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December 28, 2016

HPE losing weight for 2017: in servers, too?

SlimdownHewlett-Packard Enterprise made itself smaller during 2016, the natural progression of a slim-down that started in the fiscal 2016 period for the company. Annual results for the first full year of the dual-HP venture—one devoted to business computing, the other to all else—showed a continued decline in sales. HP cut its software group loose this quarter, selling off assets like Autonomy to Micro Focus. Becoming smaller has not helped HPE's overall numbers quite yet.

Sales at the Enterprise group, home to 3000 replacements like ProLiant servers, fell by 9 percent from 2015's Q4. The full HPE sales tally for the quarter dropped by $900 million in year-over-year measures. Were it not for favorable currency shifts, the company would have had to bear the full range of these losses. Until HP could offset its results with divestitures and currency benefits, the Enterprise Group ran $403 million in the red. A total of $50.1 billion in HPE sales was booked in 2016. More than $3 billion in profits were left after expenses were met and taxes were paid.

A report from Patrick Moorhead at Forbes noted that the sell-off of HPE software to Micro Focus was a marriage to a company with a solid history of preserving acquired products. Whitman "bragged on Micro Focus a bit," Moorhead wrote, "saying that the company has never shut down a product that they acquired and merged with, and that their growing assets will be important moving forward." He added that the statement looked like it was crafted to keep the former HPE software customers satisfied with becoming Micro Focus clients.

HPE keeps slimming itself down to ensure its expenses will drop. Since revenues are on a decline year over year, the ploy to sell off businesses with dim short-term prospects seems destined to continue. On the website The Street a story has reported that according to Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha, Hewlett Packard Enterprise could part with its servers, storage, IT support and consulting. One potential buyer might be the Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company Huawei.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's server business, which Garcha values at $8.9 billion, could interest Huawei. The unit has $15.4 billion in projected fiscal year 2017 sales and $1 billion in Ebitda, Credit Suisse estimates.

Bedrock platform software is moving outside HP, too. There's already a timetable for turning over the OpenVMS software operations. HP 3000 owners remember the days when HP sold application software that could compete because its installed base propped up mainframe server support contracts. Things have peeled apart by today. Support contracts are the shadow profitability tied to OS operations.

Even after paying MicroFocus and losing billions in software support dollars, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise believe it will still save money. Company strategists have looked at this gambit and concluded the savings are genuine. The software business at HPE doesn't include operating systems like OpenVMS; those are groomed and improved in the Enterprise group.  sorry for the loss of jobs at HP, and more sorry that customer service levels might decline. Or not; we don't know yet.

HP wanted to be ranked No. 1 in selling everything. It turns out being ranked No. 1 in profits matters most. If that wasn't true, there wouldn't be an HPE today -- just an HP. CEO Meg Whitman said the company's on target for what it wants to become. Divesting software and services in 2016 led Whitman to sum up the year. "The HPE that emerges after the two spin mergers will have a clear vision, the right assets, and direct line of sight to significant market opportunities," she said.

 

07:01 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 26, 2016

Did you get what you wished for?

Waving SantaNine years ago we ran an article that suggested 10 things a 3000 owner could put on their Christmas list. Most of them were directed Hewlett (Santa) Packard, since the vendor's toy factory was so full. After this weekend of Christmas, it's instructive to take a look at what was delivered from the 2007 list and why—or why not. In summary, the HP 3000 hardware remained frozen in time. The software did advance, though. Here's the wishes.

1. Unleashing the full horsepower of A-Class and N-Class 3000s

You got this only if you poked around for a third party consultant who knows how to do this. HP had three more years of support and one more year of full MPE/iX lab when we wrote that wish in 2007. All those years made no dent in the vendor's resolve. It's okay, there's Charon HPA from Stromasys to introduce speedy futures.

2. Or just unleashing the power of the A-Class 3000s (since the A-Class operates at no more than one quarter of its possible speed)

Didn't get this, either. We're always surprised to see how many A-Class systems still show up for work every day. The A-Class amounted to the Series 9x8 caliber of PA-RISC for MPE/iX.

3. Well, then just unleash the N-Class systems' full clock speeds

Like a broken record here: this didn't appear under any tree, either Christmas, phone support, or other kinds. There is a way to employ eight CPUs on 3000-class PA-RISC servers. Don't ask HP about it. Your independent support provider will probably have a story to tell you.

4. HP's requirements to license a company for MPE/iX source code use

The market got this a couple of Christmases later. Source didn't matter much to the future of the system. It improved some workaround options, though. This became more important as more workarounds edged into the 3000's support practices from independent providers.

Other items we wanted under our trees

5. A way to use more than 16GB of memory on a 3000

This too did not surface from HP, but the third party world has heard of ways to do this. Since all the 3000s are no longer bound by HP support limits, extra memory on an N-Class can be added beyond 8GB.

6. A 3000 network link just one-tenth as fast as the new 10Gbit Ethernet

This was a hardware request, like the others above. HP didn't come through on this, but any emulated 3000 has access to 10Gbit speeds and more.

7. A water-cooled HP 3000 cluster, just like IBM used to make

Might as well ask for this along with all the rest. No water cooling. A 3000 is so reliable that a big box fan can keep it cooled in the worst of environments, though.

8. A guaranteed ending date of HP's 3000 support for MPE/iX

One more thing HP granted, one year later. We only learned it was guaranteed when the December 2010 end of support deadline showed up and the vendor stopped renewing support contracts.

9. Freedom to re-license your own copy of MPE/iX during a sale of an 3000

HP still wants to be involved in this kind of sale, 13 years after it built the last of its 3000 boxes. You have this freedom if HP's official licensing of 3000s is about as important as a buggy whip to an Audi.

Number 10? We could wish for a long life and continued interest in MPE/iX from the HP 3000 gurus of the community. "There's nobody to bring any of these gifts if nobody cares inside of Hewlett Packard." That didn't turn out to be true. We've watched the hamstrung Hewlett-Packard systems unlocked by virtualization. In one swift move, Nos. 1-3, 5 and 6 got delivered. Not bad. All we needed was for a third party vendor to get its Santa cap on.

05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2016

The True Meaning of A 3000 Christmas

Charlie and LinusCharlie Brown shouts to the stars in the 1966 TV classic, "Isn't there anybody here who knows the true meaning of Christmas?" Linus leads him to the story that started the season which we're now ending. I like to think of that character's voice delivering an answer to the question, "Doesn't anybody remember the true meaning of MPE/iX?" Linus might say, "Its value, Charlie Brown, and its promises kept."

Like the commercial holiday that Charlie despised, there was always the phrase "you could just tell them to migrate" while discussing what HP's 3000 iron cannot do.

Feelings can affect choices and confirm faith. There was a design to extend the 3000's memory from 8GB to 32. But HP explained it couldn't justify doing that kind of work any longer. Adding "So migrate" might have sent people looking for systems with better memory, like a Christmas tree all shiny and new.

There are people who have known MPE/iX just as long as HP's lab experts, and some more deeply. A team of third party experts wrote the book Beyond RISC. HP bought thousands of copies. These two sides, first inside HP and now out in the expert community have wooed and rued that MPE gal, all while she has gained weight (years) and lost her tone (customers, demanding updates) and shown more grey (elderly versions of Ethernet, SCSI, all the tendrils of open source).

Yes, they've both had a relationship with her, but the outside experts still love her. HP's experts took her out, bought her dinner, even gave some gifts to show they knew her. The true meaning of MPE/iX and protecting a promise now resides in the wise Linus of our world, the independent software and support providers.

"I don't know what you see in MPE," HP experts wrote while drifting beyond technical theory. "Why not just leave her at home to watch old movies? She's happy enough there. And there's younger people you could take out. They even know music written after 1992!"

"They do, those new ones," I hear an indie expert saying. "But MPE knows more song lyrics than those new women will ever learn. Remember when lyrics mattered to make a song a classic? Poetry, that stuff. Plus, I still see her beauty. It was striking when she was younger. Fellas swooned over her—even the big guys who pass her by now."

"You could do better."

"Maybe so. But what about my commitment to her. What's that worth?"

"Lock yourself in with her, if you want," HP said. "I just wish people would stop hitting her website. I gotta maintain that place, you know. It doesn't feel like anybody appreciates that work that I do — or what I've done for years, really." And with enough time, even that web information became invisible. Third parties reposted it. To think that the documentation was once licensed by HP— it is as surprising as seeing that Christmas tree come to life in Charlie Brown's world.

"You could do more," your indie experts said to the vendor. "She deserves it."

"If my parents would let me, I could," HP said. "But they tell me that I should be with a younger partner, one who can give them more grandchildren, not a load of medical bills and health issues. Shin splints, geez. Next it'll be something else. It always is with the older ones."

Feelings are not facts, but they just lead to thoughts, and those led to actions. MPE/iX isn't a tool that's worn out, not any more than the words of Christmas carols are empty of faith. Words matter. Enjoy your loved ones during the holiday break — whoever they are, and whatever they have been or can become again.

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

December 21, 2016

Wayback Wed: A Dark Day for Emulation

LasthopeThe future looked dim for hosting MPE/iX on virtual hardware in December of 2009. Your market had little news about the forthcoming Charon HPA 3000 emulator. That software was only in alpha testing. This was the month that Strobe Data announced it was curtailing development of its 3000 emulator. Your community headed into 2010 with the hope of a Stromasys success and HP's promise to announce the new independent holders of MPE/iX source licenses.

Licensing source for an OS that only runs on aging HP hardware has value, indeed. Support customers benefit from outside licenses. It's well worth asking if your support vendor has such a license. But as a model to extend the lifespan of MPE/iX in production, source won't do the work that an emulator does: create new boxes.

Strobe hoped to do that using new hardware. The company started as a venture to emulate Digital computers as well as the HP 1000 real time machines. Many roadblocks stood in the way of a successful 3000 emulator launch in 2009. Strobe's founder Willard West intended to sweep away some obstacles by obtaining new PA-RISC processors. The chips were to be integrated on cards that would go into high-end Windows servers.

But development takes money. The resources for non-Digital development at Strobe did not materialize. It would take two more years for the ultimate winner in 3000 emulation, Stromasys, to bring out a product that needed no special HP hardware—just a special OS to run, MPE/iX.

An economic lull at the end of 2009--HP was reporting declines in all of its businesses except services --set the 3000/PA-RISC emulation work onto Strobe's back burner. The rate of hardware aging made a profound difference to Strobe, a small concern compared to Stromasys.

"We are just trying to survive the lull in government orders right now," the company's Alan Tibbetts said during the dark of that December. "The trouble is that the sales of our [Digital] PDP-11 line are down. The PDP-11s became unreliable more quickly and we have sold a bunch of them in the past, but the easy ones have already been captured." The month was a moment like the epic one in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda watches Luke fly off Degobah, his training unfinished. "That boy was our last hope," he said. "Now matters are worse."

"No," Obi Wan replies. "There is another."

Stromasys announced in the summer of 2009 it was putting its PA-RISC emulation solution into alpha testing in the fall. We reported the Stromasys product "won't rely on hardware components, going to an all-software solution that provides cross-platform virtualization. The emulator will permit MPE/iX to boot up and run on Intel's Xeon-x86 processor family as well as AMD's PC chips." A stalled IT economy looked like it just claimed the leader in emulator work.

Tibbetts said that Strobe has leaned itself up in order to weather the lull and it continues to meet with customers to secure new emulator sales in the 1000 and PDP markets. He added that he's traveling to New York State this week to install an emulation product at BAE Systems, which is testing US military jet engines using 1985-era minicomputers.

The sidetracking of emulator work at Strobe can be viewed in more than one perspective. HP 3000 community members have long wondered if competing emulator solutions could survive in the MPE/iX marketplace. The market has a strong inventory of used hardware, much of which could be considered an upgrade for owners of older 3000s. Companies have already left the market who might have been emulator customers—had HP made technology licensing available sooner to the vendors' R&D teams.

Stromasys bridged that gap, finding new 3000 clients from companies who were not on obvious maps. Two years later the first steps of a public Charon showing appeared on the trail. Watching an emulation company run short of funding didn't spook Stromasys—it also had Digital emulation customers. It had a different concept, through, as well as a broader set of resources to make the design a reality.

05:35 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2016

University completes its course with regrets

ISU logoAfter decades of use in a wide array of business and educational functions, the Idaho State University of has shut down its HP 3000s. The institution worked with Powerhouse tools from the earliest days of the 3000, a period that included some years using MPE V.  Idaho State University turned off our HP 3000s. "We have the one N-Class server, plus two A-400s, for sale or for parts if there is interest." 

John MacLerran reported to the 3000 mailing list, "with fond memories", the accomplishments and lifespan of MPE/iX at the university based in Pocatello.

The HP 3000 had been in use at ISU since the early 1980s, running everything from Procurement and Payroll to Student Registration and Grading. When I started work at ISU as a programmer in 1984, we had two Series 68s (later upgraded to Series 70s). Over the years, we upgraded as budget allowed. We installed the current boxes in Summer of 2001. Our production box was an N4000 4-way 440 mHZ box, and our development box was an A400 110 mHZ box. In 2004 we added a VA7100 array to our N4000 box, and it was this configuration that we turned off in October.

We went live with Banner, an ERP for universities, in 2009— but some applications on the HP 3000s hung on much longer because there was no suitable replacement in the ERP system. 

Since we are a State of Idaho agency, there is a somewhat convoluted process for us to sell the boxes, but if there is any interest, you can contact our Customer Services manager Tony Lovgren at lovgtony@isu.edu for more information.

Idaho State worked, tested, and managed its migration over more than 11 years. Since the choice to migrate was replacing in-house Powerhouse with the Banner application, its exit from the 4GL was simplified. Batch processing was harder to replace.

A bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now, renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," MacLerran said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law.

These revisions following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."

It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."

Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.

A more complete spec listing of the available 3000s:

  • N4000 - 4-way 440mHZ with 16 GB RAM, 3SCSI ports, PCI Fibre-Channel interface card.
  • A400 - 110mHZ -- Perhaps RAM of 512MB
  • A400 - 400mHZ -- not sure how much RAM (we got this from another state agency, but never turned it on) 

Due to State of Idaho regulations, the university cannot include disk drives -- by law they must wipe, and then shred them.

11:17 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2016

Friday Fine-Tune: Login recovery strategies

We have changed passwords on MANAGER.SYS—and now we cannot locate the changed passwords, thanks to some staff reductions that made the new passwords unavailable. Any ideas on how to recover them?

John Stevens says

If you're logged on as OPERATOR.SYS, do LISTACCT on all the accounts that may have SM capability, then logon as the MGR/MANAGER of those accounts: TELESUP, and SUPPORT, and there are others; LISTACCT will find them. Login as those users (unless you don't have those passwords either) and LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS. Vesoft's MPEX might help ease some of this as well.

Duane Percox of QSS adds a simpler approach:

If you can log onto operator.sys:

file xt=mytape;dev=disc
file syslist=$stdlist
store command.pub;*xt;directory;show

Using your favorite editor or other utility search for the string: "ALTUSER MANAGER SYS"
You will notice: PAS=<the pwd> which is your clue.

Steve Ritenour suggests that a logon to the TELSUP account will unlock the passwords.

Some 3000 managers believe the subject itself should be filed in a place not easily found. "These responses are all well and good," said Bruce Collins of Softvoyage, "but shouldn't we be thinking twice about posting this kind of information (i.e. how to hack an HP 3000) to the 3000 newsgroup?"

Bill Lancaster disagreed. Secrecy about password recovery is not really a secret, he said.

A Google search with the right words will yield far more dangerous information about the 3000 that anything in this thread. The genesis of this information being on public networks came through BBS’s in the 1980s. I’m afraid the barn door is already open.

Can the password for MANAGER.SYS be reset?

Gilles Schipper says

Not easily. If 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 look around with fcopy (and the ;char and ;hex options) to find passwords for manager.sys.

John Stevens says

If you're logged on as OPERATOR.SYS, do LISTACCT on all the accounts that may have SM capability, then logon as the MGR/MANAGER of those accounts: TELESUP, SUPPORT, (I can't think of others right now, but LISTACCT will find them). Login as those users (unless you don't have those passwords either), and LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS MPEX might help ease some of this as well.

08:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2016

HP: Still a font of talent after all these years

It's Wayback Wednesday, but the 3000's history recall has fresh entries from the current day. A lot of HP 3000 sites turned away from Hewlett-Packard's offerings over the last 15 years. But more than a few have not, even after three CEO ousters and a split up of the company into consumer and enterprise parts. There's still something in the split-off parts to admire. A new book chronicles lasting HP lessons to the industry players who are lapping HP today.

HewlettandPackardAmong the former: thousands of HP employees who've spent decades serving the HP customer. From engineering desk to conference presentation room, too many people to count or name have lifted the level of service. We heard from one today, Guy Paul, who once managed HP 3000s for the vendor and now is working on network storage for HP Enterprise. When asked what's remained stellar about the company where he's worked for 32 years, Paul pointed at people.

"The only thing that has remained that is good is the dedicated hard-working people I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from all these years," he said. He was compelled to add that many are leaving after the HP split up "and a merger all happening within one year." It's always been true that HP's loss of superior people is the industry's gain. So much of the 3000 independent enterprise earned its stripes by way of direct work with HP, too.

Some of that bounty has been released this week. A new management book might be cause for little celebration, but take a closer look at the new Becoming Hewlett-Packard. It was co-authored by a former top HP executive, Webb McKinney. He was interviewed eight years ago at the Minicomputer Software Symposium at the Computer History Museum. More than 20 of us were contributing 3000 stories at the Symposium, but the oral history McKinney gave at the Museum was even better. Best practices for the industry haven't changed that much since then. The HP book even makes a case for why the practices that have changed ought to change back. We're talking the HP Way here—although the book makes it clear that donuts are not a pillar of the Way.

In a great book review and summary at the MIT Technology Review, the HP Way is among four lessons Hewlett-Packard's departed leaders still offer for top movers of our current day.

Make sure “culture” is about values, not practices. HP’s founders created what became known as the HP Way in several ways. Examples include insisting that the company enter markets only where it could make a meaningful contribution of valuable technology; asking employees to take pay cuts in tough times to avoid layoffs; and fostering understanding and collaboration between all corners of the company. “Management by walking around,” they called it.

But as the years passed, many employees came to equate the HP Way with particular traditions, such as the daily doughnut breaks meant to encourage conversation, or the right of top performers to earn full product-and-loss authority over their own product groups. That last one became a huge problem for [former CEO] John Young, because building computer platforms requires development of hardware, software, and other technologies that are all interdependent.

The future leaders of today’s tech giants should be prepared for similar grumbling if they have gotten too many employees accustomed to such perks as on-site massages, laundry service, and climbing walls. Dropbox said in a filing this year that it spent $25,000 in perks on every employee.

McKinney took note of the software-hardware interdependence of the mid-1980s Hewlett-Packard. His story about the era when the 3000 was growing fastest includes references to the HP 150, PC software created to enhance the value of such hardware, and a multi-division company that was ready to roll out something way ahead of its time called NewWave for PCs.

He praised HP in that oral history interview and can help us see how people like Guy Paul were attracted to—and stayed with—the HP that was built upon the Way.

When HP got in the minicomputer business...there was the HP 1000 and the HP 9000 and the HP 3000 and the HP 250 and then it kind of got all sorted out and they said, “Oh, we need [to have] one architecture and we need to be able to market [a product line].” One of the interesting parts about HP is it's just a very creative place and somehow it gets rationalized in time and [inter-divisional] doesn't become a general problem.

The part of HP that was split off, PCs, took its first steps in HP as a product to sell to 3000 customers. McKinney explained that 3000 begat PCs at HP.

In the beginning of this period there was still a hope that we could build a proprietary architecture [PC] product. Now obviously, how you sell it was one of the issues. Well I think in the beginning the [market for our PC] was major accounts who were buying the HP 3000. This is a little bit like the saying: “when the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

The 3000 was that hammer in an era where some top talent worked at Hewlett-Packard. It's refreshing to see that the subtitle of the new book is "Why Strategic Leadership Matters." The answer: you want to be around for decades making a difference and growing by 20 percent a year from 1958-1998. The HP of the Way did that and built the 3000, too.

07:02 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2016

Security in cloud IT expands to fit ERP

Raining-cloudsHP 3000 sites that make a migration bring a broad array of technology into their planning rooms. In the world of MPE/iX, the server and infrastructure was almost always on the premises of the company or in a subsidiary's offices. Once a company begins to migrate to commodity environments, this structure starts to evaporate. In a meeting about what to do next after something like MANMAN, clouds and the ground they float above get equal valuation.

Security is a challenge in the process of floating clouds for enterprise IT. As Terry Floyd from The Support Group is leading Disston Tools through its migration, he's seen that security is no sacrifice to the gods of change who live in the clouds.

Kenandy is making its way into the command center of Disston. "We are seven months away, on schedule, and on budget," Floyd said when he checked in last week. "There is a lot to do here. MANMAN is very robust, and Disston has a lot of customizations, as well as serious use of EDI."

By its nature EDI passes sensitive information across networks. Kenandy works by riding the Salesforce cloud and its networking. Disston won't have to settle for something less secure.

"We are just getting into setting up user security settings," Floyd said. "Kenandy is as robust as MANMAN is.  It can be tightened down as much as you want."

08:16 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 09, 2016

Friday Fine-Tune: Driving Filesystem Checks

Space_odysseyIn the middle of a full backup, the HP 3000 at James Byrne's shop came to a system halt at 3 AM. It was the kind of halt that puts up those puzzling abort messages not even HP has fully documented. For example, about SA 1458, Robelle's Neil Armstrong said, "My experience with SA 1458 is that it is a catch-all abort. You need to look at the subsystem information and the only way to truly know the root cause would be to get a dump and analyze it." He referenced a webpage that breaks down the process of doing 3000 system failure analysis, too.

When a halt occurs during a backup, there's always the chance the 3000's filesystem has been injured. "I'd say run FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and check your filesystem," said Keven Miller of 3k Ranger. He added that a former HP support expert, Lars Appel, "instructed me that System Abort messages are in subsystem 98. From the MPE Error Messages Volume 2, Chapter 4, System Aborts, 1458 MESSAGE means A critical process is being terminated due to a trap."

Sure enough, power interruptions at Byrne's shop introduced damage to an Image database. 

We reached the point last summer were we were toying with going off-grid simply to avoid the repeated power interruptions. If this sort of thing is causing damage then we will have to consider it. And it seems to; we now have a broken backward chain in one of our Image databases. A thing that I cannot ever recall. Coincidence? We are doing a backup, and then I will be using Adager to go in and take a look.

FSCHECK is an included tool on the 3000. It's simply there to validate extents and scan the table cache for missing files. Better tools include not only the legendary Adager, but independent support suppliers for the 3000 owner. People who know the fast commands of tools like CSTM. "What does your support provider say?" asked one support vendor. Self-support can be backed up by 3000-L questions. Some of the advice about the halt even ran to looking at memory issues. A provider can help eliminate these possibilities.

Capricious power service from his utility — a government service that's been privatized — has extracted a price on Byrne's Series 918. 

I am simply trying to find out if there is any way of examining whether or not we actually have a failing drive. We have spares but if there really is no need then I would rather not take the system down again after such a short interval. It has been a bad fall for our poor old 918. The system HDD was toasted by a whipsaw set of power outages on October 11; now our data disc is suspected of being ready to let go as well.

While running FSCHECK, Byrne was advised to use the commands 

Check all Dev=all
Syncaccounting
FSCOUNT / 10000

He also received instruction from Mark Ranft on how to scan logs using CSTM to find disk errors.

Sign on as Manager.SYS. Do a LISTF LOG####,2 to find the start and ending Log files. Alter the log file number range in the commands and enter the commands in LOGTOOL.

list log=3404/3477 type=111 "device class"="hard disc",da,ca,"bus converter" out=LogOut1

list log=3404/3477 TYPE=111;'MGR CODE'= 241,242,900,901,951 out=LogOut2

The results are written to two files LOGOUT1 and LOGOUT2.  I had this set up to run weekly on my systems.  And if the files had errors in them, the job would email the results to me for review. You will see errors due to SCSI or FC resets on every boot, so check the timestamps to tell if the boot caused the error.

At Byrne's shop the Series 918 was recovered after Adager did its repairs. "During the Adager repair an infrequently occurring high-pitched but low volume sound was noted," he said. "This appeared to emanate from the 3000. We have not heard it since the Adager repair completed. A suspicion arose that we might have a disk about to lose a bearing."

Once the recovery was complete and the disk replaced, the trademark wisecracks of long-time 3000 vets began to arise. The sound during Adager's repairs "would have been the sound of the chains being dragged around the disk to put them back straight," said Alan Yeo, "and possibly the sound of a very tiny virtual Alfredo welding a few broken links back together."

Byrne noted that the problems with the Series 918 disks "started I was working on installing the 9.6 version of PostgreSQL on a new FreeBSD host. I wonder if the HP 3000 is throwing a temper tantrum? Naaah. Cannot be."

09:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2016

Taking Steps into Open Source with a Plan

Various_shoe_print_vector_294583A significant number of HP 3000 shops have employed Linux as a replacement over the last 15 years. (Yes, it's been that long that the MPE/iX community has been migrating or homesteading their systems). Over that time, open source software has become so mainstream that an architecture meeting often includes a line like, "Well, what can open source do for us here?"

If open sourcing a commercial datacenter sounds enticing—think of the size of the community you join, for example—it's wise to remember a commercial open source is the way to success. Downloading and testing is always essential, but adding open source has its best prospects when there's a commercial, paid support aspect to the choice.

This week we reported on one HP 3000 site where the system is making a slow exit. Harte & Lyne is still using a Series 918 with MPE/iX 7.5. The operations are being supplanted by what manager James Byrne calls FOSS: Free and Open Source Software. He's got his reservations about doing much more in that direction, though. Byrne said a more commercial—though not vendor-specific—approach to new architecture is in order.

HP was advising this to its enterprise computing customers as far back as 2006. Linux in the datacenter was a lot more exotic in that year, a time when HP was still selling support for the 3000. That vendor-based support is all gone by now, right down to the demise of docs.hp.com webpages where advice and training materials once lived. If you need 3000 support, third parties like Pivital Solutions are the best way to go forward, even if you're going away slowly.

An HP exec of 2006 said it only made sense to look for a supported FOSS design. David Claypool said

The rational thing to do is to choose something from a commercial company, whether implementations available and supported by a Linux distribution or non-affiliated Xen implementations like those from XenSource, Virtual Iron, and now Oracle.

Working together in such alliances was part of what FOSS was all about at the beginning. It would be another four years before Oracle would hire the departing CEO of HP, Mark Hurd, to run Oracle's software business. In 2006 all was pretty collegial between Oracle and HP.

Campbell said, in a reply to the story we ran about choosing open source software

Certainly, it's possible and may even be prudent for some to download and run the bits from a raw open source project. But it's incumbent upon the adopter to understand the commitment to self-reliance that's being made if it's being used in any operational or revenue-producing capacity.

Linux was free until users understood they still needed a support provider to contact when things went awry. Support is the enduring part of any software relationship, and it's something critical for everyone who's using computers to drive an enterprise. Even HP 3000 shops need someone to call when the bits get out of alignment.

07:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2016

COBOL's Continuing Value for 3000s

PingpongThe venerable workhorse of COBOL is often maligned during IT strategy meetings. The language usually has to make do with a lot less educational opportunity these days in universities, too. It is verbose and legacy and not ever going to captivate a ping pong table discussion about which platform development platform is best. There are perhaps only 1 million people in the world still trained in using it.

However, COBOL brings a single, enduring asset to the 3000s and other mainframe-caliber servers where it runs. COBOL is a standard, one that's exploited and extended and supported by many vendors, not to mention carried through decades of use. This is no one-man show.

You cannot say that about Powerhouse, or any other fourth generation language. If there's a standard out there for C-Sharp, or the wonders of Visual Basic, it is controlled by a single vendor. Powerhouse users are in a pickle. A single company, Unicom, controls the fate of all users employing the 4GL, and the vendor is jerking its leash on users. When Unicom said it was canceling the license of one customer, James Byrne at Harte & Lyne, then Byrne had a response.

"I am ignoring that," he said. "One cannot cancel a contract without cause."

He went on to point at what sets COBOL apart while he's choosing foundational software. "Not that we use it," Byrne said, "but there is a reason that COBOL is still around. The people who do not understand why are at the root of many of the problems with FOSS." That's open source software he's referencing, something that a vendor cannot cancel, but drifting toward commercial prejudices anyway.

"Actually, I have come to the conclusion that a great deal of the FOSS environment has exactly the same problem as [Ruby on Rails]," Bryne said. "Too many people are looking forward to their next contracting gig and padding their resumes when they introduce changes into projects. Too few are wondering about who has to maintain the trash that they leave behind."

COBOL won't regain its footing at Harte & Lyne, where a 3000 still supports the logistics vendor. But those ping pong developer tools are going out of vogue.

I have pretty much given up on Ruby-on-Rails, having slowly reached the conclusion that the maintainers are more interested in being fashionable than producing a stable and useful product suitable for enterprise deployment.

We will never return to proprietary software, but we are making some significant changes in our approach. We are presently migrating off of Linux onto FreeBSD—and we are moving away from the tech-du-jour crowd onto something more grounded in the commercial world.

 

 

11:14 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2016

Friday Fine-Tune: Print classes, STORE, FTP

I need to add classes to a printer on my HP 3000. I keep getting a message that the LDEV doesn't exist from SYSGEN's I/O section when I issue the ACLASS command. I can see the device exists, so what's the problem?

Letterpress-2Devices on your system that are configured through NMMGR must have their classes changed through NMMGR, which is probably why you're getting the error message. Run NMMGR and go to the PROFILE for the device. You should be able to add classes to the device at that point. After making changes in NMMGR, remember to VALIDATE these changes to NMCONFIG, and then cross-validate using the RDCC command from SYSGEN's SYSFILE section.

NMMGR changes take effect after the system has been reSTARTed and the power has been cycled on the DTCs. You should cut a System Load Tape (SLT) making these changes so you'll have them on tape for your next UPDATE.

If your device was configured through SYSGEN, the device should have its classes modified through SYSGEN. You're right, you do use the ACLASS command in the IO section. Changes to the IO section require a START to make them take effect.

In HP's MPE/iX manuals I am are directed to backup the system as follows:

STORE @.@.SYS,@.@.@-@.@.SYS;*T;DIRECTORY;SHOW

What is the practical benefit over

STORE @.@.@;*T;DIRECTORY;SHOW 

People trot out the reason from the distant past: if you have to do a re-install it is good to have PUB.SYS (and maybe the TELESUP account) on the front of the tape so you can restore quicker.

Gilles Schipper woke us up with his response. “The reason one would perform the former over the latter is to ensure that all of the files residing in the SYS account be placed at the beginning of the backup. Whether that is a good thing is, in my opinion, dubious."

Gilles said, “Perhaps, in the days of half-inch, 1600-BPI magnetic tapes, it could provide for a quicker restore of files in the SYS account than, say, files in the YAHOO account. In any case, with tape technology, where retrieval of any group of files from any spot on DDS or DLT tape is quick, the raison-d’être for such file placement strategy disappears - assuming there ever really was a good reason.”

If you have user volume sets you MUST explicitly list them after the DIRECTORY keyword or else the directories for the user volume sets will not be stored.

Is there a way to use FTP to move an IMAGE database between two HP 3000s?

FTP by itself won't work, as it doesn't support user-labels, which are included with the IMAGE root file. DSCOPY, while not being as trendy as FTP, does know about user labels. The Web has freeware LZW compressor programs which know how to archive IMAGE datasets, so you can use FTP without having to change the file codes to non-priv values beforehand. Just archive the sets into one non-priv package, FTP it as a binary file, and then use LZW to re-expand the data-sets back to their original form. LZW programs, along with many other open source gems, are available at SourceForge

04:22 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)