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August 31, 2015

Posix file movements, using FTP and more

I'm attempting to move files in and out of Posix namespace on my HP 3000. The file I've copied becomes bytestream, and has a REC of 1. But I want to transfer that file from Posix down to my PC, I need to maintain it's structure — but what appears to be happening is it's one long record, with no separators. Is there a way (automated) that I can move files in and out of Posix, maybe FCOPY, and be able to keep the structure?

Donna Hofmeister replies

Simply copying/renaming a 'regular' MPE namespace file into HFS-namespace will not change its structural attributes.

If the MPE file was ';rec=-80,,f,ascii' to begin with, it will still be that afterwards.  And it will retain those attributes (cr/lf in particular) following an FTP transfer from your 3000 to [something else less enlightened].

To have a foreign/non-MPE filed take-on MPE fixed-record length attributes during an FTP transfer, simply add something like the following on your transfer line:

[put|get] non_mpe_file_name MPEFILE;rec=-NN,,f,ascii (making all the proper substitutions)

How do I get my HP 3000 to play well with Web-based FTP clients?

HP's James Hofmeister, who led the effort to keep FTP up to date on the 3000, replies

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.

06:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 28, 2015

Virtual futures become more real next week

Sometime on Sunday night, learning about virtual computing will get more costly. VM World starts its program on Monday, and the last chance for $200 off the registration expires on August 30. Considering who regards virtualization as essential, a visit to the VM World expo floor, at least, could be worthwhile.

Stromasys will be on that show floor, one of the few companies which has a current 3000 project on display there. Virtualization is a reality the heart of the Charon concept, a product whose design was proven over 10 years of deployment in the Digital environment, then first introduced to a 3000 site in 2012.

VMware has a role to play in implementing a homesteading solution for 3000 owners. It can be part of the cradle that houses the software which transforms Intel x86 chipsets into PA-RISC processors. Learning more about VMware would be very good for any IT manager, but especially for the 3000 pros who need to keep enhancing the skills on their CVs.

Patent Virtual Machine Packet ProcessingVirtualization is a subject in heavy rotation these days. Not only is there a legacy of how it's changed choices for enterprise with foundational tech like virtual partitions, there's also a future being patented and proposed. Hewlett-Packard usually has a raft of patents issued each month. Among the 17 it was awarded over the last two weeks: one for virtual machine packet processing. It's a safe bet that the practical application of patent No. 9,110,703 B2 will not be on the HP Inc. side of the HP that's splitting up Oct. 31.

HP is still inventing, at least on the theoretical level. Although more than half of HP's patents are for printing advances, some inventions could exert a positive influence on keeping Hewlett-Packard Enterprise a suitable choice for migrators.

The summary of the HP patent will only make a computer scientist's heart sing.

Packet processing for packets from a virtual machine includes receiving a packet from an external switch at a computer system hosting a plurality of virtual machines. If the received packet is a learning packet, storing a packet signature determined from the learning packet. For a packet to be transmitted from a virtual machine in the computer system, determining if the packet's signature matches the stored packet signature. If the packet's signature matches the stored packet signature, performing an action associated with the packet signature.

Packet loss is an issue that VMware customers deal with. "Even the best VMware networking setups hit snags, but you have tools," an article at TechTarget advises. "Adjusting specific VMware network settings can fix packet loss in a VM." HP's invention may be aimed at a problem that can hold back performance in virtualized servers.

There's a lot of nuance out there for virtualized computing. But the benefits of making many servers out of fewer processors are profound. A trip to the expo floor -- and that's a visit that is priced at $300, until Sunday -- would be a good start at making a virtual future more of a reality.

In the style of an Interex conference Convince the Boss letter of a decade ago, VM World offers a suggestion for these benefits.

Hands-on training and experience. You'll be able to choose from 350+ technical and content-rich sessions covering the latest innovations in the data center for storage, networking, security, management, workforce mobility, and hybrid cloud services.  

Product research and analysis. In the Solutions Exchange, you'll be able to review the latest competitive solutions side-by-side with more than 275 exhibitors. 

Networking with industry experts. You'll learn strategies for achieving top IT priorities and be able to compare notes with other IT professionals. We can leverage these contacts for advice and best practices for years to come. 

04:11 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 27, 2015

TBT: Hurricane lashes Platt's Interex debut

Young retires, Platt named CEOThe annual Interex user conference ended its run in 2005 before Hurricane Katrina chased off the show that tried to replace it in New Orleans that year. Katrina will be much in the news over this weekend as the world remembers the 10th anniversary of that disaster. Interex had often scheduled its conferences for the peak month of hurricane season. The group's luck ran aground when Hurricane Andrew made its landfall in the week that HP planned to celebrate the 3000's 20th anniversary. The storm came ashore near New Orleans, where that party was scheduled.

It was a week when the company's new CEO, Lew Platt, was supposed to make his debut at a keynote in front of 3,500 customers at Interex '92. Platt was only the second man ever to be elected to the top job at HP, and the retiring CEO John Young didn't have an engineer's roots like Platt did. This was an HP insider who was a technologist, proud of his roots, and humble enough to take up a habit of eating his meals in the HP cafeteria.

Andrew_23_aug_1992Young was scheduled to deliver a keynote to the conference, but Hurricane Andrew changed those plans. The storm had just ravaged the Florida coastline with Cat 4 winds the day before Young's keynote was supposed to appear. Young's appearance was transferred to a moment for Platt, just as the leadership of HP was going to pass to Platt by November. But the severity of the storm set even the CEO-designate into flight.

In the plaza in front of the Hilton Riverside Towers, Platt was trying to make his way to a running limo that would get him to the airport before flights were grounded. But one customer after another wanted just a moment of his time. After a handful of delays, his wife Joan insisted on his safety. "Lew, get in here," she shouted from the limo. One of the company's most grassroots leaders had to depart his storm-lashed debut week.

The Series 987 servers were also making their debut that week, the second generation of the PA-RISC chipset for 3000s. HP was pushing the message that MPE/iX was an easy porting destination for Unix applications, pointing out that General Mills had moved a third-party warehouse app from Unix to the 3000. "It had been generally accepted that it was much easier just to buy a new platform for the application," HP's Warren Weston wrote in the HP Chronicle. "However, after further investigation, the decision was made to port to MPE/iX." It might have been the last time the vendor promoted the 3000 over Unix in a public message.

The 3000's operating system was getting its first version that could support Berkley Sockets, technology that I reported in the Chronicle "is aimed at the same target audience awaiting Posix functionality on HP 3000s: application developers who already have programs running on Unix-based systems."

Sevcik at Interex 92MPE/iX 4.0 was "one of the highest-performing commercial operating systems in the industry," said then-GM Rich Sevcik, who'd go on to lead HP's launch of the Itanium chip program. He compared the 3000's value to that of IBM mainframes. "MPE is significantly easier to use and less costly than competitive operating systems such as IBM's MVS."

HP's 987 got the new PA-7100 chips, which made the 9x7s the next-to-fastest tier of 3000s in that summer week. The company was pumping its installed base to get sales numbers up for the 9x7s. The non-RISC Series 68s and Series 70s could be turned into 9x7s for as little as $3,000 on the low end of the 9x7 line. Even trading in the first-model RISC Series 950 for a 9x7 would earn a $50,000 credit.

HP was still hoping to make IBM's midrange customers take heed of the 3000. The company said that in comparing the 3000 to the AS/400, "a mid-level HP system would be 60 percent cheaper than the cost of hardware, software, and support for the comparable IBM system."

08:27 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 26, 2015

Taking a Closer Look at 3000 Emulation

Emulate Rubik'sEmulation solutions have pro’s and cons. We caught up with Birket Foster this morning, after his company had suggested that emulation deserves a closer look. In our 8-minute podcast, I talked with him (over speakerphones on short notice, thank you) about how emulation really can be a solution to keep legacy applications vital. Companies, especially the small ones that still rely on MPE environments, want to protect their business investments. After all, investing in emulation solutions that can support your MPE legacy applications — well, it's critical to the future success of your organization. It can also be a key to greater efficiency, innovation and growth.

07:33 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 25, 2015

ITIL is still the way to see IT's future

[Editor's Note: Seven years ago this month, CEO Birket Foster of MB Foster introduced what the ITIL best practices can offer for a company aiming their servers into the future. But ITIL can help any shop on the spectrum between entrenched homesteader and fresh migration convert.The version 3 of the ITIL practices from 2007 was so similar to the 2011 version that no bridge examinations for ITIL v3 certification holders were created — so everything Foster advised about dashboards and ITIL remains true. Your first encounter with ITIL strategy might be during an acquisition, through, and that kind of introduction is not going to help your career. "If you get acquired by a company that knows and practices ITIL processes, you'll get run over," Foster says. He shared other ideas about managing IT as an investment in his article.]

By Birket Foster

ITIL FrameworkThe world has certainly changed since 2001, especially for HP 3000 users — it is not just the HP-supplied parts, services and support, it is the whole ecosystem. Folks who were the captains of industry, managing robust growing companies for their organization have retired. For some of you this will ring a bell. There are very few HP 3000-savvy folks under 50, and none under 40. That means as more members of the community retire, the replacements just won’t be there.

Probably 75 percent of the 3000-using companies we visit don’t have the HP 3000 resources to make major changes of their application or the operating environment any longer. This puts companies at risk. The risk that if something goes bump in the night, the team will not know how to recover. Is your 3000 in a tested disaster recovery plan? (It ought to be – it is always easier to catch something in test then during the real thing). Developing and implementing a plan is a significant IT investment goal for your community.

Investment in IT is always related to applications. I don’t mean Microsoft Office, but the applications that make it possible for organizations to take orders, build, ship and bill; or reserve a seat on a plane; or register a student, rent a car, or build an aircraft.

Yes, there are real companies in all those businesses still running on an HP 3000s. Some of them remain there because their investment in IT is working through a 5- or 7-year cycle, and then if the business is in good shape then they will take on the project of moving to something new. Some have failed in their attempt to migrate at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. In other cases, corporate is sending in the SAP team in a couple of years, and it will be five more years till they can decommission the 3000.

Your organization ought to have a dashboard which relates to the current state of each application and the ecosystem around it. The ecosystem includes staff, surround code, support plans and pledges from your third parties. And your senior management team should be made aware of the state of your systems. This includes all the tools to design/change, develop, test, integrate, deploy, operate, support the application plus the documentation, and the HR required to support and train new team members for each of the phases in the application lifecycle.

In a one-sentence motto, if you can't measure what you're currently doing, you shouldn't be doing it.

I am a big frameworks guy, so my thought is that if you have a framework you should compare what you have against an industry neutral way of looking at things – ITIL. This framework ensures you stay focused innovate and do the changes every company needs. For example, if you stay on the HP 3000 you need a plan to replace people who leave and take 3000 experience along with them.

ITIL v3, first published in May 2007 with a lot of input from HP volunteers, comprises five key volumes:

1. Service Strategy
2. Service Design
3. Service Transition
4. Service Operation
5. Continual Service Improvement

If you are serious about your organization’s IT you will need to have something similar. Colleges, universities and companies such as HP offer courses and certification in ITIL. You can build your dashboard once you understand the level of maturity your organization has in IT systems. Whether you buy commercial off the shelf systems or roll your own, you need a framework to make your systems supportable – plus something to help these systems focus on supporting your business goals and objectives.

Your HP 3000 can fit into an ITIL, and you will gather enough information to transfer the support of your applications to the next generation of employees at your site. I hope you are doing great work in the care and feeding of your HP 3000 based applications — and that this short piece has made you think.

10:11 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2015

N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000

N-ClassThe ultimate class of HP 3000s, the N-Class, entered the 3000 marketplace with servers for sale that started in the mid-five figures. The lineup included a server rated at 440 MHz with a single processor, and that N4000-100-440 model has a unit on the market selling for a bit less than its original price of $210,000. Quite a bit less.

Cypress Technology posted a notice of the server with a price tag of $3,000. That's a markdown of 98 percent over the lifespan of the product.

A great deal of time has passed between those two price points. The N-Class prices were announced in February 2001, only nine months before HP revealed it was canceling its 3000 futures. The servers shipped to a limited number of sites in advance of the HP takedown notice. The N-Class servers were a great value compared to prior-generation Series 900 HP 3000s, but this 100-440 unit was in the middle of a lineup that ran in price from $70,000 to more than a half-million dollars.

Jesse Dougherty of Cypress said the server has a 300GB disk in addition to the traditional so-wee 9GB boot drive. There's 4GB of RAM and an MPE/iX software set, and the latter's got some transferability, according to Dougherty.

The ability to assume a valid MPE/iX license was once a benefit to a 3000 manager, since it conferred supportability from HP of the system. But HP's support carrot has long since withered away. There's residual value in a server that was built 12 years ago, though, and perhaps at least $3,000.

Given the right paperwork for the N-Class so this license could be transferred for HP's $432 fee -- and the vendor will take that payment today, more than 13 years after its exit notice -- such a system could pass an auditor's screening and become a valid player in an enterprise environment. Plenty of third party companies are on the radar for support.

Without that paperwork -- HP wants to see a chain of ownership from an original purchaser, or a letter attesting to it -- some auditors might reject such a purchase.

At a cost of $3,000, though, this server is at least a source of spare parts. Parts are becoming more essential by the day for the homesteading HP 3000 user. Those who've moved to the virtualized hardware set sold by Stromasys for their MPE/iX applications are not seeking a server for the value of its parts. The N-Class comes with a 100 Mbit Base-T LAN adapter, too.

10:32 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2015

HP's Q3: Tumbling toward a split-up is dicey

Enterprise group numbers Q3 2015

The only unit in HP that showed revenue growth, Enterprise, did so on the strength of better networking gear sales and improvements in the ProLiant business.

Hewlett-Packard presented its next-to-last quarterly report to analysts and large customers yesterday. The former are paid to benchmark HP's progress towards being a healthier company after a split-up Oct. 31. The latter group will be paying for the cost to create an Enterprise-laden HP. At the moment, it's looking like they won't be paying out as much as HP would like.

One analyst's summary of the figures for the period: "Is Hewlett-Packard Ready To Separate With These Earnings?" That smacks of clickbait talk, but the results didn't show an HP that's keeping up with its goals for improving sales and profits. All but one HP operating unit reported lower earnings and sales for Q3. The group that improved on Q3 of 2014 might surprise you. It's the Enterprise Group, by a whole 2 percent. The rest of HP's units took a dip in their sales in Q3.

Unit's decline Q3 2015Yes, that's Enterprise, where the remaining HP enterprise servers and platforms do business. This is the unit that's cut short the VMS futures, shut down the HP 3000 almost five years ago, does declining business for HP-UX servers. What gave Enterprise a 2 percent lift from 2014 sales was its networking business. You can sell networking gear into any environment, your own or another vendor's. Networking even gets a lift from the cloud revolution, but we'll get to that in a moment.

The Business Critical Systems unit always comes in for special focus here at the NewsWire. The group that once housed 3000 operations, as well as currently serves up the 3000 alternatives which are not Windows, posted another quarter with a decline in sales. The dollars toted up to 21 percent less than the previous Q3. That 2014 Q3 was down 18 percent from 2013's, and the 2013 Q3 was down 26 percent. Even accounting for currency and percent-of-percent figures, BCS is half the size it was in 2012.

By a rough estimate, the total of all sales for HP critical enterprise systems is now under $1 billion yearly. The good news is that the $1 billion will be twice as big a slice, once HP separates Enterprise from HP Inc.

To the specific numbers we go, as they like to say on NPR's Marketplace.

Falling revenues Q3 2015Enterprise Group sales were $7 billion in Q3, and BCS made up 3 percent of that, or about $210 million. The complete HP sold $25.3 billion in software, services, and products, off 8 percent from the Q3 of 2014. Enterprise Group profits made up 45 percent of HP's overall profits, however. Only the Software group's sales are more profitable than Enterprise revenues by percentage, and Enterprise was $725 million ahead of Software in raw profits.

Why care about profits? HP will need them to succeed in paying for its split-up, and the tumbling trends have some analysts concerned. Hewlett-Packard is profitable overall, and for once, its Enterprise operations — the business that includes ProLiant servers as well as Integrity systems — led the way in earnings. That's in part because the legendary Printing unit took a tumble. Printing's falling fortunes not going to be a problem for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in about 10 weeks' time.

Some analysts and wags have said that the spin-off company being created, HP Inc., is called that because printer ink will drive its heartbeat. The company has come a long way since being an entity that included Agilent instrumentation sales. The HP of 1995 needed nine months to sell as much as the HP of this year sells in a single quarter.

But during that year of 1995, HP took the chief of its PC and Printer business and gave him control of HP's enterprise server units, including the 3000's group. Rick Bulluzzo brought principles that fit consumer reselling to bear on enterprise business. The two businesses couldn't be more different, or at least were unlike one another in 1995. It's something like expecting a fleet of Uber drivers to be able to deliver a year's worth of ball bearings for General Motors. GM would've been looking for different bearings.

What's injured HP's enterprise business growth more than anything has been the rise of cloud computing. HP hopes to replace its lost enterprise server revenues with its Helion Cloud solutions. But while it forgoes the sale of bigger servers to existing customers, as well as the Services it sells to manage such products, the company's got to score against competitors like Microsoft's Azure stack or Amazon Web Services cloud products. It's been looking to make up sales with its own larger customers, and even at that, it expects to win easiest with the companies that are already deploying a virtualized solution.

"Where we win are with enterprises that have stepped all the way through the virtualization steps in the past three to four years," HP Cloud VP Bill Hilf told Network World last fall, "the companies that have more than 50 percent of their environment virtualized. Now they’re getting a lot of pressure on being able to go faster." HP Enterprise aims to capitalize on that pressure, even as it's grappling with pressure to grow on its own.

04:41 PM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2015

TBT: 3000-TV debuts along with Newswire

Twenty years ago this week, the annual Interex conference included two fresh elements for HP 3000 customers. The ones who stayed in conference hotels could watch closed-circuit TV programs devoted to the HP 3000. The 3000 News/Wire made its entrance at Interex 95 in the Metro Toronto Conference Center's exhibit hall, too. We'd driven 500 copies of our pilot issue from Texas to Canada in a minivan to circulate on the show floow. HP drove its pro-3000 message onto the televisions in four Interex hotels.

Those TV shows have essentially vanished without a trace, and Interex 1995 marked the only show where the computer got its own airtime on TVs in public. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 PR crew extended me an invitation to appear on one of the broadcasts to introduce the News/Wire, a piece of great fortune for a publication that had only four pages of print to its credit by that August.

Coats and Ties 1995Some fellow named Lew Platt was on another TV segment, talking about his job as CEO. The management roundtable featured a gag where HP executives got asked why IBM usually came to customer meetings dressed casually. HP's execs stood up on cue and shed their coats and ties. VP Ann Livermore, the only woman on the panel, did not have to alter her dress.

At the conference, an HP of about $24 billion in annual sales was introducing the HP 3000 Coexistence Solution Strategy, "a selection of products and guidelines that ensure complete integration among HP 3000 Business Servers and other open systems, including Unix-based computers."

We interviewed general manager Olivier Helleboid for a Q&A to appear in the first full issue, and he already had a sound bite ready about the new strategy. "Wearing one size fits all computing garments doesn't suit our customers facing today's changing technology," he said, adding that the scheme would "make the HP 3000 fit neatly into environments where companies use more than one platform."

It was a time when the vendor referred to the "Internet HTTP protocol" as freeware, "and this enables the HP 3000 to be used as a World Wide Web server without any additional hardware." The World part of those W's was still in transit. MPE was missing domain name services, and Netscape's web server would never arrive as a solution for the 3000. The one customer using their 3000 for web services was running an company-wide intranet. But an enterprising engineer from outside of HP got the bedrock of porting up and running that summer. C++ was a new tool.

August 95 NewswireMark Klein, then working in the ORBiT Software lab, used his own time and resources to bootstrap the Gnu C++ suite for MPE/iX 5.0. This would make possible the porting of inetd and bootp capabilities, "software that is common to Unix-based environments," HP reminded us. Such 3000 advances seemed to be reflections of what HP's Unix already had on offer.

The "HP-UX multiuser systems" came in for special mention in the company's quarterly results press release, "with particular strength in the telecommunications market." Striving to paint the 3000 in as many industry-standard hues as possible, HP touted Oracle's Transparent Gateway for IMAGE/SQL, and connections to the Sybase database were promised for the first half of 1996.

The management roundtable, an event that featured customers asking unscreened questions of HP VPs, appeared as it often did, "a process that serves as a sounding board for some customers, as black comedy for others, and can sometimes provide information about unmet needs in the customer base."

The flashiest bit of dark humor came from a Japanese customer who reported he'd bought 200 HP-UX servers to date. "The problem is, their quality sucks," said his interpreter. HP's Sales and Marketing chief Manuel Diaz jumped in quickly as the ballroom rocked with laughs. "Somehow, it sounded better in Japanese," he said. 

That Interex show rose its curtain in the classic, sticky Lake Ontario summer air, while Microsoft unfurled the Windows 95 banner, 300 feet worth literally draped off a tower in Toronto. Win95 was about to ground NewWave, marking the end of HP's unique R&D into GUI.

I watched an aerial daredevil rappel down the CN tower that week, one of a half-dozen stunts Microsoft staged in contrast to the laid-back HP marketing. Printer sales continued to be a hit with HP's consumers while the company hoped to capture IT dollars with its Vectra PC line.

But not even agent-based object-oriented software like NewWave could spark sales like a Windows campaign that used the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up, trumpeting Win95's new Start button. Paying $3 million for the rights to use the song, Microsoft tattooed it into our brains -- enough that I played it in a loop while I batted out the first edition of our FlashPaper late-news insert as we rolled the presses on the full NewsWire — taking the slash out of our name because being wired was clearly essential to delivering news.

HP was encouraging its customers to watch another sort of TV in the month to come. An HP Technology Close-up Broadcast, MPE and Unix Interoperability and Management, was going to air in HP's offices in September. HP told its customers at the show that if they couldn't be in an HP office that day, they could get a recording on VHS afterward, ordering over an 800-number — in the days when toll-free was only available using the 800 area code.

08:00 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2015

Stripping on the 3000, Carriage-Style

How can I strip out the Carriage Controls from a spool file?

Tony Summers replies:

CarriageWithout dropping into Posix shell, the only other idea that comes to mind would be some third party tool. SPOOLPDF was a program we used from Open Seas to convert spoolfiles into raw PCL. A second program (OPENPDF) subsequently converted the PCL to a PDF document. OPENPDF was simply ported version (to MPE) of a Unix application (pcl2pdf). And we still use pcl2pdf on our HP-UX servers.

Lars Appel pulls a new approach out of his files:

Well, EDITOR.PUB.SYS also can change or replace columns.

/CHANGEQ 1/1 to "" in ALL

This changes column 1 through 1 to "nothing" in all lines (quietly).

If you don't want to strip CCTL but convert it to PCL escape codes, you might try using the network spooler (which typically does this when sending a file to the JetDirect printer). Example programs are in the HP3000-L archives, such as listening for TCP port 9100 to capture such data sent by the network spooler. Look for the FakeLP challenge with examples in Java, Perl, and C.

Tracy Johnson adds a note on a free utility:

I use Beechglen's SF2HTML utility. It's a convenient tool to convert CCTL codes to line and form feeds. Then I run it through an editor to get strip the HTML code. It only generates three codes, "<HTML>", "<BODY>", and "<LISTING>".  Easy enough to convert to blanks or nothings. Then use the Sanface Software program txt2pdf to convert the edited file to the final result.

Beechglen's Doug Werth notes

With enhancements in later versions, SF2HTML can be controlled by several variables, including one to remove the HTML tags from the output. This eliminates the extra step of running the resulting file through an editor before feeding it to txt2pdf.

Dave Powell offers a command file alternative:

Many moons ago I wrote a command file, HP2RTF to convert a cctl file to word-processor-readable rich-text format, converting the carriage control codes to the appropriate number of line-feeds as part of the process. It's happier if you redirect your output to a CCTL disk file, but it can sort-of handle spool files too. It contains its own complete source code, so if it doesn't do exactly what you want you can tweak it.

08:15 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2015

A Future That Leads from Cheaper to Pricer

Dollar pileThe latest notices for the HP-Intel Itanium chips could be read as another nail in the HP-UX coffin. Long ago, the processor family that powers HP’s Integrity servers ran into trouble, roadblocks that will vex the future for HP's Unix. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be viewed that way. The 3000 gained extra years in spite of people thinking short-term and adopting mass market strategies for enterprise computing. Like the 3000 owners before them, HP-UX owners who’ve migrated from MPE need to think different than a Cheaper, if they can arrange any way to afford it.

What's a Cheaper? That's the manager or consumer for whom the price is the most important concern. They look at today's cash flow instead of the coming five years of ownership cost. They bought $299 netbooks with glee until those slabs of plastic were better suited to prop open windows than run Windows.

You could be a Pricer instead. It’s the kind of pay-what-it's-worth thinking that made the HP 3000 the best value in enterprise computing, at least for value circa the 1990s. So long as HP put its engineering muscle behind a platform that was a walled garden, adding features and embracing new tech, you couldn't buy a business computer that was a better investment than a 3000. When HP bagged its responsibility, the market got left looking for something else. Cheaper looked attractive, after being just stung by a top-shelf expense of dropped futures.

But every platform’s got that day when the futures die in the vendor’s mind. First came Unix, and the promise of everywhere adoption, cheaper than the BMW-caliber MPE. Then Windows, tuned up for running an enterprise with Windows Server and SQL Server. Each cheaper than the last. When Microsoft announced the end of futures for Windows Server and Itanium, MB Foster's Birket Foster pointed out Windows became a lot less cheap since it was made to perform at an enterprise level.

Foster said in 2010, despite Windows Server 2008 being the last version to support Itanium and Integrity, he liked the outlook for HP-UX and the only server which runs it. It all depends, he says, on how far out an IT manager is looking to expect any environment to deliver value. He had a clear view of the lifespan for an OS even then.

"One of my first questions would be, what's your timeframe?" Foster asked in 2010. "How long do you want this platform to be in existence for you?"

After all, customers are not planning out timeframes longer than 3-5 years for any other operating system, so why expect the HP-UX and Itanium picture to run farther toward the horizon? The current HP timeline for HP-UX is through 2025, but it’ll be served up with only revisions of 11i3 HP-UX.

"There are things people can do while they're making their conversions from the 3000 to make it easier to shift the next time," Foster said back then, processes that will make isolation happen. "HP already figured out how to build a hardware abstraction layer so they could run five operating systems on this Itanium chipset. Who's to say you can't build an operating system extraction layer and isolate yourself?"

Something quite like that came to pass with Stromasys and Charon.

Foster said his company did that kind of isolation when they migrated a large oil company off the 3000. And that abstraction layer? OS experts in the 3000 community hoped that eventually, instead of Itanium hosting x86/Xeon programs in hardware, the reverse would happen.

Cheapers may not embrace this choice, since it includes an OS priced for cost of ownership instead of the entry price. They really don't want to consider the extra 25 percent it takes to adopt a better-built, longer-lived product. Not when they can save that money from this year's budget. Pricers think about having to defend their choice in more than five years, instead of looking for another investment to replace one that was never built to last.

Built to Last was supposed to describe HP-UX and Itanium as much as Xeon and Windows Server. But a Pricer needs to know that the vendor will be there for them many years to come, to justify the extra expense up front. Think BMW to consider how much vendor zeal you will need. Can you feel that zeal from your migration platform vendor? Have they spent more in R&D, percentage-wise, than HP does as a company?

Windows will do the job for many migration-bound companies. But the long-term value of anybody else's environment except Linux never seems to be ensured. Even Windows desktop applications get replaced every 18 months. The future of HP-UX is probably not a "we're killing it off" demise like HP planned for MPE. 

Instead, Foster says, "In the long run, HP-UX will probably morph into something like Linux." That will be the point when being a Pricer instead of Cheaper might pay off -- because your shop is now full of experts in enterprise-grade IT management solutions, built off the 20 years of the Unix investments, pricier than Windows.

09:56 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 17, 2015

Migrations can lead ERP onto new aaS

Social ERPHP 3000 companies have already cited many reasons for moving onto another server and operating environment. I remember one CAMUS manufacturing user group meeting where an IT manager at a Gulf Coast company was eager to move away from MPE and his MANMAN. "I'd been wanting to get us off that stuff for awhile," he said. "It's old enough to get in our way."

That company's catalyst for change was adopting new features and functionality. They must've been essential to meeting new business needs; it's a long-standing rule that companies will struggle to fund nice-to-haves, but they'll pay for gotta-haves. That IT manager was speaking up in a CAMUS meeting of more than four years ago. By today, there's a lot more functionality out there to trigger the journey away from MANMAN, if the business needs are genuine. Today's new features flow from cloud computing.

A new white paper by analyst Cindy Jutras details what an ERP migration can deliver if you're paying attention to platforms. Platform is one of the -asS categories. The asS stands for As A Service. The first such solution was Software as a Service (SaaS) followed by Infrastructure as a Service, Desktop as a Service, Backend as a Service, and finally, Platform as a Service. We've used the word "platform" here to mean OS-plus-hardware. But there's another platform definition, one that Jutras details: a software-based platform, such as Salesforce1.

Terry Floyd, whose company The Support Group has been advising 3000 MANMAN shops since the early 1990s, says he worked alongside Jutras in the early 1980s at ASK Computer Systems. MANMAN was shiny and new in that time, and ASK had only been formed in the mid-70s by Sandy Kurtzig as CEO. Kurtzig's made a return to the ERP market by helping to found Kenandy, and the white paper by Jutras explains why a platform like the one Kenandy utilizes makes a big difference when replacing ERP solutions like MANMAN.

Any company making an ERP purchase today, she says, should be cognizant of not only the features and functions being delivered, but also the platform on which it is developed. "Ask the tough questions about platform of any prospective purveyor of ERP."

  • Does it take advantage of the latest technology that has brought us into the digital age?
  • Are mobile, social and analytics built in?
  • Can it support cloud, the great enabler of standardization and growth? In other words is it a platform “as a service?”
  • Is it a platform that supports configurability over invasive customization?
  • Does it easily facilitate any customization that truly is required?
  • And finally... how popular is it? Will you be searching for developers or searching through a large marketplace of add-ons and extensions?

As a business leader, you may not understand the nitty gritty technical details of PaaS, but you shouldn’t let that limit your expectations for ERP. After all, it must keep up with you in running your business in the digital age.

Of course, those "nitty gritty details" are in an HP 3000 IT manager's wheelhouse. Those who have a migration on the boards are now looking at the cloud as a new platform. Jutras says that Salesforce1 has some built-in application services.

  • Support for a multi-tenant SaaS environment, which we previously noted as a key enabler in delivering more innovation, faster
  • A workflow engine, access and identity management
  • Other rapid developer services include Salesforce standard user interface templates, (business) object orientation and built-in mobile support
  • The ability to tie “social” online chats (through Salesforce Chatter) directly back to business objects
  • Embedded analytics with Salesforce Wave, a cloud-based data platform as well as a data-analysis front end designed to analyze not just Kenandy, but also any third-party app data, desktop data, or public data you bring in

The typical ERP solution of the past saw a major upgrade every 12-18 months. That looked like a new version of MANMAN, for example, or maybe a Customizer revision, in-house, using MM/3000 (the software that became eXegsys in the late '90s). Jutras tells the story of how ERP upgrading worked, before Platform as a Service.

If you requested such a change (and your vendor agrees to it) before the cutoff for the design of the new release, you might wait 12 to 18 months. But timing is everything. If you miss that window of opportunity, you might have to wait for an additional cycle. So in reality you would wait 12 to 36 months, and perhaps longer if you were unwilling or unable to jump right on the newest release. Meanwhile your window of opportunity could close on that new business model and you could well be on the road to being the next Blockbuster store, disrupted into failure by Netflix.

A platform like Salesforce1, though, is used by 100,000 organizations, supports 3 million users and a processes a billion transactions a day. "If you find an ERP solution built on a platform that attracts a lot of developers, you are very likely to find a lot of extensions developed that can complement your solution," the white paper reports. "Salesforce estimates the platform speeds development by a factor of five, and cuts the cost of development in half. This translates to benefits for the customer in more innovation, at a faster pace."

Jutras points out that Kenandy — a Salesforce1 solution that the Support Group has been studying since 2013 — takes full advantage of the ready-made, easily personalized wheels of object-oriented computing.

While any solution built on the Salesforce1 platform has the potential of enjoying these benefits, Kenandy goes one step further in how it has architected the solution on top of that platform. It has developed a unified data model that takes full advantage of the power of business objects, by adding new dimensions to otherwise very familiar “objects” like orders, invoices, customers, and product. And Kenandy prides itself in saying it can personalize with “clicks, not code.” This means adding fields, changing workflows, rearranging the screens without the disruption and expense of invasive code changes.

It sounds a great deal like the functionality that Customizer used to offer, without the essential need for coding. The full Jutras white paper is definitely worth a read — if only to see what cloud computing can do for a mainstream application in the 3000 community like ERP. In the earliest days of the Kenandy campaign, the company was calling the product Social ERP.

07:29 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2015

HP drives its stakes between support posts

Preparing for SeparationAs August unfolds and HP's final quarter as a combined company unfurls, the corporation that services some of the targets and platforms for 3000 migrators has already divvied up support access. HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise have become separate support systems. Users are being invited to look in more than one place for answers that were previously at a one-stop shop

In early August, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. will provide two different support portals. When you access HP Support Center, you will be able to select a portal for HP Inc. products or a portal for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products.

HP Enterprise business might have fared a little better in the division.

As of August 1st the HP Support Center Mobile application will only be available for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products such as servers, storage, and networking. A message within the application asks you to update to the latest version.

Results for MPE:iXHP is calling the move a "Welcome to our Two-Car Garage." Assigned to the Enterprise arm of HP (to be known as HPE on the stock market), the MPE/iX operating system still has its small outpost in HPE support pages. For the customers who hold an HP Passport login, access to the existing 3000 patches is promised. However, the web-driven access to patches seems to be locked behind the October, 2013 policy that a current HP support contract is required for patch access.

HP-UX customers can purchase such a contract to use the new HPE support site for patching. Since MPE/iX users can't buy such a thing, access to patches is supposed to be free. Getting the patches requires some extra effort, according to independent support providers in the 3000 community. At least looking into the rest of the official 3000 documents — including 64 PDFs of system manuals — remains in a logical place. A special order is still the order of the day to access the patches, though.

We've tracked down 3000 documents at HP before now, but this link is working as of the split up of support sites. (You'll need that Passport to get inside, no matter where you're heading, for migrated platform help, or researching archival documentation.)

01:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2015

TBT: An August Switch of HP Bosses

Carly and LewIn an August of 16 summers ago, the first woman to lead a Dow 30 corporation waded into her new job as HP CEO. Carly Fiorina took the job that the HP board handed her after it ushered lifelong HP employee Lew Platt out of the top seat at Hewlett-Packard. At the first press conference announcing the transfer of power, Platt got himself hugged by Fiorina. It was a disarming move that signalled new days for the HP hegemony, and two years later, changes for the future of the HP 3000.

Fiorina made her mission the overhaul of the collegial HP, a company whose directors believed had missed the opportunity of the Internet. Platt was at the helm while Sun Microsystems ran laps around larger vendors like HP, as well as IBM. The 3000 was gaining its first sets of Internet-ready subsystems that summer, but Sun was already dug in as the first choice for a way onto the Web.

Carly the BossFiorina arrived at her HP job too late to make an appearance at that year's HP World conference in San Francisco. It was an unfortunate circumstance, since the conference represented the largest group of HP customers to gather in one spot for that year, as well as many others. HP was celebrating its 60th anniversary, but it was Year One for the changes that would lead to pursuing growth through acquisitions of ever-increasing size. Within two years, the purchase of Compaq would represent Fiorina's boldest stroke, an acquisition that forced the vendor to select which business lines could be eliminated to prevent overlap.

The Compaq community of VMS users made the cut that the 3000 missed, and some in the MPE community believe that Fiorina knew little to nothing about the division whose futures were considered finished. In time it's become evident that most of the relatively-small businesses in HP built on server and OS technology have little future left at the vendor. One well-known 3000 citizen, the final Interex chairman Denys Beauchemin, reported this summer that VMS is experiencing the same fate as MPE, just a decade and a half later. Its heritage isn't saving it, either.

In the midst of a discussion about what the Truck Factor is for the 3000 and MPE, Beauchemin said he remembers MPE and its ecosystem fondly, but "dead is dead."

These days, I am watching the same death spiral with VMS, which HP also recently killed but in a somewhat cruel twist they are prolonging the agony a little bit.  Now I migrate VMS/Rdb environments to Linux and Oracle. The VMS ecosystem is larger than the MPE one, but it's also older than when HP killed MPE, if that makes any sense.  At the last VMS show, I don't think there was anyone under 55.

In the summer that saw Fiorina's ascent, Ann Livermore set aside her campaign for the CEO job and went to work for the HP Enterprise business afterward. HP was trying to catch up in Internet services including its oldest business platform, offering a solution it called e-services, I noted in an editorial.

Livermore’s team wrote the e-services chorus in lightning speed compared to HP’s classic pace. Now she’s the lightning rod for the company’s continuity, and its spark into the top ranks of Internet businesses. Keeping her at HP after a springtime campaign for HP’s top job will be an interesting challenge for Fiorina — perhaps the place the new CEO can make her quickest contribution.

I don’t mean to minimize Fiorina’s ultimate impact on the 3000 community. Having a fresh perspective on the 3000’s prospects could be a turning point. While outgoing CEO Lew Platt was eyeing HP’s bottom line, he could have been looking up to high-profit businesses like the 3000. His HP Way did not nurture a risk-taking environment. But Platt is more than his oversights. He can take credit for creating an environment that opened the door for the changes of Livermore and Fiorina.

Platt has been keenly aware of a woman’s presence earlier in his life, when his first wife died. In a recent BusinessWeek interview he talked about HP giving him the room to grieve, even afternoons off. “It taught me that things I thought were gender-related were not about gender at all, but about the role you are thrust into in life,” he said.

Platt had made his promises about the future of the HP 3000, starting from the first HP user conference where the NewsWire was present. "HP has worked extremely hard with a product like the HP 3000 to make sure that people who have bought it have a good future," he said in another August, four years before his 1999 retirement. He did envision some kind of transition. "We've put an enormous amount of energy to make sure we can roll those people forward," he said, a message I read as extending the lifespan of MPE.

One year after Fiorina took full hold of the reins of HP's future, she was seen in an Interex user group meeting with a pledge of her own, delivered via video. She made special note of the stumbling start for the system during her remarks broadcast 15 years ago, at HP World 2000.

“HP World has grown out of a single customer commitment, one that has lasted 27 years,” Fiorina said. “In 1972 HP introduced the HP 3000, our first multipurpose enterprise computer, a product that has been praised as one of the computer industry’s more enduring success stories.”

“But it didn’t begin that way,” she added. “In fact by many counts it got off to quite a rocky start. The first few systems were plagued by software glitches. And Dave Packard’s personal commitment to his customers turned the HP 3000 story around dramatically. First he sent teams of engineers to work around the clock until the system worked flawlessly. Second, he made sure that any customer upgrades could be easily integrated into existing 3000s. And thanks to his promise to be flexible and grow with the customer, what we’re now calling the e3000 has experienced almost three decades of success, and continues to thrive with a loyal following.”

Platt died at a young 64 years of age in 2005, a wine lover spending his last years enjoying a director's role at a major vintner. Meanwhile, Fiorina promises to make the coming Republican primary season interesting, daring to unseat others with longer track records.

01:44 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 12, 2015

How to Keep Watch on Backup Completions

DAT tapeWe've had a backup hang up on a bad DAT, and we learned about it when the morning jobs couldn't start on the 3000. (We shut everything down we can, back up, then open everything up again.) To find a better way to respond to this, I'm making a procedure to compare the expected backup duration (from a table we've built) to the backup's actual duration so far. The idea is to get an early report if the duration has been exceeded by more than an hour.

I've parsed the JOBLIST output to get what I wanted. But it looks like I'll need help on converting a string variable to a numeric variable as part of this procedure. Does MPE have anything like that?

Francois Desrochers replies with this ![...] construct, an undocumented part of MPE/iX:

While

SETVAR TONY STR(TONYALL,3,2)

would create a string variable, you could do something like:

SETVAR TONY ![STR(TONYALL,3,2)]

to create a numeric variable.

We're trying to restore about half a terabyte of data from an old HP 3000 backup set to a non-3000 machine. Is there a sound way to do this, or any way at all?

Stan Sieler replies:

We've done this for a customer who was without an HP 3000. We decided to use MPE/iX on our system to

  1. Restore their data onto our 3000
  2. Package up the files (either with tar, or LZW)
  3. Move them to an external disk drive on a Unix or Linux or Windows machine
  4. Unpack them
  5. Then send that external drive to the customer.

This morning I came in to find our backup job stalled. Abortjob was ineffective, as was abortio. I ended up rebooting the system. While coming up, I got a “defective sector” message with “FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT has an extent with unreadable data.” The file is now locked, and I need to use FSCHECK to unlock it. How can I determine which drive this extent is on?

Stan Sieler replies

FSCHECK’s DISPLAYEXTENTS command may help. Note that, if I recall correctly, it displays logical unit numbers, not exactly LDEVs.

I'd like to make sure I get complete backups. Should I be using @.@.@ in my TurboSTORE command?

Gilles Schipper replies that backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete:

People should really be using the forward slash, because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup. The slash is so much better — a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.

05:56 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 11, 2015

Emulating the 3000's Strong Heartbeat

A full hardware emulation makes the Charon HPA virtualization package a viable choice for keeping MPE applications alive. But what about emulating the essential parts of the 3000's software stack elsewhere? The goal of getting MPE and its riches to operate inside another environment has been enticing, and sometimes elusive. The heart of the system lies in IMAGE, wired thoroughly into the 3000's file system.

Hp3000tattoHP wanted to be in this business itself, a few decades ago. Allbase was one of two attempts at doing a relational database on MPE. HP Image was the other. Allbase could not get traction in the 3000 base, and HP Image struggled to get out of HP's labs, although both of these products were compatible with the HP-UX environment. They were not faithful enough to the IMAGE structure and design — that 98 percent compatible curse vexed HP Image in particular.

Coming close to emulation's database potential -- where a relational database can behave like IMAGE -- is also in a couple of spots in the 3000's story. "It's fairly easy to use an RDBMS to emulate most of IMAGE," said Allegro's Stan Sieler, who created advances such as b-tree support inside IMAGE. "It's the last few percent of emulation that gets hard to do efficiently." The efficiency factor is what drove down the hopes of HP Image.

One of the few companies to make a good business out of IMAGE emulation is Marxmeier Software AG, which still sells its Eloquence database in HP-UX, Windows and Linux markets. The product has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility extension to accommodate applications that have been migrated from the 3000 to those commodity platforms. It's still the best database choice for any system that needs to move unaltered from MPE to an environment supported by many hardware vendors.

Long ago, Robelle summed up the compatibility — one way of looking at emulation — between Eloquence and IMAGE. "Eloquence supports the same data types as TurboIMAGE, the same record layouts, and the same indexing (plus new options). The transformation needed to convert IMAGE databases to Eloquence is simple and automatic. Either use Suprtool to copy the data, or use Eloquence's DBExport and DBImport utilities. However, the file formats and internal structures of Eloquence are dramatically different from IMAGE. Only the programming interface is the same."

Unlike the Eloquence offering, pitched to a distinct customer base but with benefits to 3000 migrators, HP had to stop thinking about attracting SQL-hungry customers from other platforms with its Allbase and HP Image designs. As it turns out, satisfying the needs of the IMAGE-using ISVs and users was more important. This might appear to be another case of backward compatibility, and investment protection, holding back the broader reach of the HP 3000. Sieler says the compatibility doesn't hold things back, though.

"I’d argue that “backward compatibility” doesn’t hold back growth," he said. "It enables growth by having a larger pool of software ready to run on your newer models! Remember, the HP 3000 had it easy. The hardware was developed by another HP group, so the hardware development cost was nearly zero.  Few other operating systems, outside of Linux, have that kind of advantage!"

For the most part, the PA-RISC based 3000 hardware was developed by the 9000 people. Indeed, it’s 100 percent the same — except for some models where they decided to not deploy MPE. In some cases that was because a slightly different IO driver set might be needed.

In the 935 era, the only difference (other than the name plate and the price being higher for the 3000) was a single EPROM on a disk controller, with essentially one bit different, so MPE could refuse to boot on a 9000. That bit was eventually moved to Stable Storage, so the hardware was then identical other than the nameplate and model number plate.

10:46 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2015

How to Make a 3000 Act Like It Uses DNS

DomainsI have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the Domain Name Service name instead of an IP address. Does the 3000 support using DNS names?

Allego's Donna Hofmeister replies:

To start, I'm not sure you want to do SFTP on port 22. That's the SSH port. SFTP is meant to use port 115. Have a look at one of Allegro's white papers on how to enable SFTP on MPE

If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that.  It's easily done.

However, if you've never done anything on your 3000 make it act like a real computer (oh -- that's right, it is a real computer and fully capable of using DNS), this can turn into a can o' worms.

For 'DNS lite' it's probably simplest to:

1. Copy hostsamp. net to hosts.net

2. Edit hosts.net to make sure it has

127.0.0.1 loopback
1.2.3.4   name    <--- where 1.2.3.4 and name are corrected to the system you want to connect to

3. Copy the NSSWSAMP.net to nsswitch.net

4. Edit nsswitch.net to have this line:

hosts : files[SUCCESS=return NOTFOUND=continue]

With this done, the 3000 sorta kinda acts like it's using DNS — because it's looking the the hosts file for how to translate 'name' into '1.2.3.4'

Tony Summers provides a caveat:

One warning. The upgrade from FTP to sFTP (or SSH FTP etc) can involve more change to your scripts than you expect.  What we do for FTP (originally on the HP 3000, and now on the HP-UX server) is build a text file with the commands (the sample below, edited)

cat FTPT0070
open ftpserver.site.co.uk
user USERNAME PASSWORD
ascii
get /export/002_iccm_extract_1161.csv ICR21161

quit

The file is then presented to the FTP client. On the HP 3000 it was something like....

RUN FTP.ARPA.SYS < FTPT0070 > FTPS0070  

Then both the output file, FTPS0070, and any JCWs set by the FTP program were inspected to test the success of the FTP session.

cat FTPS0070

Connected to xxxxxx.co.uk

220 Welcome to FTP service - xxxx.
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.
200 Switching to ASCII mode.
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV. 550 Failed to open file.
221 Goodbye.

In particular,  the 3-digit status codes were analysed,  looking for error codes like "550".If you do something similar in your FTP scripts,  then all I can say is welcome to a very different world.

Karsten Brøndum adds:

Here's a completely different approach. 

Depending on your skills in the Java area, there is a nice LPGL package called ftp4j (which requires Java 1.4 or later) that I have used a couple of times. It's a full-featured Java-based FTP client. (By the way, ftp4j will do both SFTP and FTPS). I've found it way easier than to fiddle with files with text files containing commands, especially when it comes to error handling.

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

August 07, 2015

Dress Down Fridays, or any other day at HP

Alan May Dress CodeLast week we reported on a culture shift at Hewlett-Packard, relaying a story that the company had a confidential memo in the wild about dress codes. Dress up, it encouraged its Enterprise Group workers. The developers and engineers were a little too comfortable in the presence of clients.

The story became an Internet meme so quickly that HP scrambled to sweep the news away. Alan May (above), the HR director of the complete entity now known as Hewlett-Packard Corporation, even made a dandy video of three minutes full of humor, telling the world that HP workers are grownups and professionals. They decide how to dress themselves.

Running with that latest news, a few veterans of the 3000 community decided the story was just made up by The Register, which uncorked the original report based on a confidential memo they'd acquired. El Reg, as the website likes to call itself, must have been lying or worse.

Not so much, even though that HP video is charming. The Register took note of May's comedy, saying "Fun HP video, but none of this changes anything... except one thing: a webpage in the "HP Technology at Work" section of HP.com, dated August 2013, titled "Being smart about casual" and listing do's and don'ts for workplace attire – such as no short skirts or sandals or ripped jeans, and so on. HP still has a link to the article." HP fixed up that link so it now goes to May's fun video.

HP BonusesThese are interesting times for Hewlett-Packard, a company that this week shared its Oct. 31 split-up details with support customers. It's not clear if May will be in the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, or with HP Inc. come November 1. For the sake of the Enterprise customers who were former 3000 sites, we hope he stays in the HP segment serving business computing. His hat calls attention to the picture of Bill and Dave on the cubicle behind him. The founders managed a company with an obvious dress code. White shirt, tie, or a nice top and skirt.

The founding 3000 engineers knew that you only get one chance to make a first impression -- the fits-and-starts launch of the 3000 notwithstanding. It took awhile, but eventually what ran on the HP 3000 inside HP became the focus of customer visits, the same kind of visits that sparked that dress code advice that HP seems to have put under its corporate carpet.

On a swell website called the HP Memory Project, contributor Hank Taylor reported on how the array of systems that drove Hewlett-Packard — and had been migrated to the 3000 — impressed customers on visits. Heart, a system that controlled and monitored every sale and transaction across HP, was a showcase.

As the HP 3000 became a stronger and stronger processor, Cort Van Rensselaer had the vision to see that developing manufacturing systems on this platform would have several advantages to the company. It would give us a showplace for customers to see our computers in action. [The 3000 census at HP circa 1996 is below, in a slide made for customers.]

3000s at HP 1996Allan Imamoto made the leap of faith and with his team worked out a way to process Heart on the HP 3000. All these conversions turned out to be a very good thing for the company. During my years with Heart and Corporate Networking Services HP was expanding from the manufacture and sale of engineering products into the business computer market. John Young, the CEO of HP said, "It was hard work; believe me, just getting customers." We were selling to people we had never sold to and at the highest levels in their corporations where we had seldom made contacts before. John said, "IBM owned every company outside of the lab or the factory floor."

The solution to breaking into new companies turned out to be bringing high level executives to Palo Alto to attend HP management seminars where they were introduced to our actual information systems processes. It seems like I was making a presentation, along with many of my fellow IT workers, weekly. These presentations had the credibility of hearing from someone who had actually done the things the customers wanted to do. Heart, Comsys, Manufacturing and Accounting systems were all very impressive to our visitors.

05:19 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2015

Throwback: The Hottest 3000 Conference

1988 ProceedingsLooking back, Central Florida in August would've been a hot choice no matter which conference was on tap. But in 1988's first week of August, the Interex annual North American show set up to welcome 3000 users who could not believe they'd landed in the jungle heat of a Southern summer. What was hottest was the prospect of the first hardware revolution in 3000 history, the initial Spectrum-class Series 950 servers.

Orlando Badge
Users, vendors, and HP's experts lined up to speak and find air-conditioned refuge in the first conference since the newest PA-RISC HP 3000s shipped. It was an era when a user group conference brimmed with user papers, written by customers sharing their experience. One paper looked toward migration trends, the kind that would shift a 3000 site to Digital or IBM systems because things were changing too much in the evolution of MPE and its hardware.

Some HP Precision Architecture machines will have been in use for several months. Also, we will have moved closer to the date when the Series 955 (or some other larger machine yet unannounced as of this writing) will be available. Are HP 3000 users moving to other manufacturers' systems? Did any HP users start to leave and change their mind or leave and come back?

Chronicle Aug 88 O'BrienAnother kind of migration was underway already: the move from MPE V to MPE XL. The 1.0 version of the new OS was all that HP could sell by this Orlando show. Dave Elward of Taurus Software presented a paper about how to succeed in that kind of migration. Everything had changed at the new hardware's fastest level, even though HP had built a little miracle called Compatibility Mode to let existing applications run at a much slower pace.

The first step towards a successful migration is education. MPE XL contains many new things that at first can be overwhelming. What is comforting is that when you begin to use MPE XL, you don't even need to know you're using it. All of the commands you are likely to use perform just the same, and programs moved to MPE XL in compatibility mode just run. Only when you are ready to maximize the benefits of your new machine do you need to have a good understanding of the migration process.

The technical proceedings of that era are focused on the Classic MPE V version of the OS, in largest part. The OpenMPE website is the archive for the period when a national user conference could be held in a city half the size of today's Omaha. The world of the 3000 seemed larger, though, as Unix was only starting to break through as an IT alternative. "UNIX is a vendor-independent operating system," went the paper "Comparing Unix to Other Systems." Vendor independence would be available with Windows and eventually Linux, but the Unix that would assail HP 3000s in the late '80s had as many variations and dependencies as vendors who sold it.

Interact Aug 88On the lineup for Interex '88 — a conference that soon sported buttons that bragged I Survived Orlando in August — papers covered "Pitfalls of Offloading Applications to PCs" and "How to Train a Terminal User to be an Effective PC User." One tech talk outlined the transfer of dial-up facilities for a raft of HP 150 Touchscreen PCs that were connected to HP 3000s, bragging that 9600-baud service was well worth the investment. 

"Each of these 150s call our HP 3000 twice each night: once to upload the day's transactions, then later to download a newly updated customer file," the IT manager reported. "We use HP AdvanceLink as our communication software." In another paper, the merits of that HP terminal emulator were debated versus WRQ's Reflection software.

The Interex user group selected a venue like Orlando because of an active Regional Users Group in the state. FLORUG provided volunteers, like the other conferences of the era, but there was nothing to be done about the weather. User conferences were scheduled to hit vacation months, but Orlando in August features 95 percent humidity, nighttime lows that don't fall out of the mid 70s, and enough rain to convince anyone it's prime hurricane season.

Once the sun went down, users found ways to keep cool while they enjoyed warm technical exchanges. The MPE legend Eugene Volokh presented two papers at the conference, and at the tender age of 20, held court for an evening with 22 of us at a local restaurant. Volokh's paper detailed programming for the nascent MPE XL, and he had a confidence that belied his years. It was time when FedEx was still Federal Express and papers were printed on fixed-width fonts using the then-novel LaserJet.

Thanks especially to Gavin Scott for letting me test out all the examples on the computer in the two hours between the time I finished writing it and the time I had to Federal Express it up to the Bay Area RUG. Finally, any errors in this paper are not the fault of the author, but were rather caused by cosmic rays hitting the disc drives and modifying the data.

07:48 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2015

Steady steed of Invent3k saddled up again

SaddlebagsAfter a couple of months offline, the shared development and archive 3000 server Invent3K is back once more, carrying its saddle bags of software and sandbox spaces. The system was put online at first by OpenMPE's volunteers after HP closed down the Invent3K hosted at the 3000 division.

Tracy Johnson, a member on the final board of directors, supplied an update last night.

The Invent3k machine is back online after almost two months of being down; it's now at invent3k.openmpe.com.  Also after a few years, it is back in Texas where it belongs with HPSUSAN 0.  (The DR machine that it has been running on is no longer accessible.)

It may be riding rough at first. There might be some bugs to iron out due to a big tape restore.  But most of it is there. It was a group effort. Thanks to

  • Rob Gordon at Black River Computer for donating the hardware and man-hours to fix it.  (It all centered on fixing LDEV 1.)
  • Terry and David Floyd with the Support Group for putting it back online and hosting the hardware
  • Keven Miller with 3kranger.com for fixing the Web pages.
  • Steve Cooper at Allegro for pointing the domain name to the new IP number.
The server's got HP MPE/iX subsystem software on it, but FTP DSLINE, PCLINK2, and WS92LINK have always been locked down to keep that software in place for developer use of the subsystems, not transfers.

In keeping with the spirit of HP's original Invent3k, the new INVENT3K offering is for the use of member accounts to compile and test their own programs.

More than a decade ago, Hewlett-Packard believed that a 3000 for public use would help the 3000 community. The server was dubbed Invent3K, because its mission was to further the 3000's lifespan through the invention of software. HP stocked it with subsystems, offered accounts for free, and let development commence. Some useful products came out of Invent3K. The first that comes to mind is a version of perl ready for MPE/iX. That's a version of Perl that continues to work.

05:32 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 04, 2015

Large Disk MPE/iX patch is still notable

300 GB Ultra SCSIA report on a new patch from 2005 is still able to bring good news to HP 3000s that are trying to use HP hardware to stay online today, one decade later. The Large Disk patch for MPE/iX 7.5 continues to be available from Hewlett-Packard. It expands the usable area of a 3000 disk up to 1TB, and the patch is necessary to utilize and 146-GB and 300-GB devices with an HP badge on them.

When we shared the original news about this advance, the patch was in beta test status. Large Disk made it out of the beta wilderness, thanks to testing from customers of that era. We suspected as much when we said, "of all the patches HP is hoping you will test this year, Large Disk looks like it has its eyes fixed firmly on the 3000's post-2006 future." At the time, we all believed HP would be exiting the 3000 biz at the end of '06.

The news might not be fresh for anybody who applied this patch, but the absence of it will keep 3000s limited to much smaller disks, devices much older. It bears a re-broadcast to your community, if only because we've tracked down a current link to the fine technical paper written by Jim Hawkins of HP. The paper was once hosted on the 3000 group's Jazz server, whose links have all gone dark. Many of those Jazz papers are now on the Client Systems mirror of Jazz. Speedware (Fresche Legacy) also has these tech papers.

In our initial report, we said the patch's scope was limited to 7.5 and "the work is no small feat, literally and figuratively. Without it, HP 3000s can only boot up drives of 300 GB or smaller. The work of Hawkins and cohorts at the HP labs will let users attach drives up to 1TB under the MPE/iX operating system."

In the HP paper on the enhancement, Hawkins pointed out it'd been a long time since any boundaries got moved for disk on the HP 3000. The Large Disk team moved the limits a long way out, after that long hiatus.

The last major initiative to address disks size was done in MPE XL 4.0 for support of disks larger than 4 GB. These changes were done to address an approximately ten times (10x) increase in disk from 404-670 MB to 4.0 GB disks. In 2005 with MPE/iX 7.5, we were confronted with nearly a hundred times (100x) size change (4.0 GB to more than 300 GB) over what had been possible in MPE XL 4.0.

Hawkins' detailed article notes that 3000 sites who want to use HP's 146 GB and 300 GB Disk modules ought to consider installing these patches. Customers who might have MPE Groups or Accounts which use more than 100,000,000 sectors — that's bigger than about 24 GB — also find the patches useful.

In 2005 we were concerned about whether a patch that ended its HP lifespan in beta test would ever see the light of day. In the language of that era, Jan. 1, 2007 was supposed to be the end of HP's 3000 business. 

The answer to the question "What's to become of HP's engineering in 2007?" seems to lie in the hands of the customers. HP won't backport this patch without enough interest to get Large Disk out of beta limbo. If these patches remain in beta through 2006, we have to wonder what will become of these well-crafted bytes on January 1, 2007.

It would be sad to think such exacting work would be locked away on some DVD disk in an archive, simply because the testing rules are locked in the box of MPE 4.0-era thinking: only HP-supported 3000 customers can apply to test.

Good will and common sense prevailed to keep patches like this in the toolbelt for 3000 managers. All patches were made available, without needing any support contract, after HP closed out its official support for MPE/iX. A diligent independent support company will be able to point a manager at the right HP process to get these patches.

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

August 03, 2015

HP-UX marks time after five years

RoadmapUXMay2010That Was Then, This Is Now: the 2010 roadmap above features two HP-UX releases which are no longer in customers' future. Hardware gets its last refresh this year.

HP-UX support lifecycle circa 2015When we last visited the HP-UX roadmap, the journey's destination was advice about when to expect the end of 11i v3 support. Plans for system and platform futures have changed greatly since that article of August, 2010. Back then, customers looked like they'd be facing a 2017 end of HP support for the version of the OS that replaced some MPE installations. The good news is that HP-UX support has now been promised through 2025.

The bad news is that HP's dropped plans to introduce any fresh generations of the OS. According to HP's 2015 roadmap, 11i v4 or v5 are nowhere to be seen. HP now plans to carry v3 from 2007 to 2025. An 18-year lifespan for an enterprise OS's major release is remarkable. Serving the expanding needs of enterprise customers with such a base OS, one that's eight years old today, is unprecedented at HP.

These roadmaps change, and sometimes the adjustments jettison implied promises which can form the bedrock of IT investment planning. The current hardware that runs HP-UX is Intel's star-crossed Itanium chipset in the Integrity servers. Support for HP-UX on the PA-RISC HP 9000s ended last year.

Five years have elapsed since any HP roadmap promised a newer future. This year's version of the HP-UX roadmap shows no forward march in a major release. HP's Unix is marking time, but there are promises of some refreshment. Like any platform roadmap of our modern era, the one for HP-UX "is not a commitment to deliver any material, code or functionality and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions." HP 3000 managers who remember 3000-centric conference roundtables will recall what those public promises add up to. Any of those managers who put dollars into Unix are looking at a future with few changes.

In our research today we found this opinion about platform futures: "The hardware-software vendor dichotomy is so 20th Century." The comment was offered in reply to a chart that tracks the fortunes of technology suppliers. HP's valuation has waned while new-gen companies like Google and Apple have soared. But only one company that builds its own OS and hardware has seen its valuation soar: Apple. It's a mobile-hardware supplier in its predominant facet by now. And Apple promises nothing about prior OS release support.

However, that's not a market that's in decline like Unix (even though the heart of Apple's OS X is Unix). Choices for mobile environments can now command as much spending as a company's purchase of enterprise environments. But on average, the individual company's investment in HP-UX far outstrips any mobile choice.

What's a company that's commited to HP-UX to do? HP says they should mark time and stay put as long as they want, at least another decade. But with the final release of Itanium's chip line coming this year, and HP-UX parked at a major release that made its debut in 2007, signs point to much easier management for Unix customers who've bought from Hewlett-Packard. Such is the outlook for a company that's bought into HP-UX, a slide toward a stable environment that borders on static as the next 10 years roll by.

HP-UX futures circa 2015The refreshes are more than nothing at all — that post-2007 limbo that MPE/iX fell into. Improved IO and storage management, faster recovery times, extended data security, better and more dynamic virtualization uptime, converged infrastructure and cloud management: these are all that the Unix customer is being promised as of this year. Timing on these is as fluid as anything promised to MPE/iX from 2003-10. When to change horses for software platforms is a question for this year's IT planning, unless a 10-year march in place is a better strategy. HP 3000 customers have done that. They've done it without HP's support ever since the year that previous, v4/v5 HP-UX roadmap emerged.

07:40 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)