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January 29, 2016

Building manufacturer joins MPE, Windows

MDFPlenty of migration stories put HP 3000s to rest, either outside of the production circle or off the premises entirely. At Victor S. Barnes, which fabricates plastics, MDF, and fiberboards, the MPE/iX server which continues to run does both kinds of duty. It's an archival system, but for one key client, the 3000 continues to process orders.

"As a company we have moved on to a Windows Server package to run our company," Tom Hula reports. "The HP 3000 is largely used for reference. With that said, we are still relying on the 3000 to process orders for a large customer."

The newer Windows server package doesn’t yet support the needs of that customer. When the needed changes have been made, than the 3000 will be reference only, and eventually not used at all.
The route of migrating to a package has it’s pros and cons. I would say that the largest drawback is a loss of flexibility... of having to depend on others for making needed changes, or even having to tell someone something can’t be done because of the software's constraints. On the other hand, we see the largest advantages as new capabilities on the Windows package, ones that were never going to be possible on the HP 3000.

The fine-tuning of a business application happens over decades, when a company remains stable with its IT plans. Hula took note of that kind of dedication. "I looked at moving our old applications to a new platform," he said, "but we are talking about home grown systems created in the late 70’s and early 80’s."

The day will arrive when a good reason surfaces for turning off an older system. It's not easy to think of one for Hula's company immediately. MPE hardware is not tough to find, and not expensive, either. The custom-built application doesn't have to serve the needs of more than one customer. When those new Windows capabilities become essential to serving the large client, a full migration will happen. At that point, the IT manager will have to quell the desire to direct application changes — because replacement software packages are changed by the vendor, not the customer. It's the vendor's schedule that controls the app growth.

Every company juggles resource requirements. An HP 3000 needs someone like Hula to ensure the server's stability. He'd probably tell you he's not had much cause to intervene with MPE/iX production during 2015. In-house apps can be the hardest to replace, because of experts like Hula who understood the company and its practices, as well as the line of business.

08:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2016

TBT: A Terminal Commemoration

ChallengerThirty years ago today I sat at a Columbia PC, reading the reports of the Challenger disaster on Compuserve. The news flashed over an amber display attached to the PC, an IBM wannabe that had another life for us at the HP Chronicle. That PC was our link to an HP 3000 in downtown Austin. A printer there managed our subscription database. The software that made it possible was PC2622. The product from Walker, Richer & Quinn was the first independent terminal emulator in the Hewlett-Packard market, a way to link to 3000s without purchasing a dedicated terminal.

PC2622 boxThe purple PC2622 box sat atop that amber monitor like it perched in many 3000 shops. HP's 2622 terminal was a staple in an installed base that was growing from 10,000 to 20,000 installed servers. The HP products were priced much higher than third-party terminals. There was independent hardware to mimic the HP engineering inside the 3000-only boxes. By 1986, however, PCs were in every office and companies needed desk space for the new tools and wanted to reduce costs with a single tube at each workstation.

PC2622 disksHP was trying to promote a combo idea of its own in the era, the HP 150 PC. It was not compatible with much of the software of the day, but a Touchscreen 150 was automatically ready to be a console for MPE applications. In contrast, the Walker, Richer & Quinn PC2622 gave companies compatibility on both fronts: MS-DOS, and MPE. George Hubman was the point man for pushing the purple boxes into 3000 shops. An array of resellers around the world was making converts, too.

The late Doug Walker, founder of the company who recently died in a tragic accident, said the earliest days for PC2622 were entertaining in a "may you live in interesting times" setting. HP was not giving ground to the strategy that independent companies could deliver key software. Well, the management wasn't. But HP's field engineers, the SEs of the day, were big fans of terminal emulation, according to Walker. 

"Version 1.1 of the product had an HP 3000 file transfer program," Walker said. "The problem was how to get the file transfer program onto the 3000 side."

We needed to be able to upload the file transfer program from the PC. We solved it by using the logic in the HP terminals for reading a tape. You could do a binary transfer of blocks of data using FCOPY, so we’d convince the terminal to upload our file to the HP 3000 from a tape.

In those days we had to figure out how to bootstrap the file transfer operation to get the program on the 3000. Because it certainly wasn’t the case that HP was going to distribute it for us.

HP didn’t really have a terminal emulator, and they weren’t too sure of their attitude about us jumping in and offering one. HP had their own PC back then, the HP 150, and the 150 had a file transfer program. So HP could distribute the HP 3000 portion of that program themselves. They took a not-necessarily friendly view of us doing this. They even offered to buy the company in 1985.

We asked Walker when he retired in 2005 if HP could have offered a price that would’ve made his company say yes. "Yes, but they weren’t anywhere near it. We said it would cost millions of dollars, but they wouldn’t even think in terms of six zeroes."

Terminal emulation was so profound a concept that Tymlabs, Minisoft, and host of other companies soon offered a way to make MS-DOS boxes become consoles and terminals. Eventually HP created AdvanceLink software of its own. The Touchscreen 150 now sits in basements and a few museums. The purple boxes and floppy disks are long gone, and the concept of a terminal itself is quaint. But it was a mighty linchpin to 3000 computing's rise out to the desktop.

05:21 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2016

Keeping up lets you receive what you give

Support heartWe've been checking in on how companies are keeping their MPE/iX servers up to date. One element is consistent in successful updating: continuing maintenance contracts for the software that's in production or development use. It's the heart of a healthy body of IT resources.

In one recent story we followed up on Reflection, the Attachmate HP 3000 terminal emulator product. Things have changed in PC desktop environments, since Microsoft has been hawking its Windows 10 update automatically. To get the latest Reflection version from Attachmate, keeping up on support is required. It's a paid enterprise to work on making changes to software like Reflection to support new environments such as Windows 10. Not many software solutions update themselves, said Birket Foster.

"Even free, open source software has programmers that are paid," he said when we checked up on Reflection updates. MB Foster has sold many copies of the product over the last 25 years. "Even for open source, there's some support and other positions also being compensated if these volunteers are working for a university or a large company like HP."

Foster says yes, there is an upgrade fee to bring Reflection up to date. "For customers that have been using the software for 10 years, they might want to remember that there is a cost to keeping the software in sync with the Microsoft changes," he said. "Continuous development is required and the programmers need to be paid."

One alternative to Reflection terminal emulation is Minisoft 92, from the company of the same name. CEO Doug Greenup said his product's got Windows 10 support, but even more interesting is the fact that it's got as many as 25 sites using the Charon emulator. Moving from HP's 3000 iron to Charon is a complimentary relicense at Minisoft, without a fee — so long as there's a current support contract.

Greenup says, "In the past couple of years some of our customers have moved to the Stromasys platform. Off the top of my head it's in the 20-25 range."

As long as they are current on support we allow our customers a no-cost license transfer on their software. They just need to provide us with the new CPU information for licensing purposes. These transfers are handled electronically and so are very quick and easy to implement.

Long ago when paper was the primary medium for sharing stories, one editor used an apt metaphor to describe ongoing support. In the publishing business of that day, that support was a subscription, an annual payment to ensure the resources remain available. "Subscriptions are the meat on the bone of any magazine," said Sy Safransky of The Sun. Support is the meat on the bone for software customers, especially for products that are meant to keep MPE/iX on duty with so little attention required.

08:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2016

Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work

Calendar pagesA double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.

This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.

At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.

Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server.  All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.

There's nothing virtual about these systems. The servers are physical HP 3000s. "We will stay with these until completion of the application migration, then harvest," Barnes said.

Lawinger's support team does all the 3000 support remotely, unless specific activities require them to be onsite. The application "is being modified as a replacement to the shelf app," Barnes added.

Replacement plans for migration have some of the highest rates of success, even though the software must often be heavily modified to match existing business practices. Lift and shift proposals from the past decade, where tens to hundreds of thousands of lines of code were dropped onto a new platform, are being trimmed back.

Foster's webinars often include advice on the best practices of choosing replacement software. A company making a transition to a replacement app needs to understand what data will be needed, at what detail level, and in what timeframe. The best answers to those questions might come from outside of the IT group. In fact, Foster says they often do. A solid team of transition stakeholders always includes an important seat for a member from the business group.

Replacement of a 15- or 20-year MPE/iX app suite also might not be a favored choice in the IT group. That group includes the experts who know the programs best. Nothing seems like it will be a clean, quick fit for what's been running the company — not at first. Replacing with a non-MPE version of the app sometimes leaves key integrated surround code at the curb, too. Replacing surround code is a good project for outside expertise. Companies which consult on that task have field experience on success to share.

The good news: replacing a business suite is not as dangerous as replacing a human body joint. You get to shop and specify and test for replacement software, even while the worn-down hip of the business suite continues to bear the weight of the company's enterprise. Backing out of a replacement -- replacing the replacement -- is just as extensive in software as it is in medicine. It's like doing it all over again. But replacing after an attempt at rehosting? That's the least effective strategy of all.

10:30 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2016

VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut

Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.

Win10 upgrade"My Attachmate Reflections v14.1.3.247 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.

The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.

This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.

Supported software is sometimes built with customized routines to use desktop OS modules. That means it can stop working when a desktop environment changes. There's profound changes in Windows 10. Forsythe reports the AICS freeware terminal emulator QCTerm, built for the 3000, still works on Win10, even while his not-quite-fresh Reflection didn't.

Armstrong said the reliance on using VMware to preserve stable desktops comes with a cost. You can't ignore updates to the virtualization engine.

Once something like [a desktop OS release] is stable and set up, you just turn off all updates and back it up. Of course, the weak point then becomes if VMware doesn't work with whatever OS update is currently going on. But there seems to be enough resources and typically there is a solution on hand, as long as you keep that software up to date.

Micro Focus is maintaining Reflection, but one 3000-L member reports the upgrades are no longer free. Older versions of Reflection work with Win10, according to Steve Cooper of Allegro, "with only a few nuisances that can be worked around."

Cooper was using version 10.0.5 of Reflection. When we last checked, that's software more than a decade old. Apparently the extra value of later releases is offset by their compatibility challenges. There's a lesson in there about older software, like QCTerm and elderly Reflection — and MPE/iX — being a more stable solution, even in the face of change.

And if Windows 10 is software that's too new to behave well on a PC connected to a 3000, there's a way to stay on a prior release and stop the "upgrade to Windows" reminders. Paul Edwards, consultant, board member and OpenMPE volunteer, offered this advice.

For those of us who really want to stay on Win 7 for a while and not be reminded to upgrade to Win 10, there is a tool available from www.ultimateoutsider.com/downloads. It is GWX Control Panel. The control panel has a status page to tell you whether the “Get Windows 10” app is running, whether it is enabled, whether the Win 10 files have been downloaded to your PC, and if so, how much room the files are taking up on your computer. If the files are there, the control panel can remove them for you. This is much better than modifying the registry.

I have installed and run the GWX Control Panel. I had it delete the Win 10 logo, folders, and files (6 GB). I had no problems with my PC afterwards. And no Win 10 reminder.

05:13 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 22, 2016

A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work

If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.

Pain ScaleAt Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.

Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.

We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.

Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.

Some IT managers call this situation "floating." So long as the MPE applications don't fall short, their cost of ownership and low need for attention keeps them running. A turn-off date at the start of 2016 becomes a midyear close-out, and then that depends on how soon replacement apps on Windows get integrated. Any nagging pains about relying on an environment now in its fifth decade of useful life are offset by the Tylenol of low costs and stability.

It works for companies that don't see massive growth coming soon. At Cerro, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company, business has been good. Back in 2014, just before the help-wanted call went out, the pressure to migrate was low.

In profile stories from 2014, we heard this report.

Statham has no pressure from Cerro management to replace the applications that are successful at running the company. With ample spare parts, independent support and storage consulting, and his own source in hand, he needs only the green light from Dell to move forward. Specifics on pricing and performance are still in play from Stromasys, at least from his vantage point. A 1.5 version of CHARON HPA/3000 was announced late last year, promising increased performance. But meeting the speed needs of an A-Class would be no challenge for the CHARON lineup.

This veteran of 3000 deployment and management has little desire to send his company toward an application replacement that might end up with Cerro "spending millions of dollars." There are many years left for MPE/iX, and his company is an all-HP shop, with the exception of a couple of Dell monitors on Statham's desk. He can see a long future for the app the company has fine-tuned to its business.

The CALENDAR intrinsic roadblock is the only thing he can forecast by now. He's not sure how HP might react to an independent fix for that issue, a date challenge that's still 13 years away. (Of course, now it's 11-plus years until the December 31, 2017 deadline)

"If we could ever get this 2027 thing out of the way, you could run your applications indefinitely, so long as you’ve got someone to support them," he says. "My only concern is HP themselves, in the event that someone said they had a patch to the operating system. You wouldn't have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."

There's a number of ideas in there, from relying on MPE doing its job 11 more years (not out of the range of possibility) to seeing an independent lab develop a 2027 workaround (also not impossible, so long as community experts don't do more than semi-retire) to HP getting in the way of this kind of lifespan extension. There's zero pain to the MPE's creator in letting the OS keep working. It doesn't require much pay by now. That's the sort of thing that makes some migrations wannabes, or at least keeps them floating in the future.

06:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2016

Taking a Charge at Transition's Costs

Changing your IT infrastructure might become more critical in 2016. Hardware is older, especially the hardware HP built and sold to run MPE/iX servers. One solution is to migrate to a new OS environment. Another refresh for IT might come from emulating the PA-RISC servers with Intel-based servers. But in either case, some software will have to come along, a move to help contain transition costs.

BatonLicense transfer practices come into focus during these projects. While moving from MPE/iX to another OS, most shops would like to keep what's been working, if the software's got prospects to grow along with IT's needs. In some cases that's possible, because the vendor has put in its work to adopt a new platform. A couple of middleware providers have done this. MB Foster and Minisoft both reached out to HP-UX users coming out of their MPE/IX environments. Minisoft's Doug Greenup reported this week that Summit Information Systems Spectrum users — whose vendor is now Fiserv, post-migration — headed to HP-UX when leaving the 3000 credit union application. Their target was Eloquence, the database designed to embrace IMAGE applications into an SQL world.

"We have quite a few Eloquence customers," he said, "more then 100. Many of the Fiserv Credit Union customers moved from MPE to HP-UX and use our ODBC driver for Eloquence." Minisoft's also got an ODBC for IMAGE product. That's an example of a cross-platform development strategy, something to keep costs under control. When your existing vendor does a version of your product for a migration target, that's fortunate. It's even more fortunate when you're not expected to re-license the product.

Last week the Minisoft ODBC for IMAGE product became the target of a competitive upgrade campaign. MB Foster says it will let a Minisoft ODBC customer switch to UDALink for MPE/iX for the price of a support contract. We took note of that campaign, a classic move from the days when new MPE/iX software was being sold in a market active enough to support multiple vendors for a single product like middleware. Going into competition, and retaining customers in the face of it, smacks of moxie in a market that's quiet and stable by now. It helps if your product has feature differences, so a 64-Bit ODBC driver, and the ability to use Suprtool's Self Describing (SD) Files, are getting touted in that offer.

Both vendors say they support Windows 10 with their middleware. No matter how much grief the new Microsoft environment is causing, it's still a certain part of IT futures. Windows 10 support is essential to keeping a 3000 current with the latest PC clients tapping IMAGE/SQL data.

Vendors in the 3000 market had to go where new system sales were happening, though. For MB Foster, its HP-UX version of UDALink is preserving investments at a site where the biggest single group of 3000s was migrated. At the same time, this site is using Minisoft's middleware on HP-UX, too. The situation at the college group looks like a lesson in preventing extra costs in a transition. Migration has plenty of prerequisite costs.

There are no more MPE/iX computers in service at the Washington Community College Consortium, a group of 34 organizations once run by 3000s. The college collective turned off its 3000s in 2012, giving over the services to Unix systems built by HP. Minisoft's middleware works there for the Unix servers. So does the MB Foster software. The educational organization didn't have to re-develop its hundreds of reports it built over years of 3000 services.

"They use UDALink Reporter for UNIX (formally DataExpress) for reporting on their HP-UX systems," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "We converted DataExpress from the MPE version to the Unix version, so that the college could continue to use the hundreds of host-based reports they created over the years. They also are using it well for bulk extracts, offloading data."

The cost of the software for a fresh platform was not a show-stopper there, which seems to be the case for 3000 vendors who serve with middleware and key utilities. Database management, data extract software, middleware: much of it can be moved to something like the Stromasys Charon emulator, or even a new OS, for little to no charge. "Preservation and continued use of reports created on the 3000 was key to the conversion of UDALink Reporter on MPE to UDALink Reporter on UX," Whitehead said.

Minisoft's product made a move to contain costs, too. "Some of our MPE customers have migrated over the years to the HP-UX platform, running with Eloquence," Greenup said. "So long as a customer is on a current product support contract we allow them to "swap" or transfer licenses at no additional cost."

Even where there are what amounts to administrative charges — the equivalent of HP's license $432 transfer fee to move an MPE/iX instance from one kind of iron to another — many vendors make these minimal. Everybody's budget is important, but I find it interesting to see IT managers squeezing costs so hard that a $125 per month support fee, or $1,000 one-time to administer a license change, gets scrutiny. Yes, that's about $125, or less than my U-Verse TV bill.

This is corporate IT we're talking about here. The minimums shouldn't be that low. There's money needed to be spent on Windows turnover, yes. But a corporate server needs a budget bigger than a TV bill.

Redevelopment costs a great deal more than that, of course. One month's work might not be enough to bring hundreds of reports into an HP-UX environment; it might take much longer. In a case like that, the $1,000 looks like a better option than three months of an IT pro's time, at around $25,000.

Both Minisoft and MB Foster help to enable Charon HPA emulation projects, too. Those kinds of transfers don't require a new license, something that the new-ish owners of Powerhouse can't embrace yet. Containing costs with support-based license transfers is a forward-looking move. Forward is a direction you'd expect vendors to focus upon. IT changes often. It shouldn't be more expensive than absolutely necessary.

08:56 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2016

Pricing, Value, and Emulating Classics

Value-PriceEditor's Note: Yesterday we ran a story about the impact of proprietary software lock-in, as reported from a manager's office where HP 3000s still do their work. Amid that story was a quote about predaceous pricing (love that word), the act of outre increases to the cost of emulator MPE server solutions because of upgrade charges. It's blocked several adoptions of Charon HPA, even among managers who love the ideal of non-HP hardware that keeps MPE apps alive. Tim O'Neill wrote the following editorial, prompted by our article. Although companies do need to generate capital to keep supplying software, the matter of how much to charge for a shift to an emulator remains a flash point.

Editorial by Tim O'Neill

James Byrne brings up important point about proprietary software running proprietary hardware: it enabled predatory pricing, both by HP and by third parties.  

At this stage, it appears that Charon could be bought affordably, but the problem is the third parties' still seeing the opportunity to gouge existing customers.  

This is why businesses become former customers and change to shareware and open source operating systems and databases, e.g. Linux and open database systems like Postgres. There are still costs as a part of such a change. They might need to hire more in-house staff to do what HP and third parties used to do for that one huge cover-all price. It might not be wise to entrust critical applications to shareware, but are customers avoiding doing so?

So the huge predatory prices were not without value. This is not to say I defend them.

That said, it is still shameful that at this point, third parties are unwilling to honor their customers' long history of loyalty, by requiring emulator relicensing. These third parties should realize that they might realize longer-term benefit by keeping their customers, not driving them away.

It would be interesting to compute the price and valuation of HP stock since the point just before they announced the death of its MPE business, through the split in 2014. One might be able to say that the company's value has fallen without MPE. It may fall further when OpenVMS is eliminated and when HP-UX is not marketed, not enhanced, not written for any CPU other than HP's own Itanium, and not licensed at prices that are fair to customers.

05:15 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2016

It's becoming an MPE Server, this HP 3000

ForeverHewlett-Packard stopped building 3000s in 2003, cutting off a product line in the belief that users would leave the server. But after thousands of them did just that, thinking there would be no more MPE/iX servers to be purchased, an emulator emerged. After more than four years, it might be changing the concept of what is an HP 3000. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies wonders what's the future for the system that delivers MPE/iX apps.

"It seems to me that it's almost more accurate to call these beloved hosts 'MPE/iX' systems," he said, "rather than 3000s, since — eventually, at least — no one will be running 'original' HP hardware."

We have asked around the community about how this concept plays out. James Byrne, 3000 manager at logistics provider Hart & Lyne, offers one view on what makes up his idea of a device to use MPE/iX. 

I consider our systems to be MPE/iX rather than HP 3000. The hardware does not really matter to us any more, since most of the rest of our critical infrastructure is already running on commodity Intel 64 bit boxes. We simply keep two or three of everything running on different 3000 hosts most of the time, and have them continually cross checking each other. That approach has covered us well in the one or two serious incidents we have experienced these past 15 years since HP gave up on the 3000.

If the Charon emulator was priced in the same range as a used HP 3000, and ran on Linux, and used KVM virtualization, then we would in all probability move to it as an interim step, if only to escape the aging hardware MPE/iX is running on.

There's more at stake at his shop: software migration patterns, a way to ensure what's running on HP-built hardware operates on a fresh MPE/iX server. Pricing for a key 4GL-reporting tool — you'll know which one — got in the way at Hart & Lyne. MPE's the keystone there, but Byrne says his company won't tie itself to a single-vendor system in the future.

I believe those conditions are unlikely to all be met, so we do not consider the emulator as a possibility. We still would have to deal with the issue of Powerhouse licensing fees. The last inquiry we made with respect to Powerhouse provided a price that was startling to say the least. We would even entertain moving to Powerhouse on Linux as an interim step, if the price were not so exorbitant and the product supported PostgreSQL. However, when last we looked Powerhouse only supports proprietary databases, so again it is not even a consideration.

Those examples are representative of why we are never going back to proprietary software: predaceous pricing and technological limitations dictated primarily by marketing. Whatever we write for ourselves in future, we are not going to be held to ransom if we wish to move it from one system to another.

10:23 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2016

The GSP makes the A and N worthwhile

GSP boardIt's a powerful part of an HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. The Guardian Service Processor (GSP) is the maintenance control console commanding the ultimate class of the server to reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the 3000. Consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech has noted the GSP has one fewer feature than its Unix counterpart, though.

"On HP-UX it is possible to reset the GSP from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."

From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services on A-Class and N-Class servers. If your 3000 gets loving care from a consultant or service provider outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep up service levels.

The GSP can also reveal the 3000's speedometer, as profiled near the bottom of a webpage from Allegro Consultants.

The gap between 3000 and HP's HP-UX Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That lack of Unix can sometimes be a good thing when a security breach opens up in the Unix world.)

But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a telnet command doesn't work. You can telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset. But you can also get someone to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. It's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a magic paper clip bent just so.

Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.

The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.

It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.

It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, this reset can be done during business hours.


10:43 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2016

Competitive upgrading lives on for 3000s

UpgradeIn the 1990s, HP contracted to send its ODBC middleware development to MB Foster. The result was ODBCLink/SE, bundled into MPE/iX from the 5.5 release onward. The software gave the 3000 its first community-wide connection to reporting tools popular on PCs. HP decided that the MB Foster lead in development time was worth licensing, instead of rebuilding inside the 3000 labs. Outside labs had built parts of the 3000's fundamental software before then. But ODBCLink/SE was the first time independent software retained its profile, while it was operating inside of the 3000's FOS. Every 3000 running 5.5 and later now had middleware.

Other ODBC solutions were available in that timeframe. Minisoft still sells and supports its product. That's one reason why MB Foster's running a competitive upgrade offer for users of the Minisoft middleware. The upgrade was announced yesterday. 3000 owners who make the switch from Minisoft for IMAGE ODBC to Foster's software will get a full version of UDALink for the cost of only the annual support payments.

This kind of competitive offer was one of Minisoft's sales tools while it competed with WRQ for terminal emulation seats. There was a period where NS/VT features were not a part of every Reflection package, but were a staple in the Minisoft MS/92.

Foster's ODBC software has been extended to use 64-bit ODBC drivers, embrace Suprtool's Self Describing Files, and more. UDALink was a part of the migration that the Washington State community college consortium pulled off in 2011 when it moved 34 systems to Unix. The vendor has continued to develop to make a state of the art middleware solution.

Almost as notable: seeing MB Foster compete for business like vendors did routinely in the 1990s. The upgrade offer tells us that there are 3000 sites out there still looking to extend their development cycles. UDALink is also built for platforms other than the 3000, but any outreach to capture MPE/iX customers is news here in 2016. Chris Whitehead is fielding the calls and emails for the upgrade offer, which runs through June of this year.

06:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 14, 2016

HP's 3000 now at $149 until Sunday

Google is happy to trawl the Web for HP 3000 news, a search that I've had in place for the past 10 years. I receive a lot of notices about horsepower of auto engines (the HP) and a few about printers. But today a link showed up that features a computer called the HP 3000, currently selling for $149 plus shipping.

HP 3000 Quad CoreThere are a few unique and important qualifiers. To start, this is an HP3000 model with an Intel server, literally a PC powered by an Xeon X3330 CPU at 2.8 MHz. That's a quad-core processor, though, and the box is already loaded with 4GB of memory. (It's a start, but nowhere near enough RAM to power software such as, for instance, the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator.)

In short, this is an HP3000 built by Hewlett-Packard that can run MPE/iX, but does not use PA-RISC. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has not restricted the use of "3000" to the PA-RISC servers well-loved by the MPE community. Over on the HP Inc. side, there's a large-scale printer also called an HP 3000.

This HP3000 running a Xeon chip has another, less significant qualifier. It's being sold by a New Zealand owner on TradeMe.co.nz, "Where Kiwis Buy and Sell." And the shipping options don't go beyond Auckland, or the North and South Islands.

However, this TradeMe model might be something that could be shipped to the 3000 stalwarts Ken and Jeanette Nutsford. The former chairs of SIGRAPID and SIGCOBOL still live in NZ, when they're not gadding about the globe on their epic cruise calendars. Their total mileage easily runs into the hundreds of thousands. Trans-Pacific flights are embedded in their history. So perhaps the 6,693 miles to the US is not completely out of reach, in a hop. The Nutsfords travel regularly to the US, and this PC looks like it would be cargo-bay ready.

Yes, you could file this article under clickbait. It's an online auction after all, and $149 is only today's price. However, if you consider your systems to be MPE/iX servers by now, rather than the Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC 3000 hardware that hosts that OS, this is technically a server that can run your apps. 

It will require an installation of the HPA emulator, which at last report started at $9,000 for A-Class power. The combination can be compared to A-Class boxes that sell for under $2,000, but those include few options to increase speed. The A-Class had a 2-CPU model running at 220 MHz. There's genuine, hard limits on RAM.

You don't have to go to New Zealand to get this kind of HP3000, although this one looks ready to boot up and run. This ProLiant blade-caliber box does illustrate how much hardware remains in the world that can run MPE/iX software. If a manager's concern is the reliability of the HP hardware that's at least 12 years old -- the last server was built in 2003 -- this leaps over that hurdle to homesteading.

01:37 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2016

Using Store-To-Disk for Backup Preservation

By Brian Edminster

Second of two parts

Yesterday I outlined some of the powers of the Posix program pax, as well as tar, to move MPE/iX backup files offsite. Here’s a warning. There are some file types that cannot be backed up by tar/pax while also storing their attributes:  ;CIR (circular) and ;MSG (message) files (and possibly others. I haven’t tested all possible file types yet.  Also, there is an issue with tar that is a fairly well known and has been discussed on the 3000 newsgroup. Occasionally it does not un-tar correctly.  It is unclear if and when this was fixed, but I’d love to hear from anybody that might be in the know, or which specific situations to avoid.

Regardless of these limitations, I’ve found a simple way around this. Use store-to-disk to make your backup, then tar to wrap it, so as to preserve the store-to-disk files’ characteristics, before shipping the files off-system. Later, when you retrieve your tar backups and un-tar them, you’ll get your original store-to-disk files back without having to specify the proper ‘;REC= , CODE= , and DISC=’ options on an FTP ‘GET’. I’ve been doing this for several months now on several systems, and I have not had any failures.

If you have a version of STORE that has compression, use it to reduce the size of backup.  If not, use the ‘z’ option in the tar/pax archive you create from your store-to-disk backup.  Do not use both.  They don’t play well together, and you may end up with a larger tar file.

But what about the tar archive size limit of 2GB?  There’s an easy way around this as well, as this limit is common on early Unix and Linux systems. Just pipe the output through ‘split’ to create chunks of whatever size you want. Below, there's simple examples for both directions.

Piping TarFigure 1, just below, is an example of the ‘cksum’ file produced.

Checksum 1 Grey

Below, Figure 2 is an example of a ‘cksum’ created of the files as they’re stored on the NAS. 

Checksum 2 GreyAs both the hashes and #bytes shown in each file are the same as on the MPE/iX server — we know the backups are transferred correctly.  The same technique can be used ‘in reverse’ to verify that when FTP’d back to the FTP server, they’re still intact.

When un-taring this backup, ‘cat’ the pieces together and pipe it through tar.   At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  Yes, there is a known issue with the MPE/iX Posix shell’s built-in cat command. But I’ve so far been unable to successfully use the external cat command to successfully cat either.  Here’s how this should work for a 2-chunk tar backup:

sh>/bin/cat ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa ./CS1STD1.ustar.ab | tar -xfv - *

Unfortunately, for me at least, it always throws an error indicating bad format for the tar files.There is a work-around, however.  Note that while ‘cat’ing the tar ‘chunks’ didn’t work using the internal or external cat command, untar with multi-file option does work.  Even though it gives a minor error messages, files were returned to proper store-to-disk format, and the recovered store-to-disk backup is intact and has been used to recover the desired files. To do this, use tar like this: 

sh>tar -xfv ./CS1STD1.ustar.aa *  

Also note that when using tar in this way, it will ask for the name of the 2nd-nth component tar files, as it finishes reading each prior piece.  You must give the filename and press return to continue for each.  I believe that it should be possible to script this so that it’s fed the filenames, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.  

Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.

05:44 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2016

Backing Up Your 3000 Backup Files

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies 

Once store-to-disk backups on the 3000 are regularly being processed, it’s highly desirable to move them offsite — for the same reasons that it’s desirable to rotate tape media to offsite storage. You want to protect against site-wide catastrophic failures. It could be something as simple as fire, flood, or a disgruntled employee, or as unusual as earthquake or act of war.

Regardless of the most pressing reason, it really is important to keep at least some of your backups offsite, so as to facilitate rebuilding / recovering from scratch, either at your own facility, or at a backup/recovery site.

The problem comes in that the MPE/iX file system is far more structured than Unix, Windows, or any other non-MPE/iX file system-based storage mechanisms. While transferring a file off MPE/iX is easy via FTP, sftp/scp, or rsync, retrieving it is problematic, at least if you wish the retrieved files and the original store-to-disk files to be identical (i.e., with the same file characteristics: filecode, recsize, blockfactor, type, and so forth).

What would be optimal is automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system. Posix on MPE/iX comes to the rescue.

For FTP transfers between late-model MPE/iX systems this retrieval is automatic, because the FTP client and server recognize themselves as MPE/iX systems.  For retrieving files from other systems, HP has made that somewhat easier by making its FTP client able to specify ‘;REC= , CODE= , and ;DISC=’ on a ‘GET’:

Figure 1If you do not specify the ‘buildparms’ for a file being retrieved, it will default to the file-type implied by the FTP transfer mode: ASCII (the default), binary, or byte-stream (often called ‘tenex’ on Unix systems).  The respective defaults used are shown below:

Figure 2 GreyWhat follows is an example of automatic preservation of these attributes, so that a file could be moved to any offsite storage that could communicate with the MPE/iX system.  And this is yet again where Posix comes to the rescue, via the venerable ‘tar’ (Tape ARchiver), or ‘pax’ archiving utilities.

‘pax’ is a newer backup tool, designed to be able to read/write with tar format archives, newer ‘ustar’ format (that includes Extended Attributes of files). At the same time it has a more ‘normal/consistent’ command syntax (as Unix/Posix stuff goes, anyway), plus a number of other improvements. Think of it as tar’s younger (and supposedly more handsome) brother.

A little known feature of most ‘late-model’ tar and all pax commands is the ability for it to recognize and utilize Extended Attributes.  These will vary with the target implementation platform, but for the tar and pax commands included with releases after v5.5 of MPE/iX this capability is not only present — but contrary to the man command’s output and HP’s Posix Command Line manual, it’s the default! You use the -A switch to turn it off, returning tar to a bytestream-only tool.

While not externally documented, via a little experimentation I’ve determined that the following series of Extended Attributes value-pairs are in the MPE/iX Posix implementation of a tar or pax ‘file header’ for each non-Posix file archived:

MPE.RECORDSIZE= value in bytes
MPE.BLOCKFACTOR= integer value
MPE.RECORDFORMAT= integer value (0=unstructured?)
MPE.CCTL= integer value (0=nocctl)
MPE.ASCII= integer value (0=binary, 1=ascii)
MPE.FILECODE= integer value, absent for ‘0’
MPE.FILELIMIT= value in bytes
MPE.NUMEXTENTS= integer value, may be absent
MPE.NUMUSERLABELS= integer value (0=no user labels), and
MPE.USERLABELS=[binary content of user labels]

Brian Edminster is president of Applied Technologies, a 3000 consultancy serving MPE/iX sites in contract and ongoing engagements.

02:38 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2016

What HP's Synergy is Poised to Deliver

HPE-Synergy-with-Storage-Module-pulled-out_low-e1449462201196"Over the next several months, the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be shipping a fresh IT platform it calls Synergy. This won't feature a new processor family and it's not going to feature a new operating environment for business customers. Understanding what Synergy might do was a big topic in last month's HP Discover show in London. The product seems to be aimed at changing your plans for IT investment, without sacrifices, as a regular business process.

HP and IBM have sold this concept before, going as far back as the days when you'd buy more computing power than you first planned, just by turning on CPUs and cycles. The vendors levied a temporary charge back then, a bill that would show up like extra long distance fees. Synergy is leagues more complex than that, but it's got a similar aim. Overprovisioning -- stacking up too much power in reserve — will be the black mark to be erased in IT planning.

Like all of HP's innovations, Synergy's only connection to the world of the 3000 exists in leaving the MPE platform. It's a destination, this product HP expects to ship before mid-year. No one knows about its pricing, but the fluid resource pools, auto discovery capabilities, and containerized applications are supposed to reduce the overprovisioning by as much as 60 percent. HP says that will cut immediate capital expenditures up to 17 percent, and cost of ownership capital expenditures up to 30 percent.

The challenge in adapting a new mindset that focuses on resources rather than platforms, one that thinks of apps as pop-up shops, lies in translating the IT-speak of our current decade. We've found an article that does a good job of that, so you can see the hardware and software inside Synergy from a perspective of the IT planning of 15 years ago.

"The new platform named Synergy an is based around the idea of composable infrastucture – hardware that can be programatically composed into the desired form for a specific use case," writes Peter Sellers at the website Techazine.com. Sellers looks like he's got in-trench experience in IT, rather than consultant credentials. The website identifies him as "a senior-level systems administrator for America’s largest telephone cooperative, Horry Telephone Cooperative in South Carolina. Sellers writes

The Synergy platform follows up on the Project Synergy concept HP introduced during the June Discover event in Las Vegas. While HPE has been working with third-parties to get support for its API for composable infrastructure, it was also creating the new generation of hardware needed to power the concept.

It's often a revelation to see new-speak tech explained in classic IT management terms. The article is worth a read. Synergy is likely to be the product the new HPE will push in 2016. The language here sounds like it could be spoken by a manager whose job is to administer hardware, rather than write white papers.

Synergy trims down the number of compute slots from 16 to 12. When asked why, HPE execs told me that the goal of the Synergy platform was to power compute for the next 10 years and that meant flexibility not density as a primary concern. Some peer bloggers scoffed at the 10-year future for the platform, but as an HP customer, that is the lifetime I have received from my existing C7000 BladeSystems as a platform, which are approaching a 10 year anniversary.

07:23 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2016

Calculating Classic Value of 3000s

Hp3000_Family1The market price for HP 3000s on the used market can hover between $1,500 and $3,000, using quotes from Cypress Technology. Jesse Dougherty just posted an offer for an A-Class single-CPU system at the low end of that range. Licensing such a 3000's MPE is usually a second step. If it's a replacement 3000, there's a chance no upgrade fee would be involved.

But for the company that's seeking a fresh 3000, determining the market value with license gets to be trickier. HP 3000 gear is available from Pivital Solutions and other resellers, systems that ship with license documentation.

What's a license worth in 2016? We found a classic price point for MPE/iX in the archives of 3000 news from the winter of 2007. It was a year when HP support was still available in full-on versions, so HP was selling something it called the Right to Use License. This was the means to upgrade a 3000, and the extra power could cost as much as $89,000, less the current value of your MPE system. Business manager Jennie Hou explained.

There seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000.  We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.

Client Systems was called out as the resource for the software upgrade, but that outlet may not be online in the market anymore. Midrange five-figure HP pricing for a server whose manufacture had halted more than three years earlier marked the final time the vendor put MPE/iX on its corporate price list. It's something to measure against when calculating licensed HP hardware value against the cost of virtualized HP 3000 gear.

About a year ago, Stromasys updated us with a base-level price for its Charon HPA line. $9,000 would get you the software needed to boot up MPE/iX in an A-Class power range. The HP iron on the used market may sound less costly, but it depends on the price of the license.

HP put out stout language to encourage buying license upgrades. "Using MPE/iX on original, upgraded, or modified hardware systems without the appropriate right-to-use license and/or software license upgrade from HP is prohibited.” The language wasn't in the original MPE/iX license that most customers hold now. HP explained that it was implied.

In the late stages of the previous decade, licensed 3000s carried some extra value because they qualified for HP support. But paying five figures for any of HP's 3000s today might be a stretch, because that solution won't ever get faster.

That's probably not the case for virtualized 3000s. It would require a replacement of the Intel PC hardware, but a Charon install could get faster by boosting CPU speed and cores. Threading matters less, because lots of 3000 software doesn't use multithreading.

When a manager looks back at that $89,000 from nine years ago, and then sees a server selling for less than five percent of that, the mid-point with a future built-in would be a virtualized 3000. More costly than the license-to-come HP iron. Less expensive than relicensing MPE/iX -- if there were anyone around to do that.

05:45 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2016

TBT: Client Systems wanted, or missing?

In a routine check of what's available to help 3000 managers, over the holiday break I poked into a few Web locations to see where HP's Jazz papers and software were still hosted. Links from 3k Associates to those papers came up empty when they directed to the Client Systems website in late December. From all reasonable research, it appears the company itself may have gone into the everlasting shadows.

Many 3000 customers never did business directly with Client Systems, but the company had a hand in plenty of official 3000 installations. The vendor rose in community profiles in the late 1990s when HP appointed the firm its lone North American HP 3000 distributor — meaning they stocked and configured systems destined for companies around the continent. Thousands of servers passed through the Denver offices, each assigned the unique HPSUSAN numbers as well as the official HP CPUNAME identifiers that made a 3000 a licensed box.

FBI BadgeThat official license became a marketing wedge for awhile. We'd call it an edge, but the company's claim that re-sold 3000s from anywhere else could be seized by the FBI was designed to drive used systems away from buyers. There was never anything official about the FBI claims passed along by the company then. But in the era of the late '90s, and up to the point where HP pulled its futures plug, buying a 3000 included a moment like the ones from WW II movies: "Let me see your papers," an HP support official might say.

This was the strike-back that Hewlett-Packard used to respond with after widespread license fraud ran through the marketplace. By 1999 lawsuits claimed that a handful of companies had forged system IDs on PA-RISC hardware. A low-end L-Class box could be tricked up as a high-end 3000, for example. To push back, after the HP lawsuits were settled or had rulings dispensed, Client Systems started Phoenix/3000, something like an automaker's official resale lot.

Client Systems did lots of things for the marketplace much more laudable, operating a good technical services team that was upper-caliber in its depth of hardware knowledge. At its peak, the company provided 3kworld.com, an all-3000 portal in the days when portals were supposed to be important on the Web. The company was a partner with the NewsWire for several years, as we licensed our stories for use on the free 3k World website. 3kworld.com folded up, but the current clientsystems.com site still has Jazz tech information available, at least as of today.

Over the last two weeks we've received email bounces, even while the website is online. The whois information points to one physical address of a personal injury attorney's practice in Seattle. Our phone calls have gone unreturned, and we're not the only ones. Pivital Solutions, one of the last standing official HP resellers in that time when such things existed, still serves 3000 customers with hardware and support. Pivital's president Steve Suraci also has searched to find a light on.

"I tried back in the September timeframe to get in touch with anyone there that would answer the phone," Suraci said. "I left messages and re-tried for weeks and finally gave up on them." He wondered who might be picking up the pieces of whatever the company was doing at the end."

It can be tricky to confirm a death notice for a company. Unless the principals deliver the news, a demise can be creeping. Suraci said he was reaching out to buy something that only Client Systems ought to be able to sell: a license upgrade, even in 2015.

I had a customer that was looking for some hardware that I was have trouble sourcing.  I was also looking into the possibility of purchasing an upgrade license for a customer for TurboStore to the version that included the ONLINE option. When you don't get a call back on something that should be easy money... it probably means a bigger problem!

The website's reappeared recently, so perhaps this is a Mark Twain moment (reports of my death have been exaggerated) for Client Systems. It's the phone calls that look like they confirm the fading lights. One other pertinent address in the whois file lands at a single-family house in Colorado. To be honest, so does the address for the NewsWire, but we've always been a home-based business and never needed warehouse and office space. Stories and papers don't take up that much space.

Things were so much different back in the time of FBI threats. One meeting at that Denver HQ included some arch banter between us about relative size of companies. The NewsWire was, it appeared to one staffer, "just a lifestyle business." Guilty: The NewsWire has been a part of our lifestyle a long time. Hard to think of it any other way when the office is on the other end of your single-family home. We all laughed, some more than others. This week it's looking like lifespan, instead of lifestyle, is what could be measured. Nobody's dancing on a grave yet. We're not a community that embraces loss.

09:55 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2016

Emulation's bones bared, speeds boosted

Bare MetalThe year 2015 marked significant changes for the virtualization stable at Stromasys. The company now sells five products in all, providing emulation of processors from HP, Sun, and three off the Digital lineup: PDP-11, VAX and Alpha. Those last two Digital models represent the most mature virtualization software from the company. Homesteaders might consider what's being done with those models as a target for futures of the HPA product.

Stromays is making no predictions about whether the Barebones feature in its VAX version of Charon will emerge in Charon HPA. But the newest release for the oldest product line will strip down what's required.

CHARON-VAX Barebone brings the same security and peace of mind as traditional Charon solutions --  but with a Linux microkernel embedded in the Charon software. Barebone uses only the essential components of the Linux OS, increasing your datacenter's stability and performance, while eliminating your OS license cost.

It seems that reducing the need to manage Linux would be a good selling point for Charon in any of its platform versions. "CHARON-VAX allows customers to easily create and deploy new virtual VAXs," product manager Alexandre Cruz reports. "It uses a stripped down Linux version (with GUI) that saves the hassle of host OS installation, configuration and licensing."

This streamlining is not a part of the Charon HPA model yet, but the newest 3000-ready release will make the Intel-based emulation of the PA-RISC faster.

In 2015, Cruz told us that CHARON-HPA version 1.6.1 features:
  • A 15 percent CPU performance increase
  • A new Network Configuration Utility
  • Updated Sentinel drivers
  • Support for Primary / Secondary (Backup) licenses
  • Increased limit in the number of controllers from 6 to 8 in CHARON-HPA/4040

2015 also marked the debut of a Charon version for companies using SPARC-based servers. SPARC emulation was a target of the Charon product line since the earliest days of public announcements about the HPA software.

CHARON-SSP allows Sun Solaris applications that ran on SPARC systems to remain working with no change. As a member of the Oracle Partner Network, Stromasys makes it easier for Sun customers to move to CHARON-SSP on an Oracle x86 server. CHARON-SSP offers different versions, designed for 32-bit and 64-bit machines, from 1-24 CPUs. CHARON-SSP is available for Linux and VMware.

Stromasys calls its product line "classic system virtualization." Classic sounds better than legacy, and certainly better than proprietary. There's something about lines that get cleaner, as their bones get bared, that leads to the label of classic.

07:16 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2016

Migrating 3000 Data from Spoolfiles to Excel

I need assistance with putting an output spool file from MPE/iX 7.5 into Excel or other readable format. The file is generated by Query, then processed by Editor, then sent to the printer. Instead of printing it, I want to put it into a readable format.

MigratingI do not have QEdit or any smart tools on MPE, so my approach thus far has been to move the file to a PC before doing anything.  However, that carries with it the initialization sequence for the printer to which the job is spooled. The job is set up to print on a PCL 5 laser, which means it has hundreds of lines of control before the data starts.

Tom Moore replies

I would put commas in between my columns (in the query, or using Editor). I FCOPY from the file to a new file with NOCCTL to get rid of carriage control byte. You could also remove the PCL 5 lines by subset in the FCOPY command. Depending on the data, I would use EDIT3000 to change all " ," to "," and all ", ","," to compress the file, removing the spaces before and after the commas inserted above, then save the file for download to the PC.

I would also consider using ODBC to directly extract from the IMAGE database, rather than Query and all the subsequent steps. The HP free ODBC driver would do the job very well.

Birket Foster of MB Foster notes

Not only did we make that free ODBCLink/SE as HP's lab resource from 1998 to 2006, but we have continued to develop the ability to work with data in all kinds of file formats. We do supply 32- and 64-bit versions for ODBC to the HP 3000.

UDALink-MPE was designed for the HP 3000. We provide data in several different formats including XLS for Excel, XML, CSV etc. We can have a discussion about what you are trying to do with data; perhaps UDACentral is the right product for your challenge and we can organize a demonstration for you.

Charles Finley adds

There seem to be at least three steps to what you are trying to do.

  • Remove the headers, footers and perhaps page numbers from the report.
  • Remove the ff or CNTL characters from the text file.
  • Import a space-delimited file to Excel.

There are any number of different scripting tools that can do this including various Unix tools. Here's a reference to an Excel solution that might get you started. In fact, if it were my problem to solve, I would likely do it all with Excel scripting.

John Hohn replies

  1. Output to a delimited file (tabs, pipes, etc).
  2. Download to your laptop or PC or wherever Excel is running
  3. Start macro recording in Excel
  4. Import/format the delimited file, save as .xls
  5. Turn recording off, save macro

Set the Excel file to auto-execute the macro every time the Excel file it's opened, i.e., re-input/format the delimited file. Then you can, for example, schedule delivery of a new version of this delimited file whenever you'd like, to your server. When people open it they would automatically get the formatted version of the new data.

Connie Sellitto of Hillary Software suggests

Hillary Software has a product, byREQUEST, which does just this.

It has the ability to suppress headings on pages after the first, and define the type of data in the columns (text, numeric, dates in various formats). It can remove blank pages and leading and trailing blank lines. It can even call an Excel macro to make the headings a different font, background color, etc — anything you'd want to do with a macro. In addition to Excel, byREQUEST can create a PDF file, Word, csv or Text.

10:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2016

Accident claims WRQ founder Doug Walker

DougWalker profileDoug Walker, the man whose brilliance and energy helped found the 3000 community's largest connectivity vendor WRQ, died over this past holiday weekend in an accident on a Washington state snowshoe trail on Granite Mountain. Walker, 64, is the first 3000 community member of wide renown to pass away by way of accidental death.

In the early 1980s when Walker — along with Mike Richer and Marty Quinn, the other two WRQ initials — joined forces with co-founder George Hubman, minicomputer access required hardware terminals. The advent of the personal computer had the potential to expand that access. The WRQ purple boxes carrying a manual and floppy disks for PC2622, software named after the HP 3000 terminal the product emulated, became a fixture in HP 3000 shops by the mid-1980s.

Walker was reported missing December 31 while snowshoeing on Granite Mountain. Search-and-rescue volunteers found his body the next day. The Seattle Times reported that Walker had been hiking with friends when winds intensified.

His companions decided to turn back and wait for Walker, who continued climbing. He likely was caught in an avalanche, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“He has done this easily 200 times, he just does it for exercise,” said Karen Daubert, executive director of the Washington Trails Association and a close friend who has climbed the same route with Walker. “I have been up several times with Doug, including in winter.”

Close friends and partners expressed dismay at the loss of a man who'd devoted his life to philanthropy and mentoring after retiring from WRQ.

"Doug's death came as a shock and is a tragedy," said Hubman, who led the company's marketing and sales before retiring late in the 1990s. "It goes without saying that Doug was a genius. I often joked that if anyone could write a program that required no memory and no time to execute, it would be Doug."

Hubman said the success WRQ achieved — it was the largest single vendor of 3000-related software by seat installs, and was selling $100 million in software yearly when he retired — was put to good use in humanitarian causes that Walker continued to support.

Doug was a perfectionist and both demanded and inspired perfection. This was the quality that set our products apart from the competition and made my job so easy. In spite of his being demanding he was committed to a work environment that took into account the needs of our colleagues and their families. 

I last saw Doug about a year and a half ago.  We had lunch shortly after he had hip replacement surgery.  He was anxious to get back to his first love, hiking and climbing. Doug, and his wife Maggie, will be remembered for the wide range of causes they supported.

Walker was at the White House two weeks ago to discuss private philanthropy to boost access to the outdoors for kids, according to the Times report. A quote from US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Walker was fond of talking as he hiked with her, ranging from Civil War history (he was a graduate of Vanderbilt) to puzzles in math (his degree) as well as Shakespeare trivia. In that last category, Abby and I saw his passion firsthand in 1993.

Walker had organized a small outing to see King Lear at Stratford-upon-Avon that summer, after a 3000 conference in Birmingham. Before the curtain rose on the show, he'd purchased a copy of the play in the gift shop and was reading it quickly, carrying the book into the theatre. Later, he'd located the Issac Asimov guide to Shakespeare and made it a gift to several of us in the party.

Birket Foster was a close ally of WRQ's, a leading reseller for the company in the Canadian market, as well as integrating its products in customer sites around the world.

"Doug was a brilliant scholar," Foster said. "He was humble and had a southern drawl, one that made him seem like one of the guys, even though he was the leader. Doug was a gentleman and was liked by all his colleagues and staff. Doug was the ultimate outdoorsman, and he hiked, climbed and kayaked with passion."

Doug will be missed by many people, myself included. I had the privilege of working with him closely back in the hay day of Reflection, MBFoster sold millions of dollars of Reflection. MBFoster ran a data communications conference for our customers at Carleton University where multiplexors, modems, and Reflection Scripts were used. We located IMACS (Which we had purchased from David Dummer) in the same complex as WRQ on Lake Union and  Doug helped integrate DataExpress to use Host initiated Reflection based file transfer. In another project, team member, Larry Boyd, wrote PCPoll for me for use by a telecommunications manufacturer to poll the plants for orders using Reflection scripts and dialup modems.

Kevin Klustner was the COO of WRQ while Walker was with the company. He noted that passion was at Walker's heart even as he pursued the pastime that led to his demise.

"I was entranced by his broad and deep intellect," Klustner said. "And after 20-plus interviews, I had a good feel for the company he was building. So Maryann and I moved from California to Seattle for WRQ. Throughout my 11 years there, I learned that great companies can be built through thoughtfulness, empathy, inter-personal skills and a disdain for group-think."

Doug taught me that the single greatest asset of a company is its employees. And he proved that everyday with his commitment to spending time with everyone, talking about business, the Civil War, mountain climbing, anything history.

He engaged all of us. We are all lucky to have been influenced by this Renaissance man. One of his many legacies is the community of WRQ'ers who have made friendships, marriages, children, businesses and life experiences through the company that he, Craig, George, Mike and Marty built. Doug, you passed doing something you passionately loved. May we all learn from that.

In our 2005 interview with Walker, as he retired from WRQ, he said "I’m especially interested in the interplay between computing and biotech. We’ve cracked the genome and people are talking about a lot of sci-fi stuff with respect to biotech, but it’s really a compute-bound problem." We asked him about the fate of specialized computer environments in the years to come.

Must it all become Windows and Linux-based?

Single integrated monolithic systems are not the way of the future. The only way is to have differentiation, but it has to be based on some very common interfaces. In that sense, there is a role for things like MPE or VMS. Lots of forms of life have differentiation, but they all seem to have a cell structure. A common programming system, like DNA. You can have differentiation so long as you have integration.

You seem to have a biology example ready for lots of these points.

Biological programming has been going on a few million years longer than software programming. I’m just impressed by how much there is to learn there.

08:42 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)