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March 30, 2016

Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch

Wheaties 3000This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.

Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.

"I was the system admin for all the HP 3000s at General Mills," Ranft said. "At one time they had 30 systems.They were used for plant, logistics, warehouse management and distribution applications. We had a proprietary network called hyper channel that allowed fast communications between IBM mainframe, Burroughs (Unisys), DEC and the HP 3000 systems."

It was an era where the 3000 community dreamed of earning attention from Hewlett-Packard, as well as enterprises which were considering Unix. The 90s were the period when HP-UX vs. MPE was in full flame inside HP as well as among customers. In 1993 Hewlett-Packard ran an ad in Computerworld and InformationWeek touting the use of the 3000 at General Mills. One of the best pieces of HP advertising about its longest-tenured business system, the ad captured the flavor of the cereal giant.

It also helped us on the way to another anniversary being celebrated this month. Ranft dropped us a congratulations, along with other 3000 lovers, on the 21st anniversary of the first stirrings of the NewsWire. "I am so happy that you have done this for us for all these years," he wrote us. Growing notice of the large customers of the 3000 pushed Abby and I to start a business plan, project revenues, and research readership and sponsors during March, 1995.

General Mills was glad to point the way to lifting the 3000 into a higher rank than Unix. In the period where The Unix Hater's Handbook was making the rounds, IT Manager Mike Meinz booted out HP-UX from General Mills' datacenters after a brief fling. In language of the era, Computerworld said that General Mills "tried Unix, but it did not inhale."

"There is a panacea of thought that you have to have Unix," Meinz said in the article. "You don't have to have Unix."

Cheerio ComputerworldGeneral Mills went so far as to pull an HP 9000 out of the IT lineup and move its warehousing application over to its HP 3000s. The company was just into the process of converting those Classic 3000s to PA-RISC models. The vendor was taking steps to position the 3000 as a less-proprietary choice. "Not only is the HP 3000 open," Meinz said in the ad, "but it's an excellent, easy-to-use transaction-processing system for business-critical operations."

The headline that provided too-rare coverage of the 3000 in Computerworld enjoyed a joke at the expense of Unix. "Cheerio to Unix, cereal giant says," noting that the 9000 was chosen at first because it was the only platform that could host a preferred warehouse system. General Mills bought the source code for the application and did the porting. "What followed became a testimonial to MPE's portability," the article said. Meinz said he had anticipated the porting project would take six months, but it only took two. And much of that time was spent developing enhancements rather than actually porting it."

08:10 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2016

For any fate, applications need budgets

Fate-destinyAt Idaho State University, the HP 3000 is moving into its final months of production use. It's been more than eight years to bring all of the MPE-based applications' duties into a new hosting environment. Sun was the early winner in this migration, but after taking the early round of replacement apps onto Solaris, the university is settling on Linux. This was a migration that didn't give Hewlett-Packard any place as a host. 

Even in the realm of replacement software's big bounty, some apps moved across more slowly. Payroll, financials: these things moved in a straight line to Ellucian's ERP software for universities. But telecomm, inventory, motorpool — the 3000 ran all of this — had to be moved separately.

Along the way, the prospect of keeping those extra applications alive included the option of virtualizing the 3000 onto a Stromasys server. The timing didn't work for the university because it was so close to decommissioning its last 3000 apps, according to Senior IT Analyst John MacLerran.

We were hoping to use the emulator for a year or two while we finished migrating our remaining applications off the 3000. However, it was decided that the effort required to obtain software licenses from all of the vendors would be better spent accelerating our migration off the platform.

Whether an application remains on MPE servers, or makes its way to Linux as a replacement or a rewrite, applications require budget. The word "effort" means the expense in man-hours and dollars. Staying has a cost. Analyzing the timing can help a 3000 owner decide when its budget should be turned to departure dollars. It's only possible when the Hewlett-Packard hardware remains sound and healthy.

"It's not like we saw anything that would keep Charon from working for us," MacLerran said, "but it didn't save us any work in our migration."

The cost/benefit ratio didn't work for us -- we wouldn't have been on the Charon platform long enough to recoup our investment in the emulator. It made more sense for us to pay an additional year of maintenance on the original hardware, since we would've had to do that anyway during the migration to Charon. Instead, we put additional resources into getting the applications migrated.

The University began its look at the Charon solution in 2014, but its thorough evaluation got interrupted when MacLerran was tapped to help a languishing internal project get back on schedule. By 2015, the final evaluation decision was made, based on the finish date of migrating its final MPE applications.

We are in the final stages of shutting our HP 3000s down. Everything we used to use them for has been migrated elsewhere -- much of it to Ellucian, and some of it to other third-party vendors (i.e., where Ellucian doesn't have an equivalent function). The only remaining activity on the HP 3000 is data archival for records-retention purposes.

To satisfy that, we're extracting our data and putting it in Oracle tables. That way, we can query for the information that may still be needed for audit, but not for transactional purposes. 

MacLerran said the university expects to pull the plug on its HP 3000s by the end of June, 2016.

08:55 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2016

Replacing apps: a migration option, or not?

More than seven years ago, HP was still offering advice to its HP 3000 customers about migration. The vendor sent everyone down an evaluation path once it announced it was dropping the 3000 from its 2007 lineup. Sales halted in 2003; the HP Services lineup included MPE and hardware support for another seven years, though.

Sourdough-hopeThat's by way of noting that HP's plans saw lots of waffling before its time ran out for stewardship of the servers. In the years between its cutting-out announcement and the end of formal support, HP plans to migrate had two major options. Rewrite whatever you had running on MPE, or replace it with a work-alike app. At the time, HP had a VP who'd talk about this. Lynn Anderson was the last HP executive who would even address the 3000 before the press. Her expertise was in services. You can imagine how replacing apps set with her. Bad idea, she said at the time. Bake a fresh loaf, using the sourdough starter of 3000-based business processes.

Anderson was pretty unique in the HP management ranks. She could show IT experience on the HP 3000. She started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt. Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, she was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included the high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-to-HP 3000 local area network.

To the HP of 2008, a rewrite looked like the best way to preserve what you'd created. However, MB Foster is going to talk about replacing apps next week. Wednesday the 30th at 2 PM Eastern, George Hay will examine this Replace option. "You will learn the factors that affect application replacements and the steps in the replacement process," the company said in its email notice of the webinar.

In 2008, Anderson spread HP's message that the company preferred rewrites to getting an off-the-shelf app to duplicate years of architecture and development under MPE/iX. She cited an HP-funded study that predicted nearly half of the 2008 IT workforce would be retired by 2011 — a figure that had all the accuracy of HP's 2002 prediction that 80 percent of its customers would leave the 3000 by 2004. Speaking at the HP Technology Forum, Anderson talked about replacements chosen to match existing MPE/iX apps, versus rewrites.

"Matching can disappoint," she said at the time. "We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. For the DIY customer, do you have the personnel?" The question was about brain drain, a very real prospect for a legacy technology customer. It was also the question you'd expect to hear from a services vendor.

There's no code like old code, made new again, HP said. Not just rehosted, but extended and revamped.

I think back to when I was a programmer. We had a guy in our shop who liked to think of himself as writing elegant code. Then he left, and when we had to make a change to his code, we literally had to draw straws, because nobody wanted to touch it. You have to look at that when judging a workforce. We just did a study on datacenter transformation, and by the year 2011 45 percent of the IT workforce will be retired."

We asked how this would impact choices to move forward with IT. "We tell these customers you will never get anything to replace what you had built," she said. "The questions are what will you want to do tomorrow, and are you going to have the staff to be able to go into the code."

As for those exits of IT pros, HP's VP said, "I don’t think we have done a good job of selling the value of a career in technology. During the dot-coms it was a bit cool, but it was never about people doing the IT work. It was more on the idea side. And you know what? It still is cool, and it can be a great way to make a living."

HP's living, of course, is best made today as a purveyor of an IT workforce. Hardware sales are off and operating environments come from outside suppliers like Microsoft, RedHat, and others. HP's Services team of the time was legendary for coming in with the highest engagement prices and the sweetest presentations. Meanwhile, plenty of 3000 customers made a living doing IT. Then HP started to call them “technologists.” Did HP still see technologists as typical influencers in the 3000 ecosystem?

In 2008 Anderson said, "We do."

And I think over the years companies — and I’m not saying this about HP — have forgotten about these influencers. Technologists still play a big role in organizations. There are not too many CIOs that are going to make a decision diametrically opposed to their organization. Based on that, we need to get the information out there so the technologist can understand it. With me starting out in that technology environment, I understand. We got our stripes in the 3000, and it was “live free or die — MPE only.”

Replacement already acknowledges that MPE/iX won't serve the long-term strategy for a company. It seems that rewrites will be the work of an outside team. The real question wasn't do you have the personnel, though. The question is what budget do you have for personnel. Because both rewrites and replacements require man-months and man-years.

Anderson said it was essential for all of the remaining 55 percent of the workforce to focus on learning other technologies. A rewrite project would be one way to establish some new chops. Perhaps a replacement does the same thing for a career. "You can think of bread at the grocery store — what are you doing to reset your “Best Before” date?" she asked. Changing platforms certainly resets lots of things.

07:00 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2016

Putting a CPUNAME on HPSUSAN's profile

The MPE is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by ownership of an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX. When a copy of MPE is moved onto a Charon virtualized server, it must come from one that's been assigned to one of HP's 3000s. 

SusanWe reached out for clarity about this when a major manufacturer was looking into replacing HP's 3000 iron with Charon licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.

So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the Charon emulator? Mc Rae explained.

The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist. 

In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.

However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the Charon emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.

The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. Mc Rae said that HPSUSAN is one of a kind for HP-built 3000 systems. But SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership. 

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

This sounds familiar. HP once compared the licensing of MPE/iX to license plates issued for a car. They could not be separated, these numbers and the car that was the HP 3000 iron. (Let's just put aside the common practice of those metal-plate days, when they'd give you a new number after your plate was older than 8 years in Texas.)

In 1999, HP was busy suing Hardware House and a few other resellers over the resellers' separation of HPSUSANs from HP's 3000 hardware cars. The House was taking other PA-RISC servers and pressing valid HPSUSAN numbers onto the non-3000 iron. People went to jail. Lo-jacks were ordered for ankles.

Thanks to the passage of 17 years' time, an HPSUSAN number can now move to a USB thumb drive plugged into a Charon Intel- or AMD-based server. Those license plates can travel to a newer model of car. The emulator's HPCPUNAME, however, can only be designated as an A-Class or N-Class system, according to HP's knowledge. That'll likely be a reason to contact all software vendors whose products operate on the replaced HP 3000 iron.

You see, vendors use a combo of HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME to control licensing. Products such as Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse not only want to read HPSUSAN -- which you can move to Charon  -- but also HPCPUNAME. If you're moving off a Series 979, for example, "979-100" isn't an emulated system under Charon. No 979-100 for HPCPUNAME. You've got to get license permission from your software vendors to enable an A-Class or N-Class HPCPUNAME.

The HPCPUNAME on the Charon system may not be set to 979, Mc Rae said. "Based on the Charon HPA/3000 family, it is assumed that the HPCPUNAME will be set to an A-Class or N-Class CPUNAME," she said. "For example: HPCPUNAME = SERIES e3000/A500-200-50. As far as I know, Charon can only emulate A- and N-Class systems." That's true: a Series 9xx model isn't on the HPA/3000 product list.

The silver lining in this cloud is that you're only doing this contacting and CPUNAME-changing once. Moving to an A-Class or faster CPU from a 9x9 system is the last time you'll be changing from an unsupported CPUNAME to something included in the Charon product line. 

In short, independent software vendors are going to have to be contacted, if they've licensed their products with the HPCPUNAME-HPSUSAN combo on a Series 9xx. Contacting your software vendors about a system upgrade is a fair business practice. But it's more than the right thing to do. Series 9xx users headed to the emulator look like they need that refresh to boot up their indie software.

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

March 21, 2016

Free software worth the time to track it down

It's entertaining and heartening to discover someone who's new to the HP 3000 and MPE. Fresh users tend to run in the hobbyist lanes of the IT race these days. Sometimes, however, they can ask questions that uncover values for the existing managers of the MPE server.

FreeThat's been the case with Michael Kerpan. He's just discovered the new freeware simh emulator engine for creating MPE V Classic HP 3000s. Kerpan is just pursuing this as a hobby project. "I'm not retired, but I'm also not in the IT business at the moment," said, "though I do maintain my SF club's library catalog server, which is a Linux box."

On the HP 3000 front, his box is a Windows server running simh, but Kerpan wants more than just the stock MPE V Fundamental Operating System to use. Kerpan specifically asked about the old Interex Contributed Software Library. The CSL started out as a swap-tape built from reel tapes that attendees at conferences brought along. Drop off the programs you wrote on your reel -- or eventually, DAT tape -- and pick up a compilation of such contributed software when the conference adjourned.

The CSL dropped off the radar of the 3000 community once Interex went bankrupt. The collection of programs wasn't even listed in the organization's bankruptcy assets. In some places out in the community CSL tapes still exist, but trading them hasn't been a compelling pasttime. However, MPE contributed software, now called open source and freeware, still exists. Knowing where to track it down is often worth the effort, if managing a 3000 is still your job.

The biggest sources of contributed freeware live on three servers with public access: 3k Associates, Client Systems, and Fresche Legacy (formerly Speedware). The first company is an Internet-savvy company from as far back as the early 1990s; its founder Chris Bartram wrote the first non-HP email application, NetMail/3000. The 3k website has dozens of programs.

In terms of number of programs, the Client Systems-Speedware servers are right in the running. They're the licensed sites for HP's former Jazz public server content. About two dozen or so programs, plus some UDCs and scripts, are available for downloading. Without a doubt the Speedware server is better organized and uses a cleaner interface. HP forced these companies to install a vast EULA on the front end of these collections. You must click through it each time you access. Annoying, but just about toothless by now.

Other locations for freeware include Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Those companies include products they've built to sell and use in their own labs work. Some of the for-sale titles have gone free now there's less market for 3000 software. There's also freeware available through AICS Research, the QCTerm free terminal emulator. A 3000 Classic emulator in software, attached to an emulator of the HP 2392 terminal, represents the ultimate in live-forever status for the legacy of MPE. It's something like the mighty state that Gandalf occupied once his body -- that hardware -- was gone forever.

Live-forever is also a promise of the Stromasys Charon emulator for the final generation of up-to-date 3000 boxes. As for the CSL, it's bound to live forever, but in locations as mythic as anything in Lord of the Rings. Perhaps we'll see a return of the king of contributed software.

06:42 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2016

Big files get zipped, moved on HP 3000s

ZipperA computer manager who's new to the HP 3000 is looking for CSL files this week. The Contributed Software Library is just an oasis to this IT veteran, something shimmering in his future that holds a highly useful thicket of utilities and more.

Someone in the 3000 community is bound to connect our new user with this CSL, for one reason: he's looking for MPE V programs to supplement his discovery of the emulated Classic HP 3000, simh. That's the MPE V-ready version of a virtual HP 3000: what amounts to a CISC skin for a 3000 on top of the simh code. Whenever the newbie connects with a CSL resource, if they've got their files on a 3000 they're bound to need to send about 24MB to him. That's going to require zipping them.

The act of zipping to compress for a transfer is an essential in 3000 management. Although the code for compressing files on HP 3000s is more than a decade old, like a lot of things on the system, it continues to work as expected.

Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K server operated by OpenMPE, noted he's using the MPE/iX Posix shell's compress and uncompress. "It creates a file that ends in capital Z. Seems the compressed format is compatible with both GNU-zip and Winzip programs or any other Unix/Linux machine."

Lars Appel, who ported the Samba file sharing tool to MPE, offers a comprehensive answer. He points to an HP 3000 Web starter software kit that resides on a development server, open to the public.

Lars explained in a post a few years ago:

You can pick up the InfoIP zip/unzip programs (in a tar file) at my area in the Infocorp server. The link in that webpage that contains the zip/unzip programs is

E:\WebKit2\upload\infozip.tar.Z

Transfer it to the 3000 in bytestream or (fixed) binary format and then unpack with :/bin/tar "-xvzopf FILENAME". Place the two programs where you like; I typically have them in /usr/local/bin or (with uppercase filename) in a group or directory that is part of my HPPATH settings.

The webpage also contains a tar.Z file with /usr/local/bin/gzip

E:\WebKit2\upload\gnuzip.tar.Z

(gzip -d decompresses; creating a symbolic link gunzip is also useful)

06:04 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 16, 2016

Brain drain reduces migration options

Retirement exitAt a large Eastern Seabord organization in the US, the exit of MPE-skilled staff has cut away the migration choices for its HP 3000 operations. The server ran the organization's management of equipment parts. Some of the parts are being tracked back into the 1980s, so unique are those components.

It's like taking the durability of an HP 3000 and applying its model to vehicles, for example. Old F-150 pickup trucks, or the most beloved Jeeps, need parts that might've been designed decades ago. Get a large enough fleet and you need an extensive and fast database. 

IMAGE/SQL drove all of the enterprise business operations until 2002, when other solutions started to rise up at this enterprise. The HP 3000 9x9s there stepped back into a support role, running the parts application. When HP announced the 3000 was leaving its product list, the organization started to plan for a database migration.

"I still had a licensed HP-UX server (HP9000/I70) with paid software support at that time," said the IT manager, who didn't want us to use his name. "The plan was to purchase Eloquence for HP-UX, move IMAGE data to Eloquence, and rewrite our data entry and retrieval programs from their original Pascal to something on HP-UX, which might have been Pascal (if available) or C."

The migration to Eloquence, with what the manager called "universal homing capabilities," would be moved to Linux, which might have required another program rewrite. It could have been as simple as going from C on HP-UX to C## on Linux. Then expertise started leaving the organization.

Then "it became impossible to buy Eloquence," the manager said. "There was almost no one left working here who knew what IMAGE and the HP 3000 are. No one knew what Eloquence was, and no one wanted to know."

This enterprise shop already had MS SQL with paid support on Windows, "so I was led to hire a consultant to migrate the data to SQL and rewrite the apps in PHP.  It sounded like a quick way to a good end."

The Windows momentum had carried the organization away from HP-UX, eliminating Eloquence in the process.

With money being dumped into Microsoft as the solution for all, no one would want to hear a request to buy another database. We bought a new-at-the-time HP-UX server (RX 2660) for this project, but could not go ahead without the Eloquence piece and someone to convert the apps. So the server languished, and eventually was boxed up.

Now the plan is to migrate only the 3000's data at that enterprise. "We would rather stay on MPE and keep on developing," the manager said. "What I really wanted to do was to migrate the application from IMAGE to Eloquence, which would have set the stage for future migration to a new OS if necessary."

Migrations can be delayed for many reasons. But with the market's HP 3000 expertise in flux, keeping a migration moving seems to be one way to help ensure the widest range of choices to preserve app code. If application expertise leaves a company, all that's left is to move data. There are good solutions for that in the MPE world. MB Foster talks about some today at 2 PM EDT.

11:33 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2016

Upgrade bargains on 3000s remain in play

FilenesAlthough the prices on the systems remain on the slide, there are still customers in the US who look to beef up their HP 3000 hardware from time to time. 

"We still have units that are licensed and salable," said Pivital Solutions' president Steve Suraci. "We still have customers occasionally looking to upgrade."

Prices for even the largest of HP's MPE system line are being quoted below $10,000, and in some locations, a deeper discount than that. Like the goods sold in the basement at the legendary Filene's, the word cheaper comes to mind—because the pedigree of each 3000 system's MPE license is sometimes the most important element. (Healthy disks are pivotal, too.)

Bonafide machines have valid HPSUSANs. It's essential for moving MPE apps and utilities during an upgrade. In the scruffiest days of the 3000 resale history, HPSUSANs were being slapped onto HP's L-Class hardware with rogue software, making a 3000 out of a cheap 9000. People went to jail over that episode from the end of the 1990s.

But even a valid HPSUSAN is not the same thing as a proof of license. A continuous chain of ownership paper trail makes for a fully-licensed system. Such a license can be important to the customers who care about keeping auditors happy. That level of validation isn't required for a support contract, though, since HP's long been out of of the MPE/iX business.

09:03 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2016

New 3000 simulator looks back, not ahead

Hp2112bCommunity members on the 3000-L newsgroup have been examining a new entry in the emulation of HP hardware. However, this simulator creates a 3000 under Windows that only runs MPE V. The MPE version of SIMH — a "highly portable, multi-system simulator" — is a Classic 3000 simulation, not something able to run PA-RISC applications or software.

Some 3000 users are embracing this software though, maybe in no small part because it's free. It's been more than 15 years since HP supported MPE V and the CISC-based systems that launched the 3000 line starting in 1972. One of the experts in PA-RISC and MPE/iX computing, Stan Sieler, briefed us on what this freeware simulator can do, and what it cannot  — in addition to not running MPE/iX.

Currently only Charon from Stromasys runs PA-RISC. Thus, the SIMH runs only the Classic HP 3000. At the moment, it’s an old version of MPE V (Q-MIT, release E.01.00)

And, the machine probably has no networking support. It probably has some kind of serial datacomm support, but I haven’t looked at that yet (all my use has been via the simulated console, LDEV 20).

I’ve put several hundred CM programs on the “machine” to see which will load and run. Many won’t, because they use newer features (e.g., FLABELINFO intrinsic which came out on the T-MIT with the Mighty Mouse).

So, you ask, can you put a newer version of MPE V on the emulated 3000?

The answer is, I don’t know. If I recall correctly, the machine isn’t emulating (yet) the “Extended Instruction Set,” but the authors claim MPE has a run-time emulator for them, so perhaps that won’t be a problem.

It comes with a version of MPE V, if you download the two packages that the release notes file mentions.

It’s fast. On my Mac, it runs CPU bound stuff about twice as fast as a 400 MHz HP 3000 would.

This is classic software running on classic hardware, so it's strictly for the hobbyist. Or someone who still has MPE V apps running their company. The software is downloadable from Trailing Edge in a pre-compiled .exe file.

The discussion has already generated 40 messages on the 3000-L, easily the biggest discussion of the year.

05:55 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2016

Powerhouse MPE futures clouded in silence

Unicom GlobalUsers of Powerhouse have a mailing list, much like the one that HP 3000 owners and managers have enjoyed for decades. Powerhouse-L has traffic on several flavors of the Cognos creations. It's that range of product platforms that gives readers a chance to compare.

The news for MPE users of Powerhouse is that there is no news. This isn't a fresh take on the future of Powerhouse, Quiz, and the other products like Axiant which remain in use in the homesteading marketplace. Ken Langendock, a consultant in the market, asked on Powerhouse-L about the future of the products. He added that getting a response from Unicom Global, the owner of the products, has been difficult for his boss. It's not a good sign when a customer cannot get multiple calls returned.

Langendock was plain-spoken about which Powerhouse he needed an update for. A webcast from the vendor on March 4 didn't include Powerhouse futures by the 30-minute mark, so he pulled the plug on his viewing. He said MySQL support was high on his list of needs.

"The HP version to me is dead," he said. "I expect nothing more to happen on that version." That tracks with the reality of 2016 management from Unicom. When the software changed hands at the start of 2014, hope for changes to licensing and features rose in the MPE user base, but not for very long. Unicom owns scores of products by now, using a model that runs smoothly for Infor, owners of MANMAN.

Ownership of a product includes a paid support option, but not much will change for the 3000 world. An update from Bob Deskin, longtime Powerhouse product manager who consulted with Unicom in 2014, made no mention of MPE/iX after he reported his contact with Unicom.

We've reached out to Russ Guzzo, who heads the company's communications efforts and led the integration of Powerhouse into the company, but didn't get a reply to our question about, as Landendock put it, "doing something with Powerhouse."

"They assure me that they are continuing to develop and support PowerHouse," Deskin said. "I’m told that they are in catch-up mode because of the volume of support issues that have been reported."

They asked me to pass on the following concerning current releases which tells me that they are indeed continuing to develop and support PowerHouse.

For PowerHouse 4GL and Web, the current Windows version is 8.41U, and for Axiant 4GL, 3.4u. They support Windows Server 2012, MS SQL 2012, and Oracle 12c.

For PowerHouse 4GL and Web on Unix and Linux, the current version is 8.43G build 3350.101.It supports RHEL 7 and Oracle 12c. This is still a G version because they couldn’t find anyone to beta test the U version. It is a fully branded UNICOM version and is compatible with the Windows 8.41U and Axiant 3.4U even though it might seem otherwise. They still plan to have an 8.43U version soon.

The OpenVMS current version is still 8.40G and while 8.40U is still planned,  there are major support issues on this platform.

If you'd like more information, here are the contacts:

UNICOM client services department at: Powerhouse.sales@unicomsi.com or call 818-838-0606

For technical questions (may require an active support agreement):

Powerhouse.support@unicomsi.com, or call within the US toll free 800-866-6224; outside the US 973-526-3888

I’ve always found that providing support to UNICOM customers has always been their top priority.

09:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2016

3000-L breaks silence with DTC primer

DTC NetworkOn the verge of four weeks without a new message, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup delivered a primer on the control of DTCs on MPE/iX networks. A longtime contributor to the community set up a question about using these venerable devices that connected HP's terminals and other devices to a 3000.

I have multiple HP 3000s sharing one DTC.  My problem is, which one controls the DTC?  In the event of  a power cycle, there is a race between them for which 3000 will download the new configuration.  I need system A, my A-Class, to be in charge. However, systems B or C are most likely to download first, leaving me with the manual step of unplugging the network from B and C, power-cycling the DTC, and then waiting for the A-Class to download the configuration. Is there anything that can be done to just leave the A-Class in charge?

Tracy Johnson replied, "It's always been a crap shoot. I'm of the opinion the first HP 3000 to notice the DTC needs downloading will do the job. Which usually means the less busy machine." As it was just the first answer on the newsgroup, there was still a need to do unplugging.

"For example," he added, "if you have a test machine on the side nobody's using, I would simply unplug the test machine's network cable until the DTC was reset. Since there will be no other machine in control, the regular machine will do the download.  When complete, I'd plug the network cable back into the test machine. However if both machines are in production and you have users active on both, you'll have to make a decision."

Lalley came back with an answer of his own, at least to eliminate the travel from chair to server.

"On the DTC's I guess it could be possible to do it without leaving your chair, if you TELNET to the console on B and CDTCCNTRL (has to be run from the physical console)  to stop the DTC subsystem, then restart it."

Mark Ranft at Pro3k had another idea.

Back in the good old days, we used DTC Switching - a feature that allowed a DTC prompt to appear at a terminal.  The user entered 'C HPA' to connect to host HPA.  I believe you could set a default system.  Initially DTC Switching was only available if you configured and downloaded the DTC using OpenView DTC Manager software running on a PC.  Later HP set up NMMGR to allow DTC Switching.

The Communicator for that release may have more details, but I only entered the MAC of the DTC on the one system that was supposed to download the DTC.  The other systems would have the DTC name, but not the MAC.  This allowed the system to have printers and other devices accessible on the DTC without concerns about which one downloaded the configuration.

Of course, the location of that MPE Communicator took all of 41 minutes to dig up. Barry Lake pointed at HP documentation (now hosted outside HP's baffling website) that covers Enhanced Host-Based DTC Management Functionality in Chapter 3. Plus, a manual on Configuring and Managing Host-Based X.25 Links.

Not too shabby for a mailing list that's more than 20 years old, but still manned by dozens of experts. It's the kind of expertise a good third party support provider offers—as usual, better than HP's today.

06:33 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 02, 2016

Data in motion follows 3000 archival project

HMSHostHMSHost has been an HP 3000 shop since long before the start of this century. The company that operates duty-free outlets in major US airports has made changes to its datacenter structures that have put its 3000 in cool standby. Regular operations have moved to another server. Archival has become the mission for the MPE/iX server.

Brian Edminster told us about the changes to the company's IT operations, having managed the 3000 solutions for HMSHost for many years.

The live and current data that was hosted on the application under MPE has been migrated to systems belonging to the new owner of the retail division of HMSHost.  Several years ago, HMSHost sold off their retail division to World Duty Free, USA (the US arm of the global World Duty Free Group, WFDG). In a surprise move, WDFG was then acquired by one of its rivals, Dufry. In talking with some friends that still work there, the former-3000 data will likely need to be migrated to yet again—to the Dufry systems. Talk about “data in motion!” 

But as it turns out, the historical 3000 data (from before WDFG acquired the retail unit) still has to be retained for compliance reporting for about three more years. They've decided to keep an A-Class system, basically in a cool backup environment. The server is still racked in their server room, but is kept powered off, until one of these events occur: 

1) a compliance report and/or analysis is required (a fairly low probability), or

2) a quarterly reboot/confidence check is scheduled.

Edminster said that in either event, he'll be called in to perform that work on the cool backup system. Archival systems still consume some resources, but it's that reduction of human resources that can make a drastic change when a 3000 goes from production to archive. The 3000 server may not even get powered up, as is the case at HMSHost.

"They thought about keeping the machine powered up, but idling," Edminster said, "but there was concern regarding remaining the MTBF on the A-Class disc mechanisms and fans. It was determined to be a lower risk—and consume less electricity and generate less heat—to leave the system powered down until access is needed."

In archive, though, backup practices don't change. "We've got several complete backups," he added, "should a boot drive fail, or the RAID-1 (Mirror/iX) data volumes fail catastrophically."

 

07:35 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)