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July 29, 2016

HP's Unix Demise, and Rise of the Machine

Star-Trek-HP-MachineThere it is, HP's nouveau The Machine. Ready to do work in the Star Trek era. A bedrock to 23d Century tech, we're told.

Alternatives to MPE/iX and HP 3000s amount to about four choices. Windows, Unix, Linux, and non-HP environments comprise this list that migration projects assess. Most of the time the choice leads to an application or a suite of apps to replace the MPE computing. When the door of migration has been kicked open by an environment re-boot, though, then discussion of operating systems is worth time spent in study.

HP-UX came of age in an era when the 3000 became the old-era product on Hewlett-Packard strategy slide decks. Unix was an open environment in a simple review. Deeper study showed most Unixes carried a stamp of the vendor selling the OS. HP's was no different. Now the demise of HP-UX is being debated, especially among those who do their work in that environment. Almost 4,000 members of an HP-UX Users group on LinkedIn heard from Bill Hassell about the future of HP-UX.

"Reports of the demise of HP-UX are greatly exaggerated," he said in reply to a taunt from Dana French, a fan of IBM's Unix. The lack of a major Version 12 release is of no concern, either.

Itanium and HP-UX are dead? This is definitely not the case as the attendees at the HP-UX BootCamp found out in April. HP-UX will be fully supported on current and future hardware beyond 2020. With the addition of de-dupe on VxFS filesystems and containers for legacy systems, new features will continue to expand the most stable OS in enterprise server offerings. The lack of version 12 is an acknowledgement to hundreds of application providers (not just Oracle) that a major release number change is very costly in regression testing and certification. Instead, major functionality is released as an update to 11.31.

Rise-of-HPs-MachineHP hasn't been the greatest help in telling this story of the stable HP-UX's holdout, a tale that's important to several thousand 3000 users who've migrated to HP-UX since 2002. Instead, another version of The Machine, the HP computer intended to make all others obsolete, will appear like it's been transported from a starship. This is a product with no known OS. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise doesn't talk much about operating systems. The Machine has been touted this year like it's a keystone to the future. That's why Star Trek's images have been employed to let this tech vision rise up.

There's nothing wrong with continuing to use HP-UX, according to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The future belongs to another platform, though. In one of the more surprising aspects to the story about The Machine, the man who hawked it hardest will soon retire from HP. Martin Fink did a lot of work on behalf of keeping HP-UX in orbit, too. It's a matter of debate about how quickly that orbit is degrading.

Fink is the first leader of HP Labs to leave the company in mid-project. Just as this year's prototype of The Machine edges into reality, he'll take his three decades of Hewlett-Packard experience into retirement. CEO Meg Whitman said “Martin has had a remarkable career, driving some of our most important initiatives, including our cloud, open source and Linux strategies, and leading the Business Critical Systems division and The Machine." She added that he left his mark on HP.

We'll overlook the marks of performance from the Business Critical Systems division of HP. It holds the future of HP-UX in its hands, but it's a group that C-level HP management has written off as a money-maker. The Machine is getting the television ad time this month, not HP-UX.

MPE/iX once was hungry for attention, too. It mattered even more to the 3000 user than this month's ads matter to Integrity server sites. The 3000 clan was already beset by HP's inattention inside the company. Hassell and others say that an April BootCamp for HP-UX and a Kittson chip to run the OS look like a steady future. 

Just like the NewsWire and its sponsors have a dog in the 3000 fight, Hassell has decades of knowledge and expertise in the struggle for HP-UX. When Hassell stops setting the record in place about the OS, then the 3000 converts to HP-UX will know the end is near. He's says that there's another nine years of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support in the pipe.

That will be nine years that HP uses to try to make The Machine something more real than a prop in a Star Trek commercial. There's no BootCamp for the memristor memory substrate, silicon photonics, a new operating system, and customized chips, all essentials to The Machine. The HP project for the future of another Enterprise — yours — has been a talking point for more than two years. HP talked about a 3000 architecture replacement for more than five years before anything shipped.

Hp-memristor-roadmapIf The Machine is lucky enough to earn the attention that HP gave to PA-RISC, then HP-UX will still have eight years of support left when the first Machine goes out of the HP Labs doors. Fink might be there in an emeritus role to wave it into the future. The timeline above shows The Machine shipping in 2018, but HP walked back that plan last year. PA-RISC had its delays too, but it was still part of HP Labs director Frank Carrubba's job when the first systems emerged in 1987. HP credits him as one of two inventors. The other was Joel Birnbaum, the scientist who campaigned for RISC adoption after he came to HP in 1981 from IBM.

The Machine is rising in a different manner than the PA-RISC architecture which made the HP-UX takeover a reality. The realism kicks in for The Machine because HP said it will "accelerate the time it takes to drive technology from research and development to commercialization. We will move Hewlett Packard Labs into the Enterprise Group." And so pure research takes its dive into a product organization at HP. Fink is the last director of an autonomous HP Labs to hold the job.

The customers who invested in HP's prior offering for vendor-specific tech—those HP-UX users—must now rely on Fink's management vision to carry them into a new generation of their Enterprise. Linux on Intel is a more likely next-generation for HP's Unix customers. It's a choice that needs no special vision. Linux is the open system software that HP-UX was touted to become. The migration to Linux is already underway at 3000 sites which adopted HP's Unix. They're can't tap the power of a transporter, but then neither can HP.

09:12 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2016

Did PCs hold Hewlett-Packard off the pace?

HPE-vs.-HPQ-Stock-2016Stock activity is the best-quantified way to assess the strength and prospects for a vendor. Few of the HP 3000 vendors ever reported stock pricing, so we always swung our spotlight on the system creator's stock. The results became entertaining after HP stopped making 3000s—but rarely entertaining in a good way. 

Now it appears that shedding its New Money products has pushed Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's stock into fresh territory. HPE hit the low $20s of share price this week. That's a 52-week high, and even higher if factoring in the fact the stock was chopped in two last fall.

Operating systems, software and hardware are only part of the story at HPE. Services were brought across in November, but their performance has skidded. As the break-off firm that reclaimed the HP Old Money business computing that drove enterprises, however, HPE has had a better time since the splitup. HPQ, making a living off the PCs and printers, remained under $14 a share today. The companies started out with equal assets and stock prices. What Enterprise has changed is the company's focus. The vendor is no longer trying to be everything to everybody.

Earlier this summer HPE announced it was getting even leaner. The enterprise services business, which bulked up HP's headcount and revenues as a result of acquiring 144,000 employees from EDS, will now be a separate entity. The move pushes HP closer to the business target it pursued while it was making the HP 3000 soar: sales to IT enterprises of software and hardware. This time around, they want to sell cloud computing too. But the old Apps on Tap program for the 3000 in the late '90s was a lot like that, too.

The extra systems focus, coupled with the stagnant action on the PC-printer side, suggests that straying from enterprise computing was a boat-anchor move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has put a new-era spin on the box-and-software pursuit, though. The CEO says putting Services on a separate course makes HPE a company with 100 percent of its revenues channel partner-driven. In effect it means all deals need a third party. This is the course the old HP could never adopt, much to the consternation of 3000 vendors.

What does it look like when HPE says it's an all-channel vendor? CEO Meg Whitman explained the enthusiasm in an article for Computer Reseller News.

"The message for the partner community around this spinoff is we now are even more enthusiastic about the partner community -- if that is even possible -- because we are pretty enthusiastic," said Whitman in an interview with CRN at June's Discover conference. "We have got to partner even more aggressively with our partner community to deliver software, to deliver converged infrastructure, to deliver hyper-converged. We have no business now that doesn't go through partners."

The convergence of software vendors with a system vendor got a short-circuit in the 1990s. HP adopted printer-style distribution and reseller strategies for its enterprise products. What was once a company-led salesforce became fractured. Software companies that built their business around an HP they knew and partnered with saw the company's focus tilt away from fine-tuned environments like MPE. Commodity computing ruled and the march toward Somebody Else's OS accelerated.

In the new Hewlett-Packard, commodity belongs on the HP Inc. side of the split-up vendor. All of those bodies selling and providing services will now be part of a mega-support corporation HPE is spinning off to Computer Sciences Corporation. Less commodity, less headcount-driven business—it makes the new entity feel more like the old company of the HP Way. Long gone, but apparently not forgotten at the executive level.

04:47 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2016

Even archival 3000s are keeping things aloft

Stromasys makes MPE/iX applications last forever, a mission that some manufacturing suppliers are taking to heart. Doug Smith of the vendor tells a story about a supplier to aircraft manufacturers which puts data from archival 3000s back into production, from time to time.

Doug SmithThese suppliers have moved their production IT to platforms such as SAP, he says. But they haven't retired their HP 3000 data. One reason is the amount of work needed to bring processes onto complex platforms like SAP. Rather than move everything into a new application suite, many companies only move open items. They might need others later. That's where an archival MPE system goes to work.

"SAP is so limited," Smith says. "It’s a structure you must fit into. You have to fit your business to work within SAP, more than SAP working to fit the business. You have to meet the software’s criteria just to move on to the next process, and that’s why it’s so much easier just to move the items that are open. Otherwise, you have re-create all of the substructure you had on the 3000 software. A 10-year project could become a one-year project if you only move the open items. You’re talking about saving millions of dollars."

For example, one aircraft supplier has been building parts for 40 years, work that started when the HP 3000 was brand-new. They didn’t bring all those parts over to their SAP replacement for the MPE/iX applications. "But they can get a call at any time that they need the landing gear for a certain type of aircraft, for example—and they don’t have the part on SAP," Smith says. "So they have to go back to the archive machine to get it processed. It’s not only for regulatory purposes. It’s for serving-the-customer purposes."

"If they haven’t sold a part in a certain number of years," Smith explains, "they say they don’t think they’ll sell it again. But when a customer comes back and wants that part, they’ll be charged a premium because they’re pulling up those components to build the part again. The aircraft can still fly. If they don’t have that information, though, they can’t service their customer."

Archival 3000s with a complete bill of materials can be production assets. It’s a way to keep replacement items open. "You can imagine what an aircraft bill of materials looks like," Smith says. "The list can be 10 parts, or 200,000 parts. Along with that you have assembly instructions, routings, and more, to tell you how to build this part. They call a Stromasys server an archive machine. That's due to the fact that the personnel are changing. The IT staff who are coming in are SAP guys."

09:38 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 22, 2016

3000-free Southwest suffers airline IT crash

Three straight days of system outages cost Southwest Airlines more than $10 million in lost fares this week. The company's COO Mike Van de Ven said that the router crashes which started the meltdown are not uncommon. But then the routers triggered Web server crashes. Finally, the company's disaster recovery plan failed to save the IT operations. Social media posts from customers complained of delayed flight departures and arrivals and an inability to check in for flights on Southwest's website. The running count by Friday morning was 700 canceled flights, with another 1,300 delayed. People could not get to gates without boarding passes.

Southwest-Airline-IT-crashCustomers running 3000s through the 1990s might remember Southwest as a shining star in the MPE/iX galaxy. The system came online with ticketless travel using MPE/iX software developed at Morris Air. When Southwest started to skip the paper, it was one of the very first major airlines to do so. Dispensing with paper tickets was possible because of the 3000's unparalleled reliability.

Stranding an estimate 4,000 customers was never a part of the 3000's history at Southwest. The computer was the dominant ticketing tool in an era before the elaborate security checks in the US. From Wednesday through today, customers on thousands of its flights could not check in at kiosks or via those web servers. The IT failure happened as the Republican National Convention closed out its Cleveland circus.

It's commonplace for a system vendor who's been shown the door, like the 3000 group was in the first decade of this century, to say "It wasn't on our watch" when a crash like this hits. But being commonplace won't recover those millions of dollars of revenues. Maybe they were a small fraction of the overall savings while leaving the 3000. The reliability of an airline is worth a lot more than delivery of a product, though, like an auto. Hertz was a 3000 shop for many years, and their portion of the travel business didn't suffer these woes, either.

Both companies made their IT 3000-free while the worst fact about the system was that HP stopped selling it. They both had plans to expand, strategies MPE/iX wasn't going to be able to handle easily, too. When a vendor ends their business plans for a server, the sweater of coverage unravels one thread at a time. Mission-critical systems are never supposed to leave a publicly traded company naked from the waist up, however.

Mission-critical design of air carrier IT architecture failed this week. In the ultra-competitive market for travel Southwest took a black eye that will cost several times more in lost sales than this week's travel refunds. Anxious travelers or crucial flyers will skip a Southwest flight for awhile. Travel has immense mission-critical demands.

The company's CEO Gary Kelly had to tell reporters something that founding CEO Herb Kelleher never was faced with. "We have significant redundancies built into our mission-critical systems, and those redundancies did not work," Kelly said in a conference call. "We need to understand why and make sure that that doesn't happen again." Southwest's chief commercial officer said every customer affected on Wednesday or Thursday would be contacted. The company extended for a week a fare sale scheduled that was supposed to end July 21.

Southwest also had to contact the travelers affected Friday, too. The contacting of vendors involved was not part of the stories this week. This would not be a good week to be the CIO at Southwest. Randy Sloan got the job this year, inheriting decisions like making Southwest 3000-free. Until Wednesday, that decision didn't seem like a risk.

In related news, Southwest extended its July fare sale by one week.

01:06 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2016

Manufacturing alternatives rise for 3000 sites

Modules-in-softwareHP 3000 sites are migrating away from their ERP and MRP applications. One of the largest MANMAN users in the world on MPE/iX has started its transition to SAP. That's a long journey for a company with almost a dozen manufacturing sites. But SAP and other software has the potential to give companies customization, features and flexibility beyond MANMAN. It's not to say that MANMAN can't do the job, but the effort to change it requires expertise at many steps.

One of the experts in MANMAN — arguably the leading advisors — say that software designed in the modern era improves ERP for longtime MANMAN users. For example, says Terry Floyd at the Support Group, the software at Nissan Calsonic's US plant made the leap from MANMAN to IFS, a project that Floyd's group engineered and completed this spring.

"IFS is much more suited to what Nissan Calsonic is doing than MANMAN ever was," Floyd said. "They had more modifications [to MANMAN] than anybody." The number of the mods slows the march of change. It also shows how far the business processes of users have drifted beyond the stock architecture of MANMAN. A product like IFS was built to accommodate pinpoint processes, in part because IFS was built at the dawn of the object-oriented era.

IFS has its basis in the late '80s, early '90s, he explained, and pieces of that ERP solution "have some of the earliest object-oriented programming stuff ever written. So IFS has a heck of a head start on other products. They're rewritten things a few times and changed interfaces like everybody has to, in order to stay modern."

"Kenandy seems simpler than IFS," he added, "on purpose." This other alternative to MANMAN is now in the works at the Support Group, which is implementing Kenandy at Disston Tools.

"Sandy Kurtzig [who founded the MANMAN line] really wanted to simplify it this time," Floyd said, referring to her Kenandy team's architecture. "She always said that about MANMAN, and it was truly simpler compared to IBM at the time." That's the early 1980s Floyd's talking about, when MANMAN was helping the 3000 rise up beyond 10,000 systems installed worldwide. It seems like a small number here in 2016, but those were simpler, smaller times. People ran manufacturing on batch processing. MANMAN "was the early conversational data entry system. But things are more automated now than ever."

"Kenandy is all one thing, and that's the biggest surprise," he said. "It's not a bunch of modules. It does everything you need, from general ledger to fixed assets to payables. It's not like you buy an extra module to manage your fixed assets. It's free, included in Kenandy. This makes Kenandy really different from everything [used for ERP]. Everything else has modules." Modules have to talk to one another, he explained, so having one application instead of modules makes Kenandy superior, even to more modern solutions like IFS. "But only because it's 20 to 30 years newer."

10:31 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2016

Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips

Samba sharing on our 3000 using Windows Explorer is slow, but it gets the job done. However, if I take down networking on the 3000 and bring it back up, Windows Explorer tells me the 3000 is inaccessible. Ping works, Reflection connections work and Internet Explorer has no trouble connecting to our Apache/iX web site. What's happening to the 3000's networking?

Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:

Samba-on-3000After rebooting the PC, everything works again until networking on the 3000 is refreshed. Your solution should address the fact that Windows is maintaining a table of connections that needs to be refreshed in DOS. From the DOS command line, issue the command nbtstat -R or nbtstat -RR.

James Byrne also points out:

You can get into trouble with cached credentials with Windows Active Directory as well. You can clear them from the command line with:

net session \\samba.server.ip.address /delete

Or you can do it through the Credentials Manager on the workstation's Control Panel. However you clear the cache, you still need to restart the workstation with the problem cache — because the credentials are still in memory.

It's been a long time since I worked with FORMSPEC. I have a screen that is used to enter data.  I want the data to remain on the screen after the enter key is pressed. Is that done using FORMSPEC, or is it done in some sort of a COBOL statement?

Alan Yeo says:

VPLUSThat is the default behavior. When you press enter, the host program is triggered to read the data (if it chooses) and then to either update, clear, etc. By default VPLUS won't clear the data from the screen when you press enter (in fact it does virtually nothing when you press enter) — either the host program (or Entry?) is doing it explicitly, or one of the clear/ repeat/ append settings for the form in FORMSPEC has been set to instruct VPLUS to clear the form.

Gilles Schipper points out:

You can do it in FORMSPEC or programmatically. When creating or modifying the form in FORMSPEC, simply specify "R" in the repeat option for the form you wish to repeat.

Programmatically, you can set the appropriate parameter prior to issuing the appropriate series of VPLUS intrinsic calls.

Generally, the specifications of your form design can be dynamically overridden programmatically — unless you use ENTRY.PUB.SYS to enter your data into a data file.

08:09 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 15, 2016

An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped

Carly TumblingBill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.

Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly. 

I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago  there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.

Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.

Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.

An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.

SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.

This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.

"I will agree that the Proliant continues to be a strong product," said the anniversary employee, "one important to migrating HP 3000 sites. Although she couldn’t have foreseen the Oracle stab in the back which basically killed the already declining proprietary UX business, she did establish a base that gives HPE a stronger position than organic HP (Netserver) probably have had on its own."

Which proves that nothing is completely worthless, even as it appears so after thorough scrutiny. "There's got to be a pony in there somewhere," goes the joke about mucking out an impossibly foul stall. ProLiant and a base for HPE might be Carly's pony. She might also be holding out for a cabinet spot. Secretary of Commerce might be above her skill set, though.

08:38 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2016

How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free

KiteThe 3000 community has been receiving updates for simulator project this year. This isn't the software that virtualizes the PA-RISC servers which were the ultimate boxes in HP's 3000 line. This simulator software is strictly shareware, strictly free, and strictly built to emulate a previous generation's HP 3000s. The SIMH project can turn a PC into a Classic HP 3000, the sort that used MPE III, IV, or V as its operating system.

This is also a project that points to the lifecycle of HP's operating system products in the public domain. A hobbyist -- or a company that could get along with a 3000 with circa 1991 power and OS -- needs a copy of MPE V to make this freeware simulation work. Where you get this software is up to you. But it's not a secret, either. The process to free involves the passage of time, the end of commercial sales, and perhaps HP's tacit approval.

The creators of SIMH are assuming HP won't be reining in the 20-year-old OS built for the previous MPE generation. Dave Bryan, who posted a note about a new version of the SIMH simulator for the 3000, said that the HP Computer Museum in Australia has helped to make MPE V available for simulator use via a website.

I assembled the kit from the tape image in that directory, which was supplied to me by Al Kossow of Bitsavers. Al then posted the kit and tape on his site.

Before undertaking the 3000 simulator project, I verified with Al in 2011 that he would be able to post an MPE image, and he confirmed that he could.

This year marks a milestone in the 3000's Classic generation: a moment to download the needed MPE V OS without a license concern. If Kossow's upload is legal, this version of MPE V has become freeware.

This kind of open source status is what the 3000 community pursued for MPE/iX for the better part of a decade. As the ultimate 3000 OS, MPE/iX hasn't moved into the state of a GPL license (for sharing). Not yet. But there was a time when HP's MPE V was closely guarded and licensed, too. Nowadays, not so much. The transfer to open access for an OS requires time. HP hasn't sold an MPE/iX system in almost 13 years. The company stopped selling MPE V servers 21 years ago. The clock might be running toward an unfettered MPE/iX.

The release of a 3000 OS into the skies of sharing is based on other HP operating system lifespans. More than a decade ago, HP issued a free hobbyist license for OpenVMS. This was possible because the product started its life in DEC. Later on, though, the release of the HP 1000's RTE into the open skies showed how HP could set an older OS free. The HP 1000 was off the HP corporate price list for less than 15 years by the time its OS went native.

Bryan explained how MPE V came to be available as a download from a site called Bitsavers. Al Kosslow's help was important.

Al is also the software curator of the Computer History Museum. I know that the CHM obtained licensing from HP for the HP 1000 Software Collection that Bitsavers hosts, and I know that Al and the CHM were in discussions some time ago with HP regarding their 3000 software. I don't know the content or extent of those discussions.

A visit to the Bitsavers link shows what's available for MPE V. The simulator's software help file reports the following.

A preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image containing the Fundamental   Operating Software (FOS), selected SUBSYS language processors (BASIC, BASICOMP, COBOL, COBOL II, FORTRAN, PASCAL, RPG, and SPL), and example programs is available from Bitsavers. The archive contains instructions and simulator command files that  allow ready-to-run operation.

The disc image is contained in "mpe-vr-software-kit.zip". The directory also contains "32002-11018_Rev-2548.zip", which is the MPE-V/R FOS  tape, if you prefer to generate everything yourself. The software kit includes the console logs from the RELOAD that used the above tape image to produce the disc image.

09:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2016

How to Use Input to Create Output Files

Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000. It was a long time ago, as I was reminded by Olav Kappert in a call about his HP 3000 history. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," he said. Kappert started with the 3000 in 1979.

Fast-forward 37 years later and you'll find questions from a different programmer still working on a 3000, adding features to a system. The Obtaining File Information section of a KSAM manual on MPE/iX holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem.

I'm still using our old HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. My problem is how to use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file. I want that output file to be essentially an exact replica of the input file (give or take some of the data). I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program. 

I'm using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, after I have opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.

Francois Desrochers replies

How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call.

Donna Hofmeister adds 

You might want to get a copy of the "Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64" manual. Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.

But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.

In a lively tech discussion on the 3000-L list, Olav Kappert added, 

Since you want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program, the only way is to use one of the MPE intrinsics to determine all the characteristics of the file in question. Then do a command build after parsing that information.

Michael Anderson added details on how the 3000's CI scripting can build upon the fundamentals of file information and COBOL.

I like Donna's plan.This is a strategy that will also help whenever you want similar functionality on a NON-MPE platform. Also, although COBOL is very capable, an external script might be a better tool. You don't always need a hammer.

This is hypothetical, to try to make a point. From your MPE CI prompt, type HELP FINFO. You should be able to set some variables (SETVAR FILEA "XXX"), and using FINFO add some more variables. Then from COBOL using HPCIGETVAR, string together a BUILD command (with a bigger LIMIT maybe), and call "HPCICOMMAND". You could string the build command from a command, into a single variable, then COBOL only needs to HPCIGETVAR once.

You can also write a script to do everything you want, and call HPCICOMMAND to run the script, pass it parms. It's pretty cool, and it makes your COBOL application more portable. (Same program, different script).

For example: On MPE I once wrote (using COBOL) a small utility to CALL DBINFO, extract all the meta-data from any IMAGE database, and then create, and write to the NEW KSAM COPYLIB, ending up with all the COBOL copylib modules needed for all datasets for any database, including call statements and working storage. My point to all this: I used CI scripting to create and write to the copylib. I actually used ECHO to write the copylib ksam file from a CI script. Now, seeing how I work more on HP-UX and Linux, plus OpenCOBOL and Eloquence, I should be able to compile this same program on Linux with minimal modifications, only changing the external script.

I use this method to access SQL databases, and much more, using OpenCOBOL and the Tcl/Tk developer exchange. This way I can run the same program, same script almost anywhere, no matter, Windows, Mac, or Unix.

Eric Sand, another veteran of the 3000, commented that this kind of challenge really shows off the range of possibility for solving development problems. "You can create almost any cause and effect in MPE that you can imagine," he said. "Reading about your concern gave me a little rush, as I mentally organized what I wanted to do to address your concern."

09:12 AM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2016

Is there something you desire in MPE/iX?

The 3000 homesteader probably misses the System Improvement Ballot, a way to petition HP for improvements to MPE. The results of these requests were often unveiled at an August user conference. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present for some customers, or finding a lump of coal in the stocking for others who sadly watched their requests bypassed.

But there’s still a way to meet desires for MPE/iX functionality. The answer lies in open source. Brian Edminster explained.

Unless a miracle occurs - we've probably seen the last of a 'Systems Improvement' survey/ballot.  That's a real shame - because there's still quite a lot of life left in the system - and there'd be more if we could teach her some new tricks.

Perhaps, though, we could find an equivalent:

Seems to me, because much open source software is of a subsystem or utility variety - perhaps it would be worthwhile to poll the community for what packages they need but can't get (i.e. not ported yet?), or need — but the existing ports aren't current enough and need updating.

If nothing else, it would provide those of us that tinker in this area with a bit more direction than just what we might currently need.

The community of 3000 customers could offer requests and help through the 3000-L mailing list, or leave a note here. Open source software was a breakthough for the 3000 in the late 90s. It's not too late to let a port change things.

08:51 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 06, 2016

Low-code solutions give ERP a new face

ERP software such as MANMAN has always carried a burden: it's most useful when it's been modified. Mods, as the customization is called, locks a company into the technology and business choices of the past, though. The old style ERP demanded coding to stay fluent. Software of today wants to avoid all that.

Rainbow faceSalesforce, whose engine drives the Kenandy ERP replacement for MANMAN and the like, says that "Low-code development platforms are transforming the way we build apps, opening up app development to a whole new world of point-and-click app developers and designers." Watching a demonstration from the Support Group's Terry Floyd of Kenandy showed how straightforward fine-tuning has become—once you know the settings to make the software dance.

Floyd's company has started taking Disston Tools to Kenandy, leaving behind more than two decades of MANMAN use and a heavy reliance on EDI software bolted into MANMAN. Floyd is providing in-service experience to Disston, based on his own company's use of Kenandy. "It's overkill for us to run our [consulting and development] company on," he said, "but we've learned so much about how to set it up for our clients."

There's configuration to set up internal email in Kenandy for example, the Chatter that can attach notes and comments to items like purchase orders. Kenandy always billed itself as Social ERP for this reason. It puts a new face on how resource planning should work. But it also gives companies of all sizes a way to take charge of changes with less programming.

Not zero coding, to be sure. But knowing your way around FORTRAN used to be essential to modifying MANMAN, if your company was lucky enough to have source code to mod. Salesforce explains low-code this way.
  • Empowers citizen developers and business analysts to build apps without code
  • Turns manual spreadsheets and paper processes into apps
  • Builds an agility layer on top of back-office systems

"It's so darn flexible," Floyd says, sitting at a PC and driving Kenandy through an everyday browser. "It's a lot of setup, to set up all the reports that you want to make your income statement, your trial balance, all populated with your accounts. We took our installation of Kenandy completely empty, and we've learned so much in setting it up for our company."

When Kenandy talks about empowering citizen programmers — apparently less-technical employees who can shape the software to fit a company's needs — it's light years away from a MANMAN customer's experience. A manufacturing company can get so deep into mods that it no longer can change the ERP package. Source code gets lost over three decades of use. An ERP solution that can be as flexible as source-mod solutions, but leave room for deep customization, is what Floyd's company is bringing to Disston.

08:14 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 04, 2016

Celebrate Your Independence Today

As this is the Fourth of July in the United States, we're taking time away from the news desk to celebrate Independence Day, as we call it. If you think about it, your choice to remain on an HP 3000 -- even if it's on a long journey toward migration -- is a celebration of independence.

As examples of what that means in practice, have a look at the following articles:

On support for 3000s: HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

On MPE licenses, and the need for them in the post-HP era:Customers debate definition of a licensed HP 3000

On how respecting an HPSUSAN supports independent software vendors: 3000's IDs protect independent SW vendors

UK BuntingEmbrace your independence as an HP 3000 partner or customer, whenever that new course suits you. If you're migrating, your company's internal schedule will determine your new platform and when you will move. It's obviously not based on HP's support deadline, which is just as expired as George Washington. This is a holiday we celebrate to mark the country's trip down a new path independent of its founding authority figure, Great Britain. I am told the British celebrate today as "the anniversary of the time we got rid of those pesky colonists."

Which goes to show how anything can be viewed from more than one point of view, so long as you have an independent mind.

08:56 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 01, 2016

Celebrate independence this weekend

Fireworks-74689_1920Over this weekend in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day by vacationing from work, driving cars on some of least expensive gasoline in the world, and reflecting, between fireworks' starbursts, how lucky we are to choose. For a lot of people, this time around it's a four-day holiday, more largesse we enjoy if we're fortunate.

Although July 4th is a distinctly US holiday, a British friend of mine says it's the UK's independence day, too — as in, "We're rid of that dysfunctional colony once and for all." Think for a moment, if you're reading this on the holiday or the days that follow, the items you can celebrate leaving behind while you continue your use of the HP 3000.

You are independent from inflexible pricing on 3000 support (what non-HP entities could compete when HP was in the market in a serious way?), as well as the need for HP-branded storage. Now there's the Stromasys solution to replace aging hardware, if you have concerns about disks that are dozens of years old. Or use newer ones. Plenty of SCSI disks will work with 3000s without bearing the HP badge. The SCSI pass-through driver will embrace even more, once the software is applied to the task by the community's experts.

Then you can celebrate the long-gone uncertainty about HP's plans for the system. For each year we published The 3000 NewsWire up to 2001, the community worried that Hewlett-Packard was locking MPE/iX and the 3000 in the enterprise ghetto. Being turned out onto the streets of independence eliminates that wild card from your relationship with the system.

But perhaps most of all, the independence of the 3000's Transition Era gives any user of the system The Power of Now. That's the title of the Oprah-discovered classic book by Eckhart Tolle. He says that the true pleasure of Now is that it removes the pain in life. We're drawn to the future, as well as the past, by our ego. The ego makes us crazy and our lives miserable.

The future is something our mind creates, while the past is where we believe our identity grew up. In truth, our self is something inside us, rooted as deep as your company's business mission. Now this community is liberating its self to enjoy the stability of a system still working as promised, without the vexation of Vista, or the stagnation of Unix, the dizzy puzzle of database elements, or being tethered to Microsoft's free-falling business strategy. Embracing this self should feel like independence.

Years ago, your company chose an integrated solution in the 3000. Although nothing lasts forever, this system will continue to serve until the Internet runs out of addresses (IPv6 is coming) or Microsoft tosses a data access curve you can't work around. Until then, you can live in the Now. If you don't want to create any more pain in your life, don't create any more time than is necessary to keep your IT resources doing their job. Futures, pasts, roadmaps, none of these exist in reality. Ask a 3000 community member about roadmap reality.

"Don't create any more time than is necessary to deal with the practical aspects of life," Tolle advises. Celebrate independence from the future (now that HP is departing) as well as the past. Always say yes to the present moment, something you can define on your own. HP has left this choice to you.

09:02 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)