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February 29, 2016

Making the Years Count in One that Leaps

He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And for a few more years, he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 48th birthday today. The co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.

Like the HP 3000 and MPE itself, years do not appear to weigh heavy on the community's first wunderkind.

Eugene at 48Although he's no longer the youngest 3000 community member (a rank that sits today with Myles Foster, product manager for MB Foster in this first year after his recent double-degree graduation from Carleton University) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known member outside our humble neighborhood. He built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft. Then Eugene earned a law degree, clerked at the US 9th Circuit Court, and went on to clerk for now-retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- all en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media.

Eugene's profile has risen enough since his last birthday that the Associated Press included him in its latest "Born on This Day" feature. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews.

When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University). Since his last birthday, the Conspiracy has become a feature of the Washington Post.

In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and people twice his age listened to him wax full on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. That paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket, was always way ahead of many of us in 3000 lore and learning.

Burn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.

Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page

At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.

His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who still travels to consult in the US, visit some of the VEsoft customers to advise them on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch.

At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.

10:59 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2016

21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L

Right_WirelessTelegraphThe slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.

However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.

"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."

Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.

"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."

Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.

"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."

Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."

The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.

Quick Cuts

• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.

• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.

• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.

• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @.@; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).

• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.

• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.

• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.

• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.

• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.

• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.

05:01 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 24, 2016

Bringing a First 3000 Love Back to Life

Antiques RoadshowStories of HP 3000 longevity are legend. Less than 10 years ago, Paul Edwards could report on a Dallas-area customer who was running a Series 70 system in production. Paul was circumspect about who the lucky company was — lucky because they were still leveraging a system HP stopped selling in the late 1980s.

Area-code-716-new-york-mapWe heard from a longtime 3000 lover in Buffalo recently who wants to turn back the calendar on his Series 42 system. By his system, we mean that literally: Matthew Bellittiere took personal possession of the same system which he learned MPE upon in the early 1980s. The 42 was a server that considered a DDS tape drive an upgrade. Reel to reel was the standard backup peripheral for any computer HP first sold during the early half of the 1980s. HP gave the Series 42 its debut in 1983.

Series 42Bellittiere waited awhile to rekindle his old flame. About 20 years ago, he took the Series 42 into his home, but only this month is he working on getting it up to speed. A system that is 30-plus years old, that hasn't been started in 10 years: some might think this is scrap, or worse. But listening to his request, we hear a man who's finding a long ago sweetheart, rescued from the mists of time.

This HP Series 42 is the first HP mini mainframe that I started on around 30+ years ago. I arranged many updates over its active life. Some of the updates include increasing the memory by exchanging the 1/2 meg cards with 1-meg boards. I upgraded to the HP670H disc drives, and also to the DDS tape drive. In 1996 the company upgraded to a Series 947, and HP did not want the 42 back. It was going to scrap, so I requested it and it was given to me. I have had it ever since with plans to get it up and running.

I had to ask: Is the Series 42 project a hobby, or a work system? "Yes," Bellittiere admitted, "it is more of a project for me." But he needs the help of MPE V experts in our community to bring his old flame back to life.

Bellittiere understands there are special procedures required for a server whose discs are its newest parts (circa 1990, so 25 years old already). "My first question: does it need any special treatment before powering up?" he asks. "I think any internal memory will have been lost long ago. It has been at least 8 to 10 years since being powered up."

The components that die soonest in a 3000 are usually the power supply and the internal battery, although the disks are often not far behind. "I am not sure of the power up routine — can you help with some ideas?" I said we knew some 3000 experts with MPE V, CISC-generation hardware savvy. He replied with some hopeful praise aimed at his community.

"I am glad that you are still out there. I would not know who else could help me."

The Series 42 was a noble steed, one of the genuine workhorses of the 3000 line. HP used it like a team of draft horses in its labs. I took a tour of the company's disk drive manufacturing plant in the late 1980s — in the days when HP still built some of the world's most dependable drives in the industry, in Boise, Idaho. A wall stacked with Series 42s was doing burn-in testing for the 7973 drives that were already a mainstay in 3000 shops. At five-plus years already, the Series 42s looked like tiny tugboats, computing craft like ships whose decks was peeling but whose hulls were still buoyant.

I hope there's an MPE lover out there who's got advice for Bellittiere. The wisecracks are easy enough about boat anchors or semiautomatic target practice. People said the same thing about F-150 pickup trucks for awhile, too. My son Nick bought his first F-150 right after cut its lines on the 3000, when that truck was 22 years old, an age Nick hadn't yet achieved himself. People live and work in our world who find old tech a delight. Send your help and advice to Matthew via email, or at 716-536-3298. Let him see a colon prompt from a server introduced before fax machines were common office tools.

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

February 22, 2016

Technologies to study beyond MPE skills

Open-source-in-handAs 3000 experts have seen their jobs eliminated, and their employers focus on other platforms, they have faced a challenge. What should they study next to learn marketable skills? One obvious answer is the tools in the community for migration. Some of these open a new world of learning to 3000 veterans. Learning the tools provides an entry to get familiar with new concepts. 

However obvious it has seemed to study .NET and Visual Basic, there are many shops planting outside that Windows-box. Open source software is the choice for prospects that reach farther.

Michael Anderson left the Spring, Texas school district six years ago to found his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Even then, when Linux and open source did not dominate IT plans as they now do, Anderson knew Microsoft wouldn't hold its market share.

In 2009 he suggested a good place to start learning beyond MPE were tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, as well as ScreenJet, are both great products," he said. "They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to them that's within reach of small companies and independent developers." That's a statement on pricing as well as capability.

A caliber of tools like this is not yet available in the Linux/open source market, though. James Byrne, an IT manager at Harte & Lyne, says his company's "progress towards a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped. The main reason is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the *nix community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s."

Complaints about the "Cognos Products," now owned by Unicom after a five-year adoption by IBM, have legendary status. But the gripes have been about licensing and pricing, not the subtle efficiency those advanced development tools provided. Byrne's company has been using Powerhouse and its cousins since before the products were named as such. Close to 40 years after they were introduced, the tools are still doing a better job for Byrne than open source alternatives.

The systems at Harte & Lyne are completely written in Quick, Quiz and QTP. "They were started before Quasar re-branded itself as Cognos and began calling their products Powerhouse," Byrne said. "The maintenance load of these programs presently is as close to zero as can be imagined. Nonetheless, modifications are still being made after all these years and the speed at which these are completed is absolutely astounding to people used to coding for *nux and Microsoft environments."

Byrne adds that the programs are sometimes creations from the days before the Web existed. "Sometimes we are working on programs that have not been touched since the late 1980s," Byrne said, "and the ease with which that ancient code is understood illuminates just how poorly most code in other languages conveys its meaning."

ScreenJet employs Windows to do its interface transformations, while Eloquence delivers the IMAGE foundations to Linux, HP's Unix and Windows. If tools like these two above existed in the GNU environment — what Byrne calls *nix — then HP 3000 programmers who are finding themselves out of work could study a workable toolset in the GNU environment. Their decades of experience could be tranferred more easily environments beyond Unix and Windows.

It took a village to build the world of open source choices. A very savvy village is required to open-source the expertise in Powerhouse, Eloquence, ScreenJet and others. Consultants have reported their migration work employs such tools. Now the IT teams like the one at Harte & Lyne have moved on to open source. The shift has had its issues, though.

In the late 2000s a product similar to Powerhouse was created in open source, an Informix 4GL clone called AuBit. However, by the time that project was mature enough to consider for our purposes we were already committed to Ruby on Rails (RoR).  We adopted the web application approach because we wished to employ generic browsers in place of specific terminal emulation software.

But the price of using RoR has been constant change to its underlying code base with commensurate breakage in our production code. This is due to the very nature of Open Source. Projects such as RoR are staffed by what are essentially a bunch of ill-disciplined hackers.  Each contributor is driven as much as by ego and anything else and thus each attempts to place their individual marks on each iteration of the software.

This often occurs at the same time as they are learning what is really needed from the software. The result is an absolute absence of backward compatibility. There is usually an overarching individual that exercises some restraint. But the the mantra tends to be: what is old is useless, new is better, change is for the best, and who cares what breaks.

Compared to the rock-like stability of the HP 3000, writing software based on RoR is akin to building a castle on quicksand: expensive, time consuming, and as likely to fall down and be swallowed as anything else. Thus we are not as far along as we expected.Things may not be quite as bad as that, but I am feeling somewhat put out with that project at the moment.

Open source emerged from a need to reduce costs and tap a waiting array of expertise. Learning these tools is a better next step for the 3000 expert who wants employment or engagements. There's lots of Windows in the world, but lots of Windows expertise, too. Leading a company toward a path of open source solutions is good, groundbreaking work. It might be a novel achievement to list in a resume or a consulting skill set.

Learning how to locate, evaluate, obtain, install, configure and use open source products on several common Linux distributions can make a 3000 veteran far more valuable to small and medium enterprises than any programming skill. Routine system administration, including updates to open source packages, represents a significant burden for datacenter managers. Being able to switch hats from developer to sysadmin at mid-day, to deal with a server crisis, is also a skill well worth cultivating and publicizing.

07:33 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2016

How hot plug disks can replace DDS offsite

300 GB Ultra SCSII need to find an alternative to DLT and DDS tapes for offsite storage. Sure, there's DS2100 and Jamaica drives. But a few $35 300GB Ultra SCSI drives would hold a lot more data with less points of failure. I'll set up a BACKUP_VOLUME_SET and use the internal disks to do store-to-disk backups of the system. 

I've always used my A-Class and N-Class systems with fiber-attached disk. Are the internal disk drives hot-pluggable? 

Jim Hawkins, IO maven for HP 3000 systems at HP, replies with details.

There are multiple layers of changes for actual hot plugs or swaps to work.  

  • You need the disk HDD to handle this electrically.
  • You need HDD physical carrier and physical interface to comply.
  • You need the system physical interface and receptacle to comply. 
  • You need your Host System Bus Adapter (HBA) to electrically support this.
  • You need the OS to be aware enough of the HBA to not get flustered by absence of the device and deal with any notifications from the HBA of the activity.   

Given that the N-Class disk cage has a screw-based cover and the HDD carriers have no quick release levers (as compared with HASS/Jamaica or VA7400) I would state definitively that there is no hot-plug intention.  

At the same time, the SCSI bus is pretty low power and low voltage, so it would be generally not-too-unsafe to experiment. But you're also close to AC inputs and they are not low power.

Hawkins explored the not-too-unsafe scenario with theoretical possibilities.

Might you be able to pull/push a drive where you've closed the volume?  Likely it would work, but there may be all kinds of noise and stress on the SCSI bus which may not be well handled. However, I think each disk is on its own HBA channel which isn't shared with anything else, and so unlikely to abort someone else's IO.  

This takes us to the last issue: mechanical wear.  

These connectors were likely intended for more or less permanent mating of two components. Very likely they have a limited number of cycles that they are specified to hold-up. I've seen connectors that are specified for fewer than 25 cycles before you lose gold contact material.   This is okay for normal HDD where one might replace one or two per slot in a system lifetime, but not sufficient if you're doing nightly back-ups and swaps.  Connectors, where there is an expectation of a high number of pull/replace cycles, have special designs.  

Now a little good news here is that the N-Class was still pretty much old-school HP design, so likely they didn't pick up something cheap that saved them .2 cents per unit on gold plating. No idea though if the HDD connector is a 10-, 100-, 1000-cycle part. Your system, your risk. 

Consultant Mark Ranft points out that the HP design for 3000s seems to make the servers and components good candidates for exceptional mechanical wear tolerances.

It is especially helpful to understand the concept of mechanical wear on the connectors. HP always had excellent and innovative hardware engineering on their HP 3000 servers. Remember, you can drop them off a building and still self-test them

The Unix N-Class appears to allow hot-pluggable drives.   

The actual power supply and the fans are in the front of the N-Class.  The power receptacles in the back have internal cords that lead to the front.

08:59 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2016

Free trial UDACentral makes its debut

A corporate-grade migration tool gained a free trial version for datacenters including the HP 3000 this week, as MB Foster introduced UDACentral's latest version.

Datacenter racks"Data migrations are challenging when you need to change database types or attempt to perform data transformations during the migration," said Myles Foster, the company's new head of product development. "With the availability of a free trial our data migration product UDACentral is now easier than ever to obtain.

Along with the free version, MB Foster is also offering corporate and enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) licenses for UDACentral. "I realized that SaaS models of UDACentral will help companies reduce costs to free up capital for other business priorities," Foster said, "and enable strategic decision-making around IT investments."

UDACentral isn't limited to MPE/iX hosts, but Foster said the tool's target includes HP 3000 sites. The software began its lifecycle in 2002 as a means to "gives migration projects the centralized switchyard for replacing data securely while preserving its integrity,” said Birket Foster at the product's rollout. For more than a decade the software was employed in migration engagements, integrated by MB Foster’s Platinum Migration Partner team, working alongside a customer’s IT group.

In November 2003 UDACentral was a part of HP's Transition Tools Partner coupon offering. The promotion vendors were named Transition Partners, since customers in that era had little immediate need for migrations. A transfer of IMAGE data to Oracle was among the leading features that year. HP needed a customer to commit through a purchase order for an HP-UX server to replace a 3000.

By now UDACentral converts and migrates data between more than 20 databases. The software uses a Data Explorer to generate an Entity Relationship Diagram. Within a year of its introduction, Graceland University used the software to make its transition from MPE/iX to HP-UX and the Informix database.

UDACentral is also a certified product in the BCIP software innovation program, run by the Canadian government. Software in this Built In Canada Program is available to government agencies and entities such as provincial departments and nationwide organizations. It's pre-qualified for integration into governmental datacenters.

"We used to employ UDACentral in jobs and get paid for our services," Foster said. "Now we're adding the strategy of making our power tools available for people to do the job themselves." The software is aimed at integrators, consultants, and datacenter managers.

04:51 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2016

Details deserve closer look for XPs and 3000

Bullet holeLast week we reported that late-generation XP storage arrays from HP work with the HP 3000. Two system integrators supplied more details on how to make a beast like the $14,000 XP20000 serve an MPE/iX server -- along with other hosts running more popular operating systems. HP ran a YouTube video back when the system's top-end was the XP12000. The video was called Bulletproof, featuring an array that continued to work after it was shot with a high-calibre rifle.

Craig Lalley pointed out some warnings about these new XPs. He called them catches, as in, "there's a catch."

The last XP array sold when the HP 3000 was given HP's death sentence was the XP1024. In order for the 3000 to talk to and control the XP array — i.e. split the mirrors, resync the mirrors and mirror status — the HP server uses a piece of software called RaidMgr. It is on every HP 3000, and it goes out with Posix. You find it in the account /tmp/raidmgr

However, the newer systems, XP10000 and up, require a different version of RaidMgr. Usually it can be found on the XP array CD. That CD holds all the firmware and documentation.

Pivital Solutions also sells and supports disk arrays. The company aids 3000 sites through MPE/iX software contracts as well as hardware service. Steve Suraci of Pivital had stronger reservations about using the XP20000 and XP24000.

"In theory, I can’t see why not — but in practice, I would be a bit hesitant," he said. "I’m not sure that a customer big enough or savvy enough to want one of these would be a good candidate to be a guinea pig, testing a theoretical solution."

Suraci said the reach for this newer hardware to support 3000s reminded him "of all the crashes we used to see on the 9x9s using the third-party fiber/SCSI bridges. In theory, they were touted to be a reasonably-priced solution that should have been foolproof. In some cases they were, in others the customer paid dearly in downtime for an unfixable problem."

Being a support company, Pivital's main mission is to keep its customers from unplanned downtime or surprises with storage.

Lalley's view is that "all the XP arrays support MPE. The OS talks to the array via a LUN that is configured in MPE as a Control device. Raidmgr is incredibly fast, and so much faster than working directly on the array."

The benefits for maximizing storage flexibility are out there—potentially.

Raidmgr is not required for the HP 3000 to run on the XP array. It's only required to allows the HP 3000 to control the array. If the HP 3000 is only using the disk with no special software, then Raidmgr is certainly not required. But it is a big bonus for Business Copy and Continuous Access.

A lot of the XP arrays have multiple hosts, not just the HP3000. The XP arrays are enterprise class system. Literally thousands of hosts as virtual machines can be configured on one XP array.

Suraci was cautious — in part because of the difficulty of testing the device with a 3000 to assure a customer these big arrays are production-worthy.

I think anyone that really needs this solution to work better be ready to pay the consequences if it doesn’t. It’s real hard to road-test production and replicate all the real-life scenarios that could lead to the solution's demise. Just because the 3000 sees it and you can configure it, does not mean you want to trust your production environment on it.

It's a pretty good bet that the production budget for an MPE/iX server in 2016 doesn't have a $14,000 disk array chassis on the ledger. But if the biggest XPs could be connected to a 3000 along with other servers, then perhaps MPE/iX support for the arrays would be a bonus.

It would not be the first time an official HP status on 3000 disks turned out to be something that field testing disproved -- a raft of third-party SCSI disks were suitable for MPE/iX, back in the day with SCSI was a current standard. That testing for the indie SCSI disks took place on lab benches, though. Adoption in production environments came later.

06:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2016

How to get specific about IP access for PCs

I want to give a 3000 a static IP, so I can permit a user to access the HP 3000 from that PC with that static IP. Is there a way to force a particular user ID to use a specific IP address?

Tracy Johnson replies:

A simple logon UDC should suffice:

IF HPREMIPADDR = "aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd" then
  ECHO Welcome.
ELSE
  ECHO Evil message here.
BYE
ENDIF

Bob Schlosser adds:

You can set up a logon UDC that checks that the var HPLOCIPADDR is equal to the device (PC) that you want them to use. Something like this:

LOGON
OPTION NOBREAK,LOGON
IF "!HPLOCIPADDR" <> "123.456.789.321"        change "123.456.789.321" to
your IP address
  BYE
ENDIF

Using this, we verify that the user is on the correct (assigned) IP address, and log them off if not.

Chris Bartram, who's created e-mail solutions for the 3000 at 3K Associates, and hosted Web servers since early in the 1990s, adds:

The following is an excerpt from system UDCs I use on my HP 3000s that might give you some ideas.

The "VALIDATEIPADDR" call in this UDC calls another command file that actually does a validation of the logging-on user based on data in a control file to determine if he/she is allowed to log onto the system from the specific host/IP address they are coming from.

The variables the UDC sets will work whether the logging on user is coming in via Telnet or NSVT (or hardwired or via a modem).

The TELLOPs also leave a nice log on the system console (and log file) of the login, including where they came from, and what protocol was used to access the system.

***
LOGON
OPTION LOGON,NOBREAK,NOHELP

setvar _network_node ''
if bound(hpstdin_network_node) then
  setvar _network_node '!hpstdin_network_node'
endif

setvar _na ''
setvar _at 'HARDWIRED'
if bound(hpstdin_network_addr) then
  setvar _na '!hpstdin_network_addr'
elseif bound(hpremipaddr) then
  setvar _na '!hpremipaddr'
endif

if bound(hplocport) then
  if !hplocport=23 then
    setvar _at 'TELNET'
  endif
endif
  IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE) THEN
    SETVAR _AT "!HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE"
  ENDIF

IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE) THEN
  SETVAR _TP "!HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE"
ELSE
  IF "!_AT"="TELNET" THEN
    SETVAR _TP "TCP/IP"
   ELSE
    SETVAR _TP "SERIAL"
  ENDIF
ENDIF

IF BOUND(HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR) THEN
  SETVAR _VND " (!HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR)"
ELSE
  SETVAR _VND " "
ENDIF

TELLOP LOGON VIA !_AT USING !_TP !_VND

setvar _node ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_network_node")))
setvar _addr ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_na")))
if '!_node'<>'' then
  tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr" Node: "!_node"
else
  tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr"
endif

setjcw cierror=0
continue
VALIDATEIPADDR
if !cierror<>0 then
  echo
  echo ************************************
  echo **  NODE/IP CONTROL FILE CORRUPT  **
  echo ************************************
  echo
  bye
endif

03:56 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2016

Linux box feeds Series 918 for daily needs

Data pipelineHP never designed a smaller PA-RISC 3000 than the Series 918. The server that was released in the middle 1990s helps untold 3000 sites keep MPE/iX in the production mix. While surveying the customer base to learn about the 2016 state of the server, James Byrne of Hart & Lyne reported that a 918 at the company processes data FTP'd from a Linux system. The reason for sticking with MPE/iX, Byrne said, is the state of today's toolset for Unix and Linux. We'll let him explain

By James B. Byrne

Our firm has been running its business applications on HP3000s since 1982/3.  First on a time-share service, and then on our own equipment. Our first in-house HP 3000 was a Series 37 ("Mighty Mouse") running MPE IV, I believe.  Anyway, that is what my little brown MPE software pocket guide tells me.

We subsequently transitioned to a Series 42 and MPE V, and then a 52, and then to a Series 925 and MPE/XL, which soon became MPE/iX. Then through a 935 to our present host, a Series 918LX running MPE/iX 7.5.

And in all that time we ran the same code with the same database. We still can produce reports of transactions going back to 1984.

Presently the HP 3000 runs the greater part of our online transactions and handles all of our billings and payables. Due to changes in our business model, our main business operational application is now provided by a service bureau. Twice each working day a separate process, written using the Ruby on Rails framework, scans the PostgreSQL database, extracts all unbilled items, and produces a transaction file that is then forwarded via FTP to the HP 3000. Once the transaction file is transferred, the same FTP process triggers a job on the HP 3000 to process that file into invoices.

Our intent is to move off of the HP 3000 and onto Linux, moving away from proprietary solutions to open source computing. This includes bringing our operational software back in-house and off of the service bureau. We are actively developing software in pursuit of this strategy. However, the progress toward a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped.

There are many reasons for this but the main one is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the Unix-Linux community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s.

There are exceptions, of course.  Git as a version control manager is head and shoulders above anything I was exposed to on the HP 3000, or any other platform of my personal knowledge, whatever may have existed elsewhere. Likewise Perl, Bash and Ruby are far superior to MPE's native command scripting language. And the sheer variety of software tools available for Linux dwarfs by several orders of magnitude that which was ever provided for the HP 3000. Even if you could afford the 3000 tools.

But for online transaction processing and speed of development, not to mention stability and reliability, nothing in the *nix world that I have encountered even approaches the HP 3000. PostgreSQL is certainly a more then adequate replacement for IMAGE/SQL, but the open source rapid development tools are a different story.

08:05 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2016

Newer XP storage works for HP 3000s

XP20000HP 3000 systems often use antique disks for storage and as boot drives. No device HP has integrated in a 3000 server is newer than 2003 in age, and even some later-generation disk arrays have design dates that throw back to more than 10 years ago. (We're looking at you, XP12000.)

Thankfully, there's newer storage available to HP 3000 sites. The XP20000 and XP24000 can be integrated with HP 3000s. We know of a couple of support and resale companies which do this work. Pivital Solutions continues to support 3000 sites, including integration like this. Newer storage can assure more confidence in the HP-built versions of the 3000. Older hardware gets dinged during datacenter audits, after all.

Other companies that don't write 3000 support contracts are able to connect these XP arrays. One of the other providers calls these newest StorageWorks devices "amazing storage devices for HP 3000 servers." HP put out an end-of-life notice for these arrays' XP12000 predecessor more than two years ago.

HP's 3000s are not listed among the supported systems in the quick HP datasheets for these arrays. But there's nothing like field reports to give a manager the accurate state of 3000 storage. "We just sold and integrated two XP20000 and XP24000 systems over the holidays," reports one reseller.

It's not ridiculous to want to attach these storage beasts to a datacenter that includes HP 3000s. The XP24000 maxes out at 1.98 petabytes, can handle up to 64,000 LDEVs, but can start as small as 1 TB. The XP20000 goes as high as 413 terabytes. HP's list isn't complete, but it says the following operating systems and hosts can share in the XP24000/20000 storage:

  • HP-UX
  • Windows
  • IBM AIX
  • Sun Solaris
  • VMware
  • Linux - IA2, Red Hat
  • OpenVMS
  • NonStop

The chassis on the XP20000 is listed at under $14,000 for a refurbished model on one website. As a shared device across a heterogenous datacenter, these XP units are the newest edition of the StorageWorks lineup. Moving parts are the highest risk elements in homesteading a 3000, like any other system. In the right datacenter, these can help keep MPE/iX systems in the mix.

06:18 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2016

Number, Please: Finding the 3000 Set

Number-pleaseWhen I started in this line of work in 1984, writing about the Hewlett-Packard community, I had a directory. Literally, a perfect-bound directory of HP staff that worked in the company headquarters and labs in California. HP shared it with me as HP Chronicle editor, updating it every year. When someone's number at HP came up missing, you'd call up company HQ and ask for the division operator. It was the 411 of the middle 1980s. It's obvious the 3000 world needs something similar today.

As it turns out, the community does have it. The most dynamic directory resource is the 3000-L, still in use this month to locate information about contacting experts. What makes it powerful is the wetware behind the bits. Knowing which of the 3000-L posters are customers, rather than consultants, is one example of the power of that wetware.

As the week began, Bob from Ideal Computer was searching for Brian Edminster, he of Applied Technologies. Bob slipped a message under the door of 3000-L, then got an answer back about a current email address. I followed up today, just to make sure Bob got something useful. Brian's on the lookout for consulting opportunities, as well as longer engagements.

Yesterday Al Nizzardini was seeking an email address for Vesoft. A couple of replies on the L misinformed Al that Vesoft doesn't use email. That might have been true 10 years ago, but the address vesoft@sbcglobal.net lands in the offices of Vladimir Volokh and his team. Vladimir far prefers to use the phone, but he's old-school enough to enjoy an in-person visit, too.

In another update, 3K Associates and Chris Bartram are now at 3kAssociates.com. Bartram, one of the very first of the 3000 community to set up shop in the Internet, sold his two-character domain name 3k.com for a tidy sum. "We continue to sell and support our entire like of HP 3000-based software products from 3kAssociates.com," he reported on the L.

The community is moving outward like a starburst, all getting older and ever more dispersed. But the 3000-L remains a good place to post a "number, please" request on how to find someone who knows the 3000. If you're like me and archive all those messages (more than 9,000 over the last 10 years), you can search your email client and find the latest communique from someone like Brian. Many of us don't include phone numbers in our email signatures, but the email is always there.

And if you don't have 10-plus years of emails archived, the server at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga does. It hosts the L, as it has for two decades, and you can search it via the Web.

If you're counting up such things, more than 450 people still subscribe to 3000-L today. There's also a directory of vendors and consultants here on the NewsWire site. If you're offering services or solutions to the community, I'd be glad to take down your number.

06:58 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2016

MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon

Linux KVMWhen we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.

There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.

Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.

Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."

KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.

Byrne says that "Charon-HPA runs on ESXi vmkernel, which VMWare claims is not derived from Linux." Then he explains why that's a problem for his adoption of Charon.

VMware is presently being sued by Linux developers for violations of the GPLv2 with respect to the Linux kernel. It is alleged that VMware is in fact using GPL code but are not providing the source for their derived vmkernel, as is required by the terms of the GPLv2.

VMWare is thus attempting to benefit from Open Source projects through misappropriation of public goods for private profit, and attempting to assert proprietary rights over the work of others. In short, they are not a company we wish to deal with, either directly or by proxy.

(Below, VMware's overview of the architecture of VMware's ESXi architecture.)

VMware ESXi architectureRegardless of what happens between VMware and those Linux developers, VMware doesn't have to be deployed as part of Charon HPA, according to a Stromasys product manager. VMware is a commonly used component, but it's not mandatory.

This alliance of Linux and MPE was considered beyond a dream back in the days when the HP lab for MPE was closing. A fully open sourced OS acting as a cradle for a legacy OS first created in the proprietary era? Cats and dogs living together. It says something nice about the flexibility of Linux, a trait that's a byproduct of its open source development community.

But the alliance also says something about MPE/iX and its continuing value. Stromasys believes as much, investing in R&D not even HP could get into its budget to give MPE/iX a way to boot up on Intel hardware. Extend the value of your apps with fresh hardware, the vendor says. To this day, even HP-UX won't jumpstart on Intel systems—unless they're Itanium servers. X86-Xeon won't work with HP's Unix.

That enduring value of MPE and the 3000's PA-RISC architecture is something Byrne sees clearly after decades of managing 3000s. "The real problem with the HP 3000 is that it just works," he said, "and so every other issue gets precedence above migration."

07:45 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2016

Loyalist, laggard, loser: who are you now?

Loser GloveWhen 2016 arrived on our calendar, we looked for signs of the 3000's present and its future. A survey of frequent 3000-L contributors was answered by about half of those we polled. Among that group we found half of these IT pros — selected to be sure they owned 3000s, not just consulted on them — have plans for MPE/iX in their companies in 2016 and beyond.

If you're still using HP 3000s here, getting on to 15 years after HP announced the system's "end of life," then who are you? Among your own kind, you're possibly a loyalist, devoted to tech that's still better than the alternatives to your company. After all, almost 5 percent of every Mac user runs their systems on Snow Leopard, an OS released six years ago and decommissioned by Apple in 2013. Some experts in the community say it runs faster on the newest Macs than any other OS release, though.

The glove on this page came from a Mac conference of 2006, when Snow Leopard was three years away. Maxtor was sure we'd be losing files unless we backed up to their disks. They gave us a set of three instead of a pair of gloves. The way things turned out, Maxtor lost its company status that year, purchased by Seagate. The Maxtor brand went dark in 2009, the year Snow Leopard made its debut. The OS got a small update this month, though, to keep the door open to a newer OS X.

Your 3000 loyalty may label you a laggard. That's one way to describe somebody who's among the last to migrate somewhere when anybody who's savvy has already departed. Tough word, that one. It can inspire some dread and maybe shame about holding out. Or holding on. If the vantage point and the capabilities of MPE/iX in 2016 suit you, though, laggard is just a way to segregate you from someone else's visions.

The implication and suggestion is that laggard would mean loser. Nobody will actually use that word while identifying advocates for old tech. It surely doesn't fit when your applications are solid and cannot be replaced by a migration project priced at more than a full year's IT budget. There's also the matter of keeping IT headcount lean. The most expensive parts of running a datacenter are the people. That's why cloud solutions are getting airtime in boardroom planning. MPE demands fewer heads.

"We're still using our HP 3000s," said Frank Gribbin, running the servers for the law firm of Potter, Anderson. "It's just too useful a tool to do without."

To be accurate, some of the datacenter managers who shared their 2016 status said they're on their 3000s because they're sticking to something they'd rather replace. HP poisoned the well for proprietary systems, one said, and extending MPE/iX use at Harte & Lyne Limited would be "simply shoveling money out the door that is better spent on moving off the platform entirely."

That said, in a moment of optimism this user of the Powerhouse platform on the 3000 said "Keeping the HP 3000 and Cognos software going on Charon has its attractions. Frankly, I never expected an MPE/iX emulator to see the light of day, and for that reason alone I am interested in seeing it work."

Byrne might think of himself as a laggard, and look like a loyalist -- but his loyalty is to the product, rather than its makers. He shares his tech strategy and his insights at length, though, and it's pretty clear he's only lagging because there's nothing better that fits the company's needs and resource capacity. Sometimes that's budget, and sometimes it's people. Watching somebody wire MPE/iX into a significant Linux shop shows he's not lagging, but looking forward. And back at his MPE, regretting the loss of HP loyalty. It makes everyone who's endured from 2001 onward a loser, or at least a victim of a loss.

There will be losses out there in the MPE world in 2016, right here and in some 3000 sites, too. Enduring them is the opposite of being a loser. And if you're lagging at a leap into a migration, there are probably reasons that satisfy your flight plans.

11:12 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)