January 18, 2017
Recruiter opens book on college opportunity
You don't see many requests for HP 3000 expertise by now, at least not in a public setting. But a boutique placement agency posted a request for COBOL experience on the 3000 mailing list this week. The notice doesn't deliver many details, but it stands out in a job market where opportunities have been few.
Under the covers, where consultants and developers serve 3000 shops both on the move as well as homesteading, gigs lurk. One veteran knows another and they'll contract for a period together. Most of these engagements involve finding someone familiar with a piece of 3000 software.
MRG Search and Placement has a website but there's no public listing of available positions. It's just as classic old-school as a lot of the talent that could fill those jobs. The message in public was simply "HP3000 skills needed in an University setting," and went on to mention COBOL was involved. The language usually is, considering the vast percentage of in-house apps written in the language.
Jon Culotta runs MRG, which is upfront about keeping 3000 customers and talent connected. "Established in 1976, MRG started its niche recruiting in the HP 3000 arena. That core market is still served today." The company's heartland is Amisys healthcare software talent, but a university might only be involved if it was a health organization operated by a school.
The job is on-site and contract. Culotta's email is email@example.com.
January 16, 2017
Older hardware, current support, new prices
HP's 3000 hardware is still being offered for sale. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise wants none of this 2017 action. Independent hardware brokers sell HP 3000s today, and by the looks of the pricing the transactions might be simply for parts. How could anyone operate a company while they rely on a $975 server?
The price is one data point on a wide spectrum of a sweeping array of servers, all offered on the 3000 mailing list this week. At the tip-top of the spectrum was a $3,175 system, first introduced early in the 1990s. At the very bottom was the faithful Series 918LX, priced at $675 including a DDS-3 tape drive. The newest computers came in at that $975 price.
The range of power ran from the 918 to the Series 989KS/650. It was a $290,000 system sold new in the late 1990s. The one on offer this week from the broker carried a price tag that was discounted $288,625.
Antiques? Some, perhaps, but not all. Series 918 and 928 servers from HP—both on the list—are running production systems today. Roy Brown, a consultant and developer in the UK and a member of the 3000 list, is running two Series 918s. One much newer server is holding archives at a migrated shop in Texas. While using the old, or very old HP iron one smart customer keeps support current for such boxes. Even when they're not on the critical path for computing.HP's sales ended in the fall of 2001 for those 918s and 928s. In that year the servers were sold for $3,700 at Phoenix/3000, the used hardware outlet operated by the North American HP 3000 distributor. In 15 years' time those boxes have held on to about 20 percent of their price.
The hardware is only one part of the ecosystem that's gotten inexpensive. We've heard of simple support agreements that are just $140 a month. At Republic Title of Texas, Ray Shahan said he's got an N-Class system hosting archived data. Shahan's company has a current support contract for this archival 3000.
It's been over a decade since that 3000 went into archive mode, so long ago Shahan said he's not sure anymore what the actual model is for the HP server. Independent support is around now to keep track of such details.
The original sales prices for those older systems "might be too depressing to hear," according to Terry Simpkins at TE Connectivity. Simpkins is among those 3000 veterans who remember when something like a $311,000 Series 997-500 included MPE/iX license fees charged by the number of users. HP placed value in its databases for the 3000, too. Non-3000 servers were less costly, until you added in the software HP included with MPE/iX.
Today's prices don't suffer under the valuation of included software. Transferrable 3000 licenses remain an audit-worthy strategy. Management rigor won't be stout for licensing software on a $675 backup server, though.
Moving onward to new prices will remind 3000 migrators of the old HP midrange pricing. For example, an LTO-5 tape duplicator—an device useful for anyone keeping archives of older enterprise data—costs $12,000 from TapeMaster today. That's an entry-level 1:1 unit that simply replaces older tape with new. Someday that duplicator will be discounted by 96 percent. It will be sold as scrap or for parts much sooner than a 3000. It won't be working in 2033, 15 years from now. The A-Class servers for sale this week for $1,200 are already 15 years old and are still working in shops like Republic Title.
It's not easy to say for certain it's depressing to see a $311,000 server go on the market for $3,175. The 9x7 line was rolled out before Bill Clinton took office. That a 9x7 is worth anything is a tribute to the stubborn economics of the 3000 line. As Clinton liked to say while winning office, it's the economy, stupid.
January 13, 2017
Emulation review will air out all options
On January 26 MB Foster is airing the 2017 edition of its emulation webinar. The 40-minute show will walk 3000 managers through four emulation options. Last year's show had four very different products. Three will address the MPE/iX environment: how to get your applications onto the Windows OS. One will give you emulated hardware. In the first edition of the webinar, Birket Foster called the Charon emulator for 3000 hardware emulation "flawless."
The other three solutions — unless the lineup changes from last year's show — are all based in software methods to replicate databases and surrounding code. They are
- Ti2SQL middleware from Ordat (a holder of an MPE/iX source code license, along with Pivital Solutions)
- Marxmeier's Eloquence database environment
- MB Foster's eZ-MPE
The MB Foster environment emulation solution has been working for at least one customer. We introduced it in 2013. Here's our story from that year for reference. We'll all look forward to the update at 11 AM PST.
MB 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.”
Whitehead says 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.
January 11, 2017
Finding the knowledge HP once shared free
In 2008 was the debate, and I don't mean between our now-outgoing President and his rival. The debate was in your community about future knowledge. Where could you expect to find HP 3000 and MPE/iX manuals in the coming years? It didn't turn out to be where it was planned and proposed, but a manager of a homestead 3000 does have options today.
For many years now, MMM Support has hosted the full range of HP's manuals for hardware and software. As of this morning the website is offline, but it's probably a configuration error and not a sign of a company's demise. You'll find plenty of links on our blog to the hpmmmsupport.com site. The manuals are in PDF format and you don't experience any pop-up or page-takeover ads like you see in YouTube.
The newer player in the hosted HP manual arena is TeamNA Consulting. While it's a newer site, the venture is led by one of the older (in history) resources. Neil Armstrong, one of the tech wizards at Robelle, is the NA in TeamNA. Armstrong started with the HP 3000 more than 34 years ago—an era where MPE IV was still a common OS for the servers. Plenty of experience there, and plenty of manuals available too. More manuals than HP will share with the world today. The extra information is hardware documentation.
This wasn't the future the community expected in the days when official 3000 support from HP was nearly gone. Today that support is well-filled by companies like Pivital, the bedrock upon which homesteading and 3000 emulation rests.In the waning years of HP's support, when its Jazz 3000 server was HP's exclusive repository of what the community learned, such independent companies were supposed to hold the tech history of the 3000. Speedware and Client Systems paid for licenses to HP's technical content. The document licenses went beyond the Jazz whitepapers and jobstream scripts created by the likes of Jeff Vance in the HP labs. Those licenses at Speedware and Client Systems were supposed to ensure 3000 manuals remained available to the homesteading community.
Even though the two companies made good on promises to preserve the Jazz content, including programs, the manuals escaped re-hosting there. It was an oversight or perhaps a over-reach on the part of the companies; logging and making access to hundreds of manuals is a big job. Business focus changed as well. Those Jazz links at Speedware (now Fresche Legacy and absorbed with IBM work) are tucked away under hpmigrations.com. Not exactly the place where you'd look for homesteading tools.
This kind of confusion was not supposed (there's that word again) to matter so much. HP said it would keep its manuals online through 2015. A very long time for a corporation where those promises emerged from a division that was being closed down.
The website docs.hp.com lands you on a mostly-useless landing page at HP, Inc. That's the half of Hewlett-Packard with scant link to anything related to MPE/iX. A Google search on hpe.com today unearthed those HP-hosted manuals. Well, some. At this moment they're a collection of 7.x documents, 269 of them, plus a tracer-file for the Jazz content that goes nowhere. That link above is 436 characters long, something that looks like it's going change based on how HP Enterprise keeps rearranging its business. But there it is, for now, keeping HP's promise two years later than the 2015 plan.
As for manual hosting from the companies with continuing business and with knowledge of MPE/iX, the TeamNA and MMM websites are far better Web addresses. Today. Armstrong is like me, a half-generation younger than the most senior wizards in 3000 lore. He's got more years in the future with MPE/iX, probably. Knowing where to get answers and relying on experience can keep us in the 3000 knowledge game.
It's a intern-style assignment to download the 321 manuals off the HP site for homesteading reference. This assignment seems like a good idea. It's certainly easier than locating (and storing) those blue HP binders full of paper—which were the only bibles before PDF was our tabula rasa for knowledge.
January 09, 2017
3000 experience floats up to the Fed
Reid Baxter started his work in the HP 3000 world in 1981. This year he's helping to support the IT at the US Federal Reserve in Richmond, VA. There is no direct line between these two postings. Baxter has made the most of his career that started with MPE and terminals to lead to his current post where he helps maintain computers that serve the US banking bedrock, The Fed.
Baxter, one of the earliest 3000 Newswire subscribers, checked in this week to congratulate us on another anniversary as we crossed into the 22d calendar year of publishing. It's been quite a while, as Baxter says, since an HP 3000 was in his life: seven years ago he transitioned off everyday 3000 duty when his employer JP Morgan-Chase closed down its MPE/iX servers.
Baxter went into support of the 3000's successor at Chase, HP-UX, and then onward into Linux. When your skillset goes as far back as HP's Data Terminal Division, a new environment presents more opportunity than challenge. The 3000 once had a place in banking IT, which is why Chase once deployed the ABLE software suite from CASE for asset management.
After Chase did a downsize in 2015, Baxter went on a lengthy quest to land a new spot in finance computing. He's working today for HP Enterprise Services, by way of the Insight Global staffing enterprise. His mission is support of that Fed IT center, work that he can do remotely. One reason for that telecommute is that banking has often needed remote computing. Banking software on the 3000 once drove the adoption of Internet services on the business server, after all.When the 3000 division at HP had to pick up the pieces of a failed Internet partner Open Market, Inc. 20 years ago, Chase and CASE were reasons to keep the MPE/iX Internet project on target. 3000 sites needed a commercially-supported Web server during that era when open source freeware powered many Web servers.
Customers using HP 3000s in commerce need a secure Web server, according to senior software specialist Rick Gilligan of Computer and Software Enterprises (CASE). The California firm is installing new HP 3000s as part of its business, which includes banks that are among the five biggest in the US. CASE's reference customers include companies like NationsBank and Chase Manhattan.
CASE will soon be offering its HP 3000 clients Internet access within CASE applications, so bank customers will be able to see loan data. Gilligan, who chaired its most recent meeting of the SIGWEB Special Interest group and said a secure Web server native to the HP 3000 makes a lot more sense than using another Web host.
"My clients don't want another box that they have to maintain and get approval for in their company," Gilligan said. "Banks aren't looking for any more boxes or any more bodies when all they want is a Web server. A Web server is a very small part of all the things the 3000 is doing for them, and a Web server on that 3000 certainly makes more sense than putting it on another box."
That server software in 1997 was going to be the Open Market product chosen by HP, but the Web company closed down web server business once Apache and Microsoft's servers rose up. HP bundled the OMI product into the fundamental operating system, only to give it a sudden end of life date months later. Vendors like CASE, and their clients like Chase, looked at a period when Apache running on the 3000 had no support from HP. Some used it anyway and waited for HP to catch up and offer Apache/iX.
Now Baxter is making the best use of his career that started at DTD in 1981, onward to the DeskManager group at the UK's Personal Office Computer Division — another place where connectivity drove the advance of the 3000 using HP's business email suite.
By the time HP was announcing the end of its 3000 business, Baxter moved on "to Bloomington Illinois, contracting through Radiant Systems working for 13 months for HP's Business Continuity Support Hardware 'Hands On' team at State Farm corporate—incidentally, the largest HP 3000 shop in the world."
Changes in the fortunes of the HP 3000 have been easy to spot. It's always a pleasure to discover the continued careers of people like Baxter who help mold your server into a linked business tool. Such experience in IT continues to be a trading option for supporting the newest enterprise solutions. You can think of those many years of working savvy as the common coin in a career, whether in finance or elsewhere.
January 06, 2017
Friday Fine-Tune: Logging, IP logins, SNMP
Due to a disk crash, I had to reload my HP 3000 system recently. I’ve just discovered that system logging has been suspended. How do I resume system logging?
Paul Christidis replies:
The reason for the suspension of logging was most likely due to a duplicate log file name. When the SLT was created the then-current log number was recorded, and when you restarted the system from your most recent SLT it tried to open the sequentially next log file. Said file already existed.
- MOVE the existing log files to a hold area
- Determine what logfile the system resumed on
- Perform a series of SWITCHLOG commands until the logfile number advances to one more than the highest number in the hold area
- Then move the held logfiles back to the pub.sys group — replacing the ones created by the series of ‘switchlog’ commands.
Is there a way to see the IP address associated with a particular login?
Any user with SM can do the following, for example:
HPSTDIN_NETWORK_ADDR = 172.16.0.30
The command :listf ci.pub.sys,8 will list all sessions and will show their associated IP address.
I’ve got an older model HP 3000 and I'd like to start monitoring it with SNMP for things like CPU utilized, jobs running or whatever other cool stat I can SNMP-grab. The problem I have is I can’t find the MIBs for it anywhere.
Andreas Schmidt replies:
First of all, I do not recommend the use of SNMP on the 3000, for performance but also security reasons. SNMP is not the securest protocol, as you know. Nevertheless, here are some hints:
• In the group NET.SYS you will find the SNMPUDC. This should be set in any case for MANAGER.SYS or on system level.
• Having set this, a SNMPCONTROL STATUS will show you the status of the SNMP subsystem.
• SNMPCONTROL START / STOP are self-explaining.
• The MIBs specific for MPE can be found in the document HP SNMP/XL User’s Guide
January 04, 2017
Future Vision: Too complex for the impatient
Seeing the future clearly is not simple, and planning for our tomorrows is a crucial mission for most HP 3000 owners and allies. Changes easily cloud the vision of any futurist—people who dream up scenarios and strategies instead of writing science fiction.
Or as Yoda said, "Difficult to tell; always in motion is the future."
Economics makes every future vision more compelling. A friend who just became a city council member reminded me of this when she talked about taxis and hotel checkouts. These things are the equivalent of COBOL and batch job streaming—just to remind you this post is an IT report. Disruption surrounds them. COBOL, batch, hotels, and taxis still keep our world on its feet. Nearly all of us reach for a legacy solution when we're finished sitting in the bathroom, too.
The new council member forwarded a futurist's article on Facebook—where so many get their news today, alas—an article that pegged so many bits of the economy that are supposed to be going the way of MPE V. (I think we can all agree it's really over for the OS that powered 3000s before PA-RISC.) The Facebook article says we need only to look at Kodak in 1998 when it "had 170,000 employees and sold 85 percent of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt." The timing is wrong, just like the timeframe predicted for total migration of the 3000 base. Was: 2008. Now in 2017: still incomplete.
The futurism you hear predicts things like "What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years — and most people won't see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that three years later you would never take pictures on film again?" Nobody did, because it wasn't true in 2001 that film disappeared. Neither had MPE disappeared by 2006. These predictions get mangled as they are retold. This year's IT skills must include patience to see the future's interlocking parts—a skill that a 3000 owner and manager can call upon right now. Since it's 2017, in one decade we'll be facing the final year of the date-handling in MPE that works as HP designed it. I'll only be 70 and will be looking for the story on who will fix the ultimate HP 3000 bug.
I love reading futurist predictions. They have to concoct a perfect world to make sense, and the timing is almost always wrong. Kodak took another 14 years after 1998 to file for bankruptcy. But after I disagreed with my friend, she reached for her own success at using disruptive tech to make her point. Even an anecdotal report is better than retelling abstracted stories. The danger with anecdotes is that they can be outliers. We heard them called corner cases in support calls with HP. You don't hear the phrase "corner case" during an independent support call. The independent legacy support company is accountable to a customer in the intense way a hotel operator commits to a guest. A guest is essential to keeping a hotel open. A lodger at an Airbnb is not keeping the doors open, or keeping jobs alive for a staff of housekeepers. There can be unexpected results to disrupting legacies. People demand things change back from a future vision. Ask voters in the US how that turned out last year.
You can call the OS running Amazon an environment, but Linux doesn't much care if you succeed with it or not. Investing in your success was what brought companies to HP's 3000. It's too much to hope for benevolence from a corporation. However, if we can all stop peeling the paint off of future visions, if only we can stick to the details and know that change doesn't come easily, or quickly, we'll be okay. They're still building hotels in spite of Airbnb, just like you're still maintaining COBOL code and modifying those jobstreams first written in the previous century.
It helps to get the facts right. AirbnB isn't a hotel company at all, and faces laws to curtail its business in US states including New York. It has few provisions for safety and fraud that can stand the test of a court matter. Watch out for auto-driving cars, auto industry. Another slice of folly is that this industry is headed for the scrapyard by the time MPE/iX gets to the end of its CALENDAR function. Auto-drive car tech is more decade away if it can evade the non-auto-drive cars that will litter the roads for decades.
Onward the bright future goes, with tech saving the day by saving lives and shutting down medicine as we know it. Who needs so many doctors when you have a Tricorder X? Revised rules for that tech-doctor device contest say the Tricorder X won't have to detect tubercolosis, hepatitis A, or stroke. "Goodbye, medical establishment," so long as you don't need those conditions detected. 3D-printed houses might be built, but who will assemble them: robots that cost no more than today's tradesman labor? You can get a 3D selfie today, and a gun's parts printed 3D. We were promised code that writes itself, weren't we, when object-oriented computing and Java swept in?
A sweep of futurism helped HP put away its 3000 business. The lives that are changed and jobs lost are not a concern of the futurist. Then another change enveloped the futurist who was certain that selling systems was a secure spot. This year there are rumors Hewlett-Packard could sell off its servers business. That one is a piece of data like those ever-present reports of HP splitting up. They were just rumors for years. Then it came true. Economics, not technology, made that come true.
Nothing is impervious to change, and to celebrate the marvel of technology upending legacy leads us astray. The future is a blend, not nonsense like "Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans." Or, "In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans." How many faces, and how many humans? I'm still waiting on the flying cars I was promised at the World's Fair of 1964.
My council member says that while in Amsterdam last spring she was struck by the stark difference between ornate 16th Century architecture downtown and the simple square box apartment buildings in the suburbs. "I asked our Airbnb host about it and suggested this: There has not been a reduction in human creative intelligence. It's just that in the 1500s all that creative energy was being put into architecture, and today it's being put into the digital world. Our host, a bright young Dutch digital engineer, smiled and said he agreed with me." As every good host does.
Then Uber arrived for the ride to the airport, I presume, using a car that the company wasn't invested in, driven by a person who was working a 12-hour day pitted against a fleet of freelancers that keep Uber's business model thriving for the corporation. "And no money changes hands" was my friend's punchline, overlooking the part of the Dutch economy using ATMs and currency, or the fact that you tip your housekeeper in currency unless you don't pay one.
The futurists want you to be wary. If you don't prepare for the future, "you're going down with Kodak, the cable companies, landline phone makers, Macy's, video rental places, printed books and tape backup media." Or you can find a life keeping yourself in the present, the happiness of the now. Making good things last longer is resourceful and sometimes inventive work. If the last 15 years have taught our community anything, it's that the future arrives slowly and looks nothing like we expect. Even my council member knows the value of legacy, asking "If we close down all our paper mills, who will make our toilet paper?"
January 02, 2017
Where's your backup media in the new year?
Here in the opening days of the New Year it's time to resolve your way to a cleaner 2017. People in the US and the UK voted for changes starting this year and they'll get some, including unexpected ones. You don't want unexpected change on your homesteading HP 3000 system, though. One of the simplest means to forestall a crisis is getting fresh media for your backups. MPE/iX system backups are no better than the media they employ.
Not long ago, a 3000 manager was looking for fresh DLT tape for his backups. Tape remains a part of the backup regimen at some shops, never more true than at a site still using HP's 3000 hardware. DDS drive verification should be among your new year's examinations.
New tape media is available for purchase. New tape all the way back to DDS-1 is on the Data Tech Store website. As a minimum 2017 homestead resolution, write a fresh backup onto new tape.
Disk backup will pull your homestead practices out of the 1990s. As DLT technology fades, cheap high capacity Serial ATA discs took their turn as the method of choice for large backups. Store to disk should be the next generation of MPE/iX backup. Using an SCSI to SATA converter, newer drives can capture backups from 3000s. HP's SCSI storage devices for 3000s are at least a decade old by now. SATA disks work well for smaller systems where Model 20 HP backup units are overkill.
The age of media can be offset by more recent design. Although it's slower and has lower capacity, tape is a seasoned technology. On the other hand, disk has the advantage of being engineered more recently. Pencils versus rollerball pens is a similar consideration. You know exactly how long a pencil can be used. Pens are more indelible but expire unexpectedly.
MPE/iX servers created using the Charon emulator from Stromasys can even employ SSD disks for backups. Verifying any media, new or old, should be on a manager's to-do list for 2017. It's even better to craft a regimen that rotates fresh media, whether you're relying on tape or storing to disk.
If your management style takes incremental steps into change, then using classic backup technology alongside newer host options might work. For example, even while using the Charon emulator, an external DAT device can be plugged in to keep backups. A few years back, Paul Taffel reported on DLT tape options for the Stromasys hosts that use what us old-timers call PCs. Charon will boot up on something as modest as a laptop, he pointed out.
I had a USB-connected external DAT 72 drive and plugged it into my laptop. It is very simple to hook this HP DAT drive up to any PC (server or laptop) running Charon HPA. The drive can read and write older DDS-3 and DDS-4 tapes, and is a very cost-effective solution. I picked one up new for $300. There's also the old-way, which involves adding a SCSI controller card to the server PC, and then connecting a SCSI tape drive.
Independent software support has embraced the mission of taking 3000 backups onto the Charon emulator. Keven Miller of 3k Ranger wrote a utility a few years back that will
- Convert MPE STD (Store-to-Disk) files to/from HPA/3000 Tape Image files
- Create an MPE STD file
- Convert the STD to a tape image file
- Transfer the image to your Charon HPA emulated system.
- Link the image to a tape device
- Put the tape online in your VM MPE
- VSTORE or RESTORE from the STD
You gotta love automation for backup processes, especially while making changes for the new year.