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June 29, 2016

Date format variable help for MPE/iX

What would be the easiest way to get a variable date in the format "06/29/16" on a MPE/iX 7.0 and 7.5?

Michael Anderson replies

First echo:

echo ![str("!hpyyyymmdd",5,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",7,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",3,2)]

Then setvar:

setvar mydate '![str("!hpyyyymmdd",5,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",7,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",3,2)]'

(Note the usage of single-quote and double-quote in the setvar command.)

Barry Lake adds

Please note that the HPYYYYMMDD variable is already a string variable:

Frodo: calc typeof(HPYYYYMMDD)
2, $2, %2

So you don't have to dereference it with ! inside double quotes. In other words, the following works just as well, is easier to read, and might even execute a bit faster:

Frodo: echo ![str(hpyyyymmdd,5,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,7,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,3,2)]
06/29/16

Also note that since you're asking for the value of HPYYYYMMDD three different times, there's the tiniest chance that if you executed this right at last part of the second at 23:59:59, then the value could roll over to a new date in the 2nd or 3rd call, and you could possibly get the wrong date, or even year. Unlikely, I know. But to avoid that, you'd want to capture the current date once, then operate on that, as in:

Frodo: setvar my_date hpyyyymmdd
Frodo: echo ![str(my_date,5,2)]/![str(my_date,7,2)]/![str(my_date,3,2)]
06/29/16

Stan Sieler adds

Kudos to Barry and Michael for apparently correctly guessing that our manager was interested in a CI-based solution. Next time, you might want to make that clear. I was thinking along the lines of SPL/Pascal/COBOL and the CALENDAR intrinsic, as well as whether I should ask the obvious questions or not. Of course, the easiest method is: ECHO 06/29/16

Any code that wants a coherent date and time using separate sources (e.g., CLOCK and CALENDAR intrinsics, or HPTIMEF (#1)) needs to be aware of midnight crossing. Thus, I use a helper function in Pascal like:

  procedure get_date_time (var cal : calendar_type; val clk : clock_type);
     begin
     repeat
        begin
        cal := calendar;
        clk := clock;
        end
     until cal = calendar; 
{avoid problems if ’clock’ called just after midnight} end;

08:11 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2016

Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation

Stromasys White Paper ArtIn a webinar about emulation solutions last week, MB Foster offered a new take on some old tools. The subject was an exam of what 3000 sites could do if their budgets didn't let them take on a full migration on their own. Viewers heard about Stromasys Charon, of course, a software tool that has always proposed the OS in charge will remain the same: MPE/iX. The hardware gets emulated. 

The webinar took note of some Charon considerations, but none that haven't already surfaced. Software must be licensed to the new Charon emulated hardware. The greatest percentage of vendors are making that transfer a formality. Many don't even charge a fee to move from HP's PA-RISC iron to the emulated hardware. Of those who do, the fee can be nominal. Issues about revising hardcoded IP addresses were mentioned. Issues about historic data procedures and archival come up for any solution that changes things.

The other solutions in the webinar didn't have any of their issues examined.

Marx200_300On the subject of those other emulation solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established products received a new label. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, got its seven minutes of fame. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users on the call testified to the strong value of Eloquence.

Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in the webinar and a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.

"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."

"MBFA used the term emulation to capture the interest HP 3000 group," Whitehead said about the webinar. "I would put down the items discussed as emulation solutions. eZ-MPE mimics the HP 3000," he said of the software suite that MB Foster first announced in 2013. 

A hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier, eZ-MPE aims 3000 sites at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for MPE/iX sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications. At the time, the company said

It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term. You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.

"We call it a hybrid," Whitehead said this week. "It allows an HP 3000 client to migrate, protect their investment in code developed for the HP — while leveraging the native database environment as part of your long range plans to go in that direction."

Emulation is a long-pursued goal for the 3000 customer who's needed to stay with MPE/iX. The word was charged with hope and potential from the very start of the period where HP wanted its 3000 users to turn off MPE/iX servers. 3000 users believe the definition of emulation is a tool or service that makes an environment pretend that it's something they already use.

"You might use the word ‘pretend’," Whitehead said in a follow-up after the webinar. "I might say mimic, but for the most part you are emulating. Wouldn’t you agree that ‘emulate is the better word?"

No matter what's chosen among the four solutions discussed in the webinar, users need services to do a transition well. Stromasys now sells its emulator in no other way except with installation services and proof of concepts. MB Foster said in its bulk email about the webinar that some 3000 sites cannot afford to migrate. Each of its solutions that were framed as emulation "needs to be investigated, and a path can be chosen that best suits the companies' long range plans, risk, corporate hardware architecture and databases, plus the cost of getting there."

09:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 24, 2016

A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going

Editor's note: we ran the following story about eZ-MPE on the product's announcement three years ago. The software suite came up for mention during this week's MB Foster webinar, and since it's offered as a modern solution, it seems useful to revisit the original release story.

HybridMB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.

Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead. 

“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.” 

For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.

The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence”, mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.

The company’s familiarity with the HP 3000 way of computing management is designed to set eZ-MPE apart from prior efforts to bring across 3000 customers. AMXW, built by Neartek at the start of this century, as well as Ordina’s MPUX, don’t deliver the full range of the MB Foster product, said Whitehead. Lock-in with those other solutions is automatic. There’s no easy way to embrace the best of Windows or Unix.

The biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.

“It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term,” Whitehead said. “You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.” He said in the company’s engagements with enterprise clients, the sites want to leverage benefits of the new native environment, not just migrate quickly.

Portions of the eZ-MPE package which Whitehead mentioned included a target database for Windows, VPlus screens converted and modernized, a file system library similar to the 3000’s “but one that specifically handles nuances and translations between KSAM and itself.” Utilities include other aspects of handling implementations of items like sorting, merging, log-ins including UDCs, the job control language. “All of those things are necessary within a 3000 environment — but as you transition, they’re also necessary in the Windows world.” 

MB Foster is already working with a customer using eZ-MPE, and that customer has implemented the environment, Whitehead said. “It’s been thoroughly tested. It was the original thought we had for this customer, and eZ-MPE is more effective for them than re-writing to a native port.”

Software for migrating data, entire databases, scripts and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software — previously used only for services engagements — to sites for their internal IT use.

More recently, UDAExpress has been developed to take the place of the 3000’s scripting ability. The other product which has had a standalone lifecycle and has become a part of eZ-MPE is MBF Scheduler. Both of those products work exclusively in the Windows environment to replace MPE capabilities. More recently, the UDALink tool including reporting, JDBC and ODBC access was migrated to work with HP’s Itanium servers in the Unix environment. 

The vendor has no announced plans to deploy eZ-MPE to any Unix or Linux environments, including HP-UX. They say most 3000 customers who are still on the move want Windows.

“On most days, our clients are looking for a Windows-type of solution,” Whitehead said.” They feel the Windows environment is now stable enough and scalable enough. They’ve had enough exposure to that environment and the Microsoft suite of products. ” Even within any Unix environment, Windows servers will be part of the solution.

eZ-MPE has a menuing system as a native part of its environment; this handles the operations of UDCs running on HP 3000s, as well as “VEsoft MPEX environments,” Whitehead said. A system layer capability handles all system calls and translations. 

eZ-MPE manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and uses its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library converts TurboIMAGE calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a site’s long-range plans.

The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than simply screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application includes scripting, sorting, merging, logins, job control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.

It’s also aimed at 3000 sites which are not using packaged applications. By process of elimination, that is still most of the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the platform. 

“Its real target is for organizations that have custom code, and want to preserve it,” Whitehead said, “and also want to transition to a supportable platform.”

The MB Foster software, which is also tied to services such as an assessment of existing environment, offers more range than emulated solutions, according to Whitehead. “We’re not locking anybody into an environment,” he said. “We’re allowing the 3000 customers to modernize, change and grow and prosper — not only with the eZ-MPE environment, but slowly over time, to move away from it, to a native Windows environment too.”

 

09:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2016

What's MPE got to do with emulators?

Thoroughbred-horsesCompanies that want to use their MPE/iX applications a long time might count their timelines with two eras: Before Emulator, and After Emulator. The B.E. period left the MPE/iX user locked to Hewlett-Packard hardware and waiting for upgrades to HP boxes. The A.E. era uses virtualization via Charon to permit many beefy Intel boxes do the MPE/iX work. But what does MPE/iX code have to do with the magic of Charon? Not much, which is a good thing.

There's a stubborn story we hear about how the gem of MPE's source code is at the heart of what Charon does. What a virtualization engine like the Stromasys product delivers is a new capability for Intel hardware. An Intel box can pretend to be a PA-RISC processor, thanks to the software engineered by the creators of similar products for the Digital market.

But Charon doesn't rely on MPE/iX secrets to do this magic. It's like thinking a jockey is the being who's running a 2-mile racetrack course. He's the rider, and the horse in this metaphor is Charon. The basic design of Charon products, like the ones that virtualize the Sun Sparc systems and the PDP systems of DEC, creates the expertise for booting up Intels like they're 3000s. Nobody expects the ancestry of the jockey to play a role in making the horse faster. We don't sit in the grandstands to watch jockeys hoof it around the track.

Source code for MPE/iX was a big part of the push for emulation that started in 2002. The thought at the time, though, was that MPE itself could be taken on as a third party tool. That somehow something could pretend to be MPE, instead of pretending to be the PA-RISC hardware. Emulation is a broad term. Virtualization is more accurate, and these days, almost as well known thanks to titans like VMware.

OpenMPE fought the good battle to get HP to release source code for MPE/iX. It won, but the group never got a copy of the source for itself. The reasons run to finances and organization of the board of directors, struggles we've documented starting six years ago. Then 2011 dawned as one of the dimmest years for the 3000, just dumped off HP's support and with no apparent future for fresher hardware. The only advocacy group was reeling from lawsuits among its leaders. For the last two elections of its board, the number of nominees was the same as the number of directors. Few people could volunteer with gusto. Some of the best were already there, or had already done their bit.

It's a good thing indeed that MPE/iX source code plays no role in the technology of Charon. The code is not open source, as OpenMPE wanted. (That's the whole reason it's called OpenMPE, instead of FreePA-RISC.) What the community got was a license from HP, not freeware. If Charon needed MPE/iX gems, it would mean HP retains control over a product that will let newer hardware take over when the battleship-grade HP iron hits the scrapyard. Nobody wants Hewlett-Packard to have a say in MPE/iX host hardware futures. The vendor's had enough impact on those. In the days of A.E. the virtualization miracle needs nothing from MPE/iX but a stable copy of the OS to carry in its saddle. The horsepower comes from an independent company, the kind that's kept the MPE/iX journey on course.

08:58 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 20, 2016

Solitary backup tape spurs fresh MPE plea

When a 3000 site did its backups recently, the process did more than protect data on the business server. The procedure made a case for moving off the original HP 3000 hardware. Or keeping a couple of key tapes well protected.

Solitary ManLast week Greg Terterian left a request on 3000-L for help with a client. "They had problems with their disk storage and were going to do a reload," he said. "However, when backing up they were using the same tape over and over for the past three years."

As you might imagine, a solitary piece of backup media used repeatedly developed a problem over those years. The tape's no good. "Now they want to know if they can get or purchase, or if someone will be willing to donate, the MPE/iX 7.5 operating system."

There used to be a way to request new media for MPE/iX from HP, but that's a part of the 3000's legacy by now. Client Systems could once handle upgrade requests for part of the MPE/iX subsystem, but they were not answering calls at the start of 2016. The last HP 3000 distributor, Client Systems' domain is now parked.

Whether Terterian's client gets replacement MPE/iX files isn't the point of the story. (If you're donating, his email address is here.) The lesson is that a single backup tape is a solution that HP's hardware can let you stumble into, because restoring from tape is the norm for non-virtualized MPE/iX systems. If you're using an emulated 3000, however, your backup and bootup happens using disk files off images stored on stock PC hard drives. You could even back up to a cloud service like CrashPlan or Carbonite, if your MPE server runs off such Intel PC hardware.

A solitary tape for backups is better than no backup at all, but holding onto a CSLT tape with the operating system on it is a bedrock practice. Best of all would be to eliminate the need for tape backups by using disk images. Charon does this as its way of creating MPE/iX volumes, including LDEV 1.

A donation of a tape with only MPE/iX on it would have to include no company data on it. A CSLT is a crucial component of the HP-based 3000 experience. You can't recover a 3000 only from a nightly backup. 

"If your nightly backup is using SYSGEN to output to tape," says 3k Associates' Chris Bartram, "plus you have it set up appropriately, then you could recover from a nightly backup, but that's not common. Normally you should maintain a separate CSLT (actually two copies, to be safe) made after you have done any system configuration changes."

It's key, this CSLT, to homesteading. Overlooking the CSLT is so common that even some admin pros have done it from time to time. For one such pro, an A-Class 3000 was rebuilt and had its apps consolidated. But the rebuilt system didn't have its CSLT freshened, which was discovered when the boot volume failed. 

We lost LDEV1 in the 'system' volume-set. The apps and databases are fine, but I'd neglected to make a fresh CSLT once the rebuild/configure/setup was complete. Fortunately, all the data volumes are protected with Mirror/iX -- but rebuilding the system volume accounts, network config, administration jobs and so on has been a pain.

An honest mistake like this is not one you need to make yourself. Even if, as another 3000 consultant notes, your shop has gone into Frugal Mode while it makes in-house migration moves. You have the right to be wrong in Frugal Mode. But you really don't want that right, unless you've got plenty of extra time. 

09:12 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2016

Throwback of mid-June marks much change

Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.

HP-UX gains in later results (2005)

These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.

And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.

New, independent training begins (2006)

MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.

Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.

So much to see, so far to go (2007)

RibbonsOn a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.

To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.

The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.

HP to release more 3000 patches (2008)

"We did a lot of work in that area," said HP's Jim Hawkins at the Tech Forum. "For a lot of patches that have been languishing in beta test status, we've been able to move them into General Release status so they can be downloaded from the HP ITRC, which makes them freely available."

Indeed, those patches remain free if a 3000 customer knows how to ask for them. Help from an independent support vendor remains a good way to stay in touch with what HP might've forgotten—or which of those patches you ought to avoid.

Retired HP lab leaves issues behind (2009)

But while a 3000 issues list logs many HP decisions, some key items remain unresolved.The issue with the broadest potential impact on homesteading customers appears to be resources for the HP 3000 hardware emulator project.

HP didn't release test suites it used to develop MPE/iX, for example. It would be three more years until Stromasys released the Charon emulator. This was the year HP started to change its mind about helping out.

Red-blooded sites shape new scheduler (2010)

The new Windows-based MBF Scheduler grew up in MB Foster’s labs, nourished by the experience of engagements with several sites migrating from the 3000.The 3000’s depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. The cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they’ve learned to rely upon. 

MBF Scheduler is still the Windows job scheduler that accommodates MPE procedures best. Experience from "true, red-blooded sites" gave the software its feature set.

N-Class price points at value (2011)

At one end there's a 20-year-old 927 server still working in a production setting. At the other end, the most powerful 3000s built by HP are now less than $10,000, at least in a spare-parts or hot DR offering with your own licenses. 

Prices for N-Class servers have been quoted below $4,000 this year. That 927 may still be working. That's what the indie support companies make possible.

Is HP porting HP-UX to Xeon, or not? (2012)

In a Wall Street Journal interview, new CEO Meg Whitman tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.

To answer the question: not. The heir apparent to the MPE enterprise-class datacenter will be on Itanium chips for the forseeable future.

Emulator: how far it goes, and what's next (2013)

Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. In a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.

This remains a misunderstood point among 3000 customers with very old hardware. The MPE/iX operating system runs the same on Charon as it does on HP's iron.

08:19 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2016

2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System

No kidding, the above strategy is bona fide. It will be online, with time for your questions, next Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern.

Emulation-3000-berryMB Foster has a novel webinar scheduled next week, and no, that's not an hour about writing a bestseller. The Web meeting on June 22 will walk through four different HP 3000 emulation options. All of them will mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce year over year costs. In the end, every one of them should use MPE/iX apps, if they are bona fide emulations. Why else would you be emulating? The webinar promises a tour of how to replace the 3000 hardware, it seems.

As hardware emulation goes — and that's the most popular agent of change — there's only one supplier that we know about. Over the last three years Stromasys has enlisted HP 3000 advocates and experts and customers to embrace the Charon software. We're told that each new customer seems to draw out another.

There are other ways to consider emulation, however. Some of them have been around a long time, if preservation of in-house MPE/iX apps is the goal. AMXW was a sort of emulator: Automated Migration to UniX and Windows. It's a shell that runs atop those two platforms, plus Linux and IBM's Unix, connecting to commodity databases and surround-code tools while preserving the 3000's app code.

"MPE specifics, such as JCL batch jobs, file equations, JCW, UDCs, command files and variables are all supported — allowing the MPE environment to run as is on the new platform." Okay, this is probably a migration solution. You're not supposed to need to change your apps, though. HP's 3000 hardware gets dropped, too.

The two other options? We'll be online to see what they are. Registration is online at the MB Foster website, as always.

You can't say that emulation is the right choice for everybody who needs to change things. Cloud-based ERP and manufacturing is on the horizon from Kenandy, for example, a company with ASK MANMAN roots. Terry Floyd of the The Support Group says Kenandy is MANMAN done better, because the software seems simpler. He's developed and managed MANMAN installs since the 3000 was very new. Floyd goes to work migrating Disston Tools off MANMAN starting next month.

We agree that any range of emulation options must mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce costs. Risk is in the eye of the manager; we've said that since 2002, when the Transition Era started. Foster says moving away is too risky and costly for customers who have data on HP 3000s.

"Hewlett Packard said it was obsolete 10 years ago," today's teaser email began, "so why are people still running production environments on the HP 3000? We asked the same question. Much of the time, it is too risky and too costly for them to move."

Emulation has its costs, too. The Stromasys option starts at $9,000 for a permanent license — the kind nearly all of the Charon customers buy, says Doug Smith — and then there's efficient and powerful Intel hardware to buy. Although Charon has been demoed many times on a laptop, a computer with a lid which closes is not the sort to run your commercial computing.

But compared to the expense of hiring out for advice on replacement software (you oughta do that) and implementing a package on locally-hosted servers that behaves differently than employees expect (identical functionality is rare unless Charon HPA's installed) and retraining everybody (IT and users) about the new environment — Charon can be very effective as an emulation. Less costly, probably, than anything but staying on the HP hardware that's at least 13 years old today. At least.

The other elements in the equation are investment protection. That's actually what an independent support company does today (yup, Pivital Solutions) to keep hardware that's in place running. Plus all of the company's experience keeping MPE/iX on its toes.

Companies emulate because they recognize value in the original investment. The unmistakeable value lies in the data. Every kind of emulation protects that asset. Foster says the apps are crucial too.

An emulator retains the value of the application long term, while removing the risk of running on old hardware. Being in an emulation environment also stabilizes the development of surround code, reduces disruption to the business, and avoids the need to re-train employees.

06:52 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 10, 2016

What A Newer MPE/iX Could Bring

What would HP 3000 owners do with a new MPE/iX release, anyway? On some IT planning books, the frozen status of the operating system counts as a demerit in 2016. Even still, enterprise system managers in other HP-sold environments face a nearly-glacial pace of OS upgrades today. Even while paying for HP’s support, the VMS system managers are looking at a lull.

Click for details on roadmapHP says it still cares about OpenVMS, but that OS has been moving to a third party. Support from a system maker still looks newer and shiny to some companies than the independent support managers available from third parties like Pivital. As it turns out, though, it’s that frozen-as-stable nature of MPE/iX which makes third party support just as good as HP’s—back when you could get support from HP.

“MPE's so solid,” Doug Smith said in a recent interview, “and these applications have been out there forever. There’s not a huge concern out there in the community about needing to have a new release of MPE.” Smith leads the way for Charon emulator installs at 3000 sites.

OpenVMS roadmaps were updated this week. The map shows how slow OS updating can proceed. 

HP’s more current Poulson Itanium-based Integrity servers now can run OpenVMS, thanks to a springtime release of OpenVMS 8.4.2. There will still be Kittson-based Integrity servers outside the OpenVMS reach, though. These incremental VMS releases are proving that a third party can assume engineering duty for an OS. Linux showed the way for such duty long ago. That OS, however, was never a trade secret inside a system vendor’s labs.

The most cautious 3000 manager didn’t take updates of MPE/iX, in the years HP released them, unless there were essentials inside the new release. That decision point is no longer an issue with 3000 sites. Instead, MPE/iX is getting its newer-gen speed engineering through the Charon solution. Whenever there is a new Intel chipset that can run Linux, the speed of MPE/iX gets a boost.

A third-party OS lab won’t be the crucial element in driving MPE/iX faster. Charon emulates hardware that is not going to change: PA-RISC and the classic 3000 peripherals. VMS Software Inc. is revising an operating system. There’s much more testing needed to do this revision. It’s the cost of those new OS releases.

The newest OpenVMS will arrive in August, according to the VMS Software roadmap. One major advantage the new release brings will be a modern OpenSSL protocol version. It took awhile, and ultimately a third party, to make it so. Until VMS Software got its hands on VMS, the enterprise OS was working with the 0.9.8 SSL release. After more than seven extra years of HP labs support than MPE/iX had received, VMS was just two minor increments newer than the SSL the 3000s can still run: 0.9.6.

If vendor support for an OS is supposed to be so important, we asked up at the beginning, then why is an enterprise HP system so far behind current protocols as OpenVMS? Rethinking the impact of vendor support led many 3000 sites to independent support arrangements for MPE/iX. With the indie MPE/iX support and static OS status proven as a stable combo, it’s the hardware performance that can make strides. The MPE/iX community doesn’t need an OS lab to boost performance. Support for SSL security needs to be moved along, yes. The 3000 community, however, long ago learned to lean on environments like Unix and Linux for highly-secured functions.

Meanwhile, faster hardware support for OpenVMS turns out to be a feature that MPE/iX gained first. VMS Software says it's now working on an Intel-based release of the OS, with a target shipment sometime in 2018. By that date, the virtualized hardware for MPE/iX will have had two additional years of speed upgrades from Intel. MPE/iX already runs on the x86 family in virtualized mode. Integrity is tied to a chip that's now in maintenance mode at Intel. With the 3000 virtualized hardware speeding up, and the OS hosted in a Linux cradle which sports the latest in security protocol support—remind me again what MPE/iX 8.0 would've brought us?

05:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 08, 2016

Blog's birthday marks 11 digital years

Birthday-candlesThey're like dog years, these digital years: each counts for much more considering the change that they chronicle. This space on the Web has now been open 11 years. On June 8 of 2005 a death in the 3000's family rose into the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute on that day, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His email posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.

Like the best of the 3000's community leaders, Toback flashed bright ends of technical prowess and a smart cynicism, the latter which couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Toback created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 80s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:

HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.

Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.

Without the news and developments of migration, though, we might not have arrived at this space with as much copy by now. Today there's more than 2,800 articles here going back 11 years, and there are 10 additional years of reporting and commentary on the 3000newswire.com site as well. (You can search it all through the link at the left, and people do every day.) After more than a couple of decades of this work, we thank the community — and in particular, our sponsors — for the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.

In this blog's first month of 2005, I wrote

"HP 3000 enhancements can travel like distant starlight: They sometimes take years to show up on customer systems. A good example is jumbo datasets for the 3000's database. Jumbos, the 3000's best tool for supporting datasets bigger than 4GB, first surfaced out of HP's labs in 1995, just when the NewsWire was emerging. We put our news online in the months before we'd committed to print, and our report of September 1 had this to say."

HP will make the enhancement available as part of its patch system, bypassing the delay of waiting for another full release of MPE/iX. But there are already discussions from the HP 3000 community that a more thorough change will be needed before long — because 40-gigabyte datasets someday might not be large enough, either.

"Why care about 20- or even 10-year-old news? Because the 3000 has such a long lifespan where it's permitted to keep serving. In the conservative timeline of 3000 management, jumbos were the distant starlight, only becoming commonplace on 3000s a decade later. Jumbos are finally going to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP's engineers say their alpha testing to fix a critical bug in LFDS is going well."

"Like the jumbos before them, LFDS are also going to get a slow embrace. How slowly did jumbos go into production systems? Five years after jumbos first emerged, John Burke wrote in our net.digest column "it is hard to tell about the penetration of jumbo datasets in the user community beyond users of the Amisys application." His column also offered some tips on using jumbos, even while database experts in the community continued to lobby for a way to build larger files."

That reporting in 2005 marked the first time in a decade that 3000 customers could build a dataset as big as they needed. Up until then, LFDS had not been recommended for 3000 customers except in experimental implementations.

The nature of the 3000 community's starlight made a 10-year-old enhancement like jumbos current and vital. Alfredo Rego of Adager once said that his database software was designed like a satellite, something that might be traveling for decades or more and need the reliability of spacecraft to go beyond the reach of support transmissions. HP's signal for 3000s has died by now. We hope to repeat signals, as well as report, for more than another decade, onto the cusp of MPE's calendar reset of 2027. Thanks for receiving these transmissions.

10:58 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 06, 2016

SLEEPER, Awakened for the Masses

Sleep-1389978_1280The contributed program SLEEPER is probably the software cited most often as proof of the riches of the Contributed Software Library. First created outside of the IT shops of Boeing (according to its first writer Ray Legault) the program was among the most classic of solutions for straightforward jobsteam management. You wouldn't mistake SLEEPER for something professional like Maestro, or even the free MasterOp. But SLEEPER was contributed to the 3000 community, not cast into the free wilds like MasterOp was after its commercial career ended. It was meant to be shared.

The trouble was, SLEEPER disappeared from the community's shelves when Interex died. The CSL tapes (and eventually CDs) went off the grid, another skid-mark left when the user group careened into the void in 2005. It's been 11 years, though, and it's finally time to at least make SLEEPER ready for a wake-up call. We've got the two simple source files to share.

Nobody has liability anymore for HP 3000 contributed software. SLEEPER was never released with support or a license; it was simply part of being an Interex member at a certain level. And let us take a minute to recall that Interex folded owing millions of dollars to members and vendors. After 11 years, it's time to make this software a community resource once more. "Hey, I know a guy who can get you that" has been the means to share the utility over the last decade.

Surprisingly, it's just a well-packed 184K of SPL and FORTRAN code. MPE magic never took up much space. That's one of the reasons it was magic. SLEEPER is also a fine example of how 3000 managers helped one another.

We've thrown caution to the winds (not exactly a new event here) and loaded those two files onto our website servers for distribution. It comes with no warranty, of course. Like always with the CSL gems, using it carries the same risk that any contributed utility or application did.

The FORTRAN file is available. And the SPL code is at hand, too. One well-honored MPE/iX engineer looked over the software programs and said they were extraordinary.

The SPL is some of the better looking old-style SPL that I've seen. The FORTRAN is very nice looking.

The SPL program runs in the batch job. The FORTRAN program maintains a configuration file that is presumably used by the SPL program.

So let the jobs of MPE/iX, including those running on standard HP hardware as well as those on virtualized 3000s, be managed a bit more easily. I await your comments on rousing the talents of this classic tool.

10:06 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 01, 2016

Recovering Your Lost Logins

BWManIn the world of 2016, losing a password can be a time-bending experience. Apple's ID logins for its iCloud services, iTunes, and App Store only bear five attempts at most before they close out access to the phone. From there, you're on to a lengthy call to Apple. The smartphone is a tiny computer. The larger ones are not as strident about refusing repeated attempts, including the HP 3000.

They are secure, though. In these times when the servers can go dark for awhile as cold-start archive systems, though, a login can get misplaced. We're not supposed to write these things down, after all. What do you do when you have a question like the one below?

I restarted a 3000 9x7 after a few years in mothballs to run an old in-house app. I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS, but cannot remember or find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.

What follows are a couple of suggestions to get back into the manager's driver's seat. However, you'll need to at least have a ticket to ride in OPERATOR.SYS.

Gilles Schipper shares what he knows.

There's not an easy way around the security. But since you can log on as OPERATOR.SYS, you should be able to store off the system directory to tape, as follows:

:file t;dev=tape
:store command.pub;*t;directory

Now that you have the directory on tape, you should be able to move around with FCOPY (and its ;char;hex options) to find the password for MANAGER.SYS. And that's all assuming you haven't implemented the directory encryption feature available with HP's security product Security Monitor/iX.

There's one other way. It's a good thing, because the alternatives do not include a rescue call to HP. There's nothing like Apple's password recovery support left for the HP 3000, as the vendor has long ago left the field. However, a good support contract for an MPE/iX server can be just the thing, and we know where you can get one.

05:11 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)