications in MPE can pale when compared to the ultimate real-time computer system. NonStop clients have lock-in that encourages HP to do the grand sweep into the future for them.

At the time that HP will have Xeon versions of Integrity ready -- services that could host Linux and therefore cradle a virtualized MPE server -- Stromasys will have about five years head start in selling that solution. We'll be generous and figure the Integrity models that are ready for Xeon blades will sell in 2017. There might be a market for that, for some companies that still want a big vendor to rely upon. But HP could've had that market a decade ago, just by aiming for a CM for MPE.

Customers don't really care that much about genuine PA-RISC iron, or something called an HP 3000 If they did, there would be no traction for Charon at all. With every passing week, that continues to be proven untrue.

07:31 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 23, 2014

Pre-Migration Cleanup Techniques

Migrations are inevitable. The Yolo County Office of Education is on its way to a Windows-based system, after many years of HP 3000 reliance. Ernie Newton of the Information and Technology Services arm of the organization is moving his 3000 data. He's doing a clean-up, a great practice even if you're not heading off of MPE.

I am cleaning up our IMAGE databases for the inevitable move to Microsoft’s SQL Server. One thing I've encountered is that Suprtool does not like null characters where there should be numbers.

I know that I have invalid characters, (non-numeric), in a field called ITEM-NUMBER.  But when I try to find those records, Suprtool chokes and abruptly stops the search. Here's what I get...

IF ITEM-NUMBER < 0 OR ITEM-NUMBER > 9999
X

Error:  Illegal ascii digit encountered. Please check all data sources
Input record number: 1

Is there a way to run Suprtool to help it find these records? Query finds them just fine, but Query doesn't have to ability to do what I want to do. 

After being reminded that "Nulls are not numbers," by Olav Kappert, and "try to use a byte string to compare (like < "a" or > "z") or something like that," Robelle's Neil Armstrong weighed in.

You can find any character you want by using the Clean, $findclean and $clean feature. The first issue to deal with is to re-define the item-number as a byte type in order to use the function.

Armstrong explained, "The following shows how to find the fields with 'invalid' zoned-decimal characters. Remember that zoned fields use characters to indicate the sign. It's likely that you don't have negative Item numbers but they are valid.

get somedataset
def item-x,item-number,byte
{Setup what characters to look valid characters are 0-9, JKLMNOPQRST, ABCDEFGHI and the curly braces }
{ so Clean characters should be not the above }
clean "^0:^47","^58:^64","^85:^122","^126:^255"
if $findclean(item-x)
ext item-x
list st
xeq

"Note the clean command defines the 'decimal' characters to look for."

05:50 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 22, 2014

Ways to Create PDFs from 3000 Output

Years ago -- okay, seven -- we reported the abilities of the Sanface Software solution to create PDF files out of HP 3000 output. But there are other ways and tools to do this, a task that's essential to sharing data reports between HP 3000s and the rest of the world's computers.

On the HP 3000 newsgroup, a veteran 3000 developer has asked,

Has anyone got any experience involving taking a file in an output queue and creating a PDF version of it?

"We use text2pdf v1.1 and have not had any problems since we installed it in October 2001," said Robert Mills of Pinnacle Entertainment. "I have e-mailed a copy of this utility and our command file to 27 people. Never knew that so many sites wanted to generate PDFs from their 3000s."

The program is a good example of 3000 source code solutions. This one was created as far back as the days of MPE/iX 6.0, a system release which HP has not supported since 2005.

Lars Appel, the former HP support engineer who built such things on his own time while working at HP Support in Germany -- and now works with Marxmeier on its Eloquence product -- has source code and a compiled copy of the utility.

Such solutions, and many more, are hosted on the Web server at 3K Associates, www.3k.com. Check the Applications Ported to MPE/iX section of the Public Domain Software area at 3K's Web site.

You'll also find a link to GhostPCL up at the site, another Appel creation, one which he describes as

A program that reads PCL input files and converts them to a variety of output formats, including PDF or JPEG, for example. Combined with my little FakeLP Java program, you might even use it to capture MPE/iX network spooler output and generate PDF or JPEG from an MPE/iX spoolfile.

Open source solutions like these have been an HP 3000 community tradition. Way back in 2000, we reported in the print 3000 NewsWire about that FakeLP Java program, helpful in getting text2pdf to do its PDF magic.

A roadblock to using the text2pdf program: the spoolfiles had to be in text file format to work with it. But Lars Appel offered a free solution to make 3000 spoolfiles that don't rely on CCTLs ready for their PDF closeups:

"I have a small Java program that listens to a given port, for example 9100, and 'pretends to be a network printer' i.e. gets all the data sent and writes it to a flat file. This might be a start, as OUTSPTJ.PUB.SYS should have converted CCTL to plain PCL when sending to a JetDirect printer. However, this little Java program is just a quick and dirty experiment. Use at your own risk; it worked on my 3000, but your mileage may vary."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ cut here _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

// FakeLP pretends network printer to capture spooler PCL output

import java.net.*;
import java.io.*;

class FakeLP {

public static void main( String args[] ) throws Exception {

int port = 9100;
int next = 1;

if (args.length > 0) port = Integer.parseInt(args[0]);
if (args.length > 1) next = Integer.parseInt(args[1]);

ServerSocket serv = new ServerSocket( port );

while (true) {

System.out.println("FakeLP listener ready");

Socket sock = serv.accept();
byte[] buf = new byte[4096];
String name = "F" + (next++);

System.out.println("Capturing spoolfile to " + name);

InputStream si = sock.getInputStream();
OutputStream fo = new FileOutputStream(name);

for (;;)
{
int got = si.read(buf);

if (got != -1)
fo.write(buf, 0, got);
else
break;
}

fo.close();
si.close();
}
}
}

06:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2014

Passing FTP Capabilities to MPE

Ws-FTP ProHP 3000s do lots of duty with data from outside the server. The 3000's FTP services sit ready to handle transfers from the world of Windows, as well as other systems, and PCs far outnumber the non-Windows computers networked to 3000s. Several good, low-cost FTP clients on Windows communicate with the 3000, even though MPE/iX still has some unique "features" in its FTP server.

Our former columnist John Burke once reported that his HP 3000 emitted a second line of text during an FTP session that could confuse the open source FTP client FileZilla:

FileZilla issues the PWD command to get the working directory information. On every other system I've tried, the result is something like 257 "home/openmpe" is the current working directory However, MPE responds with something like 257-"/SYSADMIN/PUB" is the current directory. 257 "MGR.SYSADMIN,PUB" is the current session. The second line appears to be confusing FileZilla because it reports the current directory as /MGR.SYSADMIN,PUB/, which of course does not work.

Back when it was a freeware, Craig Lalley took note of a worthy solution, WS-FTP from IP Switch. The product is now for sale but its client is not costly. And an MPE setting can remove the problems that can choke up FileZilla.

Lalley, who runs the 3000 consultancy Echo Tech, once offered this advice about WS-FTP. "I have used it for several years, without any problems. I also have used Bullet FTP and CuteFTP." About the built-in FTP in browsers, as far back as Internet Explorer, he added, "Don't go there."

Chris Thompson of The Internet Agency, another 3000-friendly vendor, echoed the praise of WS-FTP. Thompson also sells MPE software, the MPE/iX Enterprise Client. Alas, he noted that the much-praised Whisper Technology, now defunct, also had a laudable FTP product

WS-FTP is a really good product. Also, try FTP Surfer, which is freeware from Whisper Technology Limited. Usually we use this product to FTP to our 937. It's always worked well.

But as might be expected, there's a way to make HP's FTP behave in less unique and more compliant way. Lars Appel, who ported Samba to the HP 3000 before he left HP's support team, delivered the answer that makes FileZilla work with the 3000

Try the "SITE POSIX ON" command in your FTP session already (or the respective POSIX=ON setting in the SETPARMS.ARPA.SYS config file to change the default, in case the FileZilla session cannot issue "site"

Burke once reported that "POSIX = ON in the SETPARMS file did the trick, eliminating the message that confused FileZilla. I've been using FileZilla for all my ad hoc FTP needs for some time now — works great to all manner of Unix, Windows and Linux systems."

HP's James Hofmeister, who's led the effort to keep FTP up to date on the 3000, took issue with claims that the 3000 doesn't play well with Web-based FTP clients.

Lots of work went into an implementation of the FTPSRVR to support web access to the 3000... The "SITE POSIX ON" command can be sent by a FTP client and the 3000 FTPSRVR will emit Posix "standard" FTP output and will react like a Posix host (including file naming conventions).

It also is possible as documented to specify "POSIX=ON" mode in the SETPARMS.arpa.sys file and achieve this functionality system-wide for all non-3000 client to 3000 FTPSRVR connections; again the FTPSRVR will emit Posix "standard" FTP output and will react like a Posix host (including file naming conventions).

Warning:  Before you specify "POSIX=ON" mode in the SETPARMS.arpa.sys file, make sure you read the FTPDOC file closely; as you are warned that MPE file syntax will "no longer" work; The 3000 FTPSRVR is acting in Posix mode.

04:05 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2014

Beefy servers link VMware and MPE futures

DL580VMware is installed at the majority of HP 3000 sites. The virtualization software delivers flexibility in using a wider array of operating environments to virtualize Intel-based hardware, and so it's a useful tool for putting Windows, Linux and Apple's OS X on a variety of hosting hardware. Everything looks like Intel x86 -- to be exact, Xeon -- once VMware is on board.

This is one of the reasons VMware is a common companion with the Stromasys CHARON virtualized HP 3000. A partition of a server can be designated as an x86 box. And then on top of this emulation, according to Doug Smith of Stromasys

Some people already have VMware installed for the rest of their applications, and if they choose to use it with CHARON it's fine. There are others that see more of a perfomance issue -- there's more performance if they actually run it on a standalone server.

On VMware you have the host hardware, and a lot of the customers haven't specified the host hardware beefy enough to run the application. You run into a problem with that every once in awhile, so they end up going to a standalone server. That's because they don't want to go through the expense of updating all of their VMware hosts.

Initial testing performed under VMware in these under-spec'ed hosts "won't give you the performance you're looking for," Smith explained. "Under the right hardware, the numbers jump up big-time." A forthcoming case study will lay out the differences for CHARON HPA/3000, he added.

"Initially they saw a performance decrease, then went to a standalone server and saw a performance increase compared to their production box. Then they emulated that onto VMware and saw another 5-10 percent increase," Smith said.

As far back as the spring of 2013, the company was saying that a DL480 ProLiant Server was a good choice for max horsepower to create a virtualized HP 3000 N-Class. Now there's a DL580 ProLiant that has four Xeon e7-4870 processors (each a 2.4GHz/10-core CPU). That's a $32,000 system from HP's store. A two-processor 2.13GHz model is about $12,000, and HP's got a two-processor ProLiant running 1.86GHz CPUs priced at $8,566 (without disk) from Zones.com.

These clearly are not in the same price range as the HP Envy laptop that Smith said he was carrying on the floor of the VMware show last month. That i7-powered 15t-j100 Quad box is only $800 out the door with tax today. An Envy will do enough work for a portable demonstration platform, though.

Plenty of customers for CHARON say they just can't believe they'll see an MPE colon prompt on a laptop until it boots up. Showing such a thing in a boardroom using an Envy will only be the start of acquiring a real enterprise grade MPE box, though. When you consider how much a used 3000 costs these days, the $8,566 DL580 server might seem costly. Until you experience the flexibility of new disk, faster network access, and more.

And then there's the matter of the host hardware's age, and vendor support. You'll still be engaging HP for the latter -- and the DL580 was assembled, oh, about 10 years more recently than HP's very newest 3000 iron.

07:55 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 16, 2014

Advice on uptime, net gateways and sockets

Is there a way to use the 3000's networking to check how long your system has been up?

James Hofmeister replies:

If you have SNMP running, a query to check system uptime is:

: snmpget ector.atl.hp.com public system.sysUpTime.0
Name: system.sysUpTime.0
Timeticks: (418638300) 48 days, 10:53:03

I get no awards for 48 days uptime, but I use my machines to duplicate, beta test and verify repair of customer network problems.

Is there a way to scan all the ports on my HP 3000 Series 996: How many are being used, and how many are available?

Mark Bixby replies:

SOCKINFO.NET.SYS can tell you which programs have opened which sockets.

NETTOOL.NET.SYS STATUS,TCPSTAT and STATUS,UDPSTAT can also give you useful information about sockets, particularly STATUS,TCPSTAT and CONNTABLE.

Or you can run an external tool and do a port scan against your 3000.  This is not recommended during production hours, since such port cans can sometimes confuse network applications.

When I try to configure a  on our MPE/iX 7.5 system, I get the following error when I try to validate my new NMMGR gateway configuration.

Searching for subsystem validation routine VALIDATENETXPOR
---> VALIDATION OF NETXPORT SUBSYSTEM STARTED  <---
*** VALIDATE ERROR --> PATHNAME : NETXPORT.NI.LAN1.INTERNET
CONFIGURED GATEWAYS (1) MUST BE <= IPU MAX GATES (0). (VALERR 32)
---> VALIDATION OF NETXPORT SUBSYSTEM FINISHED <---

There are no other gateways configured so the CONFIGURED GATEWAYS (1) value look okay to me — so how can I increase the IPU MAX GATES value?

James Hofmeister replies:

In MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0 (unpatched) the limit was 14 gateways. This was increased to 255 gateways with patches, and was included in base 6.5 and 7.x.

The fact that validate says “IPU MAX GATES (0)” would indicate to me that you have corruption of your configuration file in “at least” the field that holds this value.

I would suggest that you want to first keep a copy of this config file, then purge NMCONFIG.PUB.SYS and then rebuild your configuration with guided config.

Note:  You could do a copy subtree of the NETXPORT.PROT.IPU field from NMAUX1.PUB.SYS to NMCONFIG.PUB.SYS to update this field — but at this point I would expect problems in this config file with more than just this one field.

06:27 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 15, 2014

WRQ's Reflection goes deeper into coffers

Micro Focus logoNews came to me today about the Sept. 15 deal between Attachmate and Micro Focus. Two of the larger enterprise software makers which matter to 3000 vendors, the connectivity company and world's biggest COBOL vendor, will be doing a merger. With this, the consolidation of enterprise vendors takes another step into its future, and Reflection goes deeper into another software corporation's coffers.

Below is some of the story as told by Micro Focus, in a message to its clients and customers, about a $1.2 billion all-stock deal that leaves Micro Focus owning 60 percent of Attachmate.

Our intention is to preserve the full portfolios of strong, leading products in both Micro Focus and Attachmate going forward. We will draw on our recent acquisitions’ track record of successfully integrating any overlapping product sets.

Business logic and data that lies at the heart of operational effectiveness is increasingly exposed to very complex IT environments, as well as recent technology developments such as the cloud, mobility and virtualization. The combination of Micro Focus and Attachmate creates a leading technology company that will be well positioned to give organizations the ability to exploit the opportunities these trends produce whilst also leveraging prior investments and established IT assets to effectively bridge the old and the new.

For those who are counting up what kinds of products will be preserved -- in addition to the Reflection line -- the merger also brings Novell, NetIQ, and SUSE Linux under the control of Micro Focus. It would take some detailed calculating to figure the total number of products being preserved. But more than 200 in the portfolio would not be an errant guess.

This sort of reverse takeover is popular for merger deals today. JDA pulled the same sort of strings when it acquired Red Prairie early in 2013. It's billed as a merger, but the terms are not equal ownership once the deal has been approved. Shareholders of both of these companies still must approve this reverse deal, but Micro Focus is already announcing the transaction is expected to close on November 3.

Regulatory approval is required for this merger, but that won't include much regulation from the customers of the Attachmate product set. Micro Focus has absorbed a 3000-related vendor before. The company bought Acucorp, makers of AcuCOBOL, outright in 2007. The complier, for a short time, had MPE COBOL II awareness and was positioned as an upgrade to the HP-built COBOL II. Then HP announced its 3000 exit strategy, and the ranks of COBOL vendors for MPE got shorter.

It can take years to discover what might become of a product vital to an HP systems manager, software that's been acquired this way. AcuCOBOL, which had a cross-platform prospect before HP's exit activity, is still in the Micro Focus price list. (Well, maybe not as AcuCOBOL anymore. Following Acucorp's lead, it's now called extend. But it's been in, and then out, and then back in favor for COBOL futures. The last in-person report we heard was in 2009, when an AcuCOBOL rep told the HP 3000 faithful at the Meeting by the Bay that his compiler was on the rise again -- or at least no longer falling.

The definition of coffer includes strongbox, money chest, and casket. In the first, the Reflection products would be tucked away safely and receive whatever development they could earn. In a world where much of IT connection takes place over the Web, a standalone terminal emulator is going to have restricted earning prospects.

The ideal for customers would be Reflection to become a money chest through the increased sales opportunity that Micro Focus might supply to it. We can pause for a moment to consider how often this has happened for acquired products. In the JDA instance, some Red Prairie product managers were no longer on the scene, post-reverse takeover. Rightsizing operations drives the shareholder approval of these things. There's an Attachmate sales force, and there's the products. Only the latter is certain to survive beyond this first year.

The casket is the kind of option where a software vendor's assets -- developers, locations, and cash -- are the prize in the deal. This seems unlikely given the size of Attachmate. This deal was big enough that Micro Focus chose a reverse-takeover approach. But Reflection didn't have the same profile at Attachmate as when WRQ sold itself to Micro Focus. Within a couple of years, the company called AttachmateWRQ became simply Attachmate.

Reuters reports that the owners of Attachmate are four asset management firms: Francisco Partners Funds, the Golden Gate Funds, the Thoma Bravo Funds and the Elliott Management Fund. Golden Gate bought up Ecometry long ago. By now, after its addition of the products of Novell et al, Attachmate is owned by a parent corporation called Wizard LLC. 

Terminal emulation to HP servers doesn't require much wizardry these days, but the Reflection product does understand the NS/VT protocol for MPE/iX. There's sure to be someone in Seattle who's in charge of that this week, and probably beyond November 3, too.

03:44 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 12, 2014

Can HP's cloud deals ground enterprises?

Editors at The New York Times seem to believe the above is true -- or more to the point, that cloud business will come at the expense of HP's hardware revenues. Nobody knows whether this is the way that HP's clouds will rise. Not yet. But a deal to buy an open source software company caught notice of a writer at the NYT, and then came a saucy headline.

Storm-cloudsHP Is Committed to the Cloud, Even If It Kills. The bulk of the story was about Marten Mickos, who sold his company Eucalyptus to Hewlett-Packard and got himself named as General Manager of HP Cloud Business, or somesuch. Open source followers will know Mickos as the man who sold mySQL to Sun, sparking some fury in a customer base that didn't want any connection to major vendor. (As it turned out, Sun wasn't really a major vendor at all, just an object for Oracle acquisition.)

This only matters to migrating customers who use HP 3000s, so if you're still reading and you're homesteading -- or migrating away from HP altogether -- what follows is more for sport than strategic planning. But once more, I'll remind readers that HP is looking for anything that can lift its fortunes. Selling enterprise hardware, like the Integrity servers which are the only island where HP-UX can live, has got a dim outlook. Selling cloud services instead of hardware has plenty more promise, even if it's largely unrealized at HP today.

The rain-clouds in HP's skies come from Amazon, mostly, whose Amazon Web Services is the leader in a growing segment. Eucalyptus works with AWS, and that seems to be the major reason that Mickos gets to direct-report to HP's CEO Meg Whitman. Eucalyptus manages cloud computing systems. HP still sells hardware and software to host private clouds, but an AWS arrangement is a public cloud concept. HP wants to be sure an AWS user can still be an HP customer.

Clouds have a penchant for carrying a customer away from a vendor. Or at least a vendor's hardware. In the NYT story, "HP will have to rely less on revenue from selling hardware, and more on software and service contracts. 'Success will be a tight alignment of many parts of the company,' said Mr. Mickos. 'We have to figure out how to work together.' "

If you go back 24 years, you can find some roots of this HP desire on a stranded pleasure boat in the San Francisco harbor. But until the business critical HP iron stopped selling, the company never believed it would have to set a rapid course for services.

In the fall of 1990, HP hosted a CIMinar conference, mostly for the press and some big customers. The letters stood for Computer Integrated Manufacturing. There was a dinner party on a nice cruise boat as part of the event. When the engines died after dinner, the boat sat in the bay for awhile. We all went out to the deck to lean on the rail and catch some cool air and wait for the tug. That's when Charlie, HP media relations guy, explained that hardware would be on its way out.

"We don't want to sell servers in the long run," Charlie said, while we were talking long enough that he got to the soul of what he believed. He was a former trade press reporter and a good media guy, too. "HP wants to be in the services business, and maybe selling some software."

So here we are, close to a quarter-century later, and now HP's finally found a reason to buy open source software and the fellow who guided it into several hundred companies. Then name him head of HP Cloud making. They hope the whole deal will turn him and his software into a rainmaker for HP enterprise revenues. 

While the Times article has got its problems, it got one stretch of the story pretty accurate. HP, like it has said for several decades, is just following its customers. Apparently, away from relying on HP's hardware.

Putting services and hardware together in new ways is part of "the hard hill we are in the process of climbing," said Martin Fink, HP’s chief technology officer and the head of HP Labs, where much of the development is taking place. "Is there uncertainty? There is always uncertainty." He added that Ms. Whitman has determined that this is where customers are going, so HP needs to adjust its business accordingly.

For years, the HP 3000 community wanted Hewlett-Packard to make recommendations to customers about which HP solution to employ. No dice. "We just want to be trusted advisors," HP said over and over. "The customer will tell us what they need, and then we will provide it."

And if the customer needs more legroom to use Integrity and HP-UX? Well, there's always that uncertainty that Mr. Fink mentioned.

09:48 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2014

TBT: The things that we miss this season

Show badgesAppropriately enough, part of my well-worn collection of identity theft for ThrowBack Thursday rests in a leather briefcase, another bygone icon of trade show seasons.

This is the time of the year when we got to know each other better -- or for the first time. August and even September hosted annual conferences from Interex, yearly meetings that were an oasis of handshakes among the dusty flats of telephone calls or emails. We'd gather up a badge like one of these in my collection. I come from Depression-Era hoarders, so too much of this kind of thing still lingers on the shelves of my office.

Look, there's the trademark ribbon, colored to let an exhibitor know who was coming down an expo aisle. Often red for the press, because we were supposed to be the megaphones to the countless customers who couldn't come to chilly San Francisco (four times, on my tour of duty) glittery hot Las Vegas (where a waterpark hosted the signature party), or even the gritty streets of Detroit (scene of thefts from the expo floor, among other indignities. We pulled up to Cobo Hall there to see banners for Just Say No to Crack Day, with a phalanx of school busses parked outside. You can't make this stuff up.)

On my first annual conference trek, we took an artisanal booth to the basement expo hall of the Washington DC Hilton. This was an Interex with an HP founder as keynoter, but David Packard wasn't CEO at the time. He had worked in Washington as US Deputy Secretary of Defense while the 3000 was being created, a good post for someone who'd launched the most famous test instrument maker in the free world. (Yes, that's what we called it during the Cold War.) The HP Chronicle where first I edited 3000 stories had never taken a booth to a show before that week in September, and so we had one built out of 2x4s, birch panels, hinges and black carpet, so heavy it required a fork lift just to get it onto the concrete floor. That was the year we learned about the pro-grade booths you could check as luggage, instead of ship as trucked freight like a coffin.

Hey, there's a set of classic computer platform ID stickers, along the bottom of that '89 nametag. HP was calling its PC the Vectra at the time, another example of the company learning its way in the marketing lanes. You wore these to identify each other in a crowd, so you could talk about, say, the Series 100 HP Portable line. If somebody didn't have your sticker, you could move on. It was all about the conversations -- um, sort of in-person Facebook post or Twitter feed. Except what you said couldn't be repeated to 100 million people in the next minute.

There were ways to stand out, if you were inventive. Not necessarily like the buttons (Always Online! was the new 3000 News/Wire) or even the handsome pins (see one attached to the red ribbon of the HP World '96 badge.) You might have little wooden shoes pinned to a ribbon, so people would come by your Holland House software booth and pick up a pair for themselves. People gave away things at these events from glow in the dark yo-yos to chair massages to Polaroid snapshots that you posed for wearing headbands, flashing a peace sign in front of a '60s VW Bus.

PosterLargeThe show in '96 was notable for being the first that didn't bear the user group's name (Interex had struck a deal to call its event HP World) and being the only conference with a football-field-sized publicity stunt. We'd just finished our first year of publication and decided to sponsor the lunch that was served to volunteers putting up the World's Largest Poster on an Anaheim high school field. The booster club served the lunch to the 3000 faithful; some took away a souvenir sunburn from walking on the white panels in Southern California's August.

There are still trade shows in HP's marketplace, but all of them are run by HP with user group help and speakers. The trade is in secrets as well as techniques and sales strategies. It's been nearly a decade, though, since a hurricane postponed a show -- and that wasn't the only annual meeting to face the wrath of a storm. That's what you risk when you meet in August and September, and your moveable feasts include stops along the Gulf of Mexico.

That gator-bearing badge from 1992 marks the first time an HP CEO attended an Interex where I shook hands and took notes. Unfortunately, that event was in New Orleans and directly in the path of Hurricane Andrew. Lew Platt was the CEO and among the majority of people who evacuated from the city while the storm approached. While hotel employees were taping up massive glass windows with industrial tape to keep them from shattering in the rising winds, Platt was doing his best to make it into his limo for a date with a waiting jet. He was stopped repeatedly on the way to that car by customers just wanting a moment, much to the dismay of his traveling partner already in the limo. Nobody could tell Lew where to go, though.

It was tough work, hosting these things, and the details were massive. Interex had a pair of conference marvels who sold and organized everything put the track of presentations, tightly sculpted by user group volunteers. But even things like Mellennium (sic) could make their way onto a show badge -- or in the case of the Toronto conference where we launched the NewsWire to everyone's surprise (including our own), ferries to take a very hungry crowd to the included supper on the island airbase just off the city's lakeshore. The boats were so crowded that few could see the fireboats along the way, chartered by Interex, to shoot off water salutes to guide our way. It may have been the only conference supper ever to be catered on an island. Down the street from the expo hall, Microsoft had hired an acrobat to rappel down the side of CN Tower to help launch Windows 95.

Along the way, I was lucky enough to shake hands and write during 20 annual North American user group shows whose setting was among these months. It all ended for us Interex members in a finale of 2004, as the group couldn't make it onto the shoreline of another yearly conference to put it into the black for the rest of the year. The next year Interex canceled its show, while Encompass and HP tried to collaborate to debut the HP Technology Conference in New Orleans. 2005 held even worse luck than 1992, though, because Katrina ripped apart the Big Easy, pushing this replacement event into Orlando one month later.

Now the annual North American conferences for users and the user groups are held in more certain climates, even while the future of enterprise computing is far less assured for HP customers than it was in these be-ribboned times. Those who still operate with HP-UX and VMS have got some thinking to do about their future platforms, but weathering the show forecast is a no-brainer. HP Discover is held in Las Vegas in June, where the only question is how soon will it get to 100 degrees. OpenVMS Boot Camp gets reborn at the end of this month in New England. There might be rain, there might not. But an event to scatter a conference is as unlikely as finding another one devoted solely to the needs of HP-crafted enterprise OS technologies.  

09:59 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2014

One Course to Sail a 3000 Into the Cloud

People in IT have come to understand the meanings and potential for the term cloud computing. But plenty of them don't trust it, according to a recent survey. Not with many mission-critical apps, anyway. Since HP 3000 managers have always had a belt-plus-suspenders approach to datacenter management, we'll bet that a great percentage of them are among the doubters about cloud security.

Docker_(container_engine)_logoRemote instances of HP 3000s have been with the community as long as MPE could boot a server. But now, knowing which precise server will deliver an application isn't part of the cloud's design. Even as recently as this year, companies are getting by with 3000 computing by using a server located outside their site, sometimes even outside their state.

It's the state of cloud computing security that gives IT pros some pause. According to a study conducted this year by Unisys (remember their mainframes?) and IDG Research, more than 70 percent of 350 respondents feel security is the chief obstacle in cloud deployment. IT executives want to collect data about the security of data that's in the cloud.

The technology to put Linux instances into cloud computing is already available. And Linux is essential to installing the HPA version of CHARON from Stromasys. There's been no announcement of a cloud edition of the virtualization product. But Docker looks like tech that could help, according to our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster.

"Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said. According to a Wiki article Edminster pointed at, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.

Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, "thus providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting virtual machines," the Wiki article reports.

Docker is "a standardized software platform for delivering apps at scale," according to a recent article in Infoworld. And it's taking over the world, the article adds. 

Two major operating system projects have already started integrating Docker as a fundamental part of how they work. CoreOS uses Docker to create a pared-down Linux distribution -- one now available on Google Cloud Platform, appropriately enough -- where all software is bundled into Docker containers. Red Hat's already started building major support for Docker into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and has plans for a major reworking of RHEL around Docker, Project Atomic.

Early deployments of cloud applications, however, are mostly non-critical applications where security is less of a concern, according to the Unisys-IDG survey. Cloud servers present new risk considerations that a company like CloudPassage is glad to address.

There's genuine concern for keeping cloud servers more secure, because they present great targets of opportunities for fraud. From a report by CloudPassage:

Fraudsters demand a constant stream of freshly compromised servers to keep botnets running. An entire underground business known as bot herding emerged to capitalize on this illicit need.

Coyote e SamBot-herders make their living by building botnets to then sell or rent to other e-criminals. Compromising an elastic cloud infrastructure environment can return a windfall versus hacking into a traditional hardware server. If a bot-herder is able to place command-and-control software on a VM that later is duplicated through cloning or cloud bursting, the botnet capacity will automatically grow.

For stakeholders in cloud hosting environments, the implication is a higher expectation of being targeted for server takeovers, root-kitting and botnet command-and-control insertions

CloudPassage is the leading cloud server security provider and creator of Halo, the industry’s first security and compliance platform purpose-built for elastic cloud environments. Halo operates across public, private and hybrid clouds.

And, one would assume, Linux hosted on Intel cloud servers that could be cradles for CHARON instances. The last time we checked on this issue, the authentic HPSUSAN number -- now supplied on a USB drive -- was the narrow part of the passage in sailing the emulator onto cloud servers.

Caution has been the practice for much of the 3000 community over the decades I've watched it. Even when the HPSUSAN strategy is resolved -- assuming that's a customer need for Stromasys to address -- keeping those clouds clear of bot-herders will be essential.

09:41 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2014

Remaining on Watch for HP Innovation

Apple WatchEarlier today Apple unveiled the descriptions and benefits of wearing a full functioning computer for the first time. Well, maybe not for the very first time. But for the first time in the modern era of computing, anyway. The Apple Watch defines the Tim Cook era at the company, and it will still need some tuning up through several generations. But this time around, the watch that breaks ground by riding on wrists won't need a stylus -- just an iPhone.

The instance of this is called the Apple Watch -- say goodbye to any new product lines being started with an "i" for now. A watch is not an enterprise computing tool, some will argue. But that was said about the iPhone, too -- a device that turned out to be a portable computer of breakthrough size. HP 3000 acolyte Wirt Atmar wrote a famous newsgroup post about the first iPhones, being like "beautiful cruise ships where the bathrooms don't work."

The Apple Watch, of course, won't be anywhere close to perfect on first release Early Next Year. People forget that the iPhone was a work in progress though most of its first year. That's a better track record than the HP 3000 had at first shipment, late in 1972. That system that's survived 40 years in a useful form -- 1974 marks the year when MPE and HP iron finally had an acceptible match -- got returned to HP in many instances.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.55.43 PMThe elder members of our 3000 community will recall the HP-01, a wristwatch that wanted to be a calculator at the same time. Nobody had considered wearing a calculator, and nobody had asked for a wearable one, either. But HP felt compelled to innovate out of its calculator genius factory in Corvallis, Oregon, and so a short-lived product, designed to satisfy engineers, made its way into HP lore in 1977.


HP-01"All of the integrated circuits and three discrete components for the oscillator are combined in a hybrid circuit on a five-layer ceramic substrate," said the article in the HP Journal, the every other month paper publication where engineers read about innovations, and the more technical customer was steered to see how Hewlett-Packard could deploy superior design. The problem was that it was 1977, and the company was sailing too far afield from its customers' desires with the HP-01. 1977 was a year when HP had scrabbled to come up with a Series II of the HP3000, a device more important to anyone who wanted to leave IBM batch computing behind and get more interactive. People who bought calculators had no concept of mobile computing. Even a luggable computer was still six years away.

HP-01 closeupBut the HP-01 did accomplish one benefit for the HP customer, who even then was a consumer, of business products. It showed the company was ardent about the need to innovate. The HP Journal is long gone, and the heartbeat of the company feels like it runs through personal computers and miniaturization of internal parts that make more of a difference to manufacturing and product margins. Apple built an S1 processor that's "miniaturizing an entire computer system onto a single chip" to make the Apple Watch a reality, something like HP's five-layer hybrid circuit substrate of 1977.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.35.45 PMApple's had its share of innovative flops, too -- but the most recent one was from 2001, the PowerMac G4 cube. A breakthrough like this S1 that Apple claims is an industry first. HP's innovations these days are not getting the kind of uptake that you'll see from the Watch next year. Nobody tells a story about computer promise like Apple, right down to calling parts of its team "horological experts," and saying it with a straight face. In contrast, HP's Moonshot and the like are important to very large customers, but the small business innovation has been limited to fan-cooling technology. Not sexy enough to earn its own video with a spacey soundtrack.

Why care? One reason might be that HP's working to convince the world, its customers, and its investors that innovation is still embedded in its DNA. It takes more than slapping the word "Invent" under the logo. Innovation is hailed by the markets, not the engineers who designed it. Everything is a consumer product by now, since we're consuming computing as if it were a wristwatch.

In the months before Steve Jobs died, he showered the HP Way and its products with praise while planning the future for Apple. He wanted Apple to leave a legacy in the industry the way that Hewlett-Packard had done, spinning off other companies and making their essential technology indispensible. Apple would do well to become what Hewlett-Packard was at its best.

Are more of those days out in HP's future? Is the ongoing turnaround a way to salvage the HP Unix and OpenVMS applications and enterprises that are going to left behind? Or are they going to become as obsolete as the HP-01, because any company needs to leave products behind? You can't set your watch to the moment when that question will be answered. Not even a device like Apple's, one that's haptic, made in gold as well as stainless steel, and lets you send an image of your beating heart to your loved one, cannot mind the time on that development.

05:55 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 08, 2014

Who else is still out there 3000 computing?

MaytagEmploying an HP 3000 can seem as lonely as being the Maytag Repairman. He's the iconic advertising character who didn't see many customers because a Maytag washing machine was so reliable. HP 3000s have shown that reliability, and many are now in lock-down mode. Nothing will change on them unless absolutely necessary. There is less reason to reach out now and ask somebody a question.

And over the last month and into this one, there's no user conference to bring people together in person. Augusts and Septembers in the decades past always reminded you about the community and its numbers.

Send me a note if you're using a 3000 and would like the world to know about it. If knowing about it would help to generate some sales, then send it all the sooner.

But still today, there have been some check-ins and hand-raising coming from users out there. A few weeks back, Stan Sieler of Allegro invited the readers of the 3000-L newsgroup to make themselves known if they sell gifts for the upcoming shopping season. "As the holiday shopping season approaches," he said, "it occurred to me that it might be nice to have a list of companies that still use the HP 3000... so we could potentially consider doing business with them."

If September 9 seems too early to consider the December holidays, consider this: Any HP 3000 running a retail application, ecommerce or otherwise, has gone into Retail Lockdown by now. Transitions to other servers will have to wait until January for anybody who's not made the move.

Sieler offered up a few companies which he and his firm know about, where 3000s are still running and selling. See's Candies, Houdini Inc, and Wine Country Gift Baskets are doing commerce with gift consumers. We can add that Thompson Cigar out of Tampa is using HP 3000s, and it's got a smoking-hot gift of humidor packs. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Then there's American Musical Supply, which last year was looking for a COBOL programmer who has Ecometry/Escalate Retail experience.

Another sales location that could provide gifts for the holiday season is in airports. The duty free shops in some major terminals run applications on MPE systems. HMS Host shops, at least four of them, sell gifts using 3000s. Pretty much anything you'd buy in a duty free shop is a gift, for somebody including yourself.

The discussion of who's still using, and feeling a little Maytag solitude, prompted a few other customers to poke up their heads. We heard again from Deane Bell at the University of Washington, where there could be another 10 years of homesteading for the 3000. The first three finished. All in archival mode.

Beechglen furnishes an HP 3000 locally hosted system meeting the following minimum specifications

· Series A500 Server
· 2GB ECC memory
· 365 GB disk space consisting of 73GB operating system and temporary storage for system backups, and 292GB in a software RAID-1 configuration yielding 146GB of usable disk storage
· DDS3 tape drive
· DLT8000 tape drive

There were other check-ins from Cerro Wire, from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (where one 3000 wag quipped, "the users are not allowed access to files) and one from MacLean Power Systems -- that last, another data point in the migration stats under the column "Can't shut down the HP 3000 as quickly as originally believed." Wesleyan Assurance Society in the UK raised its hand, where Jill Turner reports that "they have been looking to move off for years, but are only now just getting round to looking at this, which will take a while so we will still be using them. Far more reliable than the new kit."

In our very own hometown of Austin, Firstcare is still a user, but nearly all of its medical claims processing has been migrated to a new Linux platform. That's one migration that didn't flow the way HP expected, toward its other enterprise software platforms.

There is Cessna, still flying its maintenance applications under the HP 3000's wingspan. Locating other 3000 customers can be like finding aircraft in your flight pattern. A visual search won't yield much. That's one reason we miss the annual conferences that marked our reunions. This month will be the five-year anniversary of the last "Meeting by the Bay" organized by ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, for example. But the Wide World of the Web brings us all closer.

As a historical Web document that might have some current users on it -- including retail outlets for gift giving -- you can look at the "Companies that Use MPE" page of the OpenMPE website. (That's at openmpe.com these days). That list is more than 10 years old, so it represents the size of the community in the time just after HP's exit announcement. The list is more than 1,200 companies long. And there are plenty of Ecometry sites among the firms listed, including 9 West for shoes and Coldwater Creek for its vast range of clothing. The latter may very well be remaining on a 3000 for now, since retailers' fortunes define the pace of migrations.

And so, in an odd sort of way, patronizing a 3000-based retailer this season might help along a migration -- by increasing revenues that can be applied to an IT budget. It can make for a happier holiday when you can buy what you want, even when that includes a new application and enterprise environment.

08:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2014

How to make an HPSUSAN do virtual work

Interex 95 coverOut on the 3000-L newsgroup and mailing list, a 3000 user who's cloaked their identity as "false" asked about using HPSUSAN numbers while installing the CHARON emulator product from Stromasys. The question, and a few answers, were phrased in a tone of code that suggested there might be trouble from HP if an illicit number was used. HPSUSAN is a predefined variable on a 3000, one that's used to ensure software is not illegally replicated or moved to another system without the software vendor's consent.

People have been talking about HPSUSAN for decades by now, even as far back as the Toronto conference that produced the proceedings cover above. A 19-year-old paper from that meeting -- the last one which was not called HP World -- still has useful instructions on the utility of HPSUSAN. More on that in a moment, after we examine what HPSUSAN does today.

On the fully-featured edition of CHARON for the 3000, a current HP 3000's HPSUSAN number is required. Stromasys installs this number on a thumb drive, which is then plugged into the Intel-based server powering CHARON. There's a 36-hour grace period for using CHARON if that thumb drive malfunctions, or comes up missing, according to CHARON customer Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative.

But the HPSUSAN process and requirement is different for the freeware, A-202 model of CHARON that can be downloaded from the Stromasys website. As of this spring, users of this non-commercial/production model simply must enter any HPSUSAN number -- and affirm they have the right to use this number. Neither HP or Stromasys checks these freeware HPSUSAN numbers. That model of CHARON software isn't meant to replace any production 3000, or even a developer box.

The freeware situation and installing strategy all makes the newsgroup's answers more interesting. One consultant and 3000 manager suggested that a number from a Dell server would be just as binding as anything from a genuine Hewlett-Packard 3000 server.

HPSUSAN identifies an HP-built 3000 server, not the instance of MPE/iX which reveals that number. The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. HP's Cathlene Mc Rae told us this spring that HPSUSAN is a one of a kind identifier for HP-built 3000 systems. What's more, HP's SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership. 

Mc Rae explained to us, and to a CHARON prospective user, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of  virtual systems and emulators, in the 1970s. Licenses were based on hardware ownership."

Nearly 20 years ago, HPSUSAN was not the focal point that it's become since the start of this century. HP 3000s had these numbers swapped and pirated by companies such as Hardware House in 1998 and 1999, and the civil suit and criminal investigations led to low-jack jail time and fines. Some software and service companies even chose to adjust their MPE plans after HP's legal moves. You could be in the right in this kind of circumstance, but not have enough legal budget to prevail in a court against HP. Better to keep a profile low and unquestionably legal.

Of course, that was a different HP than the one which now is scuffling to maintain its sales, as well as watching its Business Critical Servers bleed off double-digit percentage sales dips every quarter. Whatever the legal budget to defend BCS systems like the 3000 was in 1999, these kinds of servers are not HP's focal point. They do remain HP's intellectual property, however. And so, the coded language of today's exchange, starting with the question from "false."

How would one go about getting a HPSUSAN to be able to stand up a HP-3000 VM to play with?  Just playing around--not intending anything, but it would be nice to see if I can do it. BTW, my budget for this project is approximately the price of a plain Einstein Bros Bagel with cream cheese.

If you know what an HPSUSAN is, then you should know how to get one. If you only offer a bagel and cheese, you're up a gum tree without a paddle. Since you need to hide behind a 'false' name, you are onto a hiding and burning your bridges at both ends.

Dear False,

What Tom said is true. I would suggest that an HPSUSAN is about the same as the Service Tag on your Dell. I would try using that.

If a 3000 customer has ever owned a server, they've got an HPSUSAN number on file. (It's in your Gold Book, along with all of the other configuration data and software vendor contacts. Sorry, that's 1990s thinking. HP used to issue these notebook binders upon system purchase.)

And if you still have the right to use this number -- for example, if your HP 3000 was scrapped instead of sold -- then there's a great place to start looking for a number to input while CHARON A202 is installed on that Linux-Intel laptop.

HP has not advised its customers about the utility of HPSUSANs from mothballed 3000s. Using Mc Rae's explanation above, 3000s were based on hardware ownership. If a 3000 has been scrapped -- sold for parts or just materials -- nobody else owns that server. The ownership rights don't revert to Hewlett-Packard, do they? This might be one reason for these coded replies. Nobody knows for sure, and like Mc Rae said, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of virtual systems and emulators."

Twenty years after the server was created, though, HPSUSAN was a topic that led David Largent to publish an Interex '95 conference paper entitled 101 (More Or Less) Moral Things To Do With HPSusan. You can read it at the 3K Associates archive website. In part, this is how Largent explained what HPSUSAN was meant to do.

The name is actually an acronym for the words "System Unique Serially Assigned Number." So what purpose does it serve? About the same as any serial number does. Software companies have found they can use HPSUSAN as a way to tie a particular copy of their software to a given machine, thus controlling software piracy. They simply request your HPSUSAN and include that in some validation logic in their program that prohibits the running of their software if the HPSUSAN from the system does not match the value in the software.

And so, CHARON requests an HPSUSAN number for the freeware version of its 3000 model. The only thing it requires would be the basic number format, as well as the integrity of the manager installing it. HPSUSAN matters to vendors other than HP, too.

Some of these freeware CHARON installations start out as pilot projects to ensure applications will run correctly. And some of those apps use software which employ HPSUSAN checks. But MPE/iX is not among that software. That's a decision that HP chose. Perhaps it was one small way to ensure that MPE users can keep their 3000 environments alive. First the pilot install, then a proper production-grade install of CHARON. They all need HPSUSANs. Some requirements, though, are more stringent than others. That's what a non-commercial license for a virtual 3000 will buy you -- installation through integrity.

08:16 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 04, 2014

TBT: Practical transition help via HP's files

2004 HPWworld Transition PartnersA 2004 slide of partner logos from an HP presentation.

10 years ago, at the final HP World conference, Hewlett-Packard was working with the Interex user group to educate 3000 users. The lesson in that 2004 conference room carried an HP direction: look away from that MPE/iX system you're managing, the vendor said, and face the transition which is upon you now.

And in that conference room in Atlanta, HP presented a snapshot to prove the customers wouldn't have to face that transition alone.

The meeting was nearly three years after HP laid out its plans for ceasing to build and support the 3000. Some migration was under way at last, but many companies were holding out for a better set of tools and options. HP's 3000 division manager Dave Wilde was glad to share the breadth of the partner community with the conference goers. The slide above is a Throwback, on this Thursday, to an era when MPE and 3000 vendors were considered partners in HP's strategy toward a fresh mission-critical future.

The companies along the top line of this screen of suppliers (click for a larger view) have dwindled to just one by the same name and with the same mission. These were HP's Platinum Migration partners. MB Foster remains on duty -- in the same place, even manning the phones at 800-ANSWERS as it has for decades -- to help transitions succeed, starting with assessment and moving toward implementations. Speedware has become Fresche Legacy, and now focuses on IBM customers and their AS/400 futures. MBS and Lund Performance Solutions are no longer in the transition-migration business.

Many of these companies are still in business, and some are still helping 3000 owners remain in business as well. ScreenJet still sells the tools and supplies the savvy needed to maintain and update legacy interfaces, as well as bring marvels of the past like Transact into the new century. Eloquence sells databases that stand in smoothly for IMAGE/SQL on non-3000 platforms. Robelle continues to sell its Suprtool database manager and its Qedit development tool. Suprtool works on Linux systems by now. Sure, this snapshot is a marketing tool, but it's also a kind of active-duty unit picture of when those who served were standing at attention. It was a lively brigade, your community, even years after HP announced its exit.

There are other partners who've done work on transitions -- either away from HP, or away from the 3000 -- who are not on this slide. Some of them had been in the market for more than a decade at the time, but they didn't fit into HP's picture of the future. You can find some represented on this blog, and in the pages of the Newswire's printed issues. Where is Pivital Solutions on this slide, for example, a company that was authorized to sell new 3000s as recently as just one year earlier?

HP probably needed more than one slide, even in 2004.

From large companies swallowed up by even larger players -- Cognos, WRQ -- to shirt-pocket-protector sized consultancies, there's been a lot of transition away from this market, as evidenced by the players on this slide from a decade ago. Smaller and less engaged, pointed at other enterprise businesses, some even gone dark or into the retirement phase of their existence -- these have been the transitions. This kind of snapshot of partners never would have fit on even two PowerPoint slides in 1994, ten years before that final HP World. Today the busy, significant actors in the 3000's play would not crowd one slide, not from the ones among the company pictured above. 

If you do business with any of these companies above, and that business concerns an HP 3000, consider yourself a fortunate and savvy selector of partners here in 2014. We'd like to hear from you about your vendor's devotion to the MPE Way, whether that's a way to continue to help you away from the server, or a way to keep it vital in your enterprise.

08:24 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2014

Moves to Windows open scheduler searches

Some HP 3000 sites are migrating from HP 3000s to Windows .NET systems and architecture. While there's one great advantage in development environment during such a transition -- nothing could be easier to hire than experts in Visual Studio, nee Visual Basic -- companies will have to find a scheduler, one with job handling powers of MPE/iX. Native Windows won't begin to match the 3000's strengths.

Scheduler demo shotMore than three years ago, MB Foster built a scheduler for Windows sites, and customers are sizing up this MBF Scheduler. There's even been interest from IT shops where a HP 3000 has never booted up. They are ofter users of the JDA Direct Commerce (formerly Ecometry-Escalate Retail) software on  Windows servers. These companies never seen an MPE colon prompt, but some need that level of functionality to manage its jobs.

"If senior management has simply decided that Windows was the place to be," said CEO Birket Foster, "we could help automate the business processes -- by managing batch jobs in the regular day and month-end close, as well as handling Ecometry jobs and SQL Server jobs." Automating jobs makes a Windows IT shop manager more productive, like creating another set of hands to help team members. And for a 3000 shop making a transition, something like an independent job handler means they'll be able to stay on schedule with the expected level of productivity.

Companies that use Windows eventually discover how manual their job scheduling process becomes while hemmed in with native tools for the environment. Credit card batches must be turned in multiple times a day at online retailers, for example. The site that orginally sparked the MBF-Scheduler design didn't have a 3000's tools, either. It did had 14,000 jobs a day running, however.

Job listings, also known as standard lists (STDLISTs), are common to both the 3000 and Windows environment, and the software was built to provide the best of both 3000 and Windows worlds, Foster said. The software's got its own STDLIST reviewer, one that's integrated with a scripting language called MBF-UDAX. Ecometry sites working on HP 3000s usually rely on a tool as advanced as Robelle's Suprtool for job scheduling.

Foster's Scheduler includes filtering buttons in job reports by user, by job name, by status and by subqueue. A recent addition to the product introduced a custom category that managers can use to select or sort jobs. While running thousands of batch jobs a day, some are in distinct categories. Customers like the idea of managing factory floor jobs separately from finance jobs, for example. Managers 

Measurement Specialties, the manufacturer which runs a dozen HP 3000s in sites across North America, China and Europe, uses the MBF Scheduler. The product manages a complementary farm of MBF Scheduler Windows servers to move jobs among servers throughout Measurement Systems' 3000s.

Terry Simpkins at Measurement Specialties has been devoted to Infor's MANMAN implementations well beyond the vendor's ability to support the application. Like other customers around the community, Simpkins and his team have compared the Scheduler to MPE's mature tools, and favorably. Sites like this don't need a separate Unix or Linux server for job scheduling, which is the usual way to keep Windows IT on schedule.

Windows schedulers serve HP 3000s, but also serve the Windows-only IT environments where some MPE/iX operations will be headed. At Measurement Specialities, for example, the IT pro who handles scheduling never sees the HP 3000. But enterprise server-born concepts such as job fences are tools which are at that IT pro's command.

05:33 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 02, 2014

Archival presents prospects for CHARON

Five years ago this week we chronicled the story of Yosemite Community College, a 3000 site that fell to the Unix alternative hosted on then-Sun servers. The MPE apps at Yosemite were from a vendor who'd left the 3000 market, and so the college was doing its own app maintenance. There's a limit to how much of that which an IT department will perform. Eventually the pain of re-developing someone else's source code drives you into re-training and installling new datacenter mission-critical operations.

Edward Berner of Yosemite couldn't hold out, even though he said as far back as 2006 he could use such an emulator product. He was planning, back in 2009, to rent a 3000 for archival purposes.

Fortunately (for the college, but unfortunately for the emulator companies) we've finally managed to retire our HP 3000. I'll start advocating that we sell the hardware to a vendor or something.  After that we can rent a system, or use a service if we need to refer to something from our backup tapes.

But we're hearing from 3000 sites which are in archival mode with their 3000s, and several such customers have been installing and evaluating the Stomasys emulator CHARON.

An emulator wouldn't have kept MPE/iX and those applications in production use at Yosemite. "Our main use for an emulator would have been for running the HP 3000 software for a couple years after the migration was mostly done, for historical data and while the last few stray things were migrated," Berner said. "The attraction being that a 1- or 2-processor Intel system is a lot smaller than a 979 -- and the HP 3000 A Series always seemed too expensive to me."

At the University of Washington Medical Center, an HP 3000 has been in archival mode for more than three years. Computer Services Coordinator Deane Bell said the archival system might be in place for a total of 10 years. Given enough time, emulator providers usually catch up to and then lap the used hardware markets. Nobody's forecasting that the UW shop is buying CHARON. But around 2017, it might look better than a well-used Series 900 -- or even a by-then 14-year-old A-Class.

10:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)